Weird, Post-Nap Dream

After dinner — an awesome, Hubby-made dinner of pizza campagnola — I wandered back to the bedroom and collapsed on the bed, intending to get just a few minutes of sleep, as I’ve been fighting napping for much of the afternoon.

I think that was about 7pm.

That’s why I’m awake at midnight, finally awake from that nap.  The house is silent with sleep.  And what’s in my head are the images of a dream that’s so weird — a sci-fi dream, a dystopic one.  A political one, at that.  A dream I’ve never had before.

A man — morbidly fat, pale, with long strawberry blond hair, tied back and bound up under his neck to foot black uniform — after he harangues publicly a dissident for disloyalty on one side of the concrete barrier that borders a wide artificial channel, falls head first into the water. 

Instead of drowning, he swims — very much the way lizards swims — towards the other side of the channel.  What is stunning is his back — torn open in shreds, his pale flesh, blood, and beribboned black uniform mixing together, leaving a wavering trail of red behind him as he swims.  Everyone who sees realizes at once that he isn’t bleeding out because of his fat; luckily, these wounds haven’t struck deeply enough into his vital organs, vital nerves, perhaps even muscle.

He makes it to the other side, where another man — very much looking like him — helps him out of the water.  Just a few minutes ago, he made the same journey.  But he — a minor official, compared to the recent “pilgrim” across the water — made no public statements before he hit the water.  And the witnessing public didn’t expect him to live, upon seeing his shredded back.

The dissident who sees this — who has been caught by the security forces, all swathed in head-to-toe black uniform (imagine contemporary combat military gear, but all in black) — is as much surprised as the rest of them, to see two relatively high-powered officials in the very government he has been fighting against, having been punished.

For this shredding of the back is what all disloyals face — a flogging so extreme, it’s a killing action.  And then, like the Romans of old, forced suicide, by drowning.

But, unlike the others who were punished this way, these two men did not drown.  And, unlike the others, these men looked loyal to the end, until they fell into the water, exposing their shredded backs.  Why the show of righteous anger against the dissident, the show of political loyalty to the public, when their very backs marked them forever outcast, dead to the very society in which their words served to protect?

The first man pulls his comrade out of the water.  The weight of the water and the swim itself has unraveled his hair from its tidy bun, and so it streams behind him, the waist-length hair covering his shredded back.  The first man hands the second a pair of goggles, for the other side is horribly bright, unprotected from the increased solar radiation that’s found on the other side of the channel.  The goggles come from a wide concrete column with a metal panel on the side — the panel swings open, revealing several goggles on pegs.

Who put that column there, nobody knows — it certainly wasn’t the present government.  For nobody in the official society maintains anything on the other side.

Both men’s hair have unraveled in the swim, and they are both strawberry blond, their hair now covering their backs, mixing in with the shreds, the torn flesh, the slowly coagulating blood.  They are stunned to be alive, stunned that they even attempted to stay alive, to swim.  Stunned that they are together in this, that one has helped the other.  Stunned of what the hell to do next, because there’s no guideline, no handbook, on surviving this.  And life afterwards.

Looking at them, I ask myself, “Are they brothers?  Or do all of them — the officials in this government — look like this?”  My dreaming self, who is a part of the public witnessing this but who is a stranger in this society, doesn’t know.  And I’m too afraid to ask.

The dissident looks at them and wonders at his emotions.  He had been brought up to view all those in black as the enemy — the cold, powerful ones who don’t give a damn to those not in power, who only view people like himself as mere tools — to be taken care of, sure, as a workman takes care of his tools, but then, once their use is gone, to throw them away, either by neglect or by choice.  Not once did he view the ones in black as truly human.  Biologically human, oh yes, they were.  But psychologically?  No, they were monsters — unempathic beings, only looking out to maintain the status quo, only looking out for themselves.

So to see this — two men, rejected by their very power structure, who still publicly remained loyal to the bitter end, even as they harbored backs shredded, even as the truth of their changed condition would be revealed the very second their bodies started floating in the water, their backs shown for all the world to see.  To see these men punished by those they served.  To see these men still wanting to survive.  To see these men helping each other, seemingly with no motive other than as brothers-at-arms, two against the many.

To see that they are human…

He feels betrayed, not only by the enemy — which surprises him none — but by those he called his friends, his own comrades.  Is the world not just simply black and white?  In keeping the two — those in power, those not — in extreme points of diffidence, did that guarentee that nothing really changed?  Was it a lie, that one group was downtrodden and heroically good, the other powerful and villainously evil, a lie that everybody bought into — a noble lie, as Plato called it?

He feels angry at the two on the other side — but not because they were once part of the black-formed men.  He is angry that they kept silent their own dissident thoughts, for keeping silent until their actions just now, when, outcast and on the other side, they could do nothing to change what’s wrong in their society, having lost power.  And, he is angry, for being left out, for not sharing in their comradery.

He is surprised and dismayed by his jealousy.

I can’t really see this dissident, try as I might.  I know I can physically see him — as does everybody who witnesses this spectacle —  but his image doesn’t stick.  Instead, I’m privy to his thoughts, and this psychic connection seems to cancel out any sense data I have of him.

I can clearly see the men on the other side and vaguely feel their thoughts, although the connections is not as strong as the dissident’s.  They are happy to be alive, happy to drop the ruse they had been living all of their life.  They are scared, but no longer the flight-or-fight fear of imminent death, of a caged animal before torturers who have all the weapons while all they have are unarmed bodies.  Now, now, their fear is the giddiness of being alive, of a life with an uncertain future, and not knowing how to hell to live that life, not even how to start.

All’s changed.  All’s changed.  But they’re not dead.

They look at each other and find joy in that.

They’re not dead.

That’s what I feel from them.  And as I start to wonder, what will happen to the dissident…

I wake up.

And it’s now 1am on Sunday, as I’m finishing typing this, and I’m not even remotely sleepy, as a soundtrack begins to play in my head…

Pearl Jam “Dissident”

She nursed him there, over a night
I wasn’t so sure she wanted him to stay
What to say, what to say
But soon she was down, soon he was low
At a quarter past, a holy no

She had to turn around
When she couldn’t hold, oh, she folded
A dissident is here
Escape is never, the safest path
A dissident, a dissident is here

And to this day, she’s glided on
Always home but so far away
Like a word misplaced
Nothing said, what a waste
When she had contact, with the conflict
There was meaning, but she sold him to the state

She had to turn around
When she couldn’t hold, she folded
A dissident is here
Escape is never, the safest path
A dissident, a dissident is here

She gave him away when she couldn’t hold, no, she folded
A dissident is here
Escape is never, the safest path
A dissident, a dissident is here
Couldn’t hold on, she couldn’t hold, no, she folded
A dissident is here
Escape is never the safest place
A dissident is here

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