Friday, 15 February 2008

No teeth

I was standing within a group of people at a street corner close to dilapidated buildings downtown. Dusk was fast approaching. The smell of imminent rain in the fetid evening air was somewhat conducive to the heavy cloak of darkness descending slowly over the tall buildings in this part of town.

I couldn’t really say how many people were in this group.

At a guess, there were several men and women all young and seemingly carefree, like a bunch of college students on an outing. I was curious about these people whom I had only just met. I tried to study their faces. But they were all curiously indistinct as if their profiles were imbued with magical qualities which thwarted positive identification. The only exception to this rule was a fiendishly beautiful woman in an outfit which reminded me of a safari attire. On her head she wore a red beret which sat at a jaunty angle as if to emphasise her rebelliousness. Her face I could clearly identify. I rather liked the dimples which appeared on her cheeks when she smiled. Red beret woman was doing much of the talking in our group.

But I couldn’t really follow what she was saying. But by dint of speaking more than anyone else, she seemed to have earned herself the right to be our spokesperson. The more I tried to study the faces of the rest of the people in the group, the more inconspicuous they became. It was like trying to make out faces on a crumpled fading photograph, long exposed to harsh sunlight. But I knew one thing for certain; we were waiting for something to happen; precisely what, I had no idea.
Suddenly, the door of a building just in front of us opened, throwing out a harsh pool of light onto the pavement. We all turned towards it. The door was so huge a jumbo jet could have slipped through without difficult.

“Well, let us all get in,” Red beret woman said. This was the first clear sentence she had spoken.
We started moving towards the door in a tight unit. Anyone watching us would have been excused for thinking that we had been roped together; so bunched together we were! I noticed as we neared the doorway that it led to a flight of steps. I fancied that the steps shot up a long way up this rather grandiose building.

We started climbing the stairs. I looked up to see how far the staircase went, but I couldn’t see the top end. Red beret woman was right in the middle of our group seemingly orchestrating our movement; like a queen bee, I thought. She was all smiles as if she alone held the secret of our mysterious outing. Now and then she cajoled the group to move faster. But that was not possible since we maintained the strapped-together position which slowed our movement considerably.

Finally, we reached the top end of the staircase. Just ahead I could see a reception area, such as the type you see in hotel lobbies.

A tall bearded man in a sort of official uniform stood behind the counter. He eyed us wearily as we emerged. He had the sort of disgruntled facial expression you might see on a man kept waiting for too long by his shopaholic wife. We shifted slowly until we were right upon the reception counter. The man appraised our group, studying each face, it seemed to me, with a disapproving eye.

He looked bemused by our presence. Then from the side of the wide arching counter appeared a young clever looking woman. She was dressed in a neatly pressed business suit. Her stilettos resounded like the firing of a staccato gun against the wooden floor. She strode purposefully towards our group, her sharp features and hurried steps seemingly in keeping with her business-like outlook. She came to a sudden halt, swung on her heels and addressing the bearded man she said:
“Are they all here?”

The bearded man nodded.

She shifted the clipboard she was carrying from her right hand to her left. Then she reached into her jacket pocket and drew something from it.
“Okay, let’s start,” Clipboard woman said. To my utter surprise, she walked straight up to me and said: “Open your mouth please, Sir.”
I was rather taken aback by this strange request. “Why?” I asked.
Instead of replying me, Clipboard woman turned to Bearded man and said: “Do they know why they are here?”
Bearded man shrugged his shoulders. “I presume so,” he said. “Otherwise why did they volunteer to come here?”
“I didn’t volunteer to come here,” I said rather surly. “In fact I don’t even know why I am here. Can someone tell me what is going on here?” I was voicing an urgent concern at the back of my mind to recall the reason I had joined this group. Just what had prompted me to journey across town to meet up with these people? Who were they? Again I tried to search their faces for an explanation.
But even in this well lit lobby the faces of my group members remained so vague as to trash any hope of identifying them; except for Red beret woman of course. Never have the facial features of any person I have laid my eyes on been so sharply etched in my memory as the face of that woman. She was not a classic beauty. She was beautiful in a manner which declared her own individuality. Her eyes, her mouth and her nose all presented a trick of their own in sculpting a face totally bereft of any fault. She now strode out of the centre of the group where she had been cocooned and eyed me with the beseeching eyes of a little girl. If anything she now appeared more beautiful than when we were standing outside.
“Please do as you are told, Brian,” she begged. How she knew my name I will never know. But I was very flattered.
I found myself opening my mouth without further ado. Clipboard woman started examining my mouth with the aid of a small torch in her hand. I stood still, my eyes locked on Red beret woman who was watching me like a proud mother pleased with the exemplary behaviour of her normally recaltricant son.
I could feel the lukewarm beam of the torch dancing around the corners of my mouth.
“Not enough teeth,” Clipboard woman said stepping back. She looked somewhat puzzled as she noted this fact on the pad on her clipboard.
“How many teeth did you expect me to have, then?” I asked.
Clipboard woman didn’t bother to answer me. Instead, she turned to the girl next to me and asked her to open her mouth. Her torch went to work and within a few seconds she declared: “Not enough teeth.”
I was mystified by the meaning of it all, but one look from Red beret woman warned me to keep my mouth shut.
Within a few minutes Clipboard woman had examined everyone in our group and declared all of us to be short of teeth. Each time she announced her findings, Bearded man nodded wearily as if he was hearing a verdict he had long predicted or suspected. After examining the last person in our group, incidentally Red beret woman herself, Clipboard woman walked wearily over to Bearded man at the counter.
“Well, this has turned out to be a marvellous waste of my time!” she protested sourly. “Just who recommended this lot to be sent up here?”
Bearded man rubbed his hands, looking sheepish. He was evidently in awe of Clipboard woman even though he was twice her size. There was an apologetic note in his voice when he replied: “Clearly there has been a mistake. But wait…I can see another group coming up the stairs. Perhaps that is the right group.”
We all turned around. Indeed, a group of people were coming up the stairs. Without counting them, I somehow knew that they were the exact number as in our group. And just as in our group there was a balanced mixture of men and women. But instead of progressing up the stairs in a tight silly unit as we had done, these people were walking up in a single file. Sensible, I thought. At the head of this group was a woman in a green beret. She was tall, slim and pretty but not in the same class as Red beret woman. She was nearly at the top of the stairs when she raised her angular face and our eyes met. She stopped abruptly almost as though she had walked into a brick wall. Her face clouded and I saw recognition jump into her eyes, practically the same moment I recognized her. Zowie!
Although I hadn’t seen her for ten years or so I knew it was her.
“Brian! What are you doing here?” she asked pointedly.
Before I could answer, Zowie waved her hand urgently and said: “Get out Brian! All of you. Get out before it is too late!”
Never in my life have I heard a voice filled with such tremendous passion nor seen fear so nakedly stamped on a human face, as it was on Zowie. She was in a state. Yet quiet why she was being so dramatic was unclear to me.
“Don’t listen to her!” Clipboard woman shouted. Then turning to the bearded man she said: “What are you waiting for? Move them into the hall quickly!”
Bearded man reached for something under his desk. He must have pressed a gadget of some sort because a door, hitherto inconspicuous, slid open behind his desk, revealing a hall of immense proportions.
There was music in there, chandeliers were dangling from the ceiling casting a swathe of multi coloured lights across the floor. I could make out shadowy figures, men and women, dancing amid a clatter of voices and laughter. People in there seemed to be having a good time.
“Please Brian do as I tell you!” Zowie screamed. “Leave before it is too late!”
“What is the matter?” I screamed back at her.
Although at this point Zowie was struggling to hold back the people behind who were trying to force their way past, her eyes were unwaveringly fixed on me.
“You will die if you go into that hall!” Zowie screamed prophetically.
“Don’t listen to her!” Clipboard woman screamed. Resolving to heed Zowie’s advice, I broke from my group and started edging towards the staircase. I decided to challenge Clipboard woman. “Why should we go in?” I asked. “A moment ago you condemned us for not having enough teeth!”
“Never mind that! Just go into the hall!” Clipboard woman shouted back. She edged towards me. From the corner of my eye I saw bearded man vault over the counter. But he wasn’t coming for me. His priority, it seemed was to head the rest of my group into the hall. His task was being made easier by the complete acquiescence of my group; not a single person attempted to heed Zowie’s warning.
As I backed towards the staircase, I kept my eyes on Clipboard woman. Suddenly she threw her clipboard on the floor in exasperation. “You can’t go back!” she screamed lunging at me. Her eyes were on fire. I pushed her back. But she came right back, her fingers clawing wildly at me.
Behind, I could hear desperate voices screaming at Zowie to let them through. I peeked over my shoulder and saw Zowie struggling valiantly to keep her group pinned back. I shouldn’t have taken my eyes off Clipboard woman, because in that split second of diverted attention she struck. She dived at my legs and brought me crashing down when I was less than a foot from Zowie. She got both my legs in a vice-like grip and with amazing strength started dragging me towards the hall.
“You are going into that hall!” Clipboard woman hissed between her clenched teeth. I tried to kick out but my legs were firmly held. My arms were flaying about in a vain attempt to make a grab at anything to stop my dispatch to the hall.
“Brian, don’t let her take you into that hall!” Zowie screamed behind me. Her voice was receding. I twisted around and caught a glimpse at her. She was still holding her own, struggling against the maddening surge behind her. Her bulging eyes were filled with tears and terror. Suddenly, I jerked myself awake. My heart was thumping madly and I was relieved that it had only been a dream!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Gallery of fools

Dreamt on 21/02/07

I was in a group booked for a conducted tour through a medieval castle in a remote part of England. Our coach had arrived later than the appointed time and this had no doubt incensed our tour guide, a man of very advanced age with a Lazarus type of beard engulfing half his face.
The Tour guide watched us pensively as we clambered out of the coach, holding his peace with a Sage-like indifference. The children in our group chatted excitedly as they ran past the guide towards the formidable fa├žade of the castle.
We grouped around the bearded tour guide at the massive doorway, our party offering suitably contrite smiles while our driver apologised profusely for the late arrival. The tour guide didn’t say a word; he merely nodded and shrugged his shoulders.
He led the way into the castle, pausing momentarily at the doorway to check that we were all grouped around him. We entered a vast airy hall through an arched doorway. The Tour guide’s lofty manners reminded me of an old butler I had seen in an old movie, a man of inscrutable manners and well grounded opinions about the importance of his position.
As it was late afternoon and winter, natural light was weak inside the Castle. But it was just light enough for one to appreciate the character of the Castle. The sheer size of the hall was breath taking. In my opinion, the most awe inspiring thing inside within was not the ancient battle axes which hung menacingly on the walls, but the tantalising winding staircase. There was something magical about that staircase and I found my eyes glued to it. Even as I listened to the tour guide reciting the history of the castle, my eyes were following the zigzagging staircase right to the top where it disappeared. I wondered what relics were locked up in the rooms above.
“Can you see the two huge eyes up there?” a young girl standing next to me asked. I was startled by her sudden appearance and at the same time surprised to see that the tour guide and the rest of my group had moved a considerable distance away. Although I could hear the tour guide’s comment clearly, it sounded to me like a message swept by the wind from the furthest corner of the Castle. I regarded the girl. She was wearing a rather old fashioned frock. Her mousy coloured hair too was styled in a rather old fashioned way. She had the look of a child dolled up by a history-conscious parent. I couldn’t help thinking that her mother had dressed her like that to fit in with the historical concept of our trip.
I couldn’t remember seeing the girl in the coach. But then again I had no reason to remember her. She was one of kids in the group; 15 or so. I had hardly paid attention to any of the kids during the drive from London.
“Eyes? What are you talking about?” I asked.
“If you look carefully, you will see two huge eyes right up there,” the girl said pointing.
I followed the direction of her fore finger. She was apparently telling the truth. A pair of huge eyes, bordered by eye lashes which were at least a foot long, hung between the ceiling and the wall. I couldn’t tell if I was looking at a painting or a mural.
“Those are the eyes of the Castle,” the little girl said.
I turned to her and smiled. “I think you should go and join your mother now,” I said pointing to the group. To my amazement everyone in the group now appeared inexplicably tiny, as though they had been shrunk.
“I don’t have a mother,” the girl said looking up at me with pleading eyes.
“Well, go and join your father then,” I said.
“I don’t have a father, either,” the girl said.
“So who brought you on the coach?” I asked.
“I didn’t come by coach,” she said.
Something about her made me feel uneasy. I studied her in greater detail. She was around 12 or 13, thin as a rack and with an oval shaped face. Her cheeks were very rosy. Under the fading light her eyes appeared steely grey. Her frock might have been hand sewn out of sack cloth; so rough and tough was the fabric. Her shoes were as outdated as anything I had ever seen outside a museum.
“If you didn’t come by coach, where did you come from?” I asked.
“I live in the Castle,” she said simply. “You can ask Old Marx if you think I am lying.”
“Who is old Marx?”
“He is the tour guide,” the girl replied. “I can show you the Gallery of Fools upstairs if you pay me,” she added quickly.
“Gallery of fools?”
“Yes,” she said “If you pay me I’ll take you up there.”
“No thanks,” I said shaking my head firmly. I decided that the girl was either old Marx’s grandchild or a local tearaway operating a gambit and skimming money from gullible tourists visiting the castle. But I was intrigued by her mention of the Gallery of Fools.
As I turned to walk away, having resolved to rejoin my group immediately, the girl suddenly let out a rather peculiar laughter.
I turned around to face her “Look up there!” she said pointing. “The eye in the Gallery of Fools is winking!”
I did as she bade me. The left eye was indeed winking! And it was doing so with all the zest and showmanship of a comedian charming a captive audience. I was astounded by the life like quality of the eye. Yet for it to be real eye it would have to belong to some unimaginable large human face.
Alarm bells started ringing in my head despite my reluctance to abandon the intriguing show.
“I must go and join the others,” I said to the girl, suddenly feeling pensive.
“What others?” she asked.
Around us darkness was closing in rather too swift for my liking.
“The other people I came with on the coach,” I said.
“Oh, but they have already left,” the girl said with a sad smile on her plain features. “Surely you must have heard the coach drive off?”
“You are lying,” I said, rather angrily. “They couldn’t have left without me. Moreover, we only just got here!”
“You got here exactly three hours ago, Brian,” a rather bemused voice said from my left. It was the tour guide. He was walking towards me carrying a lantern.
How swift darkness had engulfed the hall!
“Three hours?” I protested. “I haven’t been here for more than ten minutes.”
The tour guide shrugged his shoulders and throwing me a rather sorrowful look under the lantern light he said. “Well, if you say so.” He stared intensely at me for a few seconds then added: “We have a spare mattress you can use for the night. There is plenty of space in here,” he added waving his hand around the hall.
“What? I am not spending the night in this place!” I shouted. Recalling that he had called me by my name I said. “And how did you know my name?”
He gave me a sympathetic smile. “Oh, that. The coach driver called your name hundreds of times. When you didn’t respond he drove off with the rest of the group. Where were you, anyway?”
“I was right here,” I replied stamping my foot on the floor. “You can ask the girl.”
“What girl?” the tour guide asked.
I turned around to find the girl. But she was nowhere to be seen.
“There was a little girl with me all the time,” I said. I felt the hairs on my nape rising. A dreadful headache kicked in. “She was here just a minute ago,” I explained pressing my fingers against my temple where an agonising pain was charging through. “She said she lives in the Castle. I didn’t believe her of course. And she said your name is Old Marx.”
The tour guide allowed a genial smile to cross his face, then shaking his head slower than a tortoise might have managed, he said. “Old Marx is the name of a Crusader who built this Castle after returning from the holy war in Jerusalem.”
The moment he said that, I felt invisible hands grab me around my shoulders, chest and around my legs. I tried to scream but no sound came out. And judging by the terrified look on the tour guide’s face as I was being dragged slowly up the staircase, something unpalatably monstrous was pulling me.
I struggled in vain to free myself. Slowly a deadening calmness settled on my mind. The next thing I knew, the girl was shaking me and saying: “Open your eyes.” I did as she bid me.
It transpired that I was in a room resembling a medieval theatre. Lighting was provided by dozens of beacons placed strategically around the room. I was seating on a wooden bench facing the stage. Here and there around the room heads bobbed about and I could make out vague human shapes. I formed the impression that I was in a theatre full of people. On the stage under the full glare of a dozen or so lanterns hanging around the wall stood several men and women, all dressed in the most outlandish costumes. I reckoned that they were actors and actresses about to commence a play; perhaps a Victorian play.
I suddenly felt calm and not at all agitated. The mysterious girl had taken a seat next to mine. She leaned over and said. “I have brought you here to see the play my father was watching the night he was stabbed to death. He was a great man. But no one knows anything about him now because nothing has ever been written about him.”
“Who was your father?” I asked.
“His name was Old Marx,” the girl said. “I want you to find out who killed him and write the story of his life.”
“I will,” I said without reflecting even for a moment on the proposal. For some reason, I felt rather eager to commit myself.
“When the play starts, watch out for the Professor,” the girl said.
“The Professor?” I asked puzzled.
“Yes!” she said. “Watch out for the Professor! Don’t take your eyes off him!”
I was about to ask her how I could identify this Professor when her seat suddenly filled up with breath chocking smoke.
I woke up coughing fitfully with a thumping headache criss-crossing my forehead. END

Thursday, 7 February 2008

The mad dog

Dreamt on 17 April 2006

The moment I stepped out of my living room to investigate the cause of a mighty din outside, I was struck speechless. There, before my eyes were three of the weirdest animals I had ever set eyes on.
One looked like a pig that was slowly transforming into a pygmy elephant; as faulty a chimeric result as one can imagine. The second animal, with its long teeth bared in the most ferocious manner possible was not easy to describe. It had leopard-like spots, yet on examining its feet I saw clearly that it had hooves. Its tail was as long as a walking stick. The creature seemed to take much pride in shaking this contraption rapidly as though to demonstrate its dexterity. The third creature looked like an overgrown dog; some sort of hound with a moon shaped head, in which a pair of fiery red eyes were sunk deep, like a pair of hidden searchlights. The paleness of this animal, to the point of creaminess, was in sharp contrast with the eyes.
These creatures must have heard the door opening because they had fallen silent all of a sudden. Seeing me at the doorway must have been as much a surprise to them as my encountering their vapid presence.
I hardly had time to draw a breath before the dog-like creature started howling in the most horrendous manner. At once, the other two joined in; producing a fiendish din, combining shrieking, screeching and barking.
Terrified beyond belief, I slammed the door shut and bolted it. Placing my weight firmly against the door, I considered my options. It took me a while to screw up enough courage to peep through the window. Slowly, I walked to the window, parted the curtains and stared at the horror show outside. The three creatures were running around my yard at breakneck speed, all the while attacking one another in a sickening ritual of bared teeth crunching against flesh and bone.
Without further ado, I reached for the telephone on my desk and quickly dialled the number of the local vet. Much as I tried to compose myself before explaining the purpose of my call, I was too nervous to speak properly. I half expected the man at the other end of the line to declare that he couldn’t understand a word of what I was babbling about. But this guy was evidently quick to grasp details. From the sketchiest detail I spurted out, through a shivering voice he promptly said: “Don’t worry about those creatures. Stay in doors. The most dangerous one is the one which looks like a dog. I bet even now as I speak to you he is burying his teeth into the elephant-like creature.”
I tool another peep between the curtains and got another shock; the dog-like creature was doing precisely what the man in the Vet office had anticipated!
It had trapped the elephant-like creature against the fence and was tearing at it mercilessly. Blood was dripping horrendously from a gapping wound and the poor creature, apparently caught in a grip like vice, was screeching pitifully without any hope of escape.
“Am I right?” came the voice from the other side of the line.
“What?” I asked.
“I said; am I right that the dog-like creature is attacking the elephant-like creature?” the man asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “But how could you possibly know that?”
“Never mind how I know,” he said. “I am sending a professional animal catcher to your home. He will be with you shortly.”
I was awash with relief. I was grateful too for my good fortune in having my call answered by a professional not only blessed with a quick grasp of detail but also appreciative of the value of quick reaction in dangerous situations!
“Let me give you my address,” I said.
“That won’t be necessary,” the man replied. “I advise you to remain indoors and to keep away from the window.”
I stepped away from the window.
Even though I now couldn’t see the horror outside, there was no relief from the noise. Indeed, the noise seemed to multiply tenfold.
But then all of a sudden the din stopped and an uneasy calmness settled in.
I wondered what was happening. Had the elephant-like creature been killed and the other two, perhaps, run off?
Curiosity got the better of me. I tiptoed towards the window and parted the curtains slowly.
Horror of horrors! The dog-like creature was resting triumphantly next to its immobilised victim its mouth covered in blood and skin tissue. I was mortified to see the dog-like creature turning its head in my direction. As our eyes met, I felt a whip of terror lash against my spine. It was uncanny, I could read the message in the dog-like creature’s eyes; it had expected me to spy on it from the window and that, I fancied would be enough reason for it to attack me!
Then the telephone came to life. “Didn’t I warn you to keep away from that window!?”
I stared at the telephone as if it was the most accursed instrument ever invented by mankind. Evidently, the line was still live because I hadn’t put the receiver back on the cradle. But that didn’t explain how the Vet officer could see that I had transgressed against his advice.
I looked around the room wildly, suddenly feeling spooked; a stranger in my own house.
I picked up the phone, intending to place it back on the cradle. But then the voice on the other side said: “I would advise you not to hang up the phone. It is hardly a priority this moment when the mad dog is within striking distance.”
This last bit of advice turned my knees into jelly. Against my better judgement, I turned to the window and flipped the curtains aside again.
The creatures had disappeared; all three of them. They were nowhere to be seen!
While I was still taking this in, not quiet knowing whether I should be relieved or anticipate greater danger now that I couldn’t see the creatures, heavy rapping sounded on my door. Whoever was knocking didn’t mind bruising his knuckles.
I hesitated. I wasn’t really keen to answer the door.
“Go and open the door!” the voice on the phone said. “Help has arrived!”
I dragged myself to the door. I opened it a little without unlatching. A heavily built man dressed in some sort of hunting gear stood outside my door. Gripped firmly in his right hand was a metallic tool which reminded me of a lampoon used for killing baby seals.
“I have been sent to catch a wild dog. Where is he?” he asked before I could say anything.
I studied the man. His face was vaguely familiar. I had definitely seen him some place before.
“The creature is out there somewhere,” I said pointing to the garden.
The man’s eyes swept around the square garden.
“I can’t see anything,” he said turning to me. “Are you sure you saw a mad dog out there?” The disbelief in his voice was unmistakable.
“Yes, I am quiet sure,” I said anxiously. “There were three very weird creatures out there!”
His eyes blinked rapidly. “Three?”
“Yes, three!” I was anxious to give him a full account of what I had seen. Yet somehow, I felt tongue-tied; I simply couldn’t say more than that.
“Well, there doesn’t appear to be anything now,” the man said dismissively. “I wish people wouldn’t send out for me every time they hear scratching noises inside their cupboards or when a neighbour’s dog is barking. Now I have to go back and report a false alarm. This job will be the death of me!”
“Wait a minute,” I cried stepping outside. “This is not a false alarm. Why don’t you talk to your office? The man who sent you here is still on the phone!”
The man appraised me as if he was giving me one more chance to convince him I wasn’t wasting his time.
“Very well, take me to your phone, then,” he said resignedly.
He followed me inside and I passed the receiver to him.
“Hello!” he said into the mouth-piece. Apparently hearing no response, he turned to me and speaking firmly, he said: “Do you realise that there is a heavy penalty for wasting my time under false pretences? Right now, somebody’s life could be in danger – in grave danger, I hasten to add, yet here I am entertaining your delusions! How dare you lie that someone in my office is on the phone?”
“I am not lying!” I shouted furiously. “I was speaking to someone in your office before you knocked on my door. He advised me not to hang up my phone. Indeed, he told me to answer the door. He knew it was you at the door because I was afraid that it might be the dog-like creature at the door!”
The man stared at me in astonishment. “You think dogs knock on doors?”
“No! That is not what I meant!” I screamed desperately. How intolerant this man was, I thought. He was only too ready to disbelieve me, to infer that I had wasted his time and to twist my words. He would do well to learn from the helpful guy in his office!
With an impatient flip of his hand, the man consulted his watch, no doubt to further infer what he thought of my summons.
“Well, I must go now,” he said. “Let us hope for your sake that this false call is not repeated. I have a hard time responding to genuine calls as it is. Do you know how many mad dogs I killed this week?”
Before I could say anything, he held out five fingers. “Five!” he shouted. “Five mad dogs! You can see from the blood spattered on my overalls that my work is not for the faint hearted.”
To my utter horror I noticed for the first time how blood stained the man’s overalls were. He was practically blood soaked! Why hadn’t I noticed that before?
In a flash, the man was gone, leaving me hovering around my doorway. I closed and locked the door. Then as I stepped into the living room I saw the three weird creatures sitting quietly on my desk!
I screamed so loud I woke up, drenched in hot sweat!

This dream spooked me!

20 August 2004
Late one morning, I was reclining on a sofa in my living room when an old acquaintance, Morgan Dale, made an unexpected appearance. Morgan and I had been friends since we were kids. But I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years or so.
Typically, he was wearing his broad charming smile as he walked through the open door towards me as I sat on the sofa. I thought it strange that he was carrying an old car tyre and large carving knife. But Morgan was nothing else if not unpredictable. He must have noticed my eyes widen as he casually laid the two items on the floor.
After we had shaken hands and greeted each other amicably, Morgan wasted no time in explaining the reason for his unexpected visit.
“I guess you are wondering what I am doing with a car tyre and a butcher’s knife?” he asked.
“Well, there are rather odd items to carry around,” I replied. “But I suppose you have your reasons.”
“Yes, I do have a reason,” Morgan said tapping the old tyre. “I want to make you a pair of sandals.”
I stared at him, puzzled. “You want to make me a pair of home made sandals from that tyre?”
“Yes,” Morgan said as if the subject was the most likely topic of conversation between friends who hadn’t seen each other for so long. “All I need to do is measure your feet. I’ll have a nice pair of strong sandals for you in no time at all.”
I stared at Morgan. He had aged a bit; a few grey hairs were in evidence around his temple. But he was still his old self; cocky and ebullient. In all the years I had known him, I had never thought of him as a handy man of any sort, let alone one with a penchant for producing home made sandals at the drop of a hat. Moreover, it simply didn’t make sense that he should turn up at my house the way he had and promptly offer to make me a pair of sandals.
“I don’t really understand all this,” I confessed, shaking my head to drive the point home.
“Perhaps I should explain myself a bit more,” Morgan said. He scratched his head as though embarrassed by the prospect of divulging a secret. “You will need a pair of home made sandals as your ticket to a film studio.”
‘The mystery deepens,’ I thought. Aloud I said: “Film studio? What film studio?”
Again Morgan scratched his head. Then he said: “Well, you see, I am taking a group of friends to a film studio this afternoon to watch a film being shot. I thought you might like to join us.”
I gaped at him, wondering if he had gone loopy.
“Let me get this clear,” I said sitting right up. “If you make me a pair of sandals from that old tyre, I will be able to join you on this trip to a film studio?”
Morgan nodded.
“Does that mean I wouldn’t be allowed into the studio without a pair of home made sandals?”
Morgan nodded again. “Precisely,” he said. “The sandals will be your entry ticket.”
Out of sheer curiosity I accepted Morgan’s invitation. I let him measure my feet and watched him transfer the measurements onto the tyre, marking out the size of my feet with a piece of chalk. He suggested we sit in the garden to spare my carpet the inevitable mess.
We went outside and sat on the garden chairs.
At once, Morgan set about cutting the tyre, rather expertly, I thought. And true to his promise, he produced a splendid pair of sandals in no time at all. He made holes in the rubber, produced a thin rope which he worked into the holes and tightened the ends underneath for the slips.
“Try them on,” Morgan said proudly handing me the sandals.
They fitted me perfectly.
“Thanks,” I said adjusting my feet.
I was still smarting from the discovery that Morgan was such a skilled craftsman when he picked the remains of the tyre and his butcher’s knife.
“I’m off,” he said. “I will pick you up in a couple of hours. Be ready.”
He was gone before I could say anything.
I remained seated for a while staring at my sandal clad feet. An hour or so later when Morgan drove his Landrover into my driveway, I was still puzzling over the whole experience.
He waved at me from the driver’s seat. “Hop in. Lets go!”
I walked to the car, counting the number of people inside as I approached the vehicle. There were five people including Morgan. The two women and two men I had never seen before. They all stared at me without a word of greeting as I got in. I noticed straight away that everyone was wearing a pair of home made sandals similar to mine.
The journey to the studio wasn’t long. The two women chatted incessantly all the way, although I couldn’t make out a word in their conversation. The men were silent.
I reclined against the back of my seat and wondered what I had let myself into.
When the car pulled up outside the studio gates, I sat up and looked around. Although I had never been to this place before, I knew instinctively that a guard would soon come out of the little grass thatched hut by the gate. Sure enough he emerged, cap in hand and with a clink of keys hanging around his belt. He unlocked the gates and waved Morgan in. We drove through. Ahead of us in the distance lay several buildings, all neatly spaced out.
Morgan drove to a parking lot where a number of cars were already parked.
“This is it,” Morgan said as we all piled out of the car. I noticed not for the first time that my fellow passengers were staring at me in a very curious fashion, especially the two women. They had the look of people bonded by a conspiracy. And it didn’t bode well for me when I suddenly felt anxious; something about the place gave me the shivers.
I walked tapped Morgan on the shoulder. “This place is a bit eerie, isn’t it?” I asked.
Morgan gapes at me. “Eerie? I don’t know about that,” he said nonchalantly.
Morgan led us around a building which looked as though it had been modelled on a barber shop. We emerged into a little clearing, a sort of square garden. A small crowd was standing there including a guy with a camera on his shoulder. A squat balding man sat on a black chair emblazoned with the word DIRECTOR on the back.
When he saw our group he stood up and strode energetically to meet us with a beaming smile.
“Welcome everyone!” he shouted. He shook hands, first with Morgan then with the rest of our group.
“You are just in time for the shooting of the first scene,” he told Morgan. “Does anyone in your group have acting experience? One of my actors has not turned up and I need an extra hand to help me in the first scene.”
Morgan turned to me with an encouraging smile.
“How about it, Brian?” he asked.
I chuckled. “Wait a minute,” I said. “You don’t honestly think that I can just step into a movie role, just like that? I am not even an actor, for Godsake!”
“Well, I seem to remember you being top of the drama class in school,” Morgan cajoled.
“That hardly qualifies me for Hollywood,” I said hoping that would finally deflect any consideration of my participation in whatever movie they were making.
But to my surprise and annoyance, the director was already directing the camera man to focus on me.
“It’s alright Brian,” Morgan said. “I will consider it a favour if you could just help Ralph out.”
I sighed resignedly. “What exactly do I have to do?”
Ralph, who seemed the type of guy used to getting things done his way clicked his fingers at one of his assistance. “Bring me the rabbit!” he said.
The moment Ralph mentioned the word, rabbit, alarm bells started ringing in my head. Since childhood the one animal guaranteed to unsettle my nerves in the whole world was a rabbit. I would sooner cuddle a wild lion than a domesticated rabbit!
Ralph’s assistant trotted away and was soon back with a rabbit! But this was no ordinary rabbit. This rabbit had two heads! Two heads and all its four ears were twitching continuously. And all its four enormous eyes were fixed on me! It seemed to me as I encountered this monster that the rabbit was smiling; smiling as only someone aware of a pathological fear they induce in a particular person would smile!
I shrank back in horror as Ralph’s assistant came closer.
“I am not touching that thing!” I screamed.
Ralph raised his eyebrows in dismay. He turned appealingly to Morgan.
“Brian, all you have to do is hold the rabbit for a moment,” Morgan said reassuringly. “The cameras will click then you can release the rabbit. That’s all.”
“I am not touching that thing!” I cried out.
Ralph stepped closer to me, his eyes ablaze.
“Listen to me,” he said speaking slowly and distinctly. “Every passing minute without the cameras rolling is a waste of my time and a waste of the studio’s money. Do you understand? All I am asking you to do is hold that rabbit for a minute or so, not for eternity! Can you do that?”
I shook my head. At the back of my mind I was thinking that if the rabbit had not been the double-headed monstrosity it was, I might have been persuaded to overcome my condensed phobia.
This monstrosity, which to my horror Ralph’s assistant was cuddling with as much tenderness as if it were a sweet little baby, was just beyond the pale. A shiver ran through me as, the assistant prodded by the director stepped closer with a clear resolution to hand the rabbit to me.
I stepped back.
“I am not holding that thing for even a second!” I cried. “And that is final!”
“So why did you volunteer for the role?” Ralph lambasted.
“I did no such thing!” I shouted, staring accusingly at Morgan. It transpired that a tight circle had formed around me. Morgan and the four people from his car had apparently closed ranks with Ralph’s group to squeeze me in. There seemed no way to break out of the circle, and moreover the message in Ralph’s eyes was clear enough; I was obliged to hold the rabbit! I suddenly became aware of a rising crescendo of noise; akin to the clatter of a fast moving train. Behold! The source was none other than the home-made sandals striking the ground forcefully! Never have I seen any group of people tap dancing so hard as in this macabre group of dancers around me. As they danced, the circle tightened. Their faces gradually went out of focus; becoming long and thin as if I was looking at them through a bottle filled with water. I beseeched Morgan to come to my aid in the name of our long friendship! But my plea was lost in the eerie atmosphere surrounding us. Morgan’s features transformed before my eyes. His normally round face became long and thin; a colourless mask of demonic proportions
Then a blood curdling chant started.
“Hold the rabbit!” Ralph’s group sang.
“What should Brian do?” chanted Morgan’s group.
“Hold the rabbit!” Ralph’s group sang.
“And when should he do it?” came the refrain from the assistant holding the rabbit.
“Now!” cried Ralph jabbing the air with his fist.
I felt my knees weaken. The chanting, the sharp clatter of sandals, the faces converging around me, the four eyes of the rabbit fluttering within an inch of my face paralysed me with fear.
Whatever prospect of escape I had entertained now seemed lost.
The chanting continued.
“What should Brian do?”
“Hold the rabbit!”
“When should he do it?
“Now!”
Just as it seemed that Ralph’s assistant was going to force the rabbit into my hands, a church bell rang somewhere within the vicinity of the studio.
In my ears, the bell tolled as no other church bell had ever tolled; urgent, insistent and uncompromising.
There was a commanding ring to it, a forceful tone which apparently brought Ralph, Morgan and their brigade of chanting film extras to a halt. All movement stopped. Even the rabbit’s face appeared to freeze; its four ears stopped twitching and its four eyes stopped rolling.
The bell continued to ring, its chime cutting across the whole expanse of the studio, right across the green fields, echoing into the far reaches of the studio’s network of buildings.
From a distance, a female figure appeared. She was walking briskly towards our group, taking long forceful strides, her posture erect. Her steps seemed timed to fall in line with the chiming bell. All eyes including mine turned to the woman. Even the rabbit turned its two heads away from me, focusing its gaze on the distant figure; looming closer and closer.
The circle around me started to break up. I watched with relief as my prosecutors backed away like assassins caught in the full glare of a searchlight as they contemplated a dastardly act. Ralph and the assistant with the rabbit, were the first to break out. The rest, including Morgan and his group followed suit, backing off in great haste and seemingly dissolving into thin air! Still, the church bell rang, its metallic chimes commanding the airwaves and driving out the eerie atmosphere.
It wasn’t until the woman was a few steps away from me that I recognised her as my mother! She smiled at me, extending her arms. I threw myself into her embrace.
“It’s alright now,” she said patting me on the back. “The rabbit is gone now. Nothing more to worry about.”

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

A writer's dream

14 Jan 2007-01-15

It is hard to imagine a more bizarre situation than the one I encountered when I entered a hall in which a writers’ forum was taking place, in some indeterminant place in London.
Since I had not even been invited to this symposium my presence was to say the least a mystery, even to myself. There were quiet a number of people in the hall and it seemed as I wandered around that everyone was free to choose a booth occupied by writer of their liking and engage the author in conversation.
As I rounded a corner with the intention of going to the booth where a well known writer was seated, I saw seated in a dimly lit corner an elderly woman; perhaps around 70 years old. She seemed to be knitting. Curiosity got the better of me and I walked over to her, stopping just a few paces away.
She looked up at me with a faint smile and said: “Why don’t you sit down and watch me work?” I didn’t know what to say. This, after all, was a symposium for discussing the technique of writing novels, not for knitting needles!
Out of sheer curiosity I stepped closer to the woman and fixed my eyes on her knitting. It transpired as I looked, that the patterns she was making on the material on which she was knitting, were actually words. Yes! She was knitting words and images into the fabric which accepted them with the eagerness of a newly hatched chick accepting a worm from the beak of mother bird. And as I looked closer still, I noticed a perfectly shaped head of a cow and two chickens emerging amidst the letters where she was weaving speedily across the fabric she used as a canvas.
“What on earth are you doing?” I exclaimed, totally taken aback by what I was seeing.
“Writing a novel of course,” the old lady said, hardly looking up from her work.
“But…” I started.
“But what?”
“You are knitting words and images together…?”
“Isn’t that what writing is all about, Brian?” she asked.
I was astounded. How on earth did this old woman know my name? I was certain I had never met her before.
“How do you know my name?” I asked.
She smiled. Her needles clicked on and I saw a perfectly formed sentence which I could read take shape. What a delightful phrase it was!
“Why do you act as if this is the first time you have seen this type of writing?” she asked all of a sudden.
“But it is!” I cried out. “I have never seen anything like this. You are actually writing a story by knitting words alongside images. That is quiet astonishing!”
“Writing is about relating words to images,” she said calmly. “Words in any type of writing only have meaning because of the imagery they throw in our minds when we read. It is the association between words and images that gives meaning to writing.”
“Of course! And that is how one should write!” I cried out.
“That’s right,” the lady said. “Before you write anything down, ask yourself whether the word you are choosing carries enough power to attach itself to an image in the reader’s mind which closely describes what you want to state.”
“That is simple but very effective,” I exclaimed. I was now glad that none of the people passing saw any reason to give the old lady a second glance, even though her knitted story was growing right before my eyes. I could hardly imagine a more complex yet astonishingly simple form of story telling.
Suddenly, she paused from her knitting. “You see this image of a chicken?” she asked pointing.
“Yes,” I replied looking at the well formed picture of a chicken her needles had drawn. Straw and grains littered the ground around the chicken and it seemed to me as I stared at it that it was picking at the grains with its beak.
“It is alive!” I said.
“Of course it is alive. Everything on the canvas is alive. Touch it,” the old lady said. I leant forward and touched the chicken on its back. Startled, it flapped its wings and landed a couple of stitches away.
“Is this some sort of magic?” I asked stepping back. One or two people looked at me and it seemed from their expressions that they were wandering what on earth I was doing standing next to a dishevelled old lady with knitting needles.