the strangerhood (out of order)

                         *long unfinished, on-going, out of order, stream of consciousness piece*



I had a dream in which my sexual organ had been twisted and mangled. Beyond

recognition, the thing limply dangling between my two meaty pockmarked thighs, it

seemed to have been caught in the mad clutches of some diabolical machine—pulled and

poked and kneaded till any resemblance to the manhood it once had represented was

drained of the vessels and veins now broken and abbreviated along its unsightly girth. In just knowing that my manhood had been disfigured to such an extent—to the point that my very purpose as a living breathing male animal had been negated—I remember having felt a curious species of shame. Why, I couldn’t say. Certainly it was not my fault—not my doing. Where the dream had conjured itself into the echo chamber of my unconscious brain, the obligatory question of why and how had in effect been left without answer. More than that, those questions had not been birthed to start with. A question without an answer is one thing, but a question not asked in the first place is another; the answer therefore without precedent to manifest itself, the plain fact of my mangled and battered organ had become a certain reality—a grisly truth—and not a mystery to be solved. What I remember from this dream without a beginning—this unanswered question without a precedent to ask it—had stood a towering monolith in my slowly rousting cognition; as I awoke, the reality of the dream had lodged itself into my conscious thought.

As I rolled out of bed and made my way to the bathroom, the consequence of the dream had not only stayed legible and relevant to my conscious brain, but had instilled a certain unease in my bowels. This was not the first time I could recall an incident of culpability for my own dreams, but it was the first I could claim a physical unease for the events unfolding beneath the fog. As I recalled, I had gone to take a BM. Silly, stupid, and completely foolishly, I did glance down at my organ before taking my seat on the cold early morning porcelain. It was fine. Healthy. Plump, uncircumcised and the same as always. The nightmare machine responsible for its disfigurement had broken down, rusted, disassembled and thrown out for scrap. I could breath easy knowing the real truth. Whatever horrible thing had happened to my penis, I knew, was not a threat here in the linoleum confines of my private bath. While the consequence of dreams had begun to settle and fade into short-term memory, a knock came suddenly from the door beyond my porcelain throne. I checked my watch. 7:15. AM. I wiped and flushed, foregoing washing my hands, and went to the door.

“Who is it?” I asked from my side of the peephole.

“__ Police” The woman on the other side, distorted and bulbous with the funhouse mirror effect a peephole has on the human figure, was dressed plain.

“Just a moment, please.” I had no thought to question the lady officer’s credentials. Had she not been a lady and instead a man, I suppose, I might’ve thought twice on this. I scrambled to find and pull on a reasonably clean pair of pants. “What seems to be the trouble, ma’am?”

“No trouble, Mr. __” I had pulled the door open and slid the chain from the lock. She stood there, a female no doubt, in plain clothes and now decidedly more appropriately shaped without the distorted lens of the circular peephole framing her body. “We got a call.” With that it was evident she meant to say no more.

“What kind of a call? Can I help you somehow?”

“Noise disturbance,” she said, looking around and surveying the space around me. Her hair was auburn, swept over one shoulder and over her ears. Her clothes were freshly pressed; her sleeves pushed up to the elbows, her blouse tucked into the waist of her smart black pants. Crocodile shoes, with pointy toes. “A neighbor claims to have heard some unsettling noise coming from your place.”

“Unsettling?” Without my belt, the slacks I’d thrown on had begun now to slide down. As I clutched at the waist and adjusted myself, I turned over in my mind the peculiar choice of adjective this female officer had used to describe an apparent nocturnal offense. Whatever this unsettling noise had consisted of, I immediately knew from where it had come. My feeling of culpability had proved at this strange event to be built upon a solid framework. And whether the image of my mangled organ had spawned this real-world noise of unsettling proportions or the other way round, an all too real and factual thread of cause and effect—spanning the world of dreams and that of reality—had just come knocking on my door. “I’m sorry…” I said, grasping for the words not only to express the answer, but to ask the proverbial unasked question…

“She claims to have heard some distressing sounds coming from your room. It woke her up.” The lady officer gave me a look, as if she expected me to say something. For the moment, I was out of words. “We came to check it out. Do you mind if I take a look around?” Without waiting for my answer, she went ahead and began poking about in my kitchenette.

“I’m sorry, officer…”

“__” she said. A pretty name, I thought.

“…I’m sorry officer,” I continued, “but I think I can explain. I think I must have been talking in my sleep. I think I must have been dreaming.” Somehow embarrassed, I could not look her in the eye. No matter, anyway; she had no interest in my eye. Her attention was casually though intently focused on my things. Picking them up, these things; putting them down; pushing them aside and peering around the larger things that couldn’t be picked up. She seemed thoroughly focused on making these rounds; of checking things out and not expecting at all to find any of them incriminating. As if she’d done this a thousand times before—and probably she had—and the discovery of something—anything—incriminating among all these innocent things would be cause for nothing less than a celebration. I could rest easy, at least. She would not find anything criminal among my things. At least I hoped. At this point, the burden of dreams had begun again to press boorishly against my conscious logic.

With her auburn hair swept over her shoulder, her blouse unbuttoned a button or two below the line of her neck, she rested her left hand on her hip. Brushed a strand of her auburn hair from her forehead and turned around to face me. “We get these calls from time to time.” She scratched her nose and pursed her lips just a little, like she had needed to sneeze. “Believe it or not, a lot of violent crime can happen during one’s sleep.”

“No kidding,” I said.

“Sleepwalking is more common than you’d think. And often walking is not all a sleepwalker does. Sleepwalkers can eat. Motor function in these cases is perfectly uninhibited, but of course the sleepwalker himself is not aware of what he’s doing. People eat all kinds of things in their sleep; batteries, thumb tacks, tin foil.” She said this from behind my refrigerator door, bending over with her head concealed inside the box and her left hand still resting on her hip. I thought for a moment maybe to offer her a glass of orange juice. “Sleep eating is common,” she went on, standing erect and proceeding to my bedroom. “Occasionally, a sleepwalker can act out his dreams…and this is where people can get hurt.” She looked at me, for the first time dead in the eye. I looked away. “The range of motor activity a sleepwalker can engage in would surprise you. I’ve had cases where people get up and go for a drive. Usually, to a place they know well, like their place of work, or a friend or girlfriend’s home. Anything that’s stored in the conscious brain that well and that frequently can be accessed by the unconscious brain without any trouble at all.”

“How do people get hurt, then?”

Now examining the contents of my dresser drawers, she answered matter-of-factly. “People can reveal things about themselves. Things usually suppressed by the active brain. A feeling of resentment in waking life towards another can be acted upon. A grudge not acted on in waking hours can carry over to the unconscious mind. Dreams give precedent. A time, a place. A pretext. When someone’s sleep is disturbed in this way, the act of dreaming can be the backdrop in which to act out these suppressed emotions.” I had a flash of urgency in my gut as she opened up my underwear drawer. “Of course, this kind of unconscious aggression is not often without conscious precedent. Mental illness is a common finding in those who commit nocturnal crimes. Along with an enormous sleep debt, it can be a bomb just waiting to go off.” She shut my underwear drawer without a second look, and my rectal muscles went at ease as I remembered I’d recently stocked my porn collection in another dark corner somewhere anyway. “Not that any of this relates to you, Mr. __. It looks like your neighbor is just a light sleeper.” Relieved again, it looked as if her lecture on nocturnal crime had come out of nothing more consequential than an idle boredom with routine. She came my way again and let slip the very slightest of a friendly smile. “You might want to try masturbating before bed on occasion. Nocturnal emissions are the body’s way of telling a man he needs to release.”

With that, my face had flushed crimson with every last drop of blood in my body. My penis stirred in my slacks just hearing a woman say such a thing to me under such peculiar circumstances. I couldn’t conjure the power of speech even to say goodbye as she headed for the door. With my decidedly un-mangled organ swaying and slowly stiffening beneath a thin layer of khaki, the burden of dreaming had come to the fore of my attention.

Sitting now in the office of some nightmare surgeon just itching to harvest my appendix, the consequence of this bizarre dream had bored a new and fertile hole in the apex of my conscious thought. What was it I’d meant to recover by remembering this lost episode from the murky ocean of lost memories? I could only think, now, that it was a warning. Something my unconscious had seen appropriate to remember in this time—where I now stood at the intersection of dream and plain reality—something that regardless of reality or illusion spoke a certain and decisive truth. A premonition. I had to escape. The Strangerhood with no zip code and the rabbit hole with no bottom. I thought of The Woman and thought of her plastic smile. My wallet with three separate yet singular identities had begun to glow red hot in the seat of my pants, and I jumped up. Removing it best I could without singeing my fingers, it fell smoking and boiling to the ground. My rear was smoldering now with the heat of the thing. Bending over to flip the croc-skin wallet open with the tip of a number two pencil, I felt the change come over me, and Douglass Bedham came bubbling to the surface.

I heard footsteps. In the brain fog of sudden identity change, I couldn’t quite tell where I was. As the footsteps echoed closer and closer, I positioned myself flat against the corner adjacent the hallway. With the increased volume of each step, my muscles tensed, and before I knew what had happened or who I was, there laid Ducky, a freshly sharpened number two pencil jabbed violently into his ear hole. A pool of syrupy blood formulating around his fat, pumpkin-like head, my wallet burst into white flames across the room. In vain, I attempted to extinguish the odd conflagration. But the licks of white fire would not be satiated. This spontaneous wallet combustion was apparently a part of the plan. And the bleeding man on the floor a few feet away. I had come this far, underground, in a vague attempt to edge ever closer to the psychological split-ego stalking my every move. Apparently, this was a part of the plan. Who’s plan, I couldn’t know. Either way, I would have to now dispose of this obese body and figure a way out of this doctor’s office. With the Paper Man somewhere entrenched in the madness alongside me, I supposed I could use him to advance further than I might alone. I thought about my twisted organ. I thought about the culpability for my nocturnal crimes—about the consequence. I thought about the best way to move a 400 pound man with blood gushing from a punctured eardrum, and where to stash the mammoth body. I thought about The Woman, and her beautiful auburn hair.




Before I knew it, a few additional bodies had accumulated on the eggshell linoleum floor. Different points of entry and each entrance punctured similarly. I had turned the number two pencil of some file clerk into an instrument of graphite death. The killing surely wasn’t necessary. But the unshakeable feeling of delusion could easily account for a perhaps more than a tad of bloodlust. As I’d reflected upon earlier, there certainly was a burden of dreams, and that burden would reveal itself to my conscious brain if and when it chose…but for now, the nightmare scenario of my subterranean abduction had all but disarmed any thought or trace of moral compunction. In my logical mind, knowing that dreams are dreams and cannot be directly held in contempt of the dreamer upon waking, it seemed not a big deal to kill a man. The burden, or the consequence, in whatever form or permutation it might assume, would have to come second. Was I killing in cold blood? Or was I simply striking down phantom neuroses birthed of my own entropic mind? Well…who cares?

The Paper Man from Decatur had crept up on me much to his own hazard; my trusty, bloody No.2 came this close to fatally jabbing a new hole in his head additional the god-given five. “Jesus fuck, buddy!” His hands raised up in a defensive semaphore. “It’s me, old buddy,” he said, straightening his disheveled necktie. When exactly had we become ‘old buddies’, I wondered. Holstering this deadly No.2 behind my right ear, he slowly morphed into the bad posture of a question mark I’d come to expect from the man. Never mind his necktie…the man looked disheveled himself. Eyes puffy. Hair stringy, and oily. The neat and dapper traveling huckster had become before my very eyes an even more pitiful sight; a man with the fear in him, as if he’d seen things that compromised his very canny nature. His ignorantly blissful demeanor had become grave and stoic; obviously spooked by some horribly spooky thing, I supposed, this was the result of a very domestic man rung through the machinery of somebody else’s nightmare. I had increasingly come to think in terms of nightmares. Was it a mistake to think this paper anthropologist/salesman from Decatur was an outsider pulled under by the nightmare? Or less mistaken maybe that he was part and parcel of it, and I might as well stab him in the eye to make my own bleed? Seeing a particular characteristic naivety in this man, the Freudian thought of singularity in the world of dreams had flitted by, and just as easily I managed to forget it. Whether I’d been killing in cold blood manifestations of myself or those of some monolithic power beyond my sense and understanding, still I was a haggard mess trying to find an exit. Brushing the stringy hair from his forehead, perspiration beading up like sap from a rotting oak, the Paper Man reminded me not to dwell on the dead ends of philosophy. “We gotta go,” he said, an uncharacteristic quiver in his voice. A leech, maybe, and a carnie, certainly; but this man was no coward. The two liabilities of character often are confused, but I couldn’t say that one necessarily was co-morbid to the other.

“What have you seen?” I asked him, keeping my bloody palms in plain sight.

“We gotta go,” he repeated.

Fair enough. We could compare notes later. For now, the panic in this characteristically boorish man’s flushed cheeks was enough to convince urgency.





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