This story is by Laura Diane Lee and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Where Dreams Lie
Opening my eyes, darkness refuses to surrender. I blink several times to make sure they are open. Damp stones stick to my bones, gripping me in their chilly embrace. A faint voice offers, “Polly, you are doing great. Focus on the memories. They will set you free.” I warily ask, “Is someone here? Where am I?” The only response is the buzzing in my ears from a bad case of tinnitus and the pounding of my terrified heart.
Crawling around, the abrasive wall creates a small circle. Am I alive? Is this that fifth dimension like in the Outer Limits? I don’t remember dying. I don’t remember anything before waking up into this hell. Raspy words bark through the silence, “What’s the matter with you, are you stupid or just lazy?” The power of this rhetoric always makes me feel worthless. I shrink into myself.
“Polly, wake up! Daydreaming again?” With a jolt my fingers immediately clinch, waiting for the strike of my first-grade teacher’s ruler. “Polly, do you hear me? How is a girl like you supposed to make anything of herself if all she does is stare out the window?” Voices ricochet off the walls, “LET ME OUT!!” I scream trying to reign in the demons that have driven me to internal suicide. Encouragement’s velvety voice responds, “Everything you need is within you Polly.”
A film projector of memories reel through my mind. Curling up in a tight ball I pray, “Dear God, please hear me. You gave me strength when I had given up before. Please help me now.” I am really hoping it doesn’t take years for a reply. Abruptly, the deafening sound of metal grinds above me. A slight breeze follows a hint of light overhead. I examine the dark pit that is now my prison. Metal rungs zigzag up the crusty stone.
Anxiety settles in as I stare at the opening. The unknowns of the world up there colonize a new set of fears. The walls suddenly feel safer. “Polly, quit being so stupid. Just make a decision and be done with it!” demands a harsh voice I had come to know too well. “Can’t you make up your own mind? If all your friends jump off a bridge you would be close behind! Why is it so hard for you to be a good girl?”
I consider my choices. I’m hungry. There’s no food down here. This place is wretched. Up there is light, but no guarantees. I drift off while trying to convince myself to take a chance, to extract myself from this noxious pit of lies. “Polly, I’m sending you into the past to confront your fears.” This tone is reassuring.
I stare at the rungs as I contemplate my ascension. The demonic grinding of a motor groans to life. I know this sound. Panic grips my gut, “Oh my God, the top is closing!”
A piercing voice screeches, “Polly, it’s time to go. You must decide. Are you going to stay in this abyss or take a chance on life?” My head gyrates like a blender, “God? Is that you? Are you here?” There is no more time to wait for answers, I must act now.
Scrambling up the wall, I swing my legs over the last few rungs just as the darkness is firmly covered up. There are no gaps on the pavement, nothing to show where the void once existed. Splayed out on the ground, I heave between labored breathes. “Wow, that was close…nothing like having choices!” Swiveling to the left, then to the right, taking inventory of my surroundings. Roads with no lines, no signs. Buildings with no doors or windows. Everything is white – the sky, the landscape, the houses and shops.
Reaching out, touching the surface of a nearby building, its texture is like a blank canvas, coarse and rubbery. Despair settles in as I collapse against the wall, “What kind of place is this? What in the world am I supposed to do now?” The weight in my heart is suffocating. I consider the moments before the ceiling had opened. I had been praying. I remember being hungry. There was the soothing voice telling me I could make the world how I wanted it to be. “If only that were true, if it were only that easy.”
My belly grumbles. I imagine sitting down at a table with a huge plateful of pasta parmigiana, a lush green salad and a tall glass of Merlot. A dish of shaved parmesan cheese sits close by with a pepper grinder. “Omg, I have to stop this nonsense. All I’m doing is making things worse!” Stretching my arms and legs, it seems like a good idea to sleep this off in hopes that it’s some kind of twisted nightmare. I am jolted into awareness…a rich scent of garlic and onions invades my senses. Like a hound dog chasing its prey, I follow my nose. “The smell is coming from inside this building!!” I race around and around the guilty structure.
Nothing. Throwing myself against the building, frustration courses through my veins, “Why is this happening to me?!!” Wrapping my arms around my body in defeat, happy memories with friends hanging at a local pizza café reveal themselves. The front door decorated with a fat little mustached chef, complete with a puffy white hat and jacket, and red scarf tied around his neck. What great times we had. “Now look at me…” Gazing out at the white expanse, the smell of Italian food persists.
I consider the possibility of finding something to bust down the wall when to my amazement an entrance now extends from the building. My feet are ahead of my thoughts as I sprint to the door etched with a fat little Italian baker! Saliva collects as I spot a plate piled high with pasta and chicken parmigiana on the counter. I grab the fork, greedily shoving food into my mouth. A dish of fresh shaved Parmesan cheese along with a tall, wooden pepper grinder are neatly assembled. A garden-fresh salad sits alongside a glass of ruby red Merlot, “Most certainly, I have died and gone to heaven” I warble as strings of spaghetti slip between my lips!
Swirling the savory flavor of wine in my mouth I look around, wondering about the odd turn of events. Once I started praying, answers revealed themselves – a way out of the darkness and then food. I remember the voice, “It’s up to you now to make life the way you want it.” I am reminded of all the years of counseling, the struggle with years of addiction, failed relationships, and abuse. All the result of trying to be something everyone wanted me to be. I listen to the words coming out of an old jukebox, “I laid right there once at the edge of the rock. I was ready to jump. I was ever so lost…”
I become aware that I am alone, that I haven’t seen any people. No clanking of dishes in the kitchen, no one eating. “Jeepers…how much crazier can this get?” The thought of going outside doesn’t seem as appealing as taking refuge on the bench seating. With a happy tummy, sleep immediately settles in. My mind swims with delightful memories of family and the vacations we used to take. Waves roll back and forth outside the window, seagulls screech overhead. A comforting voice promises, “The creation of your heaven on earth requires an idea and the imagination to create it.”
I wake up feeling pleasantly rested. As usual, my basic needs make themselves known. Visions of my favorite pastry and coffee shop ignite in my mind, “Wow…what I would do to have a steaming hot Caffe Latte and French croissant…” My thoughts relive the savory taste of flaky, fresh dough oozing with dark chocolate. The sensation trails off as I push open the front door. I gasp as I take in my surroundings. Saw grass implodes from cascading dunes surrounding a small town of pastel colored shops. The cerulean sky hangs down like crisp curtains, dotted with puffy white clouds. Brightly colored flags flutter in the breeze. Street billboards line up one after other announcing daily specials.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee tickles my nose as I spot my beloved coffee shop, jeweled colored flowers cascade from window boxes. My stomach acknowledges our happiness as I cross the street towards my morning ritual of coffee and pastries. Once again, everything is set up inside as if answering my hearts’ desire. I settle down in the window seat, curled up like a fat cat, overlooking the street outside. I contemplate the concept of manifestation as the melted lava of coffee and dark chocolate settle on my tongue.
Deciding to make an attempt at initiating the creation of an idea, I imagine my grandparent’s farmhouse where I always felt accepted. White-washed stucco walls, beveled windows framed with shiny black shutters, gardens overflowing with brilliant hues of flowers, butterflies haphazardly hovering. A neat, white picket fence encloses this little patch of paradise. I see my grandparents rocking on the front porch, side by side. Taking a deep breath, peace settles itself within my being. Dabbing at tears, then at the crumbs that litter the table, I place my dishes on the clearing station after finishing. I hesitate before opening the door, part of me excited, part in fear.
A salty gust greets me. I look up and down Main Street. Wide-eyed with delirious joy, I spot my grandparents’ home a few blocks down! I race towards the house with eager anticipation of finding them exactly where I expect them to be. The sound of church bells chime in the distance. I screech to a halt, surveying the air, when I hear a voice counting after each toll of the bell, “One” and then another chiming, “Two” and another, “Three.” I feel myself falling away, like swinging with my eyes closed.
Images sputter around me as I take in a wood paneled office, shelves lined with books, a window looking out to the clear blue sky. “Polly, its Dr. Lyte. Can you hear me?” I find myself lying down, the kindly face of a man staring down at me. “How are you feeling?” I recognize the voice as that which had been giving me encouragement. I try to shake the bewilderment out of the fractures in my mind, “I don’t understand.”
Dr. Lyte looks up from his writing, “Don’t you remember Polly? You are here for regression therapy. We agreed that taking you back in time might be a solution to help you confront the negative voices of your past. You decided that since analysis and work-study programs had failed, that you might find answers through hypnotism.” Continuing to blink my eyes, “Yes, I remember. It’s hard to know what’s real right now…all the lies, the dreams, it was so real…”
We talk through my experience as I recite reaching the conclusion of understanding it was my perceptions that have held me back. By altering my take on the past and working hard enough at what I want, anything is possible. What a concept! We make an appointment for next week but I feel compelled to add, “While I truly appreciate what you have done for me Dr. Lyte, I would like to keep our meetings in this reality!”
My stomach rumbles as I walk out the door, laughing that some things will never change as I recall the little pizza man emblazoned on the café door! A part of me wonders how this will translate into real life but I am glad to be home and alive. Putting on my sunglasses, a vision of delight catches my attention…across the street a new Italian café setting up outside tables and chairs, the aroma of fresh basil and garlic, tomatoes, melted cheese and newly baked bread greets me!