Gramma lived in the norwood house that over time and by virtue of the ridiculously malicious supernatural presences that had taken root there had become a ramshackle, thirteen story haunted mansion.
My children were stolen. Three of them, all nearly infants. Everyone else picked up and fled the house, piled into the volvo with me in the back and tore away down the rutted roads as fast as they could go. But I climbed out. Kidnapped, I shouted. I don’t know if they heard. I didn’t care. I ran back to the house, fighting my way through encroaching brambles, rose bushes, backyards. People didn’t live in this neighborhood anymore. I was surprised our car had made it up the drive.
My best friend from childhood, whose name was also Mike, and who had fallen into a series of mysterious derangements about which no one ever spoke, still dwelt in the house, high, high above everyone else, in a locked room where no one but grandma ever ventured. But the haunting was growing worse, and I was the only one willing to do anything about it. I knew he understood what was going on. And I wanted to see him. It had been so long. He had been my best friend once. Everyone protested, grandma, the children, but I insisted. She agreed, but warned me not to go too close or raise my voice, or even meet his eyes for too long. She said the best way to talk to him was with an occasional gesture of submissive friendship, reaching out with a bent hand, like a dog with a wounded paw.
We climbed the rickety rotted cluttered stairs, and unlocked the door to his room. He was in there, in a red shirt. He was completely bald. I fancied his hair had fallen out from fright–but his face was utterly unmarked, like that of Schmendrick the Magician. Whatever had happened to him, whatever had possessed him, it had preserved him externally. But his motions were spasmodic, palsied, like those of a Hodgkin’s victim. And when I saw him, I knew that what had taken place in his past must have included murder.
He spoke to us, told us about the malice.
He came to warn us of it. I stopped being afraid of him.
The stairwells crumbled beneath us as we descended. Children clung desperate to beams that hadn’t quite rotted. Others plummeted, and I could only pray that something had broken their fall. I too would have fallen, but suddenly I recalled I could fly. I burst out through a dusty window, and found the pressure of the malice fall away from me with the touch of fresh air. They only had power over the house itself.
Two enormous, glossy-winged black ravens with hooked yellow beaks were fluttering around the house, clinging to trees and power lines and diving at dead bodies on the street. I challenged them, and they turned to enormous pale bald men in long, cellophane-black cloaks and dove at me, cursing me. I fought with them, as I had fought them before, and watched them turn to water beneath my grasp.
But I knew they weren’t destroyed, only defeated.
I flew back inside and tried to save those who had been trapped up near Mike’s floor. They were in awe of me. I told them I had always been able to fly–in dreams.
I sank to the ground. In dreams, I said to myself, I can do more than fly.
I went into the house, and began to change it with my will. I concentrated on a time-blackened section of wall paneling. It shifted under my gaze. The mildew disappeared, and the beautiful dark wood reemerged, with blue-green trim. I walked through the house, altering it around me, like Murdock in dark city, fabricating past that had not been.
Cacti grew from shelves that appeared in the walls. Mosaics of grandmotherly concepts reformed out of debris: hope, love, grace. The kitchen became a place of organic wonders, full of the smell of baking. Grandma was pulling a tray of muffins from the oven. She offered me one. It was warm and soft.
The light from the windows was blinding bright, and as my eyes focused I realized it was the white wall of my bedroom washed with morning.
Ben Schmidt and I are sitting at a bus stop in downtown boston somewhere waiting for justin and damian to show up so we can go out for a summer’s eve of drinking. The bus stop is crowded, the buildings are distant and tall. The bus is taking a very long time, and I notice across the street a mysterious toy store I have never seen before.
Without a word to Ben, I arise, and stride across the strangely empty street. I enter the store, which too is nearly empty. The floors and walls are all in molded, expensive-looking light-colored wood, poplar perhaps, or oak. The displays are colorful and interactive, the toys are jaw-droppingly high-end. I stroll past the expanding polygonal plastic structures, the construction sets, scooters, and giant stuffed animals, and approach a giant jungle diorama that shifts within as if alive. I touch the figure of a tree whose fronds quiver and shake beneath a toucan’s weight–but it’s only plastic. Relieved, I reach deeper in, and lay hold of a large, cream-colored plastic monkey, pull him out and set him on the floor.
He comes alive.
Ben comes into the store. “Justin and Damian are here. The bus came, but we missed it.”
“Oops,” I say, “I’m sorry. Now we’ll have to wait around forever for it to show up again.”
“That’s true,” says he. “We might as well look around here some more.”
“Watch out for the monkey,” I say.
He turns and notices it there on the floor, commenting with suprise on its cuteness and that it is in fact real. It leaps into his arms to give him a hug. “Ow!” he shouts. “It’s scratching me!” He drops it, and scampers off to complain to the management about their hostile monkey.
But it looked like a nice hug to me, and I have never hugged a monkey, so I hold out my arms, and the monkey jumps up and obliges me. It is a very soft monkey.
I carry it back to the front room of the store, where management scolds me, sweeps the monkey out of my hands, and plunges him face down into a large, open-topped glass display case into which I cannot see. Immediately there are several of the store’s employees around the display case, reaching in and shouting complicated-sounding things at each other like surgeons at the operating table. “There, just look!” one of them enjoins me. “Why would you ever want to touch something with a scar like that?”
I lean in politely and look down into the glass case. Inside is the motionless, lifeless, taxidermized skin of a monkey, with a huge, badly-sewn car reaching all the way down it’s spine. Clearly, this was some sort of zombified undead vodoun monkey. I look uneasily at Ben, hoping the condition is not contagious, and vacate the room.
A Quake/The Stand/Resident Evil dream. I do hope this does not become a common genre.
The young cast of the Daily Show and I (which happened to be composed of such people as Brian Sheehy, Matt Lucas, Todd Miner, etc, all clad in very spiffy blue suits), were wrapping up filming in the basement of a high school, sitting around chatting making jokes. I was lamenting internally that they never found my stuff funny enough to air. Oh well, humor is subjective. Eventually we wrapped and proceeded upstairs, into…
A post-apocalyptic world of dead bodies and living dead. The school was now also a subway/railway station, and was crowded with frantic, desperate, armed people on the verge of madness all trying to get the heck out of dodge, who as time progressed were just as likely to shoot you as the enormous undead thing that was chasing you. Aside from my overdressed high school fellows and I, there was an evil white-and-raven-haired seductress a la the Nightmare Life-in-Death, a lithe and youthful Ben Vereen in a cream-colored suit, and an assortment of cops, national guard members, and monstrous drooling alien/zombie things.
People were falling or dying or dropping their guns out of sheer clumsy terror left and right, so there wasn’t much trouble arming oneself. The trouble was that many of the guns were low on ammo or power, and had only minimal effect on the monstrosities. I watched the young cast of the Daily Show picked off one by one. I went through the contents of several pistols, an mp5, and a long white pump-action tube thing loaded with deer slugs that I knew to refer to only as a ‘boom stick’, all with little effect. I encountered one beast in the high school gym that I had to hit three times right in the throat with the boom stick before it went down.
It was thus that I found myself, the Nightmare Life-in-Death, and Ben Vereen cowering together at the door to the gym while three or four half-mutilated monsters dragged themselves inexorably towards us across the basketball court. All I had left was a pistol with three rounds. Daylight called to us from outside, but we were afraid to leave. Inside were weapons and other people. Who knows what waited in the light.
Ben Vereen looked about to piss his pants. Life-in-Death was advocating the “Let’s have sex before we die! Please?” theory of post-apocalyptic strategy, and I was contemplating a dash for the far end of the gym to loot the pile of bodies there for ammunition, when the beasts reached us.
Life-in-Death screamed and disappeared. Ben Vereen went down like a sack of meat, and a beautiful chrome-plated pistol came into my hands, which I could tell by the weight was fully loaded. The beast was occupied with tearing Ben out of his cream-colored suit, so I stepped lithely over them and ran, looking for other living people.
All of a sudden I was running blindly through the poorly-rendered, poorly-lit underbelly of a quake map. Erin was leaning over my shoulder asking what I was doing now. “This is the same game I was playing before,” I said. I picked up another mp5 with half a clip, unloaded it into a few more beasties with minimal effect, and ran on. I sprinted past what I thought was some kind of mutant and or undead dog, ran up some stairs, and turned to fire on it, knowing I couldn’t hope to outrun it.
“Destiny!” A woman’s voice shouted beside me. Life-in-Death ran past me to embrace the ravening mutant dog, which turned out in fact to be a very friendly and endearing black lab puppy named Destiny, who could see the future, and seemed immune to both the grasping claws of demons and the flying lead of madmen. He led us through the subway station to a dwindling knot of survivors on the upper level, then ran barking off to some other good deed.
Granted a momentary reprieve, I sat down to review the contents of Ben’s chrome plated pistol. Imagine my surprise to find it contained far more than simple 9mm rounds. It had four different compartments inside, containing bullets ranging from .22 to .70. I was bewilderedly attempting to figure out how a little pistol could possibly fire a gigantic mortar round like that without killing its wielder when someone in a white lab-coat leaned over my shoulder and plucked one of the .70 rounds from my hand. He twisted it open with a flick of his wrist, and revealed the clear vial of white powder contained inside. “This is the deadliest poison known to man,” he said, and it was immediately taken for granted by all that it was.
Looking around I noticed two gazes that to my eye looked decidedly mad: those of the man in the labcoat and George Clooney. I could see in their eyes that they wanted the poison. Who knows what for–to get rid of everybody but themselves. They advanced on me. I backed off, frantically trying to reload the gun. They followed, until we had left the other survivors behind. I was sure they were being eaten even as we spoke. So it was me and these two madmen. And the sun was coming up–the real sun. I had to do something, quick.
To my own shock and disgust, I yanked the cap from the vial of deadly poison, and with a jerk cast a pinch of it into labcoat’s eyes. He gasped, blinked rapidly, and fell to the ground in convulsions. Clooney gave me a confused look. I repeated the gesture. This time I spilled a little of the powder on my hand. It burned. Clooney’s eyes were red, like he would cry at any second. I felt bad for him. And for me.
I woke, to immense relief.
Dreamed I was frantically writing a plot for a play that would go on at the end of the day. It was a wonderful fantasy plot, full of heroes and heroic deeds and exotic settings. And I was in an exotic setting: a Vegas of sorts, a lavish vacation place, where the Bordewieck family had gathered. Lisi was helping me with the production. But there were too many scenes. Every time I finished, I always remembered one more. I had begun the task with the hope that it could be completed; as the night wore into morning I began to lose hope, and when I awoke I was glad to give up.