This episode feels pretty heavy on the feline to me and as I type this the cat is digging his claws in my leg trying to get me to extend my foot so he can use me as his nightly fetish. Yeah, this episode is sort of going to go like that. Episode 16 is running around in a dream about all things artificial…this takes on whatever meaning depending on the writer and that is the way we like it here at In Between Altered States. I would like to welcome back David Haase and Melanie Browne who have contributed before and give a big huzzah for newcomers: David Tomaloff, Andrew J. Stone, James Kowalczyk, Kevin Ridgeway and Sherri Collins.
If this is your first time wandering over to IBAS then I suggest that you read the stories in a row from the first one to the last one because this website is designed to provide you a series of dreams that run into one another in some way or fashion. Then when you are done, feel free to go back and read your favorites. Thank you for stopping by.
Attn.: Human Resources Dept.
Dear Mr./Ms. EmployerPerson(s),
A former trout farmer, I’m currently seeking position as a prosthetically enhanced quadriplegic gigolo to stimulate my writing career, per your “Seeking Live EpilepticElmos as FleshSybian” advertisement.
I understand the market is soft right now. I’m confidant there will be enough incentive money for the Dept. of ADA to approve your grant request.
Provisionally, I will continue to vend my urine to depilatory crème manufacturers. However, that market is also slow, and storage is of strategic concern. (shaggy — apparantly the new chic.)
My boys continue to work at the factory (before and after school, for no more than 6 hours, never past 10 pm, on a school night), sewing authentic hair on artificial vaginas, despite the latest FBI/ATF/PETA/UNICEF pantyraid. (our condolenscenses to the dead.)
My attempts to create a Co-Oop, designed to acquire the discarded unsightly hairslough of depilatory crème consumers in order to sell it to Artificial Vaginas ‘R’ Us factory has, quite frankly, been a bitter disappointment.
Anthropologically, we are saving our money to perpapetruate the world’s first traveling porn circus.
Thank you for reviewing my resumé and I look forward to hearing from you soon!
It couldn’t have been past four in the morning, maybe five, when the Creatures climbed through the walls. I couldn’t see them in the moon’s glow but I felt their presence the same way I’d feel an itch on the roof of my mouth. The black blanket on the red bed was cocooned around my slipping skin. It didn’t make any difference. They swam down my throat and feasted on my flesh. At first I resisted. My body wa snailed to the bed like a boy in his coffin. But the creatures biodegraded my tombstone and left me alone with desire. My feet scuffed the floor as they escorted me to the kitchen counter where I quickly snatched the bloodless butcher knife. I placed my naked feet in the sink and let the moon shine on yesterday’s scabs. In a faint whisper I pleaded with the Creatures but I already knew what would happen. My hand came down slicing against my legs; my lips split open into an expressionist smile and the Creatures laughed. The sun replaced the moon and the blood flooded the white sink. Tears rolled down freckled cheeks as my feet carried the weight of the night into a silent bedroom.
His arm is not an arm. His arm is an anchor, or a large iron cross. When he wakes in an unknown land, his tongue is made of plastic, is riddled with perforation and dirt. His words carry an earthy taste; his sentences drag as if they still lay dreaming. As he shakes out the streams, they mumble a tired request—five more minutes, they say. In return, they promise him hope. His feet crush blades of grass below but they are not his feet, which is to say he doesn’t recognize them in the harsh afternoon sun. He is alone.
There is a small wooden box in his right hip pocket. The box is labeled heart followed by syntax he doesn’t understand. From within the box, a persistent hum; a hum gradually growing; a hum that soaks his limbs like water and cools them with its touch. The box is wrapped in ribbon. The box is topped with a bow. The box is affixed to a label that reads return to sender, but the date is a future date. The address is marked unknown.
When the streams awaken, he is filled with a kind of stubborn heat. The heat is the heat of August after a rain. Its hands play a sort of hide and seek when he needs them most. His feet are slowly coming undone. He is awake, now. Awake. Awakened.
He places the box on the shelf labeled horizon. The birds pick at the knots in his arms. The birds sway in the afternoon sun where he is drifting into sleep. From within the box, the hum ever more steady. From within the box, the hum ever more alive. Today is nothing but a day. Today is the day after a day, and tomorrow is one day more. Today he has forgotten how to breathe.
As the birds tear at his arms, the box begins to speak. The bow begins to loosen. The ribbon comes undone. The top of the box turns to water. The box labeled heart is saying the word sorry. The box labeled heart is saying the word wood. He is reminded of grade school summers. How he planted this heart like a seed, and caught his arm in the roots as it finally began to grow.
When the tar forced itself upon them, his heart took him under, called him friend. He dreams of playgrounds and trucks and oil. He dreams of diners and drugs and places that will never be home. He dreams of home. He dreams Home
My life is a series of submersions into noise. It all creeps into the psyche and take up space in my relatively un-crowded gray matter. The noises register there like squatters—alarms for work, alarms at work, the sound of my child breathing, the cat’s impossible half cry, the washing machine, the balloon stuck to the heating duct—all of them attached to some innocuous memory or feeling that never seem to elevate the heart rate or cause a sense of fear. But the noise of too many humans crammed together in a small space serves to derail every nerve ending in my body. It causes all synapses to go into high gear and the world around me becomes amplified. It causes me to become hypersensitive to every noise being created; it causes me to hear them at once. It is sonic chaos.
I do my best to keep my cool and look professional when all I want to do is float to the ceiling to get away from them to save me from trying to steal their voices with my bare hands. Gradually I go from hearing everything to hearing nothing in a state of lucid cataplexy. I see people talking, machines working, movement for which I know is accompanied by sounds, but I can’t register any of them. It is a struggle to recover the rest of my senses, a struggle to get them to convince the ears to work again.
I stepped into the evening air. It is cold and suddenly there is a silence I can hear. I feel every lost thought to drip from a brain. I am maddened to the point of reality. I am unsure how it will all continue.
They called him Sailor, or Sail for short. He was my old man’s road dog. Sail looked like a stout Native American Frank Zappa. He was my guide into the halls of the Los Angeles County hospital.
“This is where all the winos and bums come to get straightened out,” he belched.
A pigeon shit encrusted statue of Hippocrates eyed us solemnly as we made our way within. Inside, a maze of lines greeted us with flat-tired lives scattered along its wayside in gurneys, wheelchairs and the occasional shopping cart.
“Just follow the red line on the ground,” Sailor said.
The linoleum floor had a rainbow of lines leading you to a variety of departments. The red line led to the elevator. The blue line led to the psych ward. A long trail of shoeless and toothless mutterers frantically kept up with that blue line. Dad just had his foot operated on; they removed his left ankle and replaced it with the ankle of a cadaver. When we got to the room my Pops was sitting up, in a morphine haze. Sailor promptly crashed into a chair and nodded out in a methadone haze of his own. My Father and I stared at each other.
“How you holding up, Dad?” I asked.
“This foot has a mind of its own now. I want to go one way, it wants to go the other. It dances when it damn well wants to. A good dancer, the foot is. I can be half a dance king now.”
I plopped in the other vacant seat and began cadging gin from a flask, hopeful for the old man’s recovery and staring at the unruly, mean summer sun outside.
He said He was a Shaman and I believed him. Every word was like magic. He read Castaneda, and so I read Castaneda, I drank Castaneda. I can still quote Castaneda in my sleep. I sat at his feet, and he talked in mantras. He was always broke. He was mean when he was high, and sweet when he was drunk, and he pronounced the Indian word for his name but I forgot it, it was too weird. He read me stories by Rudyard Kipling, “The cat that walked by itself” was his favorite.
He bought me a hundred dollar engagement ring from Sears, but by then I had met my husband to be, our paths were moving in opposite directions, the endless flow of pain, joy, and luminosity. Now they say Castaneda made it all up. That he was a charlatan. That Don Juan wasn’t real after all. I don’t think any of that matters now, especially at night, when I’m flying over his house, the one with the peeling blue shutters.
There is no emotion in a cat’s eyes. They are beautiful and intricate and as layered as a rose in full bloom, but there is an indisputable coolness in them. A quiet stoicism that seems to convey to me “kindly remove your hands from my throat, would you?” I stare deep into his eyes, and he stares deep into mine.
“Did you do it?” I ask.
I don’t expect an answer, and he gives me none. His body is stiff and still under my grasp.
“Did you do it!” I scream in his face.
The cat flinches and his back legs pedal, trying to make contact with something, anything, but only finding air.
Beyond him, I see my wife lying on the kitchen floor, face-up, her eyes still open and her mouth agape in surprise. I have no idea how long she has been lying there; long enough for the blood from the knife in her chest to thicken. The cutting board is flipped upside down on the floor next to her, and carrot chips are sprinkled in the blood.
Suspended in the air, supported only by my hands around his neck is Charlie, our beloved pet and companion for the last seven years. He never misses an opportunity to jump on a lap, watch birds from the den’s windowsill, and–much to my wife’s irritation–get underfoot while she is in the kitchen.
Henry went too far! He needs to turn himself in. I don’t know what went wrong. Characters don’t normally abandon the script. This never happened before. Well, it’s not a “script”, per se. I write it and then it happens. That’s how it works. Somehow the circuits must have gotten crossed. My brother Tom knows and our neighbor Ally knows. I was just being silly when I wrote-“Henry Dunn who weighed a ton, took a walk to the store; he pulled a gun, just for fun, and was seen, no more”. Just a doodle really. But that’s all he was supposed to do! The sirens are endless. And the lights. I just want to crawl under a car and hide. But I can’t. I have to make this right. O.K. Let me get my pen and some paper. I’ll hop this fence. Curl up behind this shed. Hmm, let’s see…I got it- “Henry came to his senses, turned himself in to the local authorities and gave a full confession.” (If that doesn’t work then here goes nothing)
“Orange cat in Brooklyn walks into precinct and tells of murder he witnessed. Film at eleven.” (After all, seeing is believing, right?)