Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Life is a dream Act 1

Life is a dream, dreaming of your life

Genre & Author: A work of modern Sydney fiction by Tobias Nixon
Warning: Novel contains use of profanities (swearing); 1337 words & TLAs
Rating: MA 15+

Act 1: The house of bits n’ pieces

Scene 1: A taste of the future 

Life is a dream, dreaming of your life.

Half asleep, moments earlier, that single sentence had held so much truth. Now though it was like just another piece of cheap logic. Such a richness and sense of purpose bereft of the sense of urgency and truth for which my dream world empowered it.

I drowsily half roll over in bed. From my right eye I see yesterday’s dead tree copy of SMH* lying crumpled on the floor, a photo of a crazed killer, some guy the paper has labelled the city basher. The waking world is full of vileness; I close my sleepy mind to it and think back to the dream.

A simple statement, a statement of life. My life. The life of one introvert corporate programmer, Thomas Daniels. The one that happens whenever I closed my eyes. The world so real and yet so imagined. A life without a life. Truth takes its hand at the wheels of justice, but the law of life precludes fools and cheats.

My imagination is my enemy. I love it so when I am asleep, wrapped tightly within my dreams, yet blame my constant state of inertia on it when waking to this “real world” every morn. The dreaming is so complete, mostly I am in complete control, it is better in every respect I know.

Slow tender moments shattered. Bleak thoughts that will not end. The snow of blissful ignorance, more often brought on by external dependencies on drugs of choice and addiction. My world melts each night, a place within a place for which I am reborn. I think back to the images of collateral damage that linger. Chunks of dream rise bubbling from my shadow mind.

A charnel house. A narrow corridor, forced ever onwards to the end. To a sharp right corner. To a list of bins full of blood and horror. The room of missing limbs, a place for all the ghosts that never felt peace in death. Victims of war, victims of tragedy and natural destruction. The morbid scene is truly graphic. Each bin is teaming with an endless array of arms, legs, heads, and torsos.

The walls are red with a splash of white specks here and there. I can hardly clamber past these tall overflowing bins, but that’s what I do. To get to the end. The chopping table is a thing to disturb the mind with f3ar. Horrible scythe like blades are set at regular intervals along its surface. A power saw retracts within the wall at the far end of the table. Always the palatable sense of urgency and fear that they will return at any moment.

I am safe from the murderers that feed this place, it’s place within this reality only exists so long as the human scum feed it’s rubbish bins. No the things I fear are the keepers of this place. The bonders that live out of our reality but within it. There single dream sense is attuned to the smell of fear. Like sharks in a bay of blood, these creatures pack feed on those lost or drowned souls that of accident or wit end up within these lonely corridors. The smell of f3ar pervades each pool of shadow. Yet despite the environment you can NEVER show an ounce of the stuff.

I am not innocent. I do not come here, through some accident of imagination, or perhaps a stray spoke in the wheel of fate. One day it occurred to me that if some ghosts were bound to places; houses, graveyards or shipwrecks, perhaps some ghosts were bound within their own long dead dreams. So I imagined a place like that. That night was the first time I saw the charnel house within the realm of my dreams.

You will never see a human get chopped up in there. A fact that should disturb you. How do they get there? Maybe you have inferred it from what I have told you already, the living dead appear here whenever someone dies in circumstances of the most horrific destruction. Plane and car crashes, train and boat wrecks, war, assassination, genocide, earthquake, tsunami are all a small subset of the completely valid ways you may take to end up here. But only if you don’t want to let go.

Apart from never showing f3ar I had previously learnt the symbol name of the shadow scourge. Unable to vocalise it (even had I known the ancient tongue) I was however prepared to form it into a large burning symbol that with practise I could hurl at the things whenever they arrived. It was this symbol that kept me safe. It was the only thing they would not approach.

I had found it on a strange stone cube, soon after stumbling into this place on my first visit. By accident I’d opened a door with a person’s name scrawled and hacked with a fresh coat of blood into the door. The name was written in modern Japanese kanji. I didn’t know Japanese but within the dreaming that didn’t matter. Just tap the global dark pool of latent subconscious talents. The language was in current use so the name conversion was instantaneous.

Kenji Harido. Japanese central banker. Doyen of currency appreciation. Victim of extortion. Noble warrior. Pride before dishonour. Where blackmail fails death entails. Yakuza sword strokes decorated his otherwise pristine naked ghost body as it lay on a large grey stone cube.  It was the far side where the burning symbol was written. All the other sides I would later discover contained things relating to the victim. One side was this place (the underside); the four “naked sides” told his story: his lifetime achievements, his disappointments, his name and other personal details, and the way he died. The top was for the victim. The back was for the collector. It was always the same.

Kenji was reported dead twenty four hours later, in the exact way expressed on the stone cube. A proponent of banking reforms his death sent a clear message to others trying to dismantle the centuries old corruption endemic within Japanese financial markets. The only message that made sense to me was someone had died in the same excruciating way I’d already witnessed.

Why were my dreams bringing me back to this place? It wasn’t a place I wanted to visit very often. The images stayed with you for days afterwards. The place was just too graphic. As I lay now in bed I remembered. More shadow scourge than I’d seen. A new door coated in fresh blood, but the name not yet scrawled. The scourge were preparing for a feast.

Tomorrow night would be the only chance to find out whoever was due for the cold slab. I had to go back there, damn. First I had to get to work. Jumping out of bed I started a day that would end like any other.

Scene 2: To find a killer

Another dream, another night. The coldness in the room was not from some imaginary wind, but rather the chill that forms inside you when shit gets too real for your rationality to control. Logic dictated that I run and never come back.  Logic be damned, if there was a life to save then I would do it. I dreamed of the house of bits n’ pieces once more.

Drifting through rooms, down corridors so narrow I felt I should have to squeeze through. Looking for a door, freshly marked. Where was the kill room? I looked around the hallway I was in, a ghost suddenly went screaming past me, a human like cry of unholy pain. No doubt looking for the exit I thought... sadness descended upon me, for there was nothing that could be done for that one.

Let me tell you a story about being a ghost. Ghosts don’t like to let go. Ghosts are only ghosts because they want to be. Huh? Who’d want to be a disembodied entity forever doomed to traverse the waking world as a wrath of fantasy. To watch as your world era is transformed, unable to help, the ones you left, left to perish, knowing that you are trapped and that they are already within the grasp of golden wonder, what some fools call paradise.

Ghosts are ghosts because they can’t let go. All humanity is bombarded with one simple lesson, made complex by our natures and the incurable condition of never learning from it until it’s far, far too late. Ghosts are ghosts that were humans once. The great lesson of humanity is that stimuli arise, muddy the mind with emotional attachment and must then be released. At least that’s what is supposed to happen. Almost immediately upon growing up, the human mind muddies itself with attachments and thoughts, emotions and the general chains that make up humanities shittiness are not released. Like ever. It just builds up.

Surprisingly while life deals almost every human being a crippling blow that they are too ignorant to learn from, too stupid to do anything about; when presented with their death, an entirely new experience un-muddied by their minds web, the vast majority pass uneventfully into it’s gaping black maw. 

The only light I have ever heard of from the few ghosts that talk is the one given off by the soul reaper. It is visible so you don’t run into it by mistake presumably, if your some higher level state of entity capable of riding the inter-dimensional lines that run in a mobius strip beyond the edges of time.

And how do you escape these narrow suffocating corridors if you ever trip within its bounds? What to do with the cursed shadow scourge that haunt it’s walls? If they catch you they will kill you for real. Being human there is no defence against them. 

They are bilateral extensions within the dream realm of big grim himself. Humanities death ripping in early. A few sharpened teeth from the black maw that grew a bit longer than the rest. Those teeth are not waiting after death, the mouth is just the front door to the realm beyond. Perhaps.

So that is the first chunk. A place of pain and torture, built from emotions that have no place left within our reality to go. Perhaps the original house was pulled down, maybe the war field has been reshaped with concrete. Whatever. If you’re a ghost that’s not stuck to something on earth your headed here. Built from souls whose destruction lingers. Defended by the shadow scourge. A place to visit the day you are sure you wish to die. Your friends or family will find you... later.

A sleeper who never wakes. A mind that drifts in a sea of fear, thoughts mere plankton for the shadow feast. In these days of life support what was probably intended to only be some minutes of misery, is variously lengthened to hours, days, weeks or even decades of the most indescribable mental torture known to man. Pray then that you’re well meaning family pull the plug on your harmless comatose body. Cos’ peaceful it ain’t. Scraping each thought from your brain. Taking it, repurposing it, changing it, and adding every sick, Freddy Krueger-esque fantasy you can’t try to imagine into it. Thoughts and emotions mere paint dye for a tapestry so vile, the devil has several on pre-order for his new residence. Of course that is a joke, there is no devil. Only a gaping maw that devours the life force lent out to you from the start.

So that is the second bit; the sick twisted nature of the place. A place made to create in a way that is completely beyond the typical understanding of energy dependant organic beings; a complex tapestry of suffering which the shadow scourge can use as a source of food. Food made from the rarefied and disparate energies that exist between life and death. 

Back to the dream last night. It had been strange for two reasons. The dream had a room with a stone cube. The writing was in English, not unusual in of itself, except that the cubes surfaces spoke of a young Aussie, a brilliant musician slain by a serial killer in Sydney’s CBD. I kept thinking back, scribbling madly on my pad. Basically writing down anything I could still remember.

Finally exhausted by journaling my recollection of the dream I get out of bed and head off to work.
As I sit down at my desk in the fishbowl, the IT hub of Techred, Coutil and Banks’ martin place offices, I fire up the browser and check the news. Sure enough the breaking news section is covering a story about a missing world class musician, by the name of Samuel Matthews. The information on the cube matched! The poor man had by my limited understanding of how the cubes worked probably no more than ten or twelve hours remaining on this earth.

Could he be saved? Where the hell was he? There had been more on the stone. Vital clues if I could only use them somehow. 

His death was preceded by a long drawn out torture of peak brutality. Given the length of time the killer would need a house. Hmmm that didn’t exactly narrow things down. The stone tableau had spoken of achievements. Oddly the last one had been a private performance of the entire Ring cycle to a single individual, it even stated that this had been Samuel’s greatest ever rendition. The man’s name was Frank Siccalori. 

So, Samuel gave his greatest performance, less than twenty four hours before he died. By which point he was already missing. Hadn’t there been reports recently of a serial killer in Europe that had already wacked several leading performers? The press were calling him the Virtuoso killer. Could this be the Virtuoso killer? A globe trotting serial killer targeting the artistic elite of our society. Social terrorism, bizarrely by someone that apparently appreciated much of the beauty of a virtuoso.

All I had was a name. A name that had to be stopped. Faceless in a sea of madness. His reign of terror in absolute terms, mean more than mine. One life for a hundred. The killer was going exponential. Choice was just the fear of a lesser man. It was time to turn to my other talent. Time to do a spot of hacking.

Scene 3: Search & Rescue

I woke from the dream in a sweat. Beads of salty water trickled down the contour of my chin, down my neck and onto my chest. I had a hardened mind, trained by long hours of mediation. Right now a solid line of fear vibrated like a galactic constant in the background. I’d been out for only five minutes, but it had felt like an eternity. 

The words that escaped my lips were unconscious, “No!! Don’t kill him.”

The dream had been a vibrant re-run of what would happen if I didn’t find Samuel Matthews. His body lay shattered on a stone tableau. His corpse had been cut so many times that the parts lay in ruin. A room soaked in blood. Nightmares like this reflected eerily against the sobering wall that was my current emotional state of mind.

My face was mashed against a dell keyboard in need of a good clean. The view of the desk was too close. I pulled back as my vision slowly returned to normal. Ever so slowly the blurred outline of the LCD monitor emerged from the square of light. My minds language centre switched to code.

I’d been running a couple of hacking programs non-stop from my workstation for the last five hours. As the last of the analysis programs had swung into action, there output was screaming down the screen matrix style - I had modified the source code to do this, purely as it looked rather cool. 

I had taken a quick power nap. I shouldn’t have. Replays in your head of what would happen were unneeded motivation.

A quick message to a virtual friend and I had the confirmation of a certain Mr Siccalori arriving weeks earlier in Sydney. On this occasion my friend assured me, the immigration database apparently had yielded no further secrets.

After several traces, I located a dormant Trojan virus lying asleep within the Telstra network. Cracking its protection was a piece of cake. The author hadn’t even changed the core source code released to the net. Fire and forget by a script kiddie with more luck than sense? No matter it was an asset ready to exploit. Activating it, I injected a self-destruct-on-completion routine into its core assembly; I then set it the task of searching the directory records for any instance of the name.  

Sure enough the name came up exactly once, on an ISP pre-paid wireless package. No address, no fixed IP to trace back from the exchange. But I had the source IP last used to connect, not more than twenty minutes ago.

With luck the murderer would still be online. Ping command. IP reachable. This meant the IP address was active, his machine was on. Next came the less certain part of the venture. Opening up a remote shell session, executing the password cracking tool; I literally had no idea how long it would take to brute force my way into this son of a bitch’s machine. For all I knew I could be one attempt away and he could power down his machine. This was where the bulk of the time today had been spent. Watching columns of failed attempts.

The process could be accelerated if you knew which words or numbers the person liked. Luckily it appeared that the killer was still on Windows XP, an older operating system, for which I had the necessary rainbow tables required to drastically speed up the process. The rainbow tables contained pre computed hashes of different passwords. The hashes could be used to recognise patterns in the encrypted value on the disk.

It was as I awoke from the dream that I had a thought about password cracking. Hoping the dream of Samuel was not just coincidence, I added his full name to the search algorithm. The user had been online for over two hours, this might be my only window of opportunity today. I crossed my fingers, smiling, as, several minutes later the remote session at last reported successful login with the user’s account, which he had stupidly given local admin rights to.

A dramatic keyboard mashing of the ENTER key, and had I initiated the final program; a file search that checked for files and emails with certain types of information such as addresses. No address yet, but my algo** was a 1337 piece of code and had found an encrypted zip file marked leasing agreement.
Another 50 minutes cracking the AES 256 bit standard encryption on the zip package. Inside a Word file that also had a password. Laughing I opened an Office specific cracking program. Ten seconds later the word file was password free. Now to see what was inside. 

Meanwhile another application was busy copying as much of the user directory as it could before the connection went down. Another app was silently installing an app that would prevent Windows from closing down. Of course that wouldn’t stop someone from ripping the power or network cables out. Just slow them down a bit. Bingo I now had an address in Sydney’s inner west.

I logged onto the companies server farm. The array was normally used for extremely cpu intensive tasks that needed to be completed within the same day to determine whether a particular transaction represented good value according the companies complex financial modelling. 

Here it was, there was no turning back now. If there really was someone trapped about to die I had to do this. Even if there was I’d never be able to explain why I diverted mission critical backend infrastructure towards software cracking. There were ends to this story that had no beginning. Well at least not without an ending that concluded with yours truly spending most of his thirties in a psyche ward.

I punched in the password to my admin account launching the master scheduling app. At a click existing jobs were paused, another couple of clicks and small purpose built script I had written was launching my custom decryption application and pointing it to the collection of files that I had been harvesting from the targets desktop PC.

In some server backroom, the array of multi cored servers started chewing through the datastream at 10 Terrabytes per second. Even so it would be at least an hour before the application finished, and resumed regular operations.

At least I could avoid cursory examination. I prayed there were no large transactions planned for this afternoon. Another script was busy deleting all the logs replacing them with faked ones that represented a snapshot I’d taken before running any apps.

I set the app to send my HTC an email with the results when it finished, then killed the remote session to the server array and logged off my workstation. Grabbing my jacket from behind the chair, I headed towards the lift, to the road below and a taxi that would take me a block or so from 15 Loftus Street, Rushcutters bay.

The taxi dropped me at the bottom of the street, when perhaps in hindsight it should have dropped me at the top. The street is probably the steepest in Sydney, if not Australia. Halfway up and I was sweating, shaking as two lean runners raced by chatting happily as they loped uphill.

The address was a luxurious studio filled with fine art.. I knew this because the door was open. No killer leaves an open door. I wandered around the place looking at the photos on the mantel piece. Family, friends, achievements. All really normal stuff. The photos were of a happy looking... musician. Oh shit. This wasn’t the killers house. This was probably his next victim.

The killer must have at least some hacking skills. He was tracing his victims through their real estate agents. Cunning bastard. The agents probably had unencrypted networks, open offices, physical access and completely comprising the network via injection of Trojans would be a cake walk for a motivated individual. Meanwhile they were trusted with alot of customer information. Just what scum like this needed.

I was stuck. My hacking, might be detected by the killer (and there was every reason to believe that it would be, if he was even half decent a simple network trace app setup with notifications would detect it). I was going to have to wait for him to attack his next victim. That implied that Samuel would already be dead. Sh1t.

The phone hummed in my pocket. I pulled it out and unlocked it. The app had finished its decryption run and sent me the results. Two files met the search criteria of the algo. The second on looked promising and I opened the attachment. The file contained a list properties for lease.

Perhaps a list the old Frank had compiled when first arriving in the city? The list was fairly long but consistent, in that all the places had a cellar featured. Several were listed as sound proofed. Focusing on those I picked the closest, most centrally located, a large terrace in Paddington, and raced out to the road. By my own calculations I had about one hour before things became irreversible.

I’d asked the taxi to wait and he had the car parked where I’d left him at the bottom of Loftus. Running in giant leaps down the hill I pulled up next to it jumped in, slammed the door hard and yelled at the driver to step on it. To get him going I casually flicked a hundred dollar bill in his direction. I’ve never seen a taxi driver break more traffic laws in my life. It probably helped that the rest of his days wages had been promised on arrival.  A man’s life was at stake. Now was no time to compromise.

I had the taxi pull over just short of the five ways roundabout in Paddington. The terrace was metres away, yet the shops nearby provided excellent cover. I had to assume the guy had setup surveillance on the entrance.

I still had thirty minutes but no idea how to mount a rescue operation. Guessing the guy would be keeping his victim in the basement and was probably there right now torturing him was a safe bet.

I walked up to the front door, and jammed a metal wedge into the hinge. Being a slightly built man with small arms I had to get this right first time. The wedge should provide what my biceps couldn’t. I pulled the foot long Steel mallet out of my jacket pocket. With a mighty swing I bashed it with all the might I could muster against the wedge. It was a trick I’d seen on YouTube.

Keeping the hammer tightly in my left hand as the door swung open; I charged silently inside. The floor plan included in the Agency leasing  document showed the cellar had a small stairway in the narrow hallway directly to the left on entering the house. I walked up and tried the closed door. It opened faintly with a smooth action that scared me more than a creaky door ever could. For some reason it was just like the motion of opening a door in the house of bits n’ pieces. Creepy coincidences were awesome. Less so when serial killer lay waiting just beyond your line of sight.

The staircase was well lit, the stairs carpeted. Noiselessly I descended, just as well because my heart was beating at close to two hundred beats a minute. The drum roll of blood and adrenaline, had me goosing at shadows. God why couldn’t someone hardcore like my mate Davis Lockyer be here. That guy probably did stuff like this for fun. I must be fucken stupid, why hadn’t I asked him to come with me? 

No time for backing out; men didn’t let other men die with dishonour. Good men didn’t walk away from bad situations. I knew I was at a crossroads, as I stood halfway on the stairwell, the last step before it was too late to turn back.

I descended down to the cellar. As I approached the exit, I crouched down low keeping to the side of the stairwell. Frank was there, looking at his handy work. All I could see of Samuel was a man tied down to a table, drenched in blood from cuts and wounds all over his body.

I felt Frank turning. He had to turn. Only he didn’t. His movements were towards a table containing his tools of the trade. His hands moved slowly guided by the eyes of his victim. He reached for a cruel looking serrated scalpel. It looked wicked.

The victim moaned now. Uncontrollably. The moan became a scream as Frank stepped in towards the table.  I walked ever so slowly towards him, every iota of my brain listening to the sound of my footfalls. The journey seemed to take years. With five metres still to go I stepped on a piece of rubbish left on the floor.
“Oh sh1t!” I said, as at that sound Frank then spun suddenly, his dark eyes gleaming with a mixture of anger, hatred and fear.

Instinctively I threw the heavy steel in my hand. It spun through the air, end on end towards Frank. He was slow to dodge. It was an all or nothing throw (my only weapon) aimed straight for his head.
Even so he managed to move aside as it glanced him on the temple, still knocking him from his feet. I ran over wondering what on earth I would do next. I had never been in a single fight in my entire life, well not counting the internet anyways.

Blood ran from the side of his head, he groggily tried to rise. I grabbed the steel and bashed him over the back of the head again, knocking him unconscious. His body slumped back down.

I moved over to the table and pulled Samuel from it. He could hardly stand, but leaving him there on that platform of horrors was hardly an option. Instead I held him close, hugging him. Blood soaked both of us, but he seemed to relax. Compared to what I’d seen in my dreams, he was positively healthy. I pulled the mobile and dialled the ambos, followed in quick succession by the cops. 

It was only as I put the mobile back in my pocket that the tears began. His cheeks were drenched. His body wracked with shudders of emotion.

“I couldn’t... Nothing would make him stop!” 

Samuel looked into my eyes, pleading, demanding, frightened and lost all at once.

“It’s over now, your safe.” I comforted him. 

“Everything feels like an out of control dream.” He sighed, “I hate him so much.”

“I know mate, I know.”

But I didn’t. No one did.

Scene 4: Beers @Chambers

Killer captured, victim saved. The dream faded as it had begun, the inside of charnel house drawing the eye to fresh horror. The killer’s body would never find its way here. They rarely saw themselves as victims; they were too pathological to be ghosts.

That one was riding straight to hell. I had had my fill; there was only so much even I could take of it. I had gone back one last time out of curiosity, to check the room that the ghost of Sam should have found himself in. Instead I found a door ajar, the stone cube within shattered. Oddly the stone looked to have been shattered from within. A single large purple tentacle, with thousands of small scythe like appendages grovelled from a small circular hole in the centre of where the stone should have been. 

That was enough of it for me, I left. I had a thought once that being inside that house; it would be enough to make a serial killer uneasy. Certainly there was ample content to make such an imagination run riot. A place to check into from time to time, perhaps to find another “Sam”. I awoke from the killing rooms feeling completely ruthless. It was a lasting effect of spending time there.

I had a message waiting on the HTC. It was time to bounce. 

The friends of Samuel Matthews wanted to catch up. It had been a couple of days and he was ready to check out of St Vincent’s. There was little the doctors could do for him anyway. In this age, wounds to the mind were still very poorly understood. 

Samuel would always be scarred now, but he was also one tough hombre. Not the sort to let a beat down keep a good man down. His boys were taking him for a drink at the Chambers bar in the city and wanted me to come along. I messaged back that I’d see them after work.

When I pushed through the door at Chambers, they had occupied the couches closest to the street window. Recessed down below street level, the chambers was a ambient little bar running along the south side of martin place.

They looked comfortable and relaxed. Lounging and chatting like successful city suits. The boys roared upon spotting me, and several called me over.

“Thomas! What are you drinking?” – “One Fifty lashes”

“Good man, so are we, here’s a spare schooner.” – “Thanks... ?”

“Sorry rude of me, I’m Nathaniel James. This is big Rusty Greenheart, little Sam you have met”

At which point everyone raised their schooners to Samuel, giving him a cheers. He looked to be at peak happiness, his smile was contagious.

“And this is our resident Richie rich, Mr Angus Goodman.” Wooah, I thought, I’d seen this guy in the social pages, he was all over the scene; attending A-list parties and fucking the best socialites.

Nathaniel continues to chat along happily talking mainly about himself, and some of the many adventures this tight krew have shared. I’m a listener, and sit silently, happy to be part of their circle. The more I listen the more relaxed I get. I slink back into the part of the couch I share with Samuel.

Suddenly the leader, Nathaniel jumps up from his couch to the left of me. He steps into the open area in front of me, hands free he puts tight hooks around my shirt ripping me from my seat. His giant chiselled six foot four frame has no problems lifting me completely from my feet. All the good humour of moments before is gone. The group sit silently staring at me, all that is except Sam who sits sullenly looking at the others.

“I have one question for you. How the fuck did you know where our buddy was?”

I knew straight away the story I had told the cops wouldn’t wash with these guys. They had spoken with Sam, and probably didn’t understand any of what I had told him.

“Look Nathaniel just leave him alone, he saved me.”

Nathaniel turns to Sam with savage lines of fury burning across his nose, cheeks and neck.

“My friend, he told you he saw you in a dream, woke up then went and saved you. He told the cops he had just happened to be going for a morning walk and heard a scream. He’s lucky the cops are so stupid, they don’t question why the guy lives 40 km from where he takes that stroll, or that the walls to the dungeon that freak had were sound proof above street level. Yeah! I got a couple of questions to ask this... Thomas. Starting with how the FUCK did you know?”

I realise this is a water shed moment but their blood has already boiled over. Tell the truth and get flogged or lie and walk away?

“I saw your friend in a dream. I can see fragments of reality in my dream, Nathaniel.” There it was as simple as I could put it.

The punch when it came was stiff, strong and straight to the gut. Oh and it really hurt. I double over and then come back up. Gasping.

“I told you guys. This scum is a mate of that bloke that did Sam in. I say we run him down to the cop shop right now... After we take him outside and teach him a lesson.”

“NO!!!” bellowed Sam. It didn’t matter I thought.  The others had blood in their eyes. Red rimmed with anger.

“Let me explain” I said weakly.

“Ok. Go for it shitbag.” This guy Nathaniel was really getting worked up. Moments earlier when we sat down I’d actually thought this guy is cool, he is the one out of the group I’d most likely be friends with. Now though his eyes were focused on me. He looked really mean. As in scary looking, drunk freak I’m going to fucken kill mean.

“I saw Sam lying on a stone cube in the House of Bits n’ pieces.” As openings go it probably wasn’t that intelligent. 

I continued, “In my dreams I sometimes see I house. In that house are the ghosts of people that have recently died. Every so often, in one of the rooms, a new body will shimmer on a stone cube. The cube holds a person yet to die, both on earth, and then in the house. It is a type of foretelling. This one time I managed to read the symbols on the cube, they told me barely enough it would seem, to save your friend in time.”

“Thankyou” whispered Sam, looking right at me for the first time since I had entered. 

The look of horror that the victim has; seemed for one moment to recede almost completely from Sam’s face, except that it then returned just as quickly.

“Man that is the craziest shit I have never heard of.” Nathaniel said it, looking out the window at the street. 

He had released me sat back down on the couch with the others. But he didn’t look at me, and he looked completely unconvinced.

“Seriously mate, what are you smoking?”
That guy Angus cut me down unimpressed.

“Yeah... wow.” A third echoed sarcastically. I was no longer listening, lost thinking of how impossible it was to explain something that seemed so simple to me.  

This wasn’t working, these guys thoughts were solidifying now around a single concept. How much damage to do before dumping me with the police. Revenge spoiled with anger amongst their brows.

An empty schooner and a wild idea. Blood rushing through my temples. I pick up the schooner and smash is dramatically with my left hand against the table. Everyone focuses but no one moves, I’m one against many. Too quickly for any reaction I draw the serrated edge down against my right wrist. Estimated time to death by arterial exsanguination; approximately 1 hour. More than enough time.

I had everyone’s attention now.

“I mean what I said, I don’t care if you believe it but its the truth. Do you think any sane rational person would do this? I’ve run out of ways to make you believe and I really don’t want to get set upon by a pack of wild dogs.”

I reached out and grabbed a nearby couch cover, wrapping it quickly and efficiently around the wound. They all stared at me now, like a crazy person with a gun. You just give respect.

I looked up and reached out a hand to Nathaniel.
I said “Will you suspend your disbelief for 5 minutes? I will try and show you what I mean.”

He nodded so I said “Just relax, try and relax, and then to go to sleep.”

He nodded again, this time lying right back into the couch relaxing. I moved and sat down next to him lying back as well. I had never tried this before. It was as impossible as seeing the future, but right now I didn’t seem to have a lot of choice.

Before I fall asleep I need to scare the others. Help them to understand their reality has changed, is changing, will change from here on in.

“Everyone else needs to protect us. If we aren’t awake in fifteen minutes you need to take both of us back to the hospital and ensure we get a shot of adrenaline each. By no means allow us to be separated at any point. In either case we could each face instant death.”

I didn’t tell them that as soon as I released Nathaniel he would wake up. Or that I could control my dreamscape and wake up at any point. I didn’t tell them because I wanted them scared, not as payback, but because it was one of the rare human emotions that provided a gateway past the logic trap directly to the unknown. Human beings were normally so sure of themselves. So sure of the blindness they all shared, that new belief was easily negated, especially in groups.

I placed my left hand above Nathaniel’s right and drifted quickly into the dreaming void. I’d never tried it before but somehow I knew I could do it. It was not the same as a dream, at least not for me. As soon as I felt Nathaniel’s etheric shell next to me I latched onto it instinctively. The feeling was like pulling a giant stone egg between my legs up a very, very steep hill. It was almost impossible. Eventually I felt the egg started to loosen, soften. I pushed it towards a room I’d imagined, one with a wall that said in giant bright red neon letters “Hi Nathaniel it’s your friend Thomas.” It was stupid, simple and effective. Once Nathaniel the egg saw it, once he was pushed fully inside the room, he started to melt even more. 

I saw a loose golden outlined shape, vaguely human standing next to me. Three white doves flew through the wall and perched on his shoulders and his head. A pit of snakes opened up in front of him. Symbols flashed across the wall, fighting with my self-imposed mental block on the regular imagery of his dreamscape. His own dream mind was fighting the temporary bounds that I had imposed via the dream bridge. The ancient Tibetans had been right; you couldn’t share another’s dreams. They’d just failed to set out the fact that you could influence them. Or perhaps they had deliberately left that bit out.

While we were out a situation had developed amongst the remaining trio. The security at Chambers had come over to investigate two guys they had seen confronting each other. As soon as the thick burly black teed roid munchers came over an air of menace began to permeate the zone.  

“What the fuck your buddies doing asleep huh? Get them to wake up now. No sleeping!” – said the burly looking white boy with the thick brown beard.

“These guys are good friends, but they both suffer from epilepsy. Right now their both fitting. We have to leave them where they are.” said Angus.

The other bouncer was looking around distrustingly and spotted the blood from the wrist cut and the broken schooner glass. He pointed at it.

“What’s this? You boys been fighting? Let’s grab these two vagrants Thommo” 

The bouncer motions to his bouncer mate.
The trio stand shoulder to shoulder in front of the two sleepers. Angus speaks again.

“Don’t take another step forward.” 

“Or you’re going to do what champ?” The bouncer questions menacingly.

Rusty folds his arms across a massive chest, his head never moved. His eyes say volumes.

“How the fuck do you explain this mess champ?” The bouncer was unmoved, itching now for violence.

Angus’s face muscles don’t move. He is world class when it comes to board room antics.

“The glass was dropped; the one on the right accidentally made the cut. The guys are brothers and started fitting at the sight of the blood. If you move either of them there’s a fair chance you’ll kill one of them. Now that I have warned you, if you still do it that’s premeditated manslaughter. Guys sure that’s what you want to do?” answered Angus smoothly.

The two bouncers shared their single brain cell, deep in conference for several seconds. Then reaching a mutual decision they retreated not even looking at the krew. They could be seen calling in the paramedics.

Lost in the dream world with Nathaniel we whirled through a rainbow kaleidoscope of tropically coloured clouds. When we finally drop out of reality we are apparently in Angus’s luxurious city pad. The most beautiful melody I have ever heard performed is echoing softly around the room. As I squint my sleepy eyes I see Sam playing the piano. 

His friends smile knowingly at me,
“Samuel is world class virtuoso. Just relax and enjoy.” 

The music is incredibly uplifting, drifting in on the warm soft Sydney breeze that floated through the apartment.

*SMH: Sydney morning herald newspaper
**Algo: short for; Algorithm, a core piece of code within an application.