“When he shall die,–William Shakespeare
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”
It has been a while, hasn’t it? For months now I’ve battled with writing, battled with dreaming. I feel stuck in slow motion, and in many ways stagnated. Given all that is going on in the world, I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling. It’s almost like running in a dream or screaming under water; fighting so hard and getting nowhere.
So many nights I lay down and hope to sleep, to dream, only to fall into a fitful darkness that feels like sleep, yet still leaves me exhausted in the morning. Dark flashes of scenes, some good, some bad, dance before my eyes, but it’s nothing like the dreams I’m used to. After my surgery in December, my dreams had gone nearly completely, and I worried that they were gone for good.
But here and there I see breakthroughs. Here and there I see the light on the other side. And that’s enough to keep me pushing forward. And even though this dream wasn’t the happiest? It felt good to truly dream again.
I roamed a city paved with headstones. Each step was taken on a different name, a different life. Right on Susanna and left on Eustace, then forward on Henry, born September 3rd 1886, died October 21st, 1931. I followed the road, reading the names to myself as I would in waking life. I meandered slowly along, reveling in each name until I came upon an entrance to a broad, dark pyramid.
In the gloom of the night, I could barely make out how megalithic this structure was. A fortress of granite so dark and expansive that its edges blurred into the night sky above, with no clear ending or beginning. On either side of the entrance, torches flickered, their contorting shadows dancing across the headstones on the ground in a dance macabre. The headstones continued on into the gaping maw of the pyramid.
Without question, I grabbed a torch and walked in as naturally as if I were coming home after a long day at work. And then, a sharp inhale to my right. I looked there, turned left, then around and behind. No one.
And yet, I knew I heard breathing.
A gust of wind suddenly billowed from behind me, flickering the torchlight wildly, and for a moment, nearly plunged me into darkness. The gust was almost visible, tangible, some cool, blue vapor in the air. I could see that it flew down one of the many corridors ahead. I followed.
Twisting and turning, I found myself in a labyrinth. The headstones now were on the walls as well as the footpath, and even lined the ceiling. Here and there, small torches lit the way as I chased the wind through the avenues of the dead.
Each step became faster and I found myself running over names and lives, chasing that wild gale as if possessed by it. It was calling me, faintly whispering as I ran. At some point, I no longer paid any heed to the names under my feet, each step pounding harder into the stone than the last as their stories fell away from me.
At a full out sprint, I turned down the twisting corridors, taking sharp lefts and rights, hair pinned and winding. I felt as wild as the wind as I chased at that marathoner’s pace, until suddenly, a sharp stop.
I came to a circular room, 13 torches on the wall surrounding me. As soon as I stepped into it, the hall from which I came vanished. There was merely the room, and the room was all. There was no more leaving, and no more coming. All of my existence was in that room.
Headstones were now joined by grinning skeletons stacked in ornamental fashion, their bones arranged in an ossuary style around the room in elegant pointed arches and morbid columns that reached to impossible heights toward the vaulted ceiling. In a way, almost church-like, and yet so far removed. At the very top of the chamber, through a single circular window of blue-tinted glass, shone the light of a crescent moon.
And from behind me, a whisper: “You have arrived.”
And then my torch blew out. I was paralyzed with fear as each of the 13 torches fell into shadow one by one. Total darkness swallowed me as the last flame was extinguished, followed by a pressing heaviness that pushed me down from my shoulders, down, down, into the cold marble of the headstones, my entire body helpless to fight against it. The weight grew heavier and heavier, crushing my body against the unyielding stone of the dead. The heaviness was unrelenting and uncaring as I struggled to breathe.
“Not much longer now…”
My eyes snapped open as I awoke, heart beating at breakneck pace. For certain, I wasn’t too pleased with such a jarring dream, and yet, as the fear of the dream receded, I found myself smiling. The dreamer had returned to her realm once more.