Friday, May 20, 2011

Flash fiction: The Spinner (part 1)

Ever had a recurring dream that came true? I have, a few times. One was mundane, involving a unique kind of light, but when it came true it was a profound moment of recognition, and I never had the dream again. The other recurring dream that came true changed the very nature of reality, not just for me, but for everybody. It is a challenge to the laws of physics. This is super hero stuff we're talking about here, the stuff of fantasy, and like anything crazy that happens to a normal guy like myself, my puny mind is still grasping at the implications, even though, as super powers go, it is fairly useless.

But before I get into all that... here's the other dream that came true and never came back. Somehow, it connects to my unique power, but I'm still trying to figure all that out.

Ever since I was a child, I had this dream of an aquarium with white rocks, crushed limestone, I believe, and potted plants inside it. In my dream I walk up to this aquarium and just look inside. Nothing else happens. It is lit from within by a fluorescent light, or so I thought, and surrounding me is the gray glow of pre-dawn, but just a little brighter, unlike any kind of natural light I've known. For some reason, I can't figure out, light is important to all this.

I had this dream from age 7 or 8 until I was 19, about 11 years. And each time I remembered it I was filled with peace and thought it was a memory of my grandparent's basement. Grandma raised orchids and kept them in aquariums, lit up with a fluorescent light. I don't remember any white rocks. Close enough. But I was wrong.

It was the first time I'd drank Carlsburg beer. I was in Denmark in June of 1992. I was visiting Braun-wen, an exchange student from high school who I'd been pen pals with ever since. I had a Eurail pass and had been bumming around Europe for most of a month. I'd looked forward to seeing Braun-Wen. I admit to romantic desires, but I never pursued them. Maybe it was a language barrier, or that I was too regular of a guy (she criticized my brown leather jacket right when I got off the train). Although we connected in letters, in person we got along awkwardly. I was left to the company of her two older brothers and extended family of cousins. Danes are easygoing.

They let me stay in the attic, which was my home for five nights. It had a skylight and, I noted almost immediately, an aquarium with a potted hosta plant and white rocks. It looked immediately familiar. My last night there, Braun-Wen once again abandoned me to party with her friends. I could hear a cheesy live band playing out of tune and out of time renditions of Nirvana songs. Feeling sad, rejected, and missing family back in the states, I went for a long walk and stumbled upon a hedgehog. It curled up into a ball. I moved it with my foot. It left quills in my shoe. I went to sleep around 11, but it was still light out, the sun hanging like a gray ball on the edge of the horizon.

I woke a few hours later, maybe at 3, and looked over from my bed to the aquarium. It was then that the overwhelming sense of deja vu hit me. This was the recurring dream. I looked up out of the skylight and saw the strange permanent dusk of sunlight, a light I'd never seen before because I'd never been this far north on the summer solstice. While profound, I noted the connection to the dream and went back to sleep. I wonder even now if that wasn't a dream. But I never had the dream again. The aquarium with the white rocks lives on only in living memory.

Years later, I began having this dream of spinning. In the dream, I am startled by something, and it's always something different, a barking dog, a car suddenly appearing from around a corner, or a piano falling from an upper story window. And like dreams, other fantastical elements come into play. There's a return of that alpen glow light, except I only see it when I jump away. It is as if a filter is suddenly put over my vision and everything pales in this other light. And as I leap away, I spin, and keep on spinning, suspended in the air, more revolutions than I can count, and it feels like I'm on a merry-go-round, except I look down and I'm off the ground. Sometimes I stay in one place. Other times I move back and forth in a low, swooping sway, all the while spinning, spinning. Also, I never feel dizzy. And when I wake up I'm perfectly fine, lying in the same place as I went to sleep. No external motion causes me to feel this spinning sensation in my dream. I've had this dream at least 10 times.

Now here's where it gets weird, and I hesitate to even mention it because I don't want to be found out and probed and explored by scientists, or put in prison as a dangerous element. Yeah, I've read too many comic books and listened to too much alarmist AM radio, but I wouldn't put it past the federal government to take away my freedoms and lock me up for good. Never forget that the purpose of our government is to maintain the common good. Anything odd or unexplainable has a way of disappearing.

About two months ago, I was stepping out of the shower and the towel I stepped on slipped out from under me. I spun to regain my balance, but as soon as I did the strange light came over me, again, as if someone slipped special glasses over me, and I turned, suspended in mid-air at a 45-degree angle. I panicked and reached out for the shower curtain. It tore off the bar, violently, the hooks snapping as the curtain ripped away from them. And there I was, enshrouded in my own shower curtain, spinning.

How did I stop myself? At first, I stuck my hands out, but I just banged my knuckles on the edge of the tub. This changed the angle of my body a little, but did nothing to slow the rate of spinning. It's a little hard to explain, but as I spun, I became aware of a lack of vertigo, and I didn't need to focus on one spot to avoid motion sickness. Something inside of me, I realized, and I imagined it in my upper gut, just below the solar plexus, the very center of my body, seemed to be the source of motion. And, although I didn't know what I was doing, I just thought, and told myself, concentrating on that spot, "Stop spinning." As I kept thinking this, the alpen glow faded, fading in waves in tune with my heartbeat, and the spinning slowed, then stopped, and, as normal light returned, I fell with a thud, bruising my ribs on the side of the tub.

Did this really happen? I wondered this all day at work. And when I got home I took my shirt off, pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming, though I'm not sure why this classic test of dream versus reality is very effective. This entire experience has me questioning all reality, not just my own. The metaphysical questions this raises, even to an average, boring admissions officer like myself who took only one philosophy course in community college, are many and profound. I took off my shirt and looked in the mirror. There it was, the dark bruise on my ribs. But that could have happened any way. Not just from spinning. I could have dreamed I was in the shower, was spinning, and fell out of bed instead. There was only one way to test whether or not the spinning was real. I had to try and do it again... (To be continued)

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