Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night, I’ll get up and go to my computer to write or draw or just look at facebook. When I finally get sleepy and decide to head back to bed, there’s still plenty of light to see by when I turn off the computer: porch lights shining in through the window and the red light of my bubbling volcano in the fish tank. It’s plenty enough to illume the hallway. But just as I get to my bedroom door, knowing it will be pitch black on the other side and also that my eyes will adapt very quickly, I close my eyes before entering, finding my way thence to the master bathroom first and then the bed that way. I open my eyes when I get to the bed, wait a moment, and the room resolves from pitch black to multiple shades of gray, the shapes of objects coming into view. It’s quite a tall climb up to that bed, so I need to see what I’m doing there. Okay, “Need” is too strong a word. It really just makes it easier.
But why close my eyes when I enter the room in the first place? So I can see things I don’t normally see even in dreams… or at least not as clearly. Right behind my eyelids in those moments, I see lines of mostly red, green, and pale yellow forming first into a spinning mandala and then lines of code… Not like computer code… More like hieroglyphics, icons, cartoons, scientific notation, numbers, runes, and sometimes flashes of architectural structures. First they’d travel in nice and tidy parallel rows from left to right, then right to left, then up and down, before abruptly spinning and colliding with one another. Some of the codes look very familiar, something I could definitely put my finger on, but it always vanishes, replaced by something else before I can quite get a handle on it. Behind it all is what looks like skin cells, probably my own – like little circles, each with a dot at the center, arranged in what appear to be a geometric pattern.
I feel in those moments like a computer having vast quantities of data downloaded into me. It doesn’t matter if I can make sense of any of it. I’m just holding it for the time being with the strong suspicion that it’s met for use down the road somewhere, just not here and now.
Even after I open my eyes to climb into bed and my night vision kicks in, the shapes in the room becoming clear to me, the codes dance before my eyes for a little while longer. I stare at them until they finally fade away in a minute or two. They do not follow me into sleep or dreams.
This hasn’t been going on my whole life however, but only for the past year or so. The first time I noticed it, I was so startled and amazed at it that I sat and stared at the mandola codes for probably an hour before excitedly waking poor Jeb to tell him all about it. Surprisingly enough, he actually seemed interested and didn’t even complain. Of course, he also didn’t remember it the next morning either, so I may have been talking to him in his sleep while he, in turn, responded in his sleep.
The only reason I mention the mandala codes at all is that last night – for the first time while I was actually sleeping – I dreamed I was in a dark place with closed eyes and the mandola spun before me and resolved into those familiar and fleeting codes. This time, though, when I’d attempted to nail down something familiar by focussing on it, it was not replaced by another code. No. This time it the whole vertical row was replaced by a tree as on either side of it, the others were too.
I was walking through a very deep dark forest. That may sound spooky to most people, but I honestly wasn’t spooked. I’ve always found the forest a comforting place even at night. My night vision didn’t let me down either, I could see the trees all around me to a considerable distance, all shades of gray against the blackness, some almost white. There were pines here and there but most of the trees were deciduous and bared of their leaves. Twigs snapped beneath my feet, leaves rustled on the ground, mist drifting over the forest floor, the sharp tang of mulch and pine filling me, the frigid air freezing my face.
Ice-traced spider webs made lace work between the trees and I was careful to duck beneath them so not to get a faceful nor wreck that fine work. I was looking for the way around a particularly large one when I abruptly realized it was stretched between two bare studs of a plank wall.
Planks. Rough ones at that. Not trees. No. Now they were all planks in the what appeared to be the inner wall of a very rustic and old shed.
I glanced around me. More of the same. I was in a shed and a small one at that, probably only about 8 feet square, tops.
Inanely, I wonder where the bear went. Last time I was in this shed in another dream, I was hiding from hunters and a bear was there to protect me and now the bear was absent. Also, I notice, there’s a hint of daylight coming in through the slats.
I wonder how I got back here. I didn’t enter a door, after all. Just one moment I’m in the forest and the next moment I’m in here. Oh. And I’m wearing short black dress gloves.
Facing back on where the large spider web had been, I found it missing. Instead, there was now a closed and uncovered door. Uncovered, that is, except for the man that was standing in front of it holding it open a tiny crack to peering out with his back to me. I reach out and tap him on the shoulder to ask him how I got here and where the bear has gotten to, but he spins around, giving me a startled, panicky look, and beats me to it:
“How on earth did you get in here?!” he demands.
I blink. Hesitate. “I was… going to ask you that. I was in the forest at night and then suddenly I was here.”
“Forest?” he asked. “How? The nearest forest is on the other side of town from here. Look.” He opens the door wider so that I can see out. Sure enough, it’s daylight out there and very much in town, not forest.
There seems to be a carnival going on. Wonderingly, I move past him and out the door before he can think to stop me. But the very moment I come to a standstill in the bright morning light, he’s dashed out right after me, saying, “Hey, wait a minute, you can’t just…”
Ignoring him, I begin walking. The road is just pounded dirt. The town looks like something out of the old west, but not that refined. It’s kind of a shanty town. Yet there are streamers of ribbon and bouquets of flowers tied to the gaslight poles and vendors selling strange looking foods from colorfully painted push carts. People are chatting noisily around on all sides and I can’t make out a single thing they’re saying; only that it sounds mostly very cheerful.
He catches my arm, presses to my side as if determined to look as though he’s escorting me, though I never slow my pace, only glancing once at him out of pure curiosity. I like his face. It has nice features but – innocent wide blue eyes, thin but generous mouth, firm chin, high forehead, perfect little aquiline nose… More importantly, it’s one I can trust… despite being wholly unfamiliar. His hair is a sandy brown soft looking fluff standing out in all directions – gravity defying as hair in an anime. His style of dress, like those of the people around us, is very plain and simple: dusty brown trousers, clean but slightly ragged beige cotton shirt, red suspenders, work boots.
People stare at us – at me – and nod in passing. Once in a while, someone will ask my determined escort something in a question in a language that sounds almost like English but that makes no sense at all to me and my escort answers them in the same language. I can’t tell what they’re saying, only that it’s about me. I’m out of place here. They’re curious.
“What are they saying?” I finally ask him.
“You don’t belong here,” he says and I’m not sure if he’s answering my question or just stating the obvious. Long silence, then, “You have to leave. You have to go back to where you came from.”
“Mm. Well that should be an interesting trip since I don’t know how I got here in the first place.”
“No problem,” he said. “I’ve had your kind come through my cabin often enough to know exactly how.”
I arch a brow at him. That shed was his “cabin?” Okey dokey. And others of my kind? What others? And what was our kind exactly? What was this? A way station between worlds and him the gate keeper?
He catches the look. “I’ll just take you back to the forest. Everything will be fine.”
The daylight is fading as we walk. People are carrying torches now that have multicolored flames sizzling in star patterns like sparklers do. The gaslights are being lit one by one as well. Night seemed to come on very fast.
We’re following the edge of a lake and the forest is now in sight at the other end of it. Theres’ a miniature tall ship on the lake just big enough for three men who are dressed like pirates and loading miniature cannon balls into a cute little cannon. Well, it was cute up until they aimed it at a shed (what my escort would call a “cabin”) on the shore with the forest at its back, the shed promptly blowing up, pieces flying everywhere, and the ruins of it burning.
I stopped and stared aghast. “What the…?”
“Don’t worry,” my escort hastened to assure me. “It was built just for the festival. They’re having fun. No one will be hurt.”
“What about the forest?”
“The forest just IS. It can’t be hurt.”
I doubted that very much, but I let him lead me along toward it. He began explaining something to me about a chair I was supposed to “ride through the portal.” I couldn’t make heads nor tails of it, just nodding every now and then, hoping it would sink in later.
He left me at the head of a narrow trail into the heart of the big dark forest. I waved goodbye and step inside. The sounds of the town festival and its lights vanished instantly. It was very quiet and dark in her but there again I could see the trees.
Glancing now at a patch of ground not covered by mist, I spotted a little creature right where my foot was going to step and stopped where I was to avoid crushing it. It looked up at me with oversized glowing eyes but otherwise didn’t move, so I bent down and scooped it up. It was soft and furry, mouse-sized, and looked like a teeny, tiny marmoset monkey. Too adorable! I found a piece of bread in my pocket and fed it some as I walked.
Now… what had my escort said about chair? I paused again to look around and saw a tree resolve itself into a plain wooden chair.
Oh. Okay. I tucked my little friend onto my shoulder beneath my hair and sat down on the chair.
I did not magically whiz through the forest. No. The forest magically whizzed past me and a tree trunk whizzing toward me at 60 miles an hour suddenly split into a Y and went under and to either side of my chair somehow, making me gasp, but the tree trunk beyond it turned into the planks of a shed wall again and abruptly went stationary.
I wasn’t sitting in the chair anymore. I was sitting up on a straw pallet covered by a coarse wool blanket. My little friend had crawled down from my shoulder and took himself on a little walk under the blanket to tickle my bare feet and then rushing back up and… Oops. Right beside me is my earlier escort, fast asleep, and my little friend goes and nuzzles him in the nose, make it wiggle and scrunch as he sleepily bats at the little creature. And then he’s awake, staring at me wide-eyed in the twi-lit room. “You’re supposed to be gone!”
I shrug at him sheepishly. “Well, I sat in the chair like you said to and I ended up here. Sorry.”
I take my little friend back up and tuck him into my hair again. Escort guy stares aghast at him. “Aren’t you afraid that will bit you?”
“Well let’s try this again.”
I’m foggy about the details after this, only that we were walking alternately in the forest and in the very old warehouse in the forest that had dangerously rotten timbers and was full of all sorts of interesting antiques, some of which were toys… also that my little friend turned out to have babies. He suddenly ran down me to them and fed them the bread he’d save, hamster-like, in his cheek.
I don’t remember any more than that.