Outside the Window
By: Tracy Beard
It was hours after dusk on a dreary Thursday evening. The sun went down early in March in the city of Vancouver. The days were beginning to warm, but the nights were still frigid. The house was quiet except for the low hum of the refrigerator. I was alone that night. I sat in the living room by the warm fire wrapped in a blanket and curled up on the recliner. I took a sip of the newly opened bottle of Chardonnay. The taste was soft and buttery. Today wine makers emphasize mineral notes instead of the creamy, silky textures of the old California Chardonnays. It was nice to savor something familiar. The red and orange flames crackling in the fireplace danced across my wine glass and took on a life their own.
The stars hid behind the clouds and peeked out like small children playing hide and seek. The moon moved in and out of darkness, casting an eerie glow on the night. Everything seems different when the sun goes down. Darkness changes the mood of the world. The temperature outside was dropping, and the night was closing in. After a day of sunshine the night sky seemed dark and bleak.
I arose from my chair and meandered to the window. I could feel the icy night air reaching through my window like the tentacles of an octopus trying to capture me. The chill gripped me. Was something moving slowly between the trees in the park across the street? I didn’t notice anything unusual on my walk in the early afternoon, but tonight there was an odd sensation in the air. I watched through my window and saw a shape rustling in the darkness. What could be out there? A part of me itched to go outside and investigate, but the goosebumps suddenly claiming rites to my body kept me grounded inside with the door locked. The window was slightly ajar and I heard nothing but stillness in the night. I watched and I waited.
A few minutes later I turned the lights off in the living room to see if I could get a better look at the movement across the street. Something seemed to be trying to hide and yet wanted to be noticed. The distance between my window and the shape was about half a block away from me. The wind was blowing ever so gently; maybe I was just imagining things. Could there be something or someone out there? As I stood quietly not tearing my eyes off the scene in front of me, I heard a whisper on the wind. The sound was so quiet I leaned closer to the window to hear. Within seconds I could see the shape moving again. Then without hesitation the shape formed into a figure resembling a person. The figure was wrapped in a dark cloak concealing its head and protecting it from the night air. It seemed to be looking directly at me. Could it see me? In the darkness I was completely still, but I felt its gaze peering into my very soul.
Moments later I heard the faint whisper carried across the gentle breeze, “It’s me.” My mind raced, me who? A terrifying chill raced up my spine. The figure pulled back its cloaked hood and stepped out into the tiniest glimpse of light shining from the lamppost diagonally across the street. The figure whispered again, “It’s me.” I was overwhelmed with a sense of doom.
Suddenly a realization hit me: I know that voice–it’s… it’s mine, but not mine. I’m here in the house; how can I be outside in the darkness? My mind must be been playing tricks on me. I sat down on the sofa and tried to collect my thoughts. Am I going crazy? Momentarily, I was back at the window questioning my sanity. The figure was still standing in the shadows, but it had taken a few steps closer. The voice repeated a third time, “It’s me.”
Shaken, I whispered back to the figure, “Who are you and what do you want?” With a slight tilt of its head, the figure seemed alarmingly pleased. Dread permeated the air. “You know me,” it said, in an unnerving voice. “I spend my days hidden, but at night I reveal myself. Whether you are asleep or awake, I come to spend time with you. I enter your dreams in those moments of transcendence between sleep and wakefulness in the night. I am your fear. I am all your insecurities and the part of you that you reveal to no one. Tonight I wanted you to meet me.”
As I stood frozen with alarm, I saw another figure exit the park. It stepped forward into the dim light. This figure was different but the same. It too was cloaked to cover itself from the darkness, but with it came a sense of calm. The first figure turned toward the second, and I could feel the anger seething within it. It was apparent that they were enemies on some level. The second figure spoke and said, “It’s me.” This time instead of a feeling of dread there was joy and peace. The figure said, “I have come so that you can be all you want to be. I am your hidden dreams and desires. Talk with me and do not be afraid. Join me and I will set you free. Do not hold me captive to the night. Let me help you.”
Suddenly I couldn’t breathe. Maybe I was dreaming, but it seemed so real. I kept blinking to see if the figures would disappear into the night, but they stood there unmoving. I felt like there was a battle raging within me. It consumed my mind, heart, and soul. I felt squeezed on the inside and trapped like there was nowhere to go. It seemed to go on for hours, and then finally a wave of calm rushed over me and I could breathe. Is my subconscious just playing tricks on me? I took a deep breath and sat down again. Why is this happening?
Maybe it’s real. Maybe it’s time. Lately I have felt stuck in a rut. My life seems to have little joy or meaning, and I know I should be using my time to do something with promise. My days are filled with activities, but my passion for life is waning. What has meaning and thrills my soul?
Again, quietly I heard the voice of the first figure, “Look at me.” I stood up and approached the window. The figure moved closer, and I could just make out the outline of the face; it was similar to mine yet different. I could see the menace in its eyes, but it was different now. It was angry but weaker than before. It didn’t hold the same gripping control over me as it did when it first appeared. The second figure stepped up, and its face looked similar to mine; and the eyes—yes, the eyes were the same. There was longing, a deep longing within them. I saw it now. It was the same look I saw in the mirror each morning. Something was missing in my life, something that was preventing me from being me. It was my fear.
Before my eyes the second figure grew taller and stronger. There was a light emanating from within it. I was drawn to it. It looked directly towards me and said, “It’s ok to want more. It’s ok to reach for your desires; they are not harmful. They are a big part of who you are, and you have been hiding them deep inside. Set them free; run toward them. Don’t be afraid anymore.” Suddenly I was awash with new confidence, a drive and purpose to be all I could be. I hadn’t had this feeling in so many years.
I looked out into the darkness and watched the first figure fade away into the night. The second figure grew brighter. I glimpsed a slight smile materializing across its face. The words floated on the night air and said, “Yes, reach for it. Do not wait any longer. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you.” I took a deep breath and felt the delicate breeze on my face. Maybe I should. Maybe I should pursue that list of things that I am so passionate about. What have I been waiting for? I need to reach for my dreams and make all I can out of this life I have been given. There is no dress rehearsal, and we only get one chance to live.
The figure grew fainter. There was a sense of harmony in the air. Another whisper drifted towards me as it disappeared into the night, “Go now, and do not let anything stop you!” I sat back down on the sofa to collect my thoughts. After a moment, I rose and reached for a pad of paper and a pencil. I began writing quickly for fear of losing a thought. It was not the first time I’d started this list, but this time it came with new motivation, purpose, and spirit. I assembled a list of all my dreams and desires. Slowly, with precision, I wrote down all the details necessary to make each one of my dreams come to life.