I find myself in a shady hallway, the corners of which are hidden from my sight, lost in a haze that is and isn’t there at the same time. To my left, in front of me, and to my right are doors. I carry on, straight ahead, because there is no going back and I want to see where this path leads. If I can, I’ll come back and see where the other doors lead.
I turn the knob and step out in the daylight of my backyard. The fog of the hallway is a distant memory as the sunshine filters through the two large, leafy trees. I step forward. I don’t turn to look but I know the door has shut behind me.
The concrete walkway, smooth and recently swept, but still littered with the offcasts from the trees, winds between the two still giants and then curves around the back of the house. There is no breeze. There is no sound. My feet carry me on. I know where they are headed. I’ve had this dream before.
I round the back of the house and get a glimpse of my destination. The blue cover of the pool is like a beacon, calling me to it, and I must obey. I step under the backyard awning, where the sun cascades down through the slats in a checkerboard pattern. I expect to feel the warmth of the sun where it touches my skin but there is no change. I sidestep the wooden patio table and bar chairs. A few more steps I hardly recognize that I am taking and then I stop, just as the tip of my shoes reach the edge of the pool.
My right hand reaches into that side’s pocket and I withdraw the orange compass. It’s a remnant of my childhood, clunky orange plastic showing it’s age, and with the Fischer Price logo all but worn off. I pause because I know what is about to come and I don’t want to go through it all again, even if it is just a dream. But, the dream is the path I must walk, and so I throw the compass across the face of the pool.
It disappears beyond the far edge, between the cover and the metal plates that hide the roller and other working parts. At first, nothing happens and for that too brief moment I think that maybe I was wrong, maybe the dream isn’t going to be the same. Maybe it will be okay.
Then the dark blue cover shimmers with a thousand pinpoints of silver light shining through from below it. The pinpoints widen and begin to move clockwise, larger, faster, larger, faster, until the whole cover is a whirlpool of swirling silver light, with just a hint of blue at the edges. It pulses and crackles with energy.
The frame shifts as the pool slides first backwards and then up, from the horizontal to the vertical, and I’m no longer looking down but across at the portal that has just opened. I know what is about to come out of that portal but I can’t move yet. It isn’t time. I’m mesmerized by the possibilities of this new doorway and I’m trying to find the courage to step through it and see where it leads.
But the sabertooth tiger jumps through to land on the walkway beside me. A dirty cat, rusty orange and tattered yellow splotches, with blood red eyes, and fangs the size of my forearms. It is a creature of nightmares, which is fitting considering the circumstances. Still, I can’t ignore it. I can’t pretend it didn’t just jump through the portal I opened.
Rather than risking the jump the opposite direction, my feet take flight and start to run back to the door I had come through moments before. The beast is on my heels.
There is still no sound, but I know it is there.
I’m running as fast as I can, but I know it isn’t fast enough.