For three consecutive nights, the raven-haired woman haunts me in my sleep. She appears in the pale-blue doorway wearing a white gown and staring directly at me. Her outstretched arms touch either side of the opening, as she stands dead-center.
I am full of curiosity as her dark and violent eyes hauntingly entice me to approach her. What does she want from me? She is light on her feet and I cannot speak, I am voiceless inside the dream. Trapped in a darkening and gloomy fog, my heart is racing. I can’t see through the darkness. A clearway emerges and she is waiting for me, suspended, floating over a rosebush with large deathly thorns. Fear overcomes me and I sense danger. I am desperate to get away from her and I feel the urge to start running. She draws me in hypnotically to a garden I’ve never seen before. Flowers are absent, they don’t grow here and the ground is soft enough to swallow me whole. This place doesn’t have an exit!
A nighthawk is perched high on a tree, naked of leaves and branches. It stares at me with its stunning and piercing eyes. Then, without warning it stretches its large and powerful wings and with precision, flies right at me. I am startled by the attack and drop to the ground in fear of being swooped. I get up and the chase begins. I can’t run fast enough, my feet feel like lead and I’m moving in slow motion. I can’t control my body, no matter how hard I try. I am paralyzed and it is futile to try. The raven-haired woman soared above me. I lost my sense of direction and was running blind, desperately hoping to find my way back towards the light. She let out a painful and howling cry but, I just kept running. The Nighthawk was close, I could hear the whoosh of its powerful wings fanning through the air. It shrieked a deafening cry. I look up towards the black sky and see a line of stars, shining bright and glistening. I follow their direction and pray they lead me out of this horrible place. My chest is pounding, I am running for my life and for what seems like an eternity. I have never felt so scared and alone. I begin feeling dazed and I am confused as to why I am here or how I will escape.
The raven-haired woman calls “stay” but, I am terrified as sweat pours from my brow into my eyes, stinging and blurring my vision. I don’t for a moment stop and do what she says, it can only be trickery. Then, suddenly the nighthawk veers on ahead in the direction of an open and brightly lit space. I see it and my senses tell me to follow. I am exhausted and begin to feel faint, I collapse to the ground and my body is motionless. Lying in defeat, I surrender to the raven-haired woman and the nighthawk, who have been hunting me for the longest time but I suddenly realize, I can no longer sense their presence, they are nowhere to be seen.
I lift my head, heavy from the lack of oxygen. Squinting, I see an open door. “I made it!” I thought. This was my chance to be free of this hellish nightmare. The raven-haired woman disappeared from the door and as I lay trembling in a pool of blood with grazed knees and palms, I scream “somebody help me!” “Can anybody hear me?”
Lost and alone in a colorless world, the darkness is cold and still and bare. I don’t want to die here. Or, am I already dead? At this point, I realize, the raven-haired woman and her companion, the nighthawk, are nowhere in sight. My chance to make a run for it is now. I muster all the strength I have left and drag myself to the open doorway. I don’t stop, I don’t turn to look back.
I wake from my subconscious state, frightened and shaken from the ordeal. My breathing steadies and I am immediately able to recollect all the events that occurred. My feeling of entrapment was an experience that I don’t want to go through ever again. It felt dangerously real. I am back in my bed, awake and aware of my surroundings. I am safe. I am free.
Fotoula Reynolds is a writer of poetry, born in Australia of Greek heritage. She lives in the Dandenong Ranges in southern Australia. She convenes a poetry reading group in her local community and regularly attends and participates in spoken word events in and around the city of Melbourne. She is the author of three poetry collections and is published widely in anthologies, journals, reviews and magazines. Fotoula is a 2019 Pushcart Prize nominee.