They lived in the shadows and fed on dreams of light seekers. From behind concrete boxes they watched and whittled, watched and whittled, until they had crafted a manuscript out of the cumulous dreams that billowed into thunderheads from humid brain clouds. And people bought and read the pilfered dreams, never realizing they were stolen from their very thoughts. An entire society of shadow creatures formed, thrived even, and laughed raucously together over late night martinis while wallowing in tidbits from their swipings. They began to believe in the dreams they had stolen, as if they were original thoughts rather than lifted from the collective virga. With each martini, they anchored the belief that they were above the spidery truth of their existences.
All except one.
60269 rolled out of the bar at 1 pm and covered his face with his hands while his eyes adjusted to the mid-day shine. The fog in his head was thick pea soup. All the dreams he had ever taken were swirling in a vortex and he was certain a vicious tornado was going to blow the top right off his head. At the corner a few yards down a man with a giant bottle of helium was blowing up balloons. 60269 walked over to the man and gave him a buck for a balloon. A swirling vortex moved with the force of a hurricane as every dream he had ever stolen blew right out of his head, through the rubber and directly into the balloon. He felt something he had never, ever known in all the years of thievery — absolute emptiness. 60269 took a pen from his pocket and scribbled some words onto the balloon, released it, then stepped off the curb directly into the path of the 41 Union Express.
Hammond Schuster knew something was off. He sensed the lack of memory. How do you put your finger on something missing when you can’t remember that something is missing? He couldn’t, and yet it bugged him — it ached, the not there/there thing. He began to search the rooms of his home for some kind of clue, something that would point him to beyond the empty cloud that had meaning with no meaning. All he found within his house were blank walls and minimal furniture. There was nothing that could give a clue to anything beyond the mundane and grey that was his life.
As he walked through the empty halls, an orange object outside the glass wall that enclosed his living room caught his attention. Given that Hammond lived some 100 miles from civilization or neighbors, it was odd to see a foreign object in the yard. He stepped outside onto the cool grass and picked up what appeared to be a deflated balloon with the words I can’t deal with it. 4Realz written on the rubber. As he picked it up he began to feel a flood of forgotten memories returning. Pianos, music, voices, poetry, dreams — so many dreams — he dropped it in a shock of knowing.
Emptiness… he couldn’t remember what he had just remembered, he just felt so horrendously empty.
Again he picked up the balloon, again the memories began, but they were formless, clues without a strand. He needed a map to the “there” place in the stratus fractus of his mind. He brought the balloon into the house and set it down on the table.
Again, empty, and wondering how a balloon got onto the table, and why it said what it said.
He shrugged and went to lie down on the sofa, deciding that he would read rather than deal with this mystery that he had no hope of solving. Besides, his brain was thickening to a greenish fog, he couldn’t even remember his name.
The book on the coffee table had no title. Hammond picked it up and rifled through the empty pages, then resting the book on his chest, he fell asleep and began to dream — a canvas appeared in front of him…he picked up a brush and began painting… from out of a fog of strokes the piano he played as a boy began to play itself and he saw himself sitting on the bench struggling through the years of lessons, choirs of voices grew to a crescendo of glory then melted away and a poet appeared with a pen and poetry began to flow and the words were sumptuous and full of passion, metaphors which faded into fractured sense as garden after garden filled the canvas — so much color — the entire world was in front of him, so many strokes…each stroke was a lifetime of dreams… a wife, or was it two… children, friends, explorations, passions and desire… oh… and the women, and the choices, he could do anything he wanted on the canvas of his dreams — and so Hammond Schuster never woke up.
The cops found him in a sea of flies with an open book on his chest. The bright orange words on the cover read The Dreams of Hammond Schuster by 60269.Cat Vibert is a writer, photographer, musician and artist as well as resident Copy Editor/Photographer for the Town Crier. Visit her booth at the Local Art/Craft/Food Emporium at the Dog & Pony Show or her online galleries at www.catvibe.net.