Two years ago, I had a dream — actually, it as more like a hallucination. I have these strange story-like visions that I feel like I am actually participating in when I get too warm while sleeping. I woke up quite hot and delirious, wearing too heavy clothes under too many blankets.
I also woke up with a story I couldn’t forget.
They say dreams are the mind’s efforts at consolidating and making sense of the unprocessed fragments of our lives. There are things, strange things, we encounter and never fully absorb. The brain is troubled, and starts assembling the fragments. This story is, I believe, built from brain fragments about a local drug scourge, deep concern for child welfare, conflicts over organized religion, periods of personal loneliness, uprooting my home, and much more. I don’t want to over-analyze it, but it’s been two years and I’ve had some time to think.
One thing I do know is that brain fragments don’t exactly make great writing. This is not a story that will be snatched up by Random House. For some reason, though, it’s a story I can’t forget about a man I imagined. His name is Webb Thomas. Webb, shall we say, has some issues.
I have a minor issue in that I’ve never been able to name this story to my full satisfaction. If you have any thoughts on that, please share.
In celebration of Halloween, I bring you Webb’s story in 7 parts. I’d love to know what you think. (Exactly 100 words from this story first appeared in the annual Advent Ghosts 100 Word Storytelling put on by Loren Eaton at I Saw Lightning Fall. See other entries there. Many thanks to West Virginia writer S.D. Smith who brought this unusual writing tradition to my attention.)
An Esse Diem Halloween Story
Long toes hooked over the edge of the porch, their skin almost white in the cold morning air. The cup of coffee was cold now, too, but Webb Thomas sipped it and rocked. He reflected on how ridiculous it was to be uncovered in the bitter air, but he liked the intensity.
Forty-five years ago, he was born on a cold morning like this, and now he was spending his birthday freezing outside on a farm in Mason County, West Virginia. He took another sip of cold coffee, and looked out at the bright line of the rising sun. He thought about his wife, pictured her sleeping soundly upstairs in their bed. Something turned foul on his tongue and he spit out the rancid brown liquid. He could feel a churning in his head as hard memories cut into his peaceful moment.
Community members of a local church had all but corralled him and forced him to come to the fellowship supper years ago. He had compassion for church people, but he knew exactly what they were up to when they tried to draw him into the flock. He was an unknown quantity and they wanted him managed.
Why did Sera have to be there?