What does it mean that I’m suddenly remembering dreams again? It’s… unsettling.
I lived in a cluttered, one-room dormitory single in a huge old poorly-modernized factory. The furniture was rickety and falling apart. My desk was so covered with stuff I couldn’t sit at it. There were two drawers full of chocolate bars. I had just woken up, but I sat there and ate one anyway while I tried to decide what to do with myself. It was a Sunday, I was groggy, but I wanted to be writing and could barely get to my computer. So I started cleaning up a little.
I went out into the hallway with a pile of stuff—mostly papers I didn’t need, a few odd pieces of wood—a decent armload. Just a start. It was huge out there—high, peaked ceilings, and many piles of old-looking junk, furniture, equipment that looked to be left over from this building’s time as a textile factory in the nineteenth century. Everything looked like it had been painted and re-painted over and over in the same icy whites and pastels. I found some recycling bins, unloaded the papers, but somebody had moved the dumpster.
My neighbors, other dorm residents looking somewhat too old to be in college—older than me and all women—started coming out with their own heaps of junk. A couple of maintenance people bustled past us, showing obvious disinterest in helping us out, pushing big gray cloth bins of more junk. Apparently it was cleaning day, though I hadn’t heard anything about it. Our little knot decided to follow them, assuming they must know where the dumpsters were. One woman—she was cute, like a frizzier-haired, un-made-up Liz Gorinsky—had more than she could carry and I ended up taking some of her stuff, including a lampshade I wore uncomfortably over my head.
A rickety wooden ramp led from one huge room to another at a slightly different level. We turned corners, meandering around junk heaps. There was no uniformity at all to the layout—lots of little nooks with doors in them or half-painted-over windows looking on dusty, unused sections of the building or areas clearly restricted for maintenance. Outside it was a cold fall morning, bright, with the light passing through thin clouds of moisture, lighting up attractive planes in the sides of buildings and the streets.
I’d never been in this part of the building. I had a pretty good sense of how to get back, I thought. I wanted to get back to writing. Cleaning out the dorms with fifteen ladies had not been the plan.
We came to a cluttered cafeteria and the ladies decided to take a break for breakfast. They piled their junk on top of the heaps in the room adjacent and went to get trays and sit down. I politely took my leave of them, saying something more or less intentionally flirty to Liz, which they all laughed about and I denied. I went back looking for my room.
I couldn’t find it. I think I tried to take a shortcut to avoid some of the meanderings, through a half-painted-over door and up a back stairwell that only had three stairs between each landing. I found myself in a long, narrow, obviously unused kitchen, done in beige and mauve tile, with appliances that looked like they dated from the 40s or before, all heavy wrought iron. This stuff, I thought, must have been for feeding all the seamstresses, or maybe the boarding school students back in the day. I hurried on, decided after awhile it would be faster to float horizontally rather than walk so I wouldn’t have to dodge the appliances. But there wasn’t a lot of maneuvering room.
I noticed as I hovered over them that some of the burners on the stoves were still on. This frightened me—clearly nobody had been using these rooms, so my conclusions were either that some ghosts were fucking with me or some transient was using the stoves for heat, a dangerous prospect, but understandable given how cold it was.
Then I floated over some fake flickering LED candles set up in old candlesticks on a little kid’s tea-table. That really freaked me out. I slowed down, landed on my feet. Now I just wanted out. Outside. I figured I could walk around the outside of the building until I got to something familiar. There was a half-painted window next to me, but everything in here was so classic and historical-feeling that I didn’t want to just break it despite my distress. I saw a door leading into a brighter room, tested the handle. It turned.
I sat up from an uncomfortable position in a musty wooden chair. Must have dozed off for a nap. It was still bright out, but the room was darker inside. It was cold. I had taken off my shoes and was wearing only a hooded sweatshirt. I did have a pair of gloves with me, but I wasn’t wearing them. There was frost on my fingers. I struggled to pull on my shoes so I could get the gloves on and stuff my hands in my pockets, but they were numb and I was having a lot of trouble. I had decided I would try one more door, and if that didn’t lead me outside, I’d smash the window.
As I fumbled uselessly with the shoelaces, I woke up.