Two men speak exactly the same across my life. One years ago one today. Somewhere along it all I decided to never reveal the semblance to either of them. Eyes on Kurt and Jun.
The train snakes me back to my house, I get out I get in I get out I get in. People get spilled out. What’s so different about today? Shadows of spruces line up along windows the same way as last year. Entering light imprints the rug and the walls. Automatic little peek into the window to see bookshelves, to notice something stuck to the window. I remember to drink tap water before I realize I’ve turned the key, walked up the front steps. My stretched out half of the kitchen transmits from the clock face, hands repeating incorrectly. I set down the water cup and old holy love sets in as my wife walks away with a bowl of orange rinds.
My eyes get locked to an old chair we never sit in. Solid blue cushions fade, radiating center out. Does everyone else look at you, blue? Laughed at or even envied? Do they whisper about it or even notice you up there by the front window?
My back curves into the chair, backlit late day heaves a light dream into view:
i’m low / above / the bar behind our house / two faces with the same name order the same drink the same way / i watch people walk in and out / i lean my sights over to the roof of our house / someone stuck a few keepsakes on an inaccessible ledge / checkered thermos / bleached out chip bag / and a bunk cd player from years ago / imbalance /rarely left untended to long / disrupted life / rapid rebirth into the same blue sky.
Medium and viewer. Same difference of precise time hits my side of the world. The window, and blocked light wakes me up:
Last letters I see on that truck shootin by. Light blooms flicker on the fig tree out front.
Another day lies down before anyone can notice. This is what it feels like. I’ve worked my way into the practice of body art. Stretch out into forms, accidental dancing. Sometimes I get perfect and still. I push positions in studios all along the city. The work is often ignored for the golden glow of interiority, “feeling the light” all over.
Old refracted blood’s truth will soon predicate the body.
One day Jun blindsides me. Asks if I have time to talk. We go to the cafe. Kurt is there in the forest coat (matching with Jun…) they look at each other. There they are. Two people. Egg on my face. Jun begins:
Jun: You ever talk to your dad about dreams?
Kurt: Resemblance, AI pods, any old stories?
C: How did you two meet?
K to J: He’s not gonna give it to us.
C: Listen I’ll save you some time, I was kept out of all that.
J: You know about the wire networks?
C: Are you going to give me the field trip again?
J: No, listen. New lines blip in and out every day. All these old payments showing up farther out than we thought. Someone inside wants to blow it. Perhaps they thought it time to balance the books, karmically speaking. That means our half of the river gets turned over. Been hard for us (shoulder slap) to work a pattern out of it. Antennae webs float up without upsetting anything. Could be ignition hour.
C: So what do you need me for?
K: New security systems can’t seem to move on. Still need a password. A code made out of a recording of a dream. The program came out of an agency your mom contracted for.
C: You can’t crack it?
J: It’s gotta come from you. Some stages of sleep can be recorded visually. Research team says it’s some reverse engineered hippy dippy hydro input system. It runs off an RTR (Repeated Tape Reference), a sort of recurring dream for a network. A high enough relevance reading will trigger the safety opening. The body of the circuit will expose itself, we will go in and repair it. put everything right back.
K: It needs your dream, specifically. The computer only interprets, and if it matches the original sequences enough, every one stays lit up and happy. Visuals of old data seem to confirm our simulated submissions. Only rejections but it accepts the dreams of every sleeper we’ve used. Evidence of similar work builds up empty percentage scores. Ledgers, dates, faces, anything. The relevance score threshold is low, these guys just never thought they would die.
C: How’d you figure it’s my dream?
K: Malcolm Doze, Former head of security firm MBRY. He died recently, heart attack. We went into his house, turns out he was copying decision games and replaying them into peoples heads. Recording dreams and desires, obsession turned into a job designing torture fields. Personalized hells. Our scouting team found a new visual communicative, linear sorting. Siphoning signals out of civilian sleepers. Only evidence was hundreds of wiped cassettes, with one box missing it’s recording, labeled C—.
C: Let’s get this over with then.
J: Not yet, timed submission is for next summer. You need to nail this. You only get one shot. Take the year to jog your memory of that time. Make calls, go visit. Meet us here next August 1.
I draw out patterned reminders, there’s bound to be two of the same stroke. Right before the frame and the eyes fall back. What do we do with different kinds of truth? When did this written life run into my eyes? Will anything ever happen again? My body develops a loose attachment to the skull.
Everyday I try not to think about what would happen if this happened. Passwords. A cypher made out of something between letters and numbers and codes. A memory of a recording of a memory. Nothing I haven’t sworn up and down to never get wrapped in. Should a day go by before I bring this up? Could I get Mom to speak in the dream? After a week, I’m starting to get followed by more men in green needle coats…
My heart barely stays open long enough to dream. Mentality change can still be counted on. Up wasted all night is how I keep the visuals going back over my head. After a month, my drug dreams start to unravel:
divide line opens sideways / fills out the frame / once the heat wave subsides / tall grass / weeds / wind ripples / gets a tree in the distance to dance for me / the full frame’s attention / movie zoom / undulation / repetition to a clearing in the trees / starting back from it now / the rhythm morphs into the line / beads added onto a new necklace / the pieces slim out / emerge as partially transparent / angle / the view tries to push back to the hillcrest / you have to go back before you can go ahead / back until you realize the necklace is a row of cars / new edge sedans / black / red / champagne / crawling through wildflower hills / the windy world at noon rushes by them all / colors of the vehicles fade the same / just as they roll over to the other side of the last hill / into the tree hole / rapid age / colors brown up / the cars tangle one by one / into busted up jalopys.
The phone call always finds me. Mom cries, and wind blown fuzzed out love is laid into the line. muted something. I say I’ll be right over. Distance means nothing against love’s speed of light.
No one wants to have to do this all over again. Find another person another angel another sweet p. Start up a different life?
I pack up to see her for a while, and search the same old pale house air. I leave my body work at home. Mom’s mind darts away even as I arrive. Work always haunts her. Boxes remind her to hand deliver samples in the afternoon.
Why her? Always chopping herself up for guys who don’t give two craps about living, doing everything to push balances, using her to pay their own debts, hedge bets on isolation.
Few days into the visit and I’m wasting time. Staring out of the window, licking the bottom of the honey lid. Maybe I just need to dream something anyone else would find unacceptable. I run back and forth from the office to the house with Mom for a bit. She looks deep into the memory shield ahead, then says she don’t know any Malcolms. Were they lying to me?
Days of ochre dust stop soon after. Early pink light hits hard through the woods. In the mornings Mom sits with me, listens to a video of us from years ago. The aunts, the cousins and some of the uncles come to visit. Mom starts laughing about someone else’s vivid dreams. Something about dual engines, something that never even happened. The coats don’t need us, but Mom only has me. The body art stops. Year of reflection begins.
My aunt tells me about their hometown. Back when imagination went nonvisualized. No theaters, traveling or structured touched their town. Experience had it’s own grammar. Visions and messages aren’t felt like that anymore. Out of nature out of each other, everything gets read. Desires became more routed, mixed in. The river near the town spoke. They would communicate with the dead with hidden messages, smaller than water droplets. I’ve tapped it before, but what could it do for me now? River got dug out 50 years ago anyway. This ability inspired a technique, which inevitably caught the whiff of unmeasured animals, industry and empire. Steel and minds. Mom chimes in to say we get whatever’s left after that.
Calcified, the old money tries to have this, great evil and great loss. Shunting the body only into interpretation. The open faucet is singling up the world, pushing us down into an inverted sea. Best I can do is spend time, give the body something to learn. to replicate subconsciously. My recording continues deep in the evening. Photos names faces. One of the last nights of my visit I dream heavy. More memory than symbol, but also not not that:
already under the desk / boxes labeled “spruce valley” / i wait on everyone / the upper house falls to sleep / then i move away from them / go out over the hill / stare into the massive tangle of oil lines / scaffolding / night umber / icy wails fly out from under me / out of the cave entrance / ghosts emerge / machine roar / my vision whips left / mom silently motions me back into the window / dark hair under a hat / dogs start barking / i run outside of the lights / stay LOW / haul ass to the other side of the brick rancher / jump back in through the bathroom window / crouch on the toilet / then i stand up and try to look at the back of my head / faint light of the mirror hits a gray champagne glass / i hit out the false back to the medicine cabinet / quadruple clipped stack hits the ground / dates of installations / beginnings and endings / recognizable data.
Bad winter begets a worse spring. Heat finally rolls in. Last summer. No tea no dreams in months.
Mom talks to me. She always has time to sit with me, ass balancing on the curb. She argues for persuasive magic, or an accidentally correct response as the only way out. She hands me a greenish pill and says “this’ll give you a vision flush”. She hands me the old photo frame, unbroken. Mulberry ink refreshes the image-moment: me in the tree.
Jun and Kurt lean on me a bit more through the phone. They speak quickly in the same way, always interrupting each other to say the same word. Pretty certain I hear a third voice connecting their two sentences together. They ask for insight and I ask for more time. They give me an extra day.
You’ve felt it, The Mirror You Can’t Break. Rain in the dark morning, seen and not. Like life behind your head. Front of the fridge to the back of the world, then again the fridge. Open now open forever. Hand holding with my wife gets drawn into the cloudy morning. Thunderstorms heat up, then leave a water-gray echo of light for the day to see through.
Kurt drives me there. The building is dead white, beaten up. I stand for a few moments amazed by this blandness. Have I been here? Soft profiles of the clouds reflect and travel downward dark to light across the unglassed windows. The structure within the structure. Upside down dark green dome fills the space inside the block, leaving little room around it. I hear the car slam and drive off.
Door opens for me at the only flattened side. The lights inside are high bright green, it takes me a minute to adjust. They were right, only a bed in the middle and a screen on the ceiling emitting an old default image. Around the edges of the screen, I can see past the dark fibers. Safety tape blinks back into a deep circuit cavern.
I lay down, a few clicks under me, screen awakens, stays dark for a moment, then the words come up. “Dream input req’d”.
A machine whirs up behind the wall near the bed. Screen buckles in as lines constrict and feed out behind it. Guidance of cinema and chemistry is supposed to meet me here. Purchase of olive colored documents lost to the golden oceans has run out. I wrap the windows of the buildings in sleep.
flowers taller than the silk air / plane in the sunset goes over a mountain / mirror boat leaves the dock / gloried out silo right behind the tree line / blue gray floor inside / there’s two women in here / leaned back in the chairs / one of em yells / you gotta put the hat on if you want to come in / i pull on a small green cap / and go further in / my mother and my aunt / they sit in silence / i tell them i’m going to get something to eat / then i’m out of there / out from the shore / dogs run out over the ocean / then quiet gallop up to the sky / their collective gentle curve does not break / my hands pick fruits from up in a tree / i grab three / but when i descend the tree it’s only two / i want one for me / for a while i’m going up the tree / again to pick another / but only count two after / same dance again and again and again / i say fuck this and walk back to the silo with two / beautiful orangeyellow sweet fruit is now deep blue / black even / leave those / while i was gone / my mom and my aunt decided to build twin motorcycles / they ride them all the way to the moon / all the way into history.
When I come up, the dream replays for me at double speed in reverse.
Relevance score revealed: 1.3%.
Then, aqua drop screen saver.
Cody received his B.A. in English Literature from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. Recently, his work has been published in Sleet Magazine and The Dial Tone (Landline Collective). Outside of writing, Cody experiments with bread machine recipes, abuses caffeine, and studies both prestige television and low viewership (<100 view) youtube artists. He was last seen doing that little BS speed up walk on a street in St. Paul, MN.