A Gentle Disarticulation

I’ve been trying to remember when I first dreamed the murder dream. You know, the murder dream, the…I’m sure I’ve mentioned that dream, the one where I’ve killed someone and I’m left with the body. Sometimes I’m trying to get rid of it, chopping it up or burying it in the garden. Other times, that part’s done. The corpse is under my floorboards or out in the woods, and all I can think of is someone digging it up. I don’t feel remorse, just fear of being caught. Fear of everyone knowing, of my name being tarnished. I feel embarrassment, too, a sort of…preemptive cringe—the way you might feel if you’d just shat your keks and you had to stand up. A grubby, soiled feeling.

The thing is, with the murder dream, no-one else seems to have it. It’s not like the no-pants dream, or the one where your teeth fall out. Mention one of those dreams and get a flash of recognition, like oh yeah, I hate that dream. Or the one where you’re talking but no words come out. The murder dream’s different. No-one has that. That one gets you a blank look, and some uncomfortable questions, like wait. In this dream, you were…disassembling a corpse? You actually did that as part of your dream? You try to explain, the corpse was rotting away. It was a gentle disarticulation, a matter of unhooking the cartilage, then the joints came unhinged. You weren’t, you know, going at it with a chainsaw. Your explanation makes it worse. Your friend sends a vomit emoji. You send a zombie one back to lighten the mood.

Sometimes, when I dream that dream, I know who I’ve killed. Once, it was my landlord, and I’d buried him in the flowerbed by the bike rack, near the swing. I woke up trying to remember why I’d done that, and when. It took me a minute to understand I hadn’t. I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve wanted to, even tried to (strictly in self-defence), but my hands are still clean. And even if they weren’t…if I killed someone, I’d run. I wouldn’t stick around to dispose of the body.

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking, if I could recall my first murder dream and pin down its date, I might understand what it’s really about. Have I done something I’m ashamed of? Something I haven’t made right? What secrets do I have? Which ones would destroy me if they came to light? I thought it might be that time I screamed at that baby. That was pure wrong. But it can’t have been that, because everyone knows and I’m still having that dream.

Maybe it’s not one thing, one crime to atone for. Maybe it’s something intrinsic, like…I’m not a good friend. I get tired—I don’t know. My head fills with fears, hypochondria, existential dread. I can’t think of much else. I don’t want to talk to anyone, in case my disquiet shows through. I vanish for months on end, and I know that’s unkind. I know it’s not right, and I can’t stop myself. Or people ask me for things I don’t want to provide, and rather than tell them no, I pretend I never heard. It’s just, people don’t like to hear “no.” They argue. They shout. I hate being shouted at, so I spare myself the pain. But that kind of avoidance must seem like abandonment. I suppose I’m ashamed of that, but enough to conjure literal skeletons in my closet?

One time, upon waking, it occurred to me I might cook the corpse and smuggle it out in bite-sized portions, mixed in with old food. I’m not sure what I’d have done with the bones. Ground them up, maybe, and mixed them in with the dust. Sealed them in an urn and called them Grandma. Dear God, with that dream!

What have I done?

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