Thursday, April 26, 2012
Chapter Thirteen - I’ll let you be in my dream, if I can be in yours (Part One)
I’ll let you be in my dream, if I can be in yours is the 13th chapter in Alistair Ulysses Vogan's novel How To Lose Your Voice Without Screaming
The limousine appeared to glow as it approached the entrance to the parking lot. That was the intention. Though it was late afternoon two spot lights were focused on it as it came around the corner of the lot. A wall of security guards moved across the entrance to hold back the crowds. And at that hour, still 90 minutes before show time, the people had collected. As the shiny vehicle approached, the crowd pushed into the security guards and seemed suddenly to grow in size the way a population of moths might when a porch light is turned on in the middle of the night. The asphalt was like any freshly paved road, the outer walls of the studio were indistinct from those of the skyscrapers around it however when the sparkling polished bumpers appeared and the black tires squeaked as they turned, like a new car pulling into a showroom, breaths were held. It was like a unicorn suddenly materializing in an auto plant, the passage of time took on a new pace. Everything slowed down and seemed to come into focus. So many more colours than before. And then after the car had stopped near the entrance the driver appeared and his white gloved hand touched the door. Like a safe, the door opened and the curled jeweled slipper appeared, and the humble, shy face of Zeak the Sheik, that face seeming to say who are these people? What brings them here? They can’t be here for…?
Seemingly overwhelmed, but then a change comes over his face as he, a determination, quite simply bites the bullet and we see he is the leader of men, able to face adversity. He puts his hands on his hips, drill sergeant-like and takes in the crowd. He is assessing. He nods. They please him. Yes. He is among a chosen group, his look communicates.
Inches from them, he is too ‘in the flesh’ to be real. This is a face that is better known than a parent’s. It’s fictional but it’s real and it’s eyes look out at them. The pupils focus and an unreal sensation hits them that these eyes are focused on them. These eyes seem them. Two realities collide and the crowd is speechless. They’ve been reborn. They may have wet themselves. He’s right there in front of them! They can even make out his chest rising and falling. He breaths too, like them!
Children sense greatness, a greatness that can take them in, raise them up. And suddenly they’re embarrassed by their parents. Women sense their reproductive organs turning on. Mothers and fathers forget about their own children. Children forget about the adults. A child’s view is blocked as an adult, mouth agape, steps in front.
You just want to melt.
Some people are talking at an inappropriate volume, with arms stretch over shoulders, mics in hands.
Zeak looks almost embarrassed by the aggressiveness of it, but then smiles amused as a good one comes to mind. “Yes. Yes!” he says, “I have been madly adored. I am sorry I have. It has been a nuisance. …I should like to have been allowed time to myself now and then!” He rolls his eyes and shakes his head, letting them know that he is complicit in the farce that is television. “I just came out for some fresh air folks! Not for a ‘sound bite’!” But of course he has. Bulbs flash as he looks into the eyes of everyone and somehow reaches into their souls. Though most will be turned away, the journey will have been worth it. He notices a striking young woman, a little too made up, with a little too much décolleté, with a figure enveloped in a black satin dress, a little too tight in all the right places. At least for a children’s television broadcast. She locks eyes with him as he pauses and a nervous twitch strikes the side of her mouth like a jump cut. Zeak glances towards a security guard standing outside the line and the man nods. She swallows hard. He steps forward and whispers to one of the guards. The woman looks anxiously from Zeak to the guards and back to Zeak, her breathing growing shallow and rapid, her destiny in question. Zeak points up at the sky and grins broadly, “What a beautiful day!” The young woman almost faints as the guards part and allow her to pass through, to the other side.
Zeak signs autographs embarrassed and then disappears.
* * *
Kingsley stood beside a dressing table. It was very bright. There were large lights around the large mirror before him – he could see the tungsten filament vibrating - and also lights above him. Voices of people coming and going up and down the hall floated under the closed door, like carbon dioxide. He’d been standing next to the table for some time, uncertain what his next move should be. He was incapable of making a decision somehow. All the activity beyond the door and he was immobile. It seemed to grown in volume antagonistically snuffing out all impetus to action. The clothing he’d come in, the clothing that had shielded his body was folded very neatly in front of him on the table. His pants, next to his shirt, next to his hat, next to, at some distance, his socks. Kingsley, in fact, was folded neatly on the table before him. The who that was looking was another he.
Kingsley imagined his life as existing on a film reel and began to rewind it slowly, surreptitiously, then with growing momentum quicker and quicker. He was walking backwards through hallways doors opening and shutting, people were smiling and greeting him in reverse and then he was traveling down an elevator, drifting through a lobby and directing his ass into the opening door of an old limosine and zipping through streets watching the building disappear around a corner. He was waking up. Darkness. Going to sleep with his fingers in his ears. Turning off the light. Getting into pajamas. Smiling as he polishes the new, large washing machine. Pushing it into place. Pulling out the key on the front door of the Laundromat. He’s forty, thirty, twenty. He’s smiling, lying next to a woman in a large bed by an open window. He’s getting out of the army. He’s standing in formation, saluting his commanding officer. Putting cereal to his mouth. He’s eight, holding on to the top of a pine tree, high in the air, and it’s drifting back and forth, a giant pendulum moving in slo mo. The air fresh and cool and blowing around him and in the distance he can see another boy running through the field. He turns and waves, and disappears. He’s lying in bed, in flannel pajama bottoms. He’s sweating. To his right is Michael, twelve-years old, mouth open slightly, with his right arm pinned behind the back of his head. He sees the hair beginning to sprout in his brother’s armpit. He lies back and examines his own armpits, but there is nothing there. It’s just a cavity beneath his shoulder. He looks at his brother’s arms, then his own. His are so thin. He flexes his twig-like arms then runs his hands over his belly, feeling the muscles beneath the skin. He squeezes his gut, his nose crinkles and his eyes bulge. He can easily make out the rising and falling pattern of muscles, so small and insignificant. He falls back into the bed and stares up at the ceiling. He imagines being a man, driving a racecar. He jerks the steering wheel to the right and left. Suddenly the car spins and flips over into a ditch and burst into flames. The spectators jump to their feet. There is screaming. Men carry a canvas stretcher across the asphalt and run towards the racecar. An explosion sends a mushroom cloud rising into the air. Andrea Philips, eight-years old, a beautiful little girl stands up with a white hanky, tears stream down her face. “Nooooo.” There’s a terrible silence, though, miraculously, Kingsley pulls himself out of the tangled wreckage. He’s okay! Someone pats out the flames climbing up his back. He barely notices. The crowd jumps to its feet, goes crazy. Flashbulbs explode and Andrea breaks from her parents, runs down the steps and stops at the side of the road. “Kingsley Kingsley! I’M OVER HERE!” Kingsley looks up, searches the stands and there she is, waving. There’s a ribbon in her hair. The ribbon he said he liked. He jogs out of the ditch, up to the side of the road and rips off his helmet. Nothing can keep them apart. He smiles and waves as more bulbs flash and group of reporters run up to him. He brushes them aside, looks up the track, and waits for a line of racecars to pass. He puts a hand up, in control, telling her to wait. It’s dangerous. He sees her wave, then freeze and slowly drop her arms. Something’s wrong. She looks like she’s just tasted earwax. Is he injured and doesn’t realize it. He looks at his hand, checks his shoulders and arms. He feels his face and senses the puffiness around the eyes, the chin disappearing, the need for a shave. His hairy stomach protrudes, making it difficult for him to see his knees. …He is a grown man, past his prime. He will never get into a racecar. All that is left is insult, and injury.
The door opened and Carol entered. “Ding dong! Wow. You look super!”
There was person in front of him. They locked eyes. It was a man. He too was middle aged, appeared to be melting. He stood in the middle of a room, looking like someone, like his mother but heavy-set, and with a mustache. That person wore chaps and a checkered shirt, and cowboy boots. The chaps were red, and fluffy and enlarged the appearance of his thighs, shrunk his waist, the shirt was gingham, the cowboy boots shiny and black. Around the neck, tied at an angle, was a bandana. It was white and starched. There were holsters, holstering large toy pistols. That mustache, he realized, was painted with greasepaint. As were the long sideburns... Kingsley turned his head to the left and right slowly and, was somehow surprised, when his reflection did the same.
This was NOT his life. This was someone else’s. It wasn’t meant to be this way, though, he didn’t know how it was supposed to be. Even the Laundromat seemed a different universe. Where was he supposed to be? Where was home? Where was his ‘safe place’?
He is in a hallway now. Floating. Behind a small woman with a clipboard. He is an oil tanker pulled by a tiny tugboat. The waves lap against his sides as he passes open doors where people stand like skyscrapers looking on as if he were a large inflated version of himself in a parade. Face after face. They are smiling. Their mouths open and close in slow motion but he can’t understand. The doors disappear and so do the walls, into a blackness. He feels a slaps against his back and voices of encouragement. He looks back but no-one is there. No one is anywhere. He is alone, in a void. There are voices, music, sounds, but he doesn’t understand from where they emanate. He senses a filament before him separating one dimension from another. He will pass into this. It may be inches from him or several feet in the distance. He’s standing on a large white ‘X’ taped to the surface on which he stands. He knows he should never leave this spot. Ever. A voice has told him this.
“Ladies and gentlemen” Boys and girls ...The Hindu everyone, and I mean EVERYONE'S talking about...the raja that's all the rage... Zeak the Sheik!!!!” a disembodied male voice told him. People somewhere began to scream. Something happened, was happening. Something was happening right in front of him, seemingly feet away from him, but he was unable to see it. The screaming continued. They were screaming the man’s name. Zeak the Sheik was somewhere, close, in the other dimension. He was hurt. He’d been attacked, or was being attacked, perhaps by a large animal, and they were witnessing it. Impotent, Kingsley’s face contorted with anxiety. Was he next?
“Excuse me. Mr. Kuchner ?” Carol, glowing before him, smiled. He looked at her horrified. She was inhuman. Her smile brightened and he noticed the large, very large book she held extend towards him. Despite the obvious weight of the tome nothing in her face or movement of her arm suggested strain. She wasn’t human, he thought. She can’t be. Carol corrected herself, “I mean Cowboy Kingsley…” She smiled. “Here’s your ‘Bible’. If you’re lost, everything you need is in there.” He took the book and watched it rise above his head against his will as the screaming died down and the Zeak the Sheik television theme song began to play. “You look really fantastic,” she whispered enthusiastic. “I really hope this works out,” she said cryptically. He looked down at himself and saw that person, the cowboy, again. “…Just relax. You’ll be more than fine. Have fun!”
Kingsley stared at her and was unable to operate his mouth, as if he was attempting to control it using a remote control with dying batteries. “Oh God yeah,” she said then looked past him and he followed her gaze. It was then that the walls of the black void parted and an unbelievably bright vision appeared only fifteen feet away. He could, miraculously, see into the other dimension. Zeak the Sheik stood beside a carpet hovering several feet in the air. He looked unharmed after all. In fact, he was playing a flute, and sneering visibly. Kingsley watched and listened and noticed that the melody seemed to come from the right above him in the distance. In front of Zeak from the opening of a large wicker basket a snake rose stiffly. Kingsley watched without blinking, was amazed. Would the snake attack Zeak? Kingsley reminded himself that he knew it wouldn’t. Zeak closed his eyes as if he might fall asleep then opened them impatiently and dropped the flute to his side petulantly. Carol eyes widened, swearing under her breath, and she yanked at the void revealing another opening and, in the distance, a man in a dimly lit rectangle hovering in space who was struggling to reach for something. The man hit something and the music stopped. The man fell back into his chair and wiped his brow, and the snake descended uncharacteristically into the basket as if it had been shot. Zeak had stepped forward and was smiling from ear to ear to show that he was a professional, that the show must go on. That smile. It was infectious, thought Kingsley, smiling. He lowered the book, gradually losing himself in the production, forgetting he was wearing a cowboy suit.
“Hey hey kids!”
“Hey hey Zeak!” Kingsley heard children and adults scream. It was like they were right there. “Today we have something very very,” and as he continued his voice lowered and took on a sickening quality,” very very very very veeeeery special for you. Now.”
Carol glanced back at Kingsley then talked into her hand, “I know that. I can see he’s gone off script.” She swallowed tensely, watching.
“One thing I have learned in my travels, my adventures, is that there is always a curve ball.” He smiled and looked among the faces of his audience. “One you didn’t expect, one that reminds you that despite all your efforts to do your best, to make the world a better place, to be in control, to please all those around you as selflessly as you try, like washing the dishes, or doing your homework, or being nice to your little brother or sister…”
“Oh fuck…” Carol said hideously with her lower lip pulled beneath her teeth, exposing her gums.
Zeak the Sheik began to relax, seeming almost carefree the way suicidal person might once they’ve finally committed to the actual day, time and method of their demise. “the empire you built, created by your genius, your heart and soul, and those people who depend on you, the vulnerable, whose mission it has been to raise them up, to their children, the next generation, a better life… well, after all of this the outcome is not always you possessing full control of your life, or a reward of any kind for your efforts. Know that!” he said pointedly and paused for effect. “And you realize, it’s all just an illusion!” He gestured to someone in the audience smiling gleefully, “You’re really just a prisoner. …This is one of those life lessons.” He grinned gleefully, his chin raised, his dark eyes gleaming. There was silence. He pulled up his sleeves to show more of his darkened skin then raised his framed his face with the back of his hands and smiles obsequiously, “I am the ‘other’, at your service.” And then he bowed.
From up on high somewhere the sound of a crash and snare drum could be heard dryly and then an upbeat rendition of the The Fabulous Zeak the Sheik Show theme song began.
Zeak cocked his head to the right looking up to the AV booth. Kinglsey saw the man in the dimly illuminated rectangle hovering above reflexively slap something before him and the music stopped. The man slid to the back of his rectangle with his hands raised as if he were being held up in an underground garage.
Kingsley nodded and suddenly wondered where he was supposed to be right then. He reached his hand out into the black void a thick material. He pulled up the material and found the end. From there, he began to fold absent-mindedly… Everything he knew and understood was absent from his awareness.
Zeak looked over and saw Kingsley’s feet appearing beneath the curtain, powerfully indifferent to his words. A slap in the face.
“Now. I would like you to look deep inside yourselves and find your friendly spot for my new very very VERY best friend…”
The curtain stopped at Kingsley’s waist, exposing the shining black cowboy boots, white faux lamb’s wool chaps and the holsters.
From where Kingsley stood, a terrifying realization, a seemingly improbable possibility was dawning on him. Zeak’s face was turned in such a way that he could see both his eyes. They didn’t appear to be looking above or below him, not to the right or left of Kingsley… He felt his throat closing up, as if he’d been stung by a killer bee from African, as large as a guinea pig. Kingsley dropped the folded curtain and it descended in a serious of parallelograms. He touched the chaps, the holster, felt the crisp bandana around his neck. Something in his pocket seemed to be cutting into his thigh. He could feel Carol’s hands, then the hands of others placed firmly on his back, forcing him forward at angle or two. From there he could see the pattern of teeth and shining orbs against the darkness. He reached into the pocket and pulled out the photograph of his family. He turned away from the light stiffly and studied it. He was wearing the same clothing. He was a cowboys. They were a cowboy. He felt like a child. He looked at the photo again and saw the older brother, the Indian costume, then Zeak the Sheik beneath the lights, gesturing with one hand, to Kingsley, beckoning.
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We would like to gratefully acknowledge assistance provided by:
Sir William Newman
editors and story consultants at The Ivan Von Noshrilgram Foundation, Antarctica.)
Copyright 2000 (Alistair Avery Vogan / the Von Noshrilgram Foundation)