Good morning. I’ve been working on uploading free previews for you to read. This next one is a preview of a book I wrote; Dreamers.
Dreamers is a little odd. I love the story, but although I love it I realize the telling is a little strangely written. I could change that but that would change the whole feel and premise of the book, so I left it alone.
I began this story in a creative writing class. The entire class, about 20 of us, worked up stories, began to write them, and read the results in class on a weekly basis.
I felt stuck for ideas, of course the entire purpose of the class was to learn to write spontaneously, or in tough circumstances. At the time I was having a series of dreams, odd little dreams I have had all of my life: Being lost inside a city, a world that seemed almost normal but was far from normal. I would start the dream from one place, easily found, in sight, and then I would find myself instantly lost. I would turn to find the familiar landmark/building/vehicle and it would suddenly be gone.
I decided to use that premise for a book. I wrote it out. It was weird to me, nothing like what I normally write, but as I wrote it continued to develop, like most writing that is successful, it seemed to be right there, almost writing itself.
The first time I read it in class I got positive feedback, so I wrote more. That entire semester I wrote sometime during the week or weekend before class and the story grew. By the end of that class I had something between a short story and a novelette: I sat it aside.
A few months later I finished book twenty in the Earth’s Survivors series, set it aside and noticed what I had title dreams, pulled it out, read it start to finish, made a slew of changes and just picked up the story and ran with it to completion. Completion turned out to be three books later to tell the entire story. Book 2 and 3 are unpublished, I was waiting to see what book 1 did first.
I began to publish Earth’s Survivors books and so Dreamers was left behind, no links, no posts, I had something successful that was taking all of my time, and so the first book was published and then ignored by me.
As I said, I have always enjoyed the story. It doesn’t matter to me how I get to it, how it is woven, it only matters where it takes me. So, here are the first two chapters free. If you enjoy it, leave a comment, or if you don’t, also leave a comment.
I hope you are staying safe during this time. I am, as you can see, trying to entertain you. Our Governor herein New York believes we may be approaching the zenith of the Pandemic here in New York, and so we should be going down the other side toward the light at the end of the tunnel. It is just so odd to think in those terms, because so many have died, and so many more will. Social distancing seems to work, or at least work to slow things down, and it may be your own life you save.
Stay safe, enjoy the story, I’ll be back tomorrow morning with another, Dell…
Dreamers is Copyright © 2016 by Dell Sweet. All rights reserved foreign and domestic.
Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
Parts of this novel are Copyright © 2010, 2015 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.
Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.
My hope is that you enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.
DREAMER’S WORLDS: THE DREAMER’S WORLDS
Joe and Laura
“I had looked in that jerky way dreams have of showing you something. Pieces missing, frames skipped in the film, scenes out of order: Bits of information that seemed to mean nothing at the time. Things you only know and never see. Even explaining it doesn’t do it justice, but if you’ve ever dreamed you know what I mean.”
“I will say this about buildings, walls, houses, cars, trees… They harbor evil. They can hate. Maybe not in the world most of us live in, but in the world I spend most of my time in the rules are different. They can hate you. They can love you. They can kill you. You should know that if you ever dream.”
In The Moonlight:
“Easy… Easy, Boy.” I lowered my hand to the dog’s head and patted affectionately, trying to calm him. He whined low in his throat and looked around at the darkness that closed in on us.
We were in a garage, that much I could tell. Just a nondescript, average run-of-the-mill garage.
The dog lived here. Not the garage specifically. Specifically he lived with, or was owned by, the people that lived on the ground floor of the nearby house. I knew that was true because I lived on the top floor of that same house, even though I had only ever set foot there once or twice, and then only in dreams. I still knew the place. It looked the same. Familiar. The dog, Bear, slept in the garage.
The dog squirmed under my calming hand, whined once again, and then darted out of the garage toward the lower floor of the house. Maybe the first floor. Maybe the basement if he had or could find a way into it. Either way, he was safe now. A kind of exit stage left. Still, I waited a few long minutes to see if he might return, when he didn’t I turned my attention back to the grocery cart I had just pushed for the last few miles to reach the garage.
It wasn’t mine. Well, technically it wasn’t mine, but everything in this world was mine if you came right down to it. I had entered what looked to be an abandoned house and found the cart, already loaded, sitting in an attached garage just off the ground floor apartment. I remember thinking… “So… This is how it begins…
It always begins some way and I suppose that sometimes the ends justify the means, and here was the end… I mean to say that I took the cart, loaded as it was, no more thought involved, pushed it out of the garage at a run and went blindly down the rain-slicked dirt road in front of me.
There was one bad part when I nearly got stuck, but I saw the problem from a long way off, put on a burst of speed and made it through the mud hole and out the other side. It was only a matter of minutes later that I had come in sight of the house and knew what the deal was. I had been contemplating the cart and it’s contents, feeling ears of corn through the side of a large sack, about to check some other stuff, when the dog had appeared.
When the dog came, memories came with him: The house; The people that owned the dog… Returning from work… or? I don’t know. Work or something else. Daily? Was it before things got bad? If so it had to be work: There was nothing else but work before. So work, or something like work… Coming home… The people downstairs… The family upstairs that I knew so intimately, but had never actually seen… Other memories… Leaving to go and get the cart… Knowing it would be there somehow… Getting there… Looping back to here and the present time…
The dog didn’t come back. I stood, the moonlight washing over me: This was critical, all that I had to do was stay there. There meaning upstairs. Stay there. I would be home. I was home. All I had to do was stay. But it never worked out that way. Even as I was thinking about climbing those stairs, checking on the kids, climbing quietly into bed beside my wife, something else was pulling at me, and as I looked around, the big van was parked in the driveway. Almost talking to me. Had it been there a few moments before? A few seconds ago? Surely not. I’d just pushed that cart up that driveway. There had been nothing in it… And that was… Today…? Tonight…? Just a short time ago…? Sure it was.
I let my eyes move around the garage, sweeping over the cart and its load of bundles and packages… Junk too… I hadn’t seen that before… Computer parts? … Maybe… Food and machines. That was ironic. But my mind was not satisfied. The van was there and if the van was there… … I felt in my pockets… … Keys… … And absolutely those keys hadn’t been there a few seconds ago. I could feel their scratchy press against my thigh. Irritating yet comforting… My eyes turned up to the van.
The van was the way out. It could be anyway, if I could simply stay with it… But there was no time to think. Certainly no time to be thinking like that.
More memories came. Memories of always taking the van; always, and… And I couldn’t make the rest of that ghost of a memory come, whatever it was, it was lost to me. … The city… Being lost in the city… Something…. It wouldn’t come, but, well I couldn’t stay here could I?
I glanced towards the house again, expecting the dog to come back… No dog… He had played his part and… And… I looked up at the full, bloated moon. When had I left the garage? I was standing next to the van… Looking in through the drivers window. The keys out of my pocket and into my hand. I could feel their cold, metal weight… Dawn was not far away, if I was going… That was it. The thought just echoed in my head… If I was going I better get going? … If I was going I better get to it? … I better throw away the keys and go in the house? … I better… But I stopped those thoughts. I knew where I better lead to, it lead to, ‘The time is short!’ Once dawn moves in you’ll be stuck! Whatever I had to do in the city with the van had to be done now: Before dawn, or not at all. There was no time to think about it… There never was… I looked down and sucked in a sharp breath.
I let the breath out slowly as my hand fitted the key into the ignition. When had I opened the door? ‘For that matter,’ my mind started, but I shut the door on those thoughts as the van roared to life. I dropped the lever into reverse and for some reason I looked up at the top floor of the house as I did. The lights popped on… A shadow moved behind the curtains of one window… ‘Better go if you’re going,’ my mind whispered. ‘You could stay,’ another voice inside my head countered. ‘Just walk up those stairs…’ the curtain moved in that upstairs window and I quickly turned my eyes aside… I couldn’t see that…. I always turned away: Always…
The van bounced and then lurched out into the street. Gears clashing, transmission whining. The tires chirped as I braked too hard and then slammed the gear shift into drive. The outline of the city glowed in soft yellow light before me. The moonlight bathed the road behind me bright and familiar. After all, how many times had I driven this road? … I sighed, slipped my foot off the brake pedal and let it fall heavily onto the gas. The tires chirped once more as I moved off down the road, snapping the headlights on as an afterthought. Behind me, in the back of the van, the dog whined. I lowered one hand and his head slipped underneath that hand.
“Easy… Easy, Boy,” I said.
In The Moonlight:
“Easy… Easy, girl, I wont hurt you.” I lowered my hand slowly to let the dog get my scent as I approached the van… Boy, my mind corrected… Boy, Laura…
“Boy,” I said aloud and laughed. But the dog looked like he knew what I had said, cocking his head from one side to the other. His upper lip curled away from his teeth, but he was no longer snarling or growling deep in his chest. “Easy, Boy. Easy, Boy… It’s me, Laura… Easy.” I reached down and he allowed me to rest one hand on his head. I ruffled the thick fur there.
This was new. Did the dog know me? Did I know the dog? I thought about it and realized that at the very least I knew the dog. That didn’t mean the dog knew me. And the dog was definitely not letting anyone near the van. Guarding it. He seemed to consider me on a deeper level, his eyes locked with mine. When had I looked back at him? I couldn’t answer the question. With the dog looking at me like that the question didn’t seen important at all. Wasn’t, important at all, I corrected myself… The dog corrected…?
“You do know me… Don’t you? …Bear?” The dog, who was not a dog, cocked his head to one side and seemed to smile at me. … “Your name is, Bear? … Good, Boy… You’re… Joe’s dog… Bear. Good boy, Bear… Is he here… In the van?” I eased closer as I talked.
Bear watched me, but no longer growled at all. Even the stiff posture he had assumed had changed. His tail dropped and moved slightly. It may have been the beginning of a wag. He whined low in his throat. His eyes reflecting green iridescence in the blue of the moon light. He whined again and then came closer to me, easing his head back under my hand so carefully it seemed as though it had always been there. I rubbed his head once more and then my hand slipped under his jaw, scratching, my head lowered at the same time. Bear whined again and then licked my face.
Laura, you take too many chances, I told myself. Too many. But my hand continued to rub Bear’s head and scratch under his jaw, allowing my racing heart to slow. Catching my breath. Wondering what came next. I was new to this. I had never been this far before. I didn’t know what came next.
“You get in the van,” Joe said from the open window above me.
A small, sharp scream slipped from my throat before I could stop it; sounding like someone was strangling me as I tried to suppress it.
“Jesus… Jesus, Joe… Jesus!”… I managed to get myself back under control after a few seconds. I sucked air back into my lungs. Bear whined and looked up at me. My heart slammed against my rib cage.
“No… Not, Jesus. Thank God it’s not that time,” he said.
I met his eyes, but there was no smile in them. “You scared me,” I said defensively, still breathing hard, chest heaving, heart slamming against my ribs.
“No shit. You think I wasn’t scared too? You’re not supposed to be here … You never have been.” He finished quietly after starting in a loud, strained whisper. His eyes remained on mine. The wind picked up moving the limbs in a huge Elm that stood nearby. Its winter-dead limbs clicking and clacking as they came together. The heavy branches groaning and creaking as the wind momentarily gusted.
The wind continued to build for a few more seconds. Our eyes still locked on one another. Then the wind died down with an audible sigh and I shuddered involuntarily and shifted my eyes away.
“I know… I know,” I started. I moved my eyes back to his, but he just stared at me.
“I do know,” I started again. “I’m not even sure how… How I got here,” I finished quietly.
Bear pushed past me, tail wagging, and jumped up into the van as Joe opened the door.
“That’s how it happens,” he said every bit as quietly as I had started. His eyes that had wandered up to the night darkened sky were back on my own now. Staring at me out of the open door. Bear’s head popped up, looking at me from between the seats.
“Well,” Joe asked?
“What,” I asked? I cocked my head in an unconscious imitation of the way Bear was looking at me.
“Shouldn’t you get in,” he asked? … “Or don’t you want to?”
And that was the question, wasn’t it? Here I was, where I was not supposed to be, where I was not invited to be, where I had never been before and it was time to make the choice.
Bear cocked his head once more as if he were also waiting to hear my answer. The dog that was not a dog at all… a… wolf? Maybe… Maybe more than that too… His green eyes asked the question.
“I get in the Van,” I said quietly.
Joe looked away and then turned quickly back. “Yeah. Yeah. You get in the van and we… We go… It’s nearly dawn… There isn’t much time and we have to get as far as we can before the sun comes up.”
He stretched one hand across the seat, held out to me and I could hear the engine running… When had he started it? … I couldn’t remember. My tongue poked out and licked at my dry lips. Bear seemed to grin. No. Not just a wolf either… One side of his upper lip curled over his teeth.
I found my feet stepping up into the passenger area and I followed…
In The Moonlight:
On The Road With Bear
I rolled to a stop at the intersection. The city was ahead, the house behind, I had never turned left or right so I had no idea what might be in those directions. Were those two roads, one to the left, one to the right, winding away into the distance, just conceptions? One of those photo realistic things that made you look twice, maybe even more? I looked again.
The roads were night dark, the moon playing hide and seek, gliding in and out of the heavy black clouds. The falling rain distorted both the near road and the distant road. How long had it been raining, I wondered, once the rain finally registered. Big, fat drops formed and rolled off down the slope of the windshield. I reached for the wiper switch but found nothing.
I took my eyes from the windshield and looked, supposing I had put my hand in the wrong place, but I had not. There was simply nothing but a gray, formless mass that slightly resembled the lower half of a dashboard. I blinked and when I opened my eyes once more the wiper switch was there. Exactly where it had not been. Exactly where it should be.
Tired I thought.
Bullshit was my second thought.
I blinked again, but the wiper switch remained. I flicked it on half suspecting that it wouldn’t work. That the wipers, if there were any real wipers, would remain frozen to the glass, refuse to move, but they swept up and pushed the beaded drops of rain from the glass nearly silently. Bear whined and pushed his nose under my hand.
“Alright, Buddy,” I told him. I stroked his head and then looked back out at the road. Left, right, straight, I asked myself.
There was a mystery to the city. Sometimes it went bad for me and sometimes it simply frustrated me.
… Running down the clock… One thing was sure, I had never come back out of the city in the many times that I had driven down into it.
… Left, right, straight, I asked myself again.
I pulled a small wire bound notebook and a pen from my shirt pocket and thumbed it open. Pages and pages of notes on the many times I had gone, but none of them amounted to anything except four entries:
The first entry, page twenty-Six, an address, 52715 Randolph Circle. I had never found Randolph Circle in all of my trips, let alone 52715. I had no memory of ever being there. Of any trip to the city when I may have gone there. I did not remember marking the address into the book. Nothing. A total blank.
The second entry, page twenty-five, read; Be careful of Locust street. Big bold letters. And I remembered being there. I had barely got away with my life.
The third entry, page twenty-seven said; ‘West End Docks.’
I knew that place. I remembered being there, the first time and several other times. But the details weren’t there. I couldn’t see them. Why had I been there? I couldn’t see it. Put my finger on it. There was a long, low building that fronted the docks. A house across the street. An old run down neighborhood. A low, curving concrete wall where I had sat and watched people come and go several times. And more. The feeling that I had been there other times that I could not yet remember. I say yet because I had the feeling that I would remember it. But page twenty-six? Nothing. Nothing at all. Not even a ghost of a memory.
A map would be useful, but there were no maps. It had taken a dozen times or more before I could count on the wire bound note book being in my pocket. Bigger things, like the van, had taken even longer. Before that I had had to walk or steal a car and that was always risky. But there was hope for a map. Someday, just not this day. At least I didn’t think so.
A quick check of the glove box and the engine cover storage area proved that to be true. Nothing useful. And why was it so much useless stuff was there? A spare pen cap… A broken transistor radio, the van had a radio of its own… Sometimes anyway, but there were no stations on the dial, or at least not yet there weren’t. That was another maybe, but it was there, so what good was a broken transistor radio?
Two paperclips. An insurance card, made out to me… For what? A fuzzy life saver, it looked like lime, my least favorite flavor. A flashlight with no batteries, and a dog biscuit. That was new. There had never been a dog biscuit before. Bear whined and gave a little woof in his throat.
I laughed, “It’s yours, Buddy.” He took it gently from my hand. The dry scrape of the Windshield wipers dragged my attention to the windshield. No rain. No rain on the road either. I reached down and flicked off the wipers. At least the switch was still there.
Straight, my mind finally decided. Better the evil that you know. Left and right could wait for another night. I eased off the brake as Bear jumped up onto the passenger seat, rested his paws on the dashboard and watched the countryside pass us by as we made our way into the city.
The fourth entry was on page fifty-eight. A series of numbers. 2757326901. All strung together, followed by a name Laura K. Whole first name, initial only for the last: Like I knew her maybe? I didn’t though. I must have at the time I wrote the number down, but I didn’t now. Who was Laura? Were the numbers a telephone number? Code talk? It bothered me that I had written the entry and yet had no recollection of doing it. Same as Page twenty-six.
I passed the City Limits sign as I wondered. Regular street lights. No traffic. Sometimes there was traffic, sometimes there wasn’t.
The rain began to fall all at once. One second no rain, the next everything was drenched as though it had rained forever: Always; would never stop. I fumbled for the windshield wiper switch once more, but by the time I turned it back on the windshield was clear. No more rain. The road looked as though it had never seen rain, as if it had never been there at all.
I glanced at the speedometer and then lowered my speed. I didn’t need to attract attention. There were cops here and they had no problem putting me in jail. It didn’t seem to matter to them that I was no more real to them than they were to me, off to jail they took me. And before that was all said and done I spent ten days in that jail. Eating Bologna sandwiches, smelling that moldy-pissy jail smell and trying to convince my court appointed lawyer that neither of us were really there. Jail was no good. I had no intention of going back there. I looked once more at the speedometer, backed off a little more, and then passed the sign announcing the city limits.
The city was early morning dead. It wasn’t dawn. If it were I would not have been there, but dawn was close. There was a glow above the city skyline. Faint… Pink… Growing as I sat idling at the intersection waiting for the light to change.
I noticed the rain was falling once more and I had either never turned on the wipers the last time it had rained, or I had turned them off after it had rained. I reached down to flip the switch on and that was when I heard the sound of a heavy engine screaming. Gears clashing. Bear voiced a warning just as my eyes cleared the dashboard and tried to make sense of the scene before them.
There wasn’t much time to absorb it. A garbage truck just feet away from the driver’s door and closing fast. Sirens screaming. Red and blue lights pulsing. Chasing the garbage truck, I wondered? That was nearly the only thought I had time for.
Bear barked again. My eyes focused on the truck only inches away from me, and slowly rose to the driver. A woman… Laura? … Her eyes focused on my own for the split second before the Garbage truck hit the van’s driver door full blast.
Pain exploded inside of me. Faintly, far away, I heard Bear howl in either anger or pain. Then that sound, all sound, was quickly cut off, replaced with a low snapping sound that quickly turned into a heavy crackling sound. The smell of Ozone filled my nose, but something else quickly began to replace that smell. Gasoline. Gasoline and something else… Diesel? And then, with a low wham, the heat came. I struggled to free myself, but it was no use. I had time for one more quick thought … Laura … Laura … Why …? And then the explosion came and the pain flared, then ended almost as fast as it had come and I found myself flying through the blackness of the void… Flying…. Falling… Panic building… Lungs trying to pull a breath… Voice trying to scream… Nothing coming out… Then sight returning in a rush… The street racing up to meet me… The remains of the Van and the Garbage truck burning far below me…. Red and blue lights pulsing… Cars parked aslant in the street where they had skidded to a stop… Cops behind open doors… Crouched to fire… Their guns pointing… Rain falling… The pavement coming closer… So close I could see the individual pebbles of the surface embedded in the asphalt mix…
The impact came with no pain. The remaining air crushed from my lungs… I tried once more to scream, but it was no use… I hit hard, bounced, came down once more and my eyes flew open wide as I impacted the second time…
Gray half-light… The buzzing of the alarm clock… My own sheets tangled around me… Damp with sweat. The red numerals on the clock read 6:47 A.M. I sucked air greedily, like I had never been among the living at all. Never known how to breath. Just returned from the dead. I released my breath in a long, shaky shudder, found myself half sitting up in the bed and fell back to the mattress urging my racing heart to slow… Calming myself… Morning had come.
I reached over, shut off the alarm clock and silence descended on the room. I could hear my heart beating in that silence. Rapidly slamming against the inside of my ribs. Hard. Heavy. Loose and wet. Hear my labored breathing. I lay still for a few minutes watching more color seep into the sky, then got up and made my way to the shower.
In The Moonlight:
This Present Waking To life
Tuesday: Late Afternoon
Doctor Donna Shulman’s Office
“So… How did that make you feel?” Doctor Shulman asked me.
“Feel? I don’t know… Dead? …. Like it was real? … Like it’s always real until I wake up and find out that it isn’t real, you know?” I lifted my eyes to her, but she said nothing. “And…” I paused. No way should I say what was really on my mind. Shut up, Laura! I told myself before any of the words could slip out.
“And?” she prompted.
“And?” I questioned innocently.
“And you left off at And… It isn’t a typical ending to a sentence. At least not any structure I know of. I felt you had more to say?” She lifted say so that it made her statement a question. She waited. She was a good waiter. The best waiter. The best I had ever met. They probably taught that in the psychology classes she had taken.
I had known Doctor Donna Shulman for two years now. All in therapy. Two years ago I had been speed addicted, just coming off living on the streets. Now I was back to my old job as a website designer. No one I worked for knew about my past. My Probation officer wasn’t invasive like that. He was satisfied that I was working, maintaining a home, residence was the legal terminology he used when we discussed it, and probably what he wrote on the forms that went back to the judge. I was testing clean. I was clean, and had been the whole two years. My probation ended in a matter of a few weeks.
“Laura?” She prompted.
“Sorry,” I said, even though I wasn’t. It was ingrained. I hated myself when I groveled or apologized for no reason.
“The guy,” I said reluctantly. “I dream about this guy all the time. I mean every dream, and I’m dreaming about the same places all the time too. Over and over… He’s …. I don’t know… I don’t want to sound crazy… He’s … It’s like he’s real.” There, I told myself, I said it.
“Do you feel crazy,” she asked? “Impulsive? Like you’re worthless? The way your father always made you feel?”
“No,” I answered quietly. We’d covered a lot of ground in the last two years of mandated counseling sessions. All for resisting arrest. Well, I had kneed officer Macho Man who had insisted on touching me everywhere he possibly could while he justifiably subdued me. It still made me mad. And I had also shot a looping right to his eye, but it was only luck that I hit it. Okay, I had taken self defense classes… Maybe it wasn’t just luck.
“Not feeling like using? … Getting high,” she asked?
“Absolutely not!” I answered a little too strongly. But it was the truth. I didn’t feel like using. Hadn’t in a long while. Not since the last time that had found me in the fight with officer Touchy-Feelie. After all of that I would have had to have been insane to want to drink: Of course N.A. talked about that. The insanity of the drug use. The addict doing the same things over and over and yet expecting different results.
“I feel like he’s substantial… He knows me … Knows things about me… Everything.”I said.
“Well, Laura. They’re your dreams… Naturally…”
“Right… Right… That’s why I sound crazy… I know it… But it goes past that… Like… Like I’m not even in… In charge? … Control? … Control is a better word. Like I’m not even in control of the dream, you know?”
She studied me. “…No…” she said at last. “No I do not know.” She studied me some more.
“Like… Okay… This will sound crazy… Like somehow I’ve crashed into his dream. Like I’m part of his dream… Like it’s not even my dream, it’s his, and somehow… Somehow I’m like some bit player in his dream… But it is my dream… So it’s like I’m a guest in my own Goddamn dream… Or his… which ever it is,” I finished quietly. I studied her right back.
“I see… Well, what do you suppose that is telling you?” she asked me.
“Telling me?” I asked back.
“Yes. Telling you,” she countered, refusing to give me the answer. She waited.
“I,” I sighed. “I don’t know,” I admitted.
“Really,” she asked?
She sighed. “We’ve been over this, Laura… Your Father controlled you. Obviously this man… You feel this man is controlling you. You feel like you are living his dream.. Acting in his dream… As though it’s scripted by him… You can’t see the correlation?” She leaned forward expectantly.
“I,” I started, and then the small session clock on her desk chimed. I let out my pent up breath. She smiled.
“Saved by the metaphorical bell,” she said and smiled.
I smiled back.
“Next week then, Laura?” She smiled again.
“I will think about what you said,” I said, trying to mollify her. After all she did send reports to my probation officer; days to go could turn into weeks or months to go, maybe, if she turned in a bad report. “I really will,” I said, forcing my face to look as sincere as I could once remember looking, or wanting to look, when I really wanted to convince my mother that everything was okay in my world. It had worked then… Maybe…
I looked up and she was smiling. “I know you will. I’ll say that for you, you do the work… Have you given any thought to continuing therapy after the court ordered sessions stop? I’m sure you realize that next week is our last session.” She smiled once more. “I’ve already submitted your last report. I recommended you be released, Laura.”
My eyes immediately became moist and my throat caught. I cleared it, blinked a few times to keep the tears away. I hadn’t realized how afraid of all of it I was. Of all the times to start having nightmares. “I’m so grateful for that,” I said and I meant it. “I appreciate it.” There I was groveling again.
She smiled. “Let me know about the other,” she said as she opened the door for me. It took me a second, my mind was racing with all the possibilities of being free.
“Yes,” I said with a slight delay. I had felt compelled to answer, Yes I will. I’ll keep coming, but I bit that back. “I will,” I said, groveling again.
I stepped out into the hallway as I spoke and the door slammed hard behind me making my heart jump into my throat. I spun around thinking, The wind… Must have been the wind, but the door was gone. The hallway was gone. My heart hammered harder in my chest.
I heard the footsteps before I saw anyone. I was trying to take stock of my situation: Where I was. I had been there before. A wide open area of machinery. Huge ceilings twenty maybe thirty feet high. So much noise that I could hear nothing but the noise. And that made me wonder how I had heard the door slam. Heard the conversation for that matter. Heard the footsteps I still heard. My heart jumped higher, seeming to block my windpipe with every beat. Pulsing like drums in my ears.
‘Run, Laura, Run,’ my mind screamed.
I turned and ran blindly along a high metal catwalk that was elevated about fifteen feet above the floor. The sounds of the machinery now blocked out the sounds of the footfalls, but a quick glance over my shoulder showed me the two cops behind me. Right behind me. Maybe all of twenty feet. I tucked my arms into my sides, pumped my legs harder and put on the best burst of speed I knew how to put on. The ribbed steel treading of the cat walk provided good traction, but how long would it go on for I wondered.
I turned a corner. The cat walk ended, and I found myself in a huge garage. A large Garbage truck sat idling, the driver’s door hanging open. It seemed my only choice. Later I began to doubt that, but at the time it seemed so final, like there really was no other choice, but to jump into the idling truck, slam the door, and get away from those cops. Later it was obvious that it was too pat. A set up.
I hit the step of the cab and launched myself inside of it. My breath was coming in hard, painful gasps. My heart slamming so hard against my ribs that it felt capable of breaking bones… Or itself. A second later I was sitting upright, the stick shift in one hand, racing the gas pedal, punching my foot into the clutch, releasing the emergency brake and then nearly dumping the clutch all at once when one of the cops seemed about to jump onto the cab step. The truck roared, lurched forward and slammed into the closed garage door in front of it.
Glass and wood sprayed the garage. The door didn’t slow the huge truck down at all. I ducked reflexively as the truck lunged through the door and out into the street.
Halfway down the street I had the engine wound out in fourth gear when a couple of things occurred to me. First; I had never driven a stick before. I didn’t know how to do it. I shouldn’t have been able to know about the brake and be able to get moving that fast. Second; were the cops right behind me even now?
As if to answer my question the sounds of sirens came to my ears. Red and blue lights pulsed against the interior of the truck. The rear view mirror reflected them, catching my attention. It was only a second, but that was all it needed to be. I looked up and there was his face. Shocked. Eyes wide. Just a few feet away from me. A red van. Inches now. No time to stop. I heard myself scream as I hit the van broadside in the driver’s door lifting it off the road and into the air. The hood of the garbage truck flew up, smashed the windshield, and then came through it. It all happened in a split second, but in the same instant it seemed to last forever. To go on for a very long time.
I felt the pieces of the hood strike my face. Pain flared bright, hot, all consuming. All just a brief split second and then I was falling. I couldn’t breathe… Absolute dark consumed me…. Falling faster… I hit the mattress hard, a scream tearing from my throat as I did. I screamed a second time before I realized I was in my own bed. Grayish-pink dawn light glowing against the dirty window panes. The hands of the old wind up clock standing at a quarter to seven A.M.
“Oh, Jesus God,” I sobbed once I caught my breath. I curled up into a fetal position. Sickness ripping through my stomach. It was so real… So real.
In The Moonlight:
The Road To Anywhere
The first thing I felt was the cold hardness of the steering wheel under my hands. The second thing was cold air flowing against my face. Probably what woke me up, I thought before I actually had the time to think about it. I blinked trying to clear my mind, but it remained foggy. Cobwebbed. Stuck. Was anything here ever clear? No. At least that was one thing that I actually did know was true.
I was back. That much was clear. Sitting in the van in the driveway. No, I corrected, sitting in the van in a driveway. It was close to my driveway, but not quite right. The house too was almost right, but again not quite my house. Some little something was off. Whatever it was that made it my house was not there. Things like that were absolute, at least most of the time they were. It either was or it wasn’t and this wasn’t.
I looked around at the van. It was my van, although again it was not precisely right in detail, it was what it was supposed to be… Paper clips sitting in the bottom of the cup holder molded into the engine cover, and I knew if I opened the glove box there would be an insurance card and the broken transistor radio…. A few other things. But it wasn’t exactly right, and that meant someone had approximated it. And, I forced myself to follow my own logic, if someone had approximated my van that meant they had to know about it in the first place, didn’t it? They had to know it well enough to know what it looked like and what was in it too. That bothered me. There was no one at all that should have possessed that knowledge. No one.
I looked at the house again. Same size. Same basic layout. Two stories. Same garage off to one side. I began to doubt my initial feelings that it was not my house. The house looked more like my house than the van did my van. So why was the feeling in my gut telling me the van was okay and the house was not? … No clue. Just that vague feeling in my gut.
I clicked the key over once and the idiot lights came to life on the dashboard. No clock. There was never a clock. The gas gauge swung over to full and pegged the little steel post… Brass post, my mind supplied. Okay. Brass post, I agreed.
Full tank. The battery gauge came to rest dead center. A low crackle came from the radio that caught my attention.
The radio rarely made any sound at all. My fingers reached for the tuner knob automatically. As I touched it, it disappeared before my eyes. The radio face smoothed out and the old fashioned radio disappeared before me. A new, modern radio appeared in its place. Dozens of digital presets… I pulled my fingers away as if they were burned. The radio continued to crackle and spit static.
I stared for what seemed a very long time then reached out and pressed the first preset. The static smoothed out to glassy silence. My finger hovered over the next preset, about to press it when the strains of a violin reached out of the van’s door speakers and filled the truck with soft strains of music.
The violin was a solo piece, or at least it seemed that way. It swelled, fell, and swelled again. Filling the interior and drifting out into the night through the open window. My heart caught in my throat. It was so beautiful to listen to, but… Someone might hear… Someone who shouldn’t.
I pulled my attention back from the radio and caught the end of the steel sight of a gun swinging close to my face. Bright light exploded inside my head. No pain. No time for thought. I was spinning in the void, flying… Flying free. Then falling. Falling faster and faster.
I hit the mattress hard, the air driven from my lungs in one quick rush. I bounced and caught myself sitting upright struggling to breath. The clock blinked 6:47 A.M. … I was home again…
I fell back onto the mattress drew a deep breath into my lungs and focused on the ceiling. The ceiling was not my ceiling, it only seemed to be. I had stared at my own ceiling so many mornings after waking… Just like this. So many evenings trying to fall asleep, or avoiding falling asleep.
There was a hairline crack that ran from the light fixture towards the window. It wasn’t there. I pulled another deep breath into my lungs fighting against the fear that was building inside of me. The trick, if there was a trick, was to act as though nothing was out of the ordinary.
I focused on getting my breathing back to normal. Slowing my heart rate as my eyes took in the room. Almost exact. Almost. The clock was the same, but wrong… Too perfect. My own clock didn’t look so…
New, my mind supplied? Maybe… Maybe my own clock was a little more worn…. Broken in… And… And I didn’t know what else. It was my clock, but it wasn’t my clock. It was that simple. And I noticed as I took in my surroundings that the bedside stand was completely wrong. I had seen that stand before. It was in my head. That had to be where they had retrieved it from… My head… Had to be… This stand was in the house I had shared with my wife… The other bedroom. The one in the house on the dark road. The end of the dark road. Someone lived downstairs. I’d met them, an older couple, at least a few times. Bear’s owners… I lived upstairs with my wife, when I was there: When I could be there. The rest of the time was up for grabs. Sometimes in my own room. Sometimes in places like this. Places that weren’t real for a reason. And that troubled me. There was always a reason. I sighed, rolled off the bed and padded towards the bathroom.
I turned the knob on the bathroom door but it refused to move under my hand. Panic returned fast and hard. My heart leapt into my throat and then began to hammer away at me, pulsing hard at my temples. The bedroom. The hallway. Three doors and the stairs leading down. It all looked right, but I was sure that none of the other doors would work either. I turned towards the stairs and then changed my mind and went back to the bedroom. The clock blinked… 6:47 A.M. In red LED’s. Not possible. I picked it up. No cord. No hinged door for the batteries. Nothing. I palmed the clock and walked out of the room quickly, hit the stairs and then took them down two by two.
The bottom of the house was absolute silence. Moonlight spilled through the front windows. I could see the van sitting in the driveway and that was wrong. Nowhere that I had ever lived had I been able to see the van sitting in the driveway. And if this was home the van shouldn’t be there at all. So…
My thoughts froze. Someone was sitting in the van. I could see the shadowy outline as their head moved and was illuminated by the sparse moonlight. Someone. I shifted the clock in my hand and felt the cold steel as I did. And that was wrong too. Plastic. It should be plastic, I told myself as I looked down at my hand.
Cold blued steel. A small, compact pistol. Something with a clip. I didn’t know enough about pistols to know exactly what it was. Maybe a .380. Maybe a Nine Millimeter. It seemed too small, too compact to be anything larger. I looked it over in the moonlight.
I could see the safety had been flicked to the off position. I took a deep breath, started to step forward and a sudden blast of cold air hit me hard. Sharpening my senses. Nearly causing me to gasp as I drew the cold air into my lungs.
I found myself on the side of the van, hand outstretched, pistol gripped tightly, aimed through the darkened opening of the drivers window… Window rolled down… The persons arm resting across the window channel, elbow sticking out into space. I crept closer setting each foot down carefully.
It was the last footfall that betrayed me. A loose piece of gravel gritting under my shoe. It gave me away. Music suddenly swelled out of the open window… Violin… And I knew. I knew right then, but when the figure turned towards me my finger jerked against the trigger anyway, and the night exploded with sound and bright color. My vision snapped into tight focus for a split second and then everything went black.
The black consumed everything. Sound… Light… Color… Thought… Air… Life… Feelings and pain and sometimes when it happened I wished it would just go on forever. On and On… Nothing else ever. Just blackness… Forever… Rest. Sleep. Real sleep… Peace of mind… Real…
But this time it didn’t last and my body slammed down onto the bed so hard that I felt it slide across the floor. The table went over, the clock flying through the air and shattering into dozens of black and clear shards of plastic. I saw it. Just as I saw my body impact the mattress: The bed jump sideways; the stand go over. I saw it all from about four feet above my body where my spiritual self hovered waiting.
My body, the physical me, the one on the bed, struggled to breath. Fingers clawing at the mattress, twisting the sheets into his fists. He drew a deep breath and my spiritual self ceased to exist. I slammed into my own body hard, and the panic, fear, hot sweat, smells, light and air, feelings, all flooded back into me in one huge rush of light and heaviness. The breath I pulled seemed to sear my lungs, burning harshly as I greedily sucked it in. The blood rushed and sang in my head. Pulsing at my temples. Feeling as if it might burst from me and shower down onto the bed in a bright scarlet spray.
Bird song came to me from the open window on a light, warm breeze. The smells of greenery floating on it. The air settled into my lungs, I pushed it out, sucked in another deep breath and the panic began to fall away. The beads of sweat on my body beginning to cool in the light breeze. I lay still, calming myself… Letting the life come back into my body.
My hands opened and flexed and something slipped from my hand onto the tangle of sheets. I sat up and picked it back up… A shapeless mass of… Something… Plastic? Metal? It didn’t feel like either. It felt cool to the touch. Cooler than it should be. It had no recognizable shape. No texture. No smell either, I thought, as I lifted it up to my face. And very little weight. Much less substantial than its size would have suggested.
So, I told myself, I bought something back with me… That was a first… What did it mean?
In The Moonlight:
The man’s smell was everywhere. Not the man who fed him, the other man. The man who came to him in that other place. The place he slipped away to whenever he closed his eyes for too long. The place he wanted to, go to but could not make himself go to. He had to wait. He had to wait until it happened on its own. He couldn’t make it happen. Couldn’t? Not exactly true. He could. Shouldn’t was truer. And he wished that he could. He wished he could because things were bad here. Very bad. The man never came to feed him anymore. Even so, food wasn’t really a problem… But the man had always come to feed him… For a… For a long time? He asked himself. For a long time, he agreed, but time was such a fuzzy concept.
He felt he was changing… Becoming something more… Different. Other than he had been… He didn’t really understand it. It was light, it was dark. He was here, he was there. His eyes were open his eyes were closed… That was time… At least in this place. But this other thing. This other thing that was a… He couldn’t grasp it. It was something like him. Something like a dog. Wolf? … And it seemed to be taking more and more of him… Becoming him…
He was startled at the thought… Was there another place? Another… Self?
It had seemed as though there were an answer right there. Just a second ago. But he couldn’t get it: If there was more than this he didn’t know what it might be… The man…
He looked toward the house. The man from there bought food. He bought it from the house. That was also time. But the man didn’t bring it anymore. Hadn’t for…. Time…. Some time… More time. He turned his attention back to the Garage.
The other man… The other man’s smell was everywhere. On the Grocery cart that sat in one shadow filled corner, half hidden in the darkness. On the doorpost where he sometimes stood and stared out at the moonlight and the house and thought about the woman who lived upstairs with the little ones. The ones that never came out. Or never seemed to come out. Still, although Bear didn’t know how, he knew about them. Knew they were there.
He turned his shaggy head and stared out at the roadway. He knew the road too. He had been in the van with the man. It was exciting… Horrible… Terrible… He hated it. He loved it. It went places. Places other than this. Places that the man wanted to go. And sometimes it hurt him. Bad things happened. Pain happened. It made him afraid. Made him sleep. Maybe, he thought, as he stared out at the road, he could find the man down that road though… Maybe…
He stared up at the full, blue-tinted moon. It pulled at him. Said something in a language his old self understood. The old self that lived inside of him. The old, old self. The thing that the others couldn’t find anymore. The thing that some of his own kind couldn’t find anymore. Most beings, like the man, didn’t even know it existed.
The moon… The road… Stretching away to…. Maybe the man? … The Van? … The rest of whatever there was? … Maybe food? …
He debated. Maybe he should stay. Maybe if the man came back, here is where he would come to. Here is where he would look for him, maybe… Or … Maybe the man was on the road… Somewhere else… Waiting for him to come to him. To find him…
Bear paced nervously back and forth, in and out of the shadow filled garage. Slipping into the bright moonlight and then fading once more into the black shadows. He suddenly stopped his pacing, looked once more towards the road, then up at the second floor of the house.
A shadow figure stood framed in the second floor window watching him. He whined low in his throat and the whine turned into a growl. He couldn’t see much more than the shadow, but he was sure it was the woman, and the woman…
There was something wrong with her. Something wrong with the woman… Something wrong about her… He could smell it on her… On the air that flowed around her and found it’s way to him. He hesitated for a moment longer and then padded out onto the road. The bluish moonlight glinted off the asphalt. He glanced back to the house but he saw no shadows this time. His upper lip curled back from his teeth as he sniffed at the air The man’s scent was there. Strong. He looked back up at the moon once more, then turned and trotted off down the road…
In The Moonlight:
In The Bathtub;
I waited until the sick feeling in my stomach disappeared… Ten minutes? A half hour? It was hard to tell. I cried, held my stomach and it passed. Both the tears and the sickness.
The gray was turning more golden, dirty gold, but that was the window pane. The sounds of early morning traffic increased every minute. It came to me clearly through the window even though the street was six stories below. I focused on the window and saw the pigeon nearly at the same time that the pigeon saw me. He startled into flight, hanging over the window ledge for just a few wing beats.
Just as it seemed as though he was about to get himself under control a Hawk slammed into him igniting a storm of feathers and loosing a fine mist of red… Talons outstretched, hooked mouth screeching as he grabbed hold and both birds plummeted towards the ground and out of my view, leaving nothing but a few feathers floating on the warming air rising from the street far below.
I remembered to breath. My stomach clenched once and then let go. I left the bed and walked quickly to the window, looking down, but there was no sign of either bird anywhere. Most likely the Hawk had recovered from the dive and headed for the roof where she kept her nest. Hawks in the city. It was pretty common place. I had never known that the lives of birds could be so brutal. Or that they preyed on one another. Life with a Hawk on the roof of your building was enlightening.
I left the window and headed toward the kitchen. Coffee would fix me up. And if my head was clearer I was sure I could make some sense of what had happened. Like maybe how it had happened and why it had happened for starters.
It was my first death. I had known it could happen. I had only hoped it didn’t actually kill me when or if it did happen.. That’s the fear. The panicky part of it. How do you know? If it blurred the lines so hard how could you even be sure which part was real?
For instance, I asked myself as I fixed the coffee, was this real?
That actually made me stop and look around the kitchen. Of course it was, I told myself. Two false starts would be too much. One had been bad enough. This had to be real.
I snapped back and realized the tap water was overflowing the coffee carafe, turned off the water, poured out the excess and filled the reservoir on the coffee maker.
My eyes traveled worriedly around the kitchen. I tapped the cheap cabinet door. Real, I decided. It wasn’t a great apartment but it wasn’t too bad. It was home, and home had been worse. I would be able to tell if this was not real, I told myself.
Sure you would, my other self mocked. The same way you could tell the Doc. wasn’t real.
That gave me pause. But the more my eyes traveled the more they saw that was familiar. I levered open the refrigerator and laughed in spite of my serious mood. Empty… As always: A half squeeze bottle of Mustard, crusted yellow brown at the top.
Attractive, Laura, I chided. I picked it up, carried it the garbage and dropped it in, promising myself as I did that I would do some grocery shopping today. Shop… Pay some bills… Normal things that normal people did every day. My life had been Bat-Shit crazy lately and it was only just beginning. I sighed, clicked on the coffee maker, and then left the kitchen. Two minutes later I was standing in the open bathroom doorway, towel in hand, clean clothes draped over one arm, screaming at the top of my lungs.
There was a body in my bathtub. A dead body. The water was tinged pink. The body bent forward… Face Floating… Long black hair pooled around the head, the face barely visible, floating just under the surface. A woman… Black hair… The same jet-black hair as my own.
I forced myself to stop screaming, shoved almost my entire fist into my mouth and stood as if glued to the floor in the doorway of the bathroom.
Two minutes passed. Maybe four. A rapid pounding came from my front door. Neighbors, I told myself. The walls were so thin… Thank God for neighbors, especially when you had a dead person, a dead woman, in your bathtub. I backed out of the bathroom doorway, remembering not to touch anything. Too many crime dramas on T.V. , but I was pretty sure that I had never touched anything when I had come in. The doorknob, my mind supplied… And maybe the doorjamb too… All that T.V. I knew you weren’t supposed to touch anything in the crime scene.
I opened the front door and things happened fast after that.
Bear bounded past me into the apartment. Joe stepped in behind him and quickly slammed the door shut: Before the door slammed I saw a crowd of worried looking neighbors gathered in the hallway. At least they had appeared worried in the brief glimpse I had had before the closing door had shut them off. My breath caught in my throat. That seemed to be happening a lot lately.
“What,” I managed as Joe pushed by me heading for the bathroom where Bear stood, paws wide apart, staring in through the open doorway.
“Jesus, Joe. What is it,” I asked again. He said nothing, but stepped past Bear into the bathroom.
“Joe… Joe there’s a dead person… Girl in there,” I said.
“I know,” he said as he stopped next to the tub. Bear moved to the tub, looked down at the woman and then looked up at Joe. Joe shook his head and turned to me. “We have to go,” He said quietly, “Right now.”
“Go,” I asked? “Joe, that’s a real dead girl in there! We have to call the cops… We have to… I could get arrested… We could get…” He cut me off.
“I know, Laura. I know. That she’s dead is obvious. I… We knew about it before we got here…. Laura, if you stay you’ll have more problems than the cops and being arrested.”
“What… Why,” I asked?
“Jesus,” he muttered. He took two backwards steps into the bathroom, reached down and grasped the mass of floating black hair and pulled the woman’s face from the water and backwards.
A small blue hole rested between her eyebrows. Blood trickled from that hole and began to run down her face.
“Joe,” I began, a ball of sickness once again forming in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t finish as my eyes finally locked on her face and my mind began to work again. It took a second but I realized who she was. I screamed for the second time in just a few minutes. Joe let go of her hair and her head fell back into the water with a heavy splash. His hand rose quickly and clamped across my mouth shutting off the scream… His wet hand… The same hand… My stomach heaved and I pushed past him and barely managed to get the lid up on the toilet in time.
Somebody began to pound on the door once again. Loud. Insistent. Demanding even. I stood. Dried my face with the towel I had intended for my bath and then walked to the front door.
“A mouse,” I said. “I can’t stand them. A mouse… My friend caught it… I’m so sorry.” I managed to keep a sickly half smile on my face as I spoke. I didn’t know which of my neighbors had been pounding.
“Dear, I was going to call the police!” That was Olive Knickerbocker, late eighties. Lived across the hall.
“I’m so sorry, Olive. I really am,” I repeated.
She stepped up to me. “You’re sure,” she asked in a low whisper. “He’s not… Hurting you?” Her eyes cut to Joe who had walked back to the front door.
“No. No… I’m just afraid of Mice,” I told her. “I’m so sorry.” It was all I had in my exhausted bag of replies.
Olive patted my arm. “Alright, Dear,” she said. She turned back to the rest of the neighbors who had gathered in the hallway. “What,” she asked? “Party’s over. It was just a mouse. You know how big they are. It’s time we contacted the owner again and get something done.” She walked away as she spoke and the crowd went with her. A few casting glances back at Joe, Bear and me where we stood in the doorway as they went, but none curious enough to stay behind and challenge my mouse story. Olive Knickerbocker shut her door on the crowd. They milled around for a second and then they left in mass. Bear padded out into an empty hallway just a second later.
Joe took my arm, pulled me back into the apartment, and shut the door as Bear slipped back in past him once more.
“We can’t stay, Laura.” He said.
“Of course not,” I agreed. “Of course not.”
“You okay,” Joe asked me.
Bear cocked his head at me as if asking the same question.
“Oh… Great… Tell me, Joe,” I asked as I picked up my purse, car keys, and a light jacket. “Why is it that, that dead girl in my bathtub looks a lot like me,” I asked?
“She doesn’t just look like you,” Joe answered as he opened the door on the empty hallway. We all stepped out. I locked the door locks and followed them to the elevator.
“No,” I asked?
“No.” He agreed. The elevator dinged. The doors slid open to an empty interior. We stepped in and Joe pushed the button for the lobby. Bear stood between us. I watched the floor lights change as the elevator dropped playing hell with my still queasy stomach.
“Then who,” I asked?
The door slid open to a nearly empty lobby and we stepped out and began walking towards the front doors.
“You,” Joe said as we passed through the front doors of the lobby and out onto the sidewalk.
“What?” I managed.
“You, Laura,” he said as he unlocked the passenger side of the van. The van that shouldn’t be here at all. He turned to me. “You, Laura. It’s you. She doesn’t just look like you, she is you.” He said. His eyes met mine. In the distance a siren began to wail. “Dammit,” he muttered. “We have to go, Laura. We have to.”
I levered the door open, Bear jumped in and I followed. I leaned across and unlocked the drivers side door, slammed my own and locked it and a minute later Joe pulled out into the light traffic.
My eyes came up and really looked at the city. It was not my city. Somehow I was still not home. Somehow. And somehow somebody that was me was dead. I leaned back into my seat closing my eyes as I did. Bear’s head slid under my hand where it hung off the edge of the seat. I stroked his head absently as Joe drove.
“I know a safe place,” he said.
I nodded my head as the rain began to fall against the windshield.
In The Moonlight:
It’s an old dream. One I have had so many times it feels scripted. Badly scripted. Wooden. Like everyone there is tired of it. Including me. But, I can not stop it from happening. I can not stop it from running its course… It went like this:
“…it’s on top of the refrigerator,” she said.
She was my wife. Well, not precisely my wife, not really my wife. In reality my wife was dead. This woman was a blend of several women I had known. Like the best of this, the best of that, but also some things I didn’t understand. Some things that bothered me. “On top,” she repeated.
I looked and saw a paper bag sitting on top of the refrigerator. It hadn’t been there just moments before. I had looked. I had looked in that jerky way dreams have of showing you things. Pieces missing, frames skipped in the film, scenes out of order. Bits of information that seemed to mean nothing at the time. Things you only know and never see. Even explaining it doesn’t do it justice, but if you’ve ever dreamed you know what I mean. The bag wasn’t there, now it was. And my wife had a pleasant ‘See, I told you so,’ look on her face.
I grabbed the bag, thought about looking into it, didn’t, rolled the top to close in what ever was there.
“Just take it to the pharmacy. They’ll take it, fill the new ones. The babies need it.” She said, still smiling.
Babies, I thought. Sometimes it was babies, sometimes it was children. I never knew which. And I never saw them. I had memories of kissing them good night, but I could not recall ever doing it. I could not recall what they looked like. I couldn’t even say with any real certainty whether they were little boys, girls, or one of each. I guess the information wasn’t important.
“How do I get there,” I asked?
“You know,” she said and laughed. And she was right. I did know. I hadn’t, but I did now. I could recall being there several times. Several memories flooded into my mind to back up what she had said.
“Sometimes I wonder about you,” she said. She gave me a seductive smile, cocked her head to one side and fixed her eyes on me.
“Just tired,” I said. I wonder about you too, I thought. What you really are. What you mean. “I’m going,” I finished. And like dreams are, except this wasn’t really a dream, I was gone.
There was a memory of leaving. Like traces of my actions, but I didn’t see it, live it, if you know what I mean. The next thing I knew I was driving. I tried to make myself think about, see what I was driving, but no dice. The controls were too tight. I would have to take my chances where I could, if I could.
I knew the vehicle would break down before it did. I knew I would just accept that, get out and walk away. I knew I would get lost within just a few blocks while I tried to find help to get going again. I wasn’t disappointed either. And I even managed to look back as I walked away. Not the van. Not my Van anyway. It was a van. It was always a van, just not my van. Or rarely my van…
Not my van this time anyway. But in another way it was my van. I could remember buying that particular van right off the lot several years back. I wrecked it in a snow storm the next winter, just a few months later really. It looked now like it did when I had drove it off the lot. Only now it was receding from eyesight. How, I wondered, could I lose track of something right in front of my eyes? It seemed impossible. It should be impossible.
I turned towards the front, saw a gas station a few blocks up and headed in that direction. As I looked back the van remained, but when I came back out with the attendant the van was gone. The street was changed. The neighborhood was different. I was lost. Lost like every other time. I turned to the attendant but he was gone too. Not surprising.
Time took another one of those skips. I understood I was trying to find a way back to where I wanted to be, or even somewhere that could substitute for that, somewhere safe, somewhere more familiar. But it never worked out that way. I found myself on an empty street or in a building; an empty school or college. That was my impression. Huge. Blocks long, stories high, nearly completely empty. The doors were locked, but I knew the way in the same way I knew it was nearly empty.
“No,” I tried to tell myself, but my observing self had never been able to make my acting self hear those words or listen. I slipped down the side of the building. The seedy side of the building. Crowded next to a wide, fast running river. Trucks coming and going, delivering and taking away, I didn’t know what. I was not allowed to. Never had been. But that was about to change.
I found my entrance. A fake shop. A small junk shop grafted onto the side of the building. It was so obvious I wondered why the owners of the building never took it away. Discovered it. But at that time I didn’t know all there was to know, even though I had been there several times.
I slipped into the small shop, made the shaky, old wooden steps, and found myself in the attic area where I could cross over into the main building. I wasn’t there more than a few minutes before I was discovered and the alarms began to sound. The chase was on once again.
The chase is always the same. I always get away. I think the idea is to scare me to run to where they want me to run. Because, after the chase I’m really lost. Lost and there is not much chance of getting out quickly. They have me. They can burn up my time. I believe that’s the real goal.
It’s the machinery that impresses me as I run. Huge machines. Stories high. Loud. Sucking the life from the river. From the trucks. What’s in those trucks, I always wonder? I never have an answer. I still don’t have all the answers, but I believe I’m beginning to get some of them.
As I run I see that the machinery changes: It evolves every time. Changes, reshapes itself. It comes closer and closer to what it really is. I can almost see it. At least I see enough to know that the purpose I see is not its true purpose. Not what it really is. A metal and brick Frankenstein come to life. Waiting for the electrical storm that will supply the life force it needs to become its own creation. It is sometimes something else. It means something else. That is what I mean to convey to you.
I ran. I run every time. The machinery changes every time. This time I caught a glimpse of reality. At least I think I did. A dump truck backed up to a large hopper that fed directly into the machine. I caught a glimpse, a very fleeting glimpse as the truck box lifted, the tarp rippled and whatever was under the tarp began to flood into the hopper. A hand. A human hand grasped at the top of the hopper. A split second. That was it. No time to slow down to see it more clearly. If I stopped they’d have me, so there was no stopping. And what could I do? Whatever I might be able to do would have to come later: After I thought about it. Right now escape was the important thing. I have been caught before. Not in this place but other places. If they catch you, they kill you, or they jail you. I’m not sure which is real. Either, I have become convinced, can kill you. I’ve seen it happen.
I ran for all I was worth and found my way out of the building ending up alongside the river. Walking the rock ledges beside the water. There was never any way to get to the top. It was nearly straight up.
I had no choice but to follow the ledges that bordered the river until it opened up. That would bring me to locust street. It always did. And locust street was always changing. At times it was just a run down neighborhood. No one cared if I came or went. They watched me. Knew I was there. But it seemed to me that they had their own problems to deal with. And I realized after several trips there that very many of them were like me. Dreamers. Only dreaming wasn’t really what it was, was it? No. Dreaming was what it had started out as. But dreaming as most people see it, and dreaming the way I see it, the way I was raised to see it, the way some of my Native American Brothers and Sisters saw it, was a different proposition.
Dreaming was not just closing your eyes and re-living your day, hopes, life, things your subconscious wanted to show you. Fears, who knows what else. I dream too. But I mean dream. A different reality. A place where real things happen. In real worlds. With real people. There are places where the peoples never lost control of their world. Places where the old ways still hold. Places where not much of anything makes any kind of real sense. Places where other people rule. And this place. The land of shadows. The place that it takes two to make real and no more. Any two create and it becomes real. After it becomes, it exists. After it exists it can kill you as easily as anything that is real can.
So there are dreams and then there are dreams. Dreamers and also dreamers. And they have only one thing in common, the soul is drifting loose. Disconnected from the body. That is why either situation can kill you, but the dreamers in my world will die most often.
I feel, have felt for some time, that most of the people who live on locust street or in that neighborhood, are real dreamers. I mean my sort of dreamers. Those that can and do make things happen. That is why they had no interest in me. Live and let live. They probably saw in my eyes what I saw in theirs.
Locust street, at other times, was a trap. There were factions working against each other. You could get caught up and end up being dead on all levels of existence very quickly through no fault of your own. We watched each other, sometimes carefully, but rarely did trouble come directly from one another. At least not those who were obviously watchers. It came from hiders, shape-shifters. It came from what you could not see: Who you could not see. And when it came, it came quickly. It didn’t leave time for thought. It just took you.
That was bad. I’d known a few who had disappeared. I’d seen them around. Gotten used to their faces. And suddenly they were gone.
The first dreamer was the one I called Chief, and not only me, I found out after he was gone. The second I thought of as Dog Face. He had that look. More of a snout instead of a nose and chin-mouth area. I had really wondered if he might be something special. And really, just because he had been taken did not mean he had been something less than special. Special didn’t go hand in hand with smart. In fact I’ve rarely seen smarts and intelligence in the same package.
Dog Face came second, Chief was first. One day there, next day gone. And again there and then gone again. That was the way of dreamers. But then he was gone for good. Just not there anymore at all. I wasn’t the only one who noticed, even so none of us, at first, could bring ourselves to talk about it.
It was Laura who mentioned it first. Of course that was much later, once I knew who she was, had been. And she nearly slipped by me.
The guy I thought of as the Crazy Wino said something to me. I was sitting on the low concrete wall that ran along the backside of the locust street neighborhood when he shuffled by.
His eyes were always wild. Hair unkempt, one hand clutched a greasy leather medicine bag that hung from a thin, leather thong that looked ready to snap at any time. He licked his lips constantly. His eyes never seemed to really focus. He looked lost, but we all are. He passed close to me.
“Gaw daw faze,” he said in a near whisper.
It made no sense at first. “Gawdawfaze,” all strung together, “Gaaw daw faze”. He stopped and looked hard at me, but while I was trying to figure out the words he decided to move on again. When I got it, Got Dog Face, I had called out.
“Yes,” I said. “Yes, they did. They got Dog Face!” I was shocked. I didn’t know what else to say.
He turned back and smiled through a mouthful of rotted and broken teeth. “Cut a check too,” he said.
I barely heard that, but I got it a split second later, Got the Chief too. So I wasn’t alone in seeing it.
“More,” he added and turned away.
“Wait,” I said jumping to my feet. And that was when I learned that some dreamer’s had powers that others don’t. The Crazy Wino turned back to me, smiled again, said “More,” touched his head with one gnarled finger and he was gone. It happened so fast that my eyes couldn’t agree with what they had seen. There and then gone.
More, I remembered thinking, and there probably had been, have been more. There certainly had been more since I’d been there. Just faces you got used to seeing, then suddenly you didn’t see them anymore. It made you uneasy, but there was no single thing you could lay it at the feet of.
The ledge ran on and on. Above me on the highway that ran beside the river I could hear traffic. I could hear cars moving fast. I could hear Cop cars moving slower, searching the sides of the road for me. I was going to have to go to locust street. There was no other way out.
Whatever came on Locust street I could not doubt would be new. It was always. Even though it was the same place, different things happened. So many people there all following their own will. It was the closest thing to real life, where life just happened with no scripting, in this world.
One of the things I could count on was the constant, pervasive feeling that it was an important place. That something was about to happen, and it often did, but this went beyond that. Like something major was on the verge of happening. If, for instance, one of us did the right thing, spoke the right words, something fantastic would happen. It was something very small that was missing, and once found it would fill in the blank, and Locust street would fulfill its purpose, whatever that might turn out to be.
And I had to wonder, what was the advantage of them pushing me to there? Chasing me to there? There had to be a reason. I mean to all of it, but I had no idea what that could be. Could they watch us as easily as we watched each other? If some of those we saw were not real, would we even know? I personally doubt it.
I reached the end of the ledges. The river had slowed and broadened. The high cliffs were receding. No slow moving cop cars traveled the roads at the side of the river. In fact the traffic was nearly gone. I scaled the bank and made the highway.
There was a small mom and pops store at the end of the first block. I bought a cup of coffee there and sipped at it as I walked up to the low curving wall. I sat and watched the people walking by. So many on their own. Maybe that is how you can tell us, I thought, loners. So the couple’s maybe weren’t real? That didn’t feel right though: Who knew what it really was. Hopefully, eventually, I would know.
In The Moonlight:
Locust street: It was my place: Where I grew up. I went there always. There were good memories and there were bad memories there. And that is how it started out. I would dream of it. It was only a dream, as real as it seemed. But sometimes the dreams were good, and sometimes the dreams were a little rough. Sometimes they were out right nightmares.
Those were the worst. I would wish for a way, afterward of course, to have awakened myself as soon as it started to go south. To bail out immediately.
I mentioned it to Doctor Shulman and she had thought meditation would help. Something about relaxing before sleep possibly keeping the bad stuff away. And then I heard about Dreamers.
Dreamers don’t actually dream, they create. I heard about it from a native woman I met from time to time at the probation office. We sat waiting for hours sometimes. She noticed my long black hair and asked me if I was a native, I told her on my mother’s side, and the conversation went from there.
Her brother was a dreamer. A real Dreamer with power. I thought about it for a few weeks then asked her if I could meet her brother.
Maybe he had power. Actually I’m sure he did have power, knowing what I know now, but at the time I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure how much I believed or was willing to believe. He seemed nice. Serious, but nice. I met him three times and then he explained about Dreaming. How you could control what you saw: Where you went. What happened. He explained that the Dreamer’s Worlds were actually populated with real people. Spirits. Spirit animals. And other things. Bad things that could and would kill you if you weren’t careful.
I didn’t believe much in Native religion at that time. I do now. But I’ve been through a good deal in the past six months or so. I didn’t believe in Myths. Legends. The old stories. He knew that. The last time I visited him he told me so. Told me I could die unless I took it seriously. I didn’t take that seriously. But I guess he was right all the way around. I should have listened.
Fasting. Preparation. Prayer. That will get you there. When you’ve been there once you can get back there easier: When you sleep; when you rest. How easy could it be? Sometimes I thought about a place and went there immediately. Not often, not always, but sometimes it was like that. Not an easy passage even, but the more I tried, the more I believed, the better I became.
Getting back was harder. But given time I could usually do it quickly. Unless I was prevented by someone or something. And there were some ones and some things that could prevent my leaving. In the end…. When the sun rose in whatever world I was in, I would be forced back. Fast. Hard. Not the way I wanted to come back, so I worked hard at bringing myself back. On my own terms.
Locust street: The houses. The neighborhood. The low curving concrete wall, which was actually not a wall at all but part of an old foundation. It was all that was left of a huge barn of a building that had been gone for all of my life. My mother had told me about it. The factory that had been there. She’d found work there as a child.
In my childhood all that had remained was the concrete foundation that all of us children took for a wall and sat and played on. Walking its length, balancing as we went. Sitting and watching life pass us by.
As much as I sometimes hated life at home, in the house that always tried to pull me, I didn’t mind Locust street because I could sit and watch life go by. It calmed me down. It was where I chose to start when I dreamed. I will say this about buildings, walls, houses, cars, trees… They harbor evil. They can hate. Maybe not in the world most of us live in, but in the world I spend most of my time in the rules are different. They can hate you. They can love you. They can kill you. You should know that if you ever dream.
I first saw him there. Just him. I didn’t know his name, but I knew like me he was a dreamer. Like most of the people that were there were dreamers. Except they belonged there, he didn’t. It wasn’t his place. Maybe, I thought, he didn’t understand it. I wasn’t even sure if he knew he was dreaming. But I was new and I wasn’t always sure if I was or wasn’t dreaming. That was before I came to realize that it made no difference. Real is what you believe it is. Believe that.
He was sitting on my wall. Like he owned it. Early evening. He looked lost. He probably was lost. I watched him for over an hour and then I had to move on to the things I had to do. I came back later but he was gone. I used a rock to scratch my name into the wall as I sat watching the people go by. I was tired. I had not found what I had hoped to find. I was not even sure it existed. I looked at my name and it came to me that maybe the man I had seen earlier might come back. I scratched my phone number by my name, feeling like some dumb school kid carving their initials into a tree. Would he see it? Would he even know what was it? Would he be able to remember the number after he went back? I didn’t know. What I did know was that no one I met there was willing to help me. He looked like he needed help too. Maybe we could both help each other. If I had only known what a mess I was creating… But it seemed so innocent.
In The Moonlight:
Getting To Know You
Laura And Joe
They sat side by side on the low, curving concrete wall. The Moon shone brightly above. Laura felt more exposed as herself that she did in her normal dreamer state of a sparrow.
“I dream of the house… The garage… The dog-wolf. For five years I’ve dreamed that dream every other night. No matter what I did I couldn’t shake it.”
Laura nodded, her large, dark eyes reflecting the moonlight. Had he thought she was only pretty? He had been wrong. She was beautiful. Maybe a little too thin, but that was hard to tell. She preferred baggy clothes that tended to make her look thinner…
“Earth to Joe,” she said.
“You zoned out on me for a second.”
“I did… I’m sorry,” he replied.
“So what were the dreams like? Did they change before or only after you start dreaming?”
“Hmm. You know, you’re right on the money. They changed completely right after I started to dream. It’s like… Like after I opened the door, I couldn’t shut it. And so every time I was disconnected, like dreaming, but also when I went to sleep, I went to explore, even if I didn’t want to go… Like once I was able to turn it on and off on my own I lost the ability to stop the state from happening.” He said.
“Or they turned it on and off for you,” she said. Her eyes locked on his.
“I do… I do because they have to know about us. The legends say nothing happens in the Dreamer’s Worlds without all having the ability to know. The darkness whispers to the evil. Both from the book of dreams states… I think I said them right.”
“So my point is not just that the other dreamers could see us. The Trickster… The Dream Killer… The Thief Of Souls… And so many demons that work for them… All evil. They know we’re after something… They have to, and they can see us too… They caused us to kill each other that one time… They caused you to shoot yourself… They know, and they want us dead… It will only get worse.”
He nodded again. “I know, but,” he looked around and decided it made no difference. A listener could have shape shifted into the fabled fly on the wall. There was not much way of not being overheard. He whispered anyway. “We aren’t even sure,” he lifted his eyebrows.
“Wrong,” Laura whispered back. “We are.”
“I do. What other purpose is there to be here? You know it all works on purpose. The Creator’s purpose has been waiting for thousands of years. It only takes a strong dreamer to bring up that purpose and go forward.”
“And you think we are that good,” Joe asked? He was still whispering.
“Yes… I’m not just saying that. I think you are really good… And I can do things I didn’t know I could do. I… I know only a handful of dreamers, some from here, some from there, but, none of them travel the way we do… The Dog Face… Chief… Others… They couldn’t do what we can and it got them anyway… They were worried enough about them to get them,” Laura said.
“How would we ever find her,” Joe Asked? His voice was small and tight.
Laura shrugged, tapped a small beat with her heels against the concrete wall. “We will… We’ll be… Lead,” she shrugged again. “I believe that.” Her eyes met his and there was something else going on there. He looked away.
“Don’t you think we should,” she said a few minutes later.
“If we can find her,” Joe answered.
“No. I’m off that subject. I was talking about us.”
He looked up and her dark eyes pulled him in. “We should what?” he asked
She took his hand and he jumped slightly as if an electric shock had passed through it. “It’s almost morning anyway…?” She left unsaid what she had intended. Losing her nerve at the last minute.
“We should what?” Joe asked again through dry lips.
She had looked down, staring at her hands in her lap, she looked up now, her eyes speculative. She took a deep breath. “Turn the page,” she answered.
“Turn the page?” he asked. Her eyes were locked on his own. “Oh… Here…?”
“No… When we go back… You’re what… Twenty minutes from me?… I could drive…”
Her eyes held his, but he didn’t speak.
“Unless you don’t want to,” she said at last.
“No,” he said quickly… “It’s been awhile… I…”
He licked his lips. “I… I want to.”
She nodded. “I’ll be there as soon as I take my shower…”
“I have a shower at my place,” he said.
She laughed. “Okay… Okay…” Then she became serious. “I’ll bring my stuff with me… I guess I’ll just go back, wake up and hop into the car.” Her eyes were so deep, so liquid, so impelling.
“I will make breakfast,” he offered.
“I eat like a horse.”
“I’ll get some hay.”
She laughed. Looked at him seriously again. Bent across the short space between them and kissed him. A second later she was gone.
In The Present Dream State
Not all dreamers are Native Americans. Joe is. I am part, but there are several who are not. How they came to be there with no guidance I don’t know. Joe says it’s in our blood. He said some non Native Americans there are something else. Not dreamer’s. Not exactly. Something else. Something that is sometimes bad. Bad for us anyway. But some, he thinks, are what he calls the Rainbow Tribe. Native American at heart: Where it counts. Faithful to the creator, to Mother Earth, more than some of us. But not Native in the blood. Either way, he says, it makes no difference. They are equally powerful. Equally, versed in power. Equally, skilled dreamers. But no one Dreams like Joe. Not that I’ve seen. Yet he continues to tell me I have the real power… I don’t see it yet.
This is the present day. Real time. But that is also meaningless when you dream. Time is not what it appears to be. It does not go forward or backward. It just unfolds parallel to itself. It moves of its own accord. It is more of a multidimensional thing. I know this. You can be in two places at the same time. And worse there can be two or more of you in the same place at different or the same times. It’s confusing, but important. Because you cannot be in the same space as the other you. You can not touch you in that same space do you see? You can be dead and you can be alive. That is where I am now. Dead. And that is why I cannot come back from dreaming: If I do I’ll die. Die in the real world and in the dreamer’s worlds. It’s complicated. For now, for me, it’s going to mean drastic changes. Drastic changes…
In The Moonlight:
His eyes were closed. He seemed to have stopped his struggles. The fat man walked around him twice. Slowly. The fat man was sweating freely. His over sized white T-shirt that usually billowed like a sale, clung to his fat. Drenched.
He wore heavy leather gloves. Blacksmith gloves. He bounced a metal spike against the palm of one hand. Closed his hand over it, held it tight in his closed fist. He stopped and thrust the blackened tip into the fire once more.
“Have you still nothing to tell me, Karl… Nothing at all,” he asked?
The man bound to the chair opened one eye. His lips moved. Cracked. Bloody. Revealing broken stumps of teeth behind them. He croaked. The effort sent a trickle of blood rolling over his lower lip. It splashed to his chest and rolled away down his stomach.
“I didn’t understand that, Karl,” the fat man said. He lifted the now glowing spike from the fire and held the end up so Karl could see it.
“Yes, Karl. Yes,” he said as he brought to spike’s super heated end to Karl’s face.
“Please… Please…” Karl screamed.
Spinning… Falling… Light from the darkness… I slammed into the bed hard, threw my arms up to catch myself and began the business of breathing once more.
I had done what I could. Laura would be saved or she wouldn’t. All I could do now was rest and wait for my dreams to take me back to her. I fell back against the mattress breathing hard. I was so exhausted. I needed sleep, but I was afraid to slip into uncontrolled sleep. I need to be somewhere safe first. Somewhere where no one could find me. Then I could direct some sleep. Suggest some dreams. Get some rest while my spirit self watched over me.
I coughed, spat, sat back up and dragged myself from the bed. I looked around my apartment wondering what I should take. Nothing, I decided after a second. There was nothing there that I wanted. I pushed my hair back on my head, caught it up in a beaded leather drawstring to hold it, and a few seconds after that I was walking out the door. I debated locking up and then decided not to. I would never be back. I knew that.
I walked down the short hall and out into the early morning light. The traffic was picking up. People on the sidewalks. I hailed a cab. I watched my building disappear from view for what was probably the last time. I sighed and leaned back into the seat for the ride.
“All right, Brother,” the cabbie asked?
Not Native I saw as I lifted my eyes. At least not in appearance.
“I am now,” I said.
He laughed and turned his attention back to the light traffic.
‘I hope so anyway,’ I thought, as I watched the building slip by. ‘I hope so.’
In The Sunlight:
No sleep; I couldn’t and I didn’t miss it. What was tough though was filling up all of that time. For a place where time didn’t really exist, it was tough to deal with.
No dreaming: Since I was still me I could dream. But if I dreamed without my physical self, or ties to my physical self, without that watching presence, where would I end up?
No telling. Could I even direct it? Probably not. It is most likely, I’d told myself, exactly what they would hope that I would do.
They: I don’t know who they are. It’s not your basic paranoia they. It’s a real thing. A real they. I suppose it sounds the same though. I don’t know who they are, but I think Joe does. I think he has a plan. At least an idea, but he has to maintain his physical body. I don’t. Somewhere there is still a physical body, but it is maintained by prior events and circumstances. It needs nothing from me. There is a point where my physical body ceased to exist. It’s the same for everyone. Mine just ended sooner. And I don’t yet know the reason for that either. I have questions, no answers. I have fear, but I have patience too. I have Bear here with me. I have Joe out there somewhere in the physical world. I’ll be okay…
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