I’ve threatened to do this for a while now…talked about making my journal public (for the Hoot that it is). But before I do, you should know the main reason I keep a journal is to record dreams.
For as long as I can recall my dreams have been vivid. All the senses are present, if slightly dimmed. Upon waking, the sensation is of having just lived through something either hilarious or traumatizing. Sometimes, they’re warnings from my subconscious. Other times, they’re old insecurities trying to resurface. And sometimes they’re just out there.
This one falls into that latter category…
Jan 31st, 2014
The dream last night: apocalypse. Failed civilization, scarce resources. But it wasn’t the aftermath of some single cataclysmic event, this was a global plague. Something manufactured.
People I knew, people I didn’t, all heavily armed, and scheming. The buildings, unmaintained for months, strewn with discarded clothes and trash. Metal cans burning cardboard and sticks of smashed furniture. Sodden carpet gone gray with pulverized drywall.
I’m escorting a young woman. She’s not my lover, not my wife or daughter. But I am bound to her. She must survive. That’s my only concern.
Government soldiers stalk the ruins. Hunting. Exterminating. But the wars have thinned their ranks. They come less frequently, and when they do, they’re green. Easy to sneak up on. This one, I’m so close, I plant the end of my rifle between the raised kevlar collar and the low helmet. A pull of the trigger, a dull flash, and a hushed round sneezes out. A pile of silenced armor collapses in the street.
Glimpse of red hair and pale skin. This one was a woman.
Staying off the streets, working through broken building interiors. Better than the permanent gridlock outside with all the rusty, tetanus-loaded edges to catch ourselves on. But there is a different danger in here. One of practiced patience, crouch and creep, far deadlier than the soldiers. These are experienced hunters.
I swap rifle for SMG and rack the action. It spits out a bullet and I curse myself for forgetting it was already loaded. When I stoop to collect the precious brass, I feel it, sharp and cold in my neck. A sting and slap of barbed needle. It’s under my skin. Too late.
I yank the dart out anyway, and whip around, wanting my last moments to be spent killing the sons of bitches who just killed me. But they’re smart. They stay hidden until the plague takes hold.
First, my limbs go numb from the extremities in. I can still move, but without feeling, I’m clumsy. Can’t tell if I’m holding my weapon…
I look down, and there it is: A HK MP5 knock off. Something heavier and less delicate. But I can’t feel it at all, can’t feel the weight of it or the resistance of it in my hands.
My vision clouds at the periphery and works in, as if looking through a billowy cocoon. I release my grip, and the weapon drops to the gritty floor. I tell her to go. Her eyes tell me she does not want to, but she is no fool. I taught her better than that. She pulls her sweatshirt hoods close and creeps away into the blackened building depths.
“Come on, then!” I shout. “Let’s see you! Show me your faces so I can haunt you forever!”
They come out. Three of them. Hair razed to the scalp, oddly pudgy, but fit, like they were fattened up for a long winter. Well-adapted for the cold, mean days ahead. Their clothing is durable, ordinary. Raided from a sporting goods store, maybe. Perfect camouflage in a post-civilization America.
I can barely stand. While I do, two of them pluck my weapons, search my pockets. The third keeps watch, hanging on to a long deer rifle with scope.
“You did good,” says the man keeping watch, “but we’ve got it from here.” He looks right at me and grins. “You’re just another Hungry fuckin’ Ghost now.”
My mouth won’t move anymore, won’t say the things I want to spit at him. He’s gloating in front of me, knowing that in moments, my mind will be gone and the only need I’ll have left is to feed.
You’ll be my first, I think with complete sincerity.
Strangely at ease with my fate, I embrace the dying of my nerves, the corruption of internal processes. My mind does not give in, however. I force consciousness to remain. I’ll be awake when I find this motherfucker. I will remember his face so that when my rotten teeth rip his skin I will know that vengeance is mine.
If he had any idea this was possible, he’d have put a bullet through my skull. But he indulges himself in what he believes is my fate, not as careful or methodical as I know he must be otherwise. This is a special moment, possibly one he has waited for. He’s savoring it.
The man pushes three fingers into my chest and I fall, a semi-rigid stack of bones and dying meat, eyes glaring at the cracked ceiling. My limbs contract toward my body, and I see them twitching. Hands curled into claws, back arching, jaw clenching, teeth bared. I feel nothing.
The man readjusts his grip on the rifle and spits, then urges the others on. They stalk away into the building as I writhe.
Blackness pulls at me, wants to submerge me in oblivion, in forgetfulness, in the dissipation of life. My heart stops. My chest no longer rises or falls. My limbs fall slack. There is no sensation whatsoever, not even the fuzzy numbness. It is as if I am constructed of wood and dirt, no longer flesh. I only resemble what I was in appearance.
Yet I remain.
I raise a hand and turn it over in front of my face. It obeys my wishes, clutching or releasing as instructed. Just now I am aware of a path not taken, that a portal to cross over has just closed.
No, This is where I must be, I think. This is what I must do.
Too much time has passed, I’m sure, because I no longer have any sense of it. No idea how long I lay writhing on the floor. All I have left is urgency to rise and find them.
And I do.
Distance means nothing. There is no fatigue. Out in the open, just before dawn, the stars cast ample light to see all. I see a descending hill, covered in grass, every blade shining with dew in the starlight. Half-way down, I spot them. A line of three, spaced diagonally.
My movement is silent, as if I’m not touching the ground. Gravity offers no hindrance. I lope, I leap. I grip by the shoulders and bite down into the base of his neck. Skin parts, living tissue cleaves, mouth fills with magnificent taste…
He drops to the ground and I fall with him, still drawing on the wound. As I draw, I know I am also putting in–the same pestilence shot into my neck, I am chewing into his. But he will not endure as I have. His will is not strong enough. His fate is sealed, and I move to finish the others.
Bullets whiz through me like the firm tap of a finger. There is no injury. Their skin tears as though my fingernails were razors. Warm mist against my face. They fall, gurgling.
I stand, drenched, looking across the landscape of grassy hills and occasional trees. The girl is nowhere in sight, and I’m grateful. Grateful that she kept my lessons, that she moved with speed to keep ahead of these killers, that she will live on…and most of all that she will never see what I have become. No matter that love moved me to remain beyond death, I am an inhuman monster, and I have reveled in my vengeance.
An ache, deep within. I know I have to let her go.
It’s a hard thing to do. Even though I know it is right, that it is correct and natural, it is difficult to let go. But I must. My task is done. Maybe I’ll hear about her again, as a leader, as someone’s wife, as a builder…
And it hits me all at once: I am utterly alone and always will be. My future is to remain in this hunk of meat, roaming, never again being capable of connection or meaningful contact.
I chose this for selfless reasons, I know. I would do it again. And again. And again, and again. So I choose to move among the living, on the edges, catching glimpses of normal lives. If I see evil acts, I can intervene…there is still meaningful work to do.
But how do I camouflage myself? What could I clothe myself in that would allow me to be near people without them ever wanting to get close? So they will keep their distance…
The frock, the starched collar and rosary…
An old stone church seems to call from among the ruins surrounding it. The lock on the oiled oak door is rusty. It breaks easily. The door groans on ancient hinges, and I wonder how long ago anyone entered.
Inside are rows of dusty pews. Yellowed hymnals curl with moldy leaves. The altar is sacked, the stained glass windows long ago shattered. But birds do not roost here. No plants spill over the open sills. It is unbelievably quiet.
I move up to the altar, find a passage to one side, and follow it back to a simple room with peeling white paint. An armoire, a desk, and a bunk are the only furniture. A crucifix still hangs above the headboard.
The armoire is dusty, like the pews, but well-preserved. Inside, a priest’s robe hangs. Polished black leather shoes beneath. A skull cap on a shelf at the top.
I peel the bloody rags I wear and use the cleaner parts to wipe down my not yet rotten skin. When I dress in the priest’s robe, it fits as if tailored. I don the skull cap and it hides my graying hair. The shoes slip perfectly over my feet.
I creep out the way I came, taking care to seal the door quietly behind me. As I walk away, I see an older priest, a bit thick in the middle. He is watching me. We stare at one another, and I know he recognizes what I am.
“It suits you,” he says without judgment or malice, and he waits.
I purse my cracked lips, dip my head in thanks, and steal off into the night.