In the dream you are back at the summer cabin, your brother Alfred, your parents, and the puppy you named Frank, lazing the days away in the dry summer heat of the forest. This was before the forest burned. You are seven years old. Alfred is ten.
It is night. You are outside with Alfred, Frank running along the path up ahead. The air has a crisp coolness so thick you could bite into it, the sign of summer retreating. All around you the forest is asleep, it's colors gone replaced by a cool blue monochrome. You are not allowed to go out at night, but Frank needed to go and before you could get him back inside he bounded off wanting to play.
Alfred waves at you from further into the darkness. "Come on!" he whispers. "Let's go up." The two of you run after Frank up the path, stifling your giggles so your parents wouldn't wake up.
Behind the hill rising to the north of the cabin hides your favorite childhood place and your worst childhood memory: the lake. Every day the family would pack up fishing rods and blankets and towels and snacks and chairs and books and other items of summer and ascend the hill to spend the day bathing and snacking and playing by its shores. It is a small lake, one your father can easily swim across, and for the most part it is all yours, the neighboring cabin folk preferring a larger lake further inland.
Cresting the hill that night is like visiting a different world. In front of you lay the forest, faintly glowing its midnight blue, within it a vast black hole, a silver platter carrying a fish floating at its center.
For a moment you are both frozen in awe, and in spite of the warmness you've built up from the climb you shiver from the chill rising from your lower back to cover your shoulders. "We should go back" you mean to say, but before you get the words out Alfred is scrambling down the embankment and running toward the water. "What is that?" he shouts pointing at the platter at the center of the darkness. "Let's go get it!"
By the time you get to the edge of the lake, Alfred is already piling his shoes and socks and shirt in the sand. The world holds its breath in warning, the water a perfect sheet of glass. From where you stand you can clearly see the platter, a dark object shaped sort of like a fish crossing it from edge to edge.
"You stay here with Frank and guide me, OK?"
Alfred is wading into the lake, ripples forming around his ankles bending and breaking the illusion. "I don't know. Maybe we should wait for dad?" you say. Alfred scoffs and wades further in. Frank whimpers from further up along the shore, then barks as Alfred dives forward and starts to swim.
From your vantage point, the platter looks to be about half way across the lake. As the ripples caused by Alfred's thrashing strokes hit its edge it starts moving, then breaking up and sinking. "It's sinking!" you shout. Alfred turns and shouts back. "What?" "It's sinking!" you shout again, pointing at the plate that by now is barely visible. "I can't see it!" Alfred responds, looking around in confusion. "It's right there in front of you. Hurry!"
Alfred swims forward, then dives below the surface. Frank barks again, pacing restlessly back and forth along the shoreline. Several seconds pass, then Alfred surfaces again. "I can't see it!" he shouts. "It's right there" you shout back, pointing right where he floats. "Right where you are."
Alfred throws his hands in the air and dives again. He stays down for a long time. The rippling water calms and the platter reappears on its surface. How is that possible? You should have brought your glasses. Alfred surfaces again and when he does the platter disappears. "It was on top again. You hit it and it sank when you came up." Alfred takes a deep breath and dives again.
Count the seconds. Ten. Twenty. Thirty. Frank paces. The platter reappears. Forty. Fifty. You shift from one foot to the other. It's taking a long time. Sixty. Seventy. Suddenly the surface ripples, but Alfred does not appear. Only bubbles.
"Alfred" you shout. "Alfred!" The surface calms. The platter is there, the fish on top. Frank is barking, picking up on your distress. "Alfred! Stop playing. ALFRED!"
A hand taps you on the chest under the sheets. The voice of a woman, slurred with sleep, whispering "Ssssh. Be quiet. You're waking Alfred."