We have always known This Man. Before we had the ability to discern a nightmare from our pedestrian dreams, he appeared in the crystalline part of slumber. It was him who taught us the difference between horror and fantasy, shaping our nights from Rockwell portraits to abstract splatters of images. And while he did not use a flute to lure us away from the peace, we remember being called by his soundless voice. We have always been unable to resist it.
The change began innocently enough. Instead of being just a figure during slumber, This Man would shadow our movements in our dreams, tracing our footsteps through worlds both foreign and familiar. To be honest, we did not even notice him at first. It wasn’t until Mother asked us about him in our drawings that things changed. After scouring the pictures on the fridge, she noticed him in each one, and from his ubiquitous presence, she became sure he was a local pedophile who ensnared us, spoiling our body. When I couldn’t muster a defense against her accusations, we began hypnotherapy with Dr. St. Michaels, though there wasn’t evidence to suggest we had been abused in that way. It was all implied, but never confirmed. Our body was whole, yet our mind spoiled. Maybe that triggered him? We had to explain his presence each week, recalling every detail, even if it felt imagined.
After that day, This Man would lead us to a clearing, one populated with lush grass and dandelion flowers, then commanded us to stop our march near the middle of this field. There he lay on the forest floor, with us near his side, speaking mentally, brain to brain. We let him hold our shivering body, and were always afraid to think this was something that made us feel sick. In that position, he made predictions about our life, detailing how awful it would be: we would become trapped, cloth strapped to our chest, our motions limited by doctors and medication. A world of possibilities began to funnel into a single destination.
That went on each night. This Man would lead us to the clearing, then held us like spoons in a drawer, whispering our future but never speaking a word. This was when consciousness came, the break between childhood and adulthood. We never could have dreamed he was describing what would happen, but we listened, transfixed by his words, his knowledge of a future yet unknown.
We do not speak of him often in here. He has since faded from memory, just another shape in dreams, not even a face anymore. Sometimes we hope his soundless voice appears during slumber, beckoning us to some unknown grove just outside the facility, far away from the cell. Instead of fighting his touch, like we did in childhood, we would welcome his embrace, no longer fearful of what he might describe to us. Hope has left us here, if there was any to begin with. The medication makes any dream too distant, even the ones we attempt to have while we are awake. The fog has layers, and cannot be swept away by our touch.
After receiving his M.A. in Literature and Writing at California State University San Marcos, William Lemon began teaching creative writing and composition at Santa Monica College. He has been published in Bartleby Snopes, BlazeVOX, Drunk Monkeys, and the Eunoia Review.