Mother Nature is a tease!
Have you ever awoken from a deep sleep with your lips pulsating as if from a lover’s kiss? Have you ever been alone in the middle of the night and yet awoken gasping and wet as if from an intimate embrace? Dreams. In the middle of the night our defences are at their weakest. We cannot protect ourselves from the dreams that enter our minds when we are asleep. The experts say that we dream constantly, that our minds are solving complex problems that we cannot contend with when conscious. That would explain many dreams but not all of them. Some people do not remember their dreams. Some awaken feeling as if something wonderful has happened but they have no recollection of what. Others awaken with the dream intact.
Dreams are not reality. Or are they? What if they are manifestations of a different reality? What if dreams are engineered by a person or persons with more powerful minds than the average dreamer? What if . . . . .
Jeremy laid his head on the pillow. He sighed. It had been an exhausting day and he needed his sleep desperately. Preferably eight blissfully uninterrupted hours of unconsciousness. Then he could start this nonsense all over again. His eyes closed, his body relaxed.
There was a gentle breeze wafting through the glen. That seemed to keep the temperature comfortable although he couldn’t actually feel it. He knew it was there by watching the long grasses moving as if to a gentle love ballad. Jeremy didn’t know where he was. He did know that he was at peace here; the rest of the world was far away and unimportant. And then he saw her.
A tall slender figure slowly materialized out of the dense forest. They say that beauty is quantifiable, that there are certain effects that are the difference between beautiful and merely attractive. They say that our visual understanding is predicated on our past experiences and that our interpretation of what we see is primal. Jeremy had no words to speak or even to think of as she walked towards him. His body betrayed him; he leaned forward as if to embrace her and she stopped. Even the words she spoke touched his heart as if a gentle kiss brushed his lips. He waited. His breath came quicker as he watched her. He wanted her. He wanted to embrace her. He wanted to rest his head on her lap like a child and feel safe. He did feel safe. He felt as if this is where he was meant to be.
Anna didn’t want to fall asleep, yet she felt the strong pull of her bed. She had been up too long, working too hard on too many projects. She needed the relief of nothingness, the mindless abandonment of sleep. She turned out the lights and rolled into a more comfortable position. Anna sighed.
The elevator doors opened quickly, she darted inside. She had to be in time, she had to catch him. With a slight jolt the elevator began it’s decent. Ninety floors, it would take too long, she had to stop him. Anna glanced at the floor indicator, it was moving as if in a free fall. Bullet Elevator. She remembered. It was the new Bullet Elevator that moved three times faster than the fastest elevator in use. She was going to make it. Before she had finished her next thought, the elevator doors opened on the ground floor and Anna began looking for him, the man she cared for. She knew he was headed for the parking lot and it was a bit of a walk. There were two routes he could take: underground via a shopping concourse or outside across a courtyard and a street. There was a turnstile ahead and a tall, slender woman taking tickets. Tickets! Anna didn’t have a ticket. She looked down at her hand and at the necessary ticket. The slender woman smiled as she accepted the ticket. Anna moved quickly, she would catch John and everything would be all right.
Car fumes, she could smell car fumes. Madelaine tried to turn over. She was lying on her side and she was painfully aware of the very hard surface beneath her. What the hell was she doing in a parking garage? That’s where she was, an underground parking garage. Sue. She was here with Sue. They were practicing with the sword. Why? Sue had purchased a very old sword of some obscure parentage and she wanted to practice with it. Her apartment held too many breakables to risk swinging a potentially deadly weapon so the garage it was. Kidnapped! She remembered, Sue has been kidnapped! She had to reach a phone, call the police, but there was still one of the kidnappers in the garage. A woman, a tall, slender woman and she had a gun. Madelaine was the target, she had tried to protect Sue and now she was in trouble. She was hiding beneath a car, she was frightened, confused. There were footsteps coming towards her, they stopped. Madelaine held her breath.
5:00 am came much too early in the morning to suit Madelaine but it was what her job required. It hadn’t been a restful night. She had a nagging head ache behind her eyes and she was exhausted. Madeline sighed, someone had to be at the office first and she had been nominated. Oh well, it paid the bills.
Do you ever awakened from a dream and wonder about the people you have just met? You swear you have never seen them before and yet they are familiar to you. Does the same person show up in many of your dreams, sort of a recurring figure and yet you don’t know them, or do you? Is it a tall slender woman with a warm smile or perhaps a solid, stocky man with a glint in his eye? Maybe both. What actually happens in our dreams? It is almost like entertainment. Entertainment for whom? Is it for our benefit or for someone else’s, someone with the ability to insert themselves into our minds and follow or perhaps control our dreams? Interesting thought. Oh and pleasant dreams. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Well it depends doesn’t? I was in a shoe store a while back and this very lovely lady was behind the counter on the phone. I held back waiting for her to notice me, not wanting to interrupt the conversation. She turned and our eyes met. As she was smacking her lips chewing gum she twittered into the phone about some boy and turned her back on me. Seriously, I’m a customer!
She looked 12 and appeared to have the same set of manners. I left. A few weeks ago I went to a movie theater with a friend and didn’t realize how difficult it was to buy tickets nowadays. I thought you just handed over some money and you got a ticket. But this 12-year-old behind the cash register wanted to use my phone. What the? We eventually figured it out but every person at that theater that I interacted with appeared to be 12. Have I gone senile?
First of all, in this country I think it’s illegal for 12-year-olds to be working. I’m sure they do some jobs but I’m pretty sure they don’t have papers to work. So it stands to reason that the individuals I have been running into are not 12. Then why do they act like they are?
When I was a child, and a youth, there were rules. You know: you said “please” and “thank you” and you showed respect to everyone. If you didn’t you were disciplined at home. That wasn’t so much fun but it was a great incentive to behave. Now parents are afraid to discipline and kids run right over good manners. For the record not all kids are a problem! But there seems to be a whole lot of them and they all seemed to be 12 years old!
I was introduced to a nurse recently who blew my mind. He didn’t speak much but I wasn’t comfortable having a male nurse in my home especially one who looked to be 12 years old. Some the best nurses I have ever encountered have been male but in a hospital setting. There’s a difference. I want my nurses to be female and look like they have some experience. Perhaps that makes me stingy but I’ve done enough training in my day and I’m tired of it.
The one thing I will say for these people who look to be 12 is that as they age they will retain their youthful looks and that is commendable. I’m just not sure I’d like to see a pilot or a police officer who looks to be 12. On the other hand neither would I like to see a pilot who looks to be 92. Call me an ageist if you wish. Appearances matter.
We make them, hundreds of times a day. What hand do I use to shake that of another? When I walk do I step out first with my left foot or my right foot? Do I smile at a sunny day or do I grimace? These are not conscious decisions but rather decisions that are made in a split second. They are decisions that are based on habit, inclination or perhaps even whim. Rarely do we spend time thinking about the ramifications of these micro decisions. We simply make them on the fly.
I have a habit of preparing in advance for unknown situations. That sounds like an oxymoron. Since my mind is always coming up with scenarios, I simply extrapolate. If I am faced with situation A then I have prepared a reciprocal response for the situation. If I am faced with situation B then I have an appropriate response prepared. Obviously I cannot prepare for every situation, given that it is unknown. But I have enough of an arsenal prepared that I can usually wing it.
This comes out of a childhood where I was never prepared. I was painfully shy and terrified of everything and everyone. Especially people. I just assumed that whatever I said would be wrong or idiotic. I lived in constant fear. To protect myself I started paying attention to other people and how they dealt with each situation. It appears I had a good memory.
Moving ahead several decades and I discovered a new weapon. I joined the drama department in school and started acting. I was good. So good in fact that, in almost any situation, I could hide behind the character of me. I believe that this is where my storytelling comes from. And I’m not the only one.
Everyone has something they’re good at. They don’t always know why and it’s not always just due to training. Some people just seem to have an inherent ability to be brilliant. We can all be good at something, But there’re those that excel. Why? There is no answer. And that’s fine. We need a little mystery in our lives, a little magic. People ask me where my ideas for stories come from, where do my poems begin, my quips? Quite frankly I have no idea! It is the way my mind works. I love words and how they fit together, the sounds they make and the pictures they can invoke. See I’ve actually no idea!
What is it about you that excites you?
Anderson Bartholomew Mortenson was pissed! He would deal with that ‘Bitch’ in his own way and in his own time! He slammed the door of his car and squealed out of the parking lot! He didn’t care what direction. He was one of the elite, one of the privileged people, he had money! His wealth gave him certain privileges! Privileges that did not include getting a tongue lashing from a servant! Anderson shook his head, this was ridiculous. He did not have to justify his presence to anyone.
That woman in the gallery might be the manager but she had no right, no bloody right to embarrass him in front of his friends or to call him a ne’er-do-well. A ne’er-do-well! Bloody archaic expression and he was offended! His family, his grandfather, sponsored that gallery and that entitled him to certain privileges. How could that bloody woman not know that! How dare she ask him to leave! The people there seemed to think his jokes were funny. They were a little off colour but still they laughed. So what was the big deal? These affairs took themselves far too seriously.
When Anderson was strongly invited to leave the Art Gallery he did so alone; his friends decided to stay and enjoy the free champagne. Perhaps that is the reason he took the wrong road, or maybe it was his anger, or perhaps something else was at work. Regardless, Anderson was lost. He didn’t know this side of town well but he was sure that at any moment he would come across some buildings, a highway exit sign, something to denote civilization as opposed to this endless ribbon of nothing. The road seemed to be mocking him, laughing at him: he was lost, what a fool!
With a sigh Anderson took stock of his situation. Okay, he thought, I’m lost. Bit deal. People get lost. The fact that he was not in control was annoying but knew he could get out of this. He forced himself to relax and think. First he needed to find out where he was and where this bloody road went. There were no signs, there were no buildings, there were no street lights, and it was dark. There was, however, a familiarity to the place. He didn’t know where he was but there was a memory buried deep that knew this road. This was not a promising situation.
As if it was written in a script, a figure materialized out of the dark. He slowed the car as the headlights brought into focus a man dressed completely in black. Maybe this person could direct him back to civilization. Anderson pulled the car over and rolled down the passenger side window.
“Excuse me,” he started, “I’m afraid I’m lost can you direct me–“
Before he could finish his question the stranger opened the car door and got in.
“I think young man that we are headed in the same direction.” The voice that emanated from this strange man was deep with an almost hypnotic quality and his eyes were painfully intense. It was the only part of his face that seemed to be in focus.
The car door slammed shut as if to punctuate the comment. Without thinking Anderson put the car in gear. As they moved slowly forward Anderson’s mind, equally slowly, became clearer. With a mental shake of his head he turned to the stranger,
“As I started to say sir, can you direct me to a main thoroughfare?”
Anderson was quite pleased with his manner, all he wanted to do was to kick this sorry sot out the door and take off. But he did not. He restrained his impulse. His mother would be so proud. As he spoke Anderson glanced at his passenger: this strange man hadn’t moved since he sat down, his head was in shadow and facing straight ahead. His entire body was as if it were made of stone. Not even a sign of breathing was apparent. His hands rested on his knees, relaxed and unmoving.
“I will take you to where you are headed, but you may not like the destination.”
It was a strange comment but Anderson ignored it and once again glanced at his travelling companion.
“My name’s Anderson, and you are?”
The stranger remained silent. Anderson wasn’t sure what to make of this guy. He had helped himself into the car; he had offered no information, not even his name. How does one strike up a conversation with a man who seems to like being an enigma? Well this stranger had gotten into the car under false pretences. Either he coughs up a way to get out of this situation or he’s getting dumped! In his mind Anderson could be as tough and as authoritative as he wanted. But when he again glanced at this strange man dressed in black he felt like the child who had done wrong. Anderson wondered what the great Cecil Mortenson would do in a situation like this one. His grandfather was a successful businessman who had built himself up from very humble beginnings. While Anderson admired that in his grandfather, it also intimidated him and made him want to rebel. So, what would his grandfather do in a situation like this?
“I doubt very much your grandfather would ever be in this situation.” The stranger had spoken again.
Anderson was startled; does this guy read minds?
“No son, but I do read faces. You are surprised that I would know about your family. You would be very surprised at just how much I know about a great many things. And I will see your Grandfather one day soon.” There was an ominous quality to his voice.
As he spoke the man continued to look straight ahead, his eyes only on the road disappearing into the distance. Now that the stranger had broken his silence Anderson thought he should direct another question:
“Are we headed back to town? I don’t know this road at all.”
“Actually,” said the stranger, “I believe you need to spend a little more time on this road, or perhaps it needs to spend time with you.”
The words that the stranger spoke were bizarre and the feeling that they instilled in Anderson was one of desperation. He was feeling more and more out of control. He took his left hand off the steering wheel and placed it on his hip and without thinking he started to tap two fingers against his leg. It was a nervous habit he had picked up as a child. Only one person had ever noticed it, other than his mother, and that was his friend Bob. It was strange to think about Bob in a situation like this. It had been many years since he’d spoken to him but he had thought of Bob often and always fondly. Bob had been Anderson’s roommate for the three years he had spent at University. He had never been impressed by Anderson’s wealth nor was he intimidated by it. He really just didn’t care. What he did care about was friendship. Bob believed Anderson was a better man than he really was. How could he have let that friendship lapse? And why did he think about him now of all times?
“I met a friend of yours the other day,” offered the stranger, “his name was Robert Delaney. There was a car accident. I believe you knew him as Bob.”
This time when Anderson looked over at the stranger he seemed to see a small smile starting to curl up his lips. It also seemed to grow colder in the car and yet Anderson could not make his hand turn on the heat. He just sat there in the cold and in his growing fear. This man knew things he had no business knowing! What exactly did he know?
“You have done a great many things you should atone for, young man.”
That voice again. Anderson felt paralyzed, but only in his body. His mind raced frantically. He was ashamed as he remembered the cutting comments he had made to perfect strangers, the complete disregard with which he treated those who offered him their services and he could not forget, nor could he excuse, his behaviour in the art gallery that had happened only an hour ago. The night should have been in celebration for a new and upcoming artist. Instead he had turned it into a bad stand-up comedy routine. But that was who he was: the jokester, the bad comic. Why should he have to atone for lousy manners? And then the memory that was buried deep within his mind surfaced. It was not a pleasant memory.
It seemed as if he had been driving for days. He felt as though he had been locked inside a prison, unsure of his crime. But he knew now, he was sure. He had committed a terrible crime three years ago, on this road. How can you atone? They say that when you are about to die your life flashes in front of your eyes. That’s how Anderson felt. He loved his grandfather and yet he had never told him that. Quite the opposite, he went out of his way to antagonize the old man who had done so much for him. He remembered his deceased mother and the dreams she had had for him. He had not lived up to those dreams. He remembered his father but not fondly. He simply thought of him as a sperm donor. He hated the fact that he was named after this man who took great delight in calling him ‘Junior’. To Anderson, being in his father’s presence was pure purgatory. At least he had had the good sense to die many years ago. With any luck he was in hell.
Throughout his life people had tried to be kind to Anderson and he had belittled them and denigrated them. Bob believed the he was a better man than Anderson himself believed. It was his shame. And now because he was lost on a lonely road with a strange man sitting next to him it was causing him to question his life and to remember. Anderson squirmed in his seat, his eyes still focused on the road ahead just like the stranger. Did he deserve what he had? He felt as if he were on trial for his life! It wasn’t his fault, he had been drinking three years ago. That young girl had no business being on a dark road at night. It wasn’t his fault!
The road was the focus of their journey. There was no lessening of the darkness. The road itself never varied off the straight and narrow, there was no relief. No other cars were in sight, there were no sounds of crickets or of people. It was almost as if nothing existed outside the space that the car traveled each second. There seemed to be nothing behind and nothing ahead, only dense forest on either side of the long and unforgiving road that they must travel. Anderson was lost in thought: they say the road to hell is paved, where was this road taking them?
As Anderson was staring at his traveling companion his peripheral vision registered something. It took his brain a split seconded to realize he was looking at a deer in the middle of the road, a big ten-point antlered buck.
Deer. Deer! DEER! Anderson wrenched the wheel of the car to the right! Adrenalin purged all thoughts of the stranger. His concentration now was on the trees that were fast approaching. The deer was startled and moved into the forest. At least it’s life was saved. Anderson reacted to the movement of the deer and quickly pulled the wheel to the left. He had missed the trees on the right-hand side of the road by millimetres, but now he was looking at a ditch on the left side of the road. Anderson stomped on the brakes and the car came to rest straddling both lanes.
With what seemed to be a focused determination a mist began to emanate from the tarmac. It drifted slowly over the car like a ghostly embrace. The silence was total. Anderson put his head down on the wheel and started to weep.
The depth of the sorrow that Anderson felt was out of proportion to the certain death he had just escaped. He was thankful he was alive and he knew it was a near a thing but that wasn’t why he was crying. He was crying for missed opportunities, for the cruelties he had inflicted on others, he was crying for a young girl and he was crying for his mother. She had expected better of him and he had let her down. But now he had a second chance to recognize his shortcomings and he knew that it was in his power to correct them. He didn’t know if it was a cliché, but he felt himself a better man because of this epiphany
Anderson sat back in his seat. As he raised his head he could see the dawn rising in the east and through the lessening of the shadows he saw a sign: L ST CHANCE CAFÉ. His long drive was over. With a smile Anderson turned towards his passenger just as the stranger turned towards him. In the early morning light he could see the full face of the dark man for the first time. Anderson stopped smiling. It was a familiar face.
It is said that time is not the only way to make a young man old. A sour disposition, an angry character or overwhelming terror can cause men to be old and withered before their time. A man can age a lifetime in a second. Purgatory is a place that all men fear and more than a few will face in their own time.
Anderson shook his head, he was confused, unsure of something. As his eyes started to focus he became aware of his surroundings. He was on a road, a dark road. There were no lights and no buildings anywhere in sight. He also noticed something else that terrified him. He was sitting on a bicycle. It was a young girl’s bicycle. It was terrifyingly similar to one a young girl was on three years ago, a young girl that he drove down in a drunken stupor. She had died, miserably. And now he was on that bicycle on that road on that night. He could hear the wind in the trees and the faint murmur of a car approaching him. Anderson was going to die just like she did under the wheels of his car. “Welcome to Hell son.”
I wept in confusion
As I watched his hand fall
He said it was over
Not his fault at all
I hid the markings
The lessons I’ve learned
He says I need help
My warnings were earned
But somewhere inside
I know it’s not true
What he says is wrong
A truth that is due
I know all around me
Are people that care
The first step is mine
If only I dare
I have importance
In this life that I live
I am the Alpha
And I choose to forgive
Time measures slowly
The moments we share
Be kind to each other
And handle with care.