The Dream that was not a Dream
by Laurie Guerin
In the dream that was not a dream the girl is three, maybe four years old. In the center of the girl’s room is a twin bed upon which the girl, wearing a thin, cotton nightgown, sleeps. Her arms are wrapped around a stuffed, green sea serpent. To the left of the girl’s bed is a nightstand. On the nightstand is a small, yellow lamp and a stack of Little Golden Books. On top of the books, smudged with the girl’s fingerprints, is a snow globe. Inside the globe, the snow has settled at the base of two pine trees. Between the pine trees are three tiny carolers. The carolers wear red robes and white fur earmuffs. Their hands in open prayer, they hold sheet music to “Silent Night.” They are mid-song. The perfect O of their lips matches the color of the robes.
The night is silent.
To the right of the girl’s bed is a crib. Above the crib is a window. The breeze from outside causes the curtains to billow now and again. In the crib, face up with arms thrown wide, is a baby. The baby is the girl’s sister. The baby sleeps too. Directly across from the bed, the crib, and the sleeping children is a doorway.
It is dark when the girl awakens. She doesn’t know what wakes her. A dog barking? A creak in the floorboards? Her sister cooing? She doesn’t know, but there, in the doorway, backlit by the light in the hall, is a man. A large man. His form almost fills the frame. It’s a form she recognizes.
“Grandpa?!” She rises up, throws her legs to the side of her bed, hops down and runs to him.
She reaches the figure, holds her arms high and looks up, “Grandpa! I didn’t…”
Something is wrong. The face she sees in the shadows is unsmiling. It is not her grandfather’s face. The body she thought she recognized is not his body. The skin on his arms, his stomach, his legs, is bare. This grandfather-shaped man is a stranger. She stops in front of him, lets her arms drop. He remains motionless, watching her. His eyes are sharp and still. His mouth is a straight line. She takes a step back, drops her eyes and swallows. “…I didn’t know you were here.” She can’t hear her own voice. The sound of her heart pounding fills her ears like it does when she holds her breath underwater. She knows he is dangerous. He might be a killer. She backs away from the door. If he thinks she’s already dead, maybe he won’t kill her.
She turns her back to the man, takes three steps, bends her knees and crumples to the floor.
Over the years, when the girl remembers the dream that was not a dream, she will remember waking up on the floor, the feel of the carpet on the left side of her face. She will remember the sound of dishes clattering. She will remember walking down the hall into the kitchen where her dog, Nikki, stood on his hind legs, licking unwashed dinner plates. She will remember the sliding glass door, ajar. She will remember pulling Nikki away from the counter and pushing him back outside.
Of the moments between crumpling to the floor and awakening to the clatter of dishes, the girl will remember nothing. A measurable point in time for which there will never be a reckoning.
About the Author
Laurie Guerin is a spoken word artist who has performed her original works on stage throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. She has coproduced two live storytelling series, Word Up and Tell Me More in Santa Cruz, California. A student of Roxan McDonald’s, she has also studied with Danusha Lameris, Ellen Bass and most recently Pam Houston. She has been published in Literary Mama and has a publication pending in The Good Life Review (Autumn 2021). She is currently working on a collection of both fiction and creative non-fiction essays.