Thursday, April 28, 2016

Life, Death, and Staying "Awake"

Several days ago my husband and I were hit by a drunk driver. 

We were coming home on a bridge from an evening concert when Eric looked up just in time to see a pair of dark headlights coming at us head-on. The driver was traveling the wrong direction, hurtling against three lanes of on-coming traffic at 50 mph with no headlights at 11:30 at night. Eric swerved to the right and instead of colliding with us, the car clipped the side of our car, shearing off the rear door handle and kept on going. It was as if they hadn’t even seen us. Didn’t even realize they had somehow gotten on the bridge heading the wrong way. We were traveling 40 mph, they were traveling 50 – a fraction of a second had been the only thing that stood between us and serious hospitalization, but more likely, death.

We pulled over, shaken but somehow completely unhurt, and I dialed 911 – there was no doubt in my mind that car was going to hit someone else, and I knew we needed to get police on the scene as quickly as possible. While I was on the phone with the dispatcher she told me there was another call coming in – it seemed that the car had indeed struck another car after ours. We were told we could go home if our car was drivable and submit a police report in the morning. It was after midnight when we pulled into the driveway, still dumbstruck over the close call. Asa had just woken up and was crying in his crib. I thanked the babysitter and went in to hold him against me. He buried his head against my chest and fell back asleep. I bent to breathe in the smell of him. A fraction of a second nearly robbed my 11 month-old son of his mother. His father. I was angry, humbled, relieved; I was in shock.

The next day we found out the person who hit us was dead.

The passengers of the other car involved in the fatal crash were like us, somehow miraculously unhurt.
There were hours of police reports and insurance calls. In front of me, the phone to my ear, I read off the driver’s name. Their driver’s license number. They had recently had a birthday, their twenty-seventh. I learned about their final hours, the hours that had preceded the crash, from the officer who came to take our statement.

“Obliterated,” he’d said. They’d been at a bar with friends, and in just a few hours, it seemed, had managed to get “blind drunk.” The driver’s parents were helpful. My heart cramped for them. I’ve gone about my life because I can’t just stop, these past few weeks, and in my private time I’ve been grappling with a snake’s nest of displaced anger, sorrow, and confusion.

Brene Brown, an author and thinker I respect a great deal, talks about empathy and compassion. She argues that it can help us get through the muck and mire of life to understand (or in the very least tell ourselves) that other people are doing their best. They’re doing the best they can.

I’ve been sitting with that. The driver who hit us, and another car, who killed themselves (completely unintentionally, I now know): Were they really doing the best they can? Or were they just surfing through life on the surface, not thinking about things like consequences and the good fortune we all have to be alive, not thinking about other people with babies who depend on them, other people who want to think and breathe and live more deeply, who want to survive so they can offer something to the world?
See, I told you: anger. Someone lost their life, what right do I have to judge? I almost lost mine. That gives me the right, the Grudge-Keeper in me says. My child almost lost parents he hadn’t even built a memory of yet.

Does the soul choose the moment? Is this person’s death, like some might say, part of God’s plan? Part of me wonders if we were protected. Part of me reminds myself that I am not special. There are mechanical physics and gravity and time to contend with. No one is special. There is only the science of luck.  

I don’t know where this leaves things or why I had to share it. I suppose that at the heart of this is the importance of being awake. It feels right in my tribute, to them, these past two weeks, to re-commit myself to being awake.

To share this moment from my corner of the world to remind you to be awake too.

Was the driver truly “awake” to their life? Were they doing the best they knew how?
Know more, I wish I could say to them.
Or, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you lost your life.
I know we all do stupid things.
I know we all make mistakes.

I try to tell them these things now, wherever they might be, whether they are in a place of knowing now, or just energy, or whether they are just a piece of the earth’s story now, a ghost. But the reality of it all is that the earth just ticks on and on. We move through our days, each approaching the end of our own stories. They may leave us full of pity or sorrow, of triumph or a sense of completion. But each story, no matter how it was lived, or how it ends, is equally meaningful.  

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Enchanted Destination: Fyvie Castle

Fyvie Castle, Scotland (Photo: National Trust for Scotland)

Located in Aberdeenshire, this 800 year-old castle is steeped in mystery and haunted by rumors of a powerful curse.

Legend has it that in the 13th century, famed laird Thomas the Rhymer roamed Scotland, traveling from court to court dazzling the people with his incredible gifts of prophesy. (It was said Thomas received his gift when he spent time under a hollow hill with the queen of the faeries.) Now these were days in which superstition yet ruled, and to offend a traveling bard or poet was a grave offense indeed. So when the Meldrum family of Fyvie heard that Thomas was making his way toward the palace, they sent a servant to thrust the gates open so that he would know he was welcome and take no offense. Though the servant did as he was told, a strong wind came and gusted the gates back on their hinges. When Thomas arrived and found the gates to Fyvie closed, he was furiously insulted. He lay a curse upon the home, swearing that no firstborn son should ever survive to inherit the castle.

Interestingly enough, he mentioned that there was one way the curse could be broken: the family had to locate three sacred stones within the castle and return them to their rightful place. The stones were known to remain dry when all other stones were wet and weep water when all other stones were dry. The stones were never discovered. And for 700 years, until the castle was sold to the National Trust in 1984, the eldest males of the five families that owned Fyvie throughout history came to end after horrible end. Not a single male heir survived to inherit the family home. 

What I find so interesting about this tale are the historical details - the "kernels of truth behind the legend."

- In ancient times, Celtic bards like Thomas were an order of the druid caste. Often thought to have great powers of prophesy, they spent decades in training and then roamed the land seeking the patronage of kings. They were revered, respected and most of all, feared because it was believed their words held the power to bless as well as to curse.
- Thomas the Rhymer, also known as "True Thomas," is believed to have been a real historical figure. His given name was Thomas of Erceldoune, son of Thome Rymor of Erceldoune, and he is mentioned in two charters from the 13th century. 

- "Weeping stones" are a phenomenon I've witnessed - in neolithic tombs. West Kennet Long Barrow in Wiltshire, constructed around 3700 BC, has just such a stone. A wet rock, limestone I believe, has a place of prominence in the deepest chamber. I sat with my back to it and it soaked my jacket although all the other stones in the chamber were dry. A porous rock, limestone is thought to absorb water and when the humidity and temperature is right, release it again.

If you're Scotland bound, Fyvie Castle is an enchanted destination not to be missed! 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Enchant Your Life: Scattered Petals - An Offering From the Heart

Enchant Your Life: Scattered Petals - An Offering from the Heart

Whether you've just moved into a new house or are simply seeking a deeper connection, scattering flower petals is one of the easiest ways to begin to forge a relationship with spirits in nature, especially with those in a place you visit often - think your own backyard!

It's an ancient tradition to leave offerings of flowers in sacred places - but my own practice was born from a healthy modern convention of convenience and a desire to connect. I love to fill my house with flowers, and buy fresh blooms to make bouquets a couple of times a month. It's a great way to bring the beauty of nature inside, and I find that they serve as constant reminders that life itself is an everyday miracle. I mean, stroke the velvet of a snowy-white rose petal and tell me that doesn't make you wonder at the utter genius that is mother nature! But as my roses began to fade, it always filled me with sadness. So I got into the habit of -- at the first sign of drooping-- plucking the petals and placing them in a basket or bowl to bring outside. I take a moment and step out onto the patio, take a few deep breaths and just relax, and I greet the yard. Just a mental greeting usually, or sometimes I'll reach up and gently touch my wind chimes to let them know I'm there. Almost always I can feel the atmosphere shift. It breezes with an awareness of sorts. I move about the yard, scattering the petals in places that I feel are specially charged, usually with the simplest but heartfelt thought: Hello. These are for you. Thank you just for being

Some people may differ on this, but personally, I don't feel it's necessary to speak out loud - in fact, for me, it diminishes my experience. After all, I don't hear nature spirits and other spiritual beings "speaking" to me in the physical world, I feel them in my heart or I "hear" them as a suggestion or thought in my own head. So to reply to them in the same way feels only natural.

The beautiful thing about this gesture is its simplicity. It only takes a few moments, but I always return inside feeling as though I've just had a meaningful connection or experience. If you decide to give this a try, be sure to listen. What do you hear? What do you feel? Often times when I'm out there the wind will pick up, but I'll notice it's only rustling the leaves in my yard. Sometimes I'll be startled by a particular bird fluttering close overhead. Magic abounds. I encourage you to give it a try and enjoy the deep sense of peace this can bring.

And don't worry about the spirits seeing these sorts of offerings as "sloppy seconds!" The flowers have spent time in your home, where they've been admired and appreciated. Now they'll grace the dwellings of the spirits that frequent your yard. It's the message you carry with them that is the real offering. The gesture, the reaching out. Days will pass and my busy life will sometimes take hold -- but it only takes a momentary spotting of those scattered petals on the ground by my bird feeder to remind me that I am plugged in to the enchanted world that surrounds me -- just as we all are. It never fails to bring me back to that moment of quiet, heartfelt connection, and then the wind picks up, and I smile. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Clearing the Tree near Fairy Bridge

Recently The Manx Independent published an article ("Fairy Bridge and Tree Cleared of Clutter") about a man who's taken it upon himself to remove some of the bike helmets, plastic dolls, mirrors, scarves, necklaces, and many notes for deceased loved ones that had been in some cases stapled to the tree that sits beside the famous "fairy bridge" on the Castletown Rd.**

Those of you who read my book Faery Tale know of the beautiful places and people I connected with on the Isle of Man, and so, being such a fan of the incredible island, I like to keep up on the happenings there. People on Facebook (many of them Manx, from the feed I saw) were outraged.

While I can certainly understand the controversy, they could bear reminding that according to folklore, in ancient times if any thought to remove (or even so much as touch) a rag tied to a fairy tree, they were believed to risk taking on the illness left in hopes of curing by the petitioner - or in other cases, risk the wrath of the faeries themselves. So if this man's displeased the Good People, they needn't worry about justice and retribution, the faeries would take care of that.

However, I'm not so sure the faeries would be displeased. 

The man raised an excellent point, and it's one I've been wanting to write about for quite some time now.

"'I’ve driven past it often, and thought that for a while now it was getting out of hand,' he said. 'I had a day off today, so I thought I’d just come down now and do it quickly.’ He admitted he wasn’t sure if he had the right to clean up the area, but felt that not everyone was comfortable with the state in which the landmark bridge had been left."

When I first began venturing to fairy sites I was touched and astounded by the sheer evidence of human pilgrimage to these sites (as I wrote about in the book). I found the things left behind to be novel, kitschy, fascinating. It was only in visiting site after site since the publication of my book that I began to understand just how serious the impact of "leaving offerings" can be. Things like bike helmets, plastic toys, sunglasses, figurines, laminated paper, metal, beads or glass should never be left behind. As a result, some sites I've visited look more like landfills than they do sacred places. 
The Fairy Tree, Isle of Man

Places that do it right are places like the Chalice Well, where even candle wax is scraped from the stones by volunteers careful to preserve the site's "unmarked by man" sense of purity. 

Before I understood the impact, I was guilty of leaving things in places that didn't belong there - even though they were things like shells and natural stones I'd picked up on my journey to that place - leaving them behind was still a distraction to others who came to those places after me, seeking to have their own experience. Untainted by other "pilgrims" who'd visited before. We have only to visit places like St. Nectan's Glen in Cornwall to see the sad and astonishing impact that "just leaving one special thing" can have on a sacred place in nature.

Sacred sites like stone circles, hut circles, raised burial mounds and ancient ring forts (aside from mostly belonging to governmentally-operated preservation societies, or in some cases farmers and other individuals who kindly let you trespass on their property to experience a site) do not belong to you. Or even me, as much as I'd like it. The people who truly act as guardians for these sites realize they belong to everybody.

It discouraged me to read in the same article that "In 2009, Sonya Bowness, who lived at the Fairy Bridge cottage and owned the land on which the items were being left, grew exasperated as the popular tourist spot turned into an eyesore. However, her plans to have a visitors’ centre and a public access space built on land next to the bridge were denied." 

Ms. Bowness was clearly only searching for a solution that would still allow visitors to leave objects while simultaneously preserving her own sanity! However, Tynwald is considering installing a letter box near the tree so that children and adults wanting to leave notes no longer feel the necessity to staple and otherwise affix them to the tree. 

A"Wishing Tree," St. Nectan's Glen
Some might argue that in many cases (like on Fairy Bridge on Isle of Man and in St. Nectan's Glen) these items have been left as a memorial to honor a loved one. Especially on Isle of Man, where many of the items were left by family members of bikers who died in motorcycle wrecks on the island. My heart goes out to them. 

But I would say, if you want to make a shrine for a lost loved one, why not do it on your own property, where you can visit it daily and offer as many things as you'd like in remembrance? After all, their spirit isn't on the Isle of Man, it's much more likely with you, and the others who they loved during life. If you must leave something, leave an offering of flowers with a biodegradable string - these things go back to nature and it's the gesture, not the object, that carries the true meaning. 
Just a few of the thousands of trinkets
left behind in St. Nectan's Glen

I've seen a lot of trinkets left behind in my travels to ancient and folkloric sites. But of all the memorial objects I've ever seen, the thing that effected me most powerfully was a simple bouquet of wildflowers left beside a forgotten burial mound in southern Scotland. It was impermanent, unintrusive, and an astonishingly beautiful anonymous gesture that said, I honor. I remember. In this moment, I remember. 

Just like our temporary, beautiful and impermanent lives, the inherent message was that this too shall fall into the ground and pass.

And that, if you ask me, is how it really should be. 

**I know of two other fairy bridges on Isle of Man, one is the one I write about in the book, and the other is kept a close secret by only a few locals. That one I pray they will keep a secret, even from the likes of me. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

An Easy Way to Help Animals in Zoos

As someone obsessed with animals, I -- like many -- have conflicted feelings about animals in captivity. My love for animals goes back many years - as a child I wanted nothing more in the world than to be a veterinarian, and then in my first year of college at George Washington University, I had my heart set on becoming an animal behaviorist. Unable to resist the call of my fascination for wild creatures, I would skip out on calculus class and take the metro to the National Zoo, where I would sit and make observations in a notebook about the resident orangutans. (I would not recommend this as a highway to success, but I did have some beautiful experiences with the animals over the course of that year. )

While there can be no denying that good zoos often provide caring and stimulating homes for animals that, for a myriad of reasons, are no longer suited for or capable of having life in the wild,  there are an equal (if not greater) number of zoos around the world that trade in illegal wildlife and treat animals abominably. In honor of Animal Rights Awareness Day, I wanted to share this powerful article by animal communicator Anna Breytenbach. I encourage you to take time to think about what you might be able to do to help wild animals today, whether it be donating time or even a small amount of money to your favorite organization. But Anna shares a technique you can use that doesn't cost a thing, and I invite you to try it the next time you find yourself facing an animal in captivity. 
"Seeing captive wildlife in zoos can be very upsetting for people who care about the distress the animals may feel. The vast majority of animals in zoos or recreation centres are living a miserable life of confinement and overwhelm. Unable to exercise their bodies or minds nor live a natural lifestyle with normal relationships, they suffer dire mental, physical and emotional consequences. When we witness these sad states, we can ourselves become upset, angry, sad or despairing. Unfortunately, us being in those states is not at all helpful to the very animals. If we indulge our emotional reactions and end up pouring those out in the direction of the animal, they feel so much worse about their situation and themselves. Feelings such as pity and anxiety add to an animal's stress, compounding the problem.
Of course we need to be authentic in acknowledging our feelings. They can also be wonderful motivators of positive, productive action - inspiring great acts of support, assistance and transformation.
However, when we're in the presence of any animal in distress, it's important to adjust our thoughts and feelings in the moment. Here's a simple 4-step process to do that:
1. Take a moment to calm and quiet your mind. Even in a busy environment, simply closing your eyes and focusing on your regular breathing rhythm can achieve this quickly
2. Allow any unpleasant or unhelpful emotions and thoughts to leave you. One way is to visualise them running down and off your body like muddy water
3. Bring your attention to your heart centre and feel a sense of calmness
4. Think of positive or uplifting emotions and states of being - one at a time. For each one, feel like you are projecting that particular feeling towards the animal, imagining it landing upon them and wrapping them in the soft light of that particular energy
Throughout these steps, contain and ground your own energy within yourself. This is a non-intrusive process aimed at supporting the animal without expecting any feedback or outcome. We're not trying to force anything upon the animal; we're simply offering energetic assistance by providing the kinds of frequencies they may not be call upon on their own due to their circumstances.
By humans witnessing and caring in this way, animals feel appreciated and seen at a deeper level than the average person who only "sees" them visually and superficially. Most visitors to zoos put a camera lens between themselves and the animals they are supposedly there to experience. Far better to set aside all technology and distractions and simply engage with the animal directly with your full awareness. Even very distressed or depressed animals will sense your connection and compassion, and their experience of their day will be the better for it." 
For more information on Anna and her company AnimalSpirit, visit

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Writers Are Very Busy Striving to Reach New Levels of Procrastination

We love writing. We really do. Storytelling, whether it be fiction or non-fiction is an obsession, an art, an all-consuming devotion. For many authors, there is a part of them they'll tell you, that would shrivel up and die if they ever didn't write.

And yet, writers will devise the most ridiculous excuses to avoid the writing chair; because it's hard, because we're worried we'll fail, because we're stuck, because we're feeling absolutely drained of energy, because we don't want to kill off a character, because we know how ugly this revision is going to be, or maybe because we just want to see how difficult we can make life for ourselves before we actually -- out of sheer desperation and a now truly terrifying deadline -- must finally turn to the task at hand.

To that end, I thought I'd share some of the ridiculous and one-hundred percent true things that I or my friends (some of whom are best-selling authors with VERY SERIOUS DEADLINES - you know who you are) -- get up to, for some reason, when we're trying to avoid the very thing we love the best.

I like to call this list:

Top Ten Asinine Ways to Avoid Writing Your Book
1. Now is the perfect time to do laundry, renovate, clean,
paint, reorganize and redecorate the house.
2. Research the obtainment of a pet canary.
3. Window-shop for cottage in Scottish Highlands you will never afford.

4. Plan a party, baby shower, or large scale event
that will require weeks of coordination, Or...
5. "I'll host Thanksgiving!"
6. Adopt a new dog.
7. Go to the grocery store because, you tell your partner,
"Can't you see there's nothing to eat in the fridge?!"
8. Invite your best friends for the weekend because "It's been toooooo long!"

9. Yard work. Because, you know, you've got friends and family coming. 

10. Write a new blog post, maybe about procrastination, because that is productive.
It is 
not procrastination. 

These may not seem extreme to you, but that's okay, don't worry. We're always striving to best our last worst procrastination. I hope you'll share your stories about your best worst procrastination techniques - because I'm always looking to add to the ol' arsenal.

Signe Pike is the author of Faery Tale: One Woman's Search for Enchantment in a Modern World. She lives in Charleston, SC where she is currently *not* at work on a historical novel. Follow her on Facebook or visit her website at

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Real Encounter with Isle of Man's Land of the Unseen

The Lady of Port e Vullen
 by Signe Pike

“Ten days on the Isle of Man. Now that I look back on it seemed as if the Isle of Man had beckoned from the middle of the Irish Sea…” – Faery Tale

           It had been two years since I had first stepped foot on that mysterious island in the middle of that churning sea, a place of gods and Celts and Vikings, of castles and rushing glens and lonely circles of standing stones. It was a place where the events and the people I had met had seemed to unfold in such curious synchronicity, I had come to believe there was indeed a magic to this place, Isle of Man, the domain of mists that locals still believed could be summoned by the God of the Sea.
            In the years since I'd visited, the people who'd been fond acquaintances had read of my affection for them in my memoir and become good friends. My husband Eric and I were welcomed by Mike at the Adventure Centre with a warm hug and a pot of tea. My old room had been made up, cabin no. 7, and as we were walking the two miles back to the Centre with our arms full of groceries for the self-catering kitchen, Mike’s charming wife Ali spotted us on the road and insisted on giving us a lift. We were no longer strangers on a floating island. And it was in the car that she told us about Port e Vullen, the beach that could be reached if we only followed the lane from the Centre down hill, toward the sea.  
            “But if you go,” she warned, “Be careful. The tides can be dangerous there, will come in, fast as anything. You can get stranded down there, with no way back to the path.” But being Ali, she told us the right time to go, and we headed out for a five p.m. walk, thankful for summer and the long stretched evenings of light.
            The path was marked by a sign. It wound through the thick-tufted grass of summer, past a few cottages with deeply shaded trees until it opened up into a winding dirt trail bordered by ferns that led along the coastal path. We followed it, delighting in the gusts of salt smell that blew up off the ocean, zipping our fleeces against the growing evening chill. The path tilted down the cliff side and soon enough we found ourselves emerging onto a rocky beach where the stones had been smoothed and polished by the battering of the ocean. Overhead, the cliffs towered. There were crags where you could tuck yourself away and disappear from view, as though you had slipped into some parallel realm where the gods and dark water-horses and the fair-people of the island still held sway.
            A flash of terracotta caught my eye and I bent to sift through the pebbles only to uncover an elaborate chunk of tile that looked like it dated from the Victorian era. A treasure! And then there was another. And another. I scooped them up eagerly, with abandon, feeling the flat cold weight of them as I stacked them in my hand.
            I felt I was meant to keep them. I placed them gently into a zippered pocket of my coat. It was then that I looked at the sheltered cove I had wandered into. It was a broad, scooped out hollow of beach enclosed by the crags of the cliff. It felt like a place between other places. Where one could get distracted by treasures and, as the tide swept in, be claimed by the sea.
            The sun moved behind a bank of clouds. And it occurred to me in some primal place of knowing that this, this place was not entirely a place of light. I felt a shiver trace though me.
            “The tide will be coming,” I said to my husband. “Don’t you think we’d better go?”
            He straightened from his own bountiful treasure collecting and looked out to the sea. Nodded.
            Our fingers were tinged now with cold, but we left reluctantly, heavy-footed, as though we had stones in our boots. He was heading back up the cliff trail when I felt suddenly struck by a chord of whimsy. I had been studying the concept of genius loci lately for a new book: spirits of place. And as I turned to take one last look at the beach my eyes went to the cove. I should have known better than to ask. But I did not know better, and so I sent out a question from someplace near the center of my heart.
            Who is the Keeper of this place?
            I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t expecting anything. But before I could even form such a thought an image of a woman seared through the eye of my brain, imprinting with a force that felt nearly solid, as though it were the type of illustration one would see in a book – an illustration crafted by someone with skill and with talent, like a dream that could turn to a nightmare, depending on the painter. She was standing at the cliff’s bottom. Her hair was black as a stallion’s mane and her skin was as pale as snow. Her eyes. Were they dark? And pupil-less? Or were they changeable, like a storm on the sea? She was looking at me. She was looking straight through me. Like so many flashes of spirit I’d seen, she was there, claiming that place. And yet there was not a soul to be seen on the shadowed pebbles of the beach.
(photo: Zhang Jingna)

 “Come on,” my husband said. “Let’s get back up the hill. Open that bottle of whisky.”
            I blinked. The spell was broken.
            “Yes. I’m coming.” The thought of a single malt warmed the chill that had quite suddenly taken hold of me.
            The trees that had felt blissfully shaded now felt shadowed as we made our way up the hill but the air was fresh in our lungs and the stretch on our legs fell into a happy rhythm. At the top of the hill we stopped to take a picture of the two of us and the big, dark feather I’d found. My husband tucked a flower behind my ear.  
            That evening passed as many had at the Adventure Centre – sitting out by the picnic tables with hot food and a honey-colored glass of good Scotch. We settled into our bunks, satiated and sluggish from a long day of travel and the air off the sea, Eric on the top bunk and me on the bottom one. Soon we drifted off to sleep, the door closed, but the small window near the sink left open to the summer sounds and a cool night in the fields nestled high above the sea.
            The dream, when it came… well. I hadn’t known I was dreaming.
            In fact, it was as though I was fully awake. Yes, I had woken up because I could hear the voices. I remembered now. I could feel my feet on the rough carpet of the floor. I was in the dark of the cabin. But it was as though I was outside, already, which was what they wanted, the voices. I knew because they kept calling me.
            Come outside. 
            Come outside. 
            They were eager, their voices soft but filled with a delight that hinted of abandon. Was there music, somewhere? Or was it that their voices sounded like the wind through the chimes, hollow and beautiful, beseeching me. Come outside.
            Why shouldn’t I?
            It was a good idea, wasn’t it, just to listen, because they were lovely voices, weren’t they? Beautiful, and soft like a breeze in summer. They were urging me. Behind the hollow-throated chime of their voices was a promise. Come outside. And then what? Don’t think. It doesn’t matter. They were sweeping me like the sea, and wasn’t it so lovely to be swept away? The handle of the door glinted dimly silver in the night. I shifted my feet to stand.
            But something heavy kept me in my place. I couldn’t move. And still they called to me. Come outside.
            But now it was too late. I wasn’t sure how nice they were, after all. In the spell of my sleepiness I was realizing now that I did not want to go outside. It was cold outside, and I was in my bedclothes. I was tired from a long journey, and I had been fast asleep and I DID. NOT. WANT. TO. GO. OUTSIDE!
            I woke when my head struck the metal of the bunk overhead. I opened my eyes for the first time. A dream. I had only been dreaming.
            The world was fuzzy without my contacts in, whereas before, only moments ago, I had seen the room so clearly. Where the chiming voices had filled my head, the only sound now was the soft-shifting snore from the man who slept on the thin mattress overhead. I had woken to find myself sitting swiveled out of bed, my feet on the rough carpet and my body turned toward the door. My mind may have been addled by sleep but it knew exactly what they’d been up to, and it wasn’t anything good.
            That’s not nice, I thought, peevishly, like a child would scold a bully for snatching at their toy. What you were doing wasn’t nice at all. Because when we wake from dreams we sometimes have all the answers, and I knew just what had happened, what they were trying to do. And yet there were still questions that would haunt me, in the end.
            How far might I have gotten, had I snuck from that bunk in the mist of sleep, through the unbolted door?  
            To the driveway?
            To the road?
            To the cliffside that teetered along the bottom of the lane?
            What dangers awaited a woman in the night?
Or if my body hadn’t woken me, would it have been worse if my spirit had taken flight? Out the open window, carried by the chiming voices down along the lane, where we could drift over the top of the ocean as if we had no bodies at all. To a place where a dark-haired woman waited, on the crescent-shaped hollow of a watery beach, far below the shelter of the glades.