I can't remember why I stay. There's nothing preventing me from going outside. Indeed, I go out for fresh air often.
The place is obviously an old abandoned orphanage. There aren't any children here any longer. It's completely empty except for me.
No, that's not true. There is one child, a small South Asian girl, under my protection. I don't think she can leave. Maybe she can, but she won't.
I think she is why I am still here.
She talks often about the old woman who used to be in charge of this place. Apparently, the kids used to call her Granny. I don't remember if I've specifically asked her anything about the old woman. She simply volunteers the information. Mostly I don't listen anyway. I already know everything I need to know about her.
She is evil.
She is coming.
I'm trying to persuade the girl to leave with me, but she doesn't seem to want to go.
"This place is dangerous," I say.
She doesn't answer me. She only talks about Granny.
She does leave the building with me sometimes when I go outside for air. She seems happy enough in this miserable place. But I can't leave her here. She doesn't understand. She thinks Granny means her well. Maybe she does. But I can't let her stay here. She mustn't be here when the old woman comes back.
Every time we go back inside, the girl shuts the door. She always leaves it unlocked for Granny, just in case she returns. I never lock the door. I'm sure it's dangerous, but I intend to get out of here before the old woman gets back, anyway.
We're sitting outside on the porch. I'm talking to the girl, trying to get her to focus. Finally, she seems to be hearing me.
"We need to leave this place," I tell her.
"Why?" she says.
"There are things you don't know."
"About Granny?" she asks with an innocent smile.
I'm not sure what to say now. She doesn't need to know everything.
"Well," I say at last, "it's my job to make sure you're safe. You won't be safe here any longer."
She seems to be thinking.
"I need to take you with me," I say.
Reluctantly, she agrees to leave.
We go back inside to gather our things. This time she enters first, and I shut the door behind us. My muscles are working automatically. I lock the door.
As I'm crossing the living room, the girl is already upstairs. I'm gathering some things for the trip when I realize that this is the first time the door has been locked since I arrived.
Suddenly, I understand.
The old woman has been here the whole time. She knows that I've locked the door. She knows that I want to keep her out.
She is angry.
I turn and fly to the door to unlock it in the desperate hope that it might appease the witch, but I find that though the bolt is thrown, the door is ajar. A mere sliver of the light of dawn shines through. And then the sliver swells and the light fills the room, blinding me.
Then I see her. The old woman has finally revealed herself in the doorway. Her skin bears the pallor of asphyxia. Her hair is of the exact same color, long and stringy, floating stiffly behind her like shards of glass. Her face is short, but very, very round, and protruding from its center is a profoundly long and pointy nose. Her back is hunched over dramatically so that she stands somewhere between three and four feet in height, though upright she would stand about five. In her left hand she is holding what appears to be the carcass of a kangaroo. In her right hand she is holding an enormous three pronged fork.
This, I understand, is meant for me.
I'm not having this. I have a long invisible lance in my hands, and I make good use of it, stabbing her in the gut again and again and again. She is bloodied, but she still comes at me, apparently unphased. I retreat backwards and continue to maim her.
This continues for a while, and finally the witch seems to have had enough. She declares, "I'm resigning! It's no longer good for the kids anyway."
Suddenly there is a red Cadillac outside with the steering wheel on the right-hand side. The driver is a young man who looks like a greaser straight out of the 1950s. In the passenger seat on the left side sits a young woman that I understand to be a marginally famous South Asian film actress, though I have no idea what her name is.
The witch rides away in the back of this vehicle, and that's that.
I go upstairs to find the girl.
~ ~ ~
I don't know what happens next. I woke up. This dream gave me chills, although I lay in bed for a little while thinking about how I would alter the details in a film adaptation to make the dream more terrifying.
I closed my eyes again and I could see the Cadillac's skeleton as though the car's skin and muscle were invisible or removed. The skeleton was formed by long, curved blades like katanas. I've often thought about Ubiquitous Trees* made from blades. They seem to me especially deadly if they appear everywhere at once out of nowhere, simultaneously gouging anything that is anywhere. This was not a U-Tree. It was merely a skeleton, the foundation upon which my subconscious mind had built up a more detailed dream-entity. As my mind was demolishing this particular entity, I returned to the ether and witnessed its skeleton, sort of like observing the wooden framework revealed by tearing away drywall.
I wrote down the details of this dream and then returned to sleep. I drifted wearily in and out of the ether for the remainder of the night, experiencing a variety of burst dreams. These included:
- Being lost at a new school. My class was starting soon, but my schedule was not in my backpack.
- Lying in bed, writing down the details of a dream. I realized that I was dreaming and decided to do some stream of consciousness writing while still dreaming. I distinctly remember writing down some random words strung together incoherently. These were structural words like "because," "after," "in," and "the." Then, I wrote down, "there's a place for me in Heaven, no matter what you think," followed by scribbling frantically, and then, "OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD," whereupon I woke again.
- Running into one of my professors. I asked him if I could still do an Independent Study. He said that I couldn't. The policies had changed and now disallowed what I wanted to do.
- Waiting in a queue of cars, each one being accosted in turn by a very, very shady looking carjacker with a knife. When I was second in line, I resolved to floor the gas pedal and escape when he tried to approach my window. But when he approached, and I tried to floor it, I realized that the car was backwards, I was in the back seat facing backwards, and there were no pedals. I scrambled for the driver's seat as the carjacker started scratching the window with his knife.
~ ~ ~
* Please see the end of The Ubiquitous Shredded Chicken Tree for more on U-Trees.