Here’s the thing about having infants who wake up throughout the night: you’ll have incredible recall of your dreams. I’ve often written about my dreams here, which range from bizarre to horrific. Please step back in time with me to my dream last night, ended by the gasping screech of Number Two as he awoke in his crib.
On our back patio is a small planter box, about 18” long and 8” wide. It’s planted with Italian flat-leaf parsley that keeps reseeding itself and nestled among the green stalks is the black and white flaky shell of a mussel, something my wife dropped in for the purported benefit of soil amendment.
As I stand looking at this planter I see something mostly buried in the soil, pink fading to brown, like a slice of roast beef. I peer down at this meaty thing in the planter and see it has a mouth, kind of like this:
What should one do when presented with an odd and disgusting thing? If you’ve grown up with access to the outdoors and wild areas, the answer will come in a flash: find a poking stick and start probing. I procure myself a long cane reed and gently press at the meaty thing in the planter. It squirms and retracts into the soil. I press harder and the surface of the soil bulges, splits apart, and spills over the sides like coffee grounds. Casting off its blanket of dirt is some creature that fills the planter like a London broil in a bento box. Awoken, it begins to thrash around and hiss, contorting its body and thwacking the ground with a muscular thump. Not the corpulent pale sac that is a grub or the slick scale of a fish, this creature is meaty and dark.
Now agitated, spinning in the air, flailing, and hissing, the creature works its way to the side yard, startling a neighborhood cat who slinks off into the leaves despite my calls to have it catch the creature. Smart kitty, stay away from this thing.
And then I’m awake, reorienting myself. I’m not standing in the side yard in the late afternoon sunlight watching a creature disappear into a hedge, I’m lying on my side in the dark and being asked to change my infant son’s diaper. Who’s to say what’s more real? For me, I’m glad the baby is real and the creature is gone. But it must exist somewhere, hissing and burrowing into soil with its blind head and rings of teeth. Somewhere I’ll visit again in my dreams.