The fancy hotel room was supposed to be a treat, an exciting break from our usual routine. It was luxurious; cherry-wood paneled walls, leather couches, a decadent bar and a hot tub. This vacation from real life was going to make our happy marriage even happier.

But his smile was crystalline, his eyes shiny-flat and hard as marbles. He was cold and distant, so unlike himself. This was no second honeymoon.

We had never fought so much. The air was heavy with bitterness, dissatisfaction.

Something was wrong. The lavish surroundings seemed to mask something dark and ugly.

Something sinister.

Sickeningly sweet, saccharine poison soaking into everything we held most dear.

It all seemed unreal, distant; a nightmare set to the backdrop of heaven.

The room felt… red. Candy-apple red, crimson lips curved in a wicked smile, a trickle of fresh blood. Syrupy thick, painful, all-encompassing scarlet.

The pulse of light behind closed eyelids.

A migraine.

He had enough, and stormed out.

I expected the red to fade, and it did; the room shadowed, the lights seemed to flicker. Then I could still see it out of the corner of my eye.

Red. The outline of a man in a red, red suit.

Pulsing with malice.

It was whispering, barely audible; promises, threats, pleas, commands. Enticing lies to coerce, entrap, and smother me.

I would not look. I could not look. If I looked at it, this… thing in the shape of a man, if I acknowledged its existence, I wouldn’t be able to resist the honeyed words. How long had it been hissing these lies?

I couldn’t move. Its presence seemed to suck the air out of the room, the air out of my lungs.

I willed myself not to look.

Do not look.


The Birds

I am roughly shaken awake. A Brother, face pale in my dark room. “It is time, we have to do it now! They are already at the door.”

I sprint down the stone steps, my coarse, heavy robes impeding my flight. I dash from the living quarters into the bustling courtyard. The sun is starting to come up, but it is still dim. Torches are lit, men in dark robes whisper urgently. The space is humming with activity, yet the only sounds are the whisper of flames and soft patter of feet.

We mustn’t wake them.

The monks are assembled, we quickly move to the livestock barn across the yard. This hour, between night and day, they are most vulnerable.

We must destroy them all.

The quietest, bravest monks have already freed what few animals are still alive, but a goat cries shrilly, and it has begun.

The air is suddenly alive with shouts and grunts, flames engulf one corner of the barn, then another. The hay doused in oil is quick to light, and the air burns, thick with acrid smoke.

Startled hisses and shrieks from the barn, high in the barn, the rafters. They wake.

The barn is not burning as fast as we had hoped, and they will take advantage.

We circle the barn, chewing garlic, holding our rosaries aloft. Prayers join the screams of rage and pain.

We mustn’t let them escape.

Soon they bolt from the building strong and swift, blurs of tattered rags, claws, fangs and terror.

We must hold the circle.

The smoke is so thick it is hard to see, I hear the cries of monks, in pain, in prayer. I hear my Brothers fighting, dying.

The circle is broken, the fire was not fast enough, and now chaos reigns. I see a Brother bleeding on the ground, eyes vacant. I see the charred remains of a beast, smoldering still.

Running, screaming, cries for help. Smoke is all I see.

Then I wake up.



This dream is from years ago, but it still feels like it happened yesterday.

I can feel the crunch of the snow beneath my feet, hear the creak of the old metal swing set, feel the rush of the wind as I soared over the dark trees below. You know how some dreams start in the middle?

I was outside of my elementary school, in front, where the buses usually parked. It was dark, but the street lamps blazed so bright it was almost blinding. I shielded my eyes with a damp mitten, and could see the stars twinkle coldly above. I was a child, but I was old. So very old.

I crunched across the snowy lot, to the playground. The only sound was my footsteps, and the whistling wind. I was alone, but I sensed the presence of many around me, shadows of others, souls, invisible to the naked eye. They were still.

Then I saw the geese, spread out in the open field. One was apart from the others, and I approached slowly.

“Brother Goose, please give me a feather, so I may fly as you do.” I bowed respectfully. The goose stood tall, proud, his soft grey-brown feathers ruffling in the wind. He dipped his head, and plucked a feather from his wing. He extended his neck, and I took the feather. I was aloft.

The sun was coming. I could see the outlines of the hills below dark with trees, white with snow beneath. The farther I flew, the lighter it got, winter was turning to fall.

The dream shifted, and I was in the woods, an adult. It was autumn; the crunch beneath my feet was from brown leaves, not glistening snow. I knew this place.

There were a few huts made of branches, platforms in each. I stepped into the largest structure, and the three beirs in front of me were covered in leaves and dust. An ancient resting site.

Two were occupied with the bones of my siblings. The center stood empty.

I took my place.

The Orchard

I am walking through the apple orchard with my mother and my brother. The sun is shining brightly, shadows dappling the dry ground. The colors are brilliant, the bees are buzzing and the soft breeze is scented with fresh hay.

I am afraid.

We are walking fast, and I know he is going to find us, the red faced man with the too-yellow hair. I can picture the barn at the top of the hill, the sharp tools lining the walls, the chains hanging from the rafters. We can’t hide in that barn. He wants us in that barn. Red paint peeling, iron rusting, dirt floor heavy with death.

I can sense him high in the trees, slithering like a snake. Scenting the air, he knows where we are. He is watching, waiting. I know he is there.

I can’t stop walking forward, up that hill. There is nowhere else to go. My mother grips my hand tightly, without looking at me. My brother’s eyes never leave the ground.

We can’t outrun him. We can’t hide.

We are destined to end up in that barn, and there is nothing I can do.


I am a child, and it is recess.

My backpack is heavy as I walk to the swingset.

With each step, I can feel the weight of my backpack push me forward.

If I trot, it pushes me farther, and my feet lift slightly off of the ground.

I begin to circle the swing set, the soft gravel shifting beneath my feet.

I am running, and then my feet leave the ground.

I am circling the swings, the momentum of my backpack keeping me aloft.

Soon recess is over, and I am still orbiting the playground.

Drifting higher, out of reach.

The children are filing inside the building; no one notices my absence.

I slowly float away.