When I Dreamed This


In the first dream I remember — and unlike many of my stories, this one is true — Dracula chained me in my attic. I was five when I dreamed this. Our attic was a large unfinished space that ran the length of the second floor of our house, behind the real rooms where we lived our daily lives. The attic was a shadow house, full of castoff furniture and household belongings. My younger sister and I played there all the time: Hide-and-seek, House, Scare-your-sister. It was dimly lit, and not climate-controlled: in the summer you could hardly breathe there for the heat. It didn’t scare me to be there but I had a proper respect for the place, I took it seriously. I had an unarticulated feeling that things could happen there that couldn’t happen in our house proper, that it was an alternate world full of alternate possibilities.

speeding neutrinos
somebody counts
to ninety-eleven

The details of the dream are fuzzy now but I can remember being wrapped in chains in a back corner of the attic, watching helplessly as Dracula flew in through one of the tiny windows in the form of a bat, then changed into Dracula and taunted me for my helplessness. Was Frankenstein there too? I seem to remember Frankenstein. I begged them to let me go but they wouldn’t. They wanted me to stay in that attic. I wanted to go. We didn’t come to any form of agreement before the dream ended.

rainy day
the storybook’s pages

It was a nightmare, of course — I was terrified while it was going on, and shaky when I woke. But though I was so young I took it pragmatically. I knew there was no Dracula and no Frankenstein. I knew no one would chain me in my attic. I didn’t acquire any fear of the place. In fact, I may have spent more time there than ever, now that I could see what it was really good for: It was a breeding ground for stories. Some about things that could never happen, and some about things that almost certainly did.

a line of ants
walks out of it


4 thoughts on “When I Dreamed This

  1. Hi, Melissa, I like your comment about the attic being an “alternate world”… perhaps that’s why I’ve always felt there is an alternate world. I also had a fascinating early childhood with an attic. Although I have to tell you, I never had any dreams about it. And I didn’t have a sibling to share or scare me with it either. It was a place I could go to be alone…to sort of sort out what was going on in my life. As a child I was always told I had an “active imagination”…and I used to resent that statement. It is true I enjoyed taking note of the small things others missed, but an imagination seemed to allude me. I used to go up in the attic and try to imagine stories…characters. Thee was Sheila, and the Lion and perhaps another character or two but they frustrated me because I could never see them. They never DID anything. They never SAID anything. I couldn’t even feel like they were imaginary…I had failed at being imaginative.

    But I loved that attic. In it was an old trunk. Inside the trunk were all my Father’s drawings (my parents met in art school.) I used to open that trunk and stare and the wonderful images on the rolled up paper. Most of them were life-size figure studies… and it was like taking a course in anatomy. I could feel where muscles where and where bone structure was and how it twisted and turned. One day I went up in the attic and the trunk was gone. I think my Mom found out that I was looking at those drawings and it frightened her that I may turn into an artist. She had visions of me starving to death in Greenwich Village.

    Years later when I used to show in Greenwich Village I had a lot of fun teasing here that there I was… not quite starving…

    But it all started in an attic. Alternative Universes to be sure.

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