It is a dark night. One of those clear nights when the only thing visible is the stars above and the faint glow of distant streetlights. In the middle of the street, between the stop sign and the church I’m heading to, is where it happens, some point in between a depressing thought and a feeling of loneliness, the space in between hell and reality. He grabs me by the collar of my coat and begins bashing my head in with a lead pipe. I fall to the ground and then nothing. Blank. Absent.
I cannot move nor hear, but I am aware of some type of darkness. A black box of sorts. It’s an octagon shaped box with a chalky colored table in the middle and two chairs, I in one and you in the other. And then I begin speaking to you, whoever you are…
I have been having these dreams since before I can remember. It’s the same scenario each time: lying in a bassinet in the hospital, four days old, I stare up at the blinding florescent lights just above me. People buzz in my peripheral, like flies high on amphetamines, and then suddenly they are gone. Their bodies are still there, but not alive. They stand, drooping over my bassinet as several dead puppets. A few seconds pass and then I see a blinding light, followed by a tunnel of darkness. A few seconds, later I see a figure of a man. And then I wake, just like that, holding only a scintilla of recognition. It is strange. That is, experiencing these dreams through a baby’s perspective.
All my life I have known something isn’t quite right. Not just because of the dreams but also sick, mentally, like a thin lining of darkness lies woven through the fabric of my soul. Many a nights I have laid in bed awake, fearing the oncoming dream and trying to pin point the source of my problem.
So, you say to me, “And what are you proposing to do about your dilemma?”
“Um, I think I’m gonna check myself in to see a psychiatrist,” I say to you.
“What do you think will happen? I want you to live out this scenario in this black box and explain to me what happens.” You say to me.
I am sitting in an all-white room, at a desk, and across from a doctor who doesn’t even know me, yet his job is to figure me out. I am skeptical: a moment similar to when someone tells you that life is plotting against them, and you say to them, “Are you alright?” You see, all my life I have been the one who figures things out. I can tell you what the weather was like ten years ago, or how many drops of rain hit my hand in any given amount of time. According to behavioral psychologists, I am gifted. And I am supposed to accept that I can’t even figure myself out?
You nod in understanding and notion me to continue.
So I am there, in his office. He hands me a piece of paper and tells me to sketch a picture of what I feel I look like. “Look closely at the page. Try to define the shapes and colors that make you who you are,” he says to me.
“Ok, I’ll try.”
I hand it to him and say, “This is the best I can do.”
He looks at it. It is a rough outline of a man, filled in with black scribbles.
“Why black?” He says.
“Cause that’s how I feel.”
“But why?” He says.
“Cause there’s something in me that’s dark.”
He says nothing for a short while; it’s probably the longest bit of silence I have ever experienced. He begins writing on his legal pad. And then he looks up at me and says, “Go home. I’ll see you in a week.”
I walk out of his office with my head drooped and my eyes teary. On my way to the elevator, I stop by the reception desk. “May I help you, sir?” The receptionist says.
“Who am I,” I say.
“I’m sorry; I don’t believe I understand…”
“I said, who am I?”
“Are you ok? Do you need help?” she says.
“Ummm, no, no I don’t.” I hand her the drawing of myself and then leave.
As I exit the window shiny high rise, the fall weather greets me warmly. In the distance, I see a small cluster of marmalade leaves stir in the wind and then scatter. “How is the world feeling?” I say, “Droopy? Blue?” A woman passing by stares at me. “Crazy? Maybe the world is crazy, and I am the only one that is sane,” I say, pressing on down the sidewalk.
I reach 4th Avenue and am about to cross the street when a large blue sign in my peripheral catches my attention. I look over and see a large, blue, neon palm glowing in the window of a small shop. I’m not sure what it is, have never seen it before.
So I step back onto the curb, look back across the street, then back to the sign, and then I decide to check it out. As I approach, I see small letters on the upper portion of the window that read “Palm Reading.”
I walk in.
“Your shoes are blue?” A short woman says from behind a table shrouded in a net, awfully similar to a mosquito net.
“Wow, that is very observant of you,” I say mockingly.
“No, I mean your shoes are blue and so is your brain,”
“Look, I’m not sure what you’re playing at…”
“Don’t you see, blue shoes and a blue brain means you’re going to have a good week and soon see the light.”
“Whatever, lady.” I turn to walk out.
“Wait, come here,” she says
I step up to the table, a bit hesitant at first, and then take a seat across from the woman. She has saggy face, similar to pizza dough drooping from the effects of gravity.
“You seem troubled, young man.”
“Tell me about it,” she says.
“Well, it’s kinda like this: I suffer from chronic, peculiar, and slightly frightening reoccurring dreams.”
She stares at me. Silence takes to the room. And then she speaks up, “There is a man in your dreams…”
“Yes! How did you know?” I say.
She laughs and then points to the front window.
“Oh, right,” I say, “So, do you think these dreams are bad?”
“No. But the reason you can’t see the entire dream play out without waking is because you’re scared.”
It seems futile to argue with her. She crosses the room and then comes back with a small rabbits foot.
“What’s this,” I say.
“It’s called the Foot of the Rabbit. And I want you to wear it while you sleep.”
“Ok,” I say, taking the rabbit foot and leaving.
I pause and look at you. You’re still sitting in the same position. “Go on, continue,” you say to me.
So I get home from the psychic and go to sleep. I have the dream again, of course, but see it in fullness: Lying in my bassinette…Corpses all around me…The black figure… Only this time, the man approaches me. He towers over me. It’s a scary feeling; I feel as though his thoughts are trickling down his hooked nose and falling upon me as droplets of acid. Then, the man cuts himself with a small knife and smears a drop of blood on my forehead, whispering something.
I wake suddenly, shivering in a cold sweat.
Out of bed I stagger and head over to the bathroom. I turn on the light and stand in front of the mirror. My hands grip the edge of the sink. I look down at the drain, my eyes strain, and then I look up to the mirror to face my reflection. I blink and then jump back. He is there; I see him standing behind me with one hand resting on my shoulder. I blink again, shake my head, look, and he is gone.
Later during the day, I stand in front of the psychic’s shop, looking into the window. I don’t want to go in, but I do.
“Yea, and with bad news,” I say, throwing the rabbit foot at her feet and walking back toward the door.
“Wait, you must tell me what happened,” she says.
I turn toward her, “I saw the whole dream and I didn’t like it.”
“Please, tell me what you saw.”
“It was the man…He cut himself and smeared blood on me as he whispered some incantation,” I say.
Come here; I have something to show you. She takes me into the back room to a small table in the corner. A small, silver book sits on top with the letters “QZ” engraved on its cover. “This book belonged to your mother,” she says.
“What is it?”
She opens the book and begins reading. “Sometimes we are confronted by a certain evil understood only by voice inside of us, the voice that tells us stories and forces us to write them down. You, my son, were born to be a writer, like your father before you. As you know, he died before you ever met him. But he is the one that visits you in your dreams. He is the one that begrudgingly smears his blood on you, regretting and fearing it every time. Writing is your birthright, a curse passed by the gods.
“Something isn’t right in you, just as you know. And there is nothing you can do about it but continue to listen to the voice and transcribe what is spoken to you. This is your appointed time to know and understand this evil. And it is you who must uncover what this evil shall create,” the psychic says to me, “those are the words of your mother.”
You get up from your chair, adjust your blazer, and say to me, “I suppose my work is done here.”
That is when my eyes open. For how long I was out I am uncertain of. I see people towering over me, dressed in white suits and masks. For a second, I get the feeling it is another dream, but then I hear a toothpick shaped woman yell out, “We have a code Orange. I repeat: we have a code Orange.”
I just lie there, confused, and then I hear a voice, the evil inside of me say, “Don’t forget who you belong to.”