There's this guy I've been seeing for a long time. Long enough to see his hair start to go grey at the temples. He lives in a cavernous house overlooking the harbor. It's all dark wood and exposed beams—very medieval. The floors are bare flagstone, and when I walk my footsteps echo louder than they have any right to.
Most of the house is a vague impression only. I'm aware of many rooms and hallways, all with the same dark decor, but I spend most of my time in a vast bedroom. In the manner peculiar to dreams, the size of the room shifts with the dream. Sometimes it is enormous, with the walls receding so far away I can barely see them. Other times the room shrinks to an intimate size, hardly big enough for a bed and desk.
I am often alone in the house. He sails away for long stretches of time, attending to some mysterious business. When word comes that his ship is returning, I go to the harbor and wait at a stone jetty, standing in a crowd of people. It's noisy and colorful, but everything around me is a blur. I'm straining to catch a glimpse of him, and when I do the scene shifts with dizzying speed.
We arrive in the bedroom and I've got amorous intentions. But instead this guy has somehow managed to redecorate the bedroom. The bed is gone, and in fact there's no furniture at all, only an enormous black chandelier. It's kind of tacky, actually. I'm confused and irritated by all of this suddenly derailed lust. I conclude that this is an impostor, someone wearing my lover's skin. I have no idea what to do. I'm outraged and scared.
The next thing I know, I'm clinging to a rope attached to the mast of a tall ship. I'm swinging out of control. I have no idea what the hell I'm doing.
I'm visiting a new city. My dad says that because I've had a hard time lately, we're going to see something special—a park that has guinea pigs graze to mow the lawn. But when we get there around sundown I don't see any guinea pigs, only gigantic mules. Their feet are the size of plates. I try to climb onto one but it kicks at me. I try to climb onto another and it allows it. I sit on its back while it meanders about.
I'm a patient in a hospital. The doctor asks me a question in a foreign language, but turns away after a moment. When I hesitantly respond, he turns back around with a bright smile. Suddenly I'm walking through a narrow alleyway at night. Everything is orange-tinted from the lights. I approach a t-shaped intersection with another alley. Right as I'm about to pass by, a man rides out on a tandem bicycle and blocks my path. He is wearing a dog mask. A beagle, I think.
There is something in the house. It's an evil presence, and I know I've seen it but I can't describe it to anyone. They don't believe me. I set about trying to burn the house down. I am trying to splash gasoline around, but I hardly have any. There's maybe half a small can left. At the same time, I'm trying to collect clothes because it is vitally important we have clean underwear when we flee.
I am trying to make my way toward some important goal, but every time I make some headway I end up getting pushed back. I climb into a big truck, maybe a semi or something similar. I can't drive it, though. It jackknifes across the road and I am lucky to get out uninjured. Next I sit down in a plush armchair that is supposed to become a car. It does eventually transform into a tiny sedan, but the thing isn't even functional. I get out and start walking.
I come to a house. It's a plain, single story suburban house with a pale green lawn and bushes pressed up against the walls. I climb to the top, thinking I might see a way forward.
It's raining hard tonight. It's too dark to see, except when flashes of lightning illuminate my surroundings for a brief, startling moment. I have a sense of being surrounded by concrete buildings. They are empty, gutted. I look up and rain fills my mouth.
A natural rock bridge spans a sun-dappled gorge. A narrow, dusty path winds down to the bottom. It is rife with switchbacks, and steep enough that descending means sliding down and hoping the rocks don't tear through my pants. Above, sycamores rustle their broad leaves in a faint breeze. Most of the trees stand upright, although a few bend gracefully toward the ground.
I am walking in a shallow stream. They can't see my footprints if I stay in the water. Minnows swim around me, nibbling at my feet. It tickles. After a time I come to a strange town by the sea. I can see the ocean in the distance, but first I have to navigate the streets. The town is built on several levels, which are accessed by escalators so steep I think I'm going to fall while riding them. Many of the buildings are dark, and the rest are stocked with food or gifts or other touristy things. I feel like I'm being followed. Sometimes I catch shadowy figures from the corner of my eye, but they disappear as soon as I try to look at them head on.
I'm running from an invisible flood. As I run along the dry river bottom, tripping over stones and scrub, I look back. I see everything disappear as the flood rushes along its course. A tree stands in the river bottom, a scraggly cottonwood. Suddenly it is gone from the ground to six or seven feet up. The top of the tree falls in slow motion.
After witnessing a robbery, I run to the nearest convenience store and tell the clerk to call the police. I notice them looking at me suspiciously though, and I decide that the clerk is in cahoots with the robber. My life is in danger now that I've said something. But they don't yet know that I've figured it out. I excuse myself to the bathroom. There's an escape route— a swinging door that leads to the outside. I push it open and start running. As I run, I pass classrooms where one or two people sit at their desks. I bang on the windows as I go by, and some of the students come outside and start to follow me. The air is cold and the sky is cloudy.
I am staying in a fancy hotel by the sea. I want to leave but I am blocked at every turn. Finally I manage to sneak outside, only to find myself pursued by hotel staff. So I start running. Eventually I find myself in a bookstore that was formerly a large house. There are floor to ceiling shelves everywhere. My footsteps thud on the wood floor. I run across a courtyard, through a door, and into a building that makes no sense.
I am climbing to the top of a staircase, only sometimes it seems to go up or down depending on some strange whim. When I reach the top I realize there is nowhere to go. I turn around, only to find that parts of the stairs have become a slide carpeted in faded blue grey. It looks like the carpet in primary schools. It is much more difficult than it should be to go back down. Sometimes I slide and sometimes I seem to be stuck. Eventually I make my way to the bottom and burst through a set of double doors into a sort of carnival or museum.
I walk down a long, gently curving hallway. I am nervous, because I can feel someone pursuing me. I come to a display where an animatronic man laughs silently behind glass. There is a door here, and as soon as I step through I realize I am in a secret place. I am in a bar, paneled in dark wood and with colorful glass bottles glinting dimly in dark recesses. There are only two other people here: a patron, hidden deep within his overcoat, and the barman, who wears old-fashioned armbands over his sleeves. I slide onto a stool and he asks what I want. Something I haven't tried before, I reply. He serves me something green with a side of snacks, saying it's not something you want to drink by itself. There is something definitely strange here, something that perhaps has the power to be dangerous, but it is not what was pursuing me before and that's something.
I'm at the beach. There's an unusually low tide today. I'm digging for treasure in sand that hasn't been exposed for years. I find interesting rocks in colorful shades of green and orange. I pocket a few of them. They are warm to the touch. Digging further, I find a sword with a long, thin blade. It feels right in my hand. I don't want to put it down, and I don't have enough free hands to continue digging, so I leave. As I do, I notice the tide coming in, creeping up to quickly cover where I just was.
I return home. Home is a small shop in front, with a curtain separating it from the living area in back. I lay my findings on the counter and look at them while I eat. A few people come over to visit and I feed them pizza. I can feel a sea change coming.
I'm drowning on dry land. I can see only distorted shapes in blue and grey. I grasp at them and they pass through my hands like smoke.
The flood is coming. I see black water rising up in a vertical wall in the distance. It's as tall as a mountain. The water swirls around me even as I turn to flee, but I am not as afraid as I know I should be. Even as I see trees bend and snap under the force of the rushing water, I find myself unaffected. It's as though the flood and I are on different planes of existence.
I am the sole occupant of an old, old house. I can feel the years seeping out of dark-varnished wood and the burnished brass fittings on the doors. The house is watchful. I am locking up for the night. Out on the glassed-in porch, I turn to go inside when I get the sensation that I am not finished there. I turn to find a door standing ajar. It is one I haven't noticed before. I peer through it and find an old flagstone path leading along the side of the house, disappearing around a corner. Bare-limbed trees border the path, like ghosts in darkness. The sight makes me uneasy, so I lock the door tight and disappear into the depths of the house.
I find another new door. This one leads to a narrow warehouse, floored with concrete and cluttered with all manner of tools and mysterious things in crates. A man calls out, asking what I'm doing there. He is lying on the ground. I kneel beside him and lean in close, murmuring, I like you.
I've returned to the house I grew up in. It's been stripped of almost everything—the carpets, wallpaper, and even most of the interior walls are gone. The floors are bare wood polished and silvered by age. The only furniture left is a bureau and a few small knickknacks in the center of the room. Afternoon sunlight filters in through dusty windows. I have a child with me, aged three or four. I think he is my son, although I don't know his name. We leave the house for the last time, and as I lock the door I look under the house. It is raised above the foundation, but the blocks are crumbling.
I am at a newly built university, conferring with a group of architecture students. For their final project they must build a house. The plot of land they've selected is just at the bottom of the hill. The lines of the old house have been drawn in chalk on the dirt. I tell them that this is a dangerous idea, but if they won't change their minds then they must be sure to build the house so that none of the walls line up with those of the old. The old walls corresponded with ley lines, I say. They doubt my words, so I tell them that I have spoken with him, and he agrees with me. They doubt even that.
We are at a party celebrating the students' breaking ground. I am still worried, so I sit at the foot of the stairs and say nothing. I see him come into the room and sit silently beside me. His sandy hair is shot through with grey.
The house is built on several levels, with low ceilings and dim lighting. There are scores of rooms, but almost all are long-abandoned bedrooms. The few windows are long, low rectangles. The place is cave-like, wistful, at once comforting and a little sad. I am wandering from room to room, not looking for anything in particular. Suddenly I turn, startled. It feels like there is someone else here. I pick up a baseball bat from behind a door and begin to move as quietly as I can from room to room, seeking out the intruder.
I come to one of the front rooms, with a tall plate-glass window looking out over a lawn bordered by thick trees. It is night-time. There is a strange man on the lawn, naked, facing away from the window. As I watch he stretches and flexes, muscle by muscle. He hardly seems to move at all, but his skin is slick with sweat and his hair shines damply.
I'm waking up from surgery. The backwoods clinic slowly shifts into focus. Awakening in the dream is like light refracted in water. There's a sense of unreality, of a disconnect between what I'm seeing and what is real. I try to sit up, but my distorted vision is too much. I lie back down on the hard table.
The trial is at the top of the mountain. I am climbing a steep path to the top, up steps carved into stone. They've long since been worn down by the elements, smoothed and covered with scattered grit and gravel. For every two steps upward I seem to take another step back, slipping and skinning my knees. The sky is the pale blue-grey at the edge of a storm. The air is still and heavy.
I'm curled on my side in a small courtyard. The flagstone is warm under my cheek, and I can feel the sun slowly burning the other side of my face. Vines crawl over the walls and mass at the borders of the yard. Plants with broad leaves grow in terra cotta pots here and there. All is quiet.
I cling to the fence, fingers threaded through chain link. On the other side, in the pond, a man is drowning.
I'm standing at the edge of a cliff, peering through heavy snowfall. Lightning sparks behind masses of cloud and fog. I feel something between terror and euphoria.
I kneel on a faded rug in the middle of a vast, dark room, my throat tilted up for the knife.