Between a Wolf and a Dog

Georgia Blain


This is the dream: Lawrence is alone. It is not quite dark, between a wolf and a dog; a mauve light is deepening like a bruise, the cold breath of the wind a low moan in his ear.
He stands on what feels to be the highest point in a landscape that he knows to be desolate and barren, although it is too dark for him to see. Hills roll away, dry grasses beaten low by the weather; pocked boulders, dappled with creeping lichen, appear to tumble, heavy, down a steep slope.
Is it breathing he hears? Or just the night sigh?
Fear tickles the back of his neck, the hairs on his wrists bristle, his eyes widen, and the darkness is thickening.
He should not be here.
There must be somewhere he can go, a light in the distance.
Perhaps if he calls out … and he opens his mouth, but his throat tightens.
It is like an elastic band pulling in, a peg clip on his vocal cords.
He tries to speak, but his mouth is drying, the palate hard like bone, the trachea clenching, and he cannot utter a sound.
In his dream, he panics, and he tries to wake himself, aware at some level that this is only a dream, but he can’t rise from the depths; there is a weight keeping him down, the pressure — like an ocean — above him. He needs to breathe.
Calm, he tells himself. It will be all right. Calm. And so the clamp loosens, his mouth opening, his throat a little less clenched as he finally speaks.
Unable to utter more than that, a single word whispered in all that emptiness, as around him the wind builds, and he feels the cold, sour breath of night, and the rain like sharp pins slashing the clamminess of his skin.
Sitting up in the darkness, Lawrence lets his eyes adjust. He has left the window open, and it is raining, damp and miserable, seeping down from the sill onto his bed. He reaches over to close it, the swollen wood bringing the sash to a standstill, so he has to jiggle the frame, slot it into a new groove before it will slide all the way down.
He hates that dream. It leaves a rusted aftertaste, ferrous flakes in his mouth, and a panic like poison — the hollowness of sadness and despair coursing through him as he lies back down in the bed. He hasn’t looked at the clock — years of insomnia have taught him the foolishness of doing so — but the sound of the first suburban trains lets him know that he is at least on the right side of the darkest hour for those who don’t sleep. Outside the rain continues, softer now that the window is shut, and he closes his eyes, hoping he at least will find a sense of calm before morning comes, although he knows that this is unlikely. He has had that dream before, and it always leaves him, mind awake, trying to rid himself of the last vestiges of that man: a man alone, exposed, and afraid; a man he knows more intimately than he would like.

Between a Wolf and a Dog Georgia Blain