She leaves her room and walks towards the lift. She is annoyed to see that there are a load of other people – at least four adults and several children – coming from the other direction. She quickens her pace, arriving at the lift before they have turned the corner. The lift doors are just closing. She is too late, really, but it is either this or travel down in a lift full of people and squawling brats. She dives through the doors just as they shut.
Of course this means that the lights have gone out in the lift. She blunders around in the dark for a few seconds before she finds the buttons, then counts up from the bottom, trying to remember how many floors there are below the one she wants. Her fingers move across the large round buttons as the warm darkness pushes in around her. She presses a button, then another. She has to get out of this smothering darkness, and quickly.
When the door opens, she shoots out of the lift without waiting to see what floor she is on. It isn’t pitch black at least, but the light here is very subdued, painting everything a weird dark orange colour. She is in a large open space, some kind of circular lobby with several corridors leading off it. In the centre of the space stands a tall, multi-armed dark figure, like a cross between a bare-branched tree and a woman, its lower limbs melting into a wide trunk that blends with the slightly sticky black surface of the floor.
“Kali?” she thinks. “Is that who I mean?”
Around the figure are scattered others, smaller, equally black but rounder, grotesque creatures with flexible, rubbery limbs and wide sharp-toothed grins. As the first of them begins to ooze slowly towards her with a horrible sucking noise, she turns and flees into the nearest corridor.
“Um, this is a statue”, she says, struggling to find the right words in the foreign language, “about the lost children. About children who have disappeared, who are… dead.” She looks at the other woman to check that she has understood.
Around them, people walk on through the subway, and in her head are images of the 1960s: Audrey Hepburn and Laurence Olivier, Mia Farrow and Robert Redford. The death of Mia Farrow, strung up like a small bird from a lamppost.
She looks at the small empty bronze shoes and the handwritten notes, each describing the pain of loss.
“Yeah, um,” she says.
She walks along a pale, dusty track between low stone walls and orchards. The road curves around the orchard and splits, one arm leading up over the ridge, the other down towards the blue sea in the distance beyond dark tree tops. Behind her, below her, she knows, is the village, of honey-coloured stone with its strange half ruined buildings. On another day she would explore them, try to lay claim to one of them and hope for peace for a while before someone noisier, more expansive, came to take it from her.
But today she just walks on, in the shade and the sunlight, towards the sea.
She wants to find a beach where she can stand with her toes in the sparkling water, but there are no beaches visible yet. First she reaches a section where the track runs along the steep, almost vertical shoulder of the hill, sloping away both above and below her and covered with dense low foliage. The sea is a long way beneath, on her right, and the view is dizzying. She sees a point, a little ahead, where the foliage shrinks away from a bald headland, and feels the fear/attraction that she knows will take her right to the edge.
Standing there, with the seagulls turning and calling above and below her, and the wind lifting her hair, she feels alive and powerful. She lifts her arms to the sky and smiles broadly.
And then, in a movement so sudden it feels perfectly natural, the ground beneath her shrugs, and she is launched into the air. Her first – only – thought is resignation; how inevitable that she will die in the deep dark water. And then she is falling down past the green solidity of the sloping land, so close but so far out of reach, down, down, to the solid blue-grey mass of the sea.
The scenes in this piece are all from dreams in the last ten days, which have been even madder than usual because I’m still recovering from this bloody flu.
The first one I wrote down when I woke up in the morning.
The second one I wrote immediately I woke up after having it, in the middle of the night (which is just as well, because I’d completely forgotten it by the morning).
And the last one – which is actually two in one – is a recurring dream I’ve been having since I was about 15. Including the ending. Interestingly, it’s getting less and less frightening over the years.