The Birds on the Walls
By Lillian Queen
I dreamed the other night of a room; a room dressed in light dusty blue with birds that lived on the walls. It was a lonely kind of place, though not in a bad way. The light shone in from the tall narrow windows that extended up to the ceiling. There was little furniture to speak of, only a straight-backed chair, an ivory piano, and the piano stool. The only sign of life in the room was a bouquet of hydrangeas that rested on top of two books which lay on the seat of the chair. The flowers were still very much alive, and since they were not in water, I could only believe that someone must have placed them there recently. Though why they would do so, in a room so uninhabited as this, was unclear to me. As I stood in the room I listened; at first there was nothing to be heard, all of the usual sounds of clocks ticking, or the creaking noises that old houses make as the foundation settles, were absent. But as I held my breath, I began to notice the sound of what could only have been water or perhaps wind, off far in the distance. After a few moments more there was a train whistle.
Remembering the years, I spent laying in my bed at home listening for the sound of that train, always sure that, if the rest of the world were quiet enough, I would hear it. I walked over to the window. At first, I took care to balance on my toes that my shoes might not click as they hit the floor. Soon though, I realized that I was barefoot. As I drew aside the long chiffon curtains, my eyes were flooded with a most overwhelming light, for a moment I was blind. As my eyes adjusted, however, I realized that what I had believed to be sunlight pouring into the room actually came from the moon. It was massive that night, fifty times bigger than usual or perhaps it was fifty times closer. The world outside was lit up most unusually; it was certainly as bright as the sun, but where the sun would have lit up the shadows, the moon only intensified them, sending the world further into contrast.
I stood on a balcony or perhaps it was the top of a stone wall and watched as the scene before me changed. The forest that had been central to my vision fell into the ground as if it were a wax sculpture melting into a candle. As it collapsed, the train came rushing through. To my horror, I found myself in the middle of its path. I jumped, though I do not recall making a conscious decision to do so. Stepping out into the air only to find myself underwater. The idea of breathing did not occur to me so I cannot say whether it was truly water or not, but it felt like water. I let the current move around me, floating around, trying to decide what to do next. The moonlight shimmered through the matter that surrounded me, and all was quiet once again. It was peaceful and somewhat lonely, though still not a bad kind of lonely, it was different from the loneliness I had felt in the room. I thought to myself that I could stay forever, floating through the water, with nothing in particular to do. I had just about decided never to leave when I realized that, to let myself go on floating in the water forever and ever with no purpose, though it may seem like a pleasant time, be a terrible waste of time. What would become of my ambitions and my dreams? Was I ready to let them slip away from me just like that?
After a few minutes of fear at what might have become of me, I began to search for the surface. As it was my dream and air did not seem to have any place there, I could not merely float to the top. It occurred to me, slowly, over several minutes, how very odd it was that I was unable to find the place where the sky met the waves. I swam and swam and swam and eventually discovered that the longer I swam, the darker it became. I could not see anything around me but then, as I reached forward my hand broke the surface of the water. As air became a reality once again for my lungs to breath in, I realized that it was a relief. Upon further inspection, I noticed that the reason the water had become so dark was that it was no longer water. Somewhere in the progression of my dream, it had become green ink. I was contemplating the predicament I had found myself in and what was best to do. For, while ink is excellent in its way, I cannot say that it is altogether agreeable to find oneself stuck in a bottle of it. Luckily for me, though unluckily for the person responsible, I soon spilled out. They had unintentionally knocked the ink bottle over, and I tumbled out onto the page. It was a lovely page, top quality paper to be sure. It had beautiful swirling looping words written all over it.
As I stood up and began to walk up and down the page, reading the words, I was astonished to see little green footprints. ‘What an odd thing,’ I thought, ‘that someone should draw little footprints all over this beautiful page.’ It troubled me, so I hopped down and found myself back in the water. Although this time it was a glass of water, not the ocean. I was poured out of that as well, and once I dried off, I spent many hours walking across the wood floors of the dusty blue room with the birds on the walls, waiting to wake up.