From the corner of one’s eye, she would appear as a faded vision of loveliness in a blue cotton frock and wispy dark curls, seemingly tired yet satisfied after a morning of domestic labor.  Her mother’s maple rocking chair would creak against the smooth pine floor on every forward roll.  The baby daughter in her arms might grow up with the memory of it, like she had. 

The scene glows softly as though lit by a thin shaft of sunlight in an otherwise indistinct room.  The odd passer-by at dawn might also glimpse a dirty swatch of rose dotted wall paper through the slightly opened front door; by moonlight, bare lath and broken plaster through the empty sash of a sagging window. 

She hums a tuneless phrase with a slight smile on her lips and imagines her oldest boy out behind the barn helping his pa shoe the horses.   Her middle child is at the school-house drawing shaky letters on his slate as she rocks in the familiar embrace of her favorite moment.

All is warm, contented, completely at peace when she feels a sensation much like waking with no identifiable cause.  She becomes aware of the dream in an instant of drowsy confusion but is unwilling to let it go. 

She has no choice.  She lifts her head and opens her eyes.

There is a crack in the wall, an enormous jagged hole in the ceiling.  Sunlight pours through these wounds, reflects off cascading debris and swirling dust.  A rumbling vibration goes on and on.  Even without the damage and the dust, the room has changed.  It’s dirty, decayed, empty and cold. 

She looks down in panic at the baby in her arms.  

The infant is no longer pink and plump, but mottled blue, stiff with milky eyes that stare past her.  As she struggles to understand, the baby shrivels, blackens and falls away like ash.

A soundless sob rises in her throat as she bolts to her feet.  The rocking chair is now a haphazard wreck piled on rotting floor boards.  Her whole being trembles with a bitter memory long repressed. 

The influenza had begun like an ordinary cold, but within hours the precious child had succumbed. 

There is a jarring crash.  Rending beams shriek under the force of a giant steel claw that tears and pounds the structure into a pile of rubble, around her, through her.  

She remembers collapsing a day later, weak, exhausted and out of breath.  There had been bone racking chills and delirium, a frantic struggle to breathe, no sense of time.  Her last recollections are of the fevered cries of her middle child and the fear in her husband’s eyes.

Now she finds herself standing in the overgrown lot in a place she no longer knows, on ground she cannot feel, in wind she can only see the effects of.  She holds out her hands in the glaring sunlight, looks down at her body and sees nothing. 

Huge dispassionate machines scrape up the remains of her home.  Their operators ignore her and carry it away. 

She attempts to follow, but is quickly left behind to ponder the meaning of this new and solitary existence.

She wanders down a street superimposed with the old familiar places.  Other dreamers reside in many of these houses.  To enter will only wake them to their own unpleasant reality. 

As darkness falls, her earthly form is visible to her once again. 

She looks up at the night sky, at the same stars she knew in life.  There is no fear, no pain.  Nothing to give up.  She has been stubborn for too long. 

She retraces her steps.

At first there is nothing but an empty lot, but as she watches, the house returns, faintly at first. 

She ascends the steps, opens the door. 

The odd passer-by does not see what makes her face light from within.  He senses the relief that floods her and as she sinks into the ravaged earth much like water would do, he thinks he hears the faint laughter of a child.


~ by loretta8 on April 23, 2010.

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