The Way Things Move

My college roommate came back worried. She’d been on the phone with her twin sister. Her sister had been woken up for a week by a dream. The same dream, more or less, every night.

“There’s an old woman in the basement. But she’s not moving right.”

Maybe the dream was so unsetting the first night that it wedged in her sister’s mind. Her brain just snagged on it.

“The old woman is pacing. And my sister’s on the basement stairs, looking across the room, watching. The old woman paces back and forth along the far wall. But the old woman’s feet aren’t moving right. They’re kind of shuffling, almost.”

The sisters hadn’t liked the unfinished basement before the dream: The ceiling hung too low. Loose wires cast strange shadows. When they had to fetch laundry, they tended to dart back up the steps after.

“The old woman mutters to herself as she goes. The freakiest part, though, is still the weird pacing. The old woman gets to one side, and she sort of hobbles around like a normal old person. But then she’s on the other side in just a few seconds.”

The movement stood out. Enough that it always caught the attention of her sister’s dream-self, rooting her each night to the wooden basement step.

“And every time, there’s something that kind of gives the old woman away. Like my sister realizes there’s something wrong. Once, the feet weren’t on the floor. There was an inch of space between the floor and feet. Whatever it is, right when my sister gets it, that’s when the old woman notices her.”

The dream worked like the EKG of a heart attack: Up and down. Up and down. A jagged, tense heartbeat. Then the spike: the transformation of the dreamer—against her will—from observer to actor.

“The old woman knows that my sister’s there, and my sister knows that she knows. The old woman slows down. She stops. And she tips her head towards the steps.”

The sleeping mind can be cruel. It’ll teach you how a monster moves before it moves against you. Before the monster even knows you’re there, you’ll see its speed, its strength, the unsettling flexibility of its overlong fingers. You’ll have to imagine, before you run, how its limbs might feel under your skin.

“The old woman flies across the room. She grabs my sister’s face.”

Closeness without consent is a special kind of horror. Repulsion, anger, and fear… all three in such rapid succession that the senses overload. It all becomes panic.

“The old woman hisses, right into her face,
There’s something down here.’
And then my sister wakes up.”

I asked my roommate a few days later about her sister.

The dream had stopped. The old woman had gone to pace some other dim, rarely used room.

But both sisters shared the same creeping concern that whatever “something” had been “down there” had not left with her.

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