Monday, January 29, 2007

Flight in Dreams Part I - The Building

Last night I had a vivid dream. Unlike most of my dreams, it stuck with me after I woke up. It is too long to put into one post, so I will be doing 3 or 4 posts over the next 2 weeks. This is Part I.


It started in Washington DC. I’d like to say I was visiting Kiersten and Thor, but my whole family was there except for Mike, so it’s much more likely that we were going to the National Air and Space Museum. Then the news came over the loudspeakers lining the streets: everyone needed to get inside of a building, there was going to be an iron curfew – you had to stay put, inside of a building – until you were rescued by the National Guard. The liberation would start in Washington and go outward, but the curfew was in immediate effect for the whole country except for Hawaii and Alaska. Anyone seen out walking would be considered a zombie threat, and fired upon. No sooner had this announcement finished (People were still digesting it in their minds, they couldn’t believe this was happening) then huge turrets started to unfold out of the ground. Even though there was clearly not a zombie to be seen anywhere, as soon as the turrets finished putting themselves together, they opened fire arbitrarily on the crowd. They didn’t have particularly good aim, but the shots were deadly and we ran like hell. I noticed an abandoned warehouse that looked kind of familiar, so we ducked inside.

As we looked around we realized that Mom, Dad, Paul and Ruth were all gone. My sister Abby couldn’t stop shaking, eventually we got out of her that Ruth had been holding her hand when she was torn to pieces by the turrets. After taking a few minutes to try and pull ourselves together, I sat down and began to form a plan. I knew that the basement of Ritter’s (The pharmacy where I work) had been designed to keep Zombies out – you could live there indefinitely thanks to the canned goods which I had stockpiled and the shallow stream running through (I think the stream idea came from the Daniel Boone Homestead). I also knew that I had a few friends like Gabe, Bill Hill and my brother Mike back in the Lehigh Valley who would be formidable zombie killers. I explained all of these things to my remaining siblings. I explained to them as calmly as I could all of the reasons that we needed to get back home, while at the same time keeping in mind that we would be passing through Philadelphia on the way there, so we could pick up my girlfriend Rachel (who was visiting Anna & Jon) – I had a feeling that Rachel wouldn’t think much of this “curfew” either, so we had to get there soon. I told everyone to take an hour to search the warehouse and try to find anything useful. A handful of other people had followed me in, and I told them that they could come with us as well (No one really wanted to wait around for the National Guard after the turrets). As I turned around, I realized what the warehouse was – it was a building that has recurred in my nightmares ever since I was a young child.


The first floor has the Safe Haven – it doesn’t feel very safe, it’s very bare, with concrete floors, old dusty typewriters, and once colorful huge paintings adorning the walls, now faded to the point that you can’t even make out what the painting originally was. There isn’t much to do here, certainly nothing useful anywhere, but it is “Safe.” You can’t be attacked while you are in it. There are 3 ways out of this room – two obvious ways and a secret way. I always know the secret way, because I’ve been here before. The first time I had the dream, I found the secret way and it saved my life. The first and most obvious way out is an old wooden door, painted red and orange, but the paint is faded and peeling. The door is huge and thin, like a big piece of plywood, and it doesn’t totally fit in the frame. It doesn’t have a knob, just a hole cut out and a bit of rope strung through to pull on. This door leads to a closet with no ceiling. The wall has rungs that you can climb up. Once you get above the level that the safe room is, you have a few options – you can keep climbing up into the second floor directly, or you can veer off into the system of ducts that wind through the building. The ducts are the secret way out of the room, if you move aside one of the tables with typewriters on it, you will see a patch of wood in the wall that doesn’t look quite right. You have to unlock it from the safe room, which always terrifies me when I need to use it – what if it somehow locked me out of the safe room? If you take the ducts, however, you can end up anywhere on the second floor – this can be good, because there are usually things waiting at the main two entrances, but it can also be very dangerous because the second floor can be so disorienting. The third and final way out of the safe room is the most dangerous of all – through the cargo door. At random times, the giant cargo door that is almost a whole wall of the room will lift up into the ceiling. Outside of this door is a huge cavern. I think it used to be some kind of mine, but there was some kind of accident, a lot of people died, and it has been abandoned for hundreds of years. There are only two rooms here – one huge cavern, and a second, slightly smaller cavern, with an old sort of furnace in it. There are bones of some sort in bottom of the furnace, but they look too small to be human bones. I worry that maybe they are children, but I can’t think about it for long, because the other thing in the room springs to life – an old rickety elevator – the caged construction kind, but with wooden planks across the door. The elevator is new; it’s been installed since the mine accident. The elevator should only ever be used in the most dire time of need, because not only is its entrance the most watched, by the second floor, but it is almost impossible to escape to the safe room from it if you are being pursued – huge caverns with no cover, and a cargo door that arbitrarily opens and closes.

This brings us to the second floor. It is partially based on the second floor of Edison’s Used Furniture store – my grandfather’s shop – I was only ever up there once, when I was very young, and it was one of the scariest times of my life. It was pitch black and there were things moving everywhere, I could smell them. The floors were littered with furniture and stuff, so I couldn’t run – I couldn’t even find the stairs down, it was a horrible maze, like the terrifying labyrinth where Theseus faced down the Minotaur. In my nightmare building, there are 3 floors – this labyrinth floor is the second, and you need to get through it to get to the third, where inevitably whatever goal I am striving for is located. There aren’t any stairs up to the third floor, but you just have to get up there through the gradual incline of the second floor. There are ways to cheat, but they are very tricky, and messing them up will all but ensures that you will be caught. The creatures that roam the second floor have no eyes – or at least no useful ones. They recognize you by your scent, but they follow you by the sounds you make. Like the worms in Frank Herbert’s Dune, you can throw them off the trail for a while by walking with no pattern or rhythm. There is a catch to the second floor – a panic door. This is a door which opens when you let yourself succumb to panic and abstract terror. This door is safe; it leads to a beautiful yard lined with tall trees. The grass is green and there is a hot air balloon waiting. In the past, when I have gotten to this yard I wake up. The catch is that in order to get to this yard, you need to let go of all rational and conscious thought and give yourself over entirely to your fears – which for me is the scariest thing of all. I’ve woken up several times once I’ve made it to the yard, with my heart racing and my eyes up in the back of my head. I can’t even think straight for several minutes after I give myself over to this state of mind. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen the yard less and less frequently – I think I usually have some kind of a “need” to complete the journey I’m on. Also, each time the yard appeared, I felt like I was more frightened than the last time before it came. I don’t even know how many yards I have left – maybe I only get a certain number and the next time I slip into panic I will be all alone, shaking in a ball in the corridors of the second floor, unable to help myself, with no yard coming to save me. Would I ever wake up? I don’t know, and I don’t want to find out. The second floor is treacherous, without any sort of reliable map or memories. The corridors seem to shift even as I walk them, and things are not always as they seem.


Each time I journey to the third floor, new challenges arise, and in this case my challenge was getting all of these people through with me. I had never been in the building with other people before, and I must admit that it was kind of a relief. I knew that there was no way we were all getting through the second floor if we just went for it, so I knew that some planning was required. I knew from the metallic taste in my mouth that there were watchers at both of the entrances. A few other people who were with me didn’t realize I knew where we were, and they started to figure out our best route. They were all amazed when I walked over, moved the table with the dusty typewriters and revealed the secret entrance to the ducts. I felt pretty smug about this. I finally decided that our best bet was for me to take the secret door and try to draw off the watchers from the closet entrance. Then a few of the older, stronger members of the group would go up the closet and try to draw the remaining watchers off of the elevator, so that the children could take the elevator (The elevator leaves off much closer to the third floor than the other entrances.) Then the closet people would meet up with me in the labyrinth, and we would go through the long way until we eventually met the children on the third floor.

As soon as the cargo bay door went up, the children all shuffled through, led by my brother Paul and Christie, the stage manager from Anna Barshinger’s drama group for children. A few other adults didn’t feel like drawing off the attack, and pretended that they were going to help keep the children organized, even though I explained that Paul and Christie would be plenty to keep them in line. Somehow I knew that the others were only acting out of cowardice, but I didn’t say anything, how could I blame anyone for being afraid, with the zombie invasion and the turrets going on – plus, I was the only one who knew what they were about to face. As soon as the children turned the corner into the second room in the far side of the cavern, I crawled into the ducts. I climbed for a little while, trying to get my bearings – the second floor was fluid, and always shifting, but the vents the duct opened into to it remained the in the same places, albeit pretty hard to remember. I finally stopped at a vent that I thought I remembered, and pulled myself through. Before I closed the grate, I banged on the duct, and waited for the response from the safe room. Instead I heard an unmistakable sound - the cargo door unexpectedly slamming shut. I suddenly remembered the blast furnace with the bones, and realized that I had just sent a huge group of children into that room. I let the wave of fear wash over me, knowing that the scent of it would start drawing the second floor’s attention towards me. I knew I had to be careful – if I let myself get complete control of my mind, the watchers would forget about me and refocus their attention on the other two entrances, where the fear was washing off of people in waves – but if I let myself be consumed by my fear, I could be here forever – or maybe find myself in the yard, but having left all of my followers behind me. Neither of these was something I could allow, so I paced myself, let fear start to overcome me, but then slowly burying it again. After a few seconds, I heard the response from the safe room – the other team was on their way.

You know how when you are having something terrible done to your teeth (like a root canal or a crown extension) but they don’t put you under, you sort of drift off in a haze? When the procedure is finally finished, you can’t really remember much of it, or even how much time it took. I think this is some kind of defense mechanism in your brain, protecting you from memories that you don’t want to have. It locks them away in an unused part of your brain, and throws away the key.

The second floor has that key. Every single moment of unbearable pain, physical, emotional – every moment of excruciating embarrassment – every time that I realized that I had just hurt someone I loved – all of things you keep shut out so that you can live your life from day to day, they come drifting back. It’s not all at once, but slowly, holes in your memory that you didn’t even realize were there gradually start to fill in. Soon you start to remember just how shitty of a life you’ve really lived, and that point is only a few steps away from forgetting who you are entirely – forgetting that these horrible moments have shaped you into a different person, hopefully a better one. The only thing that keeps you sane as these thoughts insinuate themselves in the maze of the second floor is distracting yourself with the fear of what is chasing you. As I started to slip into a haze of unconscious memory, I was suddenly pulled back to my senses by a fist – my brother David punching me right in the face. He, Stephen and the rest of the group had made it through, and, unable to see in the dark, he had mistaken me for a native of the second floor. Of course, in all my years of running, it had never occurred to me that I could fight these things. With my confidence bolstered, the rest of the journey barely took any time at all. We laughed and joked along the way, defying the demons of the second floor as we made our way up the path. By the time we reached the third floor, we had all but forgotten the ominous cargo door slam, but we received a grim reminder. All of the kids were safe, but of all the adults, only Paul and Christie were left. None of the children would talk about what happened in the second cavern, and all I could get out of Paul was that he would tell me some other time. I felt a wave of guilt – I should have insisted that the other adults travel with Stephen and David, where they would have been perfectly safe – no one in our group was seriously hurt – but instead I gave them a break, let them take the easy way – and they all paid for it with their lives.

As we emerged into daylight, be looked around and saw that we were miles outside of Washington DC. Looking down into the city, we could still see the turrets at work, and what could have been zombies roaming here and there. The National Guard itself was nowhere to be seen. This was the best glimpse I got through the whole dream of these “zombies” – I still don’t know if they were a real threat or some kind of elaborate hoax or cover-up for something else. Anyway, we couldn’t afford to linger, we turned our attention northward. We could see far in the distance that the turrets were not exclusive to Washington – apparently the entire country was littered with the things, more of them in denser population, less in more rural areas. This was the path we had to traverse on the road home.

Check back soon for Part II


PS said...

loved it.

man after my own heart.

Steve said...

You should make it into a book

Anonymous said...

That was awesome. You have some crazy intense dreams, dude.

Dorphl The Wise said...

This like this one dream that I had once, but in mine all of the zombies turned out to be salespeople with really big noses.

Elisabeth said...

dude, where is part two? i'm going out of my mind here...............................