I had a dream last night. I dreamed I walked to the Door and it was open and I walked through it and it was dark and cold and wet. The ground was muddy and my bare feet made squishy noises as I walked. I could barely see an inch in front of me.
Then the world exploded into light, as fire lit up the sky for a few seconds, and I could see. I was on a battlefield. I should have been worried, I should have been scared, but I wasn't. I walked steadily towards one of the trenches, past barbed wire and bullets, and climbed down the ladder into the trench itself. Men and boys in overcoats and gas masks clutching guns rushed past me, not even noticing I was there.
More men walked past me, except this time one of them stopped. He looked at me and then said "You."
I didn't speak. I don't know if I couldn't or if it was just because I didn't know what to say. The man continued, "You are here. That must mean it's close. The end." He looked me up and down and then removed his mask, revealing a middle-aged man with dark brown hair and scars on his jaw. "Do you know where you are?" I still said nothing. "You're in Wipers. During the Great War." Wipers?
Ypres. I was in the Battle of Ypres. This was William Hope Hodgson. "You don't know yet, do you?" Hodgson asked me. "What you are?" I still said nothing. "This may help," he said and lifted up his bag, removing a book I recognized. "Only copy ever printed, I made sure of that. What's your name?"
Martin, I said. I saw him remove a pen and write something in the book.
"Here," he said and handed it over to me. It was The City on the Borderland.
More explosions rocked the trench. "Go," he said. "Read it. Know thyself." He put on his gas mask again and rushed off, leaving me in the middle of the trench.
A Door appeared in the side of the trench and I opened it and walked through. I was in the house again, in my bedroom, and there I was in bed, awake and watching the shadow play on the wall. I slipped forward and left the book on the nightstand and then exited through the Door again.
I walked into my childhood bedroom, where a six-year-old me was huddled against my mother as she read The Monster at the End of This Book. I looked so scared that I couldn't believe it was me. Then my mother realized I probably wasn't going to fall asleep with such a scary story, so she started singing a nursery rhyme:
I dreamed a dream next Tuesday
Week beneath the apple tree;
I thought my eyes were big pork-pies,
And my nose was Stilton cheese.
The clock struck twenty minutes to six
When a frog sat on my knee;
I asked him to lend me eighteen pence,
But he borrowed a shilling of me.
It was then I realized something. This wasn't me. This was someone else. This was someone else's mother. Someone else's memories. I wasn't huddled in my bed.
I was just a shadow on the wall.