Last night, I had a dream that I killed my own daughter.
In the dream, I walked down a hall of doors. There were so many doors that there hardly seemed to be space for the walls between them. Some of them were open, leaking out their light and the sounds of activity therein. In the way of dreams, I knew I had been through all of them. I knew I had pushed my way through all of them, with my daughter before me. Forced.
My daughter crouched at the end of the hall, pale and thin as I had never seen her before, with her hair hanging down around her shoulders in ragged, knotted strings. She was older, too, aged into her teenage years by the prophetic reach of the dream’s eye. Most importantly, she was unhappy. She held her arms curled around her, though their stick-like width could not have protected her from the weakest attacks. She wept as she beheld my approach.
I, in the dream, came stoically forth. The doors flung themselves wide as I passed, revealing their contents to be bleached white by blinding white light. I did not look back at them. My eyes were on my daughter, who cowered against the wall, her mouth stretched open in a shout. I could not hear her. There were sounds around me, but all that pierced my ears was the sound of my own footfalls upon the hollow floor.
There was a sword in my hand. Even in the dream, it did not feel real, yet I held it nonetheless. My daughter’s eyes were not on me. There were on the wicked, curved blade I held — the blade that I knew, and she knew, I was ready to use.
I raised it as I drew near, holding it straight out before me. The doors thundered open to ours sides, and their light touched her, bleaching her to an even paler white and leeching all color from her clothes and eyes and hair. She screamed, but I kept moving forward, sword held straight before me. In moments I drew near enough that the tip of the sword met with the center of her chest. Then, I drew nearer, and the sword pushed through her shirt and skin and into her heart.
I awoke, then, sweating and sobbing. In the darkness of my bedroom, the visions of that dream did not leave me. The images pressed in on my mind as sure as I still walked down that hallway. I slipped out of bed, stifling my sobs so that I didn’t wake my husband, and stumbled out of the bedroom, seeking my daughter.
She lay in her bed, safe and unharmed, as peaceful as a sleeping child can ever be. I let myself reach down and stroke her hair. She did not stir, and so I kissed her forehead, inhaling the sweet scent of her shampoo. Then I curled up beside her and watched her until finally, convinced that she was alright, I fell asleep.
In the morning, the first thing I heard was my daughter. She asked me why I was in her bed, so I told her I’d had a bad dream. She understood that. Sometimes she had bad dreams, too, and she came to sleep in my bed. She said, “It will be okay, Mommy.” She stroked my hair, like I had done to her the night before.
She is beautiful. I love her with all of my heart, and I have only ever wanted what was best for her. Maybe I’m too much, though. Maybe I push her too hard. I think it’s time that I let her decide what she wants from her life, rather than deciding for her. I’ve been pushing. I realize that, now. There’s a difference between guiding someone and pushing them, and I failed to see it. Now I will. Or at least, I’ll try.