By Isaac Butler
Last night on twitter, the NY Review of Books asked us to tweet them our strangest dreams. I started to tweet mine and then realized it was just too long, involved, and strange to really work in that format. Then I remembered this morning that I had once written it down on my computer. So here it is. It's, I'll warn you, not a happy dream:
We are in the back of an old blue pickup truck, the other captives and I. I have just awakened from a nap. It takes awhile for me to remember I am a captive. None of us are tied up. We’re driving down a dusty country road. Now I remember why none of us are running, one of our captors is back there with us. He’s the man in the worn navy pinstripe suit and fedora, with the round face, lightly cleft chin and calm, caring brown eyes.
I cannot recall why we are captives, and then I can. We have been taken hostage by a cult. They are planning to sacrifice us as part of some religious ritual. I never see their leader, but I have a memory of him. He is thin, of medium height. He has a grey beard and long, scraggly hair down to his shoulders. Crystal blue eyes, cold and all-seeing, his mouth open in a rictus of religious fervor. He was there when I was captured, I remember, but of the capturing I recall nothing.
The truck pulls in to a school. It is my childhood elementary school, but I do not realize it. The school is abandoned. It is the weekend and the cult has taken it over for their ritual, the one in which we will die. We get out of the truck and the Man In The Fedora leads us into a hallway.
“I want you all to know, “ he says in baritone, authoritative G-Man voice, “that I do not approve of everything Our Leader does as part of this ritual. I participate because there are things in it that I find healing for myself, and this healing is worth it to me. You will eventually be taken into the gymnasium for the ritual proper, but everything we do, beginning with our entrance into this building is part of it and is sacred.”
There are boxes there, filled with men’s dress trousers. The Man In The Fedora gives us broken sea shells slightly larger than the palm of my hand. They are round but have ragged sharp edges. They must be gripped awkwardly. “For the first part of this ritual, you must shred these pants with these shells.” He puts his hands on his hips, revealing a holstered gun.
We get to work, running the stones down the length of the trousers with a steady, hypnotic rhythm. Most of the other hostages with me are women, dressed like housewives from different time periods. There is also an old man. He must be in his seventies. He looks bedraggled and terrified. He is very thin, a few grey cornstalk wisps are all that remains of his hair.
The trousers are distressed into half-inch wide tatters, still held together by their waste bands. We are making speedy, efficient progress. Everyone is silent, except for the occasional worried weepy moan. The Man In The Fedora looks so sad for all of us. He turns to the old man, who is now dressed in a wife beater and boxer shorts, socks pulled up all the way over his calves.
“I am sorry, but when this part of the ritual is over, the next thing that will happen is that Our Leader will rape and murder you with his bare hands.”
The old man looks at the man in the Fedora, speechless. He begins to tremble, and then he runs towards the unguarded doors of the school. The Man In The Fedora pulls out the revolver from the shoulder holster aims carefully and calmly, as if this is all a foregone conclusion. He fires. The bullet explodes out of the old man’s right eye socket and he falls backwards to the ground, dead.
The Man In The Fedora sighs discontentedly to himself. I realize that he will have to find another old man for the ritual. I feel bad for him.
I wake up.