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    « The Things in My Apartment: Week Nine | Main | The Things in My Apartment: Week Seven »

    The Things In My Apartment: Week Eight

    The Dream Players


    Readers of this column may have picked up that I am prone to nightmares.

    I recently had a dream in which my sister had joined a dangerous cult.  I don’t actually have a sister, but in my dream I was quite upset to learn that she had fallen in with this crowd.

    She and her new family were trying to indoctrinate me.

    The cult was founded upon a fanatic (but vaguely defined) conviction regarding the true purposes of our internal organs.  New members had to renounce the heretical ways in which they had used their organs so far, and promise to do better in the future.

    And if an inductee hadn’t already had his appendix removed, he was to lose it on a sacrificial-looking altar, without the benefit of anesthesia.

    In real life, I have already had my appendix removed.  In my dream, it turned out I still had three appendices left in me.  One of them would have to be gotten at through my genitals.

    I vehemently refused, and I told everyone in the cult, including my dear sister, that they were horribly disturbed and needed to be locked up.  “You’re all sick!” I dreamed myself screaming.  At this, everyone pulled back from me in awe.  It had been prophesied by the cult’s founder that a day would come when someone would tell the cult members that they “were all sick,” and that this person would be their new leader.

    This prophecy had already been fulfilled twenty-three times.  Each time it happened, the cult’s faith in itself was strengthened.

    In addition to the bit with the appendix, every new leader had to have all their glands removed too.  I was forced onto the sacrificial alter and stripped naked.  My sister was selected to remove my insides.  Before making the first cut, she had to recite to the opening prayer.  Somewhere in the middle of this ghastly speech, a look of horror came over her face, as if she had come to a dreadful realization.

    “Dammit,” she whispered.  “Line!”

    Another cult member whispered the next horrible line.  After that, my sister had no trouble finishing the opening prayer and she proceeded to cut me to ribbons and fish out my glands and three appendices.  The blare of my alarm clock did not come until it was far, far too late.


    The next day at work was pretty rough.   What really nagged at me was that my dream-sister had forgotten what to say.  Stranger things had happened in my dreams, to be sure, but this had really jarred.  It was just so sloppy.  If my dreams were going to put me through such horrific scenarios, I thought to myself, then they had better also put in the work of maintaining the illusion.

    When I got home that evening, I was about ready to crash.  I kicked off my shoes, without putting them away, and fell onto my bed, fully clothed.  As I flitted in and out of consciousness, I heard the murmurs of a tense conversation.  Was it my roommates?  The neighbors?  Only a small portion of my beleaguered brain had any interest in the matter, and I was about to doze off for the night when I made out the phrases “Not yet!” and  “We’re not ready!”

    My eyes burst open.  Everything was silent now - awkwardly silent – but that last phrase had definitely come from inside my closet.

    I rolled off the bed, back onto my feet.

    There are many things in my closet that I never use.  One of these is a chess set.  I don’t play chess – a great disappointment to my father, who gave me the set when I was eight.

    There is a danger in keeping things you don’t intend to use again.

    No noise was coming from the chess set, and it made no movement.  But my childhood possession suddenly had a furtive look about it. This, I knew, was where the voices had come from.

    I opened it up.  There were no longer any chess pieces inside.

    Instead, there were some mortified looking little actors.

    Garishly made up and absurdly dressed, they looked like they had been rehearsing a ghoulish Elizabethan comedy.  Doll-sized tights, corsets and codpieces were piled in one corner of the box, as well as a cat-and-nine-tails and several infinitesimal thumbscrews. The tiny actors were all staring up at me, frozen in fear. The tallest of them sported a long, ornate walking stick, and an immodest goatee.  He was the first to snap out of his terror, and he made a deep, ingratiating bow in my direction.

    “A thousand pardons, Master Shame!” he intoned, grandly.  “We were not aware of your return.  Tonight’s performance is still in rehearsal, and if your worship would agree to keep himself conscious for the next three hours, we can promise the finest entertainments ever to be enacted upon your worship’s brain.”

    I found it impossible to hide my disgust.  “You people are in charge of my dreams?”

    The lead player bowed again, taking my disgust in his stride.  “It is, indeed, our undeserved honor to hold this lofty commission, and your subconscious patronage is the continued envy of all our rivals.  As I said, if you would deign to stay awake for just a while longer - ”

    “One of you screwed up last night,” I snapped.

    The lead player tightened his lips briefly, before restoring his unctuous grin.  “That was Donald, I’m afraid.”

    One of the company, a pretty young man in a bright yellow corset, blushed and looked down at the floor.  I recognized him as my fake, bloodthirsty sister.

    “He has received hard words, and a decrease in wages, Master Shame,” said the lead player.  “With your indulgence, he will redeem himself this very night, as will we all.”

    These gaudy fops were bringing out my nasty streak.  “Your play doesn’t look like it’s up to much, judging by the crappy costumes.”

    “It will look better once we’ve crawled through your ear.”

    “Once you’ve what through my what?”

    “Nothing!  These, um, these are just our rehearsals clothes.  The real costumes will arrive later tonight.  Just stay awake a little while longer.  Please.”

    “Why do you talentless hacks keep giving me nightmares?” I demanded of them.  “Don’t you know any peaceful dreams?”

    The lead player pushed out his chest with wounded pride.  “We are tragedians, sir!”

    “You’re melodramatic hams is what you are,” I said, pointing my finger at him like a cannon.  “What the hell was that business last night, cutting through my nut sack to get at my third appendix?  You clowns are sick!”

    All pretense of reverence drained out of the lead player’s face.  “We don’t write the scripts, sir,” he said, dryly.  “They are, rather, delivered to us  - every day.  Each one more depraved and chaotic than the last.  It is all we can do to learn and rehearse them before the next night comes.  If any of us fails again in our efforts to faithfully execute these perverse hallucinations, perhaps your worship could ask his subconscious to take a little break.  Or seek professional help.”

    Words abandoned me after that.  I muttered some feeble apology for interrupting their rehearsal, and then quickly closed the box.

    Occasionally, the actors still a miss a line or an entrance.  I pretend I haven’t noticed, and let them get on with the show.

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