Lucidly Chester House

Fiction by Diane Choplin, “The Party” – Art by A.J. Springer


Something sinister pulses beneath the Victorian elegance of Chester House Inn. She senses it lurking despite the cheerily painted exterior, ornate gables and decorative eaves. Occupying a sunny clearing on thickly wooded acres outside Inverness, an unincorporated coastal California town, the Inn is secluded. Lost to town and time. Beyond, conifers give way to open fields abruptly ending in surf-battered cliffs.

Her parents booked two rooms for a long weekend away from the city. Quality time, they say. Fresh air, they say. And to sweeten the deal, driving practice on the quiet country roads.

She longs for the independence driving will give her, physical distance from their wordless expectations. They’re fine, as parents go. But their chipper patience fails to mask concerns that she won’t make something of herself, won’t successfully fledge.

Unfolding from the cramped backseat of their Prius, she stretches, pausing before a rose-covered arch opening on the Inn’s garden. Intent on snapping a photo, one that captures the hidden vibe of the place, she reaches for her mobile. Framing the house between thorny branches and wrought iron, she struggles to get a clear shot. Each time she finds a gap seemingly wide enough, she notices a truncated turret, or cut-off railing. It’s as if the plants are tightening their grip on the scene, conspiring against her. She stands, tucking unruly dark locks behind her left ear, and thumbs through her images. Mentally composing a caption for her Insta feed, she mouths Creepy.

“No cell service or wifi this trip, darlin’,” her dad says with a satisfied grin as he hoists their bags out of the trunk. “That thing is a paperweight out here.”

“What?!,” she explodes. “You didn’t tell me that. I’d have never come!”

“We did,” he says, setting a tangerine canvas backpack at her feet. “You probably forgot.”

“Or tuned us out,” adds her mom. “But you can still take pictures.”

Slouching under the formidable weight of four whole days with only her parents and this strange place as company, she scowls and surveys the garden. Gravel paths and short boxwood hedges barely contain its floral abundance. Semi-trained raspberry vines intermingled with dahlias, cosmos, lilies, delphinium and zinnias in shades of peach, lime, periwinkle, and deep purple. Efforts had been made to support their effulgent growth, but plants clearly outpace gardener. Her face softens. It is pretty. She could try drawing again. She’d abandoned it when her artist grandmother died.

Her mom studies her, shifting an armful of coats she insisted they bring. “I slipped your sketchbook and pencils into your bag,” she says, gesturing with her chin toward the forgotten backpack at her daughter’s feet. “Just in case.”

How annoying. A moment ago, sketching sounded good. Now it feels like a mandate from her mother. Scowling again, she turns toward the house and sees her dad jauntily climbing the stone steps to the porch. Whistling, he schleps the rest of their belongings as easily as if they were filled with salt and vinegar chips.

“C’mon you two! What are you waiting for?”

Mom follows. I observe myself grab my backpack and do the same, intrigued by the scene. Curious, I let it play out.


In lucid dreams the dreamer realizes that she is dreaming and might thus be in a position to frame certain thoughts and experiences as being those of a distinct notional subject (LaBerge & DeGracia 2000)


She, who is also I, reclines on a padded wicker chaise lounge looking out over an azure swimming pool. Filled by a natural spring and tiled in shades of blue, depth is hard to calculate, making me squirm. I’ve never been a good swimmer and pregnancy makes me feel even more awkward, no matter the element.

A dark-haired girl in loose, white dungarees and odd earmuffs bends over a sketchpad. She’s sitting a few places away, a tangerine rucksack at her feet, penciling the lovely form of a garden lily. It stretches slowly toward her, its red, pollen-laden stamen reaching, hungry.

Reaching? Hungry? What nonsense. Just as I decide my insatiable appetite must be driving this absurd notion, my stomach growls. I’m constantly famished, food never far from my mind. “Table for four?” my husband teases at breakfast, convinced I’m eating for twins. I’m just hoping for healthy, no matter the gender or number. Ravenous is good. It’s a sign of life, of persisting possibility. And three times is a charm, is it not?

My darling whisked me here to relax, knowing I’m wretched with miscarriage worry. But it’s he that looks blessedly languid, floating on a rubber raft in the middle of all that blue.

“Shall we pop into town and get some lunch?”

“Didn’t we just breakfast, Love?”

“That was dreadful hours ago,” I say, stomach grumbling.

“Oh, just a bit longer, Pet. This water is so rejuvenating. It melts all tension and makes my skin prickle with vigor. Join me for a spell, won’t you? Then we’ll go.”

I get up and approach pool edge, dipping a toe just below the surface. I wobble a bit and shiver. Not so warm I think as I find my balance. A glimpse of something moves underwater. What was that? A shadow?

“Such bravery!” he says, laughing and paddling closer. “Climb aboard my sunshine yellow vessel and we’ll set sail.”

“I prefer actual sunshine,” I say. “The water is a bit…” I falter, noticing what look like small cuts or scratches on his legs and midriff, trailing lines of crimson. I’m suddenly in and above the scene, intently scanning pool depths for signs of danger.

“A bit what, Darling?”

“Are you bleeding?” I hear myself ask. As soon as the query leaves my mouth, all traces of scratch and sanguine vanish. They don’t fade or dissipate, as one would expect of mingled liquid. Just… poof. Gone.

“Am I…” He studies me, trying to make sense of my words. “What an odd question.” Surveying his body, he says: “All I see is a man on happy repose with his beautiful wife and babies to be.”


This contrasts sharply with the case of imagining as described by Velleman, in which the actual subject unselfconsciously retains her own perspective whilst deliberately adopting the imagined perspective. (ibid)


“Damn,” I say under my breath, a brunch tray in one hand, room keys in the other. My wife is sprawled on the bed, half dressed. On the nightstand an empty wine bottle and ashtray full of spent Virginia Slims compete for space with a stained-glass lamp. Had I been gone that long? Where did she get the wine?

I’d specially planned this getaway to start fresh as a family, away from our routine of chronic disappointment. She was keen. She promised.

“Dad,” my teen son calls through our adjoining door, “We’re checking out that shipwreck today, right?”

“Yeah, of course, I just need to…”

“It’s Mom, isn’t it?”

“She just…”

“I hate this! I hate you! And this place!”

His door slams. Heavy footsteps recede down the hall. Caught between my angry son and suffering wife, I study the woman I once so fiercely loved. She’s clutching an antique silver brush with an unusual amount of ensnared hair. As I reach for it, her shed locks dissolve into boar bristles, leaving no trace. I blink hard. The weight of repeat history is getting to me. I’m reliving the same struggles over and over again, Atlas shouldering the emotional storm of my family. It’s taking its toll. I need some air.

Crossing the room, I open a double hung window overlooking the garden. It resists but relents just as I see my son approach a dark-haired girl with a sketchpad. She’s wearing earmuffs.


In vicarious dreams, there is only one centered subjective perspective, and it is the first-person perspective of the dream protagonist. [But] the dream protagonist is a temporary separate entity, a fleeting self (Rosen 2012).


“Wow, that’s pretty good!” he says, shattering my focus.

He’s close to my age but older, tall, and holding a vintage transistor radio. Odd. I close my sketchpad, feeling perturbed. Who talks to people with headphones? Isn’t it obvious I’m not feeling chatty? I guess not because he says:

“A really accurate depiction. Are you a plant illustrator? For science?”

“A botanical artist?”

“Yeah, that. Is it why you wear earmuffs? To concentrate?”

“Earmuffs?” I ask incredulously, removing them. “These are bluetooth. I’m listening to music.”

“Music? No way. I’ve been trying to get a signal all morning,” he says, fiddling with dials on his retro radio. “Tried to tune into KYA 1260 outta San Fran. We’re not far from the city, but all I get is static.”

“Are you for real? Why are you carrying that thing? Don’t you have any tracks stored on your phone?”


“Your mobile,” I say, pulling mine out of my pocket. “Look dude, I’m not into having my leg pulled by some…”

“Whoa. What is that?”

He takes two steps back, allowing me to see him fully. His surprise seems genuine. Either he’s really never seen a cell phone, or he’s a good actor. And in slim fitting jeans rolled at the cuff and a collared knit shirt with two bold vertical stripes, he’d blend right into an old movie set. Co-star to the man on healthy Oreo cookies, before he made cookies. Newman something.

Leaning in for a better look he says: “Far out! A tiny television! Flat, like on the Jetsons.”

“I’ve heard of that show,” I say, softening. “A cartoon. My dad claims it’s the inspiration for FaceTime and Roombas.”

Staring wide-eyed he asks, “Are you from the future?”

“The what? You’re crazy! I just got here yesterday. By car, not time machine.”

“We arrived after that pregnant couple in geezer swimwear,” he says, gesturing to the pool. “My dad and I were supposed to check out a nearby shipwreck today…” he trails off, looking worried.

“Did something happen to him? Your dad?”

“Nah. It’s my mom. She… I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t even know you.”

“I’m the girl from the future,” I say, laughing.

“Or a spy. 008, privy to advanced technology. Seriously, though, every time we try to head to town or the beach, something comes up. I feel stuck here. I was about to go out on my own when I saw you.”

“Is that a lead to a cheesy pickup line? If so, I’m done talking.”

“No. Of course not,” he flushes. “Don’t flip your wig or anything. You’re just the first person my age I’ve seen in what feels like a very long time.”

Awkward silence ensues. We watch a bumblebee pause at various blooms without settling; finally landing on the pollen-laden stamens of the lily I’d sketched. Bending under its weight, the red, powdery tendrils maneuver around the bee’s body. I watch, transfixed, as the bee struggles and is drained of life. It falls, desiccated, to the ground.

“Wicked! Did you see that?”

Suddenly I’m again above and within the scene, scouting for danger. Wicked indeed. This place isn’t right. I glimpse an odd shimmer just outside the boundaries of the manicured grounds, before they fade into dense forest. My eyes trace its presence, a hint here, a glimmer there. Like a bubble it encases us, transparent. Visible only when caught in just the right…

“Beam us up, Scotty! Future girl is out to lunch.”


Several findings suggest that high complexity and self-organization manifest (Combs, 1996Mölle et al., 1996) and dreams may reflect new integrations of dissociated mental states related to traumatic and stressful experiences. [They] may also increase creative potentialities in various cases of artistic inventions, scientific discoveries and deep insights. (Edwards et al., 2013Dresler et al., 2015).




Diane Choplin’s essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Countryside Magazine, Oregon Humanities, The Bluebird Word, Quibble Lit, and The Oregonian. She lives on a 5-acre farm in Southern Oregon where she also raises rotationally-grazed lamb, welcomes Airbnb guests, and keeps hopeful eye out for edible wild mushrooms.




A.J. Springer (b.1993, New York) is a multimedia artist who combines drawing, collage, painting, and printmaking to create immersive complex collages. Her work has been shown both nationally and internationally in exhibitions and fairs such as Galeria Taller La Maquina, Oaxaca, Mexico (2023), The Other Art Fair, NY (2021-2023) Miami Art Basel (2019, 2018, 2017, 2014), Monmouth Museum, NJ (2018), 21 Gallery in Cologne, Germany (2017), Seoul Museum of Art, South Korea (2017) and IPCNA Cultural Museum in Lima, Peru (2016). She currently resides and continues her practice as an artist in Brooklyn, NY.