Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Matter of Dreams: Chapter 9.2

The Ocean
            I came to in a fit of coughing, gouts of seawater pouring from my mouth.  I rolled over onto my side, spilling the contents of my lungs across a surface of varnished wood.

            A figure crouching over me stood up, silhouetted against a brilliant blue sky.  “Try and remember next time: drink water, breathe air,” the silhouette said.  “There’ll be a quiz.”

            I propped myself up to a sitting position.  This was a boat, a sailboat.  My eyes were drawn to the man grinning over me, a well-tanned figure in a t-shirt and chino fatigue pants.  He stood out from the world around him, like he had been painted in oils on a watercolor background.
            “You’re not...,” I faltered.
            “Not a sleepwalker?  No.”  He extended a large hand and hauled me to my feet.  “Captain Todd Forrest, U.S. Army.  Last surviving member of the Subliminal Warfare Project.  It’s mighty good to meet you, whoever you are.”
* * *
            I had never been on a boat before, and I guess it showed.  After I introduced myself, Captain Forrest tucked me in an out-of-the-way part of the deck to recuperate, and went back to his casting.
            There was yet another strike, and he fought to reel in his line.  “Back home, you’d never catch fish like these in this water.  Blues like bays and shallow areas right off shore.  Of course, I never had this much luck surf-casting, either.  But here, where there’s water, there’s fish.  Lucky for me.”
            Right off shore is something we definitely weren’t; there was no land in sight in any direction, horizon to horizon.  Not many dreamers, either; just one or two pacing the deck at any time. 
            “Where’s home?” I asked.
            “Originally?  New Jersey,” Forrest said.  “It’s a good thing I was nearby to haul you out.  Plenty of sharks around, and you’re not much of a swimmer.  How’d you get out there, anyway?”
            “I fell off a cliff.”
            “Like to take chances, do you?”  He gave a sudden heave, and yanked a large gray fish out of the water.  It thrashed on the deck.  “So, what’s the plan for extraction?” he said.
            I was still in a daze, vaguely wondering why the gray fish was called a “blue,” so I had to ask him to repeat the question.  It made no sense the second time around, either.
            “I’m sorry, I don’t get it.”
            “You’ve found me, congratulations.”  He picked up a wooden club, and, stepping on the fish’s tail, whacked it on the head.  He tossed the stunned fish into a bucket.  “So, how are we returning to the real world?”
            “I’m open to suggestions.”
            “When you came in here, didn’t you have a plan for getting out?”
            I laughed hoarsely.  “‘He’s the brains, sweetheart.’”
            Forrest frowned.  “Who is?  Was there someone else with you?”  He turned and looked out over the water.  “If you got here by falling through a border zone, there’s almost no chance your friend is nearby.”
            I shook my head.  “No, I’m alone.  Sorry, I thought you were quoting Star Wars.”
            Forrest looked nonplussed.
            “Star Wars?  The movie?  Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope?” 
            He shrugged.  “Must have come out after I got here.”
            I felt a sudden chill.  “How long have you been here exactly?”
            Forrest cast a distant look toward the horizon.  “I don’t really know.  They don’t have what you’d call real time here.  No real days and nights.  The clocks tend to melt.  But I left the outside world in June, 1976.”  He looked at me.  “Why, what month is it now?”  When I didn’t respond, he frowned, and asked, “What year is it?”
            I told him.
* * *

[Go to Chapter 9.3]

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