She dreams as two people at once, both herself.
She is a small girl at the end of the day, her metal-framed bed the only piece of furniture in a house that has only one large room. The girl climbs into bed and lies flat on her back, the outline of her slight body clear beneath the blankets. The top blanket is a loosely woven eyeleted fabric, and she twists her hands within the loops of its pattern, knitting herself a bit of comfort as the blanket gathers and wraps around her fingers. The room has several bare windows, and through them she gauges the approach of the storm.
Wide awake within the dream, she waits.
The dreamer is in bed, but she also stands outside of this dream, watching. The girl in bed is experiencing the dream for the first time, but the woman who stands watching has borne witness to this dream many times before.
A girl and a woman, unknowing and knowing at once, completely separate in their awarenesses.
As the air outside the windows darkens to muddied amethyst and the shadows within the room lengthen and blur, the dreamer both knows and does not know what will happen next.
The woman watches the scene from just outside the confines of the bed-dream’s reality, but still dreams herself. A dream within a dream . . . a bubble within a bubble through which she imagines, if her hand was slippery enough, she might reach to comfort that other. That other who is her, a little girl who does not know what the storm will bring. The woman knows of no way to reach, and so she merely watches as she has watched before, her heart aching.
Divided selves dream as the storm builds. As the air outside takes on a liquid velvet thickness and presses against the windows, the selves are filled with sympathetic sorrow and growing terror, respectively. The darkness of the room becomes absolute . . . the black a neverending depth of nothing into which the world disappears. A neverending depth of nothing in which the little girl still exists, alone and unheard and unseen.
The little girl’s mind is filled with the sudden absolute certainty that this is how she will spend eternity.
Eternity starts now.
Eternity in the black depths of nothing.
The small girl breathes in the thick viscous black of this new forever.
Tears roll down the witness’ cheeks as she wishes she could offer comfort.
There is a rumbling tearing ripping sound, and the little girl hides in the darkness as unseen movement and destruction are wrought by invisible hands. The girl’s ears are filled with noise and her mind is filled with terror and she can see nothing and there is nothing and all is blackness. She clenches and unclenches her fists and feels the loops of fabric she has knitted for herself around her fingers.
A bit of comfort.
All is not lost.
Tears roll down the witness’ cheeks as she reaches out a hand.
In a final explosive roar of sound, the roof of the bedroomed house is torn away, and the small girl is staring up into a sky filled with stars. The relief at having the darkness yield to starlight is so intense, she is for a moment untroubled by the missing roof and the forces behind its removal. She reaches up a fabric-knitted hand to collect the light . . . to grab the stars and pull them down.
As she reaches, the sky begins to turn in clockwise fashion, slowly at first and then faster and faster, until the individual stars are spinning arcs of luminescence. Faster and faster and faster the night sky spins, and then a central blackness appears, around which the sky spins. A central blackness that grows as it consumes the light.
A central blackness that consumes the light of the night sky and then lowers itself to her.
Takes her by her outstretched hand.
There is screaming.
The witness startles . . . there is never screaming at this point in the dream. Only terror, only silence, only complete and abject surrender to the horror. Who is screaming?
The scream of a little girl who is about to be swept away to her doom.
The scream of a little girl who knows her only chance for salvation lies with . . .
I am suddenly awake, breathless and terrified.
I hurry to where she is sleeping.
Where she is still sleeping.
I turn on the small light beside her bed and sit with her.
I work to calm my heart and soften the ragged edges of my breath as I reach a hand to smooth tangled hair from my daughter’s face. I run my fingers along her sleep-warmed cheek. I reach below her blanket and take one of her hands in mine . . . lace my fingers with hers for a moment.
A small bit of comfort.
I lean to kiss her forehead, and her eyelids flutter, “Mommy?”
“Yes, baby. You were dreaming. You called for me in your dream.”
She does not open her eyes, preferring the darkness that lies behind them. She smiles and whispers, “Mommy,” and reaches her arms up through that darkness to hug me tightly, “I love you, Mommy.”
“I love you, baby girl.”
Her arms fall away as she drops back into sleep.
I watch my little girl sleep.
I watch her dream.
She is me.
I am witness.