The basement of the courthouse looks like an indoor colosseum with its marble pillars and platinum statues of fallen gods. The second floor is a circular prison with a thousand cells pointing inward. Above that, in the dome, is the judge’s chamber where I wait for his honor to return. I stand before a mirror the height of the ceiling. The mirror’s frame is made of pearl sculptures of Greek nudes. When I look at my reflection I see a white man.
Lance*, the owner of the restaurant where I work, has invited all thirty of his employees to his apartment for a celebration. We ate stir-fried rice cooked in the campfire in his living room and watched a movie on his projector. It appears that the film was made in the seventies and looks suspiciously like the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky. The main character was falsely accused of murder (or perhaps terrorism) and was sent to a massive super-prison. The prison is like a live-action Hieronymus Bosch painting, with its deformed guards and acrobatic amputees. Executions are performed to look like a circus show.
During one execution a man who has been tied to a chair is placed next to a rack of swords and spears. A clown walks on stage and kicks the weapons at the prisoner one at a time. There’s a drum roll before each kick. After several misses the clown manages to impale the condemned with a spear. Everyone in Lance’s living room begins laughing at this point. I pretend to laugh too even though I don’t understand the humor.
When the movie is over most of my coworkers leave. I stay behind along with this brown haired girl whom I’ve been flirting with. The two of us help clean up Lance’s apartment. She’s watching me rinse a plate of rice when the alarm goes off.
There is a white pickup with a fifty-caliber machine gun mounted to the bed. I am the gun’s operator. In training I was told that if I squeeze the trigger I am required to fire a minimum of two thousand rounds. We are inside an aircraft hangar. In the center of the hangar is a circular house with a white picket fence. I aim the gun at the front door and open fire as people begin pouring out. Everything moves in slow-motion when the bullets hit them. Blood and limbs go flying silently in every direction. I am only doing my job.
(I’m a dog)
Though I can’t see her I know
the crow is there, the spider
is in her beak, and when I
follow we’ll all be together
and I’ll never be alone.
Our hero is one of the fairy-folk, a taxi driver in the purple city who dreams of becoming a knight. He trades in his cab for a black pony with red mane; his revolver for a bow and a quiver full of arrows. While exploring the obsidian castle in the center of the city our hero awakens his royal highness, the Emperor of Ash and Lightning. He flees as any taxi driver would. On the highway he spots a wizard riding away on horseback. A pair of demonic blue stallions run along with the old man on either side. The taxi driver shoots the demon horses with his arrows and they both disappear. When the lightning strikes the asphalt our hero lassoes the wizard, hogties him and places him on the back of his pony. There is trouble in the skies.
It is the year 1960 and I’m a teenager. I have an afro and an acoustic guitar which I play alone into the air ducts of an abandoned high school gymnasium. A boy, the son of a police officer, wanders in from the hallway. He is holding a .357 magnum revolver. He spots me from across the basketball court and aims the gun at me. I hide beneath the bleachers. Outside there’s a riot going on.
A wealthy friend of mine has asked me over to his house to help him move. I can’t remember if he was moving in or moving out. When I get there I find him and some people I don’t know chatting in the living room. In the corner is a clear plastic bag with a little dog inside it. It’s a pug, I think. There is a plastic tube attached to the dog’s stomach which empties its blood into the bag. The bag is getting full and I’m afraid the little pug will soon drown in its own life fluid. I ask my friend about it and he tells me that the dog is sick and needs to be euthanized. I decide that I don’t like rich people very much.
I am one of only two employees at a fast food restaurant. Steven*, Lance’s* son, is the other. He hardly ever speaks. One day, while I was washing dishes, Steven went into the freezer, broke off a pair of icicles and stabbed me in the chest with them. I went to his parent’s house to tell them what Steven had done but the weapons had already melted by the time I got there. I think I’ve seen this before.
My sister, Jada and I are arguing in the ballroom on the top story of our house. Our house is so tall that the airplanes have to swerve to miss it. We hear a shriek from outside and we both run out into the back yard. My mother and my half-sister, Ebony are both lying in the grass, encapsulated by black cocoons. Their faces are smiling as they stare at the clear blue sky. I push them and shake them but they both remain perfectly still. They are like dolls. Jada simply watches and shakes her head.
While visiting my dad at his apartment complex I took a side job as a courier. My job is to deliver packages to the vehicles of the tenants in the parking lot. I am constantly looking over my shoulder for fear of being mistaken for a burglar. As I drop a package through the smashed in window of an old Ford F-150 I notice a crowd of people near the pool house. The people are playing with a baby bird. The bird is light blue, featherless and translucent. It has a long thin neck with a ball shaped head that wobbles from side to side as it walks on its spiny black legs. The tenants are mocking the poor bird. Eventually the bird’s mother arrives and scolds us all for tormenting her baby. The top half of the mother is human but she has the same spiny black legs as the baby. They walk away from us, wobbling side to side in unison.
This is why I don’t eat at McDonalds. They change their menu every minute or so, before I can even place my order. By the time I made it to the front of the line they had already shut the store down three times so the employees could change shift. The pimple faced cashier kept rolling his eyes at me while I was ordering my food. I decided to go to a different restaurant, but when I turned around all of the tables were occupied by men in Nazi SS uniforms.
An ocean, a ship, childlike inmates in a floating prison. At one point I was in a cell, shaving my face with a piece of tin can. I ruined my mustache. I’ve had dreams like this before.
All I remember is a parking lot outside of a shopping mall at nighttime. Perhaps it’s snowing. I think I’m coming down with something.
My mom, Jada and I are on our way to a waterpark to see an evening show. There are slides in the middle of the lazy river and huge auditoriums overlooking the lake. Swimming is strictly prohibited in the lake because it is filled with giant squid and Chinese boats with glowing lanterns. My mom and sister are arguing again. I leave them and go wandering through the halls behind the auditorium bleachers. I find a private room with a balcony. There is a bed in the room with a woman lying on top of the silk sheets, moaning as she pleasures herself. She sees me staring and asks me to join her. She is very, very old. I apologize several times and run away. When I go back outside the stadium is full. And the lights are growing brighter and brighter. Everyone is staring at the lake in anticipation.
Purdue campus is mostly deserted for winter renovations; the perfect time for a stroll. I had on my wool coat and Texas Longhorns skullcap. When I was walking past one of the construction sites I happened to bump into my childhood friend, Rodney*. I remember smoking weed for the first time with him out on some dusty gravel road in North Texas when we were both thirteen. He was the only boy I’ve ever had a crush on. In the years since I’d last seen him I heard he had been to prison and gotten a girl pregnant. He seems to be doing okay now.
Rodney and I decided to hangout for the rest of the afternoon. He wanted me to meet his fiancé so we took my car to a new restaurant which makes really good (but ludicrously expensive) sub sandwiches. His fiancé is a beautiful young woman with long, golden hair that turns bronze in the fluorescent light. I was disturbed when I met her because of how young she looks. As the three of us ate I began to consider how extremely unlikely it was that I’d meet my best friend from elementary school here, in Indiana, while the school was closed for renovations. But I never considered the possibility that I might be dreaming.
Police were searching my car when we left the restaurant. There was a man in handcuffs who a police-woman told me had smashed my taillight during a high-speed chase. Rodney and his fiancé disappeared. Jada and Mom took their place. The restaurant was replaced with a Colonial style town house and we were now standing in the middle of a foggy city. None of this seemed the least bit odd.
When the police left us I saw that the car wasn’t really mine. It was a green hatchback with velvety green moss growing throughout the interior. There were fluorescent yellow mushrooms coming out of the air vents. I spent the rest of the dream wandering from house to house, asking the residents if they’d seen my car. Mom kept making nonsensical suggestions like, “check the power-lines,” or, “did you look in the fir tree?” My sister just stared at her phone the entire time.
The Mall of America is so tall you can’t see the bottom three floors from the top. This is where I work. I push a little cart and collect cardboard advertisements for a blockbuster film that is no longer showing. The mall is almost completely deserted even though it’s not yet after hours. I collect the last advertisement near the toy store and take the elevator down to the basement; the trip lasts several hours. There is a lot of machinery and pipework in the basement. The door to the boiler room is open. I walk inside to find that a Halloween themed rave is taking place. The room is the size of a movie theater with a DJ booth set up on top of one of the boilers. The partiers ask to use the cut outs for decoration. I oblige them since I was just going to throw them in the incinerator anyway.
A girl with purple hair takes me by the wrist and pulls me into the center of the dance floor. I suspect she is high on ecstasy because electric currents flow from her skin to my own. She tells me she’s in love with me, as people on ecstasy are wont to do, and then she starts to dance with her back against my chest. I realize, when she kisses me beneath my chin, that it’s not her hair that is purple, but the electric currents radiating from inside her. I’ll wake up before I get her number, I know I will.
I’m in a huge department store. The lights are all on but the place is empty.
Fireworks. I’m a teenager again. I took off my shirt and laid down in the bed of my red pickup which happens to be covered with soft green moss. I’m parked in the middle of a grassy field, watching fireworks as big as the sky. I wish you were here.
I’m in the building where I went to elementary school. The place is abandoned now. I’m walking through the gymnasium. It has arches made of gold and stained glass windows behind the bleachers. This entire building has been demolished in waking life and I’m slowly starting to realize that when three women enter the room. There is one white woman, one black woman, and one Hispanic woman; each holding a young child by the hand. The Hispanic woman tells me I’m supposed to be watching them.
One little boy walks up to me and says he needs to pee. I lead him toward the locker room but two more boys appear when we go inside. There are long rows of toilets with no stalls, all of them too small for an adult to use. Before I can get them to the toilets all three boys urinate on themselves and one begins to cry. The women enter the locker room and shake their heads at me. The white woman tells me that I have to give the children a bath now that I’ve let them soil themselves.
The only way to heat up water for a bath is with the kitchen stove located in front of the bathroom sinks. There is an enormous cauldron sitting on top of the stove. I turn on all four gas-burners and wait for the water to reach the right temperature, warm but not scalding. I guide the boys next to the cauldron like a herd of cattle, but I don’t put them inside. The black woman tells me to lift the boys into the cauldron but I refuse to touch them as they are soaked from head to toe with piss.
As the women and I argue I hear a knock. I open the locker room door to find Brandy* a girl I used to know in college. She is two years younger than me. Once, during my sophomore year, I found Brandy smoking a Black&Mild on someone’s balcony during a frat party. When she saw me she asked me to join her. She took a deep drag from her cigarillo, wrapped her arms around my shoulders, pressed her lips against mine and exhaled vanilla flavored smoke into my lungs.
I invite her inside. The moment she crosses the threshold the three women are gone, the children are gone, the toilets and sinks transform into cardboard boxes and Brandy and I are standing alone in the shadows of my empty apartment.
It is the first day of my new job. I’m walking through the city plaza with the sun on my back. It’s a busy day as cars hover overhead like bees and humanoid robots walk around me every which way. A mastodon walks past me as I near the fountain; sparks of static electricity arc from his tusks to the robots.
I meet my boss at an intersection; a thin, short old man with white hair and a mustache. He is wearing a blue jumpsuit, the same as me. His name is Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Kurt and I hop into a little sphere-shaped vehicle that sits on tracks like a trolley. The vehicle takes us all over town. We roll along the tracks at street-level for a while. Then we dip underground to see John Henry and the Velociraptors. The tracks take us out of the tunnel and sends us soaring way up to the tops of skyscrapers. I make mention of the cluster of blimps crowding around a cell-phone tower. My boss tells me he fought in Vietnam.
At the end of the day we stop at the same intersection where we got on. My boss hops into a blue pick-up and drives across the plaza. I call out to him to ask what time I have to be at work tomorrow. He brings the truck to a screeching halt, turns around and runs over one of the robots as he drives up to me.
He rolls down his window and shouts, “Eight-thirty!” and drives away.
The perpetual sunlight in Northern Alaska had disrupted my circadian rhythm to the point that I began waking up and falling asleep every hour. As a result of my altered sleep I began having multiple dreams each night. On this particular evening I had three separate dreams:
In the first dream I was living alone in a house made entirely of glass. Even the screws and bolts holding the glass boards together were glass. There was a panther wandering around in the woods. It wanted to attack me but there was no way for it to get inside. It had human-level intelligence and communicated with me through telepathy.
“I will crush your windpipe with my fangs,” the panther said, but I was not afraid of her.
I ignored her because I was busy crawling through the air ducts. I was searching for something but I don’t remember what it was. Maybe it was a lost child, or an escaped animal. For all I know it could have just been a set of car keys.
In the second dream I was walking through a large warehouse. There were three naked people, each lying motionless inside a metal box. There were two men and one woman, each was bald-headed and had sickly pale skin. Their boxes were placed neatly beneath the fluorescent lights. They each were smiling but none of them moved. I remember hoping they were dead, but somehow I knew their hearts were still beating.
In the third dream I was back in Texas. Every time I dream about Texas it’s as if I never left. I was on my way to McQuay Stables, where I used to live when I was a little boy. A tornado was coming. I was outside the hay-barn when all the clouds disappeared. It was about noon and the sky was bright and beautiful like the Pacific Ocean. The wind began to pick up and I knew the tornado was there even though I couldn’t see it. I wrapped the chains from the barn doors around my arms to keep myself from being carried away.