by Catherine Campbell
My mother loved my writing very much. She took my stories from my hands like newborns. She leaned down into them and hummed songs that she never hummed to me as a child, and she hummed to them as she slowly curled each story in on itself. She tied them with twine and hung them upside down from the rafters in the room we called Our Room. We did not have a refrigerator. We did not have a trunk.
I paced up and down Our Room beneath white bouquets of paper. I perpetuated our spring. The walls and floor and ceiling were chestnut planks and they threatened me with their darkness, so I wrote stories as quickly as I could. Sometimes I had to tell the same story again. My mother would take it from my hands and read it and she would smile as usual, but she would not touch my cheek as she did when I wrote a new story. She curled the paper up and hummed, and then cried because she could not have something new to dream about that night.
My father, who lived in Daddy's Room, was not here very much and when he was he did not stay for very long. I heard him enter his Room late in the evening when I was supposed to be asleep. He came with friends. I listened to them talk, their voices deep and well-worn like mud boots. I repeated their words over and over into the dark, up to the rafters above me, hoping to imprint the paper with my breath. What pieces I remembered I built into the next story. Those were my mother's favorites because they were from The Real Outside. Sometimes we opened the door from Our Room to look out there. We took turns turning the knob. My mother and I were free. But we just stood there, breathing, looking. We closed the door as quietly as we could, as if it had never happened.
Daddy's Room stayed empty one time for three weeks, then a few years. I waited to hear him come back one evening, but he never did. I wrote stories about what might have happened to him, but I quickly learned that these made my mother cry, and I didn't like to see her cry, so I wrote stories about her and my father together. I wrote about the wonderful places they saw in the Real Outside. I wrote about their sail boat, and their cave of crystals, and the time they danced in a deep forest and slept until they were covered with sand.
My mother died with twine in her fingers. I buried her beneath the floorboards with one of my stories covering her eyes so she would have something to see on her way. She never taught me to bundle my writing so the bouquets above me yellowed. The floor, instead, grew white. I waded through loose papers. The stories mixed themselves up. The silverfish came. The moths crowded my eyes so I could not see what I was writing. One day I took our axe for wood and chopped a window into the chestnut wall. I pulled up a chair to the hole in Our Room, and felt the moths desperately flutter around my body, bumping into my neck, confusing my skin for the brightness of the Real Outside. They spilled out into the fresh air and disintegrated. I pulled my pen from my dress pocket and set it in my lap. Then I pulled a pack of matches that I used to fight the dark. I lit one and dropped it at my feet.
Studies show that a B-vitamin complex is absolutely essential for maintaining metabolism, a strong immune system and a steady nervous system. They also show that vitamin B6 specifically supports lucid dream function. It was only after establishing a steady regimen of a B-vitamin complex that I had a dream one night. That dream turned into this story. So, for writers, I suppose there are three things to take away from this: 1. Keep yourself healthy. 2. Get a good night's sleep. 3. Pay attention to those dreams that really freak you out—you know the kind where afterward you wake up and somehow you get to work and you see the phone, and you see that it's ringing, you know it's ringing and you have to pick it up and greet the other voice with your name, and your location and how you would like to help them, but the phone just isn't the same anymore. The world isn't the same anymore.
Catherine Campbell is currently completing her MFA at Queens University in Charlotte, NC. She resides in Asheville, NC. This is her first publication.