Weird Stuff

A Shared Dream

My son’s father, Bob, had a dream one night, in which our son – who was about four at the time – showed up incongruously in the middle of dream events that didn’t concern him at all.  In the dream, our son was older – perhaps ten or eleven.  He had come into the room and interrupted the other dream events, and he spent the rest of Bob’s dream just chatting with his dad about things that Bob could not remember when he awoke.  Because the original dream events had been emotional, and because our son’s presence in the dream was so unconnected to them, Bob was moved by this dream, and decided he would tell me about it when he saw me.

Before he could do that, though, our son woke up, and related to his father that he had had a great dream, where he was playing sports with some other kids.  Sometimes in this dream he was himself – a four-year-old boy – and sometimes he was an older self, a ten-year-old him that played with the other kids for a long time, but then went away.

“I don’t know where I went,” he told his dad.  “But then I came back.  And then I woke up!”

Bob wondered if the ten-year-old version of our son in his dream was the same boy that our son dreamed of, playing with the other kids and then leaving for a while – perhaps to visit his father’s dream and chat.

And now that our son is eleven years old, I wonder if he’ll have a dream some time of playing sports with a younger him, and taking a break to visit his dad.  I wonder if he’ll remember what they chatted about.

Weird Stuff …

The Inhaler

For a long time, I had no car and no phone.  I lived about two miles from my friend Bob, who had a phone but no car.  He had been at my house in the late afternoon, on one of the coldest days of the winter – temperatures easily fell below zero – and he left to walk home just before dark.

Bob has asthma and allergies; more than once, he has had to go to the emergency room because his airways closed almost completely.  Needless to say, his inhaler is a very important thing for him to have.  He had used it, in fact, while visiting me … and, after he had been gone for nearly an hour, I saw that inhaler sitting on my table.

Well, crap, I thought.  It was so cold outside.  It was such a long walk.  He hadn’t been sick at all – no colds, no bad allergy attacks.  I didn’t have a phone, but he did: he could call someone to bring him back to my apartment.  He lived, actually, just four blocks from the emergency room, and he could get there more easily than he – or I – could cover the distance between us on foot.  I felt extremely conflicted, but I decided that he was not in any danger, and that it would be better to stay in out of the cold.  What were the odds, after all, of him needing his inhaler so desperately this particular night?  He hadn’t had a bad asthma attack in months.

I felt conflicted, but ultimately I decided to go to bed.

In the middle of the night, I had a dream that Bob came into the house.  He walked across the living room to the table where his inhaler still sat; he picked it up and walked out again.  It was such a vivid dream that I even noticed the time – 2:00 am.

When I woke up the next morning, I saw that the inhaler was really gone.  I figured that, at 2:00 am, Bob really had come into the house and picked up his inhaler.  I felt bad, because he wouldn’t have done that unless he was having trouble breathing, but I thought how strange it was of him to walk all the way back two miles to my apartment instead of walking four blocks to the hospital.

When I saw Bob later that day, he asked me if he had left his inhaler at my place.  I looked at him strangely and said that he had.  He said that he had had a vicious asthma attack in the middle of the night; he had looked through every pocket and searched his house, but his inhaler was not there.  He checked all the pockets of his coat repeatedly, but it was not there.  Well, he decided, he would just try to breathe through the attack, and if he really could not, then he would just go over to the emergency room.  He sat, weak and breathless, struggling to get air into his lungs and trying to weather this storm.  It was 2:00 am.  If he was still struggling at 2:15, he thought, he would go to the hospital.  He sat, knowing that he must have left the inhaler at my house, and tried to visualize it – he saw himself walk into the house, pick up the inhaler off the table, and leave again.  This visualization, born out of a dream-like state of fatigue, panic, and lack of oxygen, was so vivid that when he opened his eyes he wondered if he had really somehow crossed town and fetched his medicine without realizing it.  But no – the clock said 2:05 am; he had only closed his eyes for a moment.

It had been so real, though.

He decided that he should look in the pocket of his coat again – the pocket he had put the inhaler in at the end of his visualization, the pocket he had checked a dozen times ten minutes earlier.

There was the inhaler.

It’s the weirdest thing, I suppose, that’s ever happened to me.

It’s certainly nothing we’ve ever been able to explain.

Weird Stuff – Little Kitties

For whatever reason, my family has a lot of phantom cats.

Most of them seem to be cats that have been in our lives in a more corporeal way, but once in a while the cat is completely unfamiliar.

My older son saw one such random cat – a white cat that he assumed had just snuck into the house through an open door.  He watched it walk across our tiny hallway … and into the wall at the end of it.

My younger son – during an evening when the power was out – had turned on his little light saber toy and was swinging it for his three cats to play with.  Admittedly, it was fairly dark in the room, but he was very sure that four cats were playing with him.  He was so sure, in fact, that he stopped playing for a moment and counted the cats – four.  But when he turned on the flashlight, there were only three again.

Having multiple cats means that one or more of them is always meowing about something, running around, or jumping on the bed onto unsuspecting sleepers.  It takes a moment to realize that all the cats are visually accounted for, yet there’s still a sensation of one walking along the bedclothes or a sound of one walking in the other room; there’s still too many heads poking out of a curled up mound of black fur, too many shadows running for the food dish.

Sudden cats have joined my son in the back seat of the car – perched on the shelf under the rear window – only to be gone a second later.  Invisible cats walk by, rubbing against the people in the room but never revealing themselves.  They sit sometimes in windows and then disappear, leaving the observer wondering if they had ever been there at all.  They yowl from empty basements while all the other cats look on in detached interest.  They walk across people lying in bed, pressing down the covers without appearing to the eye at all.

Why would phantom cats decide so consistently to hang around?

I suppose for the same reason corporeal cats hang around us – I’m not sure what that reason is.  But the strangest part of the phantom-cat experience is how used to it we’ve all become.  It isn’t even particularly startling anymore.  Basically, it seems as though we have dozens of cats – but only five of them are … tangible.

Weird Stuff

My friend Bob has a very good memory; when we want to remember the details of something that happened, we turn to Bob.  So when he says that the home-health aid had a red car, I have no reason to doubt him.

She would come quite often to the house to care for Bob’s ill mother; she would pull up in her red car and she would leave in her red car.  Occasionally they even spoke about the red car.

One day she showed up in a blue car.

Bob said, “Oh, you have a new car!”

She looked at him strangely, and back at her car.  “No,” she said.

He thought perhaps she had borrowed the blue car?  No, the car in front of the house was hers and had been for a long time.  Did she have two cars? No, she had always just had the one.  But the day before – all the days before – it had been red.

It’s such a small thing, really, when it’s written down, but it was certainly strange to Bob.  We’ve wondered if somehow he crossed into a different quantum reality, a parallel universe if you will; we’ve wondered what other things beside the colour of the home-health aid’s car might have changed.

What sort of life has the she-has-a-red-car Bob been living?  What things in that reality are different?  Are those things better? – or worse?

I wonder if the other Bob wonders what happened to the blue car.

Weird Stuff

My Grandma’s Stairs

Unlike other stories that involve stairs – creepy, or dark, or creaky, or whatnot – my Grandma’s stairs were perfectly normal.  They ran past the door to the backyard and down to the basement in a perfectly un-creepy fashion; they were well-lit and not too steep.  The basement itself kind of creeped me out, but mostly because my grandmother was of a generation of people who like to collect and display ceramic dolls that stare at you, and photos from the late nineteenth century of people who look they want to eat you alive.

But the stairs were not a problem – the door opening onto them was always open during the day, and we could go down and out into the backyard, which was surrounded by a seven-foot chain-link fence and a locked gate.  The outside door was an old-school door, the kind you can’t get through with an axe, and there was a deadbolt on it.  The inner door, too, the one at the top of the stairs, was heavy, and at night Grandma would slide the bolt across it … no cutthroat marauders were going to get in that way!

One night, before dark, my grandmother had been downstairs doing some laundry.  She came back upstairs, checking the outer door on her way – safely locked.  She turned to close the inner door – looking down the stairs, where she saw no one.  She closed the door and slid the bolt across … and something slammed so hard into the door on the other side that it hurt her hand.  She was startled to say the least, but she immediately thought it must just be temperature changes, warping the wood.  Wood cracks sometimes, after all.  But the door was not cracked – on her side at least.  She started to slide the bolt back, so that she could check the other side of the door, but before she could touch the door, something slammed into it again, and again, and again.  She backed away, watching as the door strained against the hinges and threatened to pull the sliding bolt off the wall.  This went on and on – BANG, BANG, BANG – for over two minutes – an eternity for my Grandma, who stood there paralyzed, not knowing if she should stay in the house or run away.  Finally the banging stopped, and my grandmother ran to call her friend, who came over right away and investigated the house – no one was in the basement, all the windows were still locked, the outside door was still deadbolted.

“Maybe it was just the wood cracking,” the friend suggested.  “Wood cracks sometimes, you know.”

“I do know,” my Grandma informed him tartly.  “It doesn’t crack like that!”  She was almost disappointed that it couldn’t have been a break-in; what on earth had it been then?!  Why did it happen?  Why did it stop?

Being the person she was, my Grandma continued to live there, to leave the door open in the day, to go downstairs and do laundry by herself.  If she felt nervous about it, she never let on, but she talked often about how scary that day had been, and how she wondered what it was that had done it.

After all, wood really doesn’t crack like that.

Weird Stuff …

Once when I was in grade school, I woke up in the middle of the night, and looked toward the foot of my bed (the top bunk) and saw a black shape – sort of like a large, crinkly garbage bag, oily and gleaming and sort of moving a little as though there were something alive inside.  Of course, I began screaming hysterically, and my father came into the room and turned on the light, and the garbage bag thing was not there anymore.

Later on, I learned about sleep paralysis – the sensation of things happening while we are awake, when in fact we are not.  I figured the garbage-bag experience had been sleep paralysis – it never happened again, so I wasn’t bothered by it.

Some years ago, I visited home for the holidays, and my youngest sister was visiting as well, and we began to talk about some of the strange things that seemed to happen around our house growing up.

“I used to have a dream,” she said.  “Not often, but more than once, where this horrible black garbage bag thing was standing at the foot of the bed and wriggling.”

I got chills hearing this.  I told her about my experience, and we quickly saw that we had been dreaming about the same thing.

Or maybe it wasn’t a dream.

And maybe we don’t want to know.

Weird Stuff

Two Pats

I would have chalked this up to imagination and to eyes playing tricks on me, except that the dog saw it too – quite clearly.

I was at the house of a friend, Pat, and he had excused himself to go the bathroom.  His dog, a bouncy yellow Lab named Jake, and I were playing tug-of-war in the living room while we waited for Pat to return.  I heard a rustle behind me, and I saw the dog turn his attention to something behind me.  I assumed it was Pat, especially when Jake’s tail started wagging and he abandoned our game to walk over there.  When I turned around, I saw Jake approaching Pat, who was walking from the bathroom into the little library off the living room.  Jake was walking behind him and wagging his whole body the way Labs do, but then, as Pat went into the library, Jake stopped dead and tilted his head to the side, then looked at me, then back into the library.  He took a step toward the library door, then danced backward a little bit and tilted his head again.

By then I had reached the door to the library.  I looked in, and no one was there.  I went in, checking behind the door, but no one was there.  The window was blocked by an enormous chair and stacks of books which had not moved.  Where could he have gone?  Then I heard the bathroom door open, heard Pat walk out into the living room.  He stood in the door of the library, staring at us while we stared at him.  I told him that he had already walked in there.  He assured me that he had not.

But Jake and I know better.