Lunchtime, Friday

Another nightmare. They were gone for months and now they are back, tormenting me as much as ever. I bought a book that said I should write them down to start understanding them, but they still mean nothing I can decipher in any way. But I keep writing them. So, here goes . . .


It started again with me hanging from a railing on the edge of a cable car that’s somehow operating without a driver, and my dead mother is with me. We’re both on the step hanging off the side of the car, but several feet separate us. As the car slowly climbs a hill the air is calm, but my emotions are in a frenzied dance. I remember how I felt as I write this. I don’t seem to be able to see what I’m wearing, and for some reason I need to know. It’s a silly detail that seems irrelevant, but maybe it’s symbolic of some event in my life. . . . I really don’t know.

My mother isn’t smiling in this version of the nightmare, and she did when she first started visiting me. She looks angry, but ten years younger than when she died. The long, sleek brown hair she’d lost during her lung cancer battle is back; her pale skin absolutely luminous. Then I had the sudden realization that we weren’t alone. A man in a suit is sitting near the back. There’s never been anyone but my mother and I in these nightmares, and a sense of foreboding overwhelms me. I strain to see this new visitor, but his face is oddly in the shadows.

The car begins to top the hill and my mother hisses, “Don’t look at him.”

I cut my attention back to her and now her hair is short and thin; her body is thin, her skin now ashy. Memories of her lying in a hospital bed fighting for her life come back to me. “Who is he?” I ask curiously.

“Just don’t look at him. He’s dangerous. He’s poison.”

“Who is he?” I demand.

“No one I ever want you to know.”

And then it hits me. “My father. Is this my father you refused to tell me about, even on your deathbed?”

“There are things it’s best you never know,” she says, repeating what she’d told me then. We start rolling down the hill and she lets go of the rail, balling her fists at her chest. “Do you know how much your anger hurt me when I was dying?”

“Grab the pole,” I order, panic rising inside me. Our speed increases and I repeat more urgently, “Grab the pole!” We hit a bump, and I scream as she tumbles to the street and then vanishes.

Deep, evil male laughter radiates through the wicked wind that lifts my brown hair. My gaze goes to the faceless man and I climb up the step, past the seats, to the center aisle. The car is racing down the hill, too fast for the rails, and I have to grab the edge of the seats on either side to steady myself. “Stop laughing!” I demand, but the laughter just gets louder and louder. “Stop laughing!”

Anger and confusion collide in me, and I don’t even think about the danger to myself. I rush at him, charging forward, but when I get to him he vanishes as my mother had. He’s gone, as if he were never here.

Suddenly the car jumps the rails and takes flight. I gasp, trying to catch my balance, but I fall, sliding down the middle aisle. Scrambling for a grip somewhere, anywhere, I manage to grab the steel bottom of a pole and hold on. Hanging on never saves me in these nightmares, and I remember being conscious of that fact, but unable to fully conceive it. I want to live. I want to survive. (I think that maybe I will survive when I fully grasp the meaning of these nightmares.)

Squeezing my eyes shut, I prepare for what I know comes next. The cold splash hits me like a shock of pain. It’s so real, and it never gets easier, no matter how many times I’ve done this before. I never accept death. As the freezing bay water seeps through to my skin and bones, I swim, trying to find an exit before we go underwater and the trolley drags me down with it. But I can’t get there quick enough, and I’m shivering, my teeth chattering, as the roof is upon me, my hand pressing against it. Inhaling, I draw in a deep breath a moment before the force shoves my head under the water. I’m near a door. I’m going to get out this time. With one hard pull on a pole, I jerk forward to the exit. And all of a sudden my mother’s there, her eyes shut, hair floating upward. She’s dead. Like I’m about to be. And then everything is black. . . .

That’s the last thing I remember before I sit up in bed, gasping for air, the real world coming back to me. I’m in “his” bedroom, in his bed; the spicy male scent of him is everywhere, a sweet jolt of reality.

My Master’s hand comes down on my back. “Easy,” he says. “You’re okay.” He pulls me into his arms and holds me tightly, stroking my naked back, which still tingles from the flogger he’d used on me before bed. And I want to be tied up again, have him take me to a place that leaves no room for the fear I’d felt in those moments underwater.

I whisper his name, the name I never dare write for fear someone will find this one day here at the gallery and read my words—but I said it then. I had to, and he didn’t correct me, as if he knew how much I needed him to be just him, and real—for us to be real. For there to be more to us than a contract. And sometimes, like in that moment this morning, when he’s holding me, when he’s gentle in a way I know he’s not with anyone else, I let myself believe that we are more.

He leaned back then, stroking the hair from my eyes as he promised, “I’m here. You’re here. We’re okay.” But that gnawing feeling I’ve been battling, that we wouldn’t be okay for long, had already returned and I can’t help but worry that’s what my nightmares are telling me. I’m about to lose someone else I love. Him. Us. Lately I feel like I’ve already lost me, like I don’t know who I am anymore. Like Rebecca Mason is just a girl who used to exist and left nothing behind worth remembering.

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