Monday, August 22, 2005

Break on Through to the Other Side

I often used to dream of my grandmother's house.

It was an odd house--a double house--the kind with two front doors leading into two separate living rooms with two sets of stairs climbing upwards and upwards until finally ending at two imposing attic doors. A small portal in that old, confused attic served as the only connection between the two halves. A curious place for the sole passageway, don't you think?

But that wasn't the strange part. No one had lived on the other side of my grandmother's house for over 30 years.

My grandmother owned the whole house, so that wasn't the problem. My great aunt and uncle had lived there last, and when they had moved, it was good riddance, I suppose. That's when time froze in the emptiness, then decayed. The furnace sat waiting for coal (chutes still opened down into stone-lined holding rooms in the basement), the paint started peeling, and the plaster started to fall.

By the time I came along, the transformation was complete: moldering furniture, faded wallpaper, and dusty cardboard laid to protect ruined floors. It was used for storage, but most of what was stored there had also withered into junk. My grandmother simply called it "the other side," and I looked for any excuse to go over there. The old-fashioned skeleton keys opened countless mysteries and secrets. Since little had changed since the 1930's, the rooms and halls were small pockets of living past. But fear also lived there, especially in the dank basements within basements. The meager light from the back window barely cut into that blackness. Furthest in, the floor reeked of moldy dirt, like an entrance into one of the countless mines that dotted the surrounding mountains.

While trying to fall asleep in my grandmother's half of the house, I used to stare at the common wall as long as I dared. So many ghosts lay a handful of feet away. And the high door to the attic loomed behind me. One of those ghosts need only sweep up into their side of the attic, pass through the portal, and glide silently down the rickety stairs to the room where my sleeping bag lay. No wonder I dreamed about that house for so many years. Eyes squeezed closed and a cover thrown over my head could never shut it all out of my brain.

Sometimes in my sleep so many years later, I sit in that chair you see above, that chair by the front window overlooking the peonies. Or sometimes a nameless person sits in that chair, and I watch her.

The dreams will still come, especially now that I've remembered. The dreams will still come, even though the chair, and the other side, have long since gone.


Kira said...

Nice moody photo.

What did you see when the nameless person sat in the chair?

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the comment about the photograph! I have some more odd photos I will be sharing soon. As for the person in the chair, I'm not sure who she is. The general dreams about the house are bizarre and often without an apparent point. One common feature, however, is that the house has expanded and is difficult to navigate (wow, I'm reminded of the novel House of Leaves, but it's not that much of a labyrinth). Usually, the higher I climb, floor by floor, the more sense I have that something is with me--a malevolent presence.

I do not profess to be psychic. I just have an overactive imagination.

I like your site, Kira. If you don't mind, I'd like to create a link to it. Thanks for stopping by.

Patrick said...

This sounds like the start of a fascinating novel. I'm already hooked!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Patrick! And thanks for the link on your A Stop at Willoughby blog. I'm adding you as one of my links.

Soon I'll be posting some fiction vignettes just for fun. I am currently querying on my Gothic novel THE HICKORY BARRENS. Such a *fun* process. It's kind of nice to be able to drop things here and get them right in front of people without agents and publishers!

By the way, I post as starlightmntn over at the Absolutewrite forums.

Hope to see you back.

Anonymous said...

I used to have dreams about the game room at my great-uncle's cabin in the mountains. The room was down a very narrow set of tacky, red-carpeted stairs from the main level of the house. The floor and halfway up the walls in the room itself bore that same red carpet, and maybe it was just my overactive imagination, but it made the room seem angry. The walls in the stairwell that began at foot level when one stood at the top of those stairs were stark white, and as one descended the stairs and the red carpet began to chase the white paint up past your waist, then finally over your head, it felt like a descent into the underworld. There was a pool table, shuffleboard, bumper pool, and a bar with Christmas lights wrapped around the perimeter of the mirror that ran behind it. I was terrified of the room but it was as if I couldn't stay out of it. I used to beg people to go down with me, but if they wouldn't, I went alone. And I don't know why. I would turn on the Christmas lights, and they were probably the only strands ever made that didn't have the power to comfort me. No matter where I stood, I felt as if something was wrong behind me. I was most frightened of the end of the room where the shuffleboard table sat. And I can't recall a single instance in all the times we stayed there when, upon getting ready to leave the room, I walked calmly up those stairs. I ran as if the devil himself was chasing me. And maybe he was. At night, I slept in a room with garrish, bright-green carpeting. Maybe it was all those loud carpet colors that made my mind feel like it was screaming, too. In my room, I slept with the covers over my head and my eyes shut so tightly they hurt, because I always had the feeling that if I opened my eyes, I'd find myself no longer in bed but alone in the game room, lying on the shuffleboard table, face-to-face with the broken pinball machine, the noises from which I'd never heard but somehow knew exactly what they'd sound like if I ever did. When my great-uncle passed, his children unceremoniously sold the cabin, but I can still see that game room as plain as day in my dreams. I feel like that carpet is angrier with me than ever. Stupid, huh?

Anonymous said...

Red carpeted walls? Wow, I'd be terrified too.

Thanks for sharing. The fantasy/nightmare of waking up in the game room is chilling.