"My yesterday was blue,
Today I'm part of you,
My lonely nights are through, dear
Since you said that you were mine."
The schedule boards started clacking all at once, signaling the new batch of incoming trains. Jody didn't bother looking up, she already knew the train she was waiting for; 10:45 southbound to Spring Valley. It was now 10:28. Ordinarily she would be down on the platform pacing, but New Jersey winter was dry, freezing, and wreaked havoc on her legs. They were already itching like hell under her dress, but no matter how much she scratched or how much lotion she put on, nothing ever helped.
The station was very large with a peculiar display of lights atop an giant cat tail. Green, red, orange. There were even people taking pictures of it or near it. Tourists, she rolled her eyes. 10:38. She got her backpack and located the Pascack Valley Line. There were several flights of stairs down. As she ran down each flight, time seemed to speed up.
Was it already 10:45? Couldn't be, Jody had just seen the clock a minute or so before, hadn't she? Nearing the bottom of the steps, Jody scanned around for her platform. Out of the corner of her eye, a man in a bowler hat with an umbrella quickly turned into a corridor. The same one Jody needed to get to, she noted. Like Alice's white rabbit, she thought to herself. Jody followed him down two more flights of stairs as an announcement came over the intercom.
"Attention all passengers on the Pascack Valley Line, Train 1015 to Spring Valley will arrive on Track H in approximately 5 minutes."
Jody stepped out into the icy night, dreading the 5 minutes that would inevitably drag on for longer in her mind. Elsewhere she heard a distant train's horn. Louder and louder it grew until it was blaring in her ears and a speeding train blew through the platform like an angry dragon; its horn still blaring. In shock, she didn't think to cover her ears. She did nothing but stare at her reflection in the windows as it passed. Then it was gone into the night. Her heart was pounding; she knew she had been in no real danger, but she couldn't help but be shaken up by the noise.
Her ears were ringing for a few moments, but then she heard the tail end of the announcement, "-on Track H, please stand behind the yellow line."
The sound of the bells signaled the approaching train. The bone chilling wind picked up again and Jody prayed the doors would open quickly. The train came to a halt and its doors creaked open. Ordinarily she would wait to ask a conductor where the train was going, but tonight she was so certain of its destination that she simply ran on and sought out an empty seat.
The doors simultaneously shut and the train began to lurch forward. Soon the choppy movements smoothed out and they were on their way. Leaning against the window, she saw the lights on each of the buildings as they went by. White, white, bright billboards with logos the size of cars. Every window with a light behind it sparkled as a star. The sky split from the tops of buildings with a faint outline. She had always loved the eggplant-indigo sky that stretched endlessly behind the clouds.
Who cares about the movie starlets and their petty accomplishments when I can catch a glimpse of infinity?
Much sooner than she thought possible, she heard the announcement say, "Attention passengers, we are now approaching our final destination; Orchard Grove. To transfer to another train, please purchase your ticket on the platform and receive a schedule from the information booth."
Her chest felt like it had burst into flames. She had no idea where that was, she
had been nearly positive that she had gotten the train to Spring Valley. She numbly stumbled out onto the platform and tried to find a conductor. Instead, she was greeted by a kindly looking woman with frizzy brown hair.
"Hello dear, is something wrong?"
"I need to find a conductor!" Jody tried to hurry past, but the woman interjected, stepping in her path.
"This stop has no conductors, it only lets people off into this parking lot."
The woman clearly wasn't lying, there were scant streetlamps that cast white pools of light into the parking lot here and there. Very few cars were actually parked in this lot given the time of night. Trees loomed in the shadows and creaked in the chilly wind.
"God, what am I gonna do?" Jody said to herself, another breeze picking up.
"My name is Missy Carlisle, I don't live too far from here, if you like, I could bring you back here tomorrow to catch a train back." Her face wrinkled as she smiled, as though the creases gave her no worry.
"Um… well I don't know about that, maybe I could borrow a phone to call home?"
"Sweetie, you're at least two hours from the station you came from, how fair is that to make your mother drive to get you? And at this hour?"
Jody sighed, "I suppose you're right… oh, my name is Jody Marshall."
Missy reached out, took her hand, and shook it, "What a cute name. Now come along, my car isn't far at all."
Upon arriving at Missy's home, Jody realized they were in the middle of the woods. There was a fresh scent to the brisk air that rushed to meet her as she got out of the car. The cabin was much larger than it seemed from the outside. Several people were huddled in the center of the spacious living room. From where she stood, Jody was unable to see their faces. There were couches all over the room, some new and firm, others worn in and soft. Four tall lamps lit the space with an amber glow, she noticed a small vestibule that led to a small hallway with no lights.
"Thank you for letting me stay here for the night, when do you think you can take me back?"
"Oh, whenever I get around to it, early afternoon, I promise."
The next thing Jody knew, she had awoken with the next morning's sun. She was on a very comfortable couch with a blanket wrapped around her. Remembering that she would be here at least another couple of hours, she decided to see if she could eat something. She tiptoed into the kitchen, only to notice that there were several shoeboxes marked with names.
She found the box with her name on it, upon opening it, she discovered three cherry tomatoes, two oranges, and a deep green vine the length and width of a pencil- scribbled beside it were the words "Luna root." She took her shoebox back to the couch and ate all but the luna root. Missy soon emerged from what Jody assumed was her bedroom, "Good morning, Jody."
"Hello, thanks for the food."
Missy seemed slightly taken aback, but recovered quickly, "Not at all, dear."
Suddenly a shriek pierced the air from outside. Missy turned white, "Good Lord, what was that?"
Jody was petrified in her seat on the couch, tucking her suddenly freezing cold feet under her. Missy went out the back door, leaving Jody in the silent cabin. Over the next couple of hours, teenagers came in and out of the kitchen, each coming out with a box of their own. Soon there was only one box left.
The door opened and Missy came back inside, having been gone for nearly three hours. Missy looked disheveled, her face resembling a dumpling in color, wrinkled creases, and oiliness.
"Did you find the noise?" Jody asked compulsively.
Missy waved dismissively, not even looking at Jody. She went through the kitchen, down a small hallway and into her bedroom.
Assuming that she would not be taken back for a while, Jody cautiously crept back into the kitchen and read the name on the box: "ERIC." She opened the lid and instead of food, the inside was empty and painted black. Jody nestled the lid back onto its box.
Jody sought out her backpack and purse in the living room, quietly stepping over people who were sitting and talking. They made no effort to ask what she was looking for, but they moved accordingly when she needed to look under or behind a sofa. Judging by their appearances, she guessed they were about her age.
There was a knock at the front door. Intrigued, Jody walked to the door and opened it. Rabbit! She thought immediately. Standing before her was a young man with bright blue eyes in a black jacket and bowler hat. He carried a long umbrella with him as well, "Hello, is Missy here?"
"Oh, yes, she's in her room… should I get her?" Jody was aware now that she was wearing a thin white tank top and shorts, practically naked in front of this handsome man.
"Yes, that would be lovely." He smiled and let himself in.
She stared as he hung his jacket, hat, and umbrella on a tall lamp. His hair was thick, full, and blond.
Missy! Right, she needed to go get her. Jody snapped out of her reverie and turned toward the kitchen once more. She followed Missy's earlier path through the kitchen and into a vestibule with two door. She knocked on the first door.
"What is it?" Missy's voice was gravelly and rough.
Jody was almost afraid to respond, "Um, somebody's here to see you."
"Tell them I'm busy!"
Jody ran away as quickly and quietly as she could. She returned to the stranger and mumbled, "Um, she said she was busy, could you come back later?"
"Oh, I live here as well." Jody's heart raced at the statement, "She just needed me to do something for her in town and said to let her know how it went when I returned.
"Do you know how to get back to the train station?" Jody asked.
"No, I'm afraid only Missy knows that."
"Oh. Well my name is Jody Marshall, what's yours?"
"Oh! From the box…!"Jody realized how strange it sounded out loud.
"Box? Oh, no, I don't get food boxes from Miss Missy." Eric's voice words were bitingly bitter.
"Then why am I?"
"You're part of the family, aren't you?"
"What?" Jody froze, "What are you talking about?"
Eric tensed and turned halfway, giving no reply.
Anxiety built in Jody more and more, she had been at Missy's cabin for nearly four days. Each morning she was sure to ask Missy if she would be able to bring her to the train station, but each time, she got a more distant reply. If she asked in the morning, she was more likely to get a positive reply, but after the third day of asking when she would be brought back, Missy just glanced in her direction, went into her bedroom, and shut the door.
Even more eerie was that she noticed the number of people in the house was rising and falling. On the second day, three people were missing, but by night, there were two more people in the living room. This morning, there was five people missing. More boxes were either colored black inside or just outright gone. There had to be something to this mystery. Were people being poisoned? They must be! It all made sense! Jody knew those tomatoes tasted weird. And that luna root? Who knew what that actually was?
Jody ignored her food box on the table and grabbed a box of cookies from a nearby cupboard. She noisily ate her way through the box, her mind racing. The other Eric was probably someone who died before she came, that's why his food box was black, Jody reasoned. She choked on a cookie and coughed, trying to clear her throat. Missy came into the kitchen, "Sweetie, what's wrong?"
"Get back! Get the fuck away from me! I know what you're doing here, you witch!" Jody felt dizzy, a migraine tugging at her sinuses.
"Now you're just being ridiculous." Missy walked over to her calmly.
Jody yanked herself away, but Missy caught her arm. Jody spit in her face and ran out the back door, ignoring the clatter of the screen door.
Wiping stray drool from her numb lips, she realized the danger of running out in pajamas quickly. She shivered and coughed loudly. Why was she so dizzy all of a sudden, She couldn't be sick. She dragged herself up to a drop-off where she could see people in a park below; at least 6 people in winter coats in the woods. She tried to scream, but couldn't even find the strength to do so.
Help! Help… help. She thought miserably as she sank into unconsciousness.
Eric entered the kitchen, "Missy? Do you have any idea where Jody went?"
Missy's voice was sacchrine, "I have no idea, Mr. Poole. She left the cabin after some choice words and actions, though."
"You kidnapped her from a goddamn train station, how did you think she was going to react?"
Missy's speech became very precise, "'Kidnap' is a rather rude way to put it. I suppose there's no use in arguing now. She took food from my kitchen."
Eric's face paled, "No."
He bolted out of the cabin, making a mad dash down the road, No, it couldn't be too late. Jody had to be all right, she just had to be. She was fine, she was fine! He knew he shouldn't gone along with the dream, he knew he should have just gotten her out of there faster! The chilly wind whipped past his face but he had no time to warm his skin. The empty trees rattled in the air, the green of the grass then fading to dirt and weeds. At the edge of a cliff, he then saw her. Lying on the ground. Eric threw himself to the ground and felt for a pulse. His fears were affirmed; there was no motion under her skin.
Even worse, she was still warm.
Everyone in the house knew that she only poisoned the food in the cupboards so thieves would be punished. She wasn't a killer, everyone knew that... except Jody.
The first thing he thought was that he had to keep her body safe; he knew that as a Dreamer, she had to return to it once she fell asleep again. He lifted her in his arms and walked back the way he came. Instead of going back to the safe house, however, he traveled further south. The further he walked from the woods, the warmer it got. The cold gave way to warmth, the sparse grass on the ground turned from yellow to green.
He knew it was foolish to long for a Dreamer, he knew it was downright laughable, but he didn't stop himself.
He had encountered Jody nearly a year ago as she was dreaming she was in Tokyo, Japan. She had dark brown hair then, she had wished her hair was much less noticeable than her real-life straw blond. She was with a Japanese man with purple hair in a white karate uniform and a blue jacket. While standing on a street corner, she had asked him where she could find mangoes and the convention center. He could not help but stutter when she awaited an answer, her face positively glowed when she smiled.
Just as quickly as she had come, she left. Every couple of weeks for the next 8 months, he had run into her. Sometimes she was herself, sometimes she wore outrageous clothes, sometimes even her face looked different- but her eyes always gave her away. After seeing the mess her dream had decayed into, he
knew he needed to do something.
Missy wasn't necessarily a bad woman, she was just impatient at times. Unable to have children of her own, she brought stray Dreamers to her home for as long as they liked. She knew that Dreamers were easily suggestible under certain circumstances, but she often grew impatient with the ones who weren't aware that they weren't in their waking world. Next time he saw her, he planned to help her set a limit on "family members" in the house.
He came to his house and opened the door, working to maneuver the knob with Jody still in his arms. He carefully laid her out on a small couch near the door. He hoped that nothing would happen to her. He laid himself down to rest in his bed on the other side of the room. She had actually come looking for him a few times. She had even kissed him before. Three times, actually. At least in the span of her dreams she wanted him. There were even times where she had no memory of him at all. Such was the consequence of loving a person instead of a specter like himself.
The next morning, when the sun rose, he was alarmed to find that she was gone. Impossible! He thought frantically, unless… could she be in another dream? Was he lost to her again? He breathed in once, then out slowly. This wasn't a problem, he would encounter her again, he knew that much, but he was concerned the most about her safety. He would need to bring her back.
Jody woke up in the street. There were no cars coming, thankfully. She brushed off her fur coat and inspected her red dress, thankfully there were no stains on it or anything. Her hair was a wreck, she smoothed down the dark tresses and walked purposefully toward Market Street. She hoped that the bakery wasn't closed yet.
She turned her head in the crowd and saw a dark figure running toward her. Unnerved, she was unable to move. He grabbed her elbow, "I found you!"
Baffled, she tried to pull away.
"Y-you don't remember? You have to!"
"I'm… I'm not who you think I am." Jody ran into the crowd.
Eric's heart fell and sank in his chest. She did not remember.
Putomayo. The massive building made of stone had this name carved above it as its name. It was the middle of the day, the building was the color of the night sky; a seemingly contradictory color scheme. Jody entered the building, curious of its origin and purpose. When she stepped inside, the waiting room was lit by several small dim lights built into the plum colored walls. People sat in rows of chairs and idly read magazine, barely noticing the palm-sized white rabbits tripping over their own paws on the floor.
A young Asian girl with skin the color of tea held out a azure bottle to her. Curious, Jody's eye scanned the room. People who were not reading magazines were concocting liquids, dripping them into bottles such as these. The girl nodded as Jody uncapped the bottle and smelled its contents; flowery and fragrant. It was then the rabbits stopped hopping and turned to her. Jody froze in place as she saw their claws slide out from their paws, nearly twelve rabbits began crawling to her, their claws clacking against the stone floors.
Tiny whispering voices that grew as they slithered closer, "Want you… need you…"
Jody dropped the bottle and ran from the room into the next, the rabbits weren't fast enough to chase her here. The silence of the room was cool and liquid, as though the air itself was massaging the tension from her. The floors were slate marble, glittering in the dim lights, there were more chairs, hallways branched out beyond her sight.
She turned quickly, heart racing at the sudden disruption. She followed the voice as it bounced off the walls, finally ending next to a large scarlet door. As she got closer to the door, something glimmered on the wall beside the door.
"Jody! Can you hear me?"
"Y-yeah! I'm here!"
The glittering spot beside the door grew into a lopsided mirror the color of the floor. When she looked into it, instead of her own reflection, she saw a familiar face, that of kind savior who had haunted her days. The man who rarely revealed himself even when her mind summoned him.
"Find the cabin in the field! The field nearby is fully bloomed- gold! Bright gold! And green-"
"Eric? What cabin? Where? Eri-"
Suddenly the scene shifted. There was no sound but her breath.
Not even realizing she'd closed them, Jody opened her eyes. She was laying on a crimson couch in a cabin. It wasn't very furnished; the room was devoid of electric lights, but a small fireplace filled the space with a smoky, comforting smell. She turned to notice a window right above the couch. The cerulean sky had never been so clear in her waking hours.
Eric bolted through the emerald fields. He had left his umbrella in the Putomayo mirror house. He'd left his bowler hat where it fell as he ran, he pulled off his long coat and threw it to the ground, the April air was much too warm for such a heavy coat. There was no way he would let her go this time. He knew where she would be, he knew she would not leave. He would not let her memories fade.
He stumbled into his front door, panting. He caught his breath momentarily as he turned the knob. Jody immediately stood as the door opened. Their eyes met and she ran to him, holding onto him tightly. He returned the embrace, having longed for this reunion. The warmth, her smell, all of it was there; entirely too much to bear.
"I found you…" he murmured, holding her tightly.
"I thought you were gone." She didn't let go for a second, "It's been so long…"
"It wasn't long at all, you know. It's only been a day."
"What?" Jody was absolutely nonplussed. She pulled back and looked at him. "I haven't seen you in days! Weeks!"
He smiled knowingly, "What a difference a day makes."
Suddenly it all made sense to her, tears began to well in her eyes, "If I stay right here, promise you'll never leave me."
"I can't promise that."
"But I don't want to lose you again!" As hard as she tried to keep them from falling, the tears ran down freely, "I just keep forgetting you and even when I don't, I never know where you are!"
Eric held onto her again, "Then I'll just keep finding you here."
Jody shook her head, "It's not enough, I need you when I'm awake and I'm here."
Quietly, Eric whispered into her hair, "I'll find a way."
It was then Jody noticed that the sun was setting. Orange and goldenrod blazed across the sky; frightening neon shapes working their way into the horizon. The emerald grass beneath the sky was just as brightly colored. She found herself running in it, holding onto Eric's hand. Jody didn't need to hear his voice or see him, she knew he was right beside her. Tears were still streaking her face, but right then she didn't care. She felt him there and knew he would always be.
They passed by other people who were also in the bright field. However, they were walking the other way, all buzzing loudly with their own conversations. It was then Jody started to lose her breath and her chest hurt. The sky opened up like heaven. Then everything went black.
Still, she heard the buzzing sound of people talking. Then came a clapping sound, like several people applauding. So strange, they were outside, where could a clapping come from? A cool breeze flew by and her eyes opened. Her head still felt fuzzy, Jody leaned her head forward and realized she was in the train station. The schedule boards started clacking all at once, signaling the new batch of incoming trains. I must've fallen asleep, she thought. There was that giant statue of the cat tail again. There were three sets of lights on the tips; green, orange, and violet.
"You okay, sweetie?" She heard Eric say.
She nodded and looked at him as though with new eyes, "I had the craziest dream about us."
She turned to look at him, but realized nobody was there. It was 10:01. Her train was scheduled to arrive in 44 minutes. Her sinuses burned as she fought the tears in her eyes. He was gone.