It’s late. I’m sitting by an open window, listening to the wind rattle leaves down the road and bump the ghost against the side of the house. It makes a pleasant “dut…dut…dut” sound when it hits the cedar planks. From time to time, everything grows still, silent, and we wait. We wait for the next gust of wind, we wait for the temperature to drop futher, we wait for winter to come and hibernation to begin. Then the breeze tickles the branches and a dog barks in the distance, bringing us all back to the present, us being me, the leaves, the thumping ghost, maybe the moon, though it’s only a little fingernail clipping in the sky.
I’m out of ghost stories. I thought I had more but I don’t. This doesn’t bode well. Next October, I think I’m just going to post a picture of me in a different festive outfit every day. Not costumes, I’m not that ambitious, but Halloween-themed clothing. I mean, what else do I have now that I’m emptied of paranormal tales? Worse, what am I going to tell you tonight, what will I have for you to read tomorrow morning?
I’m going to tell you about my first nightmare, the first one I remember. I must have been around four-years-old at the time and I think it was the first instance of me realizing just how badly my own mind could betray me, would throw me into dangerous territory, could make me doubt everything I thought I understood about my world.
I woke up in my dream and it was morning. I was wearing my favorite nightgown, a full-length affair with a ruffle at the neck and the ankle as well as around my wrists. It had stripes of blue and orange flowers and a ribbon tied across my chest and another that went above the ruffle at the hem. I got out of bed and walked to the kitchen where breakfast was waiting. It was a fancy breakfast which was exciting as that was definitely out of the ordinary. Mom was at the sink, washing dishes. The basin was full of hot, sudsy water, the foamy bubbles coming all the way to the tops of Mom’s yellow rubber gloves. I was talking to her and she was listening, probably even replying, but I was more interested in the yellow rubber gloves. There were lines all the way down her arm – the line of her short shirt sleeve then the line of her skin then the line of the glove and, finally, the line of the bubbles and the sink. The world turned on its side, then. My mother’s skin started turning green. It crept from inside the glove up her arm, up under her sleeve. Soon, I saw the green creeping up her neck, then her jaw and chin, then her face. Her features transformed, became grotesque and monstrous, witch-like. Her eyes, now red, bulged and she turned them on me. She started shrieking and I started screaming in response. I was terrified. This was my mommy, my caretaker, my protector and she’d just turned green and hideous. (I blame “The Wizard of Oz” and it’s no surprise I have always hated that movie)
I started crying. I wanted to fix the whole thing but when I stepped forward, she grabbed a knife and said she was going to kill me. I took off running. I ran and she chased, caterwauling like a banshee, coming after me, gaining, intent on ending my life. I ran out the front door to find my dad chopping wood. He was in full woodsman regalia and looked nothing like my actual dad (I know exactly where I got that image; it was from my Little Red Riding Hood book with the dark-haired, handsome wood-chopping man in his red and black flannel, suspenders, knit hat, rolled pants, and tough boots) I stumbled to him and he immediately saw the situation. He knew what had to be done. Placing me away from the danger, he took up his axe and calmly went toward my mother, ready to chop her to bits.
I woke up after that. It was still dark. I was tangled in my tiny bedsheets. I wasn’t wearing my favorite nightgown but some undersized adult t-shirt, instead. I was paralyzed with fear, lying alone in my room, the moon shining in through the window. After some time, my heart stopped racing and a terrible sense of loss descended. I started to cry. There was something i needed to do and it was so scary, so terrible for a tiny tot whose world had just come to an end in her dream. I had to go see if my Mom was 1) a monster or 2) dead from being axed to bits.
I crept out of bed and down the hall to my parents’ room. I did that thing that kids do, sneaking up to the bed and lurking, hands on the edge of the mattress, peering at my sleeping mother’s face. Though it was too dark to see, the force of my horrified stare snapped her from her own slumber and she asked me what was wrong. When I answered in what I thought was a normal voice but she said was the saddest little mew she’d ever heard, I asked her, “Mommy…are you green?”