More than once upon a time, I had a dream that followed me.
I dreamt of a woman with long black hair hanging from her head in a lump of tangles, covering most of her torso. Her eyes were wide, pupils so dilated they consumed her face. She wore nothing but a torn up white dress—I imagined it was her nightgown—and she would stand impossibly still, doing nothing but blinking at me. Never fidgeting.
Except her hands.
There’s a lot that can be said about a person’s hands. Whether they’re cracked and calloused from hard labor, if they shake as a result of too much coffee or not enough sleep. Hands that cradle a child or fire a gun. Kill a man.
Two hands intertwined tell a different story than two hands glued to a cellphone. Hands that are pale from lack of circulation explain why a girl never leaves her house without a pair of gloves in her bookbag. They explain more about a person than some common facial gestures. A clenched fist sometimes forewarns danger better than any words could, than any eyes dare to reveal. The white knuckles, the nails digging so far into a palm that they draw blood.
The woman in my dreams had hands that flickered. One millisecond was all it took for them to change from hanging by her side to crossed in front of her frail body. They never stopped flickering; I was waiting for the day that they would find themselves inches from my face. Around my throat.
I wasn’t even sure if she was breathing—if she knew how to—but she would blink constantly, almost too much, as if trying to communicate with me. I referred to her simply as The Blinking Lady.
I was four when she first came; my brother was eight. Our family lived in a townhouse at the time and my brother and I shared a room—sleeping with the door ajar every night. With the way our room was arranged, my bed had a clear view of the hallway and the top of the stairs. That’s where The Blinking Lady usually stood. She wouldn’t even lean on the railing—a gesture so human that maybe she wouldn’t have been so scary to me if she had even touched the railing.
Looking back on it now, she very closely resembled the woman climbing out of the TV from The Ring. I sometimes think that they’re the same person—that The Blinking Lady is still out there and climbs through the dreams of other four year olds until they grow up.
It was always easy for me to go back to sleep after The Blinking Lady woke me up. Perhaps it was because I was comforted by the fact that my brother was less than six feet away from me, or that I never dreamt of her twice in one night. Perhaps it was because I believed that The Blinking Lady liked me; she must have visited me all those nights for a reason. She started to get closer to my bed as the nightmares went on, inch by inch. Perhaps she was trying to covet me, add me to her collection of four-year-olds that she kept in the lair I imagined she came from. Perhaps she was lonely.
I don’t remember my brother saying much to me about her but I knew I could wake him up if I wanted to. I remember being scared that The Blinking Lady would walk through my dreams and break into his. I hoped he would never meet her.
I began to dread going to sleep. I feared my body, of it growing weary at night. The way it left me defenseless during slumber.
One night, I sat in my big girl bed, shivering from everything but the cold, every bone in my body throbbing with my heartbeat, and hoped that The Blinking Lady would leave me alone soon.
She came as soon as I fell asleep and stood at the foot of my bed, doing nothing but blinking at me and shaking her head. Her hands flickered ever so slightly at her sides, one sharp movement away from grabbing me by my ankles and dragging me out of bed.
I still think of The Blinking Lady. I want to know why she followed me all those years ago. She stayed in my dreams for a couple years and then faded from my life. Sometimes when my ears ring, I imagine it’s her trying to talk to me, that she finally found her voice after nineteen years and wants me to hear her story.
The ringing continues; but if I try to hear through it, I can hear her whisper sometimes. I can’t make out what she’s saying—it’s as if she’s submerged, her voice muffled by layers of pressured water.
I make sure to never listen too hard, though—because I know she is still out there. And once I start to notice her, she will start to notice me too.