Books

Like a bad dream by Mark Billingham

“You’ve got to admit, it doesn’t look good.”

That’s what one of the coppers had said when I was being booked in, and I could hardly blame him. A few hours after that first frantic phone call.

“My husband’s been stabbed and there’s blood everywhere… and scissors by the bed. Oh, God… I think I’ve killed him…”

It didn’t look good.

So, I told them it had been going on for months. The disturbed sleep, the night-time wanderings. There was screaming at first, night terrors, and then I just started doing strange things without waking up at all. My poor husband had found me staring at the wall, pounding my fists against a window and – in the kitchen three months before – cutting up the newspaper with scissors, eyes wide open but clearly still fast asleep.

“We need to get you some help,” he’d said.

We’d been to see Doctor Harris, who was very understanding. There were tests and reports. I was told to keep a record of the events.

“You were covered in your husband’s blood,” the solicitor had said later. She had nodded sadly, prison all but a formality.

“Your fingerprints were all over those scissors.”

I told her there was a precedent – at least one. A man who had strangled his wife while he was dreaming about something else.

Surely, I had a case.

Doctor Harris was especially good in court. He told them everything, said that what I’d done was involuntary. He threw in plenty of Latin words and fancy names for things.

‘Non-insane automatism.’ I think that was the one that had swung it.

And, finally, the nightmare is over.

No more bad dreams.

Doctor Harris and I have plenty of better things to do in bed, and when we’ve finished, I’m sure we’re both going to sleep like babies.

The Dying Hours by Mark Billingham is out now (Little, Brown)

(Image: Rex)