by Katherine Satorius
I was in a soaring lodge-style hotel like the one in Twin Peaks, under whose spell I’d been passing my nights, eating through its episodes on our couch, in the dark, snacking alone on marshmallows or lemon yogurt or whatever I was hungry for in month eight of my pregnancy while my husband, who had to get up early for work, slept on the other side of the wall. I was in the center of this hotel lobby made of golden planks and beams when a main character from the show entered the scene—Bobby Briggs. I think David Lynch cast the actor, Dana Ashbrook, for the way cruelty slides and flashes in his sultry eyes. He strolled through the hotel’s vaulted lobby, young and tall in his broad-shouldered motorcycle jacket and relaxed-fit jeans. He began moving among the plush armchairs, sitting in each, testing different postures. Meanwhile, a shifting group of friends milled around me, telling me I had to choose between my husband, who was somewhere out of frame, and Bobby, who they all insisted had fallen in love with me. I leaned against the log railing—I’d moved out to the deck, along with my friends—and looked out over the bristling pine-tree tops. I tried hard to picture Greg, but his image wouldn’t come together.
“Fortunately,” a woman said into my ear, “it’s only a fictional dream.” I turned and it was a fellow student from the workshop I’d taken last winter for people with bottled-up writing ideas—Constance, who had a habit of regurgitating phrases from books on the suggested reading list. I was about to wave her away when our instructor appeared beside her, his grey hair rumpled, his face covered with red scratches, as though he’d just fought something off in the forest. Hairy beast was what he called the second novel he’d been working on for seven years. “Come,” he said, and he and Constance descended a staircase into the trees.
The lodge dissolved and I floated in the dark and emerged at a party. Hundreds thronged what appeared to be a cavernous ark, every surface fashioned, again, out of gleaming wood the color of honey. I glanced down to find my breasts bubbling from a pearlescent gown that wrapped my ribs and flowed to a pair of silver sandals. My friends were back, now dressed in silk, satin, and black bow ties. My writing instructor was looking debonair, his scratches healed and his hair slicked back. Alan Clark. He smiled and passed me a martini. I thought he might ask how my writing was going, now that it was summer and I had time. Summer Is For Tending Your Mental Garden, as I’d spelled out on the bulletin board in my fifth-grade classroom back in May. How’s the woman who discovered she can fly between the hours of midnight and one a.m.? Have you figured out her conflict or are you still just writing about her nightly flights in that lyrical language of yours? Alan didn’t say any of this, though his eyes twinkled the message. Devil, I twinkled back. We’d agreed not to communicate with each other. I sipped the martini. As I swallowed, I spotted Bobby again through a gap in the party. He leaned with languid feline intensity against the high opposite wall, slicing his gaze through the jeweled crowd to me.
Something like a seismograph needle vibrated in my chest. My hand went to my throat. “Relax,” a friend whispered. I tried to lift my drink to my mouth, but my hand was empty.
Whatever Bobby had transmitted along the current of his gaze had wiped Greg out of my mind. It was Bobby I wanted. There was no question.
He pushed off the wall with his shoulder blades and started for me like a wave. I braced myself. But he veered right, opened a door in the wall, and slipped into space.
I slipped away, too, back to my apartment—a sleek version with a gleaming tile floor and views not of stucco buildings overlapping like cards but a twinkling carpet of city, a navy ruffle of Pacific Ocean. I lay on the covers in my dress, blinking at the clean white ceiling. Greg was sound asleep an arm’s length away. A tranquil scene, as if we’d cleared rapids in our boat-bed and were drifting in calm water—in the moonlight, with only a tiny breeze. Stillness and peace, nothing to worry about, a reprieve, an illusion.
The dream gathered more energy, and the bedroom door flew open. The knob cracked against the wall. A stranger from the party stepped through, a hulking man in a tuxedo with eyes like pellets and lumberjack’s ratted beard. Greg sat up, rigid with panic. In an instant the man was at the bed, slinging me over his shoulder and clamping my knees under his lead-pipe arm.
As he carried me off, I lifted my neck as best I could and looked back at my husband through my falling hair. Greg was lurching after us. Beyond his boxer-short hems and t-shirt sleeves his limbs were softer and paler than in life, and his curly hair stood out from his head in a thicket. He looked as young as he had on the day we met, ten years ago, when we were both twenty-four, at a party for a mutual acquaintance that found us both standing idle by the living-room bar. He wore a green-grey shirt that matched his eyes and spoke thoughtfully, with precise gestures. This was in the period when he wanted to be a screenwriter. He told me he worked at a coffee shop and wrote at night. It sounded romantic to me. I’d always wanted to try my hand at writing, I said. We kissed that night on the balcony, a receptor inside each of us glinting, communicating, as we kissed. I knew we would be spending a long time together.
From the shoulder of Bobby’s henchman—for I understood that Bobby had sent this man to fetch me—I tried to reassure Greg that I was all right. “Go back,” I pleaded, but he didn’t listen. Near the door, the henchman balled his free hand and swung it almost lazily at Greg’s jaw. Greg stumbled. A truth stabbed at me, though I couldn’t have said what it was. I pounded the man’s back. “Don’t hurt him.”
The man grunted. As we left, I saw it dawn on Greg that something was being orchestrated—that an understanding existed between this intruder and me. In my last glimpse of him his hands and knees were meeting their reflections in the tile.
I was carried into the hall and down two flights of stairs. A long black car waited outside, its engine running. Without a word, the man put me in the back and stepped around to drive. Excitement cascaded in me as I thought not of Greg, but of Bobby’s plans.
I asked where we were going.
“Shut up,” the man said.
My heart beat my ribs. We drove through dark streets in the rain. We were in an unfamiliar part of town, all squat brick buildings and alleys, no lit windows, only yellow light from street lamps spotting the wet pavement. I ran my hands over the silk covering my thighs as the crumbled cityscape rolled past.
Finally we pulled to a stop in the middle of a deserted block.
“Where are we?”
The man’s graphite eyes appeared in the rearview mirror. “The hardware store.”
I tried to ask, but he cut me off. “Get out.”
It was pouring like I’ve never seen it pour, silver sheets of water slamming and shattering on the road.
I pushed the door out into the rain. Water engulfed me, plastering my pearl-colored dress to my skin, washing over my shoes, gluing my hair to the sides of my face. The car sped away. I looked up at the shabby brick building that loomed before me, but there was no sign for a hardware store or anything else.
I began to panic that I’d been dropped off somewhere with no connection to the real world, where all the doors and windows were fake portals leading not to interiors but to deep space.
When I’d followed my writing instructor to his bedroom last winter after a post-workshop bottle of red wine, a delicious, nowhere feeling had enveloped me, like opening a door in what had felt like a dead city, tumbling down an invisible flight of stairs, and sailing past stars.
Sometimes I wanted to shake my husband until he transformed into a different person; other times I loved him as much I think people love their homelands—people who have been forced to travel away and whose home landscapes are kept as inner scenes that glow somewhere in their bodies.
I wasn’t nowhere—that was wishful thinking. As I approached what the henchman had called a hardware store, I saw that its windows were outlined in razor-thin strips of light—not vacant, but covered with opaque black shades. And when I opened the door, I found myself in a small, brightly lit bar, a mom-and-pop operation it seemed, like a cross between a neighborhood pub and an old-fashioned soda fountain, six vinyl-covered stools under a Formica counter and liquor lined up on metal shelves.
He was on the farthest stool, perched and hunched like an overgrown bat, his black-clad elbows splayed on the counter: Bobby, still in his tuxedo and so handsome I almost choked. He smiled his tiger smile, the smile of a man whose plans have worked out yet again. He gestured to the empty seat beside him. “Baby,” he said.
His voice was smooth and unexpectedly rich with kindness. His eyes still glinted here and there like mica, but they’d taken on the softness of felt. He leaned forward. I thought he was going to kiss me, but when his mouth had almost reached my lips, he said, very sensuously: “Let me get you a glass of milk.”
Who sweeps a woman away after midnight and orders her a milk? I began to have a floating feeling. I tried to hold myself onto the stool. I wanted to stay a while longer in this strange zone of the city, with this man who, despite his predatory gleaming eyes, his stalking walk, was sweetly offering to buy me a glass of milk.
But I was peeling away.
I found myself back in bed. It was not quite morning. Greg lay beside me, our calves touching lightly beneath the covers. Above me, the fan we both hated was spinning its blades. Its arachnoid shape on our bare white ceiling looked like something out of David Lynch—or maybe it was the way the bronze pineapple, with its strangely detailed leaves, protruded upside-down from the center. My gaze roved from the fan, down the wall, and onto the bed, where I saw a boulder-sized lump in place of my stomach. I almost yelped. Then fact of my pregnancy came back to me, and on the heels of it, the other fact, like a huge stone.
I turned my head on the pillow and looked at Greg’s sleeping face. His eyes opened. He turned to me. His eyes blazed, practically, whereas normally they’re calm, the eyes of a careful thinker. Their green was especially bright.
I shrank back a few inches. Greg? I tried to say. I wanted to know if this was another dream.
In response, he said a man’s name—not Bobby’s. Alan Clark’s.
I pressed a hand to the dome of my stomach. I was keeping my tryst with Alan in a corked bottle on a secret out-of-reach shelf. Alan had agreed to stay in the bottle—we’d come up with the metaphor together. Bottle me, yes, and I’ll bottle you, and enjoy knowing you’re there. How many other bottles did he have, my writing instructor who hosted workshops for people with frustrated creative aspirations in his home around a coffee table with bowls of peanuts and oranges atop a Moroccan shag rug in a ring of overflowing bookshelves?
But I hadn’t stopped sleeping with Greg during the winter, either; in fact the guilt had brought my flatlined desire for him back to life.
Greg’s eyes continued to glow. They resembled Bobby’s, but with anger replacing the lust. The ceiling fan above me seemed to want to drop.
He shook his head. His eyes returned to normal.
“Did you say something?”
“Alarm clock,” he mumbled. “It was going off in my dream.”
I rolled over and pulled my phone from the nightstand to check the time. It was only five-thirty.
I stared into the tropical beach at sunset that was my phone’s background while Greg shifted behind me and touched my convex waist. Lately I’d been picturing things from the baby’s perspective, a warm, pitch-black supportive world within.
The tropical beach disappeared from a lack of my touch, and I rolled over and watched the fan turn. I was having a boy. We’d been thinking of names. None were right. “Bobby,” I mouthed.
Katherine Satorius’s fiction and writing on art have appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, ZYZZYVA, The DIAGRAM, MAKZine, ArtUS, and others. The Surrogate, a VR narrative she wrote and collaborated on with team members from CalArts and Oculus, was a 2016 Interactive Innovation Award finalist at SXSW. She lives in Los Angeles and recently completed a novel.