I sat straight up in bed, my hands clutching the patchwork quilt. The translucent apparition from my spent dream danced in the air, a foot or so away from my nose. No, the figure of my mother’s ghost had changed in the pale amber illumination from my nightlights, become smaller than before. Soon only a shrouded drawn face, the size of my fist, remained.
“Are you all right?” my husband said. He had awakened, too.
I reached out in front of me and passed my fingers through the face, now more akin to a puckered transparent skull. A tightness gripped my stomach. This didn’t look like my mother. She wasn’t here, after all. How sad. Mom had passed away years ago. I missed laughing with her, chatting over coffee and singing “Inky Dinky Spider” while tickling her arm.” Yet why was I seeing things?
“I’m hallucinating,” I said to David.
“Do you mean dreaming?” David’s shadowy face bore a puzzled expression, accentuating his wrinkled jowls.
David must have referred to a false awakening, that phenomenon where a person dreams about waking up but remains asleep. I had experienced false awakenings many times but never had confused them with the real thing once sleep had passed. Right now, I couldn’t have been more alert if a train whistle had blasted in my ear.
“I mean hallucinating,” I said.
The shrouded skull sprouted legs and transformed into a spider, like some special effect in a video game. Not one of the hairy monstrosities I had seen after taking prescription painkillers, drinking too much wine or eating Portobello mushrooms, activities I tried to avoid. This arachnid appeared delicate and shimmered, almost as though constructed from blown glass. Its crystalline appendages oscillated, ought to have shattered from such movement.
I rose from bed and took careful steps across throw rugs toward the bathroom. The sparkling, wiggling creature didn’t accompany me. A flip of the light switch bathed cream-colored walls, tiles and fixtures in brightness and reality. Several minutes later I returned to bed. A colony of glimmering spiders, suspended on invisible threads, greeted me. I’d served sautéed crimini mushrooms at dinner--baby Portobellos. That variety of young shroom hadn’t bothered me before. How strange.
David and I talked for a while. Finally I rested my head on my foam pillow, encased myself in electric warmth and lowered my eyelids. Inky Dinky Spider. When in college, I’d once called Mom on the phone in the middle of the night to ask her how to spell a particular word. Maybe she had finally gotten even. No, Mom used to squash black widows on sight. She might have considered changing into a coffee cup but never into a spider. For tonight’s visual manifestations, mushrooms would have to take the blame.
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