“Get them moving, Mike, we can’t wait,” the man tells me. He’s right and I know it, but it’s hard to convince people just to drop what they have in their hands, what they have pushed in a baby carriage or a wheelbarrow, or however they got it here, just to drop it and go.
It’s like looking at the world’s biggest yard sale, with items from their homes, things they remember, things they’ve owned since they were children and now, they have to move fast, and leave it all behind.
“It’s my grammy,” a woman sobs, “she raised me, this photo is all I have left of her, there’s room for a photo, come on, it’s not that big.”
“Nothing,” I tell her, and keep walking as she wails. It hurts doing this, but we have to go, and there’s no time left.
“Look, look,” a man paws at me holding up a golden figurine, “I’ll split the money with you, this is an antique, it’s worth a lot, I’ll give you half.”
“Drop it, and keep moving, drop it and keep moving,” that’s my mantra.
“I can take Gary?” the little boy asks me, and children are the worst, and when their parents aren’t around its heart wrenching. He’s holding up a fuzzy stuffed animal.
“No, you have to keep moving, there’s no room,” I tell him and he drops his head, tears falling.
“You don’t have to be this way about it, they’re confused, lost, they have no idea what’s going to happen,” a woman snarls at me.
“And you do?” I ask, pausing for just a moment.
“I, uh, I made my peace with it,” but she suddenly falters, looks scared.
“The job is yours if you think you can do it,” I tell her, and I keep moving. She’s pretty, and in another time, I would talk to her, but now it’s over, and the end is near for all of them. We’re pushing them forward, tears, questions, anger, resentment, but behind there is nothing left at all.
Then it is over. I sigh. Looking back, to the horizon are suitcases, photos, beloved items that mean nothing and are worth nothing to anyone who still lives.
“More coming in a few seconds, Mike, get them moving.”
I have reoccurring Dreamscapes. Usually buildings, houses, rooms, and even one or two cities that do not exist in waking reality, at least as far as I know. One of the more recent is a structure made of red brick.
The bricks are normal. They’re every day red bricks, but solid, not the kind with holes.
The structure is round, mostly, once or twice it’s been slightly oval. But the magnitude of this thing is what gets me every time. As far as I can tell, it’s got to be at least six hundred meters tall. Yes, that high. People are indistinct from the view at the top, and vehicles are tiny spots. The café at the north side of the structure is a small dot. The whole thing is impossible, from an engineering standpoint because the walls are only about four meters wide at the most.
Because my mind works the way it does, whenever I’m there, maintenance crews are usually working on repairing the bricks that have fallen down, patching places where and there, and I did this in one dream, and fell all the way to the bottom. It hurt but I was uninjured, and I’ve seen other people fall, too. They usually get up and walk away, a little gimpy but okay.
Some people fall and just lay there, in the grass, the rich, thick, tall grass, super green, and eventually the grass absorbs them and they’re gone. No one knows where.
Living quarters of some sort exist somewhere in this place, I’m not sure where or how, but a woman was taking me to her room once when I woke up. Dammit.
Last night I was there only for a few minutes, walking around, look up at flocks of birds as they flew up and up and up. Bricks fall sometimes, spinning, hitting the wall, breaking, and sometimes but the time they get to the bottom, they are just crumbly collections of dust, and other times they hit hard. I’m not sure death as we know it exists here.
What should I call this place, until I can learn its true name?
“Can you change anything or is it static?” I asked the woman sitting next to me.
“Mmmmm, like what?” she replied, slightly drunk, her voice slurring a bit, but tone of voice suggested she hoped this wasn’t a lead in on me hitting on her.
“The stone, the guy, the scenery, maybe?” I was fascinated, not by the woman, but by the animation in the model. I had never seen anything like it.
“Yeah, you can,” another woman sat down beside the first, and she had what looked like a television remote. “Watch.”
The model on the tabletop showed a man, dressed in central casting Roman garb, toga, sandals, laurel leaves on his head, and he was pushing a huge bolder up a mountain slope. He would get to a certain point, the rock would slip, nearly crushing his body, and he would trudge downhill to start all over again. This was a three dimensional thing, the man about 200mm high, with the rock a bit taller than he. It looked realistic and you could hear him groaning, straining, then moaning when the rock slipped away.
The woman pressed a button and the rock was crystal, glowing, then she hit another and it was a diamond, another and it was burning, a ball of fire, and then again it was a dazzling star.
“And if you’re petty, like I am sometimes…” The man changed, the face was different.
“Petty?” I asked.
“That’s my ex.”
I looked at her and she took my picture with the remote, and suddenly I was pushing the rock up the slope.
“Damn, that’s pretty good,” I swore.
“And I was so afraid the lightning would hit the building,” another woman was telling a story, and we paused to listen, “and we were so high up, it was like the one hundredth story and I was afraid if lightning broke the window we’d be sucked out and die.”
“You mean like in an airplane?” someone asked.
“Yeah, you know, something breaks a window in a jet, and everybody gets sucked out into the air,” the woman nodded.
Everyone started laughing at her, and I choked on my drink.
One of the reoccurring Dreamscapes is a building built on a slight rise, so the sidewalk in front of it would be great for skateboarding if concrete wasn’t broken up and cracked so badly. An awning once stood over the length of the sidewalk, but it’s missing in places. The flagpole stands naked. Why the building was abandoned, I have no idea, but the grounds have been kept somewhat, yet it’s deserted, mournful and empty.
More than once in my life, and often in my dreams, I’ve looked at a house or a structure and wondered what the designer had in mind, or if they were just making it up as they went along. Of course, all the Dreamscapes come from my mind, and I wonder what it says about me that this building exists in the form it’s taken.
Early in my career in transportation construction, there was a program that would give each congressional district X number of feet of roads to be resurfaced. These were not highway projects, but meant to be doled out to poor counties and small towns, and usually it amounted to resurfacing a street four of five hundred feet long, in a town with a few hundred citizens. Over the years, I paved roads in dozens of little towns and out in the middle of nowhere county roads, and I swear that building exists somewhere out there.
Life is stranger than fiction. Damascus Georgia, a small town, even for small towns, is the place I began writing, even though I was only there for a few hours. The building in the Dreamscape is possibly larger than the town of Damascus, yet somehow, the two locations, one in south Georgia and the other existing, possibly, only in my mind. I keep thinking I will go back to Damascus, to see if what I remember is still there, but it’s been over thirty years now, and it is possible reality doesn’t exist the way I remember it, for it rarely does.
That would make sense. The original name of Damascus was Kestler. I’m Rabbit Holing now, predawn, coffee setting in, mind bouncing around like a kid out in the rain, following each scrap of information like a Holy Grail. I’ve looked at Google Map shots, tried to find the street, think I might have, but it has been thirty years.
Having no basis in reality, how accurate is a Dreamscape each time it’s visited? Created wholly by the mind, is the mind readily accepting each new version as an exact replica of the last, and the first? Unless a dreamer was to draw a map of the building, each detailed defined, is each dream a newer representation of the same feeling of the building? Is the flagpole a new detail, yet my mind convinced it was there the last time?
There’s no way to tell when the mind is telling you’re the truth, because you are the mind.
Nothing we sense as the truth is totally real, or totally not real. We’re seventy percent water by volume, and if we could get that proportion of reality out of our daily lives, or our dreams, we would be, I think, never aware of it.
Last night began innocently enough, with a dream that Jessica Elizabeth, had gotten on the bed and was sleeping beside me. All through the night I could sense her being there, until I woke up this morning and she wasn’t.
The scene shifted. I was in an old west setting, with an honest to dog posse, on horses, with cowboy hats, .41 long barrels, and we were in an abandoned town looking for some bad guy that had done some bad things. The man riding next to me was trying to get something out of his pocket and a finger got stuck.
“Cut it off! Cut it off!” he gasped in pain.
“Got to cut quick fore it turns black,” someone else said.
I reached over with my knife and cut a small slit in the pocket and freed the man’s finger. Everyone was impressed, and the man thanked me, over and over, for saving his finger.
Sam Elliot (yes, really) eased over and said, “Don’t know if I would have taken that sort of chance, but good job.”
Then I was talking to a friend of mine. I haven’t seen her since 2004, and she wanted to get paid for cleaning my house. We agreed on a price of seven thousand dollars. So, this morning, when I woke up, I started worrying that I owed her seven grand. It took Wrex wanting to start the ritual of early morning petting to bring me to full awake.
The rain began in the deepest part of the morning, somewhere after midnight, and the metal of the roof announced the storm’s arrival. The wind might knock the power out, but it’s cool enough to keep things in the freezer and refrigerator from going bad for many hours, yet warm enough for the heat not to be on. At any rate, the blankets protect me from all things that are not nightmares, and the dogs snore softly.
There’s little lightning, a rumble of thunder in the distance that holds no threat, and I listen to the rain, wind swept rhythm, and hope the compost pile gets a good soaking. It’s another week yet until Solstice, and the heat of the sun will not return until March. Two cold and dark months left before I can start thinking about planting again.
Drifting between sleep and rain, dreams almost appear, nearly form, but do not. Some of the dream is of drowning, but detached, not terrifying, and in this is the realization not being afraid of drowning creates a bypass for survival instinct, but these thoughts are misty and they, too, drift.
Wrex Wyatt dreams. His legs jerk, and there are yips from deep within, so I reach out and place a hand on him, say his name, and the sleep returns to us both, unbothered by visions or memories. The rain pounds the roof and sleep comes and goes as if blown by the storm. It’s one or two, maybe three in the morning, no, not yet two, for time doesn’t exist in true darkness.
Primal and wet, the lack of light is the bottom of the ocean, where nothing is ever seen, but felt, and smelled and the sensation of the world around the skin is everything that light is two miles above the trench. What if your skin, the entirety of it as an organ, naked, and floating, was your sight, and could clearly discern a world that existed above, below, and all around you, all the time? Changes in temperature, pressure, heat, cold, the feel of chemicals released by others of your kind, the pheromones of those you were interested in, and who were interested in you, the smell of prey or predators, the feel of electricity in all things, the sensation of the life leaving an old one, their life finished, their body drifting to the very bottom to decay or be eaten, or to be buried by the currents, all of this, every moment, a full body experience.
Sight is so limited.
Yet even now, when the realization of this comes, I see a patch of sky that is less dark than before. The rain continues, lighter now, and the wind has stopped. The world is returning to light, slowly, easing into it as if she is loath to begin a day so limited by so little sight.
As far as dreams go, this one was a garden variety anxiety dream, things left undone, slight guilt involved, and nothing dramatic or scary or even incredibly interesting happened, except the detail of the dream, the vividness, the sheer sense of reality, and how even when I was awake and sure it was a dream, I was not at all.
The setting was here, at Hickory Head, and my neighbor owns an overflow pond which is mostly dry. In the dream, someone I don’t know in reality, but was a main character in the dream world, okay, let’s pause for this.
The dream character was a man who clearly was involved in the day to day operation of my neighbor’s farm. He was a middle aged guy, long hair and a beard, friendly, fair, but concerned.
He came to ask me what I planned to do about the gouges in the bank of the overflow pond. Apparently, he had pulled my truck out from near the bank, and it had left deep grooves in the grass. He wanted me to fill them in, and smooth out the area.
This is how it should be. If you leave a mess on someone’s property you ought to fix it, and no one should have to ask you about it. Of course, I was aghast at this, and even though we were inside my house, I had a memory of the event, and how it looked after I was pulled out, and I knew if it rained, and it had, the ruts would get worse with erosion.
Now, the event itself, of me getting pulled out was not part of the dream, but inside the dream, I had a memory of it.
My mind created a memory out of nothing, inserted that memory into my dream, which it had created out of nothing, and the two creations were part of a whole, even though they were different.
In the dream, I quickly agreed to repair the damage, apologized, and the dream shifted away from that event and into something I cannot remember now. Yet when I woke up, somewhere around three this morning, my mind made plans for the work. I would fill the ruts in, compact the soil as much as I could, and transplant some grass there, to keep it all from being washed away.
Then, my mind sought a memory of the event, and found it filed under Dreams, and I slowly became aware none of this had ever happened. Dream, and dream memory, fought with reality, and finally lost. But it took a few moments for the feeling, the emotions, to dissipate.
When we listen to someone with dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease, and wonder how is this possible, remember in your own mind, waking up terrified of some dream monster, or anxiety ridden over some unfinished dream task, or aroused and ready over some passionate encounter in a dream, all of this, every moment of it, exists entirely within the realm of your mind.
Two shells in the shotgun, and five rounds for the rifle. How many men would come down the trail, no one knew, and maybe they wouldn’t come this way at all. But we expected the main force to hit us head on, at the camp, and a smaller group to try to sneak around the back. My mission was to guard this path that led to the farm, and I thought they put me here because I was older, less useful in the attack up front, and the only man in the camp not a veteran of at least one firefight. At a minimum, I would make enough noise to let everyone know there was company coming. Yet it was hoped there would be bloodshed, and not all of it mine.
Deer, maybe a racoon. That noise, the sound of leaves being crushed underfoot. Loud in the early morning stillness, the sun now above the horizon, the silence of the day just being violated. A tree branch fell to my left, and distinctly someone whispered, “What the fuck was that?”
I saw a spider crawling up the stem of the bush in front of me. It was a small, tiny, and slow moving thing, and the smell of crushed greenery wafted in. They had come in slow, without a sound; my heart pounded. In front of me, close, and they too, were waiting. I knew they would rush forward as soon as the shooting started. I eased the shotgun barrel forward and became part of the woods. I felt sweat flowing like tears. I felt small, and helpless, and scared.
Twenty feet of light underbrush would mean nothing to the stainless steel ball bearings loaded into the shells. Finger off the trigger, finger off the trigger, wait, wait, wait.
The sound of the rifle fire crackled, two hundred yards behind me, and this was the moment we would live or we would die. The men rushed forward, suddenly, and one of them saw me, too late, he stopped, halting the men behind him, and both barrels of the shotgun erupted in fire and smoke. Screaming, screaming, screaming, falling bodies, wild shots, and smoke.
“Aim low,” Billy told me, “knock’em down, make’em bleed bad, and they’ll be useless in a fight, and somebody’ll have to carry’em, after that, you got five rounds, no more, make it count, Mike, close the backdoor.”
I was the only man between the camp and the raiders coming in from the back. If they got past me, there was nothing.
Two bullets made a frying sound by my left ear, close enough for me to feel the warm breath of the Gods of War. I pulled the rifle up, another bullet whizzed by, but men were down, screaming, screaming, I sighted and there was only one shooting back, wildly now, panic taking over. He saw the rifle and his eyes opened wide.
The man jerked hard as the first round caught up just below his throat, and he threw his hands up, as if he might undo the damaged flesh. A man got up, limping hard, trying to run, and the second round caught him in the back at the waistline. He screamed, screamed, and kept screaming. Other men were yelling, “How many of them? Where are they? Jesus Christ, we’re surrounded!” and for some reason, they thought the sounds of gunfire from the camp, echoing through the woods, were coming from all directions. Another broke and ran, dragging a body behind him. My next shot caught in him in the right eye as he turned to fire, and the top of his head exploded like a fountain. That was enough. Two men threw their weapons down leaving me with the injured and dying. I stood and fired. Pop! Pop! Both men went down hard.
“Don’t get your ass up for nothin’,” Billy told me. “We lose the front, stay down, make a run for it. You go south, move at night, take care of yourself best you can. We hold, if’n we do, and we’ll come get you. There’s be a party after we bury the dead.”
I waited. The screaming stopped. The shooting stopped, but who won? Who would come down the trail to get me. Five feet away a rifle lay on the ground so I inched forward, grabbed it, and checked. Ten rounds in the magazine, one in the chamber. The former owner started at me with the half open eyes of a dead man, the first I had ever killed. He looked past me into the void.
“Mike!” It was Salman, the foreign guy who had moved to America a few years ago. He was good with guns, and I looked over my shoulder at him and grinned.
“Sal, we win?” I asked.
“Yes we win. What you think?” Sal crouched down. “How many get away, Mike? You make a mess in the woods. I tell Billy you messy.”
“None got away, none got past me. We lose anybody?” I asked as Sal handed me a cigarette.
“We lose men, Billy’s brother Hank. And new guy, odd name. Bubbles. Wounded gonna die.”
“Bubba,” and I actually laughed. I looked up and saw a woodpecker fly over, glorious and huge.
“Let’s get the guns, go back and see what happens now, okay?” Sal said and he helped me stand up. “Billy tell me, ‘We put Mike on the back, nobody live, nobody get past.”
Wrex pawed at my face, waking me up. I sat up and smelled blood and gunpowder.
But I held the line before I came out.
The night was locked in clouds, a light mist, no moonlight, no stars, and I could walked to the place on the trail from here, in the darkness and it felt real, as if the bodies would still be there.
Breakfast felt odd, too much light showing, they would see me. The dogs whined, went in and out, as if they sensed the veil had been strained, the dreamworld and this one had gotten too close to being in the same time. I was a vet in that world, and I would miss the party. Billy, Sal, and the guys who I had drank with a few days before the fight. Bubba was dead. His wife, two kids. Billy brother, I can’t remember his name now. Quiet man, reliable, it ran in the family.
It fought me. I went to Yoga class and was dizzy, I stumbled a couple of time, this reality isn’t holding, the other cannot.
This is the explanation of a dream, if that was what it was. What about the other side? Are they used to people just disappearing? Did I? Am I still there, drinking to our fallen, secure in a place I helped defend, or is it gone, all gone, forever?
I wondered where it came from, and I still do. It’s a massive structure, revisited, my second time here, and it’s breathtaking. The edifice reaches the clouds, maybe two kilometers in the sky, maybe even higher, there’s no way to measure, and birds must fly around it, great flocks trying to gauge if it would be better to skirt around the man-made mountain or go over. It’s when the birds are close is when the scale becomes apparent. Tiny flying insects they become, against the soaring walls. Higher and higher the flock flies, up and up, until I cannot see them anymore.
Why red brick? There’s a reason it’s built out of red brick, and I feel I should know why but no. I stand closer now and have that feeling a person gets when they first visit New York City, and walk among the skyscrapers. But a good portion of New York could fit inside this building, and as far as I can tell, there’s no reason for it to exist, except it does.
Engineering would deny this thing in reality. From space, it would look like an old fashioned water well, simple and round, the walls only thick enough for a small truck to drive upon the open rim, a three meters wide, at most. I’ve been up there once before. I think I fell.
There’s a tiny café to the left of the entrance and people time their visits to avoid the guy mowing the grass here. He pushes a loud, smokey, clunky mower, just like you would find in suburbia in the mid 1900’s and honestly, I have no idea if one person could actually mow the inside area and not have a permanent job. But the men and women working to repair the wall also have a full time job. There are hundreds of them, scaffolding clings to the bricks in various places, and stray bricks fall at random times. But overall, there are vast, immense areas where unbroken fields of bricks stretch into the skies.
But why red brick? The question comes to me, even as I walk in the freshly mowed grass, I can smell it, and I know it’s a dream, but the red brick stage setting intrigues me. Something tiny to give The Well a larger sense of proportion? I have no idea. Then I see her, the woman I was looking for last time, sitting alone, waiting for me. The dream is repeating, the dreamscape and characters are back, and even though I know it is a dream, the smile is involuntary. I’ll ask her why the bricks, why everything, over a drink, and a cigarette, but I wake up instead.
The dream stayed in my mind, like the residue of honey in a refilled cup of coffee. It’s not there, not even the memory of the dream is there, nothing but something akin to a psychic aftertaste, something floating around in the mind like a speck of red dust in the air, reflected by sunlight for a moment in time, picked up by imperceptible currents in the room, before drifting back into the shadow near your closet.
It’s still there, it still exists, you know for a fact it does, but you also know you couldn’t find it, and by looking for it, by trying to define it, you would pollute and distort it, change it so completely as to destroy the vision entirely.
How can it be both there, not there, remembered, not remembered, forgotten, not forgotten, Schrodinger’s Cat, with your conscious being the radioactive isotope, that triggers the poison. Your subconscious doesn’t know if there was a dream, or if you dreamed there was a dream, but the if you look for it, you kill the dream.
Perhaps the same part of your mind that forgets people one millisecond after you’ve been introduced is responsible for remembering your dreams. It’s a faulty device, battered by television shows, bumper sticker politics, and Prosperity Religion. If you spent more time reading, you’re remember what you had dreamt in more details, and Barbra Anderson’s name after you met her.
You can feel it, can’t you? You know it’s there. You meet someone and you’re looking at her, she’s speaking to you, and her name was said out loud, you shook hands with her, and now you’re scrolling through names in your head without a road sign or a map to help.
Feels just like when you’re trying to remember a dream, doesn’t it?
When was the last time you did remember a dream? The dreamscape, the setting of the dream, was it familiar only while you were there, or it is a real place? The people, were they characters in your life, or did they only exist in your slumber? Perhaps there was fear, some creature that meant you harm, were you lost, were you missing someone, was there abject terror of death, fire, falling, bullets, bears, or Johnny with an ax?
Maybe that’s why we don’t remember dreams, it’s a self-defense mechanism keeping us from screaming during the day while we remember what happened in our sleep. And perhaps, for mechanisms we cannot quite comprehend, it’s the same reason we forget the names of strangers.