Friday, August 22, 2008

The Crossroads

The Crossroads

One night I had a dream that I was sitting alone in a forest. Purple twilight was bleeding into everything--the trees, the leaves, the soft moss clinging to the rocks. I looked up and saw you emerge from behind a tree.

You did not look exactly the same way you appear in real life. In my dreams I see people differently, the way I see them without the layers of flesh and blood masking their true image. Most people look very different in my dreams. Their true essence doesn't fit their physical form. But you are almost exactly as I see you in life. Only, your hair is always longer, shoulder length, and very curly. Your eyes are luminous, the softest blue-gray, like peering into the vast depths of some celestial pool, ancient beyond time, where once angels gathered, but now forgotten even by the oldest of beings for countless weary eons.

I stood up then, and we began to explore the forest together. After a period we found a small house that had succumbed to time and decay. The front wall had collapsed outward so that only the front door remained standing, along with the wooden beams that served as the outer frame of the house. Vines had grown up along the frame, and drooped here and there, with great orange clusters blooming all along them. Part of the ceiling in the living room had sunk in and fallen to the ground, and trees had spread their branches down through the yielding roof.

The back half of the small house was still intact. We plodded through the rubble on the cottage floor, a combination of rotted plywood and leafy vegetation, long eroded to a clumpy turf. As we shuffled back through the house, stirring the leafy debris with our shoes, a dank smell rose up from the floor. In the back room we found an iron stove. It was brown from years of rust, and screeched miserably as you pulled it open. Inside a rusty maw exhaled, acrid and empty. I tugged on your shirt to go.

But you looked back at me and smiled; the blaze of life in your eyes startled me. You closed the door of the stove and turned the dial on the panel. Then once again you opened the door and stepped back next to me. We watched as several forms crawled out of the opening of the stove. I don't remember exactly how many came through, perhaps about 6 people or so. Only later did I realize that these were people who were dearest to me in life, the ones that I loved the most. My little brother was there, except we were now the same age. We were all the same age, in this place outside of time.

We all restored the small house, adding walls and windows, and even a well. It was our paradise, where we met to be together, to laugh and play and linger. Once, I was playing with my little brother. We were sprawled out on the grass below the pale shadow of a large bough. I was rubbing his hair. It was short and prickly, and I always liked the way it tickled my hand. You saw us and you said, 'Hey, you never do that to my hair.' So I tackled you and wrestled you and tousled your hair, and said: 'See, your hair is too long!' Then we all laughed and got up and went to explore the forest together.

And, though I do not remember when, we must have decided to set a signpost in the clearing next to our little meeting house. There it remains, in that twilight forest where time does not reign, and etched onto its surface in our own clumsy marks it reads: The Crossroads.

Note: this actually was a dream from last night. I remember listening to Ray Bradbury speak once, years ago, on how he gets the ideas for his stories. He said that most of his stories he pulled from his dreams...that in the early hours of the morning he would lie in his bed and watch the visions and voices flitting before him, then suddenly he'd sit up and dash to the typewriter before the story faded from his mind. This is the same way many of my stories appear. If only I had the technical mastery that Bradbury has.


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