Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Nightmare that Wasn't...

Last night, I dream-mared.  That's the only way I can think to describe what feels like it should have been a nightmare...but wasn't.  And I believe that part of why it wasn't is that I was having two seperate dreams at the same time.

In the nightmare, which is where the dream began, a teenaged girl, more out of curiosity than evil, ravaged a grown man:

Drowning him, and reviving him repeatedly.  Rending his flesh from his body with her teeth and nails.  And sealing him up, still alive in the walls of a victorian house.

Largely, she wanted to know what would happen.

Largely, she expected that because he was so much bigger than her, nothing would.  She was surprised by the results.

Who knew a person could hold their breath that long?  Who knew a person could come back so often?  The will to live is clearly a powerful thing.  Does being eaten alive hurt?  He screamed, but really, they weren't any different than the screams he tried to make while drowning.  Perhaps a bit louder, but that could be attributed to the lack of water in his throat, she was sure.  And what does human meat taste like?  Eh.  She was a fan of well cooked meat.  But the feel of skin slicing beneath her fingernails--that was interesting.  She could -almost- hear it, like a small hiss as the flesh rended.  Or the squish of the meat beneath as she squeezed it through her fingers like so much playdough rent for her entertainment.  Would it hold it's shape?  How did tendon affect it?  When it was this deep, was there still any pain?  She left the intestines alone, though their shiny stickiness called to her.  She didn't actually want to kill him after all.  It's not like she was a monster.  And then she buried him behind the wall.  She didn't bind him.  He was just currently unconscious.  But she kept an eye on him even while she laid the bricks.  When would he open his eyes?  Would she see them?  What would be in them?  Would he know what was happening?  As she sealed the last brick in place, she was disappointed.  He'd slept through the whole process.  Unconsciousness/ Asleep.  Really, what was the difference?  Now she would have to wait.  And watch.  And see?  Would he wake before he ran out of air?  Would he panic?  Would he fight his way through the wall?  What would he do?

And then it cut to my family, the other dream.  We had all just moved into a large victorian house in the town of Marianna.  The yard was large enough for all the critters.  We were living with both sets of our parents and all of our sisters and their families.  As I said, it was a large victorian home.  But this is a house I've dreamed of frequently.  I know it's ins and outs and secret passages.  I know it's so much easier to scale the outside of the house to get to the second floor and go in through the open window or the balcony than to weave the maze inside the house to get to the same spot.  We've all just moved in and we're choosing our rooms.  My boys share a room, out of desire, not need.  It's beside ours.  My youngest sister has chosen the room to our other side.  Right now, I'm watching my youngest niece.

And in the not nightmare, decades have passed and his spirit haunts the entire town.  The girl has not aged at all.  She doesn't know why.  Though she's plenty tired of high school.  Maybe she is being punished?  The local coven has sealed the town because otherwise, he will haunt the world.  If he is released, there is no stopping him.

And in our room, I picked up a book, a horror story that tells the story of the girl, the man and the ghost...or starts to.  So many of the pages are largely empty.  As yet left blank.  The book isn't finished.

They realize she has to write it all down.  Everything she did.  Everything she thought.  She has to tell his story.  He wants his story told.  And so she begins to write.  It's amazing how clearly she can remember.  How did it start?  Ah yes.  And so she writes.  And as she writes, her words give form to what was and form to what is and he is more than just a vengeful spirit.  He is flesh.

And in our town, they're having a faire or festival.  A reason for everyone to leave the house and meet the neighbors.  A chance to eat funnel cake and hear the local live band.  As I stand in the center, I wave to my friend Anna who lives in town.  A blonde man I don't know starts talking to me about being her ex-wife.  And a teenaged Wil Wheaton stands behind my left shoulder.  I share my bag of peanuts with him while we all stand there waiting.  And the blonde man grabs my arm, intent to take peanuts, intent to make more.  And I deliberately make eye contact and he lets go startled and I deliberately take a step to the left bringing the teenaged Wheaton with me.  There is distance between us, the aggressive blonde man and myself and I have made it clear that what is mine is not and will not be his.  And Wil and I continue to eat peanuts while we wait for the faire or the town meeting or the concert... or whatever it is to begin.

And then she realizes that the words are not enough.  Yes, the book must be written.  Yes, the words must arrive on the page.  The story must be read, but she must make amends.  She must endure by his hands what he endured at hers.  And his face is the face of Michael Emerson, but torn, the flesh peeled back, gouges where she rent it.  And in a bathtub in  the middle of a wooden room inside the victorian house, it is full of water and she is in it and he begins to drown her.

And at the faire the elders have gathered.  It's time to walk through the vendors.  And the craft section.  And the art display.  And all the lovely pies which will be going on sale at the end of the night.  Because they're raising money.  But what for?  It isn't said.  It's presumed that everyone knows.

But he isn't actually drowning her.  Yes, there's splashing.  But she's not afraid.  She started afraid, she was sure he was going to drown her.  But he doesn't.  He just makes her think that he's going to.  And water sloshes everywhere, splashing over the rim of the tub.  She's huddled beneath him at his mercy, and his mercy is much more vast than hers ever was.

And as I walk through the vendors, I see that one of them, the female leader of the village elders, has a sign for a company.  I cannot read the words. But I recognize the wolf in the moon.  I realize in horror and awe that it is she and she is it, for she is the leader of the coven and can shape change.  She is the wolf.  And the wolf is her.  And they have sealed the town to keep his spirit from taking over the world.

And she realizes as he playfully dunks her that he isn't mad.  Or at least, he isn't angry.  And she isn't drowning, though there's water everywhere and yes, her head does sometimes go dunking underneath and she comes up sputtering.  He doesn't laugh.  He can't laugh.  His voicebox hasn't completely grown back yet, but all the involuntary water play is starting to restore him and he no longer splashes rent and rended.  He splashes whole and sound.  And she reaches out to hug him.  She doesn't know exactly why, except that right then, he needed that hug.

And I seal the victorian house in bindings stronger than the council could.  What is within must be allowed to play out.  But our part is in the future and it is difficult to seal the past.  It always has a way of leaking out.  But my bindings are strong and will hold until they need to be broken.

And he is more than whole.  He is young.  And his face is no longer that of Michael Emerson, but the face of Justin Timberlake when he was a teenager.  And she is a teenager.  And she realizes that he loves her.  That he's always loved her.  That he would endure anything for her.  Including torture and cannibalism and murder at her hands.  And he has endured.  And the question remains...

And I sit in my room, the breeze blowing the sheer curtain of the window, my niece napping peacefully beside me, her curls gently shifting in the breeze, unnoticed.  And I read.  The book is almost done.  Their story is almost complete.  But the question remains...

And still she is clinical. Documenting every nuance. Every response.  Questioning.  Counter questioning.  Why does this cause that?   But what is the real question?

And as I read the final lines of the book and she told of sealing him in the wall and he told of waking to the darkness and believing himself already dead, I realize that they are both enshrined within that tomb of time past.  Locked in a house that -I- had sealed.  Taken out of time.  A room sealed up in the middle, no bricks needed.  And the question remains-- If given the chance to start all over, would she have done it differently?

Would she have murdered him purely out of curiosity?  Or would she have recognized that he loved her?  That he could love her?  And could she love him?

For fifty years her spirit haunted the high school, a teenaged girl repeating the motions of pursuing an eduction, never aging because she was not alive.  For fifty years his spirit raged against the walls of the house, sealed within, sealed without her, longing to let her know.  For fifty years my binding held, set in place long before we ever came.  A tomb without a tomb, containing their story, containing their actions, containing their spirits.  Holding them there.

But we moved in, bringing family and laughter and love and a penchant to read and the time was ripe for the seals to break, and time was right for the words to be written, the story and the spirits set free, to find peace, to find each other, to let go and move on.  To be read:  Of the curious girl who wasn't a monster (but really, really was) and the nightmare that wasn't...but probably should have been.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Heart Out of Tune

This post was inspired by the novel A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker.  Feeling lost and burned out, Julia drops her well paying job at a NYC law firm. After hearing a stranger’s voice in her head, she travels to Burma to find the voice’s story and hopefully herself as well. Join From Left to Write on February 4 as we discuss A Well-Tempered Heart. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. 

One of the things that I love about the book club, From Left to Write, is that we don't actually do traditional book reviews.  We write posts that are inspired by the books we have the privilege of reading.  Last year, I got to read the prequel to this book, On Hearing Heartbeats.  I loved it!  It's one of my absolute favorites so when I saw that we would have the opportunity to continue the story of Julia, I absolutely signed up.

Do you believe in serendipity?  It's defined as finding pleasant surprises you weren't looking for or expecting.  I tend to take it a step further when those surprises seem to be a small multitude pointing in the same direction.

It took me three days to read this book.  Despite the fact that it is not a long book.  Despite the fact that I am a fast reader.  Because not all surprises we find are pleasant, and it made me recognize things within myself that I typically ignore, avoid, or deny.  (Nu Nu would say I was reading the signs.  And Nu Nu would be right.)  It took me three days to read this book and a fourth day to come to terms with what I found.

You see, for the past four days, I have been a heart out of tune.

If you've read my previous blogs, you've probably caught on that I'm largely optimistic, cheerful, prone to laughing, and maybe a pinch clever and creative.  In fact, that's a pretty good description for me the vast, vast, VAST majority of the time.  For as bright and cheerful and confident a person as I usually am, every now and then... I am not.

And this book resonated with that part of me that I don't frequently mention and even more frequently don't acknowledge.   The part of me that gets sad.  Agitated.  Frustrated.  Angry.  Doubtful.  Fearful.  And worst of all-- with absolutely no obvious outward provocation for any of them.  Melancholy.  I don't mention them, and more often than not don't act on them...but it doesn't mean I don't -feel- them.  I'm still just a human.  And sometimes, my heart is out of tune.

My husband cornered me and asked me, "What's wrong?"  (He can read me truly and truly see me, even when I would hide from myself.)  But I find myself divided in answering.  Because the easy answer, the quick answer, the answer I give that he accepts for now but doesn't really buy of "Nothing's wrong." is both true... and not true.  Truth:  There is no -thing- that is actually wrong.  But still...

I am a heart that has (briefly) fallen out of tune.

For the three days it took me to read this book, I knew that it was one of those time.  I was easily irritated.  Easily agitated.  Frustrated.  Questioning my life choices:  Have I made the right ones?  For me?  For my family?  Is my dream worth pursuing?  Am I talented enough?  Can I do this?  What if I can't?  What if I'm not?  What if...  "What if" can be such a terrible, paralyzing question.  So here's a better question, taken from the book:

"What is important to you?"

The simplest question he could think to ask.

But unlike Julia, even now, even full of self doubt, I could easily answer this question:  My beloved, our children, our critters, and making art.

To KNOW this, and to still have doubts.  To KNOW this with all of my soul and to still have irritation.  Agitation.  Frustration.  The questions.

I drove home tonight dreading this post because I'm usually very good at ignoring that portion of me that are the emotions we all feel and don't want to claim as our own.  Weakness.  Frailty.  Particularly when they're irrational.  When we know that others in the world face so much worse than we.  Endure so much worse.  So much more real.  And as I drove, I realized that I had succumbed to the implication that having blessings means we're not allowed a single moment of despair or unhappiness.

Tonight, as I drove home thinking these same circular questions that have plagued me for the last three days, it was a seed of anger, a kernel within me threatening to blossom and explode all over the ones I love at home without provocation.  Anger at myself threatening to volcano over those that I love, innocent bystandards.   And all because I was tired of these questions.  I was tired of the doubt.  And the fear.  And I realized that I had accepted a falsehood.  This falsehood, this accepted belief, that I am not allowed to be sad or frustrated.  And this falsehood had set my heart out of tune.

Because I am still human.  And that means I'm entitled to all the 'feels'.  Damn it.  I can be irrationally sad.  Or angry.  Or melancholy.

And I knew as I took the second to last turn headed to my house that for the last three days, I have been a heart out of tune.  Out of sync with the rightness I am usually blessed to occupy.  Out of sync with the love I intellectually know surrounds me.

As I pulled into my driveway, my children came out of my house to greet me while I checked the mail.  And I looked up and felt that kernel of anger melting.  In that moment, I could see the love they hold for me-- even when I'm melancholy and irrational and irritated.

Tonight, I needed a hug.  And my family gave them to me.  They helped to set my heart to rights.  To tune it back and remind me that the only question that really matters is "What is important to you?"

And I already know the answer to that one.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Carnival Dreaming

Every now and then, I have what I tend to call "Carnival Dreams".  A series of fragments that flash around like you're on a carnival ride.  Last night was one of those.

So in the first section, we were traveling through a desolate arctic north when we came to my mother's victorian house.  She'd abandoned it when she fled south, but let us know we could use it when we got there.  We unlocked the door, and started a fire in the fireplace.  There was no such thing as regular electricity.  But we got the generator running so that we could run the washing machine and then the dryer to clean our travel stained clothing.  I realized that we'd brought all of our animals with us as I was admonishing them to go back outside to go potty as one of them started to squat over the hardwood floors.

Then I was part of a caravan traveling a spring laden future.  I was one of two identical twin women.  My sister had four children by four different men, though the man she was mated to (weddings didn't happen in this place) claimed father rights for the first three.  I myself had two children.  We were passing through a town that still had a grocery store and in the front, they had a laundry mat we were using to wash our clothes.  We all decided to go to the local festival, that included mud sliding in the rain.  As my sister went down, competiting for fastest speed, her mate watched her infant son, child of another man.  He briefly considered smothering this child, but couldn't stand to see him squalling in the rain so he picked him up and sheltered him and found he loved this child like he loved all of her children.  And then we were waiting for a helicopter to come pick us up but it landed on the other side of the fence and we had to walk our way through a Nazi Germany airshow, that showed all the aircraft and landcraft they had created for the wars, but it was abandoned and in disrepair, the hindenberg deflated and many a tire out of air or plane wings broken with age.  As we reached the helicopter

I was at an enormous school, practically a microcosm unto itself.  It was the orientation party at the beginning of the year and we were there for my boys to meet their new classmates and teachers.  The school nurse brought my youngest son to me and let me know that a bunch of his classmates didn't like that he had a nerf football to play with and in jealously, the lead girl had punched him, loosening a tooth while the other children egged her on and called names.  My youngest was crying.  I comforted him and asked the nurse to take me to the principal when he told me that the other children had just been left loose.  When I walked up to the Principal, he wasn't interested and though his nurse was too soft hearted.  They didn't have time for this.  I told him I didn't want the kids expelled or anything, I just wanted to talk to them to let them know these actions are not okay.  He blew me off and I asked if he'd have time for the police.  He decided he could spare the nurse, giving the poor kind young man a dirty look, and we went off to find the bullies.

And I was at home in my mother's Victorian house in the summer.  Looking at my youngest's tooth with my husband and we decided he needed to see a dentist.  But not today, as it was the big parade and festival.  As we walked outside to go to main street for the parade, we passed by the old fire house and I recognized it as the one in Woodstock, Virginia from when we lived there.  But here, now, it had been converted into a German style animatronic clock with large gears that on the hour would release a different scene through the fire doors.  It was 11:15, so there was no activity now, but I smiled to remember watching the clocks in Germany and looking forward to seeing what they would have here.  As we walked down to Main Street, I could hear the sounds of laughter and music and smell the street vendors and knew we were in for a treat when my alarm clock woke me up.