The October People, Chapter 10: What Deams May Come
DREAM JOURNAL February 16
I was in the barn and heard someone pull into the driveway, a black jeep or SUV. I tried to stay out of sight, to make like no one was home. A little boy entered the barn, walked right up to me, stopped and then stared silently at me. It looked like me as a boy, but I ‘recognized’ him as someone else. I told him how much he’d grown, though actually he still looked like he was 6. Melissa and the boy’s mother talked for awhile. I noticed that she looked like a young Lily.
All the children; mine, theirs, the family’s, were made to run a race around an old, large, cold cast-iron stove for bread.
Suddenly the children seemed to be my siblings.
My kids won first and second place, so I gave them buttered toast.
Later in the dream, I started to cross over a large river on a masonry dam at twilight. Firemen were still working on the face of the dam. I stopped to help, and picked up the last couple of bags of trash. They seemed appreciative. Downstream a bit I saw townspeople sandbagging the base of the bridge against the rising river.
When I got to the other side the sky was dark and ominous, like just before full night on a late October’s eve.
Before me stretched a vast, completely featureless plain. I was just standing there, mixing bread dough in a bowl that I held, when suddenly out of nowhere a gaunt, beaten-onto-death 6 year old me just appeared. Naked, it stood a dozen feet away and looked me in the eyes with a bone-chilling stare of reproach and accusation. There was a “Night of the Living Dead” quality about it and it gave off the same bloodcurdling feel as the ‘Thing in the Attic’ did. The face was so bloody from such terrible wounds.
It stood there staring silently at me for a long moment…and then it was gone.
I was stunned at seeing my younger self and shocked as I realized that this was all for dough.
The first ‘rational’ thought I was able to summon up was that even if I couldn’t remember how I got these scars, there would have to be some sort of proof out there. There would have to be hospital records, doctors’ reports; something.
And of course there would be: This is America, the land of beauracracies, data on everything, and records back to the Stone Age. Wrong. There were no records on anything. Everywhere I called or wrote; schools, hospitals, State Agencies, the answer was the same. Nobody kept any records for more than 6 years now: “As per New York State Record Retention Disposition Schedule M1-1”. Everything older than 6 years had been destroyed or discarded.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was the “Information Age”, the 21st Century for Christ’s Sake, and there were no records left older than 6 years? There was nothing left from earlier than 2000? I thought Y2K was a joke!
The only place I had any luck at all was with P.S. 12, the school in Woodside that I had attended until I was transferred out to the Island in 1st Grade. The lady in charge of records there was very helpful, and they still had kept their old paper files. She found the one for the 1st Grade class of 1958-59. It contained the names of all the children in the class…except mine.
She double-checked for me; my name was simply not there. I asked her if she had records for Kindergarten classes. She said no, that they never kept records of kindergarten; record keeping began with 1st Grade.
Desperate now, I asked her to see if the names of children I remembered were in that class. My class photos showed the same kids in Kindergarten and 1st grade. Each one that I could pull back was there; Willy, Glen, June, Mickey, Cathy; all of them. But not me.
That was a partial relief; I wasn’t hallucinating. I did remember correctly. My memory was good. But why wasn’t there any record of me down there?
Almost frantically, I dug out my school pictures and found the ones from Kindergarten and 1st grade. Both were from Woodside. I had no class picture from 1st grade on the Island. For the first time in my life I actually scrutinized them.
“Fuck! These are both from kindergarten!” I blurted out. “They’re just shot from different sides of the same room, with the kids grouped differently!”
“You never noticed that before?” Melissa asked, looking over my shoulder. “I saw that the first time you showed it to me. It was obvious they were both taken the same day. All the kids and the teacher are wearing the same clothes in both photos.”
“No, you don’t understand. Loony Lily told me this one was 1st Grade, and this one was Kindergarten, and I took her word for it all these years because I had no memory of the City school. For all these years I’ve never questioned it, or really looked at it for that matter. But the point is; this was no error, no simple mistake on her part. She deliberately lied to make me think I was there in 1st Grade.” I looked at the two photographs in my hands. “I never attended 1st Grade in the City. I was just starting school in November of ‘58, out on the Island. I was way behind the rest of the class. Now I know why: That was my first day of school.”
I looked at her.
“But if I wasn’t in school before that…where was I?”
I had no access to the Internet except for at the library, an hour’s drive away, where I was limited to a half hour session, if a terminal was open. I had to get some help somewhere. I decided to ask my son. He wrote commercial application software professionally. Recently he had told me that he was writing data-mining software. I figured if anybody could uncover records if they existed, Jackson could.
By the late 70’s I had seen the promise of good careers for those who could write code, so I had both my kids on the computer as early as possible. Jackson had shown interest, so I insisted he concentrate on programming. Over the years he’d become quite adept.
When I called him, he very reluctantly, very coldly, and without committing himself, said he’d see what he could turn up. He did not sound at all as if he cared or believed me when I told him in my self-conscious, stumbling way that I was remembering having been abused as a child. I kept trying on my own to track down archived records or depositories and get some assistance from some State, Federal, or private agency. Nothing.
I called Jackson back a week later after not hearing from him. There was a rudeness I had never heard from him before. He hadn’t done anything about my request for help and brusquely told me he was busy and didn’t have the time to hunt around for me. He told me he’d call me when and if he did. I got the message.
What the hell do you do in a situation like that? No help anywhere, nothing seemed real; I couldn’t remember anything to explain the scars I was wearing and virtually nothing else either. I needed something I could grab hold of, a handle of some kind, an anchor point for thinking.
Melissa suggested that I try to recall what the Woodside apartment looked like. At first all I could say was that it was a corner building and we had lived on the top floor, the 4th, and that the apartment was small; 4 rooms, I thought.
There was a Butcher shop run by the landlord on the ground floor. I knew I could see the EmpireState and ChryslerBuildings from the living room window, and Grandma Alter’s house from the roof. That was about it. I thought maybe if I tried to draw the layout I’d recall more. That helped, but I was still stymied by surprisingly basic things like; what did the bedroom and bathroom look like?
On February 20th I had a long, uncomfortable dream that woke me up. In it I had gone to a somehow familiar barren, rugged, cold land. It lay at the furthest extent of the world. I was almost asleep again when I suddenly saw the hallway of the apartment and at the end of it, the bedroom doorway, and through that the north-facing window! It was as clear as being there again.
From that point I began to, slowly but surely, draw out not only the apartment but the whole building. But there were still some details that were hard to see and hold; they kept ‘sliding off’ on me. The bathroom was like that for a long time, and when I finally did remember that tiny, windowless room with the old claw- foot tub I didn’t like the way it made me feel.
Hal and Lily had no bedroom; they slept on a convertible couch. Jakie and I shared the small bedroom with their dresser and her huge ‘Vanity; a glass-topped make-up table and over-sized ornate wall mirror with make-up lights. She never said who gave her that monstrosity, except to say it wasn’t Hal.
It turned out that it was that mirror which played havoc with me, confusing me badly. Windows, doors, and directions in that room made no sense until I grasped that some of my memories were of seeing reflections of the room in the mirror. Only when I remembered seeing myself and little Jakie seated in front of the mirror and looking into it did I understand what was going on.
My face in the reflection was criss-crossed with a welter of red lines.
The final elusive piece was the east window in the bedroom. According to the exterior plan of the building I’d recreated, symmetry required a second window in our bedroom besides the one on the north side. But for the life of me I couldn’t remember it. Then it just ‘happened’. I was panning across the bedroom floor in my memory and then up the wall. That was when I saw it, just for an instant before it darted away: A boarded up window.
Like the glass had been broken and not replaced.
DREAM JOURNAL February 22
I was a child of about 6, playing outside with other children.
“Lookout! It’s L!” someone yelled. I ran forward to see, and spotted a one-man ‘L-ocopter’ coming in fast. It was ‘L’-shaped, and used it’s rotor like a buzz saw, thump, thump, thump, to cut at things, trees, and people. It saw me and came for me. I ducked under the stairs. It didn’t bother little Jakie, but tried to get at me.
I think it did get at me.
I came out from behind the stairs, and saw it go down in a cornfield. Now an adult, I ran down there to catch him. I caught up with him in a small fountain house, or barn. To my surprise, he looked like someone I knew.
He knew he was caught and didn’t try to get away. Though he wasn’t hostile, he was unrepentant. His attitude was one of: “Don’t try to get me to feel bad about your petty little fright.” I didn’t attack him; I wanted to understand why he did it.
I glanced up to my left and I saw something on a beam. It took a minute to realize what I was looking at. It was the back of a large Praying Mantis, with its arms folded and raised over its head. It was beautiful, but I knew it was about to unfold its claws. Then in an ‘Ah-Ha’ moment, I understood something; it actually looked just like a woman in a dress seen from the back.
I took him as a prisoner back to the house where other people were. There was amazement that he was caught, as he had terrorized the community for a long time. His wife said I should read what he’d done in the past, for that would explain things.
She went to the spare bedroom or I did, either way a book was brought out. It was a large, thick unbound paperback, like a manuscript, tied closed with rope in a peculiar way, in that 1/5, or ¼, of the book was separately bound using the same rope.
I remembered that some of what I read was actually an old dream (?) of a helicopter (Al-icopter!) attack.
The Al-icopter could hide anywhere to elude capture. Eventually, it became a ‘Crab Monster’, like in that 1957 Sci-Fi movie. I saw it push up from under the sandy lawn of a 50’s style Long Island ranch house. The exposure to the sun seemed to slowly kill it. Then I realized it was a man in a crab-costume.
I saw there was money in between the pages. I was stunned, because I didn’t remember putting any money in there. There were 100’s, 50’s, 10’s, and 5’s. I was delighted because, though not a fortune by any means, it was needed and every bit helped.
The money got Erica interested.
“By the way; that was no fall Loony Lily took in Vermont.” I told Melissa one frigid morning as I was bringing in the wood. “She took a hit.”
“You mean Al?... Of course!”
“Yeah. The only reason I never considered the obvious was, well, I never dreamt he’d whack her.” I went on as I filled the wood box. “But her injuries do not fit a fall in a room where there was nothing to hit but the floor. You recognized that right in the ER. Remember how that doctor stared at you? She was listening closely. Those injuries do fit what would happen if someone swung something; a bat, a piece of metal or wood, and hit her across the face with it. A right-handed person…like Al. The wounds on her fingers were defensive cuts. There was a ‘maadman in da baatroom’: Al.”
“And that explains why he waited for us, so we’d all appear together at the hospital. We went as a ‘family’; we were his cover!”
“I never thought of that.”
“And that’s why he kept us away from the campsite, and why he cleaned everything up before he brought her to the clinic.... We’ve only got their word for it that this even happened in the bathrooms at all.”
“That ‘little girl’ in his story sounded pretty damn nonchalant for having just found a bloody old woman. Suppose they waited so long before calling because they needed to get their story straight?”
“Hey…remember how they ‘lost’ her in the ER, and wouldn’t let us in? They didn’t ‘lose’ her, they were protecting her! They were no fools; they would have known immediately what those injuries likely were. They were keeping her safely isolated so she could talk freely if she wanted to. For all we know, the police may have been called.”
“That would explain why neither of them wanted us there once she was admitted. Maybe they were afraid we’d be asked questions, or we’d start asking questions….Ha!”
Something dawned on me.
“Jake. I couldn’t figure out why he had to come up and help when I was right there willing and able. Jake never does grunt work. He was called in to clean up and cover up. Or maybe she called him in so she wouldn’t be alone with Al. Maybe she was a little ‘worried’, she might have another ‘blacking out’ accident. Wonder why Al did that? She must have really pissed him off...or scared him bad.”
I stopped, and looked at her.
“You remember what they said about her ribs? That they might be broken?”
“What about it?”
“That was from him kicking her when she was down.”
“How do you know?”
“Because he did that to me when I was a kid.”
I was only beginning to realize how little I actually knew about my own ‘parents’. Normally, people can’t talk enough about themselves, especially if encouraged. Not those two.
When I was a kid I had often asked them about their past, but I thought I was stupid or something because even with the little they would tell me nothing seemed to hold still. Facts and whole stories kept changing each time they’d tell them, from major points to details. Everything was always vague and hard to pin down.
On a hunch, based on something she read in her ‘Children’s Literature’ course, Melissa started going through what old drawings and sketches from school that Lily had saved and dropped off here and my more recent sketch pads.
She easily discovered repetitive themes. One was of a person pushing his way up and out of the earth or from under rubble with his back and arms. Another was of terrible wounds or strange lines not found on actual faces. Often there would be a person bound in chains. She noticed the curious detail that almost all the males I drew were bald.
“Out of all your artwork, why did Looney Lily choose to save just these?” she asked. “Look at this one.”
She held up a drawing I had done when about 12 or so. It was of a biped dinosaur attacking a pair of cavemen. The beast was twice as tall as they were and had the broken off end of a spear sticking out of its back near the neck.
“Did you stab Al with something?” she suddenly asked, stunning me.
“No. I don’t remember doing anything like that at all!” I reflexively rejected the idea.”Is she nuts!?”
But I was suddenly flushed, dizzy, and queasy. Unbidden thoughts flashed and spoke.
“He’s got a scar in that same exact spot, just like that dinosaur. That dinosaur. It’s not a T Rex; it hasn’t got 2 front claws…It’s an Allosaurus…Jesus...An ‘AL-osaurus’!”.
“I have no memory of anything like that.” I repeated, but no longer so surely.
“Look at that caveman on the ground in front of the dinosaur, the one who didn’t run away, the one with the other part of that broken spear. He’s badly wounded on his head and shoulder, like where some of your scars are. How does seeing this make you feel?”
As she spoke I was remembering those terrible childhood nightmares of a dinosaur stalking down a city street, looking in every window, trying to find me, getting closer to where I hid, closer, closer, his head coming into view in my window…
”I need proof, not ‘feelings’. ‘Feelings’ are crap, they’re nothing. They don’t count. You can’t go around making serious accusations, not even to yourself, based on ‘feelings’. These are serious accusations, and I need proof.”
Worries about my being wrong somehow about all of this were gaining the upper hand. Despite what I remembered about Al trying to kill me, beating and kicking me, knowing now that he nailed his wife, despite seeing all these scars, despite knowing Lily was covering up things…I still could not believe it. I would not believe it. It had to be impossible. I was wrenched in two.
“You say you got scars. Why don’t you remember how you got them? You can’t, can you? Ergo: It never happened. You’re wrong, you’re wrong, you’re wrong!” A voice insistently argued.
I was paralyzed by the lack of unquestionable proof because I could not trust myself for some reason here, and I had an overwhelming fear of being wrong.
And I was really worried about all those thoughts and images plaguing me day and night, rampaging around in my skull just below the surface, of faces and places I didn’t know. They were all jumbled, disconnected to anything, charged with overpowering fears and feelings.
I wasn’t in control over what was happening inside me. I had a terrifying feeling I was slipping, sliding down into insanity, unable to stop. I couldn’t think clearly or surely and was as wary as a hunted animal. Shadows moving across a wall or quick movements seen out of the corner of my eye made me jump convulsively. I couldn’t get warm and was sick to my stomach constantly. Time seemed to stand still.
And what was I supposed to do? If I confronted ‘The October People’ with, say 10 accusations, but no proof; and it turned out that 9 were completely true but one was wrong and they could prove it…It would destroy my credibility on the other 9.
I couldn’t stand the thought of being seen as insane.
And I was very worried about my sanity as March came in like lion.
DREAM JOURNAL March 1
Al, Loony Lily, Jacob and George came up for a surprise visit at night. They hid their dislike of us, but the sniping, the insulting, derisive remarks increased. Melissa and I were aware of it now.
I stood at the sink doing dishes, while Melissa told me a political story that she had heard on the news. From behind us came a blatant snorting and a deliberately insulting remark from Al toward her.
That did it. I wheeled around.
“OUT! Get OUT...NOW!” I commanded them. “And don’t come back either!”
It took the 2 (or 3?) of them by complete surprise. They were startled and mad.
I advanced on them threateningly. They went into full retreat and tumbled out the back door as I came at them.
Pushed by the others Al fell off the deck by the back door.
When I went out, I didn’t see Loony Lily or George anywhere. Al was weeping self-pityingly as he lay on the ground below the deck where he had fallen, cursing me. Jake was cradling him in a Pieta-like pose, his own face pained and florid. His teeth looked like upside down, long-overboiled corn kernels. His eyes were not human; it was if they had been replaced with black glass.
…I was infuriated and started to yell at Al: “You scarred me!”, but the words caught in my throat. As hard as I tried I could not get them out. It was like my tongue was paralyzed.
DREAM JOURNAL March 10
It’s like I was watching a movie.
A figure in Japanese robes walking with a staff comes down from the mountains in the distance and moves through the tall, lush grasses of a field. He is a Zen Master going home for a visit. His name is “Ka-Ka-On”.
I watch as he pauses to lean on his staff and gaze at the old forgotten chicken coop of so many of my dreams.
“The Zen Master goes home after enlightenment,” a voice narrates calmly “and is pleased to see that the coop he began in when he first started to seek the Way is still painted as it was then. He knows he is in for a rough time because his 94 year old mother died while he was gone, and his people will not understand. But that was alright. He knows he must live in the present moment, whatever it brings.”
“He greets his Ancient-Corpse–Witch-Mother. She is of the earth, immense, monstrous; a blind thing, half-formed, tortured.
He tells her he is leaving again.
He tells her to take off her lips and put on her teeth.
He tells her to put her eyes in and speak the Truth to everyone. Bitter Truth: No remorse. She is what she is.
They have never appreciated that. He turns to face the others and points to Her; She is not nice...but She Is.”
“He takes his leave, unconcerned that no one will understand his actions. That didn’t matter at all. No more than it matters what they think about a bird flying across the sky.”
He slowly vanishes into the distance, walking back to the mountains through the fields as geese fly high overhead.
DREAM JOURNAL March 11
I’m puzzling over Dede’s will, trying to figure it out. A 7 year old me is trying to help.
“It’s neither powder, liquid, nor solid.” a voice riddles.
“Syrup?” I answer.
I was in a library, where I found an oldish book. Actually it was more like a flashy, stylish P.R. piece done by admirers. It was about “The Golden Pig”, a hitherto hidden group of 11 investors who quietly, and with acumen, had invested themselves in and now owned everything from wood products manufacturers and ship builders, to food processors; you name it.
Their logo was a stylized, flying golden pig.
I told Melissa about the dream first thing in the morning. It was while retelling it that I remembered a snatch of something powerfully emotional, puzzling and astounding.
“I just remembered something about a ‘Golden Pig’…and not Loony Lily’s one either. I don’t know if I’ve ever remembered this before….What is this?”
I tried to hold onto it, feeling very strange inside.
“Talk to me. What? Can you tell me?”
“Yeah…Uh…I can see this, I can feel the, uh, you know, the, uh, the…sense perceptions, and feel the emotions....But it’s hard for some reason…It was Christmas. I know that. We were visiting Babi and Dede in Saratoga. George was in a highchair; no Kathy yet. No Ralph, Rosa, or Agnes. It was night….There was a cake…with coins in it. That was what had something to do with the “Golden Pig’. A Czech tradition of some kind. The ‘Golden Pig’ came on Christmas Eve and hid coins in a cake. If you got a slice with a coin then you were supposed to have good luck. Both Jakie and I got coins in ours. I think he got a nickel and I got a penny….I was very upset, but hid it, had to hide it…No, it was more than the coins…There was something else…What, damn it?”
“So…it was some sort of special cake?”
“I don’t know. It was one of Babi’s pound cakes. In a bundt pan shape.”
“No…No. That’s it I guess.”
“You know Lily was using their visits to probe you, don’t you? Remember that time she was driving us crazy with her “Golden Pig’ tradition? She was obviously trying to see if you could remember another ‘Golden Pig’: Your grandparents’ one. She was testing you.”
“Were all those October things she harped on probes? That would explain all the asinine topics she’d come up with. Do you really think they were?”
“Well, think of them. Remember her ‘missing report card’? You’re the one missing the report card and school time. Maybe that was why she gave you that artwork, to see if it jogged something in you. That must be why she insisted on those visits too. She had to monitor you for some reason, to see what you knew, what you might be remembering. But why always in October?”
“That would explain why Al was so tense each time. He was always sh*tting a brick. He must have not liked her doing that, taking chances. But if all those were somehow related to my past, they’re going to remain riddles until I can get myself to remember. That’s the ‘Holy Grail’ now.”