The movie projectionist keeps moving the image on the screen. He makes it larger. Centres it. Pulls out. Moves to another area.
The audience groans.
Finally, the film starts.
Young US college kids are joking around. They jump into the sea.
Under the water, they cling to each other and kick and finally jump as one to break the surface again.
Then they're in a bar. Chatting.
I'm with them, in the movie. They requested audience participation and I'm it.
The college kids are joking around. There's an edge to it though. Jibes. Taunts. Not a sentence is said without it being at someone else's expense.
They dive into the sea.
They kick. Bubbles.
As one, they attempt to break the surface, but this time they can't manage it without a boost.
I wade into the beautiful, cold water to help.
Chatting in the bar, I'm smiling at the college kids' jokes.
There's a man there, drinking himself to death. He has about sixteen glasses of various kinds of alcohol lined up in front of him, taking over the bar.
He's pissing off the kids and they're pissing him off.
To cool off, the kids jump/fall into the beautiful, blue water and it's all white bubbles and thrashing legs and shorts billowing out like jellyfish, red and blue and white.
Underwater, it's all grimaces and silent screams.
They scrabble and push for the surface, hampering one another, like a bait ball inviting destruction not protection.
The boys finally break the surface, gasping.
In the bar, the guys are chatting while trying to put an elastic band around a lightbulb.
I start to join in with the conversation. I don't know if I'm meant to talk or not. If I talk, and go off script, will they improvise around me? Am I supposed to say something to break the cycle of drowning and drinking? There are no instructions. So perhaps I'm supposed to ask questions.
I open my mouth to speak and the camera moves away from me.
The alcoholic is no longer at the bar.
He is in the audience.
The woman sitting in the row behind him is stuffing a plastic bag into his mouth and he is trying to spit it out to scream.
A guy next to him is spraying his face with water through a straw, effecting a bizarre cinema water boarding incident.
Everyone but one woman ignores this, because they are watching the movie. They've not noticed that the alcoholic from the movie has stepped from the screen into their reality.
I watch from the screen as the woman gets up to save the alcoholic.
I leave my scene and cycle up a hill where there is a remote house built by a survivalist.
I cross the impressive green grounds where vegetables should really be growing, but instead it's all lawn.
There is a steep drop off one side, which I avoid.
In the modern house, which is grey and square, like blocks placed randomly beside each other and on top of each other, I examine the kitchen and storage areas.
A survival expert enters to help. He gives me advice about the granite sink, surfaces, and storage units.
He is unimpressed, but he says:
"We can make this work."
I observe myself, having turned into a crab during a kind of escape game.
"We're all crawling up together," I say, encouragingly, to the other purple-blue lobster crabs. "That's how it should be."
The gamesmistress tries to help me solve the next puzzle by showing me where to find the means to pick a lock.
Dismayed by our performance, she advises us to avoid the brothel owner.
"People lose hours in there," she warns.
To leave, we all climb up through a trapdoor.
My friend, let's call her Sara, is the last to come.
We ask her to pass up the food before she climbs.
She passes up cake.
"The meat!" one of us yells. "Pass up the meat, love. Meat and frozen things. The meat! Fackin' 'ell."
Sara is feckless. She doesn't follow any of the instructions we give her.
I get frustrated with her, too, until I realize that the door is unlocked and we don't need to use the trapdoor at all.
I open the door for her and she just sits there, crying into her hands.
"Let's go," I say, gently.
She doesn't look up. She sits there, sobbing, until I wake up.
Mom's talking to me, but I'm ... n o t ... l i s t e n i n g ... because there are giant bugs crawling out of the sky.
They descend on near-invisible strings. Silent.
A few dozen feet from the ground, they crawl before each one takes its final step to the ground, the way an elderly person might step from a train onto the platform.
The world - our world - is volcanic black, ashy yet watery, as if an ocean has just been drained. Perhaps, the sea went down a plughole.
Everywhere, I see craters of shimmering water. Rivulets shiver, begging us to drink them. They seem to be flowing, except they start and end nowhere.
The wetness reflects the sky, which must contain red and yellow and blue although it is night, like 1 or 2am. The water must be reflecting astral bodies that I can't see, beyond the stars.
The blackness of the sky is heavy and close and seemingly full of holes. The stars are like an engineer's schema, an elaborate dot-to-dot.
In the distance, beetles the size of buses prepare to do battle amid squashed volcanoes and perfect, black gravel.
Through a dirty window. A utilities OFFICIAL sits to chat and drink with the householder, PETER.
It’s all very convivial and neighborly. The OFFICIAL, grey-haired and in blue overalls, is glad to get off his feet.
Unfortunately, PETER mis-hears something I say.
PETER’s face slackens and he glares at the OFFICIAL.
I should be leaving.
PETER grabs OFFICIAL's arm.
PETER appears to be having a terrible headache.
You tried to trick me.
That was a dirty trick. Now I’m going to play a trick on you.
PETER drags the OFFICIAL over to glowing BOOKSHELVES.
“I should be going.”
PETER holds his head as if he is trying to stop it breaking apart.
OFFICIAL is backing away, until he backs himself against the dusty BOOKSHELVES.
There is nowhere to go.
There is no way out.
I take my mom on a train to a popular French meeting place. For years, people didn’t realize how two particular villages were physically linked. They seemed distant, but they are, in fact, side by side.
Now, once a week, coachloads go to a nearby park or cafe to meet semi-formally near this fabled spot.
On the way, we see two forests of giant sunflowers. One forest looms over an entire village at the bottom of a hill. The flowers are bowed like ancient trees, heavy with foreboding.
The village exists as if completely unaware of the sunflowers’ doleful heads, bobbing in the breeze. They seem close to sleep. A terrible, nightmarish sleep.
The train rolls on.
There is little more to see and mom seems okay, so I decide to take thirty minutes writing time on my laptop.
I’m sharing the screen remotely with a friend. Depending on how I focus my eyes, I can either see my words in a text editor, or I can see her face and whatever she is working on from her remote location. She’s using a drawing and photo manipulation program.
The train doesn’t stop where I thought it would. I get off at a stop called “Lion.” My mom will go another stop or two to get to the true destination.
At Lion, all is grey and flat. Aside from the train, pulling away and then gone, it is devoid of vehicles.
I’m at a gigantic crossroads. One direction stretches as far as the eye can see.
Someone has made or shaped hedges and they run the length of the main road.
I am alone aside from about ten men nearby. They are wearing huge helmets like something out of Alice in Wonderland. The helmets are painted red and yellow and white, with gaudy images, like playing cards or children's toys. The headwear makes them well over 6 foot in height.
The helmets are made of wood and completely cover the sides of their heads, but not their faces. When I do see glimpses of their faces, they are looking down from that great height with disapproving looks. There is something horse-like about their wide, rolling eyes and their fixed facial expressions.
I try to talk to them, but they just shuffle and stamp their feet, coming to attention sharply but out of sync.
I ask them if I can go through the gate they appear to be guarding. No sooner have I spoken than they march me through it. I have to move with them to avoid being stomped, noting as I go that they march very effectively, but backwards.
Inside the gate, I’m inside the grounds of a house the size of a village.
“Thank you,” I tell the men.
They stamp and clomp into some kind of formation.
I look ahead to my destination. A house in grounds the size of a village and no more light than the world beyond the gate.
It’s getting dark. The greens are becoming grey. The grey is darkening; lengthening.
I take a deep breath and … my alarm is going off.
My friend picks seeds from the top of what look like grass stems. The seeds look like dried out chips. They feel soft and we collect them to go in a curry. An onlooker watches, fascinated.
While cooking in the forest, my friend shows me a clip of herself narrating her computer game progress for her followers online.
I could do that, I think. I remember my character from City of Heroes. Mannikin, the powerful ash-black midget with glowing eyes and healing powers. There is a framed painting of him on the wall, like he is a member of the family.
Andy Sirkis plays a traumatised soldier bent on revenge. His eyes glisten.
This is not make-up.
His captors perform experiments on him to learn more about his condition. He has the freedom of his cell. There, he listens to audio recordings and breaks down the component words for his unseen guards.
“Six “ofs,” three “as,” two “froms,” Seven “thes,” and so on.
When played a Shakespearean scene about revenge, he turns away, soliloquising.
“Reetablissement!” he cries. “From there to retribution. And revenge! But then death, immediately!”
Meanwhile, several hundred blue-uniformed soldiers with swords in their belts attack a building that houses royalty.
“There has never yet been one of us with fear!” a leader says. “If you have fear in your heart, leave now!”
They cut through the imposing, wooden double-door, thrusting blindly to stab anyone brave or stupid enough to try to stop them. From inside, they are all blue legs and swords and pounding on the door so that the wood shatters, the ornamentation cracking and splintering and becoming kindling.
Inside, the several dozen members of the royal, red-uniformed army look on in amazement and make plans to retreat up the stairs.
Dean's Dream Journal
As a dark fiction author, I like to take some inspiration from my dreams.
"How to Remember Your Dreams" will help you with:
Exchange your front row seat for a starring role.
Available on Amazon.