A Tree Full of Funeral Birds

June 21, 2012 at 11:13pm. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Dreams are strange things, and while I am willing to readily admit that they likely function as an opportunity for the visual cortex and other portions of the brain to “clear the buffer” of all the extraneous information gathered daily, I also feel that they have other functions.  I seldom have nightmares, and they have always served as warnings or messages from my Self.  As I turn the terror that wakened me over in my mind this evening, I wonder what I am seeking to tell myself.

Dreaming, I woke to the the hollow clatter of the vertical blinds tossed by the night wind.  Tonight they sounded different, like dry long bones rattling against one another.  Stumbling from bed, I moved to slide closed the glass door and that was when I saw him.  He stood on the other side of the latched screen door, silent in the darkness of the porch, as if he had been waiting for me.  This man is someone for whom I have strong, positive feelings, but his unannounced appearance frightened me.

“Come out.” He said, though there seemed something strange about his voice, as if he were drugged or sleepwalking.

“No. It’s late.” I replied, afraid but still thinking that this could be explained without damaging the fondness of my regard for him.

“Then let me in.” He whispered in a way that made my guts writhe coldly.

Rather than asking the most rational question of ‘why’ or slamming shut the door as I probably should have done, I asked, “Who are you?”

His laugh was low and brittle, like wind through dead grass.  “I am a tree full of funeral birds.” He spoke, again, as if in a trance, with a weird sing-song chanting quality.  “Now let me in.”

I flipped the switch to turn on the porch light and though the body was his, the face revealed by the light was nothing human–deep, black sockets gaped where his eyes should have been.  Instead of a mouth, only a roughly hacked gash leered, lined with row upon row of jagged, bloody teeth.  I fell backwards in shocked horror and he lunged against the screen as if he would burst through it.  I knew if he touched me I would die the most unclean death possible, and I woke myself with my own choked, terrified screaming.  It was still dark and the vertical blinds clattered hollowly in the night wind.  I did not go back to sleep for some time.

As I said, I rarely have nightmares.  When they do occur, the answer is never obvious, nor as simple as a poorly chosen bedtime snack.  I wish it were.


August 2, 2014 at 4:20 am. Atlanta, Georgia

The above was written on the evening following my very early morning waking on the Summer Solstice of 2012.  It haunted me all that day, and I was unable to shake the uneasy feeling that it should mean something.  At the time, I tried to rationalize it, talk it away, but it would not go.  I have often looked back upon this dream, seeing its prophetic lineaments.  I knew this person wasn’t good for me, and sought to tell myself so.  Either that, or I was visited by something ghoulish and grisly–something, I’d prefer not to contemplate, folklore or not.  It is an easier thing to shake my head and tell myself that I dreamed his true form, his soul.  The events that followed over the next six months did nothing to disprove this thought.  But then, cliche or not, hindsight is always so very annoyingly clear.

Contagion, by Erin Sandlin

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