Several chapters of Hallucinabulia are devoted to nightmare clusters I had from 1994 to 1997. Those dreams are the worst I've ever experienced.
The nightmare below didn't upset me that much. It wasn't fun, but it didn't leave me gasping for breath. It didn't produce an emotional hangover that ruined my whole day. I'm not experiencing the best of times right now, personally or professionally, so I'm back to my old tricks. If I have four or five nightmares in a row, I'll know I'm in another cluster.
That's okay. It's all material for future art projects.
August 22, 2013
Tim and I were in the TV room of his house in the middle of the day. I lay on the sofa, and Tim sat in an armchair. Dad came in through one of the back doors, carrying an electric reciprocating power saw. He wore his tan coveralls with short sleeves. I was surprised to see him, since he's dead.
“I gotta cut off your right hand, Tom,” he said.
“What? Why?” I asked.
“It’s diseased. If we don’t get it off, it’s gonna kill you.” He stooped and plugged in the saw at one of the wall outlets.
He was crazy. “You’re going to cut it off with that saw? That’ll hurt like hell.”
“No it won’t,” he said. “I injected you with an anesthetic. You won’t feel it.”
“You did no such thing!” I shouted. “I can still feel everything! What are you talking about anyway? My hand isn’t diseased!”
Moving so quickly that he was a blur, he dashed toward me, pulled me off the sofa, threw me on my back, and knelt on my right forearm. He was as strong as he’d been when I was little, and I was as powerless. I whipped my head around, looking for Tim, but he was gone. Dad turned on the saw and began cutting off my right hand about four inches below the wrist. I lost interest.
The blade sliced through the skin, severed the tendons, and bit into the bone with a sort of wet screech. It didn’t hurt at all. I was reminded of how in Chinese cuisine, texture is as important as flavor; having my hand amputated made me hungry. Dad had the slight smile he wore when he did manual labor, his favorite activity. My hand stood upright and then fell off. When it hit the carpet, I heard the ascending dissonance of an orchestra tuning up. It lasted for only two or three seconds.
Then I was alone in the living room, still lying on my back. Feeling calm and slightly bored, I got up and inspected the stump of my right arm. Tatters of skin and muscle hung from it, and my detached hand clenched and unclenched on the rug. It looked ancient and cobwebby, blanketed in dust bunnies. Neither my stump nor the hand bled. By the time the hand stopped moving, it appeared to be made of light gray marble, as though it had been cut off of a statue.
I went out on the back porch, where it was night; it remained daytime in the house. Three black leopards were stretched out on the green-painted cement in front of the laundry room. They were covered with black kittens and adult cats that nibbled on the leopards’ skin, pulling it up into little tents. I recognized our late cat Syd the Second, a feral who'd adopted us, lived with us a year, and died on August 22. 2011.
“Don’t do that, Syd!” I said. “You’re going to make them angry, and they’ll kill you! Remember what a good cat you turned into before you died? Don’t die again! Please! It’d be a waste of all your effort!”
Syd stopped, peered at me, and then went back to biting the leopard, which raised its upper lip and silently showed its huge fangs. I had no idea what to do. If I moved forward, the leopard would turn into a slashing blur like my father and murder Syd. And because I had only one hand, I couldn’t pick up Syd anyway. Even after he became tame, he hated being picked up unless you used both hands to hold him firmly and reassure him that you wouldn’t let him fall. He was doomed.
A little Mexican girl of about ten appeared beside me. She wore her hair in two braids that framed her chubby cheeks. Her white dress was intricately embroidered in red, and she had a burnt-orange serape draped over her shoulders.
“We have to get out of here!” I said. “These leopards are dangerous! They’re going to attack us!”
She regarded me gravely with her dark eyes and then glanced to her right, where a man wearing a cheap chimpanzee suit stood. It had long black fur with two broad, white stripes that ran down the sides from armpit to feet. His plastic monkey mask was held on with a rubber band. He suddenly sprinted toward the gate that led to the alley, moving in a bowlegged, swaying gibbon-rush, his arms forming a heart shape over his head.
“We must follow him,” the little girl said. “He will take us to where we can be free.”
“No he won’t!” I said. “He’s not a real chimpanzee. It’s just some guy in a suit and a plastic mask! Look, you can see the back of his head! He’s a fake!”
The girl stared at me and then went after the man in the chimp suit. Worried that he’d do something terrible to her, I followed. The phony chimp threw open the wooden back gate that led to the alley.
Outside was a sunny, green valley, with thousands of people marching down toward a river at the bottom. The man in the chimp suit turned and beckoned, and the girl joined him, taking his hand. I hesitated. Everyone around me was deluded. They couldn’t see that it was all a fraud. If I tried to tell them, they’d ignore me the way Syd and the little girl had.
That didn’t mean I had to go with them. I stood on the mountain and watched as hand in hand, the man in the chimp suit and the little girl headed for the river with thousands of others.
Though I felt bad for them, there was nothing I could do.