We've been listening to Christmas music on the radio and Brynna is intrigued by "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." She is especially interested in the line, "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago." And I have been trying to help her decipher that line. I mean, is it really anybody's holiday tradition to tell ghost stories? Does this refer specifically to "A Christmas Carol?"
But, that song confusion, linked with Brynna's sudden interest in vampires and zombies and werewolves, linked with a recent conversation with my mom has lead me to again be thinking about my personal ghost stories. (If you are interested and new, click on the ghost stories tag at the bottom to find all of my entries and links to everyone else's, too.)
The conversation with my mom was about dreams. See, she used to live in the house that I live in now. When she lived there, she had dreams. Lots of dreams about a deceased uncle that she has a weird link with. I won't go into detail, because it's not really ghosty and because it's her story. My house is not haunted. I've seen a lady there a couple of times, but no one has ever died there and I really think she doesn't belong to the house. She doesn't haunt it, just shows up in windows sometimes.
Anyway, when my mom moved back to the family farm, her dreams stopped. Cold. Now we all agree that house is haunted. And mom and I agreed that the house was blocking her dreams somehow.
I have the opposite issue. When I lived there, I dreamed. I dreamed vivid, incredible dreams every night. I had recurring dreams. I had scary dreams and happy dreams and peaceful dreams. They were always in color. They were always wild and they were always remembered. Not just when I woke up but for weeks, sometimes years afterward. Some of them I wrote down, especially the recurring ones, to see changes, differences, inconsistencies. But mostly, I never needed to write them down because I didn't forget them.
I have to admit that growing up in this house, I really didn't understand things like dream journals and the assertion that most dreams aren't in color. I didn't understand how people could forget their dreams or how people talked about them like they were fragile, made of gossamer. My dreams were made of steel, as real as everyday life. But separate somehow.
One of my recurring dreams had to do with a man in a long black trench coat and work boots. He had longish blond hair and beautiful blue eyes and a mischievous smile. I started dreaming about him when I was about 13 and I dreamed of him until I left for college. He had a pleasant voice and he would talk to me and tell me that everything would be fine, that all was well and the world was coming to peace.
I think I may have been in love with him. Either in my dream, or in reality, I couldn't say and I'm not sure it mattered. In fact, there was a guy at my high school who looked similar to this guy and I developed a heart thudding, blush inducing, crazy talking crush on this guy, and it was probably only because he kinda looked like the man in my dreams. Some may say that it was the other way around, that the man in my dreams looked like this guy I had a crush on, but the dreams started before I ever met the high school boy and they didn't look exactly alike, just a little alike. Like brothers.
The man in my dreams had many hobbies. He played guitar, he rode a motorcycle, he carved little animals out of pieced of wood. And he killed me. Every dream. He would comfort me, lull me and then he would kill me.
You have probably heard that old adage that if you die in your dreams, you die in real life. You may have even seen a movie or an episode of a supernatural show that expounds on this theme. I am here to tell you that it is not true. I never died in real life (unless I am the ghost and that's a whole 'nother post, as they say) but I died every night in these dreams. Once, he cut off my head. Once he hit me with a truck. Once he poisoned me. Once he slit my throat. And every night, I would dream my death and I would wake up... Well, that's the weird thing.
These dreams did not scare me. I would wake up strangely contented. Like all was right with the world. Not relieved that it was all a dream, or terrified or panicky, but content. Like the cat that got the cream. And then, as I lay there, I would start to feel unsettled. I would start to feel weird about the fact that I wasn't terrified of this man. Why wasn't I scared? The question would circle and circle in my head.
When I left for college, the dreams left completely. I came back for holidays and breaks and I came back to live for a semester and a summer, and never in that time did the man kill me. I can't explain his existence or my unstable feelings about him.
The other recurring dream that I remember vividly is the woman in the mirror.
Okay, so first we need a brief geography lesson of my Grandma's house. The house was originally a log cabin. It has been added onto and renovated a few times over the years. The house now boasts 4 bedrooms and a showpiece of a staircase. The stairs turn about halfway up at roughly a 90 degree angle. At the top of the stairs is a small hallway with a bedroom door on each end. At the bottom is the front hall that extends through the old part of the house to the newest part of the house. Across the hallway from the stairs is the formal living room. It is flanked with colums set into the archway.
We didn't really use the living room. There are pictures from Christmases in that room that include me, but they ended before my longterm memory kicked in. Occasionally, my grandma would have over the DAR or her Sunday School class and they would use the living room. There would be bowls of nuts. I always found little bowls of nuts to be sooo weird.
The living room is furnished for people to sit. There is a couch, loveseat and about three chairs. A few tables. A piano. That's pretty much it. But, there is a fireplace and over the fireplace a big, ornate mirror in a gilded frame. Standing about two thirds of the way down the stairs, you can see yourself in this mirror, but you are really standing beside it, not in front of it.
In my dream, there is a woman. This woman wears a long, dark skirt. It's the kind with a bustle in the back. Her white, lacy blouse has small pearl buttons up the front and a high neck. There are small ruffles around her wrists and a brooch at her neck. The brooch has a large, round stone. It's dark and could be onyx or a dark saphire or garnet. She has brown hair that is swept up into a loose bun. There are a few tendrils of hair that drape over the collar of her blouse in the back, but the front is immaculate. I can't see her shoes, but they are quiet, probably leather soled.
She is evil.
Unlike the man who kills me, I know that she is evil the second I see her and I am afraid, every time. She is watching me. I am at the bottom of the stairs. I am holding something, but I don't know what. I can't look down and I can't look at her. She is not looking at me, either, she is watching me in the mirror.
She is walking away from me, up the stairs and her head does not bob the way people's heads do when they are walking up stairs, it glides like a woman who has spent many an afternoon going up and down those stairs with books on her head.
She is smiling, but it is a humorless smile. One full of malice and satisfaction. She knows that she has won.
As she gets to the place where she is perfectly framed by the mirror, she stops. She turns to face it and she looks me dead in the eye through the reflection. Her smile widens. She looks as if she will laugh or say something, but instead, the mirror falls.
It falls in slow motion, sliding down the wall to the mantle, where it finally breaks away from the wall and begins its descent into the room. I can see her reflection, first sliding up the mirror, until you can only see her from the knees down and then angling, so that you can see her fully again, right before the mirror begins pointing at the ceiling.
When it falls it, of course, shatters. And shatters and shatters. The sound of breaking glass is maddening, deafening, horrible and never-ending. I breaks and breaks and breaks and I wonder if it will ever stop.
As the mirror falls, I am shocked. Confused. But as it shatters, I know that she did it. That she broke the mirror. I am angry and hurt. Wounded deeply by her betrayal, I want to lash out. I want to hurt her, to yell, but I am afraid, too. Because she broke the mirror with a look and I fear what she can do to me. What she will do to me. And I know that I must never admit that I know that she did it.
I typically wake from these dreams terrified, crying. I am afraid of the woman and what she could do. I am always left with a lingering sense of hatred, betrayal. The mirror never meant that much to me. It was just another piece of the grand ephemera at that house. Some of it I love (my grandma's dolls, the baby cradle in the upstairs hall, the purple bride's basket) and some if it I hate (the picture of the boy in the chair, the little roll top desk), but most are a piece of home and my feelings for them are just feelings connected to the place. That mirror means little to me, but in the heat after those dreams, I can't help but feel the welling hatred I would feel if one of my most treasured possessions was maliciously broken.
I use the present tense to describe this dream because I am still having it. But only at that house. Just a few months ago, I dozed off on the couch at my Grandma's and had that same dream. I've never had the dream in a dorm room or in my old house or in my new house. Only there.
I know how all this sounds. It's just dreams after all. They can't be controlled. Especially not from some otherworldly presence. But I know what I know. And I know that even if you could discount the other things in that house, discount the recurring dreams, discount the woman in the mirror, I dream differently in that house. My dreams just have a different quality. A different texture.
I also know that on a couple of occasions, usually during storms, I have heard breaking glass in that house. I have heard something break forever and I have panicked and ran downstairs. The mirror was always the first thing that I checked, but I walked through the house checking the china cabinets laden with my grandmother's cut glass, the lamps with their dangling prisms, the plates around the rail in the dining room and I found nothing. Nothing broken, or damaged. Nothing out of place. And that scared me.