I have taken care to describe only what I could actually remember. For example, if I say I saw a man in a window, that doesn't mean I have any recollection of what the man's face looked like. Dreams are interesting this way - you can be handed memories and feelings directly, without ever making the observations that would have constructed them.
I was flying through the air as though I was swimming in ocean currents, between the support columns under a large building. I was listening to an audio recording of my friend Zog. He was narrating a journal entry about how he'd experimented with "all kinds" of drugs as a child. "Anything I could find." One day he'd wandered out into a field near a gypsy camp while his parents were busy picnicing, and found "a mescaline bush that would have the name 'Mescairn' in the game Morrowind". (To my knowledge, Zog has never played Morrowind.) He broke off a branch and ate it immediately. Based on what happened afterward, he now desperately wished he could just remove the entire day from his past.
The beams of the house were enormous. I found it hard to imagine the trees they must have come form.
I considered telling my own regretful stories from childhood as a narrated journal, but concluded, "some secrets of my young life I am just going to take to my grave."
My mother was preparing the pieces of a huge meal, taking her time. The kitchen was an open floor plan, with a polished hardwood floor, next to a sunken dining room big enough for fifty people. I danced her around the kitchen. She smiled. At first she kept putting the wrong knee out, nearly dislocating mine, then we sorted it out. I hummed a tune and she laughed. My younger sister looked on approvingly.
The witch who haunted the house had imprisoned the mother somewhere, and the father, an amateur wizard, had just realized where. He picked up the crystal decanter, filled with ice water, from the chest of drawers. He pulled the stopper out, and laid it down sideways on the floor of the dark hall, so it could pour out.
I tried to watch the water but it was too dark in the hall. "Why don't the lights work?" I said. "I can't see what's happening!" The husband muttered some words and an orb of light appeared in the air nearby, fluttering unsteadily. It bounced across the ceiling, down the hall, illuminating a long finger of water on the wooden floor. The water shimmered coldly.
Then, the water was gone, and she was there. All at once, with no sound, no tremor. She was standing in the middle of the hall, wearing the same dress as before, and leaning on a cane. "That's funny, I don't remember a cane," I thought.
She didn't want to do anything. Didn't even want to get up from the couch. I couldn't cheer her up; neither could her daughter. She had lost all interest in cooking. After a while, the husband said, "I know what's happened. Something has stolen her soul."
The husband snuck over to a window. He could see the witch from here, striding across the darkened yard. Her hellhounds ran ahead of her, pawing and sniffing. Their red eyes glowed. He began to mutter the words from the ancient book he'd found in the basement. Could he really do it? And do it to her?
The witch sat out on the lawn, cross-legged, picking idly at the grass. Her two hellhounds sat in front of her, watching. One said, in his booming telepathic voice, "you know he's stolen your soul, right?"
"Yeeeah..." said the witch. She got partially up from the grass, smoothed the dirt off her dress, looked back up at the mansion, looked at the dark sky, and then sat down again. "But I just don't care." She hung her head. "I'm just ... so ... damn ... depressed." She picked at more grass. The hellhounds looked at each other, confused.
The husband's face was bathed in eerie yellow light. His head was bent low, and he was baring his teeth in a menacing grin. He hissed his words as he spoke them, like every syllable was a small victory over an urge to just bite instead. He was clearly filled with the soul of the witch. He was speaking into the black depths of the open armoire. "You know this is a good deal. Let's work together. You can have the soul of the witch in trade. Better you take it, so I don't have to get angry."
It was daylight. The wife got up from the floor. "My goodness, was I napping? How long was I out for?" We all gathered around her and hugged. None of us told her what had transpired. "Well, the dinner party is soon, and I have a lot of cleaning to do... Now let me see, where did I leave that..." She walked immediately out of the room.
Curious, I followed her.
She walked across the other room, over the throw-rug, to a clutter of furnitire. She knelt down in front of a small wooden end-table with two cabinet doors in it. Before I could ask what she was doing, she opened the little door, there was a flash of light, and she was gone.
"Someone has paired the two cabinets," said the husband, from the doorway.
I found her in the other room, stumbling around in front of the big cabinet. The doors were open. She was unable to speak. Extremely gaunt. Bent over. Wizened and hairless.
I picked her up and laid her across the sofa.
The father came over, and the daughter. "What's happened to mom?" asked the daughter. The father had an explanation. "Someone has been compelling her to walk through that portal. Every time she does, something between the doors is stealing part of her soul. I'd like to ask who gave her the cabinet, but she doesn't have enough life to even open her eyes now."
"She can have some of mine!" said the daughter, immediately.
The daughter cradled the mother's head. The father kneeled behind them with his hand outstretched like a gun barrel, pointing at the daughter. He muttered a stream of words fast and low. Jagged electric arcs began to explode from the daughter's head and enter the mother's. She laughed; it tickled.
The daughter appeared older. Not any larger - just older. She slumped to the floor.
The mother sat up. Her eyes were sunken so far back into her head that they resembled empty sockets. As I watched, they were slowly working their way forward, and the skin around her skull was filling out again.
"I recognize you!" she said.
I held her against my chest, propping her up on the floor where she had fallen. She looked better now, her skin less wrinkled and her hair less grey. I wondered if she was drawing energy out of me, like she had from her daughter. I wondered if I'd see more gray hair in the mirror. Somewhere the father was hunting down the previous owner of the cabinet.