FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 1979
I wake up as usual and try to put all this weirdness in the back corners of my mind, so that I can get on with the normal day’s activities of getting through my high school classes. I still haven’t a clue as to how, or for that matter, a clear idea as to why, I’m destined to help Lana.
But one thing I’m sure of. I’m determined to figure out some way to get back to that dream place and take care of those rats.
“Forewarned is forearmed” is something that I once read and is advice I’m going to take.
. Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 16th ed., gives the cite from The Modern Library Giant edition of Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra's Don Quixote of La Mancha as: Book III chap. 10 pg. 502. Though I cannot locate the same citation in my edition which is Signet Classic, New American Library, translated by Walter Starkie, 1964. Cervantes first published Don Quixote in 1605
CHAPTER FIVE : THE PRICE OF PASSAGE
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 1979
Throughout all my classes, while part of me was focusing on my teachers and my assignments, another part of me was bubbling over with anticipation waiting to do what had to be done next. As always, my answer to any dilemma is to go searching for a book. Someone, somewhere, has faced most problems and lived to write about them.
During lunch hour, I peruse my high school’s library card catalog for some inkling of a clue. But I’m not really sure this is going to help. It’s not as if I can look up in the “How To” section and find a book entitled: “How to deal with a swarm of rats that you encounter in your dreams.”
I’m flipping through the subject file cards waiting for inspiration to strike. Hmm. Sort of like waiting or prompting Jaynes’s idea of the Muses of the right brain to speak. Anyway, the Muses don’t seem very obliging today. The only thing of any interest is that I discover that my school has a copy of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. I had read this book three or four months ago. In the novel, Lovecraft had created a fictional setting, which is a world of dreams separate from day light reality. This is similar to what my own dream creation, the Lord of Mictlan, was describing. I retrieve the book from the shelves and I scan through it. I come upon rat-like creatures called Zoogs. They’re sort of like the giant rats that attacked me!
My unconscious must have remembered this novel of Lovecraft and fabricated my own version of a Dreamland from my memory of his book. That is, unless the Lord Mictlan was telling me the truth and she was no figment of my imagination and neither were the rest of the events. Wow! It would be such an amazingly cool thing if there really were a parallel world, which you can enter through your dreams. Great stuff. But, could it really be real? Could I really have gone to a separate world, called Dreamland? That’s pretty farfetched, Lamont. But, no more farfetched than people walking off the face of the Earth in a flash of purple light which I happened to see because I’m dreaming and somehow connected to Lana. One theory is as bizarre as the other is. Who knows what is true? “Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.” “The more outré’ and grotesque an incident is the more carefully it deserves to be examined.” Well said, Holmes. The events of these few weeks are most definitely a three-pipe problem.
Presumably finding Lovecraft’s novel was what I was searching for, so now I return my thoughts to the mundane world of High School. I spend the night pushing around Camus’ book The Myth of Sisyphus a big homework assignment from Ms. Brandon, my English teacher, on existential literature. When I finish with my homework, it’s late and I go to sleep with the intention of returning to last night’s dream setting: the place that the Lord of Mictlan said was called Dreamland.
I can tell where I am by the distinctive smells of the Primordial Forest. Yet, I sense both familiarity and peculiarity about this Dream setting. I immediately decide, out of preemptive caution, to hide. Damn! Here I am again without anything to protect me against those giant rats! Not even a flashlight or a flame-thrower. Oh well, I sigh.
Suddenly I’m aware of that chittering sound mixed with the smacking of small mouths as they chew in delight. Fear now raises its small hungry head and takes a bite out of my gut. I cautiously peer around the tree that hides me. There are those rat things. They’re just finishing feasting on some poor soul.
That weird tingling starts at the back of my neck as I look to see who they are finishing off. It’s me! They’re feasting on my body. How is this happening? How did I get back here, at this time and in this paradoxical situation?
Unfortunately, surprise overcomes fear and a small cry of amazement escapes my lips. I watch as a few of the rat-things perk up their ears and listen. They try to smell my presence. Should I run?
Too late. Three of them come heading my way. I’m just sitting here! I can’t move. My heart is pounding. I’m sweating and trapped by fear. They, somehow, I’m certain of this, smile when they see me behind the tree. One of them opens and closes its mouth. This goes on for a few seconds as the other two sit there staring at me.
“Well? Has some nasty cat got your tongue? Answer me! What’s your name?”
My eyes must have looked like they would pop out of my face. The only source of the words I heard had to have come from the rat thing before me. Impossibility? Perhaps, when I was awake, but here, I guess not. I try to stumble out something coherent in reply.
“Ahhh. Could you repeat that?” I mumble in apprehension.
“What’s your name and where are you going?”
“My name? My name is Lamont, and I don’t have any idea where I’m going.”
“Well, Lamont. We, Sumatra are...”
“Hey! You’re the giant rats of Sumatra!”
“That is one of our names; it is the name we have chosen for you to use. Now as I was saying, we want you to know that we all thought you were a very satisfying and tasty meal.”
The other Sumatra rats come to join the talking one, and soon I’m encircled by them. They talk amongst themselves and then the spokes-rat turns and makes eye contact and again addresses me.
“We’ve decided not to eat you again. We’re all full now. However, we are debating whether to take you with us and save you for a later meal, when the craving for flesh comes upon us again. Unless...”
“Unless what?” I plead.
“Unless you can satisfy us in some other way right now.”
I’m not sure what satisfy us means, but all sorts of bizarre and disturbing ideas go flashing through my mind.
I hesitate to ask, but have to, “How could I satisfy you?”
“Well. Can you dance? Can you sing? Can you tell us a story? If you can entertain us, and we like your performance, then we might let you go.”
Hope! Quick, brain, do your stuff—think! “Umm, I could, tell a story.”
With that, they all seem to get more comfortable and wait for me to begin. What kind of a story do you tell rat things that want to be entertained after they have just dined on your own body? Hmm? “Once upon a time...”
A loud and collective fluttering Bronx cheer comes at me. “We’ve heard all those already,” the spokes- rat says in an annoying tone.
What now? How to begin? “A long time ago...” I say to stall. My next words come out by some kind of reflex, “in a galaxy far, far away.”
“Yes. That’s one we haven’t heard. Go on.”
So, I go on. I start telling a bunch of rats George Lucas’s Star Wars story.
They are mesmerized. I really get into it. I know instinctively, as I’m telling the story, that I’ll have to follow the example of queen Scheherazade and string them along, and thus not finishing the tale. I’ll probably need to get past these rat things at some later date.
I’m a hit. They agree to let me pass on the condition that I finish telling the further Star Wars adventures later when next we meet. I’m free to leave their territory in the Primordial Forest. Eventually I come to the perimeter of the Primordial Forest. I gaze up at the tree-less sky. There a huge full and pale bone white moon rests in black velvet. It’s three times as large in this Dreamland sky as in the sky I see when I’m awake. After a moments’ thought, I hypothesize that the moon must be closer to the Earth here than in the Waking World. The sky also contains a dazzling array of stars, though I can’t recognize any familiar constellations.
As I walk down the road, some farm and village folk smile and wave to me in a neighborly manner. They tell me I’m in the city of Nir. They resemble some English farming village that you would expect to see in a medieval period television program done by the British Broadcasting Company. I ask them where this road goes and they tell me to “The City.” I ask what city and they laugh and tell me the city of Atlantis. Atlantis! Fantastic. I thank them and run on down the road. Which I now note is made up of yellow bricks. What wonders await me in such a place? I come to a river with a stone bridge and beyond that, I’m not surprised at all to see a dazzling gold and emerald city.
Walking over the bridge, I hear a faint, muffled, but still horrible, scream. Someone somewhere cries out in fear and agony. I look all around me, but I’m alone. The back of my neck starts tingling as if I’m in an electrical storm. My mind reaches a conclusion and informs me that the muffled screams could only be coming from within one of the bridge’s support towers. As the scream continues, it melts away my will to move.
“Okay Lamont, take it easy. Don’t panic. Calm down.” But the sound of another muffled scream sends more shivers down my spine. “I’ve got to get away from here.”
I take a deep breath and run as fast as I can across the haunted bridge. With relief, I stop running when I feel bricks under my feet. I make it across the bridge. I’m on the road to the city of Atlantis. Maybe this is what Miriam meant when she said that beyond that wooden door I would find a way to help Lana. And, presumably, this is also where that mysterious female voice, who kept hinting at my great destiny, has a body. She must be somebody in the city of Atlantis. I just have to find her. A simple matter of the old needle in the haystack problem.
 From the short story “A Case of Identity”, by Arthur Conan Doyle, first published in Strand magazine September 1891.
 From Chapter 15 of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, first published in The Strand magazine August 1901 - April 1902.
 The phrase Holmes used to describe how long he needed to consider the facts of the case that Jabez Wilson presented in the short story “The Red Headed League”, by Arthur Conan Doyle, first published in The Strand magazine in August 1891.
 Star Wars: A New Hope, written and directed by George Lucas, 1977
I walk a few feet away from the entrance way and glance up, to better see the structure I’ve just left. To my amazement, I realize I’ve walked down steps carved into the hollowed out center of an immense tree. I see, in the shadowed gloom, that the treetops connect to one another, resulting in the forest having a roofed effect. The Primordial Forest is as dark and foreboding to me as J. R. R. Tolkien’s Mirkwood at the time of Sauron and the tree’s immense height recalls the forest of Stephen R. Donaldson’s Revelwood before the Sunbane. I shiver from my inability to take in everything that has happened to me since I stepped through the mirror. I can’t make up my mind whether all this is a reality separate from the imaginings of my mind.
Thin beams of light stream down through cracks in the forest roof, the top of which I can barely see. The main source of illumination comes from an abundance of glowing emerald green fungus. The fungus clings to the tree’s lower trunks and to portions of their twisted roots, which protrude above the ground’s surface.
There’s an odd arrhythmic chittering sound rustling in the under growth and treacherous twittering, coming from the shrouded upper tree limbs. Floating in the air is a pervasive vegetative dankness from the undergrowth, intermixed with a wide variety of spicy floral scents.
Taking a few minutes to calm myself, I proceed to walk in what I designate as a westerly direction. I walk and listen to the hushed echoing forest sounds. I feel a small tingling of the hairs on my arms telling me something has changed. Either I’m being paranoid or I have that clichéd sensation that someone is watching me. Before I can dwell further on my feelings, I hear something in the distance. It’s the sound of a child crying.
I listen with concern, straining to get a fix on the sound, and then set off in that direction. Huddled against a tree, a small boy with black hair and fair skin, sits curled up in a ball, sobbing to himself. He is covered in a film of sweat, scratches, dirt, and tiny leaves. He must have stopped off at the same tailor that I did before coming here. He’s decked out in a similar dull gray leotard. He’s so despondent. I want to find some way to help him.
“Hello there!” I shout as I walk closer to him.
I don’t want to sneak up on him and frighten him. As it is, his head jolts up and spins towards me, as he tries to figure out if what he hears is real.
“Hello young man!” I speak loudly, in what I hope is a friendly and concerned tone.
He sees me, and moves back against the tree while leaning towards me.
“Who are you?” he sniffles.
“My name’s Lamont. What’s yours?”
I sit down beside him, putting out my hand for him to shake. He shakes it and continues to hold on. I carefully reach over and gently hold the boy and try to comfort him. He shakes as his crying subsides. We sit together for a few minutes as the fear in his body eases its grip.
“I want to go home,” he says in a small pleading voice, “Please take me home.”
“I will,” I need to distract him from his fears. “But first, how old are you?
“How long have you been here?”
“I don’t know. I ran around and got lost. After these furry-things with mean looking teeth scared me, it wasn’t fun anymore. I want to go home. Can you take me back?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll help you.”
Hope shines through his tear-streaked face.
“Do you know the way back?”
“Sure. Just click your ruby slippers three times and say…”
“But I don’t have any slippers,” he interrupts in a very serious tone.
“Hmmm,” I smile, “Well, so much for the direct route. Let’s get up and walk back together.”
After a few minutes of walking with me, he regains his composure. Unfortunately, I’m beginning to feel that clichéd feeling again. I, trying not to be obvious, peer around us, to ascertain what is going on.
“Were did my P.J.s go?”
I ponder that one for a moment, unable to come up with any good explanation, I dance around the question. “Because, you didn’t take them with you,” I answer glibly.
He thinks about my reply for a while. Before he can refute my logic, I ask him a question.
“How did you get here, Howard?”
“I’m not sure. I was asleep. Then I saw these stairs, which appeared, under my bed. I thought I saw a light and heard voices.”
“Weren’t you scared?”
“Nope.” he beams. “I like exploring. I went down the stairs and then I must’ve been when I lost my P.J.s. But, I can’t remember doing that. Will I find them on the way back?”
“I think so.” It makes sense to me that when we leave this dream-induced realm and return to our more usual dream environment, we leave behind whatever force caused our regular clothes to transform.
“If I don’t, I think my aunts will be mad. Anyway, I found met these two old bearded guys at this cool place. They had this great red sand fire pit. It was huge! There was green fire. They told me I could go down some more steps to a forest. So, I ran down the stairs and came to this place. I ran around and explored. But then I got lost.” Howard’s voice gets real low, “The sky got dark, and I saw all these little eyes watching me. They came out of the dark and they were these rats. I ran away, but they chased me. They never caught me, ‘cause I was running real fast. I was scared. I must’ve run so far and fast that they gave up. Then, I was all by myself, but I didn’t know where I was and I wanted to leave. It wasn’t fun anymore.”
“That’s okay, Howard. When I got here, I was scared too.”
“It happens to the best of us sometimes.” I try not to show my anxiety brought on by feelings of paranoia.
I get us back to the tree with the stairs. I’m glad that, so far, I can’t find any substantiation for my feelings of being watched. When Howard sees the tree entrance, he lets go of my hand and runs toward it.
“That’s it! You really did get me back!”
He runs up the stairs leaving me behind. I hear him stop, run back down, and come back out of the tree.
“Thank you for helping me.”
“No problem Howard. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime.”
“Yeah! Good-bye Lamont!”
“Good-bye Howard. Take care.”
He turns and bounds up the stairs as only someone with the seemingly inexhaustible energy of youth can do. I resume my exploration, walking back the way I came with Howard. I guess I’m making progress, although, so far, there is no end in sight to the forest. Suddenly, I feel as if I’m surrounded by an oddly familiar cold and sinister presence.
Then, they come at me, from out of nowhere.
In the moment, my impressions of my attackers are of large rat-like things, which have leaped from branches above me. A part of me is observing and taking notes. It jots down that the rats’ range in size, from a foot, to as large as three feet, long. They have short brown hair, ochre-ocellated eyes, four slender and flexible feet, and long bare tails. The
flexibility of their feet easily enables them to climb and grasp onto me. Three of them do that. They jumped on me and knocked me to the ground. They were also equipped with viciously sharp teeth. They’re using all of this very effectively on me. I have to use both hands to pull one off my throat.
Meanwhile, the other one has latched his teeth into my shoulder, and the third one hangs on to my left arm with his claws. Biting into my bare flesh is no problem for them, but it’s a big one for me. The pain distracts me and because of it, I let go of the only one of them that I had under some semblance of control. I keep trying to pull or knock them off, but they refuse to cooperate. I struggle to deal with them. They, on the other hand, seem to easily ignore all my efforts while going on with their business. They’re very successful at gnawing into my muscles and tendons.
I hear more movement and peculiar chittering sounds. I presume that there are more of them in the woods around me. I’m in agony, as more of the rat things come to feast on my helpless body. Unfortunately, I’m still stupidly hanging onto consciousness; for all the good it is doing me.
I can feel each bite, each piece of flesh, being worried off my body, as a whole pack of them settle in for their midday meal. I can’t even yell out, as a few of them have opened up my neck and play taffy pull with my vocal cords. Their knobby feet, with their sharp claws, dig into the flesh of my chest and thighs as they try to keep their balance, while ripping open my stomach. The smell of warm moist decomposed food from my open stomach and intestines comes up at me. In my mind, I silently scream for aid. I cry out to any deity watching over this part of the universe. Help me! Make this dream end! I didn’t do anything to deserve a death like this! I finally lapse out of consciousness when I helplessly watch two little ones fight over my genitals.
My whole world goes blood red and starts to swirl. I’m floating in a pool of blood that is being sucked downward. I hear a roaring shriek and then the blood red agony is replaced by darkness. My heart pounds. My ears ring. I hear a horrible dull, groaning sound coming from all around me.
I guess a second or two passes and then my subconscious mind communicates to me that I’m sitting upright on my own bed, in my own bedroom, and that I’m the source of the sound.
I close my mouth and begin to activate my brain. My first thought is, I hope I didn’t wake my parents.
My second thought is one of relief followed quickly by anger. Bloody Hell! What in Damnation’s name were those rat things? The one thing I’m grateful for is that I got that kid away from those rats. Where was one of those warning signs when you really needed them? “Walking in these woods can be hazardous to your health. Enter at your own risk!”
Somehow, through all of this, my parents didn’t wake up. I’m not sure if I should be grateful for that fact or not. Good grief! That was one hell of a dream! It sure felt all too damn realistic. Anyway, it’s two in the morning and I’m exhausted. With trepidation, I go back to sleep. I manage to sleep without dreaming about anything munching away at me.
Key Phrases: H P Lovecraft, Lovecraft Dreamland, Lovecraft Dream Cycle, Dreamland, Dream cycle, Through the Gate of Dreams