Anna of the Woods

Strange things happen while camping in the woods…

Note: Hopefully my writer’s block is over. I’ve been finding a ton of inspiration and motivation lately: use it while I have it, right? This is a mostly fictionalized account of my time trying to live in the woods.

I was lost for sorts. Not physically lost but mentally lost. Lost in life. Depressed. A drunkard to cope with being lost. Being drunk lets you feel okay with being lost, with having no idea what you’re supposed to do, because it shrinks reality into the present. All you must deal with is the here and now and people are always happier when they pay attention to the here and now. The trouble only begins when you dwell on the past or look forward to the future, traveling the x-axis too far. Regret, anger, helplessness, dread, and anxiety all seem to come from either looking backwards or forwards too much or too desperately.

To find my place I set out for the woods. That was the plan. I was drunk again and it seemed like a great idea. I gathered all the supplies I casually thought about over the past few months in case I ever became crazy enough to actually do it. Cans of coup, a can opener, tent and sleeping bag, a few tiny cans of Sterno, rice, cans of beans, a knife, cigarettes, everything I could think of I put into my car and set out. And alcohol of course. And some drugs in the form of my trusty cough medicine dextromethorphan, DXM. Something to help oil the gears within my mind. Something to let my mind expand outward along the y-axis of whatever you’d call it. Space. Time. Peace. Nirvana. Whatever. I’d felt it countless times but it always escapes grasp.

I went to a local park; an isolated park, not too popular but also not totally forgotten. It was a popular area for disc golfers as there is a course there, but disc golfers are there to golf and not to hike. That was part of the appeal, to hide in plain sight in a park populated by disc golfers who didn’t care much for exploration in the woods. Up a path into the trees I went for a quarter mile in dark, then turned off and walked another few hundred feet. Located close enough to the path for convenience but far enough away that I was fairly hidden. It took three trips to haul all of the supplies to my new home.

I sat in the tent and cracked open a beer. The trusty thought that I always dwelled too much on reared its hideous head: So now what?

I texted some friends and no one replied. I tried to start a fire but the wood and twigs I could find were soaked from days of rain. Even the air seemed chilly and thick with too much water and a faint mist seemed to envelop the woods. Not that I could tell because it was dark; only the lights from the city reflecting pale off the clouds provided any illumination. The tiny candles I had did little to push back the ever present darkness around me.

I was alone. Utterly alone. I checked social media for signs of life and found only ghosts, only the faint images of real life that people wanted others to see. Memes shared, political opinions posted, happy family pictures and dinners. Picturesque to a tee. No, there was no life there at all, and if anything this made me more depressed. Trapped in my mind and isolated left me gasping for anything to hold onto. Some sense of peace. There was no answer from the woods. Only the scraping of tree limbs in the wind replied. Maybe a creature sounded in the dark, but they stayed far enough away from the deadly human trespassing in their domain. Silence. Loneliness. And the time crept ever so slowly. It was only one in the morning. So, now what?

I thought as I drank and made no progress. The same issues over and over. The same flawed person thinking their regular flawed thoughts endlessly. But maybe I needed to go deeper, really get down into the nitty gritty of my mind. Have an experience. Steal some insight forcefully from the universe as if it was mine by right. I popped open my cough syrup bottle and began to drink. The stuff was horrendous and I drank beer and medicine back and forth, desperately trying to clear my tastebuds from the twisted flavors of each of them.

I did some math about how much of the sticky, bitter stuff to actually drink. I came to about half a bottle, but as boozed up as I was wasn’t very confident in my math. Who the hell knew. I guessed. I’d either end up not feeling anything or transcending reality. The stuff tasted disgusting and after 75% of the bottle I gave up the whole project. I wasn’t feeling anything and it was time I tried to get some sleep. My math was probably wrong so I put the cap back on and regretfully laid down for the night.

Sleep. Sleep? No. Music. More infernal music, something I had heard in the past ages ago. Or maybe the future. I sat up and looked at the candle feebly flickering in the tent. And. Fire. Fire. That’s what was missing tonight. This morning. Time didn’t mean anything — the world simply spun and only us humans put meaning on it — and that was fine. Everything was fine. But, fire. Fire makes us human, right? There I was in the woods as a prehistoric human, nothing more than a caveman who happened to have a phone and internet with him. I didn’t have fire. Until I had fire I wasn’t enlightened. I could never be at peace living as a slovenly creature in the woods.

In the tent I said aloud to no one in particular. “I want fire. I will make a campfire. If it’s the last thing I do, I will have fire.” I stood up, grabbed my cigarette lighter, a beer, hobbled a bit, and stepped out into the damp and chilly air.

Sticks. Wood. Kindle. Start small with dry stuff and build up to larger branches. Until you had logs. A self-sustaining fire. A fire hot and fierce enough to burn anything liquid thrown into it. Sure the branches were wet, but with a blazing fire they’d dry and burn like everything else did in the world.

I gathered my piles into categories based on how large the branches were. Twigs, here. And there, larger sticks. And here, branches. The only thing missing was grass, something small and dry that would easily light. But I had paper towels and a nearly empty case of beer; maybe that would suffice? I grabbed the towels, emptied the box, and started tearing the shreds of paper into smaller and smaller bits. I would have fire. It was the meaning of my life in the all-consuming present.

Onto the ground they went into a small pile. I then made a tiny tent of twigs and smaller sticks on top of the pile. I rolled up a tiny bit of paper on the end of a stick and dipped it in the liquid candle wax: a tiny homemade torch. It took fire easily. And this went into the bottom of the tent of twigs.

And fire! It smoked, glowed, sputtered, and then went out. I hopped onto my knees to blow on the remaining feeble embers only to have them die. I tried again. And again. And there was no fire. I was still a dumb caveman who’d never be enlightened and wise. I’d never cook meat, have crops, smelt metal, or build cities. Left in the woods to die and discovered thousands of years later like Homo Neanderthalensis.

I stood up, looked around, and nearly gave up. A tiny bush next to fire seemed to taunt me but I didn’t know why. It was a strange plant, a bush that was only a bush only when you looked at it. Because when you looked away and viewed it out of your peripheral it took on a humanoid appearance. This bush was something human, or humanlike, and it taunted me. It stood over my pile of sticks that refused to burn and made them refuse to burn. It’s name, because it did have a name, was Anna.

I stared at the bush again, knowing who it was (but not what), and said, “Anna, please let me make a fire.”

She stared at me silently, reverting into a form or a bush depending on if I looked directly at it or not.

“Come on. Why? Why do you do this to me?! I just want to make a fire.”

I set back to work. Anna wouldn’t stop me.

More timeless time passed and nothing happened. I came close, once or twice, where flames licked the sticks for nearly ten minutes before it smoldered into nothing.

“Anna. Anna, why?”

Reality came back in waves where I realized I was talking to a bush. A plant. Nothing more and nothing less. I was in the woods trying to build a fire and I couldn’t and I was talking to a plant. Begging the plant to let me make a fire. I felt like I was losing my mind. Nothing made sense. Who was Anna and why was that the plant’s name? Why was I stumbling around? Why did the bush appear so lifelike at times? My thought came back to an old Stephen King story I had read. Something about a hotel room that a totally skeptical guy wanted to spend the night in. And in the room he slowly goes crazy. The room itself was a malevolent being that degrades your sanity causing you to question everything. Until you lost it. Until you went mad. Until the room killed you.

And, what?

I remembered old stories about this park: many people in my city say it’s haunted. My cousin, a supposed ghost hunter, claims she’s seen ghosts in this very park on countless occasions. Right where I was trying to spend the night and seek some solace. There were no ghosts, obviously, and I was a skeptic. Maybe it was just her imagination? There weren’t any ghosts here.

But what if there was.

The woods did seem very silent and malevolent. And I was losing my mind. Was it that far-fetched to believe that I was surrounded by a horde of ghosts or worse, demonic beings that wanted to claim me as their own? I started to panic at the thought. Anna, the bush three feet from my tent, was one of them. A spirit of some long lost and forgotten soul who for some reason haunted in the park I was in. She probably died in a fire, which explained her stopping me from making mine. Even in death she was scared, or even protective of me. Or not. Maybe she was trying to drive me insane, to get me to hang myself off a tree? Or do something crazy. What would happen if I chopped my hand off with my hatchet? Where did that thought even come from? What would people think and say if I came out of the park after one day and had to be hospitalized and institutionalized for hacking my hand off? What if I was going crazy?

No. No way. It was the drugs. Didn’t I drink a bunch of cough medicine ages ago? But, what if it wasn’t the drugs? What if they only allowed me to perceive the unknown? As my mind raced I desperately tried to get a hold of it and keep it under control. Think happy thoughts. I gave up on the failed fire, got into my tent, and finished off the last few beers of the twelve pack.

I awoke a few hours later once again feeling lost, this time mentally. I questioned where I was and what I was doing there. Rain was soaking in through my tent that I was in, my sleeping bag was damp, and I was freezing. My head hurt — the familiar feeling of the hangover — and time would only make it worse. My mind turned back to the previous night which felt like a dream. The demons, the demons that weren’t there but seemed to be there at time, had haunted me and now they were gone. I opened the door to my tent and looked out. I was in the woods and I was certain of my place in space this time. Birds were chirping, the wind wasn’t blowing, and the only sound was the rain in the middle of the forest. Despite my brutal confusion and hangover, there I was. Maybe I wasn’t lost.

And Anna stood by the failed fire. Still a tree but as I looked away there was a person there. I was sober. I wasn’t high. But…the bush was a human. A person. A spirit. Something. I stepped out of my tent and grabbed a couple of beers to think about the situation. I didn’t feel threatened, just confused with this presence still there. After a beer and a half I walked over and grabbed my hatchet which I tossed aside early in the morning into a pile of mud for some reason. I wiped the blade off and it glistened as well as it could under the cloudy and dreary day. I walked up to Anna.

“Anna. You need to leave. You’re disturbing my peace. This whole thing, this whole adventure, was only meant for me to find peace. So, please leave.”

Anna stood there.

I sighed. “Alright, have it your way. I’m sorry.”

I swung as hard as I could drawing all the strength from my body. I waited for a cry or a shout or anything from Anna, but there was nothing. Just the dull plop plop plop of the hatchet striking branches over mud. Eventually Anna toppled over right on top of my aborted bonfire.

And as damp as it was the night before, and as much as it was raining at the time, the fire started to smoulder and burst into a large blazing flame. Here was my fire, here was my peace, here was me transcending my primal spirit.

Check out my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog Everything Sucks where I blog about random topics.

Or Wattpad where I have a Morrowind fanfic ongoing.

Or my Facebook page where I don’t do much of anything at all.

…the Dancer in the Field

And so without a choice I nervously walked over to her. I didn’t know how to explain what I felt. I had a purpose. I had a goal. Something clear I couldn’t deny or fight against. On rails with only one direction to go, no stopping, slowing down, or altering my course. I did what I had to do and walked up to her. Upon seeing me she stopped her twirling and dancing, faced me, and smiled.

“Would you like to dance?” she asked.

“I don’t think I’m a good dancer. I’m clumsy. And…there’s no music. I really don’t think I could dance if there wasn’t any music.”

“There’s always music. Don’t you hear it?”

“No.”

“Well, just listen. Don’t force yourself to hear it but allow yourself to hear it.” Immediately all conscious thought disappeared for a moment and I heard…something. But as soon as I heard it and brought my attention to the sound — if it was even there in the first place — it was gone.

“You heard it, didn’t you? Didn’t she tell you that before? To stop trying so hard?”

“Who?”

“That’s also the key to dancing. James, right? The key to dancing is to not think about it. It’s an expression of yourself. The more you think about it the more detached you become. You come between your body and your soul. Makes sense, doesn’t it?”

“Yes. How do you know my name?”

“Close your eyes and hold my hands.”

“What?”

“Close your eyes and hold my hands.”

“Okay,” I said and followed her instructions. Her hands felt chilly, but in a comforting way. We stood there a foot apart holding hands. My mind began to wander. This was a dream, right? What was I even doing here? If I was lucid, why wasn’t I flying or doing whatever I wanted to do? Why was I standing here with my eyes closed holding this woman’s hands? Why was I playing along perfectly with some unspoken plot? And if I was dreaming and wanted to hear the music, why couldn’t I just hear the music?

And then it happened. There was an intricate drum beat that sounded miles away but ever present, not forceful or too dramatic, just a mellow rhythm in all things around me. And while sounding distant at first, the sound seemed to grow closer even though it still had an airy quality to it. And then other instruments joined the subconscious rhythm — violins, flutes, bass, chellos, along with countless other sounds that I couldn’t identify — with the music swirling around me. If I only opened my eyes, I knew I could see colors and sounds swirling around me. The violin was purple, the deep color of twilight. And the bass a deep navy, the ocean depths. The flute a bright yellow and sprightly: the color of the springtime sun on daffodils, happiness itself. The sound and the colors the same thing, aspects of the same beauty : inseparable and indistinct. It was deeper than anything I had ever experienced and I wondered why I never realized that sound is color and color is sound before. I let go of my consciousness and the world’s music washed over me and filled my soul with love.

And I let myself go even further and with the music and colors working through my body, the dancer and I began to spin. Around and around endlessly. Holding hands for a little bit and then letting go. We twirled, dipped, seperated and danced on our own for a few moments with the sounds and colors swirling around us, spinning us like leaves drifting in a stream, and we’d find each other perfectly as if we’d never been apart. Lost in the music I found my hands in hers over and over again. My arms around her and her arms around me embracing as we twirled. Apart and together, hugging, spinning, drifting away and back without choice. The dance seemed to last for hours, but no exhaustion was apparent; the entire moment felt perfect in every way. And at the perfect moment for the dance to come to a close the music faded away as if driven by my own thoughts. The dancer and I faced each other holding hands and opened our eyes. Love flowed between our gaze and through our locked hands.

“You see why I dance now.”

“Yes.”

“Would you like to sit with me?”

“Yes.” We sat down in the grass facing each other.

“I’m glad you danced with me tonight. I’ve seen you around many times and you always glance over at me but never say ‘hi’ or anything.”

“You know who I am? I’ve never seen you before.”

“Yes, I know you. And you must know me, at least some part of you must.” She seemed thoughtful for a moment, like she knew something I didn’t and was debating whether to tell me or not. “We used to play together as kids, James. Jimmy. I used to call you Jimmy. You don’t remember that?”

“Not really.” I thought about what Luna said what seemed like hours or days earlier. “Something about you does seem familiar. Like a scent that reminds you of something deep in your past that you just can’t pinpoint. I know you mean something to me, but I just can’t pinpoint it.”

“Are you dreaming? Right now?”

“Yes, I think so.”

She looked thoughtful. “Hmm. Maybe that’s why. I never remember my dreams either. And if I see you here and you’re dreaming, then…maybe that’s why I’m a stranger.

“We used to play as kids. You were shy and I had to get you to open up, but then we became friends. It’s been so long ago that it’s fuzzy to me. But I remember you clearly: the awkward haircut, constantly avoiding eye-contact, always fumbling and fidgeting with your hands. But always well-meaning and kind. And you really haven’t changed much either.” She smiled, “Well, your hair isn’t as awkward anymore.

“But then you came around less frequently. And as the years passed it was like you barely remembered me. You’d say hi and wave but eventually the waves looked like the hesitant ones from a stranger. I guess I stopped even trying one day. Just accepted you as a stranger who was once a friend.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say.”

“You seem more coherent lately. You look over at me. And I smile and nod but never wave. But you look like you’re thinking or remembering something. And…I’m glad you came over and danced. It gives me hope.”

I glanced over at the three people around the fire. “You need to give them credit. She told me to come dance with you. I told her I was dreaming and she didn’t question it at all. She knew what was going on somehow.”

“Who are they?”

“I don’t know. Part of my dream I guess.”

“Well if this is your dream, what if they’re just a part of you? Something you’ve forgotten? Remember how I said to properly dance you need to not think about dancing? That’s how dreaming is; it’s your soul dancing. It’s your consciousness dancing. It’s doing what it wants to do while perfectly in touch with the universe. Maybe some of these things, and people, are just a part of you.”

“What about you? What if I made you up too?” I was joking but she still looked thoughtful.

“I can’t prove you wrong, but I will say this: this world feels real to me. I’m real. When I dream I go someplace completely unlike this one and it’s always vague and shimmery where strange things happen. This world is…real. It’s hard to explain. And…oh…”

“What?”

“You’re leaving.”

“I am?”

“Yes. You look…shimmery. Sunlight reflecting off water.” I looked around to the trees and into the nearly dark sky above me and everything seemed to dissolve and become dull. The trees blurred to where they appeared to be dark blobs against the slightly lighter sky behind them.

“I want to stay here though. I want to remember this. Can I? What if I forget? I don’t even know what your name is.”

“James, can you please remember me? Come find me next time, okay? Please try?”

“I’ll…yeah…try. We can…dance some more…right? I want to…dance again. And I…promise…to…”

As a Kid

Sometimes when I couldn’t sleep I would call my grandma and tell her so.

I’d call her, she’d answer, and I’d say, “Grandma, I can’t sleep.”

She’d say, “What’s wrong? Why can’t you sleep?”

“I don’t know. I just can’t.”

“Well just try to relax, close your eyes, and maybe you’ll fall asleep.”

It very rarely worked, but somehow I’ve made it to the age of thirty-five. Even while struggling to sleep almost daily time kept marching on with no one noticing as it usually does so. While I don’t remember what Little Jimmy did to sleep, especially not having access to benzodiazepines, alcohol, or antihistamines as a child, he somehow found the ability to sleep. The thirty-five years seemed to pass in an instant but only in retrospect. Grandma’s advice never seemed to help at the time — just relax — but Jimmy found a way.

My bedroom as a kid had these strange sliding accordion doors — I don’t even know what their proper name was and I’ve never decided to learn as an adult. It made my room seem fancy apparently; a few of my elementary school friends said so. The white wicker furniture on the porch also made out house seemed fancy. A few of them even mentioned that “Jimmy’s family must be rich!” but little did they know we were poor as hell. I didn’t even know how poor we were at the time. We might’ve looked rich on a superficial level, at least to other ten-year-olds, but we didn’t own much of anything. The bank owned most of the important things like our car and the house while credit card companies owned most of the remaining possessions. In fact looking back, I think my parents were perpetually in debt; they literally didn’t own anything. But as a nine-year-old you’re not aware of these things unless your parents were arguing about money, which they often did.

I had sliding doors on my room. Accordion doors. They had these slats on the bottom half of the doors, and smoked glass on the top half. Even though the glass gave some visibility into the living room, you couldn’t see much. You could see shapes through the glass, but nothing definitive. For some reason the left side — from the perspective of someone inside the room — was never moved. If you needed to get into my room you’d move the right side three-paneled accordian door. Never the left. The left panels were always as straight as could be, like they were a wooden and glass wall, and even if they could be physically moved were never actually moved. I didn’t question it: it was a rule. Well, not really a rule, just how things worked. The doors at the time were slightly cracked open. The cat named Patches (the cat I’d sometimes throw off the basement stairs) liked to sleep in the bed with me. He pushed the right-sided panels open just enough to sneak into my room. The right-sided panels were always open enough for an average-sized black and white cat to enter the room. He loved me even if I tossed him off the stairs weekly.

I couldn’t sleep at the time. I would toss and turn in my bed. But then I stopped tossing and turning. I found myself lying on my right side — facing the slightly opened accordion doors to the living room. My room was also next to the front porch with a lone window shining pale, yellow, incandescent light into my room. It almost made a welcome mat in front of the accordion doors, the pale yellow trapezoidal shape of light on carpet. And I layed there. Just existing during another night of being unable to sleep. You could see a tiny bit of the couch through the slightly-cracked door. Patches slept near my ankles.

I went to call my grandma, to complain as I sometimes did, but I felt like I wanted to be totally still this time. Perfectly still for just a little longer. It’s hard to explain. I wanted to call her, but something compelled me not to. While I could move I didn’t want to move. I stared through the tiny gap in my door and looked over the shape of the couch.

I felt dread. I felt death. I laid still and felt something so damning, terrifying, and unholy that I could only stare. I couldn’t cry and I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t do anything. I was locked in place and facing something that only I could explain years later as death: this was what it felt like to die and not to die but to actually be dead. A perfect stillness and comprehension of the darkness behind everything you see. A perpetual “thereness” of a perfect void, of an absolute nothing. Behind every object, person, color, emotion, or anything there was this nothing: this void, this color blacker than black. There was nothing scary to behold visually — just the dark living room lit up by the weak porch light — but something about it felt so ominous that it was beyond explanation. Like there was a dark shape or entity creeping just around the corner, just barely out of sight. Even if you could feel it and know it was there it wasn’t visible. I don’t know how long I laid there or what happened to release me but, as stated, I’m now thirty-five years old and whatever happened that day decades ago remains as vague as any decade-old memory can.

I’ve never experienced it since. But sometimes if I lay very still in bed and keep my eyes focused on a certain point about eight meters away I start to feel that creeping dread. The all-consuming stillness, the background darkness and void that is behind every person, object, and thing. The black shape creeping in my room just barely out of sight around the corner. Something so still and dark and permanent and real that it drills its fear deep into consciousness. If there is anything to fear it is this. I don’t know what it’s called, but that’s the only thing to fear in life…and what exactly would you call that?

If the feeling threatens to wash over me I’ll I take a sleeping pill. Or something. Drugs are a fix-fall for nearly every problem in life and Jimmy didn’t have this option. A half-milligram of xanax scares the demon away long enough for me to not worry about it. As for my grandma? Well, I can’t call her anymore. I’m thirty-five years old. My grandma isn’t around anymore.

Dream Journaling

Writing down dreams.

November 12, 2019

Dreamt I was at a fair or something. But it was inside. I’m recalling a scene from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the movie version, where Raoul and his lawyer pal are riding a merry go round inside somewhere. And there’s a monkey, isn’t there?With glasses? Well, that’s what it felt like. I was there, and I don’t recall other people being there but I wasn’t alone. If that makes sense. I was hesitant to ride but the ride operator (whom I never seen because he wore giant aviator glasses and had a moustache) told me I’d have fun. It would remind me of being a kid and everyone needs to feel like a kid periodically in life. I hopped on a horse and he started the ride.

He was also sitting in the center of the carousel. I’ve never seen a carousel operated this way.

The ride went faster and faster and I thought I’d get thrown off. But he kept laughing and telling me to hold on, hold on tight! I found myself moving to the side of the horse I was riding to counteract centripetal force. And I remember thinking about that and trying to tell the operator about it. Something about the radius squared and the rotational rate. He didn’t know anything about physics and centripetal force. The force was threatening to throw me off the ride so I positioned myself so the horse and bar would take the outward force. I kept yelling about physics. The ride eventually stopped and he was glad he got to learn something.

November 25, 2019

I dreamt that my bottom row of teeth were worn down to the enamel or whatever it’s called and was freaked out about them falling out. Wasn’t a good dream.

Then I was going to math class. Was on a subway or a bus or something. There was a guy playing a game on his phone, sorta like that Magic Piano game but where you only had to hit a few notes during the chorus or something. Like there was no challenge or anything to the game. It was pathetic and the guy loved it; he was having a blast playing it. Got to the class building and went downstairs. We took a math test, and during the exam I was nervous that I couldn’t find a vector given its terminal and initial points. I erased my answers so much I had to ask the teacher for help. He misunderstood and shown me the answer in the back of the book. I figured he wouldn’t penalize me but since I had seen the answers he said he’d just take points off from that question. Then he said something along the lines of, but in a friendly, helpful, and non-sarcastic way, “People get jumbled up sometimes. Especially if it’s been awhile and you’re just a math casual and not really into it.” I was very angry, offended, and wanted to say that I figured out how to find a 4-space cross product on my own. (I don’t even know what that is) Then I guess I woke up.

But after waking up, I realized that I had a total of three dreams that I remembered pretty well but had forgotten by the time I wrote this. I NEED to start writing ASAP when I wake up because I always forget that dreams always become fuzzy after a few hours.

December 1, 2019

Was on an island. It felt like a vacation. Had the feeling of Outset Island from the game Wind Waker. Not similar in appearance or size or anything, only similar in how it felt. It looked like a dumpy area of Rockford. The alleyways were narrow and run down. Then I merged into another dream.

I was on the west side of Rockford. Just walking around I guess. I felt I was going somewhere, or just exploring. Now I’m getting into another dream. Or not sure if it was the same one? Anyways I’ll assume so. I was near the river on the west side. I crossed the river to the bike path.

Now I know for a fact this isn’t the same dream. I just realized three or four of the “bike path dreams” I had. They just were remembered and merged into one singular “landscape.” My mind feels almost overwhelmed. I’ve been suspecting that each single dream (or most single dreams) seem to occur in some of the same “landscapes,” or “dreamscapes” I suppose. Like they’re all physically different but are the same thing. I cannot clearly explain this. I will skip the bike path part. It occurred elsewhere. It seems it always comes up.

I was walking on the west side, by a random sheriff’s building. I was worried about being shot or mugged but then realized I’m part of humanity; I’m one of them and no harm will come to me. I even seen a guy who walked past me and he said, “Hey man, what’s going on?” I replied back something like, “I’m good. How about you?” Just act cool and everything will be fine.

I made it “home” and waiting until my ex-girlfriend got home from work. She finally pulled up in her car and came inside and proceeded to tell me about a healthy fruit that she should “put inside her.” I said something like, “How about I get inside you?” and grabbed her by the waist. She didn’t seem offended, amused, or anything. Apparently we were still together but she seemed more interested in her fruits and health foods than anything else. That’s fine. That’s how I felt in the dream at least.

The Smiling Faces

The room was white. There were no shadows. There was a line of faces, faces looking at me and smiling. All types of people, all races, female and males, mostly younger but some middle aged, all smiling at me. The row of faces was endless, but didn’t display any perspective. It was if the row of faces was two-dimensional. Even the faces far to the left and to the right were seen dead-on, no side perspectives or anything. The room was featureless, no obvious walls, corners, floors, doors, or anything. Just white. White with smiling faces.

I was a photographer for some reason. I didn’t have a camera, or a tripod, or anything but knew I was there to take pictures. Everyone looked at me with blank expressions except for their smiles. They all had that hesitant closed-mouth smile, with their lips and cheeks straining upwards as far as they could without showing their teeth. Those smiles are always strange and insincere, even the smiles that do display actual happiness and joy have an embarrassment and unwillingness to open up and let happiness be real. As if being happy is an affront to the world or something. Scowling is fine, blandness is fine, and a small grin is fine, but true happiness? No. No laughter. No real smiles. No joy. Always hide it from the world.

I looked up and down the row of faces. As a photographer you needed to be fun and lighthearted. I wasn’t good at doing that. I didn’t know why I was a photographer. I was terrible at getting people to smile. How was I to turn these hesitant half-smiles into fully fledged photograph-worthy faces of pure happiness?

I asked them with the fakest tone of enthusiasm possible to smile. “You need to smile! I want to see some teeth! We need these pictures to be good. They’ve paid a lot of money for these pictures to be good!”

The faces turned and looked at each other. There were no bodies, just faces. Not that they were beheaded or anything, I just didn’t notice any bodies being present. Just the ever present heads. The heads that seemed too scared and afraid to actually smile.

“Come on, smile!”

The face directly in front of me looked down at the ground and all around the room-that-didn’t-exist, hesitant and seemingly deep in thought and fear. Guarding something horrendous. Finally, she let her lips open and develop into a fully-fledged and joyous smile.

And her teeth. Blacked. Rotten. Pungent. I wasn’t close to her, but the smell permeated the room instantly. None of the other hesitant faces seemed to notice anything with their dumb half-smiles and their blank stares directed towards me.

“Okay. Good. That’s a good smile. Beautiful.” I held down a few coughs and heaves that my body was demanding of me. “How about everyone else? Smile like the beautiful lady right here, okay?”

They all hesitatingly opened their mouths into a multitude of hideously genuine smiles, all with rotting and wrenchingly awful smelling teeth being displayed to me and only me. The blackness and stench of their mouths seemed to suck the light out of the room. It was still white obviously, but seemed tarnished.

“Those are nice smiles…really. Nice…” I coughed a bit. The faces kept smiling with some beginning to silently and horribly laugh.

“Why, why are your teeth so rotten?” I asked. “You, you all have dental insurance. Why? Why don’t you get your teeth fixed?”

Their laughing started to become hideous and fearful.

“Get your fucking teeth fixed. What is wrong with you all? They’re rotting! Literally in your mouth?! A permanent part of you is dying inside you. Doesn’t that bother you at all?”

The faces slowly turned from laughter to crying, crossing that subtle boundary that separates the two. Ugly laughing into ugly crying. Tears streaming down their faces and into their mouths. I imagined the salty tears entering the rotten crevices of the teeth and burning like acid on skin, or alcohol on a wound. Their faces seemed to confirm my beliefs: they were all hideously crying and screaming with no sounds to be heard, tears flowing into their mouths incessantly.

“Don’t you smell that awful smell? Everytime you breathe, you don’t notice it? You don’t want to vomit every time you inhale, every time you look into a mirror? They’re rotting inside of you. They’re bones but in your mouth and rotting. Pull them out. Why don’t you pull them out? Get rid of them. Before the putrefaction spreads.”

Immediately as I said it, their teeth started falling out. Everyone of the faces’ teeth were falling out onto the white floor that wasn’t really there. But they made the floor appear. They gave it definition, shade, and color. Teeth blackened and pungent all over the floor, with yellow puss and ooze pooling around them. There was no escape from the scent. I couldn’t puke; my body wouldn’t let me. It was an affront to the white room and my body wouldn’t allow me to soil it further. I started to run along the row of faces, constantly screaming and howling in perfect silence. My feet were bare and as I ran the rotted, sharp, and jagged teeth dug into my feet. They were razors and every step I took they embedded themselves into my feet. They worked their way into the bones of my feet, as if my foot was made of putty or jelly. I could taste the awful stench of the puss as it seeped into my bloodstream. It was the odor of rotten potatoes. The white room turned a sickly off-white and yellowish color. The puss was in my eyes. The stench was in my nose. The rotting was in my brain.

I turned and saw a mirror. I opened my mouth. My teeth were rotted. My teeth stank. It was inside me and eating me away. My teeth fell into my hands. My nails were rotted. My nails stank. They fell off onto the floor. My feet were blackened and decayed. My toes fell off. I looked into the mirror once again to see a corpse without teeth staring back at me. I screamed but no sound came out. The faces reflecting in the mirror continued to scream, howl and cry — not at me but with me. I was one of them. I was one of them all along and was too terrified to see it. Our pungent howls in unison silently turned the room black.