The hours felt like slow purposed pin pricks across my body throughout the day. Each one a nervous reminder of what likely awaited me that night, when the lights went out and no one was around to witness what would be revealed to me, as I woke the following morning, as nothing more than images locked away in my deep subconscious mind. Suddenly, my dull uneventful life was a lot more meaningful in the light of day. My dead-end job as a waitress, serving perverse old drunkards who only wants to shove their beer soiled dollars into my uniform top, held new weight as a public servant who provided a connection between the customer and their needs no matter how insignificant.
With the punch of my timecard, my internal clock began to tick down the seconds leading to the next installment of my dream, and I could not have been more anxious to stay awake than I was now. On the drive home, I decided to stop at a little coffee shop. A kindly old waitress poured me a coffee, smiling to me in the same way my mother once had whenever I came home from college after mid-terms.
"I know just how you feel deary." She said.
I only smiled back at her as I knew her intent behind her words, after all, I had said them many times myself to customers who probably looked a lot like I did at that moment.
"Can you leave the pot?" I asked, "I will be here for a little while."
She sat the kettle on the table and turned away without saying another word to me.
An hour in, the coffee shop began to settle in with its "regular" customer base and the occasional group of teens trying to come down from their night of partying and engaging in drug use, their clothing still reeking of weed mixed with heavy nicotine, hoping the burnt coffee would assist them in sobering up enough to return home. My eyelids were beginning to feel heavy on my face and the coffee pot was long remiss of caffeine, when the waitress approached my booth and sat down opposite me.
"In my profession-" she began replacing the coffee pot with another steaming kettle full of fuel for my bloodshot eyes, "we begin to take on a whole other role unrelated to public service. Mental evaluation becomes a learned skill, especially for seasoned veterans like myself, and I can tell there is something on your mind sweetie. Do you want to talk about it maybe?"
It was already after 1AM and my mind was swimming. The coffee was no longer affecting me as I had hoped it would, so conversation would certainly help stimulate me. Perhaps even make sense of this newfound fear in me with falling asleep.
"There is this dream I keep having, where I wake up and only remember the last thing I saw. The dream never changes and I have had this dream nightly for nearly a month now. I wake up in a cold sweat, wrapped in my sheets and blanket, leading me to believe whatever I was dreaming must have been frightful and violent to wake in such a manner."
To my surprise, the woman seemed authentically interested in what I was saying. She reached into her smock and pulled from it her notepad and pen she used to take orders, and began to write.
"Are you walking at or away from the light?"
Her words might as well have been physical objects thrown in my direction. I snapped back into my seat and eyed her suspiciously. "How do you know about the light?"
It was how her demeanor remained unchanged in her answering me that captivated my attention the most. She stopped writing, sat down her pen and raised her head looking me straight in the eyes and said, "There's always a light, sweetie." She then picked up her pen and continued writing. Afterward, she took the notepad and tore the page, she had written on, folding it into a square and slid it across the table to me.
"It's nearly closing time, deary. Even this old lady needs her beauty rest," she said getting up from the booth. "If you ever need to talk, you can find me there. Fear is such a crippling emotion and is truly the crutch of humanity. In all of my years on this Earth, I have never found answers to things which I did not pursue further beyond my own limitations. Perhaps you should embrace the unknown as well." She smiled and turned for the door behind me. I never even heard the door close, lost in my struggle to stay awake, which diminished with every breath I took. I could no longer fight the exhaustion and fatigue overwhelming my senses. I threw some tips onto the table and stumbled sleepily out the door.
Home was about a ten minute drive from the coffee shop, provided I did not catch every red-light along the way. Somehow, I managed to make it to the car, start the engine and back out from the parking lot without hitting another car or some foolish kid. It must have been after three in the morning or close to it. The streets were void of traffic, aside from the occasional drunk driver weaving in and out of the lanes ahead of me. I had drifted myself, several times, along the way, feeling my head roll back onto my shoulders. If I did not stop the car then, someone was going to get hurt or worse. The steering wheel turned towards a partially empty Motel lot, parking in front of the lobby, where the neon lights shone onto the hood, providing me enough security to feel safe enough to pass out. The car had just barely managed to stop inside the white outlined square and the shifter slide into park, when my eyes closed on me.
The light exploded in my eyes, the searing heat burning straight into my brain, penetrating the deepest darkest recesses of my unconscious self. I could only stand in awe, like a deer caught in the oncoming headlights of a car, trying to see through the hot heat in hopes that I could make out something on the other end, and finding only intense pain that course through my body from my head down into my feet. I woke, fighting the constricting sheets, kicking and screaming as I rolled out from bed and ricocheting off one wall after another towards the bathroom, my hands scanning the walls for the light-switch, hovering over the sink and dry-heaving into it. It was the worse pain I had ever felt. The nausea alone was enough, but the pounding in my brain was like reverb from a giant kick drum. Instinctively, I turned on the tap and splashed cold water in my face. The dream was the same; but, this time, something had changed. I had never woken so violently before and now an image stuck in my head, behind my eyelids, like the afterimage of an object that I was no longer looking at.
A doorway of light flooding the silhouette of a girl or a woman, was this me? The image was firmly imprinted on both my conscious and subconscious mind, unable to escape it now even in the waking world. Every blink, every momentary pause to collect my thoughts, the image was there. When I emerged from the bathroom, I was tearful and somber. I felt haunted by something I did not understand and burdened by something bigger than me. This feeling of hopeless and fear was further inflamed the moment a knock came to the door. When I opened it, the body of the old waitress reached for me, her face replaced by the same intense light from my dream. I stumbled back and felt myself fall over the edge of the bed.
I woke up in the car, outside the motel, to someone knocking on the driver-side window. The older gentleman, who introduced himself to me as the front desk clerk, asked if I was all right and offered the continental breakfast to me free of charge.
"Maybe I can grab a coffee to go?" I said opening the door.
Inside the lobby, I poured a hot cup of coffee and sipped from it. My dream had advanced, and even incorporated the waitress from the coffee shop. The chill bumps on my forearms intensified as my fingertips felt the square paper note in my pocket. I took the note from pocket, unfolding it carefully, and read from it.
The hallway stretched on forever, dark and intangible to my senses, with only a tiny spark in the distance. I felt cold and naked, knowing I had fallen asleep fully clothed on the bed outside the covers in case the drugs had a negative reaction on me. I could feel the prickly end of something tickle my arms and legs, feeling like feathers blowing against the exposed skin. My feet were also bare, stepping onto something soft and moist in the darkness. The spark rapidly began to expand far beyond me. The darkness in front fading away into obscurity as a hot heat rushed against the chilled skin of my face. One cautious step, and then another towards the light at the end of the hallway brought me closer to the magnificent presence before me. This was the moment I would wake in a frenzy, fighting with the sheets and trying to make sense of things. I waited for several long moments before realizing I had finally crossed over the threshold into the next phase of my long journey.
I stood inches from the light, the pain I had felt before had not come to mind. I had never before heard the sound of radiance, but now I could distinctly hear it in my ears. It was the sound of everything and nothing at all, like the vacuum of space removing the impact of a massive comet hurling through the cosmos more silent than the feet of the most skilled assassin. It was deafening in tone and I felt, for a moment, as though the frailty of my human existence would collapse under the great weight of the light cascading through the open doorway. I reached for the light and was surprised to find a hand extend from the doorway and greet me, taking me by the hand and gently holding it. It began to rain feathers, soft light appendages of an unseen wing, tickling every corner of my person, reaching up with my free hand to snatch the other piercing through the light for me. I then felt the heat upon my shoulders, the sensation of bone cracking in places and protruding out from my skin. I continued to feel now pain. A force tugged at my arms, trying to pull me inside the doorway. I held firm and tugged back in hopes that I could drag the unseen from its ethereal hiding place. What was a tug, at first, was now a forceful pull that quickly began to overpower me. The weight shifted from me to the unseen presence, and I felt the touch of the light against my face, incredibly soothing while terribly discombobulating at the same time. Soon, the darkness was gone and I along with it.
Flashes of a thousand years of war, demons and monstrosities overwhelmed my senses, followed by the infinite peace of a billion years of wisdom touching my shoulders and blessing my spirit with the freedom of choice and the power of knowledge. Gifts from our God, a voice whispered to me. That was the moment I felt as though I were in a free fall, racing down through clouds of silver and gold, reaching with my arms for solid ground. "Not with your arms." A voice said to me. "Reach with your wings, and fly."
The wind caught beneath the span of my wings and my body lifted with its embrace. The world below was an ocean of possibility and a sea of tragedy bent with the flawed and often plagued human condition. And then I knew my purpose, as well as the meaning of the old woman's words, "In all of my years on this Earth, I have never found answers to things which I did not pursue further beyond my own limitations." Words spoken by an Angel, my guardian angel.
The next morning I woke, feeling refreshed and energized. I had not slept this well in months, perhaps even forever; but, looked forward to more nights like it to come.
The door to the Motel lobby opened and in stepped an elderly woman from the rain. Her shoes were dry, as well as her clothes and she did not appear to carry any umbrella. She stepped up to the front desk and rung the little bell. The man behind the desk, turned his gaze from the small television set and looked at her without emotion to his crinkled old face.
"My key, if you please."
"The help is not suppose to leave the premises."
"Oh, come now. I did not stray too far. Besides, it was worth it."
"We'll see." He said sliding the key out to her.
"Thank you, Wolfie!"
"Call me that again Muse and see what comes your way!"
She giggled and disappeared down the hallway to her room.
The man angrily reached beneath the desk and switched on the sign outside. "NO-VACANCY" and slowly the Motel faded into the backdrop of life, until nothing more remained but an empty rain drenched lot.