perfectly normal dream

dreams, funny, Yakima No Comments »

I had a perfectly normal dream just now. Nothing special, unusual or funny about it whatsoever.

* * * * *

I’m my present adult age, and I’m riding my bike around Eisenhower High School in Yakima, looking for either an English teacher or a football coach because I’ve recently enrolled there. My friends B and C are riding around with me. No one seems to be on campus, but there are these two older guys who are trying to get in too, so they join our little group. We see a secretary through the window, but once we realize that there are no faculty members on campus, the two other guys go their separate ways.

B, C and I ride to the parking lot and see a personalized curb that says, “Don ‘Five Pumps’ Smith” (referring to the number of ‘pumps’ before he had an orgasm) on it in red, white and blue.  His last name isn’t really Smith, but I’m obscuring it because it’s someone—not a friend, incidentally—from my real-life high school class.  Anyway, the three of us laugh at it and continue to ride around. Before long, a blue and white Chevrolet four-wheel-drive pickup pulls into the space, and we ride over to investigate. Donnie ‘Smith’ opens the door, jumps out, and reaches back in to turn off the engine.

“We were wondering whose spot that was,” I say. By way of a response, he removes the gas cap and an extremely loud song starts playing. He replaces the gas cap, which stops the music, but the key is still in the ignition, so that makes a different loud noise. He reaches into the truck, removes the keys from the ignition, puts them in his pocket, and turns back to the three of us.

“What’re you guys doing at the school?” he asks.

“I’m enrolling here to play football,” I tell him, which in real life I never did, outside of our neighborhood.

“Can he do it?” Donnie asks my friend J, who suddenly appears behind me.

“I don’t know,” J says.

“How many goals have you scored?” Donnie asks me. I don’t know why he’s suddenly asking me about soccer rather than football, so I don’t say anything. A somewhat awkward silence follows.

“Well,” J pipes up, “he may not be very strong, but he can go up the middle.”

This bizarre answer seems to satisfy Donnie, who asks J, “Yeah, but how many goals has he scored? Hey, you guys want a ride?” We drop our bikes and eagerly jump in the back of his truck. “I heard your CD,” Donnie says, and I didn’t think you guys’d be into this.” He climbs in, starts the truck, and drives away with us in the back. In less than two minutes’ time, we’re out of town and barreling down a steep, wooded fire road at around seventy miles per hour. The truck is so heavy, and the suspension so high, that the ride is completely smooth, no matter what huge rocks or potholes we encounter along the way. A railroad trestle that crosses over the road forces us to stop and get out of the truck, so we climb up the trestle to continue our journey and find out where the tracks lead. We run along the tracks until they meet with the dirt road again, at which point we climb back down and continue on foot, since we ditched the truck and left our bikes.

We jog along the road until we come to a green and white one-story ranch house next to the point at which the road suddenly comes to a dead end. There are no signs or anything, the road just stops. A woman walks out of the house, talking on a land-line phone attached to the end of a very stretched handset cable. She covers the receiver with her hand and yells to us, in a Southern accent, “Y’all had plenty of warning this was a dead end.”

“We didn’t, actually,” I tell her. “Sorry about that.”

“Well, you might as well come in,” she says. “Y’all want something to eat? I was just having dinner.”

Each of the four of us mumbles his own variation on the theme of, “Well, sure, but we don’t want to put you out,” as she leads us, single-file, to the kitchen and says,”Y’all can figure out some way to pay me later.”

We aren’t quite sure what she means by that, and B and I exchange furtive glances after a quick search of our empty pockets. We slowly file into the kitchen, and I say I need to wash my hands. The woman instantly passes me a bottle of dish soap. I squirt some in my hand and pass the bottle back to her. I reach to turn on the faucet and notice that both sinks are full; one with a dirty pan and the other with hot grease a foot deep, in which are cooking a bunch of fried chicken, some potatoes and carrots, and some doughnuts underneath. I turn to B and say, “This is gonna be amazing,” then turn back to the woman and ask, “Wow, you use real oil to deep-fry all this stuff?”

“That’s right,” she replies. We all stare aimlessly at the sink full of food for a while, and that’s when I wake up.

dream of a doomsday cult

dreams No Comments »

I had an excellent dream the other day, which I ‘rediscovered’ while I was going through the notes on my phone.  The dream was a bit long, and lots of stuff happened in a very short period of time, so I found myself needing to write in a very concise way at the beginning, in order to get to the real story.

* * * * *

I’m in my car, drive it off the road, roll it, get back in and continue on my way.  A piece of the interior trim is hanging in my face. I pull up to a left turn light and can barely see out of the windshield.  I push the piece of the trim aside and notice that traffic is completely stopped, and people are getting out of their cars, traipsing in an exodus toward the setting sun.  I decide to join the throng and find out the reason for the exodus.

The group walks toward the industrial area of a town, and I ask two young guys what’s happening.  One of them puts his arm around me and gestures at a pile of snow on the side of the road.  “Nuclear winter,” he says, as he keeps his arm around me and leads me toward a nearby building.  I hear music.  “It’s time for services,” he tells me, then adds, quietly and somewhat conspiratorially, “This isn’t nuclear fallout.”

“Oh that’s okay,” I start to protest. “You guys go on without me.”

I’m not interested in any kind of services these weirdos are likely to be involved with, so I extricate myself from the guy’s arm and walk back in the direction of my car.  I get lost and find myself in a rural section of the industrial area.  There is a farm with an adjoining warehouse, and I knock on the door of the warehouse.  Someone lets me in, and I am encouraged to sit at a table with ten or fifteen other people. They are mostly older than I am, with the exception of two very attractive young women who are talking only to each other, and two women in their mid- to late twenties who have varying degrees of developmental disability. The DD’s gesture for me to sit next to them, so I do so.  It’s lunch time, and the group has arranged large tables piled high with sandwiches, bags of chips and bowls of salsa, and trays full of vegetables.

The gathering of people appears to be a group therapy session or retreat of some sort.  A kindly older woman asks me what’s bothering me.  I start to cry, but attempt to pull myself together and tell her, “I don’t feel like talking about this right now, but I totally will some other time.”  She persists, and I decide to trust her. “You’re right,” I say, “the time to discuss something is when you’re feeling it and not waiting until later, so thanks for drawing me out.”  She gives me a gentle smile.

“I’d better eat something,” I tell her, but the tables are already being cleared, so I speak up to those people.  “Hey, I didn’t even get anything yet.”

I walk to the snack table, where there’s some hummus and a few unappetizing, dry vegetables left over. “I’ll just eat this, I guess.” I grab a generous handful of chips and dip them in what’s left of the salsa.  I look to my left and see dumpsters full of wasted food, everything from trays of sushi, pasta with meatballs, and a pile of sandwiches in a myriad of varieties.  I think about how much money they could save if they didn’t waste so much of their food, but I decide not to tell them this.  One of the other women starts talking about nuclear fallout, and I realize with some dismay that this is a doomsday cult retreat.  I sit down next to the DD’s again, and they take turns flirting with me in very strange and obvious ways.  One of them puts her hand on my foot and then pretends she didn’t, because she thought it was the other woman’s foot or something.  Total nonsense.  I start thinking about how to get out of there.  I have three cats with me (the three I recently stayed with in real life), and while they seem to be fine with their surroundings, I know it’s only a matter of time before they’ll need something.  One of the cats crawls onto my lap, and I pet her.  She looks up at me and her eyes slowly change from green to red.  I look over at the other two cats, and their eyes are already red.  I say to the woman, “Look, their eyes have changed color. . .and this one has an extra head.”  A new head and face begin to sprout from her little neck, just under her chin.   For some unknown reason, I don’t find this disturbing.  I reach into my jacket pocket and pull out my phone in an attempt to read the time, which makes the woman nearest to me very agitated.

“You can’t use that here,” she says, “it’s against nuclear code.  You see?  Someone’s already coming over to take care of this.”

In my peripheral vision, I see a man walking toward us, so I put the phone away. “I’m not USING it,” I say to the woman, “I just want to know what time it is.  Do you know?”

She replies, in a strange voice, “Nuclear time.”

Of course it is, I think to myself sarcastically.  This is becoming annoying.  I ask her, “What does that mean?”

“Well, I’d have to explain it to you.”

I sigh loudly with obvious exasperation, and start to lose my cool. “You can’t just—?”  I stop myself, close my eyes, and realize that I should try a more diplomatic approach.  I open my eyes.  “Okay, so explain.”

She looks at me penetratingly for a second, then says someone’s last name. It’s the last name of one of the scientists who developed the atomic bomb, so I respond by saying his first name.  She seems impressed, and she launches into a stream of gibberish.

“I don’t know what that means,” I say.  I look up into the sky.  The woman keeps talking, but I stop listening.  I start to wonder about the time again, and I remember that you can tell how many hours of sunlight are left in a day by making a fist, holding it vertically, extending your arm, and lowering your fist from the sun’s position to the horizon, counting the number of ‘fists’ it takes along the way.  Apparently, one fist at parallax equals one hour of daylight.  This is helpful if you’re hiking in the wilderness or something, and you may be out for a while.  I count the number of ‘fists’—five or so—which means that I have five hours of daylight, which means that it’s early afternoon.  I decide it’s time for me to get away from this cult, and I try to plot my escape.  There’s not a cloud in the sky, and there are only a handful of tall trees around the farm buildings.   There are no bushes or pallets or anything around to hide behind, and no other cover to speak of, so I’ll have to use my wits.

“I have to go pretty soon,” I tell the woman.  Way to use my wits.  She has no idea I’ve been thinking about parallax, time, and escape instead of listening to her stream of nonsense.  I gesture toward the three cats.  “I have to take these guys home, and I wasn’t planning on being gone all day.”

The woman gives me a disappointed look and says, matter-of-factly but with an undertone of threat, “Oh, you can’t leave here.”

Suddenly the sun begins to set, and the day becomes noticeably darker. “Did you see that?” I ask her. “It’s practically twilight.”  She seems unfazed by this.  I begin to plot my escape as the sun sets further.  By now, it’s almost completely dark.  My quick wits come to my aid again. “I think I’ll go for a walk,” I say, to no one in particular, and I start walking.  As soon as I get to the end of the driveway, I see a traffic jam that seems to stretch for miles.  I walk near enough that I can hear the car radios, all blaring news reports that a gigantic pile-up on the interstate has sent hundreds of cars onto the back roads, where I am, and lots of pets and farm animals are being run over.

I turn away from the highway and decide that flying will be a much easier way to get around.  I jump up and begin to fly, with some difficulty navigating through the trees at first, but then I’m free, floating slowly in the dark about thirty feet above the ground.  I fly to a nearby warehouse and land in its parking lot.  As I land, two young brothers run up to me.  The older one, about nine years old, has a portable camera/DVD recorder hanging from a strap around his neck.  Inside it, I can clearly see a blank DVD with the word “FLYING” written in black magic marker.  He says to me, “Here’s my question; when do I get my money?” He pats his device threateningly.

I laugh. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.  I don’t have any money.”

I turn my back on the boys and reach for my phone, when two men working the night shift walk out of the warehouse and spot me.  They didn’t see me fly in, so they assume that I’m just an ordinary trespasser.  They walk toward me, but I float into the air again, which is a shock to them both.  They run to their car, and one of them pulls out a gun.  I float much higher and faster, noting my height (“Fifty feet, seventy five feet,”) as I ascend.  I fly fast enough that they’re unable to keep up with me, even in their car.  it’s becoming daylight by now, and I decide to go back to the nuclear cult retreat, retrieve the cats, fly back to town, find my car, and drive home.  I land on the edge of the property and walk up the driveway toward the warehouse. I’m not entirely sure this is the right place, but it feels right.  I walk to the door and peek through the glass. There are two people inside, neither of whom I recognize, but I knock anyway.  They turn toward me but make no further response.  I point to the door knob and exaggerate my mouth to mime the words Open the door.  Just then, a small group of people I do recognize walks into the room, so I knock hurriedly on the door to attract their attention.  No one notices.  I continue to bang on the door, and that’s when I wake up.

dream of a marketplace

dreams No Comments »

I just woke from a dream of the most epic and colorful proportions.  It took a long time to stitch together the details, but I hope I can convey the scale and beauty of it all.

* * * * * *

I’m walking on the street in what appears to be a smallish medieval English town.  A young woman walking in the opposite direction catches my eye, and after a few moments I decide to follow her and say something, so I turn around and head in her direction.  She turns down a narrow alley into a sort of marketplace that is teeming with people, and I lose her in the crowd.  As soon as I cross into the marketplace, I notice that I’m wearing different clothing, including a long, flowing robe and a multi-colored shirt underneath it.  Other people are dressed in a similarly elaborate fashion, but I seem to have the finest quality clothing.

Everyone’s clothing, while elaborate, is very much related to their job and social status.  The people selling their wares in the marketplace dress in a certain style, as do the customers and townspeople.  There is a film crew on the scene, and they too have their own distinctive style of clothing.  There are groups of teenage girls wearing garish clothing tinged with neon colors.  I’m the only one wearing a robe, however, and everyone seems to recognize me, as if I’m some sort of royalty.  This makes me very uncomfortable at first, and I try to protest, but then I decide to keep quiet and use the intimation of royalty to my advantage somehow, if I can, and to have some fun with it.

The film crew are filming the goings-on at the marketplace.  Nothing is staged or fictionalized; they are there to simply capture whatever happens, and on this particular day, they get very lucky indeed.

I see three friends of mine in the marketplace—J and B (longtime bandmates in real life), and S, a close female friend of many years—and I walk over to join them.  We start to explore the market, but a skirmish breaks out and we are separated.  The skirmish escalates and escalates until weapons are drawn.  They aren’t the usual weapons like guns or knives, either, but antiquated and homemade weapons, such as slingshots and catapults.

A handful of people come toward me and stand very close.  I can’t tell if they’re attempting to protect me or if they’re seeking protection for themselves by being near me.  Perhaps it’s both.  By this time, I’ve decided to play the role they seem to have cast me in.  A young man with his face painted like a fox tells me, somewhat nervously but determinedly, that he would very much like to meet me because he thinks I’m “perspicacious and very handsome.”  I laugh to myself, then shake his hand and say, “Thank you, brother.”

The fighting escalates again, and our little group is forced to dissipate.  I duck behind a low metal table that is used to prepare food.  A man with a gruesomely loose eyeball is standing by the table with a large stick in his right hand.  He’s not from our town, he’s from the small but fierce group of invaders who are attempting to take over the town by first conquering the market.  He raises his stick toward me, and tells me that he intends to take one of my eyes.  He looks me in the face for a long moment, and suddenly a look of recognition crosses his own countenance.  His expression changes, ever so slightly, and instead of hitting me with the stick, he hits the table.  Hard.  He hits it again and makes a strange hand gesture that tells me I should ‘play along’ with his little ruse.  The next time he slams the stick onto the table, I shout out as if in pain, so as to fool his cronies into thinking that he’s actually doing some damage to our side.  After a few more hits, he stops and motions for me to do the same.  I say to him, in a very deep and serious voice, “Brother, thank you.  You have done a very noble thing today.”  By way of a response, he scoffs and makes a sort of spitting motion with his head, which causes his loose eyeball to pop out and fly towards me.  I wish him good luck and bid him adieu.

An older gentleman appears just then, who also seems to recognize me, but not in the vaunted way everyone else does.  He seems to know me from my ‘normal’ life as a musician.  I greet him with a “Hello, brother,” and he shakes my hand warmly and genuinely.  An explosion happens very nearby, and the crowd scatters.  Panic and pandemonium prevail.  In the middle of the marketplace is a circular stage in the round, with a thick velvet curtain around it.  For some reason I decide that I’ll be safe if I can get there, so I run across the square to the stage, pull back the curtain a little, and crawl inside.  I find myself standing on a short wooden walkway, surrounded by velvet curtains, completely unable to see what’s happening outside.  I hear the sounds of fighting, but I feel very vulnerable in my hiding place.

The walkway I’m on suddenly begins to spin, and as it does, the curtain billows out enough that I can look for my various friends and acquaintances.  I see J and B (but not S), and jump off the metal walkway near where they’re sitting.  They and the people they’re sitting with appear to be high on something, and their little group is laughing hysterically, completely oblivious to the mayhem happening all around them.  I ask them if they’ve seen S, and J responds, “Oh. . .I thought she was with you!” which makes everyone else but me burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter.  I walk away in annoyance.

The fighting in the marketplace has reached its highest level of tension by now, and everyone is a state of utter panic.  Tables are turned over, there are fist fights and all manner of strange weapons and warfare are happening.  People are running through the market, beating up the vendors, and looting their booths.  Suddenly, two policemen from our town wearing black riot gear with the words ‘HAZARD TEAM’ emblazoned on the back appear out of nowhere and run into the middle of the meleé.  Everyone else stops, and we hear round after round of gunfire.  We realize that the presence of guns takes this skirmish to a whole new level, and we decide to get out of there.

Many other people and I run on the narrow cobblestone street that is the exit of the enclosed market area.  Just then, I see the old man sitting along the road by himself.  He appears to be begging for money and food.  I stop, hand him some money, and say to him, “Brother, you remember me.”  His face lights up in a gigantic smile, and I turn back to continue to run out of the market, waving over my shoulder to the old man as I leave.  As the group of us runs through the arch that designates the boundary of the market area, I take a look at the town for the first time.  It is one of the colorful and picturesque towns that I’ve ever encountered.  The beauty actually brings tears to my eyes.  I think to myself that I need to capture this scene somehow, and share it with other people.  I make broad painting motions with my arms, wishing I had a sketch pad so that I could draw the Tudor-style architecture and sloping rooflines of the village’s buildings, the entire sides of which were covered with brightly colored streamers and a myriad of tiny lights.  The town was having a celebration, and although I didn’t know what the occasion was, the town was mesmerizing to behold.  I also noticed that I was wearing my normal street clothes again, instead of the voluminous robe.

I kept walking and admiring the sights, but I soon found that the town got less and less beautiful the further I walked.  In fact, it started to look a bit like a movie set.  As I was entertaining that thought, a woman walked by and said something snide about me and the town, which brought my sense of diminishing wonder about the town to a swift end.

* * * * * *

Despite the fact that I was able to remember much more of this dream than I originally thought I would, there are a couple other scenes in the middle of it that are continuing to elude me.  There also was an actual ending scene.  If I do remember them, I’ll be sure to add them.

I didn’t have to do this, either

dreams No Comments »

I just woke from a dream that was unlike all of my previous ones, in that I was a twelve-year-old boy from India.

* * * * *

I’m in the hallway of a large office building. There is a young girl about nine years old who is either my sister or my sidekick. (I suppose she could be both.) She is Indian like I am, since that’s where the two of us were born.

We decide to explore the building a bit, and we walk through a doorway into an unused part of the building. It seems to have been vacant for quite some time, and there are huge piles of flattened cardboard boxes stacked up and waiting to be recycled. We walk through that room and into the abandoned bathrooms. The only light in this area is provided by the small amount of sunlight that’s able to penetrate the layers of grime on the windows. It’s dim, but we can see clearly enough.

Suddenly, a man climbs in one of the windows and grabs SisterSidekick by the leg. He pulls her toward the window, but she is able to free herself and we both scramble away.

This kind of thing becomes a recurring theme of the dream, and the two of us constantly find ourselves being chased, threatened, held at gunpoint (and even fired upon!), and a few other similar situations that we always manage to extricate ourselves from, or simply talk our way out of. I can never quite decide if we’re part of a television show or not.

Then the dream changes, and I’m suddenly an adult—my real-life American self—riding in a car with a beautiful woman. True to the form of the rest of the dream, she seems to be my captor, and is holding me against my will, although not entirely. She is around thirty years old, very slim, with her dark blonde hair tied into a ponytail. She’s wearing simple jeans and a light blue chambray shirt, but I know that she has various small weapons hidden inside her clothes. I also know that we’re in London, despite the fact that she’s driving on the right-hand side of the road, and on the left-hand side of the car, like we do in America, and like they do pretty much everywhere else except Japan and the remnants of the British Empire.

I look over at my so-called captor while she’s driving, and through her window I notice that we’re driving through an extremely elegant and picturesque old neighborhood. I point out a huge cathedral made of weathered red brick, and mention something to her about how We Certainly Don’t Have Churches Like That Back in the States, but secretly I think to myself that we probably do, especially on the East Coast.

I look around the beautiful neighborhood and blurt out, “I wish we lived here.” She says nothing but gives me a little smile that I’m unable to interpret. “Actually,” I continue, “I wish we could have lived here in the Sixties, back when this was the center of the universe.” Her smile fades ever so slightly, and I realize she’s lost in her own thoughts, not paying me the slightest bit of attention. Despite that fact, I attempt to continue. I start to say, “It seems like everyone back then became famous,” but about halfway through the sentence, she makes a strange gesture with her hand and a dollop of water splashes me in the face, rendering me speechless. I brush myself off and curl my lip into an exasperated grimace as I turn to her and say, “You didn’t have to do that.”

I think to myself that from here, this story can go in one of two directions. If this is the cheesiest romantic adventure story in history, she will turn to me and say, “I didn’t have to do this, either,” and lean over to kiss me. If this is one of those surprising adventure thriller stories, she’ll say the same thing but punch me in the face instead.

It is at this juncture that I seem to be unable to decide which of the dream’s possible trajectories will play itself out. I suspect that the punch will make for a better story, but she’s also very beautiful, and I’d love to kiss her. The two disparate trajectories will forever remain disparate, however, because my brain never does decide which story to follow, so the two of us drive together silently for an inordinate amount of time, at which point I awaken from this incredibly strange dream.

three in one

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I’ve always been a night owl, but the last week or so has found me in bed much later than usual.  The bad thing about it is. . .well, I guess there isn’t anything inherently bad about it, but it does become a cycle that’s difficult to break from.  My favorite thing about sleeping in that late is that that’s when I usually get some good dreams in, and today was no exception.  I had a couple of short ones, followed by a sprawling one that lasted an hour and a half. I’ll have to paraphrase and condense it a bit, because the story didn’t really unfold until the end.

It started at my last job.  Late in the afternoon, a woman came to my desk to deliver a big pile of paychecks that I was expected to ‘sign and mark’ with a yellow pen that she also gave me.  I told her I could have it done by tomorrow, and she said, “Okay, as long as it’s by one o’clock.”  Not a problem.  She walked away, and I got up to do something else, which is when I discovered that I was in my first Portland apartment.  I took off all of my clothes and crawled into bed.

A guy I knew in Yakima came into my room just then (we’ll call him Michael, since that’s his name) with his girlfriend, and he was holding a small gun.  He made a gesture for his girlfriend to get in bed too, so she took off her clothes and slid in next to me.  Each of us put an arm around the other, and Michael sat down on a chair along the wall next to the night stand.  He raised his arm just enough to point the gun in my direction.  “I need your car,” he said.

“What?  Why?”  I turned my head to look at him.  His girlfriend shifted a little bit, and I slid my hand down her back.

“I just need it.”

“You’re stealing my car?”

“Yeah.”

“But it’s a piece of shit.”

“We’ll see about that.”

“No, really.  if you’re gonna steal a car, you should steal something good.”  He lowered the gun, and I continued.  “What happened to you?  We used to be friends, hanging out and stuff.  I don’t get it.  Do you need a ride somewhere?  You don’t have to do all this, I can just. . .give you a ride.”

“Okay,” he said, sheepishly.

His girlfriend got up and stood around naked for a while before she got dressed again.  I stayed in bed and tried to figure out what to do next.  The two of them left the room, and a handful of people appeared and started milling around in my bedroom.  They were both men and women, all professionally dressed, and one woman had her young son with her.  The woman and her son sat on my bed, and I wondered how to get up without just being naked in front of everyone.  I decided that it didn’t matter, so I got up nonchalantly and put on my clothes.  My cat brushed against my leg repeatedly, which made dressing difficult.  Mom, Stepdad and Brother appeared, and told me it was time to get ready for the party.

“It’s a Christmas party,” Mom said.

“Why are we going to a Christmas party in April?” I asked.  “I mean June.”

“It’s more of a halfway-to-Christmas party,” she replied.  “Some people have a halfway-to-St.-Patrick’s-Day party, we have this.”

“Well, crap, if I’d known it was gonna be a Christmas party, I would’ve finished up my stuff at work.  I’m not too excited about a Christmas party in September.  I mean June.”

“You don’t need to go if you have things to do, I just thought it would be fun.”

“Okay,” I said, “I’ll come, just let me pack first.”  I started to throw a few things into a suitcase.  The walls of the room sort of dematerialized, and my furniture was now sitting on a perfectly manicured lawn next to a nondescript one-story stone building.  By this time, I had sensed that the unknown people were military personnel, and Stepdad was very agitated by their presence.  He and the rest of my family members left to go the party, and one of the military people came to talk to me.

“Good thing you’re a troop,” she said.  “If you weren’t, we’d have to search all your belongings.”

“But I’m not,” I said.  “A ‘troop’ or whatever.”

“What?”

“Yeah.  I’m not a troop.”

She looked dismayed.  A couple of the others heard what I’d said, and they came over to offer her some assistance.  “But how did you get in here, if you’re not military?”

“What do you mean?  I LIVE here.  I’ve been here for a week, and this military stuff just. . .appeared.”

She turned toward the others with a grimace.  “Let’s get to work,” she told them, “we have a lot of stuff to get through.”  They walked to my dresser and peered inside.  Each drawer was filled with a huge number of small gifts and trinkets, except one, which had underwear and socks in it.  Two of them started rifling through the trinkets, and the others went to explore other parts of what had, until recently, been my apartment.

One of them, a Hispanic man around thirty years old, took me aside and escorted me toward a parking garage in the building.  He asked me a bunch of nonsensical questions that I can’t recall, but then he asked, “Why do you hate relationships?”

“What?”

“Why do you think relationships suck?”

“I don’t; I totally want to be in one.”

He gave me a look of disbelief, and shook his head.  “Just be honest.”

“I am.  I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Gimme a break.”

“I don’t know what you’re saying, and I don’t see what this has to do with anything.”

He grabbed my arm and walked me briskly toward the door to the building.  Great, I thought, I’m about to be more thoroughly interrogated.

And then I woke up.