I have just awoken from an interesting dream. In the dream, I am in a restaurant or a club of some kind, clearly a stylish place. Beautiful and charming people are eating and chatting, amongst fashionably modern chairs and tables. And in the middle of the restaurant is an industrial death machine. Not a machine for killing, but for the appropriate treatment and disposal of corpses. A mortuary.
A man has died. Of what, I do not know. A black man, of some age and worth. Younger black men, b-ballers and such, stand around bereft of leadership.
Certain rites must be performed. Proper respect must be shown to this great man who has died. I must perform the rites. Whether I am selected or volunteer, I do not know.
I accompany the corpse. I must be careful. The workers in the mortuary must not know what I am doing. Nevertheless, they do know, and know that they must help me. But they too must avoid detection.
The corpse is moving on a conveyor belt. I get on the belt beside it. At a certain time, I must put pills inside its coffin. Then the corpse will dissolve. This will prevent it from being chopped into tiny pieces by a component in the machine. After this stage, the corpse will reconstitute, and continue on its journey whole.
The workers fret over me. I tell them not to worry, that I have done this before, when my grandfather nearly died. That is true, they say. He did this before.
I move alongside the corpse. At the appropriate juncture, I scatter the pills over the corpse. I roll off the conveyor belt, and land beside the gutted corpse of a seagull. I can see ribs amongst the feathers.
I walk to the other side of the dicing machine. The coffin awaits me. I accompany it further. The corpse inside is whole. Finally I have reached the point where it must go on without me. I put a basketball on the corpse's chest, and say farewell. I leave the conveyor belt and return to the restaurant.
The young black men are there. They are distraught from the loss of their leadership, but they do not know that he is gone yet. One of them, not particularly big, with whom I have apparently had words, comes towards me.
When he reaches me, he punches me in the mouth. I can feel the blood, taste it. I look him in the eye. I say, "I would shed my blood for you."
He punches me again and again, always in the mouth. "I would die for you," I say. Again and again, he strikes me. It is important that he does this. I can sense the sadness behind his hate and his anger, and I know that he needs this.
"I would shed my blood for you," I say again. My mouth is a mass of blood and broken teeth. As important as it is for him to hit me, it is important that I say this. As often as necessary, until he hears it.
Finally, the beating stops. "I'm sorry," I say. "He's gone." The young black man's face blanches, and he turns to one of his companions and clasps him in a strong embrace, his body shaking and unbalanced with grief. The other man holds him, consoles his pain. I am no longer needed.
Now I am on another level of the restaurant, one above the last. A kitchen, but one that is flooded. Japanese women work cooking food whilst their babies and little children swim around. Some of the babies have been caught by their mothers and are being scrubbed, their little voices raised in outrage over this indignity. I walk, chest deep in water, amongst them. They do not see me.
I walk through the water. Now it is chin deep. My blood rills down my face and into the water. I look back, and see a trail of diffusing blood in the water. I step out of the water and prepare to return to the restaurant/club below.
A small, blown tulip of glass is in my hand. It appears to be a light fixture of some kind. The long tapered stem is broken. I walk down a flight of stairs to the club below. I am no longer wet.
My face is a mask of blood beneath the nose. I can feel my loosened and broken teeth rattling around in my mouth. The patrons of the club say nothing. They ignore me. I am not sure whether they can see me but simply do not wish to see me. They do not acknowledge my presence.
I cut a path through the room. Finally, I find my father. "There you are," he says, and then sees my face. "What happened to you?" The first thought I have is how I am going to explain the destruction of four thousand dollars worth of orthodontia. At last, I simply say, "I got the shit beaten out of me."
Then I awake. I have had this dream twice tonight.