lately i have been making voice recordings of my dreams rather than writing them down, in hopes i'd be able to preserve more details. this one was difficult to record.
mom and i had just bought a new house. it sat at the end of a long and winding dirt road which was bordered by many other houses, each inhabiting unique personalities. one man had several huge storage sheds stacked on top of each other in his front yard, and would not let anyone near them; another, our neighbor, was an old man with a thick southern accent who constantly talked about water spickets being unsafe to drink from because the government had contaminated them. these were not issues to me. in fact, i was overwhelmed with relief and joy that we finally got to settle down somewhere, that we finally had a real home.
today, we toured the house - not yet moving any of our belongings in, rather just marveling at what was now ours. the yard was covered in dead leaves from oak trees, and sitting on a tree swing, your feet always brushed loudly against them. walking through the front door, you were greeted with beams of light that shone through the sliding glass door to the back porch. to the left, the largest living room i think i have ever lived in; to the right, a kitchen, open and warm even with nothing yet in it.
after we had finished touring the house and meeting the neighbors, i told mom i was going to spend the night at my friend's house. she let me go, even though she usually hates last-minute plans - i attributed that to her good mood. the friends i was to visit were a boy and a girl (let's call them michael and rose), and they were dating, although that detail was minute. what matters is they were my closest friends. the sleepover itself was uneventful: we just played video games until late at night. however, shortly before i went to sleep, i remember perusing a shelf in their living room that was full of framed family portraits. i tried to pick one up but it slipped out of my fingers and shattered on the wooden panel floor. i apologized profusely. rose insisted it didn't matter and we went to sleep.
in the morning, as we prepared to drive me back to my house, i had the spontaneous urge to invite them to come inside and hang out. this was a big deal, and i was aware of that - through my childhood, i never allowed my friends to see where i lived. even as young as seven years old i had this unconscious understanding that something about the way we lived was shameful, that the outside world cannot be trusted with its truth; in middle school, i even went as far as purposely trashing my bedroom so that no one but me could step foot in it. as i offered my invitation to michael and rose, i felt the familiar vapors of shame. but i wanted to do this. i cared about them, and i wanted to share this piece of my life with them.
the car rattled down the dirt road. as we looked for my house, michael and i playfully debated whether bottled water is bad for you. "no, i'm telling you, if you drink it too much it just dries you out," he insisted.
"it's water! it hydrates you!" was my protest. i really thought this was common sense.
"i think he's right, dasani dries me out," rose chimed in. but before the debate could continue, we arrived at my driveway and excitement, mixed with a sort of deep humility, welled in me. as we walked up to the front door, i told them that this is something i've never done before, and that it was really important to me. they became quiet, reverent, wanting to show me they cared, and i felt a gratitude i have never known before. i unlocked the door and stepped inside.
the sunlight from the sliding glass door greeted us. but something immediately felt off. looking down, the carpet was discolored and sopping wet, squishing under our feet, and the air was freezing cold and still as ice. all the lights were off. i nervously told them not to mind as we hadn't cleaned much yet. but then, turning left into the living room, my stomach sank deeper - children, three of them, huddled together on the couch. they must have all been between six and twelve, the two younger ones held tightly in the arms of the eldest. they had frozen to death. i didn't know who these kids were, or what happened to them, but they were now blue-cheeked corpses on my couch - and stupidly, all i could think was i can't believe this has to happen while my friends are here. i scrambled for something to say to michael and rose. but then a thought that terrified me entered my mind: what about mom?
i became frantic. i didn't care about impressing my friends anymore. i told them we had to find her, and i racked my brain for where in the house she might be (i hadn't memorized its layout yet). there was a hallway connected to the living room - the master bedroom, which sat somewhere on the left side of the hall, included its own bathroom. she must be there. i began swinging doors open, trying to find which one led to her room. meanwhile michael and rose searched the kitchen and other bedrooms. rose called me over - she found something. i practically sprinted toward her and whatever she was pointing at.
it was mom. she was laid in the porcelain bathtub of the master bathroom, caked in blood. dead. blood and hair all over the freezing tile floor. the stench sharp, forcing its way into my nose. she was dead. my vision contorted and i fell to the ground, mouth frozen agape. she was dead. michael and rose just stood there, staring at it. and all i could do was scream, and scream, and scream.