IN THIS LONELY ROOM, spidered with ghosts who talk to me with their faint music, over the floor, the walls, up and out the tiny windows, I feel their breath in the damp air.
Tonight I will not sleep, nor tomorrow nor the day after. I’ll make myself crazy, to dream crazy dreams to write down and sell for my life. I do want to live. Because of the surprises. Because of the possibility of surprises, the inevitability of surprises. Even in this cell with no one to talk to, to listen to. Even without my oak tree to sit under, alone, or not alone. I’ll hoard my thoughts to burst out on the last day, the day I slip the last story under the door for them to take away, whoever put me here, whoever buys and sells my dreams, my nightmares. I sit in this dark corner with my eyes open, and wait.
If I stop dreaming I die. If I die I won’t know anything. I won’t dream or suffer or see the sunlight blasting through the little slits of windows, or feel the cool air, breathe it. I won’t be able to breathe. And I will never get out of here. When you die you are trapped in the last dream you had, forever.
The Blue Cube is there all the time. Even in my dreams. Even in my nightmares. I see it in the back of my mind, at the top of the back of my head. The pulsing Blue Cube, like a Ping Pong ball hooked up to a machine that always perfectly hits its paddle. If it stops, I die. If the sixty cycle hum stops, I’m dead. How long can you live when your dreams stop?
I WAKE UP DIZZY. There is no sound, no heartbeat, no pulse. No breath comes. I hold my hand in front of my mouth and blow out. Nothing. Can you move when you’re dead? Am I a walking dead person? I remember going to the movies every Friday night with my gramma when I was a kid and I remember “The Night Of The Zombies.” I pinch myself, it hurts.
I lie in wait for I don’t know how long, listening to the silent thoughts inside my head. I take my pulse again. Nothing.
Sshhh…I think I hear something. Sshhh…I hear it, a faint flashing sound, louder, louder, louder. Now the familiar white light dimly comes into the back of my head. Now I see the outline, the faint blue, clearer, louder, brighter. I hear my pulsing heart. I’m not dead.
Somebody is sweeping the sidewalk outside, somewhere in back of me, several yards away. Sweeping away leaves? Or dirt that somebody tracked into the house? Is there a house there? No children, no noise of children screaming and laughing, crying…
The sweeping stops. Starts with the exact same rhythm and intensity, faster, faster. Stops. A car drives by, a jet flies off to the right. No birds sing.
The sweeping starts again, long arcs, finishing up. Sometimes I used to sweep the porch for my gramma when I was a kid. And afterwards I’d climb up in my oak tree for a reward. A small plane whines high up, drops fast, it’s passing very near, softens into the distance. Gone. A vacuum starts over where the sweeping sounds were coming from. Must be cleaning up the very last dust the broom missed. Must be a porch on a house. Was it a woman, a grandmother? Sounded like a grandmother to me. My gramma used to sweep the porch like that when I was a kid. But she didn’t have a vacuum. We didn’t have any electricity when I was a kid. BOOM! A big plane flies off to my right, then a fast, small one, whirrrrrrrr gone. Now the fat, heavy whine of a helicopter.
THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE MY GOOD DAY because they opened up all the vents, the slits in the corners of my ceiling. The little slits that let in the light…and the noise. But if I am not good, one by one they cover them up until there is no light and the only air will be the tiny bit that comes in under the door, the only light will be when my jailer flashes his lantern to set my tray in through the little cat‑door.
I don’t yell anymore. They take everything away when I yell, my light, my air, my food. I should want to die.
When I’m good, I write new stories for the man to take away. One a day. That’s all I have to do. And sometimes they come so fast I have extras. Only once did I have nothing to give him. Instant darkness. I remember being brought here. I remember walking down steps, falling against the cold metal wall. Blackout. I woke up in the total dark.
I hate it here. When I am in my normal mind I hate it here. I know the days by the light that comes in through the windows, the little slits that color the black room with shapes, shadows of the typewriter, the chair. I think I must have been here about a year. The rain tells me.
I hear the noise of something turning on, a motor of some kind. I begin to feel heat coming from the other side of the room. I touch the wall, hold my hand there, it’s getting hotter. I hate heat. I cross the room, crouch in the corner, lie down, cover my face. After a long time, I must have gone to sleep.
I wake up inside my dream, dead. I must have just died. It takes a while for the soul to leave the body, doesn’t it? I am exactly where I was when I died, lying in the exact same place, up against the wall in the corner. I hear myself in the distance, feel myself as if from far away, my heart starts ticking. I turn myself slowly into the blinding light, the pulsing blue walls. Outside I hear the sound of a shovel, digging.
I WRITE DOWN MY DREAM: I see an old old barn, unpainted. And a corral. I am a small child, maybe six or seven. I am in the garden with an old old lady. I reach for the bucket, take out a red ripe tomato, look up at her. She smiles, I take a bite.
My son Bill and I are in a big old house in South America, in the midst of a revolution. We have several guns which belonged to my father. Switch. I am in a small, dark stable filled with old harness gear and related objects, things I associate with my father. Bill is out in the fields fighting; I stay in the buildings, going from one to another: the stable, the milk house, the barn where the tractor is kept, the granary, the pump house. I finally manage to reach the big house, under cover of the huge eucalyptus trees which line the property like the walls of a fort. I am in the house, Bill is next to me. We each have a weapon and several more close by, with many rounds of ammunition. I load the 410 shotgun but the trigger is made of chicken cartilage. The enemy is in the yard, deluges of them, hoards of them; we start shooting, the bullets hit and explode into popcorn. They keep coming, we shoot and shoot. They’re on the porch, in the doorway. I throw my gun at them and scream a terrorizing scream, grip the closest one by the neck with my bare hands. I wake up.
No dream last night. I sit on the floor in the corner all day. It’s dark now. I sit in the corner all night long, listening for sleep.
The man came for my papers before dawn, I passed the few sheets under the door, the extras. The tray slides in. I cannot eat. This is the first day I haven’t been able to eat. My neck is stiff, tight, the shoulders and the back of my neck feel drawn in. I see myself in fifty years, humped and stooped, looking up sideways, the shrunken neck hidden under the bent head. I look up with one eye, oh I am really ugly. I get up and stretch, bend and stretch, bend and stretch until I am sore and have to sit down again. I go back into my corner, wait for the dreams to come