Back | Next


The Dream Is the Same

The nightmare is always the same:

We're trying to make our escape from Hell, a whole crowd of us running through the slimy corridors. Everybody I've ever loved is there, along with strange faces, some of which I know should be familiar.  

Behind us, there's a screaming pack of demons, some in cartoony shapes, some that look like misshapen wolves, all of whom have me scared so bad I can hardly breathe the scalding, stinking air. The walls keep trying to close in on me, but I push the hot, slime-covered surface away.  

The exit is up ahead, a gash in the wall, and the crowd starts to push through. I can't tell who's gone through, but I can only hope that my kids are among them. Please.  

Some have made their escape, but there's no way for the rest of us: the demons are approaching too quickly, and they're going to catch us.  

And then I see him: Karl Cullinane, Jason's father, standing tall, face beaming, his hands, chest, and beard streaked with blood and gore.  

"We're going to have to hold the corridor," Karl says. "Who's with me?" He smiles, as though he's been waiting his whole life for this, the fucking idiot. 

Figures push out of the crowd, all of them bloodied, some of them bent. I guess I notice Kosciuszko and Copernicus first, although both of them are shorter than I thought they'd be.  

A buddha-faced Chinese steps forward, his face shiny with sweat that he doesn't seem to notice. "A boddhisattva," he says, "is one who pledges not to attain heaven until the rest of humanity does."

Another man stands tall, lean as a sword, not seeming to notice that the right side of his chest is cut open, slashed to the grayish liver. "Of course," he says, taking his place next to a slim, hawk-faced woman in what looks like a burial robe. Her robe is burning so hard I can hear her flesh crackle, and she winces in pain, but it doesn't stop her. 

"Moi aussi," she says. 

Two nondescript men push forward together. "Once more, Master Ridley," the first says, his accent clipped and British. 

The other shakes his head and smiles wearily. "I'd thought—but no: once more, then."

A heavy-bearded, heavy-set man, still wearing his hangman's noose, his eyes wide in madness, pushes forward, shoulder to shoulder with Georgie Patton himself.  

Humanity streams by us, and it's all I can do not to be swept along with it.  

The corridor has always seemed tight, maybe twenty feet across, but the line of them—thousands of them, arms linked tightly—can't quite stretch across it.  

They need one more to close the ranks, or it's all for nothing, and the demons are fast approaching.  

One more. They always need one more.  

Karl looks at me—they all look at me: Brown, Ridley, Joan, Ahira, Horatius, all of them—his bloody face puzzled. "Walter? What are you waiting for?"  

* * *

Then I wake up.


Back | Next