You know those dreams, those nightmares, which seem so real that you question nothing but your own sanity, for fear that it might break under the fear?
Sitting in this pale morning light, I am off-kilter, and feel outside of Time. I need to get this all down before I forget.
I was perfectly rational, lucid, in waiting for a near-unknown correspondent at an old inn we had decided upon as a venue for our finally meeting. The rooms seemed pleasant enough, innocuous in that way of golden sunlight flooding one space, before falling into strangely dense pockets of shadow … The air felt clotted, claustrophobic, but then – upon wandering further along narrow corridors, over creaking uneven floorboards, you would come upon yet more gold bars of light, and you would twitch and feel yourself to be silly and paranoid, rubbing your cheek in irritated confusion at the welter of nerves under the skin. There’s nothing wrong with this place.
I was waiting for him, that correspondent, and the sun was climbing over the sky, while the landlady – a woman pretty in her plainness, with brown hair and a purple t-shirt that you felt were not her first choices – carried a broom about like a gun, or a pint glass like a grenade, and was cordial with the regulars (of which there were quite a few, scattered over the green-gold lawn and inside on tall stools set on tottering flagstones) while positively bristling with abrasiveness at all newcomers, such as me. I only realize now what she was trying to do; who she was trying to protect.
Yet more pockets of darkness, where there should have been light. So incongruous.
She was trying to turn people away, having suffered enough pain and abuse at the hands of the other two staff members – an old man, the janitor, and a younger man, the cleaner, who basically ran the establishment. They were both very powerful, I could sense that, but kept it hidden beneath drab clothing and silence … But every now and then, I saw the corner of one mouth curl up, and I know enough in this life (spread to the dream one) to take care of such signs. So it came as no real surprise when the younger man cornered me on the stairs, where I waited in black-gold light, in such trembling heat (one of those summer evenings when it is best to stay indoors, though the air is so sluggish and thick) – no surprise, then, when he pretended to be my correspondent, while hiding in the shadows.
But I knew his voice, though I had heard it about as many times as I had the one I waited for, and called him out. And when he tried to put his hands on me, I ran. I ran up a long corridor, and found a bathroom that was more like an indoor swimming pool, or some alpine spa; sheer rocks of plastic, ferns trailing into different kinds of water; the swilling kind to bathe in, the cascading kind to feign wilderness. And more of that light, pouring in at a wide-eye window, but even that couldn’t dispel the real fear surrounding this place, especially at this point… What need for the sides of a bath, ridged up in the water that is basically a pool in itself? How did they keep the water confined; where did it go? I don’t know why this should bother me so.
They were powerful, those men, but not powerful enough – when both tried to rape me, as I made my escape out the back door, I swung such blows at both that I sent them spinning, with a force I would never hold in real life; I whacked them both upside the head, you would have loved it. Laid them out flat, and I saw them then, small and –
But I ran, and the landlady followed me out. I saw her tears then, on her face, and the hatred and love she felt for me, for being able to escape while she could not. What kept her there, what power did they have over her and others who may have worked there, unseen, unknown?
There was something so beautiful, so wrong about that place; it reminded me of the warren full of snares in Watership Down, with the sleek and well-fed rabbits, whose lives seemed so perfect, yet they knew only resignation. There was real evil in that place, in the shining wires – the unseen enemy, that is exactly how this dream felt. They tried to draw the Sandleford warren rabbits in, to have them fall upon the hands of the enemy instead. Only Strawberry felt enough remorse to follow the escape, to beg forgiveness.
Silverweed’s poem, full of prescience and sorrow. I saw it in the landlady’s face.
No doubt after this entry is done, I’ll feel normal again, and will feel silly for writing this all down, and for sending a message to my own correspondent; yet the one in the dream never did turn up, though I had the feeling he was watching from the sidelines, as though this were a test. Possibly laughing quietly to himself. It felt like a test, and as ever, as in reality, my anger won out. I have thrown punches before to save myself, but in doing so, have I endangered others? When a childhood neighbour tried it on with me as we babysat my little brother, I locked myself and the latter in the master bedroom and stayed there until he had gone back downstairs to raid my father’s fridge again. And when my mother came home and got me to unlock the door, and sat on the edge of the bed to ask what had happened, my silence didn’t last long; not as long as the next one would, so many years.
I was so angry that I told her exactly what had happened. But whether it was dealt with in an appropriate manner, I cannot say. It was a long time ago, and I was a child still; not quite thirteen.
He told me he wanted to give me an early birthday present.
I told him No.
Right now, that dream is behind my eyes, and feels all too real. Is it possible for a second act? To go back, to save the landlady and others? Is it possible to meet my correspondent? Why send me there, knowing what was inside, and my history?
I suppose it is just a projection of me overcoming my fears, of using that anger to carry me forward, this inability to back down, this fear of losing to people who try to control me.
But even as I stride forward, I am aware of others falling back, of those still vulnerable. I don’t know. I don’t know why I felt the need to tell him about La Jetee, and Sans Soleil; to watch them as I was instructed by the second teacher, alone and back-to-back. I don’t know if he would care, if it would mean anything to him at all – I am 97% he won’t respond, either because he doesn’t know how to, or because he is that angry with me. It doesn’t matter anymore. Maybe that’s why I could finally get the words out.
This feels like something that has gone on ages; that has gone on long enough. This life, always on the run from some fear or another, of speaking up and speaking out.
Now it’s time to get up and go back to pretending at normality, which is basically what we are all doing anyway.