Thursday, 7 February 2008

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?
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.”

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