From December 16, 2016. As was becoming my practice with Verity, when I didn’t know quite what to write about Mildred I just wrote something autobiographical, because she is a projection of me. Her dream is one that I had recently had myself, one in a series of very similar dreams. The feelings I describe during the dream are fairly accurate to my own experience, but I always recovered more quickly upon waking than Mildred does here.
A Patch of Concrete
Mildred awoke with a start and was immediately overcome by a profound sense of relief. She had had the same dream again, the third time in as many weeks. This time the dream was set in the house in which she had grown up. Her parents had just put the house on the market, which was ridiculous, since they had in reality sold it many years previously.
The problem was something likely unknown to her parents, though how they could have missed the surface evidence of something having happened was casually painted over by dream logic. The problem was the mismatched section of concrete floor in the basement.
Mildred had walked down the stairs and stopped at the bottom. Directly ahead of her were the furnace and the water heater; to the left, the washer and dryer. On the right, a large patch of concrete was much lighter in color than the rest of the floor. It looked as though someone had replaced it with a much newer batch of concrete, and that is exactly what had happened.
Mildred knew that the eventual home inspection would turn up the anomaly, and she knew that a deep scan of the underlying earth would be performed in order to determine the safety and correctness of the repair work. She knew as well that the scan would reveal the human remains that were buried underneath the mismatched patch of basement floor.
She had no memory of how the person came to be dead or how the body came to be buried there. Somehow the memory itself was buried quite deeply. She knew only that she was responsible, and that it must have been an accident, for she was no murderer, was she? The deed had remained hidden and unpunished for so many years, and now its imminent discovery would be her downfall. She felt primarily a terror of the impending consequences. Could she survive prison? Likely not. And what would everyone think of her once the truth came out? The thought was beyond what she could bear.
Underneath it all, however, and far worse, was the terror and revulsion she felt towards herself. Even without remembering how, she knew she was responsible for a person’s death. She didn’t remember if it was a man or a woman, and she didn’t know anything about his or her family or how they had dealt with the disappearance of their loved one. She had hardly even considered that. She had only concerned herself with hiding her crime, both physically and, clearly, within her own mind. Her cowardice made her nauseous.
As on the other occasions of the dream, she woke before anyone discovered her sin. As before, even the great relief of realizing it had only been a dream was only a half relief. Throughout the remainder of the day she carried with her a low level of tension and anxiety. She might continue to get away with it, to avoid being caught for now. But eventually it would catch up to her. Eventually her sin would be exposed, even if she had no idea what her sin was. Even though she had never murdered another person, she was unable to shake the sensation that she had committed a dark and unspeakable act in some distant past, its memory hiding in her subconscious, taunting and hinting, just waiting to spring into the open.