I would have never known had I not seen it with my own eyes. The dream catcher. Not the things we hang in our windows, those awful summer camp crafts projects made of sticks and ropes and feathers and such. No. The dream catcher whom nobody has dared to see, imagine or come to understand. To call it a person would be an insult to all things real. Then again it is as real as the people it claims. More so the children…
You see I had lost my child many years ago. Lost in the true sense…to the unknown. As he played in the woods behind our cabin in the rural hills of Maine. A place so remote we typically went months during the winter sheltered in our modest log cabin, living off the earnings we had saved throughout the summer on rations and supplies we stocked in fall.
It all happened one cold and crisp autumn day. One of the last few a child his age could go out and play before the winter confined us. He begged me to go outside knowing how once winter sank its teeth into the air he would have little or no chance to run and play. Understanding this I allowed it as we worried not of strangers as there were none to worry about. I was preparing some of the food we would need preserved for the upcoming solitude as he exited the house for the last time. After about an hour or so I failed to hear the distant sounds of childlike imagination being brought to life through stick swords and tree monsters. I looked out the window and saw nothing. My son (no stranger to wandering off) prompted me to grab my coat and go in search. After about five minutes of calling his name…Charlie!…CHARlie!…CHARLIE!!! I began to panic.
Three weeks, five police searches and two helicopter flyovers later the storm hit. Charlie was lost and all efforts to search were called off. I was alone and had nothing to comfort my thoughts but the chance that somehow…some way he was still alive. Out there…somewhere. Chance…like a candle in a hurricane. Then the dreams began.
At first they woke me. Blurry visions of being half awake…not so much the sight but the sounds. Charlie calling for me…daddy…daddy…Only to come to my senses and plunge back into that despair. More than once I thought of ending it all…but that candle…that fucking candle would not go out. I could only think of one worse fate than the loss off my son. That would be to leave this world only to have him return. I could not let that happen…I had to know.
After a few weeks the dreams became more and more lucid. I could now see Charlie but not how I remembered. Almost like a ghost…transparent. But unlike a ghost, all grey and muted, he was golden. Almost like looking at a light bulb through a piece of parchment. He called for me…daddy…daddy…I’m here! I’m here with the dream catcher. I now had a new tormentor…my own mind.
It was now March and the weather finally broke. An entire winter of merciless wind and snow. Piled high well above the edges of the roof was the remnants of the worst winter anyone can recall. I needed to get out. Months of dreaming and pacing and planning. What would I do, where would I go? Nobody to calm my already shaken nerves, no thing to keep me grounded. Was I mad? Perhaps but it would not stop me from trying.
I packed all I could carry knowing I would find my boy, in any state…or die trying. The first days trek carried me deep into the forest. I spent a good week (or what seemed like it) wandering farther into the unknown. I had no sense of direction or care for it anyway. After all I was searching for something that had no location. Each gust of wind brought me in a new direction…a faint whisper of “daddy”, “I’m here”, “daddy”, “I’m here”. Was it real or just the cruel residue of my dreams. At this point I cared not. I had nothing left to lose.
Then I saw it…or more so him. My son. Not the boy I had known growing up all those years, running and playing and full of life. No. This was what was left.
Hung between two trees, by hands and feet was the skin of my child…pulled taught and hardened by the cold blustery winter. As I approached, the sun shone from behind creating the warmest glow I have ever seen. Fiery gold piercing through the holes that were his eyes, and nose, and mouth. I stumbled, devoid of all energy to face him. As I wept, knowing he was gone, and in the cruelest way…a gentle breeze blew from the direction of the sun behind him…his hide softened and bowed to the breeze, filling his empty shell with form. The wind whispered through his mouth…daddy…I’m here…I’m here with the dream catcher…