The Dreaming Girl

By Roberta Allen


Ellipsis Press
November 2011


Beyond the field is the jungle. The jungle surrounds their sleep. The jungle lives at the borders of their sleep.

The jungle is black in the night. Blacker than the sky. Blacker than anything the girl has seen. The girl sees the blackness in a dream. She dreams the blackness. The jungle is too black to see without the dream.

While the German sleeps the girl enters the blackness, enters the dream. The blackness is alive. The girl can feel the life in the blackness. The jungle is big and black and alive. She makes her way through the blackness.

The German's sleep is smooth and sleek as polished stone. There's no place for the girl or the dream in his sleep. From deep inside the dream, she looks out and sees the German sleeping. He is far away, she is thinking. But she is not alone in the dream.

She sees millipedes, and beetle larvae crunching through the solid wood of trees. She sees termites running around their large boil-like nests on the tree trunks. She sees fungi fruiting on the corpses of moths and spiders and giant ants.

In a heap of dung, she sees metallic flies flap their wings and charge one another. She sees beetles, ripe with eggs, feeding. She sees other beetles drag great loads of dung to a hole the female has made. She watches the female carry the dung inside to feed her larvae. She sees males with long rhinoceros-like horns fight fiercely over females and dung. She sees long sleek beetles burrow under the dung for smaller beetles, fly larvae, insect eggs. She sees stingless bees carry dung in pockets on their legs to bring back to their nests.

She sees ants and butterflies feed on bird droppings. She sees large bats search for birds and lizards to bring home to their roosts in hollow trees. By the trees, she sees a profusion of feathers. The remains of their victims she sees lying in the roost holes which are covered with bones, dried blood, and droppings. She sees the holes seething with insect larvae and full grown beetles.

She watches a sloth hang upside down from a limb, high in a tree. She sees the algae growing in its fur. Down below, she sees spiders catching small birds in their sticky nets. She sees the sap of a fallen tree attract clouds of noisy fruit flies.

She sees mosses, ferns, orchids, bromeliads, cacti. She sees thick layers of lichen, algae, and mosses wrap themselves around the trees. She sees ferns growing on mosses, orchids on ferns, pineapples on lichens. She sees vines snaking their way upward or sprawling across the forest floor.

She sees parrots and long-tailed macaws feeding on a fruiting fig tree. In the same tree, she sees monkeys greedily devour the figs. She sees peccaries and pacas and agoutis feed on the fruit which have fallen to the earth while above them, she sees geckos, bobbing their heads and flicking their white-tipped tails, as they defend their territory on the tree trunk.

She sees scorpions lunge from narrow crevices in the fig tree, seizing cockroaches and crickets, while on the forest floor, she sees land snails leave slick mucous trails, she sees frogs cram earthworms into their mouths with their hands, she sees caterpillars eat one another.

She sees an ant queen tear, bite, and rub off her wings after mating in the air. She watches hordes of voracious ants eat slow-moving snakes, gorged with food. She sees other ants inject venomous stings into nestling birds and sleeping frogs. She watches as they carve the creatures into movable chunks.

She sees a multitude of amorous frogs suddenly appear in a newly formed pool, eager to lay their eggs where there are no fish to threaten their young. She hears the din of screeching frogs in the heat of mating.

She sees a pair of disembodied eyes that look like hot orange coals. The eyes belong to a honey bear high in a tree. She sees the honey bear look down on green soupy water, where crocodile eyes glow bright orange in the night. She sees an egret eat a young crocodile while other young crocodiles eat water bugs.

She sees fleas burrow under the skin of a rat. She hears the sharp barks of the rat echo in the blackness. She sees other rats, with flea eggs growing and swelling in their blood: in some, she sees eggs the size of peas, bursting with larvae.

She sees venom smelling like excrement ooze from the glands of millipedes while mosquitoes suck the blood of birds. She sees butterfly larvae, punctured by the sticky hairs of the passionflower, bleed to death as they starve.

On the forest floor, she sees the female scorpion devour the male after mating. She watches a scorpion nearby seize a spider and tear it to bits, while young scorpions ride around on their mother's back.

She sees a fly straddling a butterfly while devouring it. She sees a beetle follow a snail into its shell, biting it and squirting a fluid until the snail is overcome. She sees the female mantis bite off the head of the male while mating.

In a burrow under a tree, she sees young iguanas fight their way out of rubbery eggs. By a pool, she smells the foul musk of turtles, and sees iguanas eat the worm-infested dung of other iguanas. She watches a mantis catch a lizard, and eat it alive. She sees a male tapir sniff a female's urine before they mate. With their long narrow tongues, she sees honey bears lick out the honey in bees' nests.

She sees a puma break a deer's neck by quickly pulling its head to the side. She hears mating pumas scream, their lips curled back, their teeth bared. By a spine-covered tree, she sees a male puma killing its young.

She hears peccaries squeal and grunt as their malodorous scent floats through the forest. She watches an anteater's sharp claws tear open a termite nest and trap the insects with its sticky saliva. She sees an armadillo burrow into a dead snake to get at the maggots.

In a wasp nest, she sees the queen wasp destroying the eggs of the lesser queens. She sees other wasps chew pieces of caterpillar to feed the larvae. She sees blind naked black-skinned chicks emerge from antbird eggs in a tree nearby.

She sees a small viper, coiled, in a thicket of heliconia. She sees a hummingbird come along, attracted by the large red flowers. She watches the viper strike with its fangs.

She sees a giant toad squirt poison from its glands, and two male frogs, arms wrapped around each other, heads thrown back, wrestle on the forest floor. She watches another frog pull off its skin and swallow it, while howler monkeys roar.

All this the girl sees in the dream as she makes her way through the blackness. At first, she feels only the horror and the slime of life. She feels it in her mouth, on her hands, on her skin, in her bowels, on the soles of her feet. But even as she feels the horror and the slime, she sees herself outside of life. She sees herself apart from all the other living things. She makes her way through the jungle, through the blackness without being part of the life and death around her in the dream.

But as she watches all the other living things in the blackness, the horror she feels gives way to wonder. She sees in the dream that she is alive like all the other living things. Watching the life around her isn't enough. She wants to be part of it. She dives into the blackness to be with the other living things. Once she dives into the blackness, she's not outside of life anymore. There is no one watching. There is no one dreaming. There is only the jungle and the blackness. The dream is no longer a dream.

She has broken through to the other side. The other side of the dream is life. She's inside of life now like the other living things. There's no horror here. Life is beyond horror, nightmare, dream, beauty, wonder. But she can only be in life for a little while. After a while she goes off. She needs something less real. The going off is inevitable. She goes back inside the dream.

But even after she is back inside the dream, there is a knowing in the skin, in the body. The knowing is not something to talk about, discuss, or even think about.

The knowing is something that life leaves. It is an invisible mark, an invisible stain. It is the silence in the heart of a sound.

This knowing is the feeling that leaves have when they are touched by the sun. It is the feeling of flying things when they are flying, crawling things when they are crawling, swimming things when they are swimming. It is the feeling that plants have when they shoot from the earth to reach for the stars.

This knowing opens the leaves, the buds, makes the petals fall from flowers. All the living things that burrow in the earth, that hide in the trees know life. This is what the trembling leaves know when the branches sway.

As she walks again in the dream, the leaves touch her with their knowing, the roots touch her, the vines touch her. There is life touching life. The living things that land on her body know her body is land like the earth.

In the dream, she listens to the sounds that life makes: the sounds of knowing; the constant hum, the chatter, the cries, the songs, the clicks, the squeals, the whimpers, the grunts. There are splashes, the flutter of wings, the breathing in, the breathing out.

She is breathing in, breathing out. She is coming up from deep inside the dream. She is waking from the dream of the jungle to the dream of the room in the green house. The German lives in this dream. He lies beside her on the bed. He is stretching. The light is starting. The light is thin and watery and purple. The light is like a faint stain in the air. It's too soon to see the white glow of the sun.

Pushing the hair from their eyes and stretching takes all their attention. Before the sounds of the day can be heard, the voices of sleep must be still. The light casts its faint purplish glow on their bodies. The sheet is pushed aside. The wrinkled sheet. The sheet he brought from home to comfort him in strange beds.

She can't tell where he leaves off and she begins. She is touching skin that could be his or hers. The skin could even be the sheet. The sheet is soft and damp like their bodies.

He was awake. But now he sleeps again. He is lying on his side, dreaming. She can tell by the way his lips move slightly. He is a dream dreaming. She tries to imagine his dream as she stares at his face.

Slowly, he wakes up again. He pulls her down on top of him. He fits so perfectly inside her. It makes her feel that she must be empty when he's not there. She is lost in the dream of him. She sighs, her head back, her eyes closed. She surrounds him with her heat as she sails through the sky like the light from a comet. Afterwards they cover themselves with the sheet. They sleep again. They go into the great nowhere.

They are brought back by the sounds of the day. The dogs bark. The chickens squawk. There are roosters. There are the loud froglike croaks of toucans. The low-pitched calls of motmots. The chatter of swallows. The loud back and forth calling of antbirds. In the distance, the monkeys roar. But loudest of all are the children.

The beauty, her sister, and the little brother come to the windows, see them lying under the sheet. They scream with excitement, jump up and down. They think they have caught them in the act. The beauty dances round, laughing, staring at their white toes sticking out beneath the sheet.

The girl and the German are laughing. They find it funny that the children are standing there, watching them. They find it funny because they are happy. The old woman, their grandmother, doesn't find it funny. "Get away from there!" she yells.