May 29, 2010

Drone Wars: Schizophrenia Dreaming



In his dream he took Wiota to Neola. 

As the trees flew by, the kid tried not to dwell on the bad stuff.  The bridge was coming up and he was keeping a sharp lookout because he was told the turn-off was hard to spot.  It was the twilight hour when everything turns a slightly different shade of gray.  There wasn't much difference between the gray of the road, the gray silhouette of a toothy ridge, or the gray color of the sky.  You could get turned upside down easily enough in a landscape like that, so he flipped on his turning signal, slowed down, and strained to find the dirt road that was supposedly right up ahead. 

If he'd had a brain scan just then, he was sure his brain would glow brightly, glow bright red, in fact.  He figured his brain might glow like he was high on drugs, or the nicotine from cigarettes, or anything really that might make a brain glow so brightly.  In his dream his brain was made out of pure light, like the thing was burning like pure flame inside his head.  In his dream his brightly colored brain was so fantastic and beautiful he unscrewed the top of his head and took it out, but it wasn't really his brain.  What he saw was more like a projection of a brain.  Like his brain was really somewhere else and this fluorescent red one he held in his hand was only a figment of his own imagination.

There were strange visions, but one of the most memorable was a vision he had of his girlfriend the night before.  In it her mouth looked to him like it was the most beautiful flower, like a magenta Tiger-Lilly with dappled yellow spots.  In his dream he wanted to pollinate the flower.  In his dream he wanted to fertilize her mouth. 

            At a certain point in his dream he became violent.  He tried to make sense out of it, he tried to pin down a reason for his mood-swing, his unscheduled outburst, but he couldn't really think what might possibly have triggered it.  There was no plausible explanation for such behavior.  She hadn't done anything, or said anything to set him off.  She was all smiles, full of sunshine and happiness.  There wasn't a single unpleasant aspect of her personality.  Nor was there anything out of the ordinary in her demeanor.  She was his high-school sweetheart.  They were going to get married.  They were going to buy a little house.  They were going to have two wonderful children.  If the children wanted a dog, he would get them a dog.  Why fight it?

            In his dream he turned off the main road and drove down a snaking dirt path that lead under the bridge. 

            There was a young man in his dream, the envy of all the other kids.  He was a star athlete, graduated near the top of his class, and dated the most beautiful girl in the school.  This guy was the picture of health and had a politician's good looks.  In his dream the guy knew everyone in town.  It was a marvel to watch him operate.  The women, they all thought he was charming, and the men, they all thought he was going places.  Some people exude power like that, some people have an inner strength that is impossible to resist.  You can't challenge intensity like that.  Such was the potency of this guy that he could wrap you around his finger like some kind of magical wizard and keep you enthralled with his big plans, until there wasn't anything you wouldn't do to help him.  In his dream this guy had it all: the money, the car, the girlfriend, the bright future -- you name it, and he had it. 

            In his dream he was mopping up blood with a rag.  There was so much blood.  He was genuinely surprised by how much blood there was. 

            One day this perfect guy in his dream goes completely off the deep end.  One day he's his normal self, tossing a ball around with some of the other fellows in his neighborhood.  The next he's in his girlfriend's bathroom and he's dismembering her body with a pair of heavy-duty garden shears.  In his dream he caught a glimpse of himself in the bathroom mirror as he went about his grizzly business.  He was sopping up blood with a terrycloth robe.  What a sight to behold.  And that was putting it mildly.  He was covered in her blood.  From head to toe, this perfect guy who had everything going for him was covered in his girlfriend's blood, and there was no emotion, no proper expression to match the horrific circumstances.  He didn't feel a thing.  The guy in the mirror shrugged his shoulders and threw up his arms.  When he looked at the kid his only thought was that something was seriously wrong with the young man.  The guy had just killed another human being, and not just any other human being, he had killed the love of his life, but there he was mopping the floor on his hands and knees like nothing more serious had happened than that he had knocked over a can of beer.  He wanted to yell at him.  He wanted to yell: "Wipe that shit eating grin off your face, you god damned motherfucker!"  They flipped each other the bird.  The guy clearly did not grasp the severity of the situation. 

            It seemed like every day someone else in his dream snapped.  His best buddy's dad up and killed two women in his tenth story office and jumped out the window two weeks prior.  There was the English Teacher at school who came to class the previous week with an automatic assault rifle and killed twelve students before she killed herself.  In his dream there was the guy who lived three houses over who killed all his kids with, of all things, a cleaver.  Can you believe it?  A cleaver.  Like, don't mind me, just another day of hard work at the slaughterhouse.  I'm just butchering a side of veal, but, oh wait, it isn't really a side of veal, it is my baby daughter.

The story was always the same.  No one else saw it coming.  He or she was always described as the "nicest" person, "the spit polished image of kindness".  All these perfectly normal people who wouldn't have hurt a fly started to turn into psychopathic maniacs for no discernible reason and the worst aspect of the whole thing was that everyone just went about their business.  No one asked the really tough questions.  It was like someone in his dream said count them off by fours and pick the fifth one to go on a homicidal rampage, like it was an organized effort done at a massive industrial sized scale to look almost random to the average person. 

            In the dream he sat in his car.  He couldn't remember his name, or who he was.  It was like he was so many different people, and they were all trying to crowd each other out.  He wanted to make a phone call but he didn't know what to say if anyone on the other end asked to find out who he was.  So he sat there and thought about his girlfriend. 

In his dream his girlfriend came back to life.  He had to kill her over and over again, but every time after he had killed her she would come back to life.  Her eyelids would twitch and her long black lashes would spring open like the jaws of a Praying Mantis.  She would look at him with those Praying Mantis eyes of hers, like he was a juicy bug, and smile that pretty smile of hers, like he looked so juicy she had to have him, that smile of hers that was a little bit naughty, that smile she smiled when she wanted to do that trick for him where her mouth turned into a flower.  He looked at himself in the rear-view mirror.  He was still covered in her blood.  In his dream he pollinated the flower.  In his dream he fertilized her mouth.  In his dream he killed her again and again and when he was tired of killing her he left her body under the bridge. 


--Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2010

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May 23, 2010

Forced Confession



            Anyone on the thoroughfare at that hour would have thought that the short man was talking to a closed door.  In fact, that was pretty much exactly what he was doing.  It was very early in the morning.  The person to whom he thought he was talking was a young man who was still fast asleep when he first knocked. 

            After a good yawn the sinewy kid wrapped himself up in his warm blanket and put a pair of tube socks on.  He wondered what kind of maniac would knock so loudly first thing in the morning like that.  Through the small stained glass window in the door he made out the top of a person's head.  The short man outside his door had no hat on.  He wore a wig, a second rate one by the look of it, and the kid found his King's English incomprehensible. 

            "Who the hell is it?" he squinted through the colored glass suspiciously.

            His caller was caught off guard.  Normally, the little man would simply have said he was the mailman, but it occurred to him mail carriers might have called themselves something else during the American colonial period.  What were they called before the Pony Express? he wondered to himself.  Oh, never mind, he decided.  Time was short.  "Mailman!" he announced.  "I've got a very important letter for you."  To prove he was on the up and up, the man waved an envelope in front of the little window. 

            After a deep breath the guy inside opened the door.  Right away he regretted he had not jumped out the bathroom window and made a run for it down the back alley.  Two other Redcoats besides the one who had knocked stood outside.  Even though they wore the military uniform coats, white knickers, buckled shoes, and the whole bit, to match the style of the day, it was clear on closer inspection that they had simply put these garments on over their federal government issued gray suites, and rather hastily at that. 

            "By royal decree, I have been charged," the shortest of the three tried to remember the rest.  "Oh, to hell with it," the little soldier cut himself off, handed the young man the envelope with the red wax seal, and simply said: "You are under arrest." 

            They escorted him down Cinnamon Tree Lane, past the canal and the freshly painted little white courthouse, to the military barracks.  Along the way they passed the blacksmith, the schoolmistress, and the shopkeeper who all looked at the kid as if they had known there was something wrong with him the whole time.  To hell with them, he thought.  All awash in the pale yellow early morning light the small colonial town looked picturesque to him, like a picture postcard. 

"Allan Arkin," the little soldier paced back and forth in the interrogation room as he spoke, "once said 'There's two people in this world who can talk without making sense.  That's John Wayne and Fred Willard.'  I'm thinking of adding your name to the list."  The two other men were told to go back to the apartment and turn it upside down.  "Has it ever struck you that in this version of the video game the United States Constitution has not yet been written?  In fact, it won't get written for quite some time.  Unless they change the game, not in your lifetime, I warrant.  This is a fantasy era for law enforcement.  We can practically do anything we like.  We don't have to call it 'extraordinary rendition' anymore.  We don't have to farm it out to contractors.  We don't have to send you to black sites halfway across the planet.  We don't have to lie to the American people about what we are doing behind closed doors.  Call it torture if you like.  Call it any thing you damn well please. 

"If we have to harm you to get the information we want we can do it, easy as that.  We can hurt you so you can never walk again, or hold a spoon.  We can drug you so you piss blood and shit your pants," he shook his prisoner by the shoulders.  "Don't you get it, kid?  You are on your own in a cruel and primitive world.  Can't you see that there's no one to stop me from doing whatever it is I have to in order to please the King?  Get it through your head, boy.  You are floating downstream without a paddle.  You are in water over your head without a life jacket -- and the sharks are circling," he slowly walked around the young man.  "I can be your worst nightmare, or I can be your best friend.  It's entirely up to you.  Don't test my patience.  Tell me what I want to know and you can go merrily along your way, back, I should imagine, to your warm cozy bed.  If you understand what's good for you, start talking and start talking fast, my young friend.  I saw you make the exchange in the park.  I got it on tape...  I mean I wrote it down in my ledger.  We got your Ms. Shasta in the holding room across the hall."

            "How many times do I have to tell you?  I'm a government intelligence man just like you -- a Redcoat, a British soldier, whatever it is we are these days, comprende?," the young guy twisted in his seat.  "I don't know any Ms. Shasta.  This is a case of mistaken identity."  He realized he was slipping out of character and added "kind sir" to his lines.  "Kind sir," he said, "You have mistaken me for another man.  I can assure you, as soon as your superiors realize what you have done, you, kind sir, are going to catch a world of pain for the mistake."

            "Let's stop fooling around, shall we," his little interrogator sat down at his desk and pulled out a large black feather quill.  "Let's get right to the point.  Who or what is the Suicide Party?"

            "Look," the young man was on the verge of losing his cool.  "How many times do I have to tell you," he tried not to sound too out of sorts, "I work for the Federal Government.  I was sent back to colonial times to find the same guy you are looking for.  We are on the same team."

            "Don't act so innocent.  We know you are a member.  What we want to know is who the other members are and what your sinister little underworld organization is up to."

            "You're kidding, right?" the young man finally managed.  "This is all a joke, right?  Some kind of prank one of my no good buddies back at headquarters is playing on me?  That's it isn't it?  Any minute now someone's going to yell 'surprise!' and jump out from behind the curtains.  Like I'm on Candid Camera, or something.  I get it.  Good one!  Now untie my hands before I get you fired!"

            "I assure you this is no joke, kiddo."  The little interrogator changed his approach.  "We actually already know much, much more about your nefarious organization than we are letting on.  That's right!  We're on to you, mister," he righted his wig.  "Ms. Shasta, what a lovely young girl, what a vision of beauty, and so helpful.  You see Ms. Shasta has already been kind enough to write out her confession -- and what a confession it was.  A bard could not have scripted it with more poetry and skill, more panache, every word carefully chosen, every line perfectly metered, a masterpiece of imagination and wit.  A Penguin Classic, I tell you.  No, by George, I won't soon forget it.  But, all you need to know is she named names, and I can tell you that you, my friend, are someone she thinks very, very highly of indeed.  Now it's your turn to put some names down," he pushed a sheet of paper over to the young man and placed the Raven quill he pulled from his drawer next to it, along with a pot of coal black ink. 

"Ms. Shasta was kind enough to elucidate your, what shall I call it, your ideology -- simpleminded though it may be.  To express your, how shall I put it, your dislike, no that's too mild a word.  What you feel is so much stronger than that, isn't it?  You hate us don't you?  Oh, don't look so surprised.  I wouldn't make up a thing like that.  'Hate' was the word the fresh-faced Ms. Shasta used.  You got it in that idiot skull of yours we're greedy madmen hell-bent on the destruction of all that's sacred to you.  Something along those lines, aren't I right?  We are despicable to you -- that's it, isn't it?  And now you've gone and started a political party.  How clever.  I suppose you're intent on the overthrow of our tyrannical occupation.  I suppose you are all willing to die for your cause.  I mean that's the whole point isn't it -- that you kill yourselves, I mean.  To express your point of view you have to kill yourself, don't you?  You have to suicide!  Honestly.  How daft is that plan?  And you think we're the nut jobs?"

"I know all about the supposed Suicide Party," the boy massaged his temple and eyelids as best he could with his arms bound together at the wrists.  "But quite frankly I don't buy it.  The whole thing sounds loony tunes to me.  I never heard of anything so cockamamie.  Who would go for a political party like that?  I mean think about it.  First off, the party wouldn't last very long would it?  I mean if I understand you correctly, what you are describing makes absolutely not one single lick of sense.  The first time anyone in the party had a disagreement with an opposing party, organization, what have you, they would have to commit suicide.  Why would anyone join an organization like that?  I mean you gotta be putting me on.  Only a crazy person would believe something like that.  The first little thing that bothered a member, the first thing that went wrong or didn't work out perfectly straight off the bat the first time around, the first thing that didn't come off exactly how they planned, and they would have to kill themselves?  Half of the members would be dead ten seconds after they signed the party card, and the rest wouldn't make it through the rest of the day!  I'll tell you what I think. I think the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. I believe our own government is behind the Suicide Party. I don't know if our team is recruiting these maniacs, or brainwashing them or what, but I'm pretty sure we are investigating ourselves... kind sir."

            "Look clever-boy, you can drop your feigned air of exasperation.  It's really simple," the little dictator said.  "We know you're the head-honcho kingpin of the organization.  Do you want me to toss your skinny ass into the dungeon, because that is precisely what I mean to do if you don't cooperate, that and a whole lot more?  The sooner you start singing the better.  Because I can assure you, you little twerp, you are not going to see the light of day again until your confession is signed and delivered."



-- Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2010

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