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Raised by Wolves

Gaki: writing myself Real

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Dark Tower illustration by Dave McKean

My mind is a perilous thing. It is hungry, always hungry, and if I do not feed it constantly with conversation, stimulation, books, games, movies, drink, drugs -- then it will feed on me. I will dwell on all the normal negative aspects of life, all the humiliations, shames and pains, until all other things cease to exist, and without context those embarrassments become limitless and unconquerable -- the Tower of Wrong. In the tower's shadow I am locked down, unable to move or focus effectively, every urge sapped by a silent, resounding "No. Because you suck." I clockwatch, counting the minutes or hours but not feeling them, while my inner voice spits excoriations and self loathing down upon me from high, unassailable windows located far back in time. If there is sunlight, then the light is nauseating. If it is dark, then the dark shows me horrors. My hands will take a clawed grip on the center of my chest, as though to crush or force back in the the thing that is birthing there, or to desperately clutch for something missing. My face will twist down at the corners, making a grimace like the Japanese oni mask (my brother has said this very symptom happens to him as well -- a thing both saddening and reassuring to hear).

The hunger steals my sleep. When I am strong, then there is never any question of surrender -- but in the Tower's shadow I want nothing but to dissolve, to receive oblivion's kiss, anything to stop thinking thinking thinking always thinking thinking thinking. And sometimes, in this tormented state, sometimes, when I wrestle the Tower's shadow, desperately seeking to avoid the sensation of being crushed, seeking a door, seeking an escape ...

Sometimes I dream.

Driving to work, on the bridge just before I must decide between freeway onramp or BART station, a powerful fist of lethargy crashes down on me in my seat. My eyes start to close, and I cannot force them open. I am drifting out into the intersection, veering right (which is the wrong direction). Drunkenly, barely conscious, I put the car in reverse. My head is sinking, and I back directly into a car that insists on rushing right up to intersection's edge. The impact ignites a brief spark of adrenaline -- not knowing how much time I have, I recklessly hit the gas, accelerate across the intersection, and take a left into a small lot, to get off the road while I wait for the other driver to approach.

Away from the intersection, some of my energy returns. (What kind of apathy well does that intersection represent to my inner mind? Two options, neither of which is appealing? The point in my day where I want nothing more than to go back to bed?) I get out of the car to look for the other driver, and I don't see him or his car. I then realize that am on a large multi-laned road divided by a median - and I was on the righthand side. I have taken a left turn into a place that does not exist.

Which is because I'm dreaming, I realize. And I put the thought immediately away. Because the dreamspace is fragile, and my knowledge will shatter it before I'm ready to leave.

At first it seems like a small lot under an overpass. But as I turn to examine my surroundings, the true nature of the oubliette begins to reveal itself. As I turn away from looking back at the intersection, more walls have appeared. I look back at my car -- or rather, I look to see two cars, neither of which is mine. Both are old, covered in dust and spiderwebs, as though they've been forgotten here for a very long time. I turn back again, to look where I came from, and now the space I'm in has a ceiling over it, admitting only a little bit of the fragile grey San Francisco light. What was once a driveway big enough for a vehicle is now simply an empty doorway to the street.

I turn, again, away from the street. I feel the place seal me in as I do. But now there is another doorway, a dull rust-red one, and I walk through it without any particular hesitation.

I'm in a hallway. I can tell the house is old, because it is small -- the hallway is narrow, and the small unlit ceiling chandeliers hover near my head. The walls are some shade of chartreuse -- it's hard to be certain. There is enough light to see by, but there is no visible light source anywhere (I imagine video games have informed my inner mind that this is possible). It looks like what Lukyanenko would call "the first level of the Twilight," dim and muted and worn by time. Cobwebs cover everything, forming diagonal bridges across the entire hallway that I must brush aside as I walk.

My face is numb. No -- just half of it. I reach dreaming hands up to the left half, and I can feel it with my fingertips, but it's numb -- and shaped oddly. Smashed in? You're sleeping on your face, I remember, and shove the thought aside quickly again.

The hallway leads me into a small front room. There is a large front door ahead of me, large and wooden, with a dark crimson finish. Two old 70's style burgundy sitting-room chairs are on either side of the door. And there are windows. And through the windows...

Ramadan illustration by P. Craig Russell

I'm in a house in the middle of a dream city. The view is breathtaking. There are Eastern pagodas and Arabian temples, gothic spires and Russian turnip-towers, as far as I can see. The sky is a devoid gray, but the buildings themselves are lucent, filled with ambers, creams, golds, and rich reds.

These epiphanic moments in dream are always accompanied by music of a sort that I wish I could record -- they tend to be sort of minimal electronic loops, generally melodic, occasionally discordant, but always repetitive and rhythmic. Sometimes the quality is like ambient techno, often it's more industrial, and sometimes it has a distinctly 80's "Tangerine Dream" flavor. Or even more rarely, a sort of shoegazey, distorted guitar. As I have wondered many times before -- do I listen to these types of music because they reflect my internal soundtrack -- or do they follow me into dreams because I gravitate to them in the waking world? I have memories of these strange little tune loops all the way back to my first lucid dreams in junior high, and I don't really know where they come from -- it's the music of my mind. This is the treacherous thought -- the knowledge that I have thought about this distinction before -- that takes me out of the abandoned dream house and deposits me firmly back in the pre-dawn light of the waking world.

I had several more dreams as I slipped between the realms of wakefulness and sleep, but I could hold onto none of them -- none save this one. I wanted to go back and visit. Not just to rush out that door into the city of dream, but simply to soak in the sensations again -- to come to grips with the notion that this was a place I was visiting, an abandoned house in a city of wonder -- perhaps even my house, and why so long unused, then? It makes me sad, to think of it so cobwebbed and dusty, forgotten.

But I do not dream serially, and I know that I won't find it again. There are too many worlds.

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"I have taken a left turn into a place that does not exist."

The perfect transition from a conundrum of intersections and into a Dream City. As if the City fog is just a veil.

We all have our Dark Tower, don't we.

At the end of the day, yours is still one of my favorite brains.

Waking up at 4:30 am, with a glass of water and a big bowl of Night Terrors, is a healthy way to start your day!

Thanks for reading! I had meant to work on more story stuff but, as usual, got lost along the way.

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