The International Writers Magazine: DreamTime on Dreamscapes
Dream #1 - 24/5/2010
Immediately transcribed word for word (or image for image) as best I could remembered upon waking up. Minor changes made in the mean time.
Dream #1: Caught between a nightmare and a dream
I opened my eyes and blinked in the thick, heavy mist of the room. I couldn’t tell if it was day or night; in fact it could have been dusk or dawn but the windows had their lids sealed, they weren’t telling. I twitched my foot, the way you do to find out its position when it has gone numb and you can’t figure out at what angle it’s positioned.
Numb is the word. Perhaps lethargy was a better word to describe what I had just emerged from, stiff and cold like a wet, numb, over-exposed toe in the cold of a summer night on the beach.
I blinked again and could feel my inhalation laden with thick smoke. But it wasn’t exactly smoke; it was more that substance that hangs in the air, the remnants of smoke and dust, that kind of veil that hangs just above your head when a pipe has been lit in a room. After-smoke you could perhaps call it; it makes swirls and clouds which are intoxicating to fix your gaze upon and resemble an opaque enchanted snake lifted by music and incense.
The aftermath of whatever had taken place in this room was dark and dank. I shifted position to take in the scene from a different perspective. The room was lit just enough to make out the shapes of furniture and objects lying around. It was the kind of light that abandoned houses have; never dark or light but always in that half-light, the sun’s rays or the moon’s sheen never knowing whether they are coming or going. Some may call it twilight; mostly to just give it a spooky twist associated with werewolves and the undead. Either way it felt like time knew not to show up at this place; it evident that expectation of growth or progress in a place such as the one I had just woken up in were utterly futile.
How long had I been asleep? How could my (presumably short-term) sleepy absence explain such a gathering of dust? Had the taps started to rust and decay, the food commenced its rotting cycle, the blankets been devoured by moths? Had all these things already begun their digression at a snail’s pace before I fell asleep and I had simply failed to notice? Or perhaps, like from some odd-ball fairy-tale, my sleep excused and apparently expedited such decomposition, decrepitude and dismay?
The aftermath of a gathering was evident: sticky, forgotten glasses of all colours, shapes and sizes, on most surfaces, the brimming ashtrays speckling the floor with ash, filter-tips and tobacco, the powdery footprints scribbling a drunk man’s labyrinth on the wooden floorboards. Wax and alcohol had congealed and hardened, like some lurid lava lamp frozen in a frame. Crumpled seat covers; some dispersed, crest-fallen pillows dispensed, forsaken on the floor; curtains limp and drab with fatigue and laden with latent hormones and dank smoke; lampshades crooked, blazing and askew - even the single bare light-bulb, hanging from the suffocatingly low ceiling, surveyed the whole scene with a broken shell, its sharp, broken mouth gaping open.
I stood up and walked around, shuffling from table to armchair to window. A heavy, itchy woollen blanket was lumped on a wooden bench-come-sofa. Dust bunnies played hide and seek underneath it while scuttling insects explored and devoured the aged blanket’s insides. This was the kind of bench where you were likely to find something sinister and deranged shrunk and crouching in its deep cornered under-belly. The kind of bench little children fear to stand in front of or look under; they’d rather hop on and off it, pleading with Daddy to give just one last peek lest the creature leaps out at them, grabbing their ankles and shaking them upside-down. Stiff, filthy newspapers and books were wedged in between the bench and then something else, an armchair I think hovered on the periphery of my vision.
The plotting of the scene is still very unclear. It appeared that the room was surrounded solely by small, high windows, like those of a classroom, making the feeling of entrapment all the more intense. Knocked over incense sticks added to the layer of dirt on the rug and the sofa pillows and cushions were disheveled and packed in by absent weight. The kitchen surfaces had puddles of juice and fizzy, sticky drinks and the ice had melted in all the trays, leaving those flaky salty flecks at the bottom. Flies hovered above the left-over junk food and rubbish. They lazily but keenly levitated over every piece of filth, found not just in the one overflowing, manic kitchen bin but also alarmingly strewn throughout the whole house. Such was the intensity of the stuff that it wreaked, from wall to wall, of the worst possible trifecta of stenches: put-out, squished, carbonized cigarette butts - stale, warm, flat beer and moulding orange peels. There was another smell lingering in the air, one I couldn’t quite place. Perhaps it was that of vomit or something that had rotted but had already been dead. I couldn’t actually smell it, it was more the past presence of a strong, head-turning odour; one that never really leaves the room because it has permeated every porous surface – or maybe it was just the smell of death and decay.
I wandered through the small house and looked down upon my clothes. Stained with filth and liquids of unknown origin, I felt they way a beloved scarf or glove may feel if discarded in a leaky street gutter: contaminated and stepped on, violated then disposed of.
A flashback image dashed through the back of my eyes and I could see a few people laughing and drinking, standing by the sink where the vodka and wine had been placed. Had they been standing there to monitor the equal distribution and emptying of the bottles or were they standing there just to make sure it was they who personally took the task upon them to drown out the bottles of any liquid themselves?
Back in the present, I glanced around for anything that might belong to me — nothing but the dirty clothes on my back. I heard a noise and then the door creaked open. For such a groaning door it opened with surprising fluidity. In came two of the lads who I presumed had been at the party the previous night. One had shaggy blond hair that curled at the tips but his three day stubble was almost black. His board shorts had that patchy discolouration from sitting under the sun and lounging around in the sand too long; quite the sea urchin. The other one was scratching his shaven head and lit a cigarette. I couldn’t tell if I ought to feel threatened by them and if it was advisable to mistrust them but soon they appeared to me, in all their stumbling, nonchalant dudeness, to be (for the time being at least) harmless.
They inquired as to how I was feeling (hm…they must know me then, I thought) and what the hell happened. That question was insistently on my mind too though my cognitive capacity, I could even feel it, was at an all-time-low. I could not land upon a satisfying justification for this intriguing evidence of events. Did the mess point to disturbing events of a questionable nature or did it merely excuse a legitimately, albeit wild, social gathering?
I had a really hard time answering with my explanation of what it all meant simply because I didn’t have enough entirely intact, let alone detailed memory logs to draw conclusions or assumptions from. Whereas it was a straightforward question it somewhat puzzled me. I was torn as to how to reply. I almost told them that the decrepit wreckage they saw was just a result of all the people assembled here last night and the disruptive craze that ensued. But I decided against implying anything that they might not grasp; they appeared harmless but they also held that wavering swagger of a drunken person and gave off the air of someone in a jostling mood, so I deducted that maybe they would be too slow on the uptake and stare at me blankly if I tried to explain what had happened. It was at this point that I put two and two together and figured they were not actually at the previous night’s shenanigans justifying their shock and awe at the majestically messed up scene of this untidy, disheveled place.
Nonetheless, they were nice enough to ask me along for a swim. The day seemed hot and uncomfortably sticky just from the way the lads had dragged themselves in, but the windows were just too small and dusty to draw any definitive conclusions as to the weather; I avoided the cliché and did not ask them about the outside world. Not just yet.
So for now I looked around and vaguely saw through a smudged window the very edge of a towel hanging outside. The window on top of the sink looked out onto a packed dirt patio and apparently some sort of washing line. The towel was shit brown with palm trees symmetrically placed, all in a different colour – lime green, red, yellow, sky blue. I asked if they knew to whom the towel belonged and whether I could borrow it. I started to make towards the door to go outside to find a way of retrieving the beach towel. Shaggy told me it was a no-go that way (hm… so they know this place well. But what is this place?) I stepped outside to see why. I walked up a number of cement steps – whereupon my speculations of being underground were confirmed - and found to my right a wooden shed. It was no wider than two people’s arm spans put together. It was practically derelict, ready to fall down, having taken on the colour of corrosion and mud, yet there, as I entered, I saw hanging from the ceiling an ancient chainsaw, a scythe, assorted sizes of butcher hooks and heavy-duty chains, a bear trap (although as far as I could tell we were nowhere near such altitude or vegetation, let alone such beasts), a rusty-looking motorcycle, fishing gear and a whole lot of other undetermined junk. The sun traced the outline of a door on the other side of the shed, a couple strides away. But there was so much junk heaped on the floor that in fact there was no floor at all to be seen, heard or spoken of! One would have to climb and clamber over it all and even then there was no knowing whether the door opened inwards or out.
“You’d have to fly to get to the other side. Door’s been sealed shut by the mud and rust. Have to get out through the window in the kitch’n”.
How on earth did that towel get to be hanging there in the first place though? This place was starting to make my mind smell funny. A smell similar to burning. But a sweeter aroma, softer and more pungent – like incense. Either way, the situation didn’t look too promising nor feel too foolproof. The oddest thing was that I didn’t feel threatened by something tangible –it was more an unseen force that crept around the house, looming under the sagging sofas and hiding in the pantry.
I opened the window to retrieve the towel and upon seeing the difficulty of the task (it was too far to reach without a harpoon) gave up on the idea and moved towards the back of the house (dwelling? cellar?) and into the minute sitting room area. It had the bench and the armchair and a half-broken stool - its lacquer was chipping. A sat down in the armchair, apparently too hastily and was thus enclosed in a cloud of misplaced dust, blanket fibre and dried mud. I allowed my hands to dangle over the armchair’s arm-rests and I imagined them to be wet tea towels drying, heavy and limp, pulled down my gravity and weight.
Something violently bit down around the cushion of my right hand. Lifting my hand in a flurry of pain and panic I saw a miniature fox dangling from my bloody extremity. I stared wide eyed and mute, first at the fox, then at the dudes in the background.
“Oh, yeah, feisty little brute he is. Gotta keep an eye out for ‘im”, snorted Baldy Smokerton.
He made this kind of half-hearted attempt at a laugh and just ended it with a loud sniff. Was he embarrassed by the thing or just unimpressed by it? Though upon seeing their indifference toward the animal, I got the impression that it was a regular vulpine visitor and nothing much to be hassled over (apart from a torn shirt-sleeve perhaps). But to what state of events did they owe this domesticated effortlessness? Had they lived here in the past? I now reconnected with that feeling I had when they first entered the musty chambers: it was familiarity. They were at great ease in this place which at the time led me to believe that they’d lived here in the past. I just couldn’t make up my mind about whether or not that realization unnerved me just a little; or was that a twinge fondness?
I shook the fidgeting creature off and in that moment when it was free-falling to the ground, a feline twist in its form, I saw it (or thought I saw it) in front of my eyes as it turned into a thorny, fire-spitting one. I made a note never to dangle my feet from over the bench again; though I would make damn sure I never had to come back to this house again to begin with. There was nothing here for me but unanswered question and dust-covered lies.
Somehow, someway the dudes eventually left and I went back to the window in the kitchen. I peered out like a sailor adrift at sea in an anchorless vessel. A black kitten with yellow eyes was staring in with a bored yet peeved gaze, making kitten sounds – the kind of noise that annoys you without your knowing why. I turned away and let it croak away.
||Turning around, I explored with my eyes my surroundings. Beside the kitchen sink was a hidden door. Obscured by stuff hanging from its frame, it looked like a pantry door. I gave the handle a firm twist and to my dismayed surprise it opened. I felt like I had stepped into a time warp and I started to see ripples in the space around me. I was looking at the exact same room I had just exited. I walked into the sitting room and past the table on my right, a bed in the corner behind it.
To my left were picture frames on the hall wall and there straight ahead of me was a kitchen sink that expanded to the left. There was the fridge and the stale drinks and food. Had I noticed this passage way to a parallel world last night? Why was it that I just could not piece together the happenings of that blasted evening before this bizarre compelling one I was experiencing right now? And was I supposed to be looking for someone? I had a badgering feeling that I ought to be finding someone, but could not for the life (or maybe even imminent death or me?) the reason why!
The round rug in the middle of the hall was strewn with what looked like oblong pellets. Can mouse feces be purple? I wasn’t sure if they were mouse droppings but there soon after witnessed confirmation of this fact by a couple of scuttling, shuffling mice running across and under the bench. That bench was losing credibility in my mind rapidly… The mice hid under where the fox would be (technically though what could I be certain of anymore) on the other side of this confounding parallel universe’s wall. A dead, squashed lizard lay belly-up on the rug. It was missing part of its tail and one of its eyes had burst open. The bench was draped in creased black and maroon velvet covers. The shutters in the hall were pulled shut and on the floor lay a few picture frames, the glass cracked or stepped on.
As I walked through into the kitchen for a second time, I saw a dead bird on the counter next to the fridge and more mice droppings on the floor. The television was hissing and snowing, the radio buzzed and bellowed. As I stepped back I heard a crunching sound and lifted my foot up to reveal a handful of paperclips – all had been pulled apart, making that squared, sinister S shape.
Back in the sitting area I noticed a jack-in-the-box, except there was no colourful, creepy face to pop out, merely a be-gloved white palm in handshake mode slumped to one side on the floor. I wondered what it would feel like to shake that hand but worried that I would just be tempting fate if I tried it, lest it turned into an iron fist possibly ready and definitely suspiciously able to annihilate my fingers. I shrugged the idea off by moving back into the first house, grateful that I didn’t enter yet a third variation of the same place. There on the floor were more purple pellets. Had they been there the first time around?
By now I had surrendered my idea to this warped reality and judging by the stillness of it was eager to get out before its roaring jaws opened up and decided to devour me whole; or worse, leave me in two places as once, schismed in Limbo Land and Loony Farm. Was it all the same room and I was just distorting things in my mind? Maybe I hadn’t even found a door and merely imagined it, the whole house a fabrication of my imagination. Why could I not remember anything? Most of all, why was I still hanging about so enthralled by all this, these houses which clearly unsettled me?
I stuffed my hands in my pockets and felt a car key. I hastily, wearily threw my gaze around the rooms (rooms which by now were losing their density, their silver, metallic Mercurial opacity starting as if too liquefy and drown me) and made to leave. My departing, sweeping gaze fell onto a square white image. Held in place by a magnet on the fridge was a note in handwriting I recognized –finally something familiar other than the remnants and ramifications of that vile, vicious hangover from Outer Space.
Lynn is dead.
See you at the wedding
I looked at my leather wrist-watch, its cracked face sooty, its strap scuffed: six-fifty.
So long house of ghosts and thanks for all the chills.
If you looked back you would see a vague shape of a person missing from the loitering, arrogant smoke, just like a card-board cut-out, or the dreaded white line drawn around the dead.
© Danae Phelps October 2012
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