So I’m dreaming. Sort of.
No place for a child, this dream of mine. Some little part of the back of my brain nudges me. I want to prove myself right. Punt the kid across the parking lot. Watch her spin like a rag doll into the darkness. She’s nestled in the crook of my arm, fingers in her mouth, breathing steadily.
If this is all a dream…
It would mean nothing. Her eyes wiggle beneath the lids, and she makes a little gurgle. It would be like smashing a piñata.
If it’s all just a dream
I went away
and came back.
I left you here, in this. But things were different. This wasn’t—life wasn’t—
And I was
My last working memory: An open door. I’m standing outside, staring at a door.
The door to your apartment.
It was open.
—but you weren’t there.
I was somewhere though. Before the door. I don’t know where. Somewhere, somewhen. Somehow far away and here and nowhere. Fleeting. I can almost see it.
Flashes of light.
I’m blocking it out, bits and pieces fighting to surface, to breathe. Some part of me wants it. The rest of my mind begs
The dark river. The bleating of a monitor. “Respiration, normal. Administer on my mark.” Slow drip. You. Smiling. The bite of the worm. Gnawing. A hum, quiet at first and low, like standing in front of the speaker at a concert. Deep vibrations in my chest. Headache. Ecstasy. The sound of waves. Ocean. Salt. Sweat cold chittering hot wet rolling surging freezing bleeding the floor the wall the room the door is rippling it’s liquid my skin is is is is is
The chamber. The door. Dark red water.
None of it makes sense. A dream I keep waking up in. Drifting; listless, frozen motions. My hand works the car door open.
Right hemisphere, left hand.
Aponeurosis. Flexor. Extensor. Hypothenar eminence. Tendon linkages. Engage the network: articulate proximal interphalangeal joint, carpometacarpal joint, strong fibrous carpal ligament. Pull=rotator, trapezii, latissimus dorsi, force, resistance, mass, oblique adduction, eccentric motion.
The door is open.
Two puzzles on two tables in two houses on two worlds in two lifetimes in two universes at once real and intangible and I am the link, the causal pathway, the bridge; and I am the motor, and the driver, and the road, and the cliff, and the rocks beaten smooth by the totemic want, the irrefutable lunar compulsion of the wave, of the ocean, of me.
And yet powerless. Half of me is gone. Strange new substitute, like a bicycle tire on a diesel truck, all the force and desire and complexity of me dissolved by the sleeping thing in the passenger seat. Proctor.
I don’t even know if this baby is mine. More importantly, what if it’s not even yours? Panic as the acid reverb settles in, unveils a new stratum inside my skull, audience of one. Am I a father? A kidnapper? A monster? A widower?
Is the kid orphan, kin, kith, or imp?
My hands and feet work the vehicle. We’re moving. The world is moving and we’re sitting still. The baby squirms on the seat. Her little pink onesie flat against her belly. Tiny fingernails brushing the back of the leather seat. I wonder if she’s cold. Turn on the seat warmer. There. You’re welcome.
I need answers.
I need you.
The world twists and turns and spins and settles and slows and stops and moves again and stops again and we’re here, we’re somewhere. We made it.
Here is a concrete fortress painted black with fences thirty feet high and thick enough you couldn’t drive through them without something serious. Reinforced titanium alloy in a steel encasement. Yield strength over 900 Mpa. Tensile strength 1,025 Mpa. Stronger than tungsten.
The level of serious that comes at a price. The cost of keeping secrets.
On my left is a metal and glass box about fifteen feet tall and tinted windows so dark I can see my reflection tilt-shifted staring back at me from above. Angled that way on purpose. They want me to see me. They want me to realize that they know that I know they know what I look like. Subtle.
Beside my door, less than a foot away from my window is a mailbox-shaped stand with a glowing pad on the left and a set of numbers on the right. The pad emits a vague bloody iridescence, and when I move my head the color shifts, reddish green is blue is gold is yellow is orange is red is nothing is everything is wanting my id badge. The window is down. Look at my hand. There’s an id badge. Good thing I have this. I hold it out. Motion in my peripheral. The way my neck feels contorted. Turned too far. I can feel my jaw
The scanner makes a pleasant screeching sound and the gate slithers inside the fourteen-foot gabion which surrounds the fortress. We pass through and the gate closes behind us. Into the belly. Drive leads into a secured garage. Uniform at the gate smiles. Waves me in.
Elevator. Numbers on the keypad don’t look right. They’re
Alien. I don’t recognize any of the symbols. I’m okay with it. My hands know what to do. I press a button and the elevator pushes the building down down down inside and ding
and the doors slide open