Monday, July 15, 2013


What do you fear?


Think of World War II. Not the concentration camps - the ghettos, the bombed-out cities, the ruined neighborhoods where, around every corner, you might find someone you know dead.

Okay, not quite that bad. No deaths yet. But the town is surrounded by an electric fence, and it is stuffed with hundreds of high school students, thirteen to sixteen, a crowd that swarms around in confusion that could, you know, turn quickly into stampede.

Further, you know - you and a handful of others - that very soon, they will let out the dogs.

You are short, but you have little difficulty pushing your way through the crowd because you walk along ledges and you look like you know what you're doing. And you do. While everyone else is milling around in confusion, you are heading for the perimeter. You know, and a handful of others know, a way to subvert the electricity. All you need is two people, because of some mechanism that involves the depression of two levers simultaneously, which offers a five-second window.

As you walk, you look out over the tide of your peers and you see someone you recognize. A friend of yours, a shy sort of fellow. He might make eye contact with you, or he might not; either way, he moves off in the opposite direction.

Surely, you think, he is one of the others who knows about the way to get out, and he is simply going to look for his little brother. Surely he will be all right.

So you find one of your other friends, a sweet girl who believes you instantly when you tell her you can get the two of you out, and who trusts you enough to do exactly what you tell her to do when you reach the gate.

The two of you depress the levers, and you run through. Neither of you die, and, further, once you are out you are greeted by the sight of at least a dozen of your friends, safe, clustered at the foot of an equestrian statue.

You see the best friend of the friend you missed in the crowd, and you ask, "Have you see X?"

The answer comes to you slowly, like the viscous dread that collects in the pit of your stomach. "I don't know."

These are the only gates that convey safe passage. If he had gotten out, he'd have to be here. Time is running out, and soon the dogs will be loose, and the last time you saw him he was heading deeper into the heart of the city, and - you think to the first moment, when you could have called for him, when you could have -

You find that you have no trouble going back in through the fence, particularly when you are sprinting and, well, you are made of lead and lead is a poor conductor of electricity.

When you reach the part of town where everyone is still clustered, you slow down. You don't want to cause a panic. Only one gate, and thousands of people, and the dogs...

Is that his brother? You go up to the boy and he isn't, but he's the friend of the brother of your friend and you are so near panic in this crowd of strangers that you seize on this tenuous connection as if this child, whom you have never seen before now, was really your brother.

So the two of you start to search for those two, down alleys and up side streets and in buildings with smashed-out windows. You descend into an underground bunker with bright lights and pink walls and a plate of cookies that you know, and warn your new little brother, are poisoned.

A clock must be planted in your brain, because you can tell that the dogs are about to be let out. You still have not found your friend, nor his brother, and the two of you are far in the city, far from the gate.

Your "brother" suggests that you start back down, to get out before the dogs come. Maybe the boys you're searching for have already gotten out a long time ago, maybe you're throwing away your chance of survival looking for someone who's safe, who might not do the same for you.

One more house, you say. One more house. You've climbed the stairs out of that bunker, and your hand is on the doorknob. The dogs can't hurt you anyway. Just one more house. It's going to be the next one, it has to.

You turn the knob.


And your dad calls you awake.

And you lay awake in your bed, staring up at the ceiling.

You see your friend that day at school - you see his brother, too, even - and they're fine, and everything is fine, but every time you look over at your friend in class you think I did not save you.

Even though you had all the information, you couldn't find him. You tried as hard as you could, and it wasn't enough. You failed. You failed.

That is worse than getting torn apart by the dogs yourself.


I had this dream a long time ago, but there was a similar one last night and I feel the need to publish this one. Well. Sweet dreams.


  1. wow. i guess *that* is what you were talking about when i told the story of the guy with the delusions. it must have been such a weird day after that dream, but it must be great to know you can wake up from such horror.

    1. Yes on all counts. A weird day, indeed...