...And Then We All Woke Up!
By Bryan Zepp Jamieson
Oct. 19, 2001 -- MT. SHASTA, CA (APJP) -- I knew I was dreaming.
I knew that I only had to open my eyes, and I would find myself in my bedroom. I would have one ankle wrapped around my wife's ankle, and there would be an elderly Maine Coon cat in the crock of one arm between me and my wife. Our big black Maine Coon FOUS, the Carpet Weasel, would be stretched out along the length of my back, forepaws pressed against the back of my neck. Upon feeling me stir, he would attempt to placate me back to sleep with a loud purr and gentle kneads. Outside, it would be utterly silent, the crickets stilled by the frosts of October, no wind to rustle the dying leaves, the bears foraging less now that berry and grub season were passed. As I moved along the corridors of what is real and what is not, I heard my wolf yawn, snapping his jaws shut with a self-satisfied yawlp and a faint booming reverberation of his vast nasal passages. I was on the mountain, home.
But the knowing in dreams is endlessly malleable, and the knowing of my real, physical location was as distant, as a realization, as the knowledge that I could jump in my vehicle and drive to South America if I wanted.
I was in Washington, DC.
More specifically, I was in the White House.
With no sense of surprise, I found myself amidst the cast of "The West Wing". This was as it should be -- this was right, in the dream sense of rightness.
CJ told me there was something I needed to see, and we went along a subterranean corridor of the White House, and turning a corner, we went into a necropolis, a granite forest of tombstones and crypts and mausoleums. A sullen night sky yawned, wetly and blackly above. I understood in the dream way of understanding, that this was Arlington. Not the green and trim Arlington of white crosses and marines in dress uniform, but something darker, far more mediaeval, an Arlington of black plague times, a mossy boneyard where Vincent Price might laugh.
Looking about (I was alone now) I could see that the dark gray of the steles and mausoleums had red markings on them, and peering closer, I could see that they were words, in an alphabet I could not read, written on the noncommittal granite in fresh blood.
"How trite," I thought.
I walked to the far side of the boneyard, and as I did, it changed to the charred skeleton of a hi-rise district, blasted girders pointing to the sky in a "We're number one!" gesture in a world where nobody was counting. Off to one side was the bleached ivory half-dome of the national capitol, lying in the sand like the skull of a forgotten warrior.
I continued down the corridor, toward my office. I stopped at the office adjoining mine and popped my head in to say good morning. The guys were there, and returned my greetings in sober tones. Washington was destroyed, and the pain and shock and grief went so deep that none of us could talk about it, and so we pretended to function with the cheery platitudes of a humdrum Monday morning. Did Arizona win? Was Johnson pitching? How did he do? Who wants a bagel? Cheery notes in minor keys.
Washington was destroyed, and with a pang, I realized I would never watch "The West Wing" again because there was nothing for the show to be about.
Then I woke up.
I woke up to a world where the size of an enemy is described in microns and the depth of his hatred in religious beliefs.
I went in to the Monday world of cheery platitudes, and heard, after shaking my head over the demise of the A's, what is inexplicably known in these parts as "the Charlie story".
If you know any other human beings, then you've certainly heard on of the variations on it. The variations I first got were that someone, a friend of a friend of a friend of a brother in law who knew a guy who worked at a pizza place in New Jersey and who had a niece dating a nice Saudi boy, heard about a note the niece got on September 11. In some cases, she sees the planes flying into the towers, and wonders if her boyfriend is okay, since the events of that day put all middle easterners at risk from vengeful pseudo-patriots. Or she is immediately suspicious, because the guy was always so mysterious with his wads of plastique and packets of white powder and lead-lined cases and all.
In any event, the niece (it's always a niece) goes to the boyfriend's apartment, and finds that the place has been cleaned out. Everything is gone, clothes, furniture, television prayer mat, the works. Everything is gone, in fact, except a note, addressed to the girl. The note talks in varying degrees of vagueness, about how the young man is leaving on a jet plane and don't know when he'll be back again. Leaving. In other variations, he talks about how he will die this day at the Pentagon or World Trade Center or the capitol building.
He finishes up with an admonition that no matter what else she does, she must stay out of (a list of) major cities on October 31st, 2001. In some instances, he tells her to stay upwind, or fifty miles away, or consider a quick trip to Nepal or some place like that. Bioweapons will be used, or there are nukes in abandoned warehouses in the downtown district and no Batman to find them, and on Hallowe'en, all the cities will go kablooie and millions will die.
Is there anything to the story?
Well, we live in times when a lot of scary stuff is going on all at once, and we're on the Internet, where rumors and urban legends breed like rats in the dump. In truth, I would be a lot more surprised if there weren't stories like this going around. Keyboards and monitor screens haven't reduced our ability to huddle around the fire and enjoy a good, scary story. And the best kind of scary story is the kind where you walk away, shaking your head and thinking, "It could happen. The story could be true."
Is the story true? Ask me on November 1st. But I'll give long odds that the story is totally without foundation, and we'll all be here to laugh about it on All Saints' Day.
Of course, I don't suggest you take that bet. It's a sucker's bet. If you win, how are you going to collect?
We're all a bit scared, jumpy. If I see a flash from behind on Hallowe'en, the first thought might not be that the sunlight bounced off the windshield of a passing truck. I won't be entirely surprised if old friends in the city don't call up and remark that they've always wanted to enjoy a peaceful Hallowe'en out of the city, and it's been AGES since we got together.
I also can't help but think the envelopes with the childish addressing and lethal mists are misdirection, intended to distract, to get us focusing on the wrong thing. It reminds me, once again, that the brave idiot leaders who are blindly smashing the remains of Afghanistan still don't know who the enemy actually is, or if there is more than one group. Or much of anything, for that matter.
I don't have any faith in our so-called leadership. An illegitimate puppet, held up by timid neo-Fascistic corporate interests, is going to save the world? Ouch.
But I do have faith in We the People. We've always had the insulating effects of our location, and in the past half century, a vast military machine capable of destroying the world. It's been quite a while since our capitol was threatened, and we're still getting used to this novel concept.
But what frightens us also makes us stronger, a uniflex for the emotional muscles. And we are learning -- quickly -- that we are not above the world, nor out of it. We have to stop fooling ourselves now, and realize that we cannot ignore the world, because the world has no intention of ignoring us.
Perhaps, if we're very lucky, we will learn that we aren't as bad as the rest of the world. Rather, we'll learn the rest of the world is as good as us. It's a knowledge we're going to need, now that we are, once again, a part of the world.