Chapter Eighteen: Dreams

Scott wanted some coke to ease the pain and calm his nerves. He had started to tremble in the Mustang, complaining of the cold. John covered him with his jacket, two green bandannas making a compass over the wound in Scott’s side. John drove within the speed limit, not wanting to attract the attention of the black-and-whites whizzing by with lights flashing. Along Hastings Street, it seemed every damn cop car in the city was heading towards Laurentian High. They had left just in time. Not twenty seconds after leaving the school parking lot, the first cop car had passed them by, thankfully driving too fast for glimpses between the drivers to be exchanged.

The Vancouver police worked fast, setting up roadblocks around a one-mile area of Laurentian less than five minutes after the first officer arrived on the scene. John drove to Scott’s place, less than a half-mile from the school. Instead of fleeing, they sought refuge, and it saved them from arrest.

They were inside now, and John laid Scott down on the sofa in the living room, spreading Scott’s jacket underneath so that the blood wouldn’t stain the couch. He fetched some blankets. Scott’s lips turned a faint shade of blue as he fell into shock.
“You gonna be okay?” John asked.
“Yeah, it’s stopped bleeding, and it don’t hurt as much now. Walking up the steps was a killer,” Scott said. “Elevate my legs. Get me a drink of water. I’ll be fine.”
John did as he was told. Then he sat down in a chair and started to think again.
“Christ,” he whispered, “We’re screwed.”
“Not yet,” Scott said. “Mom ain’t due back for another five hours. I’ll be in bed asleep when she comes in and you’ll be gone.”
“What about tommorrow?” John asked.
“Fucking deny everything.”
“That’s gonna work?”
“I didn’t see any eyewitnesses anywhere. Did you?”
“This is nuts. You’re bleeding like a stuck pig.”
“No. I just gotta be strong, that’s all. There’s bandages and antiseptic in the bathroom. Goddammit, don’t lose your nuts now, Poleshaw. Go get the stuff.”

John went to the bathroom and brought back some sterile dressings and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. He folded back the blankets and cut away Scott’s bloody shirt with his Swiss army knife. He opened the bottle of peroxide.
“Gimme a line,” Scott said.
“Say what?”
“That shit is gonna hurt like hell, and my nerves are just about toast. Gimme some coke.”
John took a plastic baggie out of his pocket and spilled a little on a small sheet of plastic that he carried about with him. He sliced the coke into lines.
“Can’t give you too much, Scotty,” John said.
“Just a taste. It will help clear my head too, so we can think what the hell we gonna do now. Hell, let’s go all the way. You got some stones?”

It was a new way to take the coke, mixing it with baking soda and smoking it. It brought on a faster, cleaner high. Woody had shown them how to bake the coke. God knows where he had picked it up.
“I got some here,” John said, reaching into his pocket.He placed the stones on some tinfoil, and brought out his cigarette lighter.
“Damn, got no pipe here,” John said. He looked around for something to improvise with. “Mmmm, Christ, hurry up Johnny,” Scott said.
John picked up his shotgun which he had left by the sofa. He carefully took out the remaining shells and cracked open the barrel. He balanced the stone inside the tube, now the stem of a very long toke pipe, and told Scott to grab hold of the muzzle. Scott put his lips around the end of the firearm and John lit the stone. He put his mouth close to the beginning of the barrel and blew. He blew Scott a shotgun white. After they were done, Scott let his head fall back on the pillow, and stared up at the ceiling, waiting for the buzz. John cut a line of coke only for himself.

Maybe it would stop the bad thoughts that raced around his head like angry weasels. There was a time for action, and a time for contemplation, and this was the latter. The coke went up his nose easy.
“Baby, baby, baby,” Scott hummed to himself, feeling the pleasure now coursing through his veins and arteries. Pump the blood, pump the joy throughout his system.
“What the hell are you talking about?” John asked.
“My, my, wasn’t that a show?” Scott said.
“Helluva show,” John agreed.
“We’ll make it through,” Scott said.
John leaned forward and clasped Scott’s hand with his.
“Tigers forever,” he said.
“Tigers forever,” Scott said, and he closed his eyes.
John sat back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling as the coke made itself felt in his head. God, what a day, he thought. The bad thoughts wilted under the coke, shriveling like grapes under the sun. That’s right, you motherfuckers, get away from me, John thought. But all at once, the rage rose up stronger than before. All of what happened, it made John so angry that he started to shake. The coke fought the rage, but then surrendered to it. John’s body followed, and the anger swallowed him up. His consciousness could no longer take it. John closed his eyes.

* * *

He was flying.

Over the sea, towards white cliffs, he flew away from the outside world. Below him, the sea sparkled as a strong beam of light played across the waves, coming from John didn’t know where. The light gleamed and went. A faint pale beyond the cliffs illuminated the scene. John flew onward towards the shoreline, feeling no breeze across the face. He willed himself closer to the waves, wanting to hear the sound of the sea. It whispered to him, the sea, promises of secrets told that would bring everlasting peace. John dropped his hand to dip it into the water, to tear away the veil. A finger-touch of the surface…

…And bodily he felt himself pushed away, tumbling through the air now, out of control. A brief moment of total darkness, and he found himself on the shore. The sea no longer whispered, but roared as the surf hit the beach. John looked closer, and the very waves picked up the pebbles on the beach, and dropped them. John did not know how long he sat there. He wanted to get up and walk into the waves, the sea, but something held him back. Slowly the tide receded, until John felt that if he waited here long enough, he would be surrounded by desert. He turned around to look at the cliff now towering over him, and walked to the base of it. White as chalk, smooth as polished marble, there was no way to climb it.

Wick-wick, the little sound surprised him, and he looked closer at the cliff. Grains of stone flecked out of the wall, leaving behind a foot rest. It was if some massive invisible drill-bit was boring against the cliff. Wick-wick, another hole appeared, deep enough for John to put his hand inside. Two more holes appeared, tracing a path upwards. John started to climb.

In no time at all, it seemed, John had scaled the cliff. After he reached the top, he turned to see the view. The sea looked very distant now, and soundless. He felt a pang of sorrow, and he didn’t know why.
“Why do you come here?” a voice asked, and John spun around.
A man dressed in a simple robe sat on a rock thirty feet away, hands resting on his thighs, his head bowed with his chin nestled almost on his chest. The man had a flowing mane of dark hair that nearly reached his waist. He looked old however, John could see that even from a distance. The man got up and walked towards John, hobbling with back bent over slightly. As he drew closer, the lines on his face grew deeper and deeper. But the eyes looked bright on that face, like a pair of streetlamps set on a road in the countryside. He was beside John now, sharing the view.
“The sea. I flew over the sea.” John said.
“Mmm, mmm.” said the man. “To only bathe in the waters for a moment… and then die. It would be perfect.”
“Yes,” John said, and he felt a pang of sorrow again.

As they both watched, brights flares slowly descended from the heavens into the waters, at first only a few, but quickly they numbered into the thousands, until the very sky seemed afire. Brights as the flares seemed, John stared without blinking. As the flares wiggled closer and closer to the sea, the waves seemed to reach up hungrily to swallow the light, but the flares did not extinguish themselves as they entered the waters. Rather, the sea took on a luminous glow until it looked alive. The storm tapered off gradually, until they were only a few flares left descending. John looked closer, as the flares narrowed in width. He could see limbs extending from them, so that they took on the shape of a cross. Suddenly, he was certain, if he got close enough, he would see faces.

“Come,” the old man said, and he took hold of John’s arm to lead him away.
“Wait,” John said.
The flares had gone, but he swore he could hear something burbling up from the sea. Music. The soft notes of something indescribably beautiful and ancient rose up and touched John’s heart. The sadness returned, along with anger at being denied. The rage was still there, have hid for awhile, but now making itself felt.
“Why?” John yelled at the old man who was disappearing into the shadows.
“Why can’t I stay and hear the music?”
“Come,” said the old man. “It’s not for us.”
John followed the old man.

* * *

“Where are we?” John asked.
“The land of dreams, fool,” the old man said.
He seemed impatient with John.
“So this isn’t real?”
“Real enough. It’s all perception. The other world… it’s more than a million miles away… you’re here now.”
They walked downwards on a slope for a long time, until John felt they were descending into the bowels of a huge valley.
“Where are we going?” John asked.
“We’re continuing the journey,” the old man replied.
John shook his head at the non-answer.
“You don’t understand?” the old man asked.
“Why do you keep saying that? Why do you keep calling me that?” John asked.
“I’m an old man. I have lived for a long, long time. I cannot remember much of my younger days, when I was strong and handsome, when the blood pumped so quickly from my heart to my limbs that I could dance from morning to dusk, and I felt strong enough to hoist the world on my shoulders and run. I cannot remember what that felt like, although I remember doing it. I only know now that the drug of youth made me insane like a fool. Like you, now.”
“Who are you?”

“I am of you. This is the land of dreams, remember? I am a part of you, a part of everyone. I whisper to you at night when you are alone in bed. I poke you when your blood is hot and the drum beats in your ears. I was with you at the championship game. I stood and watched as you took Jennifer on the wet grass. I had my arms around you, forcing you down to one knee in the football field, as you reached out to take life.”
The old man seemed to grow bigger. His voice grew louder until it roared in John’s ears.
“Are you the anger?” John asked.
The man stopped speaking and growing. He sat down on a rock that seemed to appear out of nowhere. He looked tired again.
“Yes, that’s it, I am the anger,” the man said.
John bent down to look closer at the old man, now growing smaller, shrinking even.
“Why are you so tired?”
“I told you,” the man said irritably. “I’m old. At your age, I walked along the crust of Mother Earth as it hardened. The Seven Days, well it wasn’t a week of mortal time, do you understand? The Great Flood -well, that was such an event for humanity- by that time I had seen it all, and done most things possible. And still I exist.”
“But you’re a part of me, I’m inside myself right. I wasn’t around for those things.”
The man snorted. “Your ancestors were. And where did your spirit come from?”
The man got up from the rock and stalked away.
“Come back here,” John shouted after the departing shadow. “ I have more questions to ask.” “Why bother?” responded a voice from the darkness. “You will wake up from here, forgetting all that has happened. But no longer will you be angry. For I am leaving.”

No voice answered back, but visions flashed before John’s eyes. The suitcase spiralled toward him, open with a steady endless stream of cocaine spilling out. The contorted face of Robert Gates followed, his mouth ajar as if making ready to scream. John then saw the football field, two files of men walking towards each other. But he felt no anger, because now he knew. He felt himself ascending from the valley. He looked down and saw his bare feet covered with blood, from the ground where he had been standing. There were armies down there clashing in the darkness without purpose or meaning. The briefest flash of light showed a vast multitude of naked men engaged in conflict. The silence broke and John could hear shrieks of agony and alarm. One voice made itself heard over the others, a feminine wail of sorrow, of a woman crying over the blood-feast, over the utter waste…

* * *

The crying degenerated into a series of sobs, and John opened his eyes. Scott’s mother had come home and found her baby dead. With his head on her lap, her hands touched his cheek as if she could communicate life through her fingertips. Her tears dropped onto his forehead. One pellet out of several had not passed through Scott’s side. Instead, it had bounced off a rib and laid itself to rest embedded in the chest wall surrounding the heart. Slowly, but surely, it had wormed it’s way deeper until it had shocked that vital organ into stopping. The buzz of the cocaine had masked the warning signs, the irritation of the muscle that would have woken up a sober man. Scott had made a smooth transition from sleep to death. John sat still in the chair, not moving except for his eyes, fascinated by the tableau. A bag of groceries lay spilled about the doorway, a draft blew through the room from the aperture, from the evening cool. He did not know how long Scott’s mother sat there with her son in her arms, crying, only that the sobbing resonanted through him like a voice echoeing down a very deep well well. Every sob amplified his sadness until he felt the sorrow would swallow him up and eat his heart. It drained him. He rose up from the chair, fighting to stand, so heavy was the weight on his shoulders. Scott’s mother looked up and for a second did not recognize John, so much had he changed.

“My boy… my boy is dead,” she whispered to John.
“I know,” John said.
“He was just a boy… He hadn’t even seen the world yet. He’ll never be a man now. It’s all been taken away,” she said, still in shock.
Maybe she only meant to mutter those words to herself, oblivious to John, drowning in her own personal sorrow.
“I know all these things,” John answered back, and walked towards the cool of the evening, to the door that led outside. He stopped on the porch briefly to look at the world.
“I know,” he said to himself one more time, and walked away.

* * *

Jennifer laid in her bed the next evening, fully clothed above the covers, and stared up at the ceiling. It was all over the news, every channel. The massacre had reverberated far beyond Vancouver, across the nation, south of the border even. She had been plucked out of class that day and sent to the prinicipal’s office. A crowd of anxious adults had awaited her, her father being one of them. After the principal had had his say, the police detective had been the one who had talked the most, or at least, asked the most questions.

Did she know John?

Yes of course. She had never hid the fact that they had dated from her parents, just that it had been so serious. It was only later that she figured out that maybe one of her friends had prepped the authorities beforehand on the real relationship between her and John. Someone like Tim maybe. So the police detective asked his questions but Jennifer did not turn out to be much of a help. Some of this was intentional. But mostly, it was because she couldn’t make the connection between her John and what they said this John had done. Really, she had no idea who they were talking about.

However after an hour or so of questioning, it had been established that she had slept with John. Humiliated by the way the admission had been forced out of her, she had started to cry.

The detective had pulled the gloves off, cracking a bit himself under the pressure of the situation. Eight people dead in a gunfight. It rivalled anything that had ever happened in Detroit or Los Angeles or any of the inner-cities of America. Already, the southern media was giving great play to this episode of violence, trumpeting the tragedy because, for once, such savagery had not happened on American soil. The detective told Jennifer exactly what he thought of John, calling a murderer, drug-pusher, and monster. He pretended to lose his temper, so that she would break and tell all – giving him something that would lead him to John Poleshaw. But all she could do was cry.

They gave her the rest of the day off, and she went straight home and locked herself in her room. First her father and then her mother came around to talk to her, but she hadn’t answered to a single word. Finally they had left her alone. Around nine o’clock that evening her phone rang, and she let it ring until her answering machine picked it up. No, she didn’t want to talk to anybody today.
“Jennifer, it’s me,” the voice said.
She snatched the receiver off the hook and said his name. Then she couldn’t think of anything else to say. Speechless, she waited. Seconds passed.
“Jen, do you remember the time we spent on the beach?”
“And the time we first made love?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Those times… they’re a part of me now. Those memories are hard-wired in the brain, I think. If that makes any sense.”
“John, they’re saying things about you. About what you’ve done.”
“I did those things Jennifer. I got down on one knee, aimed my gun and fired. I killed two men for sure. I took life.”
“God, what did you do that for? Oh Jesus.” Jennifer was weeping now.
John felt so far away to her.
“Come to me John, let me hold you. God, I miss you already.”
“I can’t Jen. I can’t get inside that cage they’re keeping you in. God Jen, I love you and if I could hold you one more time it would be worth the handcuffs slapped behind my back but they wouldn’t let me get near you. I have to go away.”
“John, don’t go, I love you too.”
“I can’t stay.”
“Can’t we talk just a little longer. I’m so alone here. You can’t say goodbye yet.”
John’s tone of voice changed. It grew deeper and harder. “I have to kill that part of myself now which is so in love with you. Because you see, they’re using you. As bait, to get to me.”
“What are you talking about?” Jennifer asked.
“Goodbye Jennifer. And ask your father if he agreed to have the phones tapped.”

There was silence on the line. Jennifer spoke his name one more time into the receiver before realizing that he was gone forever. Then she started to cry again, bird in a gilded cage singing a mournful tune.

The R.C.M.P constable was out of breath by the time he had reached the phone booth. The receiver was swinging ever so slightly off the hook, maybe because of the breeze, maybe not. Later, the police officer figured he had missed the fugitive by less than forty seconds. A ten-block wide manhunt of that area, set up in less than ten minutes after the trace, had turned up nothing. The constable just couldn’t believe that they had missed the boy.
“Like a ghost,” he told his fellow officers back at the station. “Like a goddamn ghost with ESP.”

Copyright 2008 by DJ Dunkerley All Rights Reserved

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