This dream wouldn’t let me go last night, though I awoke multiple times trying to shake it off, it insisted on pulling me back.
I was driving down backroads through the woods with my mom. It was one of those oppressively lush green summer days, when the temperature and the humidity both seem to hover at one hundred, your lungs feel heavy with condensation, and you fear your body might take root if you stay in one spot too long.
We drove deep into the forest, then walked along a brambled path until we reached a ramshackle, abandoned cabin. I know, I know. Everyone who has ever seen a horror movie is screaming DON’T GO IN THE CABIN! “I have a better idea, we’ll hide behind these chainsaws!” But honestly, it isn’t that uncommon where I live to come across remnants of old spaces, usually wrapped in the twisted embrace of tree branches, slowly pulling them back into the earth. There is one not far from my house with a deer skull on the door, and a calendar from the 70’s still pinned to the wall. It’s positioned on a mountain of green and brown glass beer bottles- and like most of these places, more than anything, it speaks of the aching loneliness of life rather than any supernatural anguish or fear.
As usual, I digress. Meanwhile in the dream, we reach a sparse bedroom slanted through with beams of light from chinks in the walls. Galaxies of dust swirl into existence with each footstep. This was obviously a woman’s domain. Porcelain wash basin with a simple yet beautiful white crackle glaze. A framed mirror, the glass warped with time, a scrapbook that spills faded petals at my feet when opened, translucent and fragile as spun glass. I think I glimpse something in the mirror, flash of a pale face, then gone. I mention it and we laugh, writing it off as I settle in a spot on the floor to look through the scrapbook.
Hanging behind the door, my mom finds an oddly pristine, ethereal white dress. As she turns to tell me about it, the dress begins dancing through the air all its own. The dress molds itself to the shape of my mother, who begins humming a quiet song and swaying to the tune. I see her reflection in the mirror, her eyes have gone dead white, her own personality departed. She speaks to me, though I can’t now recall what she said. I jump up from the floor, scrapbook falling from my hands and shattering, sending photos and keepsakes and more dust fluttering in every direction. The sound seems to wake my mom from her reverie, she sags like a puppet with sliced strings and the dress falls away.
I tell her we must go and we run out through other rooms yet unexplored, to the car and back down gravel roads in the too-green, drowning air.
All night I slept fitfully, replaying different versions of this dream, some where my family was building a spookhouse attraction and it was all in fun, others more violent and strange. When I finally woke for good, I realized “Whirring” by The Joy Formidable had been playing over and over in the background of my mind and I was singing it to myself.
All these things about me, you never can tell. You make me sleep so badly, invisible friend. Turn the dial on my words, I can feel them fall short. Turn the dial, chime alarm, watch these hands move apart.
I can see you staying here.