May 12, 2021
I am a teenager still living at home with my family. We have just thrown a huge blowout New Year's Eve party and are cleaning up the pieces. The party was not one I enjoyed attending; my parents had invited our extremely conservative relatives, who did not approve of my transition, and a few gross, misogynist family friends who saw me, a teenage girl, as just a sex object for their ogling.
My plan after the party is to go out with some friends to a post-midnight concert. It is a cold night, so I throw together a quick outfit: some warm leggings, a dress, a demin jacket. I look in the full-length mirror in my parents' bedroom and realize what I am seeing reflected was not what I put on: the mirror shows me a different dress, no jacket, and a face that is not mine. I begin to panic. My mother, who is downstairs cleaning up, calls to me: "Elizabeth, come give me a hand!" My name is not Elizabeth. This is not my body, my house. I wake up screaming.
nightmares i've had recently
May 12, 2021
May 8, 2021
I am at my family's cabin in northern Minnesota. It is a small wooden one on a rocky lake; there is no electricity and no running water and we are dozens of miles away from the nearest town. As usual, I spend the days reading books on the dock, going swimming, making elaborate dinners on the propane stove for my family.
One afternoon, my dad suggests we go to the Temple of Knowledge. I agree. In the dream, there has always been an island on the lake where you can find the Temple of Knowledge. I went there often as a child, in the dream. We get in our canoes and paddle for half an hour across the big lake, a storm drifting lazily by in the far distance.
The Temple of Knowledge is a large island on the lake entirely encased in a polyhedral glass shell. The glass acts as a greenhouse; inside, palm trees grow and tropical flowers bloom. We hitch our canoes to the dock and enter the glass shell. The Temple is not a single building; it is a large campus, not unlike a university's, of neat New England-seeming brick buildings built at odd angles. The Temple, being so remote, gets few visitors, but it is certainly the biggest tourist destination in the area. Nonetheless, we are the only people in it today save the all-female, red-cloaked apostles. I have only vague memories of visiting the Temple as a child, and they are universally pleasant, nothing remarkable. They come back to me as we wander about the alleyways between the bricks.
The longer we are on the island, the stronger my sense gets that there is something deeply wrong about the Temple, or at least different than I had remembered. I ask my father if the Temple is a cult, and he says it is; it was founded in the nineteenth century by a madman who thought this island was a thin place and recruited dozens of female apostles to come live here with him under his geodesic sky. He lived over a hundred years, and three days after he died his corpse returned to life but kept decaying; he issued pronouncements for decades, his rotting eyes burning with blue light. A few years ago, the apostles decided that, reanimated or not, he was no longer attuned to divine will, and one of their number took over his role as leader and tossed his corpse into the lake.
We wander around and read the plaques and signs and talk to people around us. The Temple, or the island it's on, has a habit of animating the dead or otherwise inanimate. The old leader was not the only person here to die and then return. There is an alleyway where, the apostles have it, if you leave a doll overnight, you will wake up to it stumbling around, alive, moaning sounds from its stitched-closed mouth.
We meet a woman who does not look like the other apostles. She is wearing a black hoodie and skinny jeans. She looks about my age. When we get to talking, she mentions that she too died here and was brought back to life. She had come to the Temple for a job, hired out of college as an editor for the sect's newsletter to the faithful in the outside world. When she had come there she had been a closeted trans woman, to outside appearances the first man to live full-time on the island since the leader's death. She had died under mysterious circumstances, and three days later had woken up in her current body, seemingly a cis woman.
I find myself wondering whether it would be possible for me to die on the island.
January 9, 2021
I live in a new ivy-covered home in a leafy suburb. Sara and I are middle-aged and married, and we have a son. He's about eight years old, and is thrilled to have his own bedroom. The neighbors are kind and accepting of the lesbians next door. Everything is at peace.
One day, we leave our son at home while we go to a little housewarming party for a neighbor. He's not a tiny kid, so we figure he'll be okay being left home alone for an hour. When we get back, he is sitting entirely still on his bed, looking into the middle distance. Unprompted, he tells us that while we were gone, his "other mommy" came into his room. We ask who his "other mommy" is, and he says she looks like me, "but different." His "other mommy" told him to take the long, sharp metal pick she was holding (a quarter-inch wide, about five inches long, razor-sharp on both ends) and to "use it" when she gave "the signal." He will not tell us anything more.
We are terrified. He keeps saying he is seeing "other mommy" in his room occasionally. I confront the neighbors, adults and teenagers, to see if any of them are playing a cruel joke on our son. I call the police, but they find no evidence of someone besides us entering our home. We buy new deadbolts for the doors and a fancy security system. Nothing works. Weeks pass.
Finally, I decide to install a security camera in the ceiling of our son's bedroom. The night I install it, at about 2 a.m., the footage shows his closet door springing open suddenly. A noise, staticky and high-pitched, like feedback, comes out of it. Our son rises from bed and walks into the closet. The door shuts behind him.
In the morning, he is not in the closet. He is nowhere else in the house. He is gone.