I walk a few feet away from the entrance way and glance up, to better see the structure I’ve just left. To my amazement, I realize I’ve walked down steps carved into the hollowed out center of an immense tree. I see, in the shadowed gloom, that the treetops connect to one another, resulting in the forest having a roofed effect. The Primordial Forest is as dark and foreboding to me as J. R. R. Tolkien’s Mirkwood at the time of Sauron and the tree’s immense height recalls the forest of Stephen R. Donaldson’s Revelwood before the Sunbane. I shiver from my inability to take in everything that has happened to me since I stepped through the mirror. I can’t make up my mind whether all this is a reality separate from the imaginings of my mind.
Thin beams of light stream down through cracks in the forest roof, the top of which I can barely see. The main source of illumination comes from an abundance of glowing emerald green fungus. The fungus clings to the tree’s lower trunks and to portions of their twisted roots, which protrude above the ground’s surface.
There’s an odd arrhythmic chittering sound rustling in the under growth and treacherous twittering, coming from the shrouded upper tree limbs. Floating in the air is a pervasive vegetative dankness from the undergrowth, intermixed with a wide variety of spicy floral scents.
Taking a few minutes to calm myself, I proceed to walk in what I designate as a westerly direction. I walk and listen to the hushed echoing forest sounds. I feel a small tingling of the hairs on my arms telling me something has changed. Either I’m being paranoid or I have that clichéd sensation that someone is watching me. Before I can dwell further on my feelings, I hear something in the distance. It’s the sound of a child crying.
I listen with concern, straining to get a fix on the sound, and then set off in that direction. Huddled against a tree, a small boy with black hair and fair skin, sits curled up in a ball, sobbing to himself. He is covered in a film of sweat, scratches, dirt, and tiny leaves. He must have stopped off at the same tailor that I did before coming here. He’s decked out in a similar dull gray leotard. He’s so despondent. I want to find some way to help him.
“Hello there!” I shout as I walk closer to him.
I don’t want to sneak up on him and frighten him. As it is, his head jolts up and spins towards me, as he tries to figure out if what he hears is real.
“Hello young man!” I speak loudly, in what I hope is a friendly and concerned tone.
He sees me, and moves back against the tree while leaning towards me.
“Who are you?” he sniffles.
“My name’s Lamont. What’s yours?”
I sit down beside him, putting out my hand for him to shake. He shakes it and continues to hold on. I carefully reach over and gently hold the boy and try to comfort him. He shakes as his crying subsides. We sit together for a few minutes as the fear in his body eases its grip.
“I want to go home,” he says in a small pleading voice, “Please take me home.”
“I will,” I need to distract him from his fears. “But first, how old are you?
“How long have you been here?”
“I don’t know. I ran around and got lost. After these furry-things with mean looking teeth scared me, it wasn’t fun anymore. I want to go home. Can you take me back?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll help you.”
Hope shines through his tear-streaked face.
“Do you know the way back?”
“Sure. Just click your ruby slippers three times and say…”
“But I don’t have any slippers,” he interrupts in a very serious tone.
“Hmmm,” I smile, “Well, so much for the direct route. Let’s get up and walk back together.”
After a few minutes of walking with me, he regains his composure. Unfortunately, I’m beginning to feel that clichéd feeling again. I, trying not to be obvious, peer around us, to ascertain what is going on.
“Were did my P.J.s go?”
I ponder that one for a moment, unable to come up with any good explanation, I dance around the question. “Because, you didn’t take them with you,” I answer glibly.
He thinks about my reply for a while. Before he can refute my logic, I ask him a question.
“How did you get here, Howard?”
“I’m not sure. I was asleep. Then I saw these stairs, which appeared, under my bed. I thought I saw a light and heard voices.”
“Weren’t you scared?”
“Nope.” he beams. “I like exploring. I went down the stairs and then I must’ve been when I lost my P.J.s. But, I can’t remember doing that. Will I find them on the way back?”
“I think so.” It makes sense to me that when we leave this dream-induced realm and return to our more usual dream environment, we leave behind whatever force caused our regular clothes to transform.
“If I don’t, I think my aunts will be mad. Anyway, I found met these two old bearded guys at this cool place. They had this great red sand fire pit. It was huge! There was green fire. They told me I could go down some more steps to a forest. So, I ran down the stairs and came to this place. I ran around and explored. But then I got lost.” Howard’s voice gets real low, “The sky got dark, and I saw all these little eyes watching me. They came out of the dark and they were these rats. I ran away, but they chased me. They never caught me, ‘cause I was running real fast. I was scared. I must’ve run so far and fast that they gave up. Then, I was all by myself, but I didn’t know where I was and I wanted to leave. It wasn’t fun anymore.”
“That’s okay, Howard. When I got here, I was scared too.”
“It happens to the best of us sometimes.” I try not to show my anxiety brought on by feelings of paranoia.
I get us back to the tree with the stairs. I’m glad that, so far, I can’t find any substantiation for my feelings of being watched. When Howard sees the tree entrance, he lets go of my hand and runs toward it.
“That’s it! You really did get me back!”
He runs up the stairs leaving me behind. I hear him stop, run back down, and come back out of the tree.
“Thank you for helping me.”
“No problem Howard. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime.”
“Yeah! Good-bye Lamont!”
“Good-bye Howard. Take care.”
He turns and bounds up the stairs as only someone with the seemingly inexhaustible energy of youth can do. I resume my exploration, walking back the way I came with Howard. I guess I’m making progress, although, so far, there is no end in sight to the forest. Suddenly, I feel as if I’m surrounded by an oddly familiar cold and sinister presence.
Then, they come at me, from out of nowhere.
In the moment, my impressions of my attackers are of large rat-like things, which have leaped from branches above me. A part of me is observing and taking notes. It jots down that the rats’ range in size, from a foot, to as large as three feet, long. They have short brown hair, ochre-ocellated eyes, four slender and flexible feet, and long bare tails. The
flexibility of their feet easily enables them to climb and grasp onto me. Three of them do that. They jumped on me and knocked me to the ground. They were also equipped with viciously sharp teeth. They’re using all of this very effectively on me. I have to use both hands to pull one off my throat.
Meanwhile, the other one has latched his teeth into my shoulder, and the third one hangs on to my left arm with his claws. Biting into my bare flesh is no problem for them, but it’s a big one for me. The pain distracts me and because of it, I let go of the only one of them that I had under some semblance of control. I keep trying to pull or knock them off, but they refuse to cooperate. I struggle to deal with them. They, on the other hand, seem to easily ignore all my efforts while going on with their business. They’re very successful at gnawing into my muscles and tendons.
I hear more movement and peculiar chittering sounds. I presume that there are more of them in the woods around me. I’m in agony, as more of the rat things come to feast on my helpless body. Unfortunately, I’m still stupidly hanging onto consciousness; for all the good it is doing me.
I can feel each bite, each piece of flesh, being worried off my body, as a whole pack of them settle in for their midday meal. I can’t even yell out, as a few of them have opened up my neck and play taffy pull with my vocal cords. Their knobby feet, with their sharp claws, dig into the flesh of my chest and thighs as they try to keep their balance, while ripping open my stomach. The smell of warm moist decomposed food from my open stomach and intestines comes up at me. In my mind, I silently scream for aid. I cry out to any deity watching over this part of the universe. Help me! Make this dream end! I didn’t do anything to deserve a death like this! I finally lapse out of consciousness when I helplessly watch two little ones fight over my genitals.
My whole world goes blood red and starts to swirl. I’m floating in a pool of blood that is being sucked downward. I hear a roaring shriek and then the blood red agony is replaced by darkness. My heart pounds. My ears ring. I hear a horrible dull, groaning sound coming from all around me.
I guess a second or two passes and then my subconscious mind communicates to me that I’m sitting upright on my own bed, in my own bedroom, and that I’m the source of the sound.
I close my mouth and begin to activate my brain. My first thought is, I hope I didn’t wake my parents.
My second thought is one of relief followed quickly by anger. Bloody Hell! What in Damnation’s name were those rat things? The one thing I’m grateful for is that I got that kid away from those rats. Where was one of those warning signs when you really needed them? “Walking in these woods can be hazardous to your health. Enter at your own risk!”
Somehow, through all of this, my parents didn’t wake up. I’m not sure if I should be grateful for that fact or not. Good grief! That was one hell of a dream! It sure felt all too damn realistic. Anyway, it’s two in the morning and I’m exhausted. With trepidation, I go back to sleep. I manage to sleep without dreaming about anything munching away at me.
Key Phrases: H P Lovecraft, Lovecraft Dreamland, Lovecraft Dream Cycle, Dreamland, Dream cycle, Through the Gate of Dreams