I was at a reunion with various girl friends from elementary and middle school. It wasn’t a sleepover, but it definitely had that kind of energy. It took place at a more open-floor version of my friend Mary’s house. She used to live on my block.
I got the sense this was a “cool girl” party. Naturally, I was at a long table in the back, eating snacks and working on an unsolvable jigsaw puzzle. I entertained conversations with others at the table instead of proactively approaching people.
Next to me on one side was Tatiana, my best friend from kindergarten through second grade, who moved away without another word a year later. Back in the days before social media everything was just a fucking mystery, so by the time Facebook stalking someone was even an option it was years too late. I know she played soccer and moved to Texas. I chatted with her for a while, but Tatiana had zero interest in anything I had to say. Ironically, she seemed almost mad that I hadn’t kept up enough with her life. I asked how Texas was and she said that she had moved somewhere else (duh).
We talked a little bit about another girl from our school who had dark brown hair and how dark her hair was. There was no point to it, but it seemed to be going better than any other line of conversation, kind of like how my last coherent conversation with my late grandmother was about the practicality of sippy-cups.
On my other side was my friend from 6th grade. We’ll call her P. P and I were getting on pretty well until she got up and started handing out invitations for her own party coming up soon. She had apparently decided to start taking piano lessons and bought a piano for it, and was having people over in a week or so to celebrate.
The current party was ending, so I put the pieces of the unsolved puzzle away and offered to help clean up. People were leaving in groups. I was excited about P’s upcoming party and how it would really be a chance to reconnect, so I approached her about it.
“What day is your party again?” I asked. From sort of eavesdropping on others and catching glimpses of their invites I gathered it was on a Sunday at 2pm, but I wanted to be sure.
P looked at me. “You aren’t invited,” she said.
I noticed she was holding an invitation for me, or rather it was an envelope of the same kind with messages written on it but no actual card inside. I think it was supposed to be an anti-invitation, i.e. a letter that tells you why you are explicitly not invited to this event. Ultimately she didn’t end up giving it to me though; I think she wasn’t brave enough to share what was on it.
Anyway, she said, “You already play the piano, so I thought having you there would intimidate me.”
That was a lie, obviously, which meant the actual reason was too harsh or embarrassing to share. I was the only person there not invited to P’s party. Girls she hadn’t met before today were invited. Girls she didn’t like were invited. It seemed like we were getting along.
Some less important, less interesting things happened here, though there was a part where I got to beta test this game with a bunch of Wigglytuffs in it.
Then I was with some short, pink-haired woman. We were entering China, i.e., literally walking through a large wooden gate that designated not-China from China. We had to go into this government building where people weren’t allowed in order to reach a connected location called the Phantom Garden. There were a variety of secret entrances to this building, so we managed to get inside. The building comprised dark circular hallways surrounding a huge jungle enclosure in the center.
I heard whispering in the dark hallway though no one else was there. I realized these were ghosts from a past era, seemingly reenacting an event from when they were alive, as though they hadn’t noticed the world around them had changed. I had a little, dried out, dead seahorse in my hand that I was carrying with me. I decided this seahorse, being dead, should be able to commune with the ghosts. Suddenly it came to life! (Maybe it really didn’t want to talk to ghosts idk). The seahorse was very cute, and had the keen yellow eyes of my goldfish, so I knew it was them reincarnated and that the seahorse was a friend.
An older woman and someone else came up a set of stairs from the floor below. They were saying how sad it was her son was trapped in a “water cage,” which I assumed was like some kind of torturous prison where you’re in a glass cube and nearly constantly drowning. I figured we had to go down there to really investigate the true nature of this place like it was some kind of horror puzzle game, but before we could do that, an alarm started going off throughout the building. The guards detected that people were in the building illegally and were rushing inside, while advising civilians to find an exit over the intercom. A lot of doors were labelled “exit,” but all of them were traps that led to the garden in the main room, which was also a factory, where guards would line you up and give you a hat and basically turn you into a zombie, which I found out when we went that way mistakenly.
The seahorse rewound time for us so that we were back in the hallway and could try another route. Unfortunately this caused the hallway near the door we initially came through to be traced in pink indicating the region was corrupt and we could no longer walk there. Every time we failed and reset again, the pink region would increase, suggesting we were trading parts of physical space in order to rewind time. The girl with me said she’d “trade the sun and moon” just to get another chance so I think those also went away. I definitely remember watching the moon disappear into the daytime sky. It had a face. It was very nonchalant.
Anyway eventually after doing this so many times some man in a suit started calling us out on our timey wimey shenanigans. He said we wouldn’t be able to get away with it anymore. He called himself Death. I knew that wasn’t quite right, but I guess it conveyed the sentiment. He was just something not human who knew our debts. His suit was powder blue, though a little more grey. He said this was “the color of an empty sky, a conversation between you and the moon. The moon’s got brass knuckles and you owe him a lot of money.”
“oh fuck” we said.
Then I was at my friend’s house — a different friend, one whose house shows up surprisingly often in my dreams despite the actual friend rarely being there (she was probably at the party but I didn’t really see her). I had just woken up and went to the kitchen island. My mom was cooking something. There were a lot of people there, not really talking, just enjoying the morning.
Some young kids came inside and demanded candy. I realized it was Halloween. Our candy bowl had orange Tootsie Pops and regular Tootsie Rolls in it, so basically it sucked.
I looked out the front window. It was a busy morning and raining pretty hard. Trick-or-treaters passed the house in large groups. One of them was dressed as Evelynn, and I was pretty excited, but they were wearing blue gym clothes with the outfit because it was cold and rainy and it really ruined the whole costume.
There were also huge marquee light displays set up on our driveway and the neighbors’ to say things like “I LOVE YOU” and “E3 <3." They were cool, but the setup prevented any cars from getting in or out of the driveway. Apparently all my friends were at the party about now. I complained to my mom about it. "How could she not invite me?" I said. "She left me. She ruined my life. She owes me.”
I don’t remember what my mom said but I woke up wanting an orange lollipop.