Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Author, Chapter Twenty-One: The Second Nightmare

June 22

Before Jeff discovered the USB drive and accused Stuart of murder, he dreamed. It was not the first dream he had experienced since coming to live with Vic, but it was the first dream that he remembered. Mostly he remembered it because the post stuck with him.

He recognized it now, recognized it from the nightmare he'd had on Malcolm's couch, the one with the giant, iconic monolith. It was not the same object as in his last dream, but it was similar. This post was whole, not like the one in the yard that had been smoothed down, but with a rounded top and clear, deeply engraved sigils on every side. The symbols stood out in particular because blood flowed over the stone.

Stuart sat on the far side of the post from Jeff, smoking a peace pipe and sitting in a recliner that was at least two times too big for him. He smoked massive, slow traveling rings, like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.

“Is it still mine?” Jeff asked him.

“Only if you still want it,” the writer replied. He reached for the handle and ratcheted the chair back, flinging himself prone. Jeff approached the writer and saw that he was now plugged into various machines, pounds having magically melted away from him, the fragile frame of his skeleton peeking out of what little flesh remained.

“Do you still want it?” Stuart asked, his lips straining to cover large, thrusting teeth that were now too big for his mouth. They caused his words to slur.

“It's all mine,” Jeff said, remembering what the writer had said to him before, when they stood atop the giant stone tower.

“You're goddamn right it is,” Stuart said, and he reached his cadaverous hands up to his own head. He plucked his head from his shoulders and offered it to Jeff. “Take it,” he said, insisting, “It's yours.”

Jeff turned without turning and expected to see the post towering behind him, gouting blood. Instead, it sat there, sedately, clean now, no blood or lichen on its surface, and Jeff thought he would be able to discern what the symbols on it meant. He saw that the reason the shape and the symbols were intact, unlike the post in the yard, was because the post was covered by a small roof, like the shelter on the top of a well.

“It's protected,” he said aloud, his voice echoing into the void of infinity. “It's covered.”

“It's been covered forever,” Jeff's father said, standing next to him. When Jeff turned to look, the figure was actually Jeff's father and mother both occupying one body. The voice was Nicholas Reynolds, circa 1990, and so was the mustache, but the eyes were his mothers and so were the breasts.

“Is it mine?” Jeff asked.

“NO!” His father's voice and his mother's voice and Victor's voice and the faggy lawyer's voice and Malcolm's voice and the voice of God and all his angels all echoed at once.

Jeff looked down to see that Victor's head still rested in his hands. It was now wearing sunglasses. “That don't belong to anyone, kid,” he said in a broad, shit-kicker drawl. “Everything else is yours, ain't no one keeps that.”

Jeff looked up again and saw that there was a circle of people around the post now. They were all kneeling before it, genuflecting in fear and awe at the power contained within the rune-covered stone. He stepped over them, placing his feet carefully on their smooth, bronze backs, approaching the post.

He touched it then, and it seemed like for the first time, even though he had stood on the post in his previous dream and touched the one in the yard in real life. The stone was rough beneath his fingers, as rough as if it had just been carved and not yet polished with sand and wind and time and weather. The symbols on the outside of the post seemed to light up as he touched them, each instilling in his mind their distinct, flawless meaning.

He nodded, the wisdom of the ages and the philosophy of creation all imparted to him simply, directly, sensibly.

don't a tiny voice whispered. Jeff whirled to see who had spoken, but saw no one.

don't it said again, from the deep black of space.

A memory floated back to him, a balloon in a storm, a memory of Vacation Bible School. He sat there, his young hair parted, his small face turned up, eager to please, listening to the teacher as she spoke about the voice of God being still and small. “If you aren't listening, you'll miss it altogether,” she had said.

i said don't, you fucking moron the voice cried, and it was not subtle anymore. Jeff the dreamer had a vision of himself as a cartoon figure, Jim Carrey in The Mask, his flesh almost peeled from his face with the force of the crying voice, his lips and ears flapping in the breeze generated by the words.

Jeff awoke in a panic. It was dark. Fuck, it was black! Where was the window? How would he get out? Then he saw the green light of the numbers of his alarm clock and remembered that red numbers meant home and blue numbers meant college. Green numbers were somewhere different, where was it? Oh, holy shit, he was sleeping in fucking Victor Stuart's basement and it was amazing. The man spoke with him and Jeff was writing a new book and...

And what the fuck had that dream been about? Jeff realized that the sheets were damp with his sweat and that, unlike the last several times he had dreamed, he could remember what had happened. He kicked off the blankets that were too warm and tried to recall what had happened. The post had been there, and he remembered now that it had been there before, in another dream as well, but when? There was blood, and Victor of course, and his dad... Jeff shook his head. He didn't need to think about dear old dad, not at—he looked at the clock again—4:14 a.m. He had just had a nightmare, that's all. It wasn't scary so much as disorienting, it wasn't a big deal and after he had some time to think about it and remember it he could write it down and interpret it and then he would—

Sleep snuck up on Jeff like snake, silent and menacing. He was just about to remember exactly what the symbols on the post meant when it engulfed him entirely. This time, when he woke up, he would remember vague details, his mother, his father, Victor, the post, blood...

oh god i said don't the voice cried, and Jeff's body started as it drifted down into sleep again, but did not quite wake up.

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