Saturday, December 2, 2017

midway to eternity

“Perchance to Dream”, The Twilight Zone (originally aired 11-27-59)

While I'm now convinced that one more dream will mean the end for me, a part of my brain—the part that snapped some time ago—doesn't really mind at all. After four days of sweat and jitters and a stomach in knots, of popping bennies and playing the nightmare over and over in my head, I'm a goner either way.  If my bad ticker doesn't get me, Maya will.

You see, my dreams, they come in chapters like one of those old serials. I used to dream like this as a boy, strange as it may sound. Each night brought a new episode picking up where the last had left off. Then I just stopped dreaming altogether for quite some time. Until last week, that is. That's when she came into my life.

Boy, I'll tell you, doc—I'm almost afraid to go on. You just might have me committed before we're through here. But I've got to tell someone, because I don't think I have very much time left.  

I guess I ought to start out with a little background. I've always had what you might call an active imagination. When I was a boy we had this poster of a sailship in our living room, and my mother had told me that if I stared at it too long, it would begin to move. Well, I stared and stared at that poster and sure enough, it did move. So much so that I couldn't get it to stop. I'd actually get a bit of motion sickness whenever it caught my eye too long. I know, I know—children imagine a lot of things.  

When I was fifteen I developed a rheumatic heart. They said I'd never really get well. No strenuous exercise, no long walks; I'd have to take it easy from now on. And no scares or shocks—avoid any kind of shock, they say. They forget about my imagination.

Three years ago a woman was killed by a man who was hiding in the back seat of her car. You may have read about it—I did.  Well, something about that story got me started. I have a long drive home every night through the Laurel Canyon, and my mind began to linger in the shadows behind me, wondering who might be crouching back there. 

Here's the important part, doctor: I knew that I was alone. But I also knew that my imagination would make me see something if I thought about it long enough. And that was the first time I saw her.

Of course there was no one else in the car—it was all in my mind—but I crashed anyway. The shock could have killed me. I couldn't survive another one, the doctor said—I could be sure of that.

For the longest time, I didn't dream at all. Then a week ago it started. I'd gone to bed early even though I wasn't particularly tired, because my heart needed the rest. I don't know when I fell asleep, but all the sudden I wasn't at home anymore. I was at an amusement park—this dark, desolate midway that filled me with an instant dread. It was the kind of place you only see in nightmares—everything warped and twisted out of shape. But it was real, too. Very real.

"And now, to give you a little demonstration of what you're going to see on the inside, Maya the Cat Girl!"

Those eyes...those dark, cat's eyes.  I'd seen them before. Right before...

I was terrified—I knew what she wanted. And yet something was pulling me toward her. It took everything I had to break away and run from that tent.  

“Why did you do that?”
“Do what?”
“Run away.”

“Come with me. You want to, don't you Edward?” “How do you know my name?” “Oh, I know a lot of things—I'm Maya.”

“Don't be afraid...”
“I'm not.”
“You are afraid.”

There was something in those eyes that delighted in my trepidation.  It seemed the more terror I felt, the more animated and excited she became. And yet I knew it was just a dream...and she was so hard to resist. And so I was led me by the hand toward that funhouse.

“Take me in there, Edward. It's dark inside. Soft and cool and dark.  Please.”
“How can I argue with a dream?”

“We've been expecting you, Mr. Hall.”
“You can kiss me now.”
“What if I don't want to?”
“Oh, you want to...”

That's when I absolutely knew, doc.  She's trying to kill me.

“And you woke up then, huh?”

Yes. My heart was beating fast. I had to lie still for an hour waiting for it to settle down. The doctor said I'd almost had it.  The next night I put off sleep until nearly one o'clock, but it didn't matter. The dream was out of control. I was back at the amusement park.  I was running...

“Edward? Edward!”

“Get away from me.”
“There's nothing to be afraid of, Edward, it's only a dream.”

“I've got a heart condition—I can't stand all this excitement!”

“You're at home, asleep in your bed. Now you can do all the things you can't do when you're awake.”
“That's not true, the doctor said...”

“Look, Edward, look!"

“Come on, Edward—it's fun!”

I didn't want to go anywhere near that rollercoaster, but I couldn't help myself. I had to follow her. Even though I knew exactly what it would mean, I had to follow her.

“Jump, Edward! Jump!”

“And is that it?”

Yeah, that's it. If I go to sleep again, I'll go right back to the rollercoaster.  And that'll be the end of me. On the other hand, if I stay awake any longer, the strain will be too much for my heart. Heads you win, tails I lose. That's quite a choice, doctor.

Boy, if I could just close my eyes and wake up anew. And someone lovely and caring will tell me everything's fine, that I just overslept. We'll laugh about it all over breakfast as I realize Maya is just a face I saw on television. And that dark, cool spot she wants to take me—it isn't a real place at all. And this psychiatrist's office, maybe it's all a big put-on as well—just some elaborate, over-indulgent piece of a nightmare. Yes...imagine that.