EXHIBIT #1 The first night in our new house, I had a dream about a woman who lived under the floor. She smelled raw, and cried as she pulled her body between the wide pine planks. I wanted to help her but felt that would be rude somehow. She quieted when she took me outside the house, which miraculously looked exactly like the one we just moved into; our real cars were in the driveway, my real cat was silhouetted in the upstairs window, licking its paw. She brought me into the nearby woods and seated me atop a stump. I watched as she shuffled around a great, gnarled apple tree, humming, dragging her damaged feet. She stopped abruptly and turned toward me, opening her mouth wide. When I woke up, I felt unusual, almost heartsick. The morning was glorious, and my daughter Sophie asked me to join her outside after breakfast to explore our new neighborhood. We went into the woods, discovered an abandoned doll house with three little beds, each bed holding only the head of a doll, nothing more. We kept going, pushing at brambles and dead pine, until we happened upon an apple tree. Around the base of the tree was a muddy, worn path. I felt the blood leave my face and I could hear music not far off.
EXHIBIT #18 The woman who lives under the floor came back last night. She was standing in my bedroom doorway, resplendent in a bright wedding gown. But it also seemed like she’d been crying, and when I looked closer I could tell that she was rain-soaked, several brown oak leaves matted against her hem. I followed her downstairs and each time she stepped forward all the doors in the house slammed. When she lifted her foot, they opened. I was close enough behind to see her shoulder blades pushing softly up through the lace. She smelled like coal dust and cardamom. She brought me to the kitchen. Everything, again, was as clear as it is in the normal world: the little microwave clock glowed 3:03 A.M.; the dishtowel embroidered with a purple lilac hung on the oven door handle exactly as I placed it before going to bed. I asked her to go outside, away from this house. She turned around and stepped toward me. SLAM went the doors. I stepped back. She raised her naked foot, and the doors opened, like taking a breath. She stepped down. SLAM. She opened her mouth and I could hear night clicking around me like an insect. That’s when I woke up. My left foot was aching; deep cramp. I sat up slowly, grimacing, letting the comforter fall to the floor. Outside, the wind was rapacious; a pile of dead leaves geysered up from the yard, and a row of little plum trees bowed like the condemned before they’re led away.
EXHIBIT #20 Redacted
EXHIBIT #22 Planting bulbs, Sophie and my husband work their way around the house until the south side. There, under about 10 inches of black soil, they discover the bodies of three antique dolls, the kind that can shatter if dropped. All three are missing their heads. The dolls are each dressed in what look like silk gowns, white, and appear to not have been buried long. We have no idea why these are here or who put them under ground. “There they are,” says Sophie. “There are what,” my husband wants to know. “My doll shoes. They went missing after we moved in.” Sure enough, each headless little body is wearing a pair of patent leather shoes from Sophie’s extensive collection. My husband looks at me funny and I can tell he’s afraid. That night, I get up out of bed and crouch on the floor. I put my hands on the wide pine boards. That’s when I can smell her; all that wetness. She lumbers toward me through the oiled dark, breathing hard, and all I can think is: I wonder how we’ll look when they find us.
(this story first appeared in SMOKELONG QUARTERLY)