BIMA & Hiatus: Quarantine Dreamscapes by Red Sheets
BIMA is excited to announce a new partnership with Hiatus Magazine, an online compilation of quarantined teenagers’ most creative works. On BIMA’s social media, we will be featuring pieces from Hiatus’ spring 2020 issue featuring works by their teenage contributors created and imagined while sheltering at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Any written works will appear here on BIMA’s blog for you to read in its entirety! You can also see all the works from Hiatus’ most recent issue on their website here.
Hiatus is currently looking for contributions for their next fall issue focusing on DEMOCRACY! Are you a teenage creator? Or do you know someone who is? Submissions are due by November 1. Learn how to submit your work here!
Now on to today’s featured work!
Content warning: This work contains vivid imagery
Quarantine Dreamscapes by Red Sheets
We are running through a glitched treescape. Segments of the universe keep falling out of place behind my feet. She’s behind us, faceless, claws outstretched, surfing on oblivion. We reach a stump, freshly severed at the hands of a name I cannot place. The rings expand and contract. I stand there, mesmerized, and he begins to count them as they breathe. He keeps losing track. I can feel her getting closer. I am crying streams of pollen, rusty and dry. The ground starts to unravel like threadbare cosmic fabric. He grabs my hand and presses my palm into the center of the stump. I am falling.
I land in a shower, wearing only frilly socks and Mary Janes. The water is running and dirt slides into portraits of unknown figures on the floor. My hair sags, pulling against my scalp, snakes straining to be free. I shake my hair furiously. Sleeping wasps fall out, one by one, swirling with the dirt. The first begins to stir, and I crush it under my velvet heel. In seconds, I’m maneuvering in frantic zigzags to stomp on them where they land.
An uncontrollable buzzing beats against my eardrums as one rises alive from under the steam and hurls itself into my mouth. I catch it between my teeth and declare it mine. The others levitate up from the floor and lifelessly follow their kin. Swaths of wasps on my tongue congeal into chewing gum. It expands in a viscous bubble, forcing itself down my throat. I start to suffocate.
I am breathing again, my head stuck out the window of a train. It’s running towards a building with millions of lights, dancing in the buttery slog of the dense night air. There are ten other women, dressed in glittering suits of deep indigo. They are chattering with a champagne buzz simmering in their throats. I glance down and see we are crossing a black lake, thick with oil. The train rolls to a stop and we jump from the car, running eagerly to the building. Inside sliding translucent doors, a man with no face asks for identification from us. I shove past him and through another set of doors into a grand hall. Tables bursting with people span for miles until the horizon peters off. I hear laughing, crying, screaming.
There is a boy sitting in a vortex of silence, eyes boring straight through my skull. I blink and I am sitting next to him.
“It’s been a while,” he says.
“Too long,” I reply.
“Did you miss me?”
“I didn’t know you.”
He reaches out to my cheek and suddenly we are suspended high in the obsidian sky, below furious stars. There is deafening, roaring silence, and then I am being kissed. The stars spit on my skin and leave sizzling pockmarks. He tastes of a profound emptiness. They always do. Pyretic fever engulfs my body and I dissolve into the great nothingness.
I reform in a room filled with mannequins. Thin and petite, they display white silk dresses with decadent, colorful hats. They regard me with an aloof stare. In the corner, a boy is playing a piano, but no sound flows from its keys.
A finger taps on my shoulder. I turn around and a girl with deep brown eyes smiles without her teeth. She pulls me past the mannequins into a grand ballroom. Above us, the ceiling swims with angels whose eyes remain fixed on us as they groom their wings. An orchestra of ghosts picks up their instruments and crafts a concerto that fills my ears with the smell of saffron and poppies. The girl takes my hand and spins me into an intricate dance that my limbs seem to have a memory of.
“Who are you?” I ask.
She just laughs.
We move together, intertwined and godly, until our feet lift off the floor and we are bathed in golden light. After orbiting for hours in harmony, I grow a boundless joy, followed by the shattering clarity that we cannot stay like this forever.
The instruments clatter to the ground, exploding in a cacophony that shocks us from our reverie. I begin to weep at the loss of beauty, and the girl wipes my tears before they hit my cheekbones. She lifts up my chin and regards me curiously before stepping away and tearing off through a gilded door frame that appears just as she runs through it. I stand up and sprint after her. Our shoes barely touch the ground as I chase her through a thousand different hallways. She runs wildly, knotting through this labyrinthine mansion of specters. Rooms shutter by in my peripheral vision, snippets of distinct enclaves filled with distorted mirrors, marble statues, and vague, human-like shapes and whispers. She stops in front of a dark wooden archway carved with runes. I catch up and she leads me into a vast room, walls lined with innumerable books. We settle down together on the frigid, glossy floor and she holds my head in her hands.
Her form takes on a glassy transparence. I clench my fists, nails digging deep into my palms, willing her to stay. She wraps her arms around my neck and sobs into my chest. Waves of torment and fear crash from her into me, and in that storm, she whispers her name to me. She lifts her head up and begs me to remember, but I have already forgotten. I can feel my body beginning to rot.
I try to tell her I love her, but my tongue falls out of my mouth onto the floor.
The aroma of stale exhaust fills my lungs, and I open my fresh eyes to a glittery smog. Someone familiar stumbles out of the haze. His long fingers are mindlessly playing a small toy harp, emitting chords containing secrets that bind themselves into my spine. I recognize his jagged smile, always drunk on eternity. His pupils are star-shaped and his nose is sharper than I remember.
“Come in,” he says, and we collapse into each other, tumbling down to the ground. Our arms extend into thick vines and they twine around one another sadly.
“Where have you been?” I ask. Smoke billows from my mouth.
“I am always everywhere,” he responds. His teeth jump from between his lips and dance above us in the air. I watch in a muted awe as betraying words find their way up my ragged throat.
“I need to let you go.” My skull cracks open and my brain crawls out, scuttling onto the floor. I reach for it, but it slides away before my fingertips touch it.
I settle into a new fuzziness, muddled and serene. Warmth spreads through my body and I settle into the safety, if only for a little longer. He laughs and stretches his vine-hands toward the sky, pressing through the ceiling and wandering into infinity.