the short story project


The Pattern (2020)

I have a recurring nightmare about a ghost in my house. I never see it, but it pulls on the drapes and slams doors. It’s presence is always marked by a warm pressure in my ears. Sometimes, the pressure spreads up to my chest; heavy, heavy, heavier still, until I wake myself up gasping. These dreams seem to come in a pattern, a double helix flow with my anxiety. I find myself asking: who is this ghost? Have they always been there? What do they know that I don’t know?

They never answer, or at least not in ways I can decipher. 

My anxieties have many legs that skitter in all directions, but at the core, the thorax of this slippery arachnid, is a nameless fear. It greets me in different places wearing different masks, but I can always feel the same faceless void beneath it. It’s breadth is unknowable, it’s patience is staggering. It lives in the ocean, but never when I swim in it. It dwells in space, but never when I look at the stars. Sometimes it’s in time itself, seeping between those hours and minutes and seconds like rainwater.


The older I get, the more time flexes and shimmers before me. I will find myself looking at it, drifting outside myself to watch it fold and stretch and collapse on itself like taffy in a candy shop window. I feel myself bend and stretch with it, seeing in multiple directions at once. I see a young me, a child, and I want to cry out to her but I can’t. She’s looking at me and I break again and again. I see old me, white haired but undiminished; she’s looking at me with an expression I can’t read. 

I am a telescope with people looking through both ends. How is it me at both ends but a separate me in between?

This is when the void opens up beneath me like a sinkhole, and like snatching a child back from a busy street I snap back into my body. The telescope collapses, the stretching subsides, and I am left with a sensation not unlike waking from my ghost dreams. Things settle back into their place; an earthquake in reverse, a movie played backwards. 

Does the ghost go with me, to the edge of the void? 

Or is the ghost the void coming to look for me?


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