The House Was a Clockwork Automaton

I came out of General Dynamics into a dark, overcast summer’s night, much like the one that was passing rapidly in the waking world. I was wearing the same clothes I had worn that day, purple shirt, dark shorts. I had forgotten something, left it behind at my desk–a pen perhaps, or a book–something I wanted, but did not necessarily need. I was about to start back in after it, when I realized I didn’t have an ID badge, and thus couldn’t get back in anyway. Then I realized I did not work at GD. A dream!

I started to run. I ran a long time through the night, without getting tired or putting any effort into running, in suburban surroundings I had never seen before. I passed a few other joggers, a surprising number considering the lateness of the hour, especially since I hadn’t seen a single car. I wondered about them as I passed: figments of my dream.

Finally, I reached my house. I came up to it from the left, on a road that is not really there. And my house was not my house. It was built on a little hill, with a stone wall in front, and the driveway cut into the hill. I think it was white with black shutters. My dad was standing out in the street in front of the house, stretching, wearing his running clothes. I thought we would start running together, but he had just come back from his run, so I stopped, and went inside with him.

There were all kinds of luggage and things packed up in the dining room that was not my dining room. My uncle David was there, and his hair was thick and black and curly, not greying and balding on top like it is now, and he had these killer diamond-shaped sideburns. I think my dad was younger too. They were both in a very happy, jocular mood, smiling a lot, and were talking about something in which I quickly lost interest – something they were packing. Apparently, it was the day before I was going off to college, and this stuff was going with me. So I was younger too. I was 1997 me.

The feeling of half-dream, like I was about to wake up, had been with me in greater or lesser intensity since I came out of GD. Now I said to myself, “I am dreaming. What should I do? Look at my hands!” So I did. I looked down–but instead of my hands, I found a grey inattention, a little ball of it, like a tiredness that came over me. And a moment later, I looked up at my dad and his brother. “Okay,” I said groggily, out loud, and started to turn away. Dad and David both said goodnight, though I hadn’t really been talking to them, but to myself. But I turned and went back through the kitchen towards the stairs.

Rapidly, I now went through a series of other false flashbacks–settings that were like things from my memory, but had actually never happened. You might also look at it that I was just dreaming in a setting that was the past. Though each scene was short, I remember them only foggily. In one I was having a conversation with Erin, and as this was happening, I thought to myself, “Wait til I tell Erin about this.” In another, I was standing on a brown ladder, trying to fix a gutter or something similar.

Then the dream shifted completely, and I was no longer in any control. I was in the mansion of a ridiculously rich, evil, mad, old man. The whole house was a clockwork automaton that played through the same, thoroughly disturbing opera/melodrama over and over. Apparently it gave this old man kicks to invite unwitting young people to his house, offer them anything they desired, and then draw them in to his own inescapable cycle of carnal sin and crushing remorse. I believe it had been Purpura who initially drew me in to the house with promises of things of great coolness and quality. But he could easily have been part of the old man’s automaton, or part of my own fucked-up failsafe mechanism for perpetuating my dreaming reality.

The house was all in warm colors: yellows, browns, reds, oranges. There were female servants in kimonos who would bring you orange towels or drinks or food. There were huge, steamy bathrooms with big hot tubs. There were wide grounds; the house was on a hill with a nice view. Purpura and I walked the grounds; we studied the huge old grandfather clock in the foyer, we played with the toys he kept in his screening room, which was a kind of holographic projector that played scenes from the star wars that hadn’t come out yet. There were lightsabers, real ones, that worked.

And there were people moving through the house all the time. It seemed people came through in groups, like tours, and with each group’s entry, the process started over again. At first, they didn’t even know of the old man’s existence. They just stumbled onto the house, as Hansel and Gretel on the witch’s cottage, Pinnochio on the island of lost children, Sen’s parents on the feast of the spirits. They would gorge themselves for a time on the house’s pleasures, grow almost addicted to them, and only then begin to perceive the house’s more disturbing aspects, of which the old man himself was foremost.

He would summon you at breakfast time after a night of debauchery, to sit there and eat, or queasily try to eat, while he sat in his decaying majesty, surrounded by his superhumanly sanguine, sickeningly sexual servants, and grilled you with questions. What had you done last night? Did you feel good about it? Were you through exploiting his generosity, or were you going to do it again? He treated everyone like a prodigal son he had treated with too much leniency. He had already killed the fatted calf for you; and you had betrayed him again. Of course he wouldn’t say these things, he would only insinuate them. And he would kill the fatted calf for you again the next night. It was the guilt, the personal horror of those he tormented, that was his meat and drink. He was like the father from The Beautiful and Damned. Perhaps he was the devil. Perhaps he was god.

The climax of the melodrama came at the end of the meal. It was this horrible vampiric dance, with the old man, the servants, and the house all taking part, and you forced to watch as a disembodied presence. It was reminiscent of Rocky Horror Picture Show in many ways–that was the first comparison I made when I awoke. I witnessed it twice in the course of the dream. There were two coffins in the main hallway of the mansion. They had always been there, but you had never seen them until now. They were of this rich orangey wood, magnificently lacquered, and carved with yellow flowers and designs like stained glass. They opened of their own accord; and in one you saw the old man lay down to sleep, helped in by his voluptuous young maid. Then, suspended in the air over the other, there came into view one of his sculpted, hairless male servants, completely naked, glistening with oils. You watched from above, as, framed by the coffin, another naked servant appeared, and the two performed a kind of synchronized swimming-type dance, tumbling and rolling and caressing. Then the original servant would float away, and another would appear. It began with a white man; then a black man appeared, they danced, and the white man went away, then a white woman appeared, and the process repeated cyclically for as long as it seemed you could stand to watch this with that waxen, dead figure staring up at you from the next coffin. You knew somehow that their sexual dance was rejuvenating him. He was a parasite; the house kept him alive, perhaps forever. There was nothing you could do but watch.

And at the end, when you were left alone again, you’d swear to yourself you were leaving. You’d say “it was fun while it lasted, but nothing in this house makes it worth encountering that old man ever again.” and you’d get up to go. I did this. I thought I was leaving, but as soon as I did, suddenly the house was empty again. The old man and all memory of him was gone, and it began all over again. Once you had passed through the cycle once, I think it was possible for you to escape. But if you didn’t, as I didn’t, you became a part of the clockwork.

Individually Wrapped Green Mushrooms

Very late night work in a snazzy red velvet upholstered movie theater. Ren and Stimpy clips. “I got to go home and get some sleep,” I tell the girls whose discussion of popular animation has kept me after hours. I flee despite their protests.

I am trying to unlock my bike and get home before I fall unconcscious when a latino guy I have met somewhere before appears from the shadow and offers to sell me individually-wrapped green-capped hallucinogenic mushrooms out of his apartment, which is in one of those truck-unloading stops at the back of the theater. I buy them, mostly to be rid of him. I ride my bike home, and who should I meet along the way but Damian, who is of course not going to allow me to get any sleep. Shrug. Well, it’s already five or six in the morning.

By the time we get home the dark is looking green around the gills, the lights are on inside, and my dad is standing in the kitchen getting ready for work. I stand in the breezeway, which is still the breezeway, and knock on the window. Dad jumps a foot in the air, stares out at us for a while with that critical disapproval disguised as innocent confusion that he does so well, and then finally opens the door and lets us in. We make excuses. He is unconvinced, but does not say so. We go upstairs to my room, which is still my room, and discuss green mushrooms and video games until 9 AM. No point in going to sleep now.

And then suddenly I am very paranoiacally boarding an airplane, carrying a sealed green plastic bag within my coat which contains something that I suspect is an assortment of individually-wrapped green fungus which will get me in an immense amount of trouble. Naturally I make it through security without a problem and take my seat believing myself in the clear, only to be asked by a flight attendant to stand up and remove my coat. He takes the plastic bag, unknots it, and withdraws a demented-looking slice of grapefruit the size of a watermelon quarter, splits it open, and removes from the hollowed-out inside several bags of contraband: not narcotics, but rather expensive snacks. Cherries. Porcini mushrooms. Crabmeat.

“I hope you brought enough for everybody,” says the attendant mockingly. My family, with whom I am flying, look happy and dig in.

Yggsdrasil in an Elevator

I drive across a long bridge in the fog. I am driving Oona. It is late at night. Danielle and Diana are in the car, and we are looking for a pub whose name I knew in the dream, but forget now. It turns out the pub is closed, but it is in fact one of three pubs, labeled A, B, and C, in a large, flat-roofed complex with yellow walls. None of the pubs are open, but various doors to the complex are sitting open, and inside there are long hallways and large comfortable rooms furnished with well-worn armchairs. A number of fat, middle-aged, perfectly normal-looking women are sitting in them. They don’t look happy to see us, and they aren’t very helpful. We go outside, and go back across the bridge.

On the other side of the bridge the road crosses a broad field with pine forest on either side. There is a gas station or something like that, at which there are a fair number of people. I am no longer in the car. My sisters are no longer there. I have no memory of a transition. Now I am milling about among the people by the side of the road. There is a policeman, and two men with guns. I have guns as well, two of them, both pistols. Both seem to be copper-plated and are rather light. They feel fake, but they look real. The policeman has caught the two men with guns. I happen to be right next to them. Everyone else leaves, and I wonder if he knows I have guns as well. I have them in my pockets. The two gunmen run away. The policeman chases them. For a while, I am tempted to shoot the policeman to save them. I try running after him, but as usual in dreams I can only walk, with long, slow strides. For some reason I am pretty sure my guns would not fire anyway. The two gunmen escape, or get shot. In the confusion, I throw the larger of my guns away into the grass. The policeman comes back, and begins telling me about the weapons these men were carrying.

Then he shows me my gun, which he found on the ground. I take it from him and begin breaking it down smoothly and quickly, knowing exactly how to remove each piece. He asks me how I know how to do that. I tell him I was in the army, stationed in Europe.

I am alone, walking across the field. I notice there is a gravel path going across it, towards some houses. The ground falls away sharply at the edge of the field, at a very abrupt angle, which makes it appear man-made.

I am in the lobby of my dad’s work. It is unclear how I got there. I have no idea how I would go about leaving the building, if I wanted to. I remember having just seen my dad, and understanding that he has something to do, and I must wait an unspecified amount of time for him to finish. Various important-looking, business-attired people are walking around. I feel awkward just standing around, so I go up an escalator. The walls everywhere are a papery yellow. People continue to walk past me. Some of them are just kids, 11 or so, others are my age, and there are various other people between my age and my dad’s age. Everyone, however, is wearing either a business suit, or a white lab coat. I am peripherally aware that this is not actually my dad’s work. I wait for an elevator, which is down the hall to the right of the escalator. There are a few other people waiting as well. The elevator’s doors come open, and an almost comical quantity of lab-coated people come out. The effect is sort of like the thing where 50 clowns cram themselves into one volkswagen beetle, except they come out at a much faster rate. All of them have the exact same shade of blonde hair. Many have beards. Some of the women have braided hair. Their features are all similar, but they all look different. My eye is caught by one very pretty girl about my age, with small, short, sort of punky-looking braids curling about her ears and temples. I think “They must be Germans”. They all walk off down the hall to the left. I get into the elevator with three other guys, all my age or younger. One of them wears a suit with white knickers instead of slacks. The others are both wearing the vague, detail-less business suit that everyone else seems to have. I say to them “Who were those people?” They look at me indifferently. I say “They must have been Germans”. I sit down on a bench.

The elevator begins going up. It is an inordinately long elevator ride. The walls of the elevator are black, so black that I am not sure they are even there. Certainly at no point do I touch the walls. Also, I notice that there is a huge tree growing out of the center of the elevator. The trunk is very broad, pale brown in color, and incredibly smooth. The kid with the knickers is sitting in a wheeled swivel chair next to the tree trunk. I walk close to him and look up the tree trunk. I can’t see the end of it. It just keeps going up, branching off at wide intervals. Above it I can see the night sky. There are stars and clouds. There are also a great number of lights flashing, moving across the sky in organized double-lines, as if they were the lights of spaceships on a space-highway. But I am aware that they aren’t really spaceships. I ask “What are those lights?” and one of them answers “Some kind of information system.” Something like the internet. The kid in the swivel chair pushes me away, so I move around him, and keep looking up.

Finally the elevator stops, and we get off. Same yellow walls. I am not sure I am on the right floor. But I turn around, and I recognize the hallway leading to the research center where my project is kept. I go in. There are various plants in pots, and some terraria, on long low wooden tables. I walk to the back of the room, past a variety of people. These people are dressed casually, but there is the same variety in age. I wade through the plants to the back of the room, where there are drawers labeled with people’s names. I follow these back towards the entrance of the room, looking for my name. I can’t remember what my project was — at first I think it is a boat of some kind, and then a water pump. I decide it is neither of those things, but can’t quite remember what it is. I look at every name tag, and mine isn’t there. Then I remember that the class I made this project for ended a while ago,and in fact I never got my grade. So I give up, and leave the research room.

I realize I am no longer wearing my black and white sneakers. I have white socks on. I had them on earlier, and I can’t remember if I took them off downstairs in the lobby, or at the reception desk, or in the elevator, or in the research room. I find my sneakers, but I have no memory of their location. I put them back on, and go down to the lobby.

That’s all.