Back to Chapter I
I’m gettin funny dreams again and again
I know what it means, but…
– Pete Townshend, 1965
I’ve been listening to Pete’s new concept album, Psychoderelict, almost constantly since I got it yesterday afternoon. The main character, a burned out rock star named Ray High, spends much of the album revisiting an old unfinished project of his called “Gridlife”, which is represented by bits and pieces of Pete’s old unfinished Lifehouse project. It’s gotten me to thinking about that story I was working on when I was in college. Mostly crap if memory serves (and it usually doesn’t) and largely ripped of from what I’d pieced together as Pete’s original story line for Lifehouse. Somehow I’d actually thought that I could give those ideas and visions form when their creator couldn’t. Ah, the egotism of a youthful artist… But still, maybe I should fish out those old manuscripts and have a look for old times sake. Maybe they weren’t as bad as I remember. After all, Ang always liked them. I’ve been thinking of her a lot lately. Especially since the dreams have returned.
15 September 1978
The Simple Secret
by Jack McFarquar
“The future’s been seen
As men try to realize
The simple secret of a note in a song”
– Pete Townshend, 1971
8 December 3920
Jim felt the bullets slice through his back, as he and Aurora fell through the rapidly closing hatchway. Tumbling to the deck, Aurora caught a glimpse of his wounds. The fur began to stand up on her back. She had only met this man a few months ago, but in that time he’d saved her life several times. She didn’t want him to die because of her.
Lying flat on his back Jim’s eyes began to glass over. Aurora cradled his head in her arms. Her tail unconsciously brushed his arm. She tried to feign indifference, but it didn’t seem to help the situation. Jim stared into space for what seemed like eons, finally he spoke.
“Is this the end?” Aurora tried to reassure him, but she sat mute as he began to cough up blood along with pieces of his lung. “Is this it?” He croaked, “Is it finally over?” Jim could taste the salty fluid in his mouth and knew he was going to die, but that wasn’t what was worrying him. “Please. . .” He tried to speak as his stomach emptied its contents into Aurora’s furry lap. She didn’t seem bothered by this or the dry heaves that followed. She was crying too hard to be bothered by anything so trivial. “Please,” his voice sounded as if he’d been chewing on broken glass, “why do you have to make it so damn hard? I’ve almost found. . .it. . .Please. . .” Jim’s gray eyes began to fill with tears as his body spasmed. The muscles in his neck tensed suddenly raising his head up several inches into the air. Another spasm came and his body fell limp, his head dropping into the pool of blood and vomit in Aurora’s lap.
“Wow, Jack, that’s pretty powerful stuff.” Ang looked genuinely impressed as she laid the typewritten pages down on the table. After I’d shown her that dream poem the other day she’d asked to see more of my work. I lent her one of my notebooks to read through and that night she called me to see if I’d like to go to lunch the next day and talk. I figured this would be a good time to show her some of the prose I’ve been working on lately as well.
“You really like it?”
“Jack, would you please quit asking me that?” she responds with a roll of her eyes and a smile “I think it’ll make an excellent opening scene.”
“An opening scene? Really? I’d actually intended it to be the last scene in the story.”
“You might want to reconsider that. I mean, it would make for a very powerful opening and would be sure to hook the reader right away.” She does have a point, but
“How could I start with this when Jim dies in it. Hard to continue after that, y’know?”
“Well, you could always tell the rest of the story through flashbacks. It would make for a cool effect.”
“I guess so, but don’t you think that starting at the end and flashing backwards for an entire book is kind of cheap and cliché?”
“I suppose,” she answers with a sigh, “but I think if you handled it right it could work. Do whatever you think is best though. I’m sure you know better than I do what your story needs.”
Dreams. I can’t stop them from coming. They’d gone away for a long time, but now they’re back. I dream of things that happened ages ago. Reliving them like a robot unable to deviate from the program. I dream of things that never happened—things that could never happen—and yet I know they’re true. I dream of the future. Not the flying car Flash Gordon future of those cheap sci-fi flicks, but my future. I told Ang once that I don’t believe in precognition, but sometimes I wonder what I believe, if anything. In one dream I’m on stage with my band belting out Who songs. Sometimes I’m alone on the stage with a harmonica around my neck, singing Tangled up in Blue. In another dream I’m sharing a backstage drink with Pete Townshend. We make a toast to the honored dead as Pete fidgets, wanting to get back to his video game. In another I’m standing on the beach feeling old and tired. I think I’m ready to die, but I’m wrong. Last night I was on stage again. We were playing Time in a Bottle. After the song was over I excused myself from the stage to go to the bar to refresh myself. Ang was waiting for me there.
“So, what did ya think?” I asked, sliding a home grown cigarette between my lips.
“It was beautiful, as usual” she replied with a smile. I just laughed and ordered a rum and coke. Everything seemed to be going very well. The band was a furious hit, our romance was burning out of control, and disco was officially dead. And yet I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was amiss. Something that could mean the difference between life and dead, if in fact there is one. Or maybe, I thought, it was just some bad hash. Yeah, one too many chemicals. That had to be it. I’d almost convinced myself when something extraordinary happened.
“And that’s when I woke up.”
“That is so weird…”
“Yeah, Ian, I know. Especially since even though I’ve never so much as touched a cigarette or alcohol, I didn’t think twice about smoking or drinking while I was dreaming. It felt… natural somehow.”
“Well, sometimes dreams have an internal logic all their own. I’ve had dreams where totally bizarre things were happening, but because the dream was so vivid and real that I didn’t question it until I woke up.”
“True, I have had that experience before myself. I dunno, somehow this felt different.”
“There’s just one thing I don’t understand”
“And what’s that?”
“How did you know something extraordinary was going to happen if you woke up before it happened?”
The past is dead. It lives on, haunting our present, only in memory. Like poorly kept photo albums. Many eras of our lives are well documented with pictures, captions, and dates. Everything in these volumes are arranged chronologically and each picture is in perfect focus. Other eras, however, are not documented quite that well. Many of the photos are blurry or out of focus. Those that are crystal clear may be lacking identifying captions and/or dates, while some of the most poorly taken pictures have the most meticulously typed captions. While there is a general chronological order to these volumes it is not exacting due to missing date labels. Many pictures are places slightly earlier or later than when they belong. Yet other eras don’t even have an album to post their photos in. These pictures, focused, fuzzy, and undeveloped are heaped randomly into paper sacks. Some have handwritten dates and notes written on the back. Some have clearly typed captions attached, but their context is completely lost.
My past seems to be nothing more than a random and chaotic amalgamation of faces names and events. While I was living it they seemed to be an inevitable chain of events. But looking back all I see are individual events floating independent of one another, the imagined meaning I had once ascribed to them completely vanished.
This is, of course, no great revelation. I felt the meaning drain from my life nearly 10 years ago. Since then I’ve been adrift in the world. Almost as if my life had already ended and I just didn’t know enough to die.
More of Summer of a Doormouse can be found here.
More of The Simple Secret can be found here.