Johnny America


Three Night­mares


N.B. The fol­low­ing are ac­tu­al night­mares. Specif­i­cal­ly, my top the night­mares of all time.They are pre­sent­ed iden­ti­cal­ly as dreamed — mean­ing the ends are of­ten abrupt, each stop­ping with the dream’s fi­nal image.These are the ones that con­tin­ue to ter­ri­fied me — one over nine years old and I still haven’t been able to shake it.

I ar­rived late.

The room was all deep red vel­vet hang­ings over black walls, a steel door, a bar, no win­dows. My bud­dy’s new girl­friend had al­ready start­ed. She ap­par­ent­ly has this rit­u­al, see, some­thing she does to de­base and pun­ish her­self. She snaps mouse­traps all over her­self, to her very few bulges of what she feels are un­sight­ly flesh-her nip­ples, her tiny bel­ly, un­der her arms, swells of red skin at her haunch­es, her in­ner thighs. And there were men every­where, men she knew and that knew her from her var­i­ous, élite so­cial cir­cles. That was part of it, see…it was her way to keep from ever think­ing she was bet­ter than any of them.

She stood there atop a ta­ble, cov­ered in god-on­ly-knows-what, mouse­traps clack­ing with every flinch, wear­ing on­ly wet panties and a leather mask (even though every­one knew it was her un­der there). She was weep­ing. And this god­damned room, this dank red vel­vet room-full of men in their ex­pen­sive suits, their silk ties…this room full of beasts hoot­ing and hollering…it was in­fu­ri­at­ing. But we just stood there, my bud­dy and I. I could tell he was just go­ing in­sane in­side, want­i­ng to go to her, want­i­ng to get her the hell out of there. But this was about what she want­ed, not what he want­ed. Fi­nal­ly he could­n’t take it any­more, he tried to swim through the crowd to get to her, yelling “JUST STOP” while a bunch of the guys held him back, say­ing “re­lax” and “shut the fuck up.” He looked at me and I knew we’d have to fight the whole room, but just as we were about to start swing­ing she screamed at him to “STOP IT”. She said she need­ed this, and even though it went against every­thing he is, every­thing in him…he had a re­al kind of love for her so he some­how found a way to con­trol him­self. Then one of the guys we all know (and one, frankly, I’ve nev­er re­al­ly liked) got up and start­ed paw­ing at her mouse-trapped breasts, and laugh­ing, start­ed tug­ging at the waist­band of her panties…and even though it meant the end of prob­a­bly every­thing, we just start­ed hit­ting every­one we could as hard as we could…

It crack­led over the ra­dio. Be on the look-out for a ter­ri­ble man, a ped­erast, a de­mon who feast­ed on the young, the in­no­cent. Be­ware, it said, he looked just like a nor­mal man…and the fog rolled, twined in through the limbs of the wet pines. More rain was coming.

I was walk­ing across the lob­by in noth­ing but an un­sashed robe and box­er shorts with no but­ton, drunk and hold­ing a glass of smoky old scotch. The shuf­fle off my bare feet was all you could hear be­tween each flash of light­ning and the fol­low­ing thun­der-like the breath go­ing out of the room as I passed by these fa­thers tuck­ing their lit­tle girls be­hind their legs. Their beau­ti­ful anger swelled, but their fear swelled big­ger. I knew I was safe, that they could do noth­ing to me. I said some­thing to a lit­tle girl — brown-haired, bright-eyed-some­thing crass about grow­ing up too fast, said soon she would be weath­ered and ug­ly like her mom­my. That did it. The fu­ri­ous men start­ed to scheme.

They were fire­men it seemed, fire­men and cross­ing guards. They want­ed to kill me but be­lieved in God and coun­try and laws, so they were con­flict­ed. I was not con­flict­ed. I felt noth­ing, ab­solute­ly noth­ing, and while I un­der­stood their out­rage, their fury‑I still scoffed at it. It made them weak, emo­tion­al, made them hu­man. It made them mor­tal. I was in­hu­man. Yes, I was some­thing else. I fed on the grow­ing fear, it made me pow­er­ful, mag­i­cal even, a kind of sor­cer­er. I made for the front door, for the cov­ered porch of our enor­mous log cab­in ho­tel. The men fol­lowed, con­flict­ed yet de­ter­mined as I strolled out in­to the rain and sand, the gi­ant berms of beach grass sway­ing in the fu­ri­ous wind. None of it touched me, not the wind, not the rain. I re­pelled it all. Noth­ing nat­ur­al could find me. I was unholy.

The fool­ish men fol­lowed me in­to the storm, in­to the maze of swirling sand. They fol­lowed my foot­prints, nev­er re­al­iz­ing it was a trap. The sand, of course, could­n’t touch me, and af­ter los­ing my trail the men quick­ly be­came sep­a­rat­ed and con­fused, wind sway­ing the gi­ant blades of grass. The sand, wet & heavy at their feet, made them slow in their sad, fum­bling at­tacks. I’d fool each man in­to think­ing he’d sur­prised me. They’d spy me from around a berm, work up the courage, then stum­ble through a fool­ish charge. I’d turn on them at the last sec­ond cack­ling, my fin­gers mag­i­cal­ly con­jured in­to rusty butcher’s knives and old strait ra­zors. I’d laugh as they bayed and moaned, laugh at their use­less slaugh­ter-their screams ter­ri­fy­ing each re­main­ing man, the fear mak­ing me more and more pow­er­ful. Soon I was pow­er­ful enough to snap their backs, my hide to thick it would­n’t even bleed. The slate grey skies wept, the sand and wind-blown grass­es spat­tered wet with the blood of hon­est, hon­or­able men…

It was an­oth­er ter­ri­ble day at work, an­oth­er ter­ri­ble dri­ve back home-peo­ple zoom­ing in and out of traf­fic, giv­ing each oth­er the fin­ger, honk­ing, scream­ing. By the time I got to the front door I was furious.

As I shut the door be­hind me every­thing be­gan to lift a bit. I kicked off my shoes, breathed deep, tried to let it all out. I went out back to let the dog off her chain and found it-she’d dug an­oth­er god­damned hole. That’s when I dis­ap­peared. I mean, I was there-but I was­n’t there-if that makes any sense. I could see my fists, I could see the dog cow­er­ing, see her eyes flinch­ing closed, hear her yelps…but I was else­where-the ra­tio­nal part of me was else­where. It’s re­al­ly hard to ex­plain, but I guess what made it feel so good was that I was fi­nal­ly in con­trol of some­thing. I could feel the sting welling up in my fists, feel the meat of my hands bruis­ing, knuck­les chip­ping-but I did­n’t stop. It was a rage pure white and de­li­cious, it was se­duc­tive, em­pow­er­ing. Yes, fi­nal­ly my will was be­ing im­posed for a change…

In a blink I was back in­side my­self. My knees buck­led and I start­ed to weep, crum­bled on top of her, cra­dled her say­ing “Imsorry,imsorry,imsorry,imsorry,ssshhhhh,imsososorry.” She was hurt, tried to get away from me but could­n’t. I held her clos­er, pet­ting her as she whim­pered, tried to calm her down. I lift­ed her, car­ried her in­side-the bright lights of the kitchen spi­raled in­to spiny stars through tears in my eyes. On the couch, I wrapped her in a near­by blan­ket. I had to get her to a vet, had to make her better…anything to ease the pain.

I loaded her in the pas­sen­ger seat, swad­dled in the blan­ket and drove fu­ri­ous­ly to the an­i­mal hos­pi­tal a few miles away. Quick­ly I un­loaded her, car­ried her in­to the wait­ing room of the clin­ic, nau­sea buck­ing my guts. “What’s wrong with her” they said and I knew could­n’t tell the doc­tors what hap­pened, knew they’d nev­er give her back to me. I some­how had to keep it se­cret. I would need a sto­ry, some­thing plau­si­ble, some­thing be­yond sus­pi­cion, but all I could muster was “I don’t know, she’s hurt…” I could feel the air go out of the room, some­thing about they way I said it, some­thing about my sob­bing be­trayed me, and they knew…they all knew I’d done this hor­ri­ble thing. They tried to play it cool, but ha­tred brimmed just be­hind their eyes, and in the back­rooms I am sure au­thor­i­ties were be­ing called. I knew the on­ly way to keep my beau­ti­ful dog was to get her back and get the hell out of there-dri­ve us away and fix her up my­self. I tried to weasel my way in­to the ex­am room, but they were on to me. I made some half-baked ar­gu­ment about her be­ing my dog, that she was afraid, and it was out­landish that I could­n’t be with her in the ex­am room. The ar­gu­ment es­ca­lat­ed un­til, fi­nal­ly, one of the men pushed me from the room. En­raged, I went for him, and was soon wrestling the en­tire staff. They had me pinned down on the cold floor, a tan­gle of peo­ple on each limb as I kicked and screamed…then the vet was on me, try­ing to in­ject me with something‑a seda­tive or maybe a poi­son. The ter­ri­ble nee­dle was jammed in near my bel­ly button…

Filed under Non-Fiction on October 31st, 2007

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