Thursday, March 31, 2011

Anticipation Is The Spice Of Murder

I had a dream last night, a recurring dream that I hadn't had in a while. A group of folks in their twenties and thirties share a sprawling bungalow near the coast somewhere. The climate is warm and humid, and the ocean's really close, with tidal pools extending almost up to the back door. The place could be California, Mexico, Thailand or some island in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean. The time could be the hippie period of the seventies, or even now. The folks gather in a large, gloomy communal living room, cluttered with books and newspapers and drug paraphrenalia. There might be electronic devices too, but nobody's using them. These folks read, and talk, and try to seduce one another into either sex or argument - something, anything, to get the blood flowing. That lust for human interaction is what most convinces me that the dream is set in the distant past. A mysterious stranger shows up at the bungalow after a storm. He's young and scruffy and spaced-out, and carries a grimy knapsack that he never lets out of his sight. He sort of reminds me of those artificial hunchbacks who smack you in the face on the subway train whenever they swivel around to turn on their iPods. Only this dude is worse than that. Some days after he arrives, hideous color photos of crime victims, slashed and torn, mutilated or beheaded or disembowelled, turn up as unwelcome inserts in the reading matter of everyone in the bungalow. Open up the newspaper, and a little snapshot of hell falls out. Crack open that magazine when you are alone on the bathroom toilet, and you see the image of a castration serving as your bookmark. One of the folks finds a manila envelope on the coffee table, and out slides one after another picture of carnage. This happens so often that it unnerves everyone in the bungalow - especially one guy, another young guy, who has always been loud and defensive and becomes even more so now. No one really liked this guy before anything started to happen, and now they are all avoiding him. Unlike everyone else, this kid never reads anything, so he never finds any of the pictures. For this and other reasons, some think he is the one leaving them around. He senses their accusing stares, and eventually he explodes. "I'll show you, you bastards!" He pulls a knife on their leader and threatens to kill him, but the new kid intervenes. He swoops onto the guy and beats the shit out of him. The battered hothead slinks away after the assault, and they never see him again. The new kid takes his knife, a huge butcher knife maybe a foot long, and flings it into the tidal pool outside the back door, where it sinks to the bottom among the sand dollars and the starfish. After that, no more pictures appear, and everyone relaxes. They let down their guard. The weekend comes and the group separates into singletons and couples and trios of buddies and they all leave the bungalow on day trips or errands. At the end of the day, they return - one by one, or two by two. The scruffy new kid, the former hero of the hour, greets each of them in that gloomy old living room, an evil smile on his face and an even bigger knife in his hands...

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