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The Dreamer's Dilema
Walking through a grocery store. The shelves lined with nameless products. She stretches out her hand and lightly caresses the cans and boxes with no labels. Her mind spirals in a whirlwind as she considers the meaning behind this. Strange how she can be so conscious while sleeping.
The scene dissolves as a frantic chirping fills the air around her. Suddenly, all she sees is the flickering of dulled color behind her eyelids. Opening her eyes, she absorbs the grooves in the bright white ceiling. Everything below her chin is engulfed in serene warmth. The chirping is getting louder as she becomes more aware. She reaches over and drops her hand down on the top of the small alarm clock. It reads, 6:00 a.m. as the blinking characters cease and become stationary. The artificial sound vanishes and a stillness remains. Quiet, almost timid sounds of breath can be heard from the other side of the bed. She looks over at the rise and fall of the covers and smiles. This experience is rather new to her, but all together encouraging. As silently as possible, she sneaks out of bed trying not to disturb him. Tip-toeing around the room, she gathers up her socks and sweater. At the door, she pauses looking back at the marvel she is leaving behind.
Smiling broadly, she scampers down the broad wooden stairs like a child, and lands in the kitchen. She strides to the coffee maker and begins making coffee. Above the sink, a window gazes out upon the backyard. There stands a weather-beaten barn, graying and ancient. The scene looks the same as always under the watchful clouds above. The oak tree is just starting to shed its tinged leaves and the remaining survivors sway in the light breeze. Placing the coffee pot in its cradle, she leaves the machine to do her bidding. Thinking to herself that it will be ready by the time she gets back, she makes her way to the thick wooden door at the end of the hallway. Leaning against the wall she pulls on her boots and grabs a colorful hat from a hook next to the numerous sets of keys hanging on the wall. She grasps the tarnished doorknob and pulls open the door as the sun and the coolness of the outdoors reaches her and tickles her nose. What could be better than this? Pausing to take in the brisk morning, she walks out onto the creaking porch and bends over to pick up a metal bucket. Lithely stepping off the porch onto the grass, she rounds the house and makes her way toward the barn. She’s not really paying much attention to where she is going, after all she does this every morning.
Something catches her eye. There is a figure standing in the doorway of the stable. Back turned toward her, she can’t quite make out whether the stranger is a man or a woman. Cautiously she creeps forward and prepares to ask the person what they are doing on her property. For some reason, she feels nervous, anxious even. As she approaches the atmosphere no longer feels inviting, but frightening. Clutching the bucket to her side, she prepares to say something. Before the words come, the stranger turns almost in slow motion and looks directly at the dumbfounded girl. Morbid recollection fills the space between them. The light dissolves and a smothering thickness descends upon her.
The air is suffocating and there is an acrid smell that seems to penetrate her being. She is alone, very alone. A leaden feeling lingers in her body and her mind is weighing heavily on a reality that can’t seem to take shape. Looking up, she takes in the condition of her surroundings. Blackened, choked wood is all that remains of the doorway. Lifting her hand, she touches the splintering, lifeless structure.
Her heart begins to pound. Dropping her gaze back down, she sees hundreds of overlapping imprints in the frosted earth. Footprints, both human and animal, and some unrecognizable. Something terrible has happened here, she thought to herself; this isn’t my barn.
Determined to figure out what is happening, she takes a step forward, into the swallowing darkness. Smears of ash streak the walls and particles hang in the air, enhancing the already potent smell of smoke. There is no longer hay strewn across the floor inviting little creatures to make homes here. What is left of the stalls is empty and lifeless. In fact, the only things remaining are the walls and beams; determined to hold the structure together. Flashes of memory, or maybe insight creep forward, threatening to engulf her. A moment ago she was skipping forward in a perfect present and now the world feels as whole as this lonely, wavering stable.
Smothering. Even her body feels thicker, denser than ever. Her lightness of heart now extinguished in this dark crack of existence. Sadness and hatred threaten to overcome her, but as she looks up and away from herself, she catches sight of small trickling of light peeking through a hole in the choked wall. It streams defiantly, cutting across the air in front of her. She wills herself to grasp this beam of energy. Not with her hands, but with her mind. As she takes hold, the light seems to grow inside of her, swelling like a wave. Brilliantly it begins to expand into the eves of the desolate structure, revealing what is hidden in the wreckage. Filled with hope, she looks around eagerly taking in the changing surroundings. Seizing her chance, she throws herself through the opening of the stable and lands with a heart lurching thud.
Afraid to even peek through her lids, she lays there taking it all in. Slowly, she realizes that she is indeed laying outside on the cold, half frozen ground. She flexes her fingers and touches the ground, desperately clinging to tangible reality. She opens her eyes, so slowly that she can feel the strain of every second that passes. An internal tension seems to pull her in every direction.
Light. It is bright and pure, and all around her. Slightly comforted, she draws herself up onto her forearms and cautiously stands. She can see her house, looking whole and welcoming standing there rooted in the bright morning light.
“You weren’t prepared to see me,”
The words echoed in the air, slow and deliberate. A panic began to rise within the girl as she turned to face her embodied nightmare.
“And yet you survived.”
A glimpse of blonde hair. She makes an effort to look her enemy square in the face. A hollowed, once round face with large eyes stares back at her. A look of fear and worry permanently etched into the mask she thought she knew so well. Funny, how their resemblance was a perfect match, yet the air all around her other-self felt forbidding and dead.
Willing herself to speak, the girl opens her mouth, but no words come. She just looks at her mortal reflection with intense uncertainty. Why? She thinks to herself. What do I do?
“Whatever you think is best. You’ve seen what I can do, so here’s your chance. Get rid of me. Do it! I dare you.”
In an instinctual, fluid motion the girl lunges forward, arms outstretched toward her opponent, and grips the cold, taut neck of the standing corpse before her. She weeps as her trembling hands seem to take on a mind of their own. She throttles every aspect of animation from her alter self. They both land with a crash onto the freezing ground and the impact seems to force perspective into the girl’s mind. She looks down on her opponent, deep into the hollow eyes that used to be a strange mix between green and grey. Her mouth is parted in gasping surprise as her life is taken. As the girl realizes what her actions might mean, her hands loosen around the pale flesh and her victim dissolves into thin air.
Stunned, the fearful girl lifts herself up, still trembling with adrenaline and fear. She breaks into a run, leaving behind the scene that just occurred in a desperate attempt to forget. Pushing open the door, she bolts through and leaves it hanging in midair. She doesn’t bother to take off her boots or hat as she whips through the house, wanting nothing more than to be next to him; to be comforted. Taking the stairs two at a time, she jumps onto the landing and catches her breath as a soft singing echoes from her room.
Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world, heard in the day,
Lull'd by the moonlight have all pass'd away!
A dull thud as her husband checks the time on the singing clock radio. She moves forward, eager to rejoin him in bed.
Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song,
List while I woo thee with soft melody;
The sun streaming through the windows is just visible through the door she had left open. She walks forward, arm outstretched toward the paneled wood when suddenly a harsh intake of breath makes her stop. Standing there, her heart in her throat, she listens to the sounds emanating from the room.
Gone are the cares of life's busy throng,
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
“Taylor! No, no, no….Oh my God! NO! Honey wake up, come on… Oh my God, come on just wake up!”
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Walking into the room, she sees her head peeking over the covers shrouded in a grayish hue. Her eyes are unseeing, yet staring upward at the ceiling as if contemplating the smooth curves in its sculpted surface.
His hands reach out to her lifeless body lying in the bed next to him, his heart hammering against the walls of his chest in a sporadic bombardment. Tears stream down his face, painting a shiny path along his skin. He brings her into his arms and rocks back and forth in a continuous motion. As he cradles her, the girl looks onto the scene.
She was tricked. She killed her alter, not realizing she can’t survive without her. A blissful numbness cascades through her being, relinquishing any ties to the physical universe.
She takes one last look at herself laying limp in his arms. Moving her eyes up to the face, she watches as the lifeless girl winks and throws her a tantalizing smile.
The drifting words of Beautiful Dreamer follow the girl down the steps and through the hallway.
Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn.
Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart,
She steps out into the light and embraces her decision.
E'en as the morn on the streamlet and sea;
Then will all clouds of sorrow depart,
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!