Oh, close your eyes and you wake up / Face stuck to a vinyl settee / Oh, the line was starting to break up / What was that you were going to say? / 


issue 05: good night

martha ormiston

I told Carol Lynn I had a dream, and she responded with a thumbs up.

Carol Lynn is 88 years old. She is retired and lives in Florida. She keeps telling me to visit her website—she doesn’t know that I’ve already spent a lot of time there.

I had the dream shortly after I moved into my new apartment in Ridgewood, Queens. Carol Lynn told me she grew up in Ridgewood after I gave her my mailing address. I told Carol Lynn that the street she grew up on is the same street I live on, but that they actually changed the name of the block some time ago. Carol Lynn replied, “Small world.”

I had hoped to tell Carol Lynn about a Margarette John who lived in my new apartment in the ‘20s, and what happened to her. I had also hoped to tell Carol Lynn about a Mary Josephine who lived in my last apartment in the ‘20s, and what happened to her. Bodies like wind, I wanted to tell Carol Lynn. But Carol Lynn didn’t nibble on any bait, and instead instructed that she preferred payment via a mailed cheque.

Carol Lynn is a Spiritualist. She also worked for over 20 years for the United States government as a research & development contracting officer. In looking up what that was, I found out that it meant Carol Lynn dealt with the money. Also, the types of contracts that she negotiated were different from those for supplies or services, because they were directed towards objectives whose methods couldn’t be described in advance, and whose probability of success were difficult to judge. Before that, Carol Lynn was a dentist. I found all of this out while visiting Carol Lynn’s bed & breakfast.

What lured me up the porch steps and through the double doors of her white, two-storey Victorian home—complete with a covered porch (on both levels), oversized columns, ornamental balusters, decorative skirting, and a perforated gable trim—was the echoing voice of Jim Reeves’ “Welcome to My World” (A Touch of Velvet, 1962). With each step I took, his voice grew louder and more ominous.

Welcome to my world...

Upon entering the foyer, to my right in the corner I encountered an antique side table with three bowed legs that hoofed out at the bottom. On top of the table was a piece of paper, introducing me (the visitor) to the bed & breakfast. On this notice, which was printed on an ornate letterhead that featured a sunflower motif embossed at the top, Carol Lynn explains that she was using the concept of a bed & breakfast to further Rod Serling’s ideas of an expansive universe, more commonly referred to as the “twilight zone.” 

Carol Lynn clarified that she didn’t mean a literal, physical bed & breakfast, but rather a website with many “rooms” (here she puts in parentheses: (pages)). In these “rooms” (pages), Carol Lynn writes that we (the visitor) could explore many facets of truth. In these “rooms” (pages), we (the visitor) can work on opening our understanding of existence.

From inside the foyer, to the left I could see a sitting room with velvet drapes layered over lace sub-curtains, a gold damask Chippendale camelback sofa with claw-and-ball feet, and two matching armchairs. Also in the room was an upright piano and a credenza with a CD player on top of it, seemingly, as I came later to determine, set to repeat.

To my right was a dining room that featured a mahogany table and eight chairs with barley twist legs, under a bell jar lantern electrified with a three-bulb candelabra cluster. In the far corner of the room was a doorway that looked like it led into a kitchen. As much as I would have liked to explore every cupboard and corner on the first floor more extensively, it was late in the day, and according to the notice in the foyer, I had already missed “breakfast with my higher self.” I decided instead to proceed straight to the base of the staircase and begin my creaky ascent.

The staircase led to a second-floor landing with three rooms on each side. To my right, closest to me, was a room with a brass plaque engraved with the word THOUGHTS. The room next to that had a plaque with the word PASSIONS. As surprising as it was that I could read it from where I was standing, in smaller type (to fit on a plaque the same size as the others), the third room on the right side of the stairs was labelled FAVOURITE LINKS.

Though these rooms were almost as tempting as those on the first floor, I was still looking for information about something else—something less conscious. And so, after considering all the plaques on the other side of the stairs, I walked down the hallway, wrapped my hand around the octagonal glass knob of the last door on the left, and gave it a twist.

The room I entered was dazzling. The walls were covered salon-style with photographs in varying sizes of polished brass frames that reflected the mid-afternoon sun in every direction. Under each framed photograph was a caption, flush against the wall. It felt as if someone was desperate not to forget what each image was and went around the room with a handheld label-maker. The ducks in Lily Dale. Maggie and Kate’s tombstone. Carol Lynn in a seance. Horace Greeley’s tombstone. Carol Lynn on the stump at Lily Dale. A doll that belonged to someone named Mary. A photograph of slate, board, and chalk.

Here was Carol Lynn seeing the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC. Carol Lynn hugging a friend she hadn’t seen in 50 years. Carol Lynn dressed up as a Victorian lady. Carol Lynn holding balloons. Niagara Falls. A bent fork. Carol Lynn holding hands with two women at a table. Carol Lynn and the ’08 flood. Carol Lynn with her arms crossed. Carol Lynn in a feather hat. Carol Lynn eating crabs. Carol Lynn wearing a smiley face pin with a parrot on her wrist.

I just ate crabs for the first time, I wanted to tell Carol Lynn. Brian and I picked their shells apart with our hands on a picnic table last weekend in Maryland. Due to a crab shortage, they were very expensive. I wondered what Carol Lynn thought a good price for crabs was. I wondered if Carol Lynn liked Old Bay. I wondered if Carol Lynn’s bed & breakfast had a basement, and if it did, how I could get there. That is where my dream took place, I wanted to tell Carol Lynn—in the basement of my new apartment in Ridgewood.

Here was Carol Lynn in a New York airport. Carol Lynn at an ice cream parlour. Carol Lynn dressed in beige. The granddogs. The grandhorses. Carol Lynn in front of a bush with pink flowers. Carol Lynn with a cat. Carol Lynn in front of an indoor house plant. Carol Lynn with an Abraham Lincoln impersonator. Carol Lynn as a child.

Here was Carol Lynn at Christmas. Carol Lynn in 1964. Carol Lynn with balloons (again). Carol Lynn in front of sunflowers. Carol Lynn in a T-shirt with round glasses. Carol Lynn at the post office. Carol Lynn at a luncheon. Carol Lynn with a tambourine with Carol Lynn’s eyes closed.

I initially friend-requested Carol Lynn online to see if she was still alive. Her bed & breakfast hadn’t been updated since before the pandemic, and her age and location were risk factors. If she wasn’t alive, then Carol Lynn certainly haunted this domain. If she was alive, then I could tell her about my dream, and see what she had to say on the topic, since I wasn’t finding answers here. I was also very curious about the R&D contracts.

Carol Lynn didn’t leave me in suspense for long, and accepted my friend request later that same afternoon before instantly directing me to her URL.

Welcome to my world...

From inside the PHOTO GALLERY, there was a door that connected to the room next to it—the second room to the left of the staircase. This door between suites was in the centre of the wall, and, to my surprise, opened on its own when I approached it. It must have been retrofitted with a motion detector for wheelchair accessibility, though I questioned how a wheelchair would get up the stairs.

In the next room, the walls were lined with massive carved floor-to-ceiling bookcases. Looking around the room, I saw that each vertical section of shelves held a few hundred copies of the same spine. They were all shrink-wrapped as well, likely waiting to fulfill Amazon orders. Of the six differently coloured spines I saw in the room, five were shades of orange and yellow, and the sixth was blue.

I approached the bookcase closest to me on the left, and pulled out a book that had a photograph of a sunflower on the cover. I then walked to the bookcase next to that and pulled out a different book, which also had a photograph of a sunflower on the cover.  I wanted to tell Carol Lynn it was such a coincidence, because lately I had been seeing sunflowers everywhere. She probably would have told me “Ok.” Of the six different books in the room, five featured a sunflower on the cover, and the sixth had a family of ducks.

The library was void of any other furniture aside from a vitrine table in the middle of the space. One was truly not meant to sit and read in here. The vitrine was locked, but I could see under the glass, laid out side-by-side, four identically sized booklets printed on tan, pink, yellow, and blue copy paper. According to their titles, the booklets varied in topic, but each had the exact same black clipart of a sunflower on the cover.

I wished I could pick up these booklets and flip through their pages. I wanted to know if they were illustrated. I wanted to know if they contained Carol Lynn’s esoteric theories. I wanted stories from home circles. Stories of table-tipping and tambourines. She is an 88-year-old Spiritualist, she must have some anecdotes. This vitrine had to be locked for a reason. In the booklets, I thought, maybe Carol Lynn writes about the mind extracting itself from the vibrations of the body during sleep, and getting closer to the soul. In these booklets, I thought, maybe Carol Lynn writes about visitation dreams.

In my dream, my uncle walked me around the basement of the row house that my new apartment is in. The basement was partially renovated, but construction stopped early on due to recurrent flooding. Recently, the basement flooded and the water tipped over a can of paint thinner, which I only discovered once my apartment smelled strongly of rubber.

In my dream, my uncle walked me around the basement with a stiff leg that was very swollen, like it was inflated with air.  As he hobbled around on this comically huge leg, he told me how I could use household objects that I had upstairs to make my own mini-golf course in the space. He told me that the railroad layout of the apartments in this building, along with the lack of concern anyone has for finishing the basement, made it a great place for me to practise my sad putting.

I wanted to tell Carol Lynn that it was true I couldn’t putt for the life of me. I also wanted to tell Carol Lynn, since my dream, I found out new information about what brought my uncle to the doctor in the first place: he had shooting pains down his leg that were interfering with his golf, and he thought he possibly injured his ACL. Two MRIs later showed a torn meniscus and lung cancer that had spread to the bone

The cancer continued to spread, slowly. It took two years for it to take his life. A few years after that, his brother—my other uncle—had a stroke on my birthday and died instantly. A few years after that, their sister passed away. This would lead me to the part where I would tell Carol Lynn about how I saw my aunt in a dream as well, at my old apartment. She was full of life— smiling huge and dancing wild. The image was so vivid that I can still see it when I close my eyes.

Welcome to my world...

Carol Lynn had a stroke four years ago, she wrote on her blog. She mentioned at that time that she was in physical therapy to regain use of her digits. It seemed to me that she had regained movement since then, at least in the fingers with which she typed her messages to me—though she did have the occasional typo.

Towards the end of our transaction, Carol Lynn told me, as an aside, that I could get direction if I sat quietly and asked spiritco for help. At that moment, I had forgotten about her stroke, and promptly looked up spiritco online. It turned out that it was a website that sold alcohol. I couldn’t tell if Carol Lynn would see the humour in her typo, and my subsequent search results, so I didn’t mention it.

I have decided to refrain from further correspondence until after Carol Lynn receives my cheque, which included a few more dollars than she asked for. After that, I will try to question her about her R&D work, and hopefully tell her about my dream. After that, maybe there will be the possibility of back-and-forth dialogue with Carol Lynn, outside of a sale.

But who knows. So far, she’s just not like that. You ask Carol Lynn if she knows a certain medium in Lily Dale, and Carol Lynn replies “Yes.” That’s it. You ask Carol Lynn about how she got involved in the occult, Carol Lynn gives you an age and a location and sends you back up the porch steps. You try to tease Carol Lynn with the hint of a little ghost story of your own, and Carol Lynn says she left the invoice inside the booklet on spirit photography, and not to forget the price of postage in the cheque.
︎ ︎ ©Plates 2021
︎ ︎ ©Plates 2021