After first rewarding myself with a big cat stretch, I unplugged a tiny silver spike from the back of my head. The tiny silver tower was wrapped in black cloth which spilled down to the floor and snaked across the room before climbing the scarred wooden legs of a cluttered workbench before vanishing into a bird’s nest of transistors, antiquated vacuum tubes, ’50s era voltage regulators and an over-clocked CPU awash in a wild show of blinking lights and (dangerously) exposed cables, one of which fed into the side of a battered electric typewriter I’d acquired at a recent fire sale. The paint was charred down to the metal and it was missing a few parts here, and there but after a few weeks of patience I’d managed to restore it to good working order.
Sitting down at the bench, I tugged on the overhead lamp and began scrolling backwards through more than 20 feet of butchers paper – half-formed thoughts and vague concepts churned out by my subconscious mind during the past eight hours, carefully imprinted with delicate force on crisp white paper by tiny steel arms bathed in ink.
The first entry went like this:
“Bicycle messenger… crisp uniform, shiny shoes… delivered legal document, folded tight, wedged into miniature bear trap… something women might shape eyelashes with. Paper concerned illegitimate child; French girl, 14 years old… named me as father?”
I frowned. That’s absurd. I’ve been to a lot of places in my life, but I’ve yet to set foot in France. Besides, why would anyone wait so damn long before serving such a notice? It was obviously a cheap bit of REM spam, one of those desperate meathead rantings one might receive from an “African Dignitary” or a dethroned member of the “Lithuanian Royal Family,” offering to share a percentage of fabled millions in exchange for your bank account number, a retina scan, a pap smear and a Dutch dinner date at a fine restaurant.
I looked at the next one:
“Danger… strong cravings to force you from bed and into million candle watt power lights of local stop-and-rob, ISO vanilla rice milk… 2:00 A.M. Exercise caution in vicinity of aisles three, five, nine; alligator pits. Rice milk in two, just past tanning booth containing your nude fifth grade teacher… (classical music, drove red Corvette, kept horses) Avoid backdoor of store as escape route; leads to towering maze, concrete walls, broken glass, concertina wire, bad news… protected by men in black body armor and vicious attack dogs… brutal, stylish guns: dull, black, snub, wide-barrels, air hoses, and an ammo feed system which makes no practical sense… afterimages of scaling chain link fence with groceries, something with teeth pulls at my leg, lots of screaming, and ketchup. Hunger is a beast, the beast never sleeps.”
I can remember the teacher, but not her name. Something beginning with an “R”? An amazing figure wrapped in long skirts and tight sweaters of grey wool, exotic silver jewelry and soft, luxurious hair piled high on her head. She had the most amazing eyes. She smelled sweet like a rainstorm when she’d lean over my shoulder to help me, and she was forever pulling me out of class and administering these weird logic tests. Did she see something in me? I loved her class, but never raised my hand. I used to fantasize, as children do, that she would never age, and that someday I would be old enough to ask her to go out on a date.
I sighed softly and read the next entry:
“Alabaster Rocket Ship to Mars… shaking so hard… rip the armrest off the fucking chair… heart replaced by swarm of locusts, shivering, rib cage popping rivets… can’t see straight, have become abbreviated light, moving so fast, spine feels like electric eel… can’t find door home… head on fire… will explode upon reentry, shaking apart at seams, skin stretching, painful, will tear soon, can’t open eyes for fear of losing them to excessive speed, dissolving, thousand miles per second… my debris field will be scattered across countryside, some sick sort of self-inflicted Lockerbie… lucky I don’t have any fillings… if I miss Earth, I may never stop… shoot right across the galaxy, pass the Magellanic cluster, the Great Beyond… if I hit, I might keep going, but, being unable to escape Earth’s gravity, will no doubt turn and pierce again, again, again, punching repeated holes through crust, magma, tectonic plates, mountains… causing earthquakes, tsunamis, floods… terrible choice, simple decision… make it soon, here it comes.” Weird.
The rest of it was a wash of nonsense and misfires– the “S” and “E” keys had stuck together again, giving everything a weird neo-Roman feel which slowly faded away like the mighty empire itself. I was running out of rib — I sniffed. Something was overheating.
I glanced at the maze of switches, dials, and flickering numbers on a large black box. All dials read green; no spikes or warning lights. I ran one hand over the maze of multi-colored wires in the blinking Lucite box, frowning, feeling for heat.
Suddenly there was a loud pop and a blue flash scorched my finger. I shook it and popped into my mouth. Yep. There’s the problem. Looks like that last dream caused a short and might have just fried one of the processors. Oh, well. I could always get some long cables and move the processor into the refrigerator. Have to shift the beer to help regulate the temperature. After breakfast, I’ll head out for the replacement parts and, with luck, I’ll have the dream again tonight.
I tore the paper free, dated it, and put it with the others.