If you die in your dreams you die in real life. That’s the midwife’s tale. But what about other ailments that happen in dreams? Where are the tales for them? If you die in your dreams you die in real life.
You hope to sleep to hope to dream to have a controlled escape. The script, the story, when awake is a bit too much. You sleep too much. There’s the voice in the back of your throat that makes demands, and you wish you could shut it up. 5 more minutes have turned into 4 days which have turned into 3 weeks into 2 months into 1 year.
The voice’s demands wake you. You’re old, not yet old enough to have your features morph into permanent hideousness, but enough to take a year of sleep. The voice woke you, but not your emotions yet.
There is so much to be said of being a myth. You had a midwife or were you a midwife? Did it really matter? There was a baby once upon a time and you could have loved them with all your heart.
You force your dry eyes open, dry like your mouth, dry like your skin. A small smile there had been no lid to push off. You forgot the weight of your body. The skin irritations that demand immediate satisfaction. The scratching of your arms is bliss. Your throat growls at you to sit up, stand up, move. It hurts to sigh. Your arms should be weak, your legs should have lost sensation.
You get to your feet. The pinpricks of static are magic that there is still enough blood to circulate. A reminder, your blood won’t let you die. To sleep is to wake. There is a faint far away sniffling sound. Fully upright you finally look down at your body. Your frock is musty. You feel the tangles of your hair and wish you could just rip it out. Your stomach is flat as it can be. The smile is gone.
One step then another, the way the dust and dirt attach to your feet and the spaces between your toes, make you want to cry. Everything is an irritant. Your throat stops yelling. It speaks calmly now, like a parent giving careful instructions. You don’t remember where you are, but it does.
The sound of sniffling does not get closer. There is a different noise that attempts to drown it. Voices yelling. Not in anger though. Anger is the next step.
You come upon a couple. A couple who thought they were in a dream, a couple whose entwined life you can see so clearly. Here he pulls her hair, here he gives her his lunch, here he runs with her, here he controls her. There she yells at him, there she smiles at him, there she laughs with him, there she cries with him. They don’t see you. They don’t hear you.
There had to be a boy once to need a midwife once. You knew you had a baby growing, or were you told there was a growing baby? The throat is dismissed with the same concern of the discomfort of the dust that clings to your sole. You could have loved them like nothing else. You would have cared enough for the blood in your body to ebb away. You would have never let them get to the next step.
You hate the next step. The couple’s yelling is getting frantic. You hear the air move with their hands. The sound of sniffling is far away. The slight disturbance is enough for you to be reminded of the wrong touches now. The tangles in your hair mock you with the breeze. Everything is too uncomfortable. Unbearable. The scream is climbing, but your throat eats it. It eats it with delight. An appetizer it says, can we get on with the main course? It reminds you of softness to animate you.
You remember how your parents were and you remember the joy you had at the opportunity to be better. There had been some surreptitious actions then. Your stomach hadn’t been meant to grow yet. But you knew babies had needs, and you had known that the little blanket would be just perfect. It had been one of the softest things you had ever known.
Your eyes had closed. Your breath had evened. Your head begins to fall forward, you jolt upright. A brief flash of adrenaline. The couple was gone. The baby never knew it. The soft blanket. Awareness continued to be a curse. The throat says sleeping while awake is how you die. Why is everything so rough? No not rough, adjacent to rough, it is so irritating you shiver and wish you could crawl out of your skin. You never knew the baby. You think the baby would have loved it. The soft blanket.
It wasn’t your parents’ fault. You can remember that. It wasn’t your fault either, the throat reminds you. There is a far away sound of sniffling. You need to find something to soothe.
A face flashes in your mind. A shutter, a series of the face moving, moving away to their jerky body, their erratic movements. This another tragedy your mind supplies. He did not even love you. You don’t know if he knew of you until you stumbled upon him. You stumble now. Your legs haven’t atrophied but the texture of the floor, the dust that clings, you don’t want your feet on the ground longer than they have to be. You don’t want to move fast though. You want to go back to sleep. You turn and your throat yells again. You stop. Your throat cajoles, you can go back to sleep, to your dreams, after.
You have to take the next step then after. You try to focus on your insides not the assault on your skin. You think you have enough energy, if there were to be a struggle. Yes, you can feel your blood humming in anticipation. You will be able to move if the situation requires. A midwife had to be called.
You decided to try and find the couple. They aren’t yelling anymore. You can’t hear them anymore. You aren’t sure where you are. Your throat reminds you those details aren’t important at the moment. You decide to take the path to the left. Nothing was right after all.
You had come upon him once upon a time. He had raised his head and infinity stared into you. Those eyes don’t haunt your dreams. They were too complicated to be replicated in a dream. You hadn’t known, hadn’t thought, hadn’t considered, infinity could be contained in the eyes. How to describe the infinite possibilities contained in a gaze. You remember the first three that had occurred to you. Here is where he breaks your neck. Here is where he rips out your throat. Here is where his eyes devour you. You don’t exist anymore. You are in the bottomless hole that yawned open when he turned his head.
He wasn’t there when you woke up. The baby that would have been the baby you would have loved for all your life was. A bloody mess between your legs. Nothing identifiable in the carnage, but you knew they were mixed and lost in all of that red.
Is that how myths are born? You already knew blood is needed for birth of any type. But are myths brought about by absent creators? Would their presence have changed anything? If only they had been considerate enough to leave you a midwife. There had been a different body lying next to yours when you woke with the remains of your baby between your legs.
Their eyes had been comforting. If his eyes were infinite, hers were confined. They were glazed over, looking to your left. A tidy reflection, a singular end. You saw yourself in her eyes. The only mirror to witness the mess you had made of yourself. The bombardment of textures reminds you that you are still a mess. When was the last time you were clean?
This is why you hate being awake. These are the first things to greet you. Terrible textures and indifferent infinities. If you die in your dreams you die in real life, but nothing that reeks of death hunts you there. There is freedom in being senseless.
The sound of sniffling is far away.
You softly make noise with your feet on the stone. A light thump. You feel like your clothes make noise with their rustle, but you can’t be sure. A smack breaks the silence so suddenly you jump. It hadn’t been you that made the noise. It had been close. Your throat draws you closer.
Once again there is a familiar picture. The man and the woman are breathing heavily. The woman is on the ground hand to her cheek. The man is above her arm outstretched. You take a step towards them. They turn to you. You take another step. He takes a step back. She crawls towards him.
“Who are you?” one of them asks.
You think to open your mouth, but your throat opens instead. You come upon the man first. Throat to throat. Your ears burn with the noises of slurping and gurgling. He whimpers just a little bit. A bitter scent assaults your nose and you let him fall to the ground.
You’re sticky now. Hands and arms and chest all wet. You can feel a few splatters, little red freckles, on your face. Your throat feels soothed. There is bliss in thirst quenched. Why did you sleep for so long? This is nice.
You look to where the woman had been. She’s gone. You look at the man’s body. His eyes are closed. You like his jacket. You do not like the thought of touching him again. There is a small pool of blood that reaches your toes. Just enough to wash some of the dust away. Just enough to lose a little friction from the floor. You want to stand on your tiptoes, so you do. Without prompting from your throat, you go to find the woman. You wish you had your baby’s soft blanket. The sound of sniffling is far away. You contort your feet to the form your wedding shoes would have molded them. You walk as graceful as can be.
Would the boy who was involved with the baby marry you? The woman is making a racket. She is throwing things into a bag and telling herself to be quiet. She doesn’t look remarkable. Her eyes are large and dewy. She whimpers more than the man. You don’t feel a splatter this time. The new coat of blood on your hands, arms, and chest feels heavy, less sticky at least. And the weight is comforting, not constricting.
The sound of sniffling doesn’t seem so far away now. You walk to the bag she had been throwing things in. There is nothing breathing in there. Just clothes and items. You don’t care about that. Not right now. The sound is so close.
Myths are born in blood. Is your baby in her? You check to make sure. Her stomach is practically flat. You press your ear against it to make sure. There is a faraway sound of sniffling, but you can’t be sure where it’s coming from. You press your throat against her stomach and tear through it to make sure. There is nothing shiny there. Nothing special. You make a poor midwife.
The sniffling still won’t leave you alone. Your nose is dripping and when you rub your arm against it you understand. Your throat gives you permission to go back to sleep. You turn to the bag and grab it. You know there is a bathroom to clean up in. You won’t be able to have good dreams if you’re dirty. You strip and leave your clothes in the room with the woman. The cold air suits you better than fabric constraints. You are excited for water and soap.
The water is cold, but it soothes. Blood washes out faster in cold water. You don’t linger. There are sweeter things waiting for you. The bag has a brush and baggy shirts and pants. The brush is what silences you. You used to love to brush your hair. Your hair had been your favorite part of who you were. Long and silky and easy to control. Once upon a time it seemed to braid itself. This is a simple methodical task. You hum and think of your baby.
A hundred brushes to clean the day away. Another hundred for good luck. The last hundred are to calm your heart. You don’t know where the soft blanket is. You could hold it now though. You aren’t sticky or dusty anymore. Nothing would hurt it now.
Your baby would have loved it, like they would have loved you, like you would have loved them. Forever and ever. To wake is to dream. You braid your hair. It doesn’t braid itself anymore. You put on the clothes of the dead. You go to your bed.
It doesn’t seem right anymore. You frown in thought. Your throat is quiet, soothed, satisfied. Your heart is calm, your mind is not. You can’t sleep here. You know your baby isn’t here. The bed is unsuspecting. It barely looks disturbed. There are some hair stands on the pillow. The pillow is the slightest bit raised. It had cradled you for a year and it is all forgotten in a moment. You hold your breath and fling the pillow away.
The soft blanket is there. Folded into a nice square. You had forgotten its color, but of course it’s baby blue. With clean hands you bring it to your cheek. You are sure that there is nothing as soft as this. The bed can be salvaged now. Your head can rest now. You don’t want the pillow. You curl up on your side with the soft blanket under your cheek. To sleep is to dream. When you’re pregnant in your dreams you aren’t when you’re awake. Death doesn’t taunt you in your dreams. Maybe it would be kinder if he did.
About the Author
A.C. Riffer is a professional romantic and enigmatic. They don’t think there is anything else to say.