Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rotten tooth

Last night I dreamed of a rain-filled night after a rain-filled day. The ground was flooded; creeks swelled. In the dream I came home after work and stood in the hallway, dripping, when I heard a whining, buzzing noise from outside.

I took a flashlight and went out into the rain. The buzzing got louder and I realized soft things were hitting me like raindrops, but they were coming from in front of me. Ahead in the flashlight beam a black river poured up into the air from a rain-carved hole in the ground: hundreds and hundreds, thousands, of angry hornets streaming into the night. There were so many they were bumping into me as they swarmed the hole.

I ran back to the house but the rain had softened the ground and sinkholes opened up in what I had thought was solid bedrock, rooty darkness below. I got back inside -- the power was out -- and the hardwood floor buckled, sagged, and collapsed. Holes opened in each room like empty tooth sockets, and I stood in the hallway and shone my light down.

Below the house was an old basement. It must have been sealed off when the old house was refurbished: armchairs with doilies pulled around a footstool; a table with a brown cloth and dishes and silverware, waxy lumps of candles; a Victrola; water-pulped books in Zs on ornate shelves. The whole place -- it was as big as the ground floor of the house -- was knee-deep in rainwater and still filling. Our clean, rebuilt house had been sitting atop this old, old room with everything still in it but the people, and it rotted away under the house like an abcessed tooth, until this night of Old Testament rain had finally washed off the smiling mask of the house above it and it gaped open to the world.

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