29 aug 2019

some dreams come with their own memories. it's as if stepping into a certain dream universe triggers a sort of neural download, and suddenly i remember years, maybe decades, of events which occurred nowhere else except here. somehow, these dreams always seem to stay with me a while longer. waking up from them feels like losing a part of me i loved.

in this particular dream, my father had recently died. i was old, halfway through my life, but his death stirred up memories from my childhood that i forgot i even had. death can do that. and death can also make you feel like memories are the only thing you have left, like they should be hoarded, devoured. on a certain gloomy day, i was on my way to find the site of one of these memories.

my father was a photographer. when i was a child, he would take me out to this vast field covered in grass like blonde hair - his favorite place to take pictures - and we would explore. at one point he built a cabin here, and it became our home away from home. it sat on top of four towering stilts, maybe a hundred feet high, so you had to climb a ladder to get there - but the view from above was amazing. i hadn't been there in such a long time, i had no idea how to find the cabin again. but i was sure his photography things, along with some of my old drawings and toys, would still be there. so, i went back to the field and hoped my feet would remember.

the field looked the same as it always had been. luckily, it was still untouched by urban sprawl, despite around thirty years having passed. you had to cross through a forest to get there, but at some point the trees open up and this endless yellow expanse appears, peppered with saplings and wildlife. and if you look closely, you can find a stream flowing gently through the grass. taking in the scene immediately conjured a memory: i had to cross the stream in order to get to the cabin. so, finding it became my mission.

with each step i took, it seemed a new image would flash into my head. dad's tucked in button-up. dad teaching me about bird species. dad and i running from a fast-approaching thunderstorm, laughing all the way. it almost felt wasteful to pull all of them out of my mind at once - maybe it was a bad idea to come here. what i have left of him is finite, after all. still, i felt like i was approaching something important - something i needed to remember. i stumbled forward through the gentle grass.

i spent a lot of time wandering around. by the time i found the path to the stream, the sun was already setting; still my face lit up at the sound of trickling water. i think i could find the cabin from here! i came up to the stream and, purely by muscle memory, stepped right in it. it was then, shoes soaked in icy liquid, that i remembered.

there was a day that i swore to keep secret, even to myself, until i needed to remember it again. it was raining - hard. dad and i were in a hurry to get to the cabin, and i followed close behind because he had this sense of urgency, severity, that i'd never seen before. crossing the stream, we plunged our shoes carelessly into the water, sending liquid fans into the air. it was a straight shot from there to the cabin - and finally, i could see it, looming distant in the air. as we clambered up the ladder, the image of me getting struck by lightning penetrated my mind. no time to worry like that. just climb. just climb.

there was a moment of relief when we got inside. the cabin was dry and familiar. a desk to the side littered with film and camera parts, a wall dedicated to my erratic crayon drawings - and a huge window, overlooking the field in its entirety. i gazed idly out of this window while i caught my breath. tree branches shook and contorted with the stormwind. the hair-grass whipped wildly like a churning sea. and then something else that made me hold my breath when i saw it. the trees - no, something else?

"dad!" i called him to the window. he seemed to immediately recognize the anomaly, stared unmoving toward it, stone-faced. but as the hulking shape came into view, i somehow seemed to recognize it too.

it was as tall as the cabin, a giant to the trees beneath it, and it walked on four legs as long as stilts under its stocky body. it was covered in this thick, mossy fur, almost like it came straight out of a hole in the ground. and then there was its face - i swear to you, like a hairy, ogrish human. but somehow there was a kindness in its gaze. i looked in its eyes and suddenly i knew its name.


it was like i had known brother my whole life. i knew that it was the protector of this land. i knew that it was here because it loved us. and i knew that someday, i would come back to find brother, because it wanted me to.

all of this flooding back to me at once, i immediately knew where to find the cabin. the sun was almost gone and i didn't care. i knew why i was here now. i just wanted to know if it was still there. maybe i could ask it about dad.

the cabin was exactly where i knew it would be, and though the ladder had aged considerably, i braved the climb. and when i finally got inside, my heart sank. it was empty. the desk was cleared of all of its contents; the walls were bare except for a thick coat of dust. he really was gone. but... there was still the window. and maybe, if it wasn't all a crazy dream, there would still be brother. i fought the wave of sorrow closing in on me, and instead i just. sat there. looking out the window, watching night descend on the field. waiting.