Remembering the night my life changed wasn't calming me in the least. I had totally hated all the news reporters trying to get me to come outside and fill a time slot between commercials while they made wild accusations and vomited out irrational unsupported 'facts' about my folks and their death. And that I was just a kid and had just buried my parents didn't seem to impact them in the least.
Sunk into my past, I didn't bother to pay any attention to my growling stomach and the fears that kept creeping into my thoughts. Instead of living in the here and now I shoved my thoughts back to my teenage years and the night my life changed. So much had happened in such short time that I'd never even dreamed possible. Ironically it was my sleep that night that brought the dreams that changed my very existence.
Feeling disturbed by the violent actions of an obviously well-fed housecat -- Petunia to be precise -- I edged slowly away from the glass pane and turned on the television after slowly pulling the heavier blackout drapes across my window. I stripped off my ill-fitting funeral clothing and dropped the dress and nylons in my hamper. Somewhat bemused, it dawned on me with a bittersweet tug at my heart that I'd be the one to do the laundry next. I showered and put on my favorite thick sweat pants with a tank top. I sunk into the pillows on my bed and looked to see what was on TV. Of course, the first television channel that came on was naturally tuned to the local news station that didn't usually piss me off. So I got to see how many people were camping out on the front lawn, and the others posing in front of my house number. Nice -- not.
The entire emotion-filled day began to weigh heavily on me, with the TV running softly in the dark, I fell asleep illuminated by the blue-white glow of the tube. All the while, a talk show with canned-sounding fake laughter lulled me to sleep.
My dreams were dark and disjointed. I knew I was dreaming as I flew in the sky and talked to my dead parents. They apologized for not being there for me while they bled out from their ears, nose and mouths. I nodded and tried to not look at their tattered bodies. They were wearing the same clothing that they'd been in during the accident. I was sorry to see them in such a condition, but it was how I last remembered them. Their bodies at the funeral weren't viewed except by request, and I certainly didn't request to see the shells of my former adoptive parents.
Never had I dreamed of my parents during my life with them. I had only been a few months old when I had been adopted, from what they'd told me. I never doubted that they loved me but still in my heart I was missing the tie of a real blood connection to my birth mother and father. Somehow I was getting the idea that my 'real' folks aka birth parents probably hadn't been stellar examples of parenting.
Suddenly there were tears running down my face at the raw emotions that I could feel coming off my dead parents. I was happy at first when my dream switched elsewhere. Then things began to shift in the dream landscape and I felt a sense of foreboding that was amazingly deep and intensely scary. I began to shiver and shake as I felt my bare feet walking on a thickly snow-covered path. There were huge shadow-filled trees lining the narrow pathway, and in the distance I could hear noises of unseen creatures far off in the dark -- I hoped -- watching me, and from the guttural angry sounds they were not in the least happy that I was in their corner of the universe. I knew instinctively, even in my dream that what was out there wasn't anything I'd ever experienced in my waking world much less witnessed before in my thoughts or life. I felt odd pushing at my thoughts in my dream, but I didn't care. Everything had gone sideways but I hung on, despite the chaos before me.
As I continued to walk down the deeply shadowed path, the unseen sunlight not giving off much heat on the snow-lined trail, I heard something harrowing. The howling of dogs, wolves and some other unknown creatures added to the guttural sounds from a few moments ago and combined they made me shake even more. The frozen snow crunching beneath my feet seemed to run up my body and into my very soul, shards of fear layered with ice. I was terrified beyond anything before, and it made me frightened and worried that my dream was going deeper into a nightmare. I felt like I would never escape from the hellish evening. I hadn't had a nightmare like this ever before and I think I screamed aloud when a shape came at me from the top of the trees and I shrieked loudly. My heart was nearly bursting out of my chest.
Huddled in the new dirt cave of my current life, I thought about how nightmares and dreams are funny creatures. At times I felt like I was able to control what I was seeing and there were moments that stretched deeply into a vast eternity that weren't under my power in the least. The night my adoptive parents died turned out to be one of the wildest, bumpiest journeys my dreams had ever taken. It wasn't surreal but at the same time it was. It wasn't bad yet it was. It wasn't good but it was euphoric and heartbreakingly ecstatic. I was freezing and afraid while at the same time I was joyous and filled with unconditional love. Raw emotions for an adult -- as a teenager it was absolutely overwhelming -- but my youthful arrogance kept me grounded.
Looking back on the day I buried my adoptive parents, I was fifteen on the verge of turning sixteen. Near as I can now figure my folks actually had pegged my real birthday by some bizarre coincidence. This was what I pieced together years later from my thoughts and from what had happened that evening. When midnight struck that was exact time when my dreams and nightmares took on an entire new level of strange. The first indications of that was the very loud voice calling out to me unseen.
"Esmeralda Meredith, why did you not pick up that phone call earlier? What exactly told you to ignore the voice? Was there something different about that particular phone call or did you simply dismiss it as some crank caller? Tell me. I command you to tell me." This voice was not precisely scary but firm and extremely loud inside my thoughts. I knew exactly which call, but didn't say a word. I looked around in the dream and saw I was suddenly on a beach with waves crashing, and the snowy path where I'd been walking was gone.
In fact my bare feet were somehow covered with gritty sand not snow. There weren't any stars in the sky that I could identify and I couldn't see any signs of the moon or the sun. It was now apparently night time, but it was not obvious to me where exactly in the world I was.
I couldn't see anyone or anything other than huge, rugged rocks scattered along the beach and tons of sand. Okay, that's not completely true there was a rather large body of salt water also in my view. Instinctively I knew that the ocean was really cold and dark. Waves were crashing high and hard. Somehow I figured I was on the Pacific Coast from the crisp breeze and the salt scent on the wind along with a nice bit of fishy smell and burnt wood from a nearby abandoned fire pit. It didn't feel like the Atlantic Ocean. That body of water always felt more accessible and warmer than the chilly ocean out west. Not just the temperature differences, but also more like there were more people out on and around the Atlantic Ocean that would help if I strayed out too far in the surf. I constantly saw folks swimming or paddle boarding, surfing and kayaking around the Atlantic.
There weren't tons of people in the Pacific Ocean as a rule -- the sheer coolness of the water kept many at bay. The Pacific Ocean was very cold year round and the rocks on the bottom of the ocean were sharp and easily broke skin, letting blood flow out to call sharks to the feast. Not that sharks had ever like, attacked me but I'd seen plenty of stories over the years. The idea of being bitten kept me very respectful of the water and the sea life beneath the waves.
The voice again called me, "Esmeralda! Why don't you answer me? Now."
A command voice was used again and it certainly wasn't an approach that made me want to talk into the air. It was funny that it was framed at first as a question then an added 'now' shoved the question forcibly down my throat. I wasn't some mindless drone like some high school kids I knew that automatically obeyed any idiot shouting at them. So instead I grumbled in my thoughts and felt a chill race up and down my spine as the voice spoke again at me. I still couldn't see anyone standing anywhere near me. I spun around slowly in the sand and found nothing but shadows and more sand. This time a light chuckle of bemused laughter and a feeling of sardonic amusement accompanied the words that flowed dreamlike out of nowhere.
"I guess this is a weird way for you and me to talk. I think that I should do something about it." The voice now was decidedly male. Mockingly rugged, with a playful tone I'd overheard various football players and other high school athletes try on the cheerleaders.
Once I thought about it, I realized that I probably shouldn't have jumped four feet in the dream air when a young man seemed to instantly appear in front of me. It wasn't like it was real life -- it was just a seemingly long-ass demented dream. The sand on the beach billowed around him and me. I coughed, feeling as if the sand had flown into my face -- thought I could taste the salt and grit of sand on my lips. Shaking my head at the depth of the dream, I looked at him instead; he wasn't a teenager like me, and he looked like he was in his twenties, maybe a bit older. I never was very good at guessing ages.
The young man was dressed rather formally with dark tailored slacks; a long sleeved cream-colored shirt that appeared freshly ironed and shiny black leather dress shoes. First thing I thought was that he'd just dropped off a matching coat to the pants on the back of a chair and wandered down to the beach from fancy snotty adults-only party in some unseen million dollar 'cottage' with a slice of the ocean in their view. His hair was a light caramel shade with some blond streaks giving his foxlike features a naughty air. His eyes were dark brown, nearly black, and his lips were full and smiling slightly. But there was something about him that rang false. It was like he was a sum of different guys I'd been attracted to on and off during high school, rolled into a pleasing package just for me.
A shiver rocked my body and I looked down to see that I was actually wearing exactly what I'd put on before I fell to sleep -- my favorite blue sweats with a dark green tank top -- and curling my toes I swore that I could feel the cool, coarse sand beneath my bare feet, and wiggled my toes to confirm the texture. It was crazy real and I shook my head and tried to redirect my dream away from the edgy true-life tone that seemed to be really happening. The young man laughed. I found it a bit rude but kept my thoughts inside my head.