As most of my dreams begin, I’m walking through a corridor. Everything is white (also typical of my dreams), except for brightly colored doors that lined each side...red, blue, green, yellow. I feel compelled to open one; in fact, my hand robotically moves toward the golden handle of the green door. Without even opening the door I find myself suddenly on the other side of it; my skin is suddenly covered in goosebumps and my toes tingle as one pokes through a hole in my favorite pair of wool socks. Of course, my shoes were left behind on the other side of the door. I smile sarcastically.
I’m in a forest. It’s dark, but I have no trouble seeing everything around me. My senses are alert to everything...the owl flying above me with the squirming half-eaten mouse in its beak, the cicadas dropping slowly from branches to the pine-needle-coated ground. I find that I’m walking without realizing it, through the trees and on the crunchy pine needles...and crap, my toe is bleeding. Even in dreams I get woozy at the sight of blood; my head suddenly feels like an anvil on my bony shoulders, so I lean on an old tree and look up, away from my scarlet toe.
I stand there for quite a while, pondering everything and nothing, until I hear screaming in the distance, like a train horn, coming closer and closer. I feel my feet leap into action, and begin sprinting towards the screams. (I find that I’m a fantastic athlete in my dreams.) As I get nearer to the sound, I recognize that it’s my mom’s voice. The noise is right on top of me, ear-piercing shrieks over and over, but I can’t see my mom anywhere...I melt to the ground and block my ears and as I do so, I notice a spider web delicately crocheted between two low-hanging branches. A beautiful blue and gold butterfly struggles in the web’s sticky embrace, and I realize suddenly that my mom’s screams are coming from it. The butterfly is entangling itself more and more as it squirms and shrieks. I feel my butterfly-mom’s pain as if it is my own and I frantically reach for the spiderweb, but find that my hands are unable to touch it, limited by some invisible force field or something (very dream-like, I think). The screams continue to pummel my ears like acorns and I feel like bursting into tears, convinced that my mother is in pain and is struggling to break free of some great torment. But I’m a man (or I try to be), and even in dreams, men don’t cry.
Then a shadow looms over the web and I see a giant, ugly moth with dark brown spots and powerful wings hovering right above the web. It seems to sneer at my mom; her wings flap helplessly as the moth looks on. A spider scurries from one of the branches and approaches the web; as it does so, my mom screams louder and louder. This time I hear a real laugh come from the moth...a deep, gruff man’s voice...it almost sounds like...my dad? I watch helplessly as the spider begins to close in on the helpless butterfly, the moth egging it on with chuckles, grunts, and sneers that I can’t make out, but know are foul. I try to scream at the moth help her, help her! but sound seems to have strayed from its home on my lips. The moth’s laughter gets louder and louder and louder, booming, as the spider begins to guffaw in awful tritones, and the butterfly’s shrieks complete the bone-chilling chord. I get up and run, run, run, run, run, trip, run, trip, trip....fall.
Now my knee is bleeding too, great.
I take the time to notice that it’s now daylight in the forest...my dreams definitely don’t take the trouble of going through the whole sunrise-sunset ritual. Trying not to look at my knee or my toe, I stumble, propelled by my dream-hypnotized feet, into a clearing. There I see a giant swarm of beautifully-colored butterflies...red, blue, green, yellow. They spins in circles around and around my head, their bell-like voices filling my eardrums. I become acutely aware that this tiny little orange one is my sister...sometimes you just know these things in dreams. She is getting flung about in the pack of butterflies, tossed from side to side, careening left and right. She keeps trying to join in the chorus of whatever song they’re singing but chokes on her notes as the other butterflies unconsciously ram into her. Once again, it’s like my limbs are suspended and I can’t reach up to try and help, though I desperately want to cup her in my hands and let her sing her song.
I’m standing in darkness. Or maybe sitting? I can’t really feel my lower half. I must be standing, because I can turn around….as I do, I see the only object around me: a mirror a few feet away. I apprehensively step in front of it.
I’m a caterpillar. Green, ugly, giant in size. I grimace and my caterpillar reflection grimaces back. Then suddenly I’m not a caterpillar anymore…I’m morphing...I’m in a cocoon….(I struggle frantically in sticky threads)...I’m bursting out....with a sound like an explosion I see myself in the mirror….a giant, brown-spotted moth, flapping huge ugly wings with vigor. The explosion continues to reverberate and that deep laughter begins to fill up the space. It’s my dad’s laugh again...but twisted, tainted...My mom’s screams are released into the space, and my baby sister’s choked beautiful notes....I try to cover my ears, but I don’t have any! Crap. The sound becomes too much and I start to scream and scream...I can see now in the mirror my butterfly-mom being devoured by the spider as my moth-dad laughs and watches and eggs it on, and my butterfly-sister being knocked to the ground, unable to get up…
I’m on the outside of the green door, back in the white corridor, for a split second, before I dive through the open blue door and
I wake up like I went to sleep: calmly. Warm covers, healed knee, human hands. Check. I sit up, the images blurred already, almost removed from my memory. A fly buzzes near my head.
I go downstairs to the kitchen, where my dad sits reading the paper at my grandmother’s old table. As I walk up behind him, I notice that he’s reading the obituaries. When I make my presence known, he quickly flips to the sports section and starts gruffly telling me about the latest baseball games and how the Cubs were sucking again this year.
My mom scoops overdone scrambled eggs onto my and my dad’s plates, not leaving enough for herself. She pours frosted flakes loudly into a bowl and crunches to fill the silence. My dad is staring blankly at the pages, muttering something under his breath. My brow furrows a bit; he has done this a lot lately.
My mom looks up from her cereal and says, “I think I’m going to start a book club!” She looks happier than I’d seen her look in a long time. I turn to my dad, my mind begging him to respond, but he looks up blankly at her, his mouth smirks a little; he gives a curt nod, and then stares back down at the page he’d been reading for fifteen minutes. She shrinks a little in her chair.
I start to observe the scene as if from a fisheye lens above the room. My mom, with her long blonde hair tied back, looks up anxiously every once in awhile at my dad, who can’t spare a glance in her direction. She asks him about sports, though I know she doesn’t care. He gives her a one-word answer without looking up. Her body is turned towards him as she sits there, her arms resting on the table just within reach of his, as if giving him the perfect opportunity to touch her. His elbows sit neatly on either side of his empty plate, the paper covering all of his head except for his red baseball cap. She opens her mouth to ask another question, but she stops the words before they come out, and leans back in her chair meekly.
My fisheye lens cracks as my dad continues reading off numbers to me. I try to act interested, but I’m eighty percent sure that what he’s saying makes no sense at all. My mom gets up and starts clearing the table. After she’s gathered the dishes in the sink, she walks over to my dad, puts her arms on his shoulders timidly, and kisses him on his overgrown scruff. He looks at her for a split second, and then turns away with a hardened glare. She lets go, her eyes wailing, and grabs her keys off the counter. Her heels echo in the hallway and the door closes quietly.
As I walk out of the room I see my dad back on the obituaries page. The black-and-white photos have eyes that seem to bore through me and I look down at my dad’s unmoving scowl. Maybe the moth wasn’t evil. Maybe he was just troubled.