Dream: I was at my kitchen table reading the paper when I came across an article about a free lecture being given that night at a school near my house. The article claimed that Paris (Texas) was being invaded by Hellcats and the lecturer would provide information to those who attend regarding what one should do in a Hellcat encounter.
The room was packed but I found a seat in the fifth row while my fellow audience members chatted away. A woman of Japanese descent, sitting in the third row, was fidgeting and kept turning from side to side, then looking over her shoulder as if she were scared of something or someone. I leaned forward and asked, “Ma’am, are you alright?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I feel like … this isn’t a safe place. Something’s not right.”
I wanted to help calm her nerves but didn’t quite know how to go about it in a crowded auditorium, so I offered her a piece of cinnamon gum, which she accepted graciously.
Finally a man wearing a pinstripe suit appeared on stage and demanded everyone’s attention.
He began to speak about a number of dangerous women who were living in Paris.
“These women call themselves Hellcats. They’re some of the most dangerous people I’ve come across in the twenty years I spent in law enforcement. They have no physical weapons, which is what makes them so dangerous! Their weapon is magic! We know of at least a half-dozen citizens who have been turned into tadpoles already. The only way to avoid the transformation, once the spell has been cast, is to swallow a handful of flax seeds immediately after the witch utters her spell. This is how they do it.”
I was stifling laughter as the former police officer took off his suit jacket and snapped and flailed it about – as if he were shooing flies off a picnic pie – to demonstrate how the Hellcats turn citizens into tadpoles.
I couldn’t hold my laughter in any longer. I laughed so loud that it seemed to echo through the auditorium. The Japanese-American woman, two rows in front of me, stood up and turned around.
“Don’t laugh! Please don’t laugh,” she pleaded. “I’ve had this dream before! If you don’t stop he’ll…” Then she turned around to face the speaker. He stood behind the podium, enraged. He reached over to a small table beside the podium and picked up a mallet and with a wide swinging motion he struck the gong behind him, which I hadn’t noticed until now.
The sound of the gong was deafening. Everybody in the auditorium covered their ears and the woman who had warned me to stop laughing slumped into her chair like a rag doll. The lights in the room lowered until I could barely see my hand in front of my face.
I stood up, preparing to escape the auditorium, when I noticed the air had become thick with fog. I heard a train in the distance, turned around and realized I was outside – alone on a dark, deserted city street. A few lamp posts lit the street, but the light was rather dim. A figure moved out from the doorway of an old store across the street. The figure was dressed in a long, black flowing gown with a tall, pointy black hat. She slowly crossed the street, walking toward me, as I stood frozen in fear.
As she moved closer to me I noticed she was carrying a small, black kitten. When I was able to make out her features, I spotted two warts – one on her chin and one on her upper lip. She stopped, now standing directly in front of me. I said nothing.
“Well?” she asked.
“Well what?” I replied.
“What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I have no earthly idea what just happened.”
“I have orders to turn you into a tadpole,” she said.
“What are my options?” I asked.
“I’ll spare you if you agree to be my slave for the next seven years.”
She seemed quite serious, but once again I was having to stifle my laughter until I could no longer contain it.
“How dare you laugh at me!” she exclaimed.
“You’re no witch!” I said, accusingly.
She took a step back, spreading her free arm to the side, showing me her costume in an attempt to prove her claim and intimidate me. Then she began to recite some sort of magic spell, which sounded like gibberish. I stood there and listened as she slowed down and stopped.
“I just have two more lines to go and you’ll be transformed!”
“Well, please continue. Don’t let me stop you.”
She continued reciting gibberish – much slower than before. It had already occurred to me that she was bluffing, so acting on my hunch, I reached for her face and grabbed the wart on her chin. It fell right into my hand as she gasped in horror. I quickly reached for her other wart. They were both nothing more than putty. Stage makeup!
Her voice trembled as she asked, “How did you know?”
“Because no respectable witch would dress like that unless they were going to a Halloween party. You’re no witch! You’re just part of the scam.”
I grabbed her by the wrist and informed her I was going to turn her over to the police. She begged me to let her go and then showed me the ring on her finger, offering it to me as a bribe, if I would only let her go free.
“I’ve seen this ring before,” I said.
“Of course, you have!” she said proudly. “I saw it in a vision. Your mother showed it to me. I had it specially made.”
“That’s another lie!” I exclaimed. “My mother wouldn’t have shown you that gaudy, bejeweled monstrosity! She was a simple woman with simple tastes. Just a few minutes ago you were trying to make me your indentured servant. Now you’re trying to bribe me with visions of my mother and the ugliest ring I’ve ever seen. What’s your game? And what part does the guy giving the lecture play in all this?”
Just then the Japanese-American woman broke through the fog and started walking toward us. The so-called witch fell to the ground, moaning.
“Oh, stop faking a heart attack! I’m turning you in!”
The woman from the third row stood next to me as we both stood over the witch, watching her as she appeared to be writhing in pain.
“I don’t think she’s faking,” said the woman, “I think this is real. She’s been found out. She can’t hurt you anymore.”
“Who are you?”
“My name is Rose. I’ve been in your shoes. I had this dream before but I agreed to be her slave. I was scared. But in my dream she threatened to turn me into a toad. I didn’t have the nerve to stand up to her but I think you came better prepared.”
“Yeah, I think real life prepared me for this one. But what does it mean?”
“It means you’re free.”
She repeated the words, “you’re free” several times, as they trailed off into a faint echo.
End of dream
I awoke with a pain in my stomach – a pain I couldn’t identify and that worried me. For the next couple hours I worried about my stomach pain and finally decided to eat something.
The pain was hunger – a sensation I hadn’t experienced since early in November, in spite of having skipped between ten and twenty meals for every one consumed throughout most of that time.
I reckon I’m healing.
It’s about time!