My dream-self wasn't me, in this dream.
I was outside, with a woman, in a dirt alley behind a row of houses in a neighborhood that seemed familiar; perhaps one was my grandparents' old house. There were other people around, sitting, talking; I didn't know them, but the setting had the feeling of a summer holiday afternoon. I don't know how I met this woman, but we were on friendly terms.
She beckoned me away from the crowd a bit, toward another, larger and emptier alley, explaining (perhaps jokingly), that it was "safer." However, I sensed no danger. There was a young boy playing nearby.
She took me to her place, maybe the same day, maybe another. The room was dim, not well-lit, and incredibly messy and cluttered. I don't think "squalid" is the right word, since everything seemed somehow very meticulously arranged. There were mirrors, swing-arm lamps, gleams of metallic things on tables. For some reason I expected an odor, but there was nothing unpleasant.
On one wall, near the floor, were two spattered half-circles of dark red. There were several dark and hidden areas around the room that gave me the sense that things here were incorrect, but not dangerously so.
We spoke. I sat on a couch; she was on a stool. Maybe she was smoking.
She was blunt. "I'm not too pretty, underneath," she explained at one point, casually but slowly. "I like to be bloody and hurt."
There was a pause. If she had a cigarette, she took a drag.
"I shot my toes off." Her tone suggested that this was offered by way of example, and was one of many. "But Rex fixed me up."
This information did not shock me, but I hadn't known it until she told me. Her face betrayed no evidence of a habit of self-mutilation.
I looked around the room, spying a photo of an overweight woman. "You?"
She nodded. It looked recent. I figured she weighed maybe 100 pounds less now.
She smiled, not humorously. "You could call it that."
"Why?" I asked, my question referring to the photo, the room, her habit.
She shrugged as if guessing the reason, but I felt that she was quite sure about it: "When you know the world doesn't want you, you find ways to escape its attention."
We were in bed together, that night? Another night? She had insisted on darkening the room so I couldn't see anything. She had shut out any available light to make sure my eyes couldn't adjust.
"Are you ashamed or something?"
"No," she said. "Just want to ease you into it."
"Anything I shouldn't touch?"
"No, right now it's all just scars."
Lying next to her in the dark, I explored her body. It was alien, only minimally familiar, and I shivered with a mixture of curiosity, revulsion, and desire every time I encountered something unexpected.
Her limbs were attached in the normal way, but her skin, although uniformly hairless, was a riot of textural irregularity. I traced scars of disturbing length, or width, or shape, several of which extended to where one breast should have been, but wasn't. There were rough areas and areas that were hard and smooth, almost like glass, or bone. I decided not to verify her claim about her toes.
Moving my hand lower, I couldn't find what I expected to be there; there was no fold to spread apart. "Let me help," she whispered, and moved my hand past a region of ridges, to a depression and a crease of flesh, the interior of which was familiarly moist. She made a slight sound.
My curiosity overcame me. "What ... did you do?"
I explored a little more, she made another sound, then continued.
"I put something inside and then closed it up. Rex had to take it out though, and made that way to get in."
I wondered if Rex was an actual person, or whether she was referring to herself.
I woke up.