I awoke at the top of The Land of the Leafless Trees. The branches of what had been summer trees stood naked and spread eagle, unashamed, everywhere. Cold mist blasted against my cheeks. I looked out at the expanse of two states that divided me from home. And that was all fine and well, but I blinked. It was the blink that comes of a night not snug and cozy next to the fireplace on a snowy evening as outlined in various Christmas carols.
Floridians don’t own northern appropriate winter clothing for travel in The Land of the Leafless Trees. I don’t even own very many long sleeve shirts. I bought boots. Oh the splendor of walking through puddles in waterproof boots. I’m sure these things would be lovely should that mysterious white substance fall from the sky. Thus far it has not. I get the feeling it isn’t going to while I am here, and then I am going to scoff at the idea as I drive away in flip flops. The mysterious white substance will be nothing more than a myth. Snow, and Big Foot—I haven’t actually seen either.
But this story isn’t about whether or not snow actually exists. This is about The Blink.
So, up the mountain, in a cabin in the woods, I awoke in The Land of the Leafless Trees. And inside that cabin my wee family agreed to share one room. And one bed. Have you ever slept in the same bed as an octopus? That’s what I did.
Small children transform into other entities in the darkness of night. Instead of the cute little chubby-cheeked children you put to bed, they morph into one large eight limbed cephalopod. It tangles around you all night long like it is trying to decide the best way to attach its suckers all over you and slowly inch you toward its mouth. One minute it is at the foot of the bed; the next it is at the pillows. One moment it is leaning off the bed, the next it is spread out in the middle.
After several hours of almost being consumed by the octopus, my stomach awoke at about four AM and it said: “What the hell did you eat last night? It was food with preservatives, wasn’t it? Fast food maybe? You know that garbage gives us sour stomach!” And it proceeded to create a knot of pain in my midsection.
And then the octopus tried to wrap its suckers around my legs. It seemed that we were particularly tangled, and I didn’t want to take any chances on being eaten, so I climbed out of bed. I paced a bit, while my stomach acted as though it was eating itself. I returned to bed and the octopus tried to eat me again. After another thirty minutes I was resolved: Take what you will, octopus and stomach! I dropped my arms limply out sideways.
And then an eerie sound came from the distance. In my exhausted state, I couldn’t quite make it out. It sounded like a ghost moaning pitifully “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!” And on and on, in a rhythm with about three seconds between each word. A never-ending chant. Clearly it was not coming from either of my octopus transformed children, but no mother can tolerate the sound of a child calling out for help. I sat up and zeroed in on the sound.
You see, my husband gave up long before I did in the night. He decided sleeping with an octopus just wasn’t worth it. He had spread out a sleeping bag on the floor, conveniently right next to the heater, and had been sleeping like a non-octopus baby for the last six hours. But suddenly, for unexplained reasons, his nose took to whistling what sounded like the motherhood version of a siren song. One breath in and there was silence; one breath out and there was the ghostly call of “mom!” It was freaky, or maybe I was excessively tired and beyond rational thought. It doesn’t matter.
I threw a bean stuffed toy koala off the bed blindly into the darkness on the floor, my arm following the tune of the nose whistler like a missile—and I hit my target.
There was a snorting sound, like maybe a bit of koala fluff had been inhaled? Then there was a snuffling sound, a tossing sound, and then sweet, beautiful silence. It was as though the octopus had somehow observed my expert aim and recognized me as a threat. The octopus lay still. The sound of the heater hummed gently, and I realized my stomach had either already consumed itself, or it too was taking a nap.
I let out a deep, satisfied sigh, I closed my eyes and—
Nothing happened. Sleep had abandoned me along with the nose whistle. I was left with nothing but The Blink.
And it is still with me right now, here at the top of the mountain in The Land of the Leafless Trees.
But tonight the octopus sleeps on the floor, and the I will be heavily armed in koala missiles.