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Proton Blasters and Remorse

January 17th, 2008

First, a disclaimer. I used to be all about writing down my dreams. I stopped doing it around when I switched the blog over to WordPress, partly because with the old site design I could separate them out from the rest of the content, inflicting them only on the interested. Actually I could still do that with the new site design, but am lazy. I guess the real reason is that I used to be a much better dreamer. Back in 2004, I actually practiced at it. I kept to a routine, meditation, little mantras before bed, note-taking, memory exercises. These days, I’ve allowed other preoccupations to take over my attention. So basically I just want to say sorry if this is boring, it probably won’t happen again. I just happened to have an interesting dream with some beer and sci fi violence that lent itself well to narration. Thank you. Read on, or not.

PS. I am using a more link, so those of you reading this in syndication are mocked.

My squad of space marines clustered aggressively around the entrance to the crashed escape pod, laser blasters at the ready. I was in front, nervous as hell, toggling the safety switch on the stock of my rifle back and forth from stun to kill, stun to kill. All this had happened before. The pod would open, and the alien being inside would get off a shot, and the little guy standing next to me, just as green, just as jittery as I was, would die. Setting off a chain reaction that would foment interstellar war.

A hiss of decompressing air as the pod came open like a pair of steely jaws, lips receding to reveal gums and teeth, teeth separating to reveal the pod’s banks of controls, and a chair. In the chair sat a scabrous red alien in an utterly submissive posture, motionless, undoubtedly afraid, its expression unreadable.

Seconds clicked past in which the events of the future flashed over and over through my head, such that those seconds seemed immeasurably longer. The lieutenant was saying something, some soothing words, trying to allay the inevitable confrontation, but I couldn’t understand him, could think only of the blast that would come any second and burn Nick to cinders.

And then I couldn’t wait any longer for it to happen. My thumb pushed the safety to kill, my finger depressed the soft trigger and held it down as a crackling, undulating pulse like the blast of a Ghostbusters proton pack turned the alien’s head into a smoking crater. Another, shorter burst went off to my left, striking the alien’s hand, which had jerked towards the controls–Nicky had followed my lead.

The lieutenant bellowed for us to stop, but I had already relaxed my finger, and the rest of the squad was cheering as I watched the tendrils of smoke spiral up from the blasted remains of the alien’s skull. Then the lieutenant was screaming more orders I didn’t understand, and the rifle was pulled out of my hands. I was clapped on the shoulders a hundred times and lifted and pushed so that the pod and the alien corpse were removed from my sight, and all the time I was thinking about how this hadn’t solved anything, Nicky was alive but interstellar war was assured, and now I was the cause of it.

The lieutenant’s face filled my field of vision. He knew what I knew, I could see it in his expression. Yet he congratulated me, me and Nicky, told us we were heroes, that we would retire from the marines as heroes and never have to fight again. “Take the rest of the day off,” he said. “You boys need to relax. You’ve earned the chance to relax.”

Then Nicky and I were stripping out of our uniforms and getting into civilian clothes, rubbing the ashy stains of the blaster discharge from our fingers and faces. Then we were walking together off the base and into the mall next door. “See you later,” he mumbled to me, and wandered off. I went into the crowded pub, meekly waited my turn at the bar and asked the man to give me his favorite of the many unfamiliar cask beers on the chalkboard menu. He must have seen something haggard in my face, because he sat me down in a secluded place at the back of the bar, put a beer and a loaf of soft, sour bread in front of me and left me alone.

Out in the mall there was a celebration going on, a chorus of ladies in silvery flowing garments singing patriotic songs as they rode up and down the escalators. Before I knew it the bar had emptied out and the barman was shaking my shoulder to get my attention, saying he was closing up to go celebrate. I wanted more beer, but I got up off my stool and stepped out into the cheering, singing crowd, packed so tight that I couldn’t get by, I just stood there in a corner by the escalator as the silvery ladies of patriotism and victory danced past, and I wondered if Nicky felt as bad as I did. I wondered if he knew he would have died. If he thought it was worth it.

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2 Comments »

  • jeffhowell says:

    I liked reading your dream entry. It’s understandable that other things in life have taken priority. I hope you’re able to return to your dream rituals if that’s what you want. Is this dream’s setting new for you? I think we’ve discussed dreams before and their re-occuring settings. This one seems a little different, a sci-fi Starship Troopers backdrop that I might not have expected from you.

    “a chorus of ladies in silvery flowing garments singing patriotic songs as they rode up and down the escalators” That part kicks ass. Sounds like something out of “1984” if corporations took over and made the world one big dystopian mall.

    • mjd says:

      Thanks, Jeff, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Yeah, it’s funny–I have not had too many sci-fi dreams and I can’t really explain why the sudden Heinlein dream pastiche. I did used to have a fair number of dreams involving vaguely military ass-kicking, but that was mostly a result of the deplorable excess of multiplayer deathmatch quake I played in college.

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