What the hell did I dream of last night? (And, could I maybe use it as inspiration for a short story or something?) I didn’t eat anything weird or take an edible or something before I went to sleep; I did see Cocaine Bear (2023) and have popcorn at the movies but….I’m not sure how that could have translated into this. This blog post isn’t intended to be a short story to be clear, this is not well written it’s just me rehashing what happened.
In my dream, I was expressing to Josh that I felt like I was in a little bit of a rut. Not even anything serious, but creatively, which I guess is true, so maybe the dream was my subconscious trying to get the creative juices flowing. Who knows. After expressing that I felt exhausted from this rut and I needed a change of scenery, he suggested that we get serious about our plans to move to Florida and to do that, I should go to Florida to look at houses and take the rest of the trip to relax and write.
I drove down from Massachusetts by myself, and the drive was either uneventful, or I don’t remember it. The next thing I remember in terms of the drive was feeling extremely tired when I was (I think) somewhere in the Panhandle. It was around 6:00 p.m., and I pulled over and looked at Priceline to find a cheap place to stay nearby. From there, I booked what I thought was a budget sort of hotel but when I arrived, it was a huge building in the middle of nowhere that used to be a fire station (or rather, a fire department headquarters. Really it felt more like a dorm inside with tons of rooms and big, communal bathrooms, but the outside was obviously a repurposed fire station. The people running the place were strange, but like I said, I was so tired and just wanted to sleep so I could finish the drive the following morning.
Overnight, I needed to use the bathroom and realized no one had ever explained to me how this worked. With the dorm sort of setup, the bathroom was communal, basically like a locker room or well, a dorm, with rows of stalls with toilets and a separate bunch of rows of showers and sinks. I found someone in this common area and asked them what I should do and they told me where the key to the bathroom was (why was there a key to a bathroom that probably had more stalls than people in this building??). As I turned to walk away from the bathroom, people from the common room yelled to me reminding me that shoes are not allowed in the bathroom. (I’m sorry, what?! I mean, if there is any proof that this whole thing was a dream, that’s it because I would NEVER in a million years go into any kind of a public bathroom barefoot. I don’t even like to go into my own bathroom in my apartment barefoot since the cats are always kicking litter out of their box in there. But at least I know that’s all that could be on the floor and it’s not some stranger’s mystery juice.)
In the bathroom, which was located in the basement, I immediately noticed how filthy it was. It was a light pink, like the 50s-style light pink bathrooms old houses have (my parents have a bathroom like this, so maybe that’s where it came from in my subconscious, though it also reminded me of the women’s locker room at my high school that was definitely designed with the rest of the school in the 60s and never touched, and maybe even never cleaned again.) The bathroom was disgusting. The tile floor had visible stains on it and there were several spots where some kind of liquid was leaking down from the ceiling. (As an aside, do buildings in Florida really have basements? I thought they didn’t and this just seemed like another red flag.)
But while I was in there, I turned a corner looking for the cleanest stall and almost bumped into a custodian. He was younger than me, probably 18 or 19 and really pale. His hair was wet either like he’d been sweating a lot or whatever was coming down from the ceiling had gotten on him. And he wore all white, kind of like the custodial Cast Members in Disney, but more…depressing looking, if that makes sense. (No Mickey embroidery for one thing.)
I apologized for almost bumping into him and he moved out of the way but didn’t say anything. He just looked at me horrified, and stunned. All of this combined with how pale he was prompted me to ask if he was okay, to which he told me I wasn’t supposed to be talking to him and I should do my business and go.
When I woke up in the morning I felt drugged but didn’t think much of it where I was so tired. I went to this strange-looking common area (not quite a hotel breakfast area, but think a cross between a kind of crappy dorm and a nursing home dining room). There, this old woman who was a little off-putting told me how much she’d enjoyed that I stopped in for the night and how she wished I’d stay.
I think until this point, there was just enough room to create some sort of justification for why the place felt off, at least given the level of variability for dream me not acting how real-life me would, but talking to this woman it became really clear that the vibes were bad and I needed to go. I told her that I had to keep moving along on my drive, that I only had about a week to look at the house we liked then I’d need to start the drive home. She kept trying to talk me into staying, and I ended up faking a phone call to leave the conversation with her and go to my room to get my suitcase.
I quickly packed anything that was left out in the room, which began to feel more hospital/psych ward/nursing home-like and less hotel room-like than it did when I first arrived. Then I ran out of the place, with my key in my hand ready to get the hell out of there, but my car wouldn’t start.
After turning the key a few more times and nothing happening, I began fumbling around in my purse for my phone. I didn’t know what to do at that point, I mean obviously something needed to be done with the car, but I began to feel really uneasy about being even outside of this place in my car. I just felt like I needed go NOW.
While I was pulling up Google Maps on my phone to see where I could go, a guy came out of the building and walked over to the car. I locked the door and rolled the window down just a crack to hear what he had to say. Without me telling him anything about the car not starting he told me I might as well go back inside and stay another night, saying that we were too far out from any town that a mechanic wouldn’t be out until at least the following day. I nodded and waited for him to walk back toward the building, then grabbed my purse and took off on foot down the dirt road away from this place.
I wanted to run because at this point I was terrified, but I’m out of shape and I guess even in my dreams I’m an overthinker because my logic was to walk briskly but to not use my energy in case a situation arose that I really needed to run.
I was probably about a half a mile away when I heard a car and turned around to see a rickety old pickup truck that I recognized from outside the old fire station. I panicked and looked for places to hide, but there was nothing around but dirt and dead grass. Not even any trees or anything for a few miles. I had nowhere to go.
The guy who I had just spoken to pulled up next to me in his truck and asked where I was going. So I tried to not seem terrified and told him I was just going for a walk and I’d be back in a bit. He then said, “Nah, I think you’d better get back now. Hop in.” I told him I was good and just needed some fresh air and I’d be happy to walk back, then he pulled over and opened the passenger door and repeated himself, flashing me the gun that was on his hip.
I got in the truck and went back to the station/hospital/whatever the place was, and the guy immediately went outside while I stayed back outside the truck. I took my phone out and called Josh, whose parents were visiting and staying in our apartment at that point so he seemed distracted by that. I didn’t get to say much and I was afraid to say too much in case people could hear and I didn’t know what kind of sketchy behavior was happening there, but I told him I was scared and I needed help.
I’m guessing I was on speaker, because he could only get in saying “okay” before his mom took over the phone and told me something along the lines of “being scared is a part of traveling alone” but she knows I’d figure it out and be okay.
Then the call dropped, and a few people came out of the building and started walking toward me carrying rusty buckets. And then I woke up.