Work Header

Dreams in Glass

Work Text:

I will attempt to record this incident rationally. There are researchers in Edinburgh who are making a science of the study of sleep, and perhaps my strange dreams and the things they urge me towards will aid them. I beg that you accord me the same respect as you read this, and do not seek to commit me if my flights of fancy seem too wild. These are research notes, not pages torn from some lovesick girl’s torrid notebook. I am aware that my feelings are improper, perhaps even indecent, but it does not behoove a lady of science to disguise the truth:

Last night, I went to bed with Miss Mori’s song cupped between my hands and pressed gently to my ear. There are other songs in my room. They dangle from macramé nets above my bed and when the sun has set and I’ve blown out the nightlight they seem to take on extra strength. They glow like strange stars, like the sweep of a lighthouse over dark waters. They guide me to sleep.

Last night, I dreamed that my bed was a boat. Its practical, dark sheets and thick blankets billowed out into sails. The mermaid songs surrounded me. Stars in the water. Stars in the sea. Miss Mori came to my bedside [the aft side], and clung to the bed frame, watching me. Her dark, wet hair draped against her shoulders. Her small fingers gripped tight against the wood. Her eyes, sad and searching. Her tail, unseen, unspoken, but beckoning nonetheless.

I ached to jump into the water with her. The ocean was created before man. The ocean will exist long after the last trumpet has sounded. I ached for its ancient embrace almost as much as I ached for Miss Mori's. I wanted a tail. A dark, glittery tail to twine against her silvery scales. We would twist together like the dark and light koi in my great aunt's Oriental etchings.

Dear Auntie Gertrude taught me the basics of catching mermaid songs when I was little more than a maid myself. My parents did not approve.

Miss Mori, my friend since childhood, stayed by my bed-boat a long time, watching me. Other mermaids splashed in the near distance, singing and cheering. I could tell by the tight, uncomfortable grip Miss Mori kept on my mattress that she longed to join them. She mouthed some words at me, but I refused to acknowledge them. I stayed towards the middle of my raft. I did not let my toes dangle in the water. I knew on a deep, instinctual level, that, though it was a dream, I needed to stay dry. To enter the water would be surrender. I opened my mouth to say something to Miss Mori. To ask her to return to land? To forgive me for bringing her into the path of temptations she was ill-suited to resist? To ask her to forgive me for not following her into the foam?

I don’t know what I would have said. I didn’t say a thing. She seemed so much happier when she let go. Radiant. She slipped beneath the waves, but her song lingered for a time. A single soaring note telling a story of confinement, lost love, and, finally, freedom.

The waves slapped rhythmically against the side of my bed. The song faded. The stars went out. The waves continued.

I woke this morning with blood by my ear and the remains of a glass sphere shattered between my arms. The mermaid songs above my bed are dim against the red glow of sunrise.

I do not know if they will light again.

Today, I will go to the beach. I will scrape my toes in the sand. I will smell the salt. I will disregard propriety and wade deep in the water with my skirts flowing outwards around me like the petals of a sea anemone.

I do not know if I will see Miss Mori today or ever again, but, if I do, I am awake now and I know what I will say -