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In my dreams at least, I'm a good storyteller. It's not just that weird acid-like mixing of concepts and memories that happens in dreams, it's also that I come up with really good plots, with twists and real-sounding characters and everything.

 

The plot in this one revolved around me waking up in my old family home in Burgundy. Okay so far. Except that in fact my family's home has really become the home of a weird cult. And by weird cult, I mean: remember that Waco deal? Yeah. Furthermore, after a brief investigation it appears that the time is some eight years from now and that I've forgotten everything that's happened since, well, yesterday night. Talk about a hangover.

Everyone is dressed in sky blue cotton clothes with the cult's logo embroidered over the left breast. Most of the cult's populace seems to be made up of small children aged anywhere from 4 up to 13. Mostly girls, whose uniforms are disturbingly revealing. The kids seem to form a relaxed classroom type group in which I am somehow included, even though I'm more than ten years older than the oldest kid in the group. This class is led by a smiling, dark-haired woman who alternatively looks like one of my aunts or that annoying bitch Lisa from Six Feet Under. Both have that mellowy, syrupy, you know I'm always right kind of way to manipulate you into doing their bidding and feeling bad about yourself at the same time.

The leaders of the cult appear to be "the doctors," who, of course, know what is right and only do things for your own good, because they love you. They will also be the ones who flagellate you if you misbehave. Indeed, everyone's bodies are scarred in some way. The girls have red whiplash marks, and they have them mostly on their chest and thighs, at least where I can see their largely exposed skin. All I seem to encounter on sect grounds is middle management like my annoying group leader; the doctors are always unseen, and I begin to suspect there is only one doctor, and that he's a pervert.

Through some event which is lost to the limbo of my mind, I manage to get ahold of a kitchen knife and take a hostage. My wild assumption that they will actually give a shit whether I kill one of their members turns out to be right and they let me out, my knife held up against the throat of my hostage. And that hostage? Oh yeah, it's my father.

 

While I'm an unwilling guest of the cult, Dad seems to be quite the born-again wackjob, peppering my attempted escape with invigorating comments on how I will fail and on how good the cult is and how I need the cult. Even though I assume my dad put me in there, it is never explicitly said how I ended up in the sect's hands. The house is on the outskirts of the village; it is dawn, and the cold morning light radiates from the dewy fog surrounding us. It's quite cool and I'm only wearing one layer of thin cotton. Several adult members of the cult are in a ring around me as I proceed down the road towards the center of the village, alternating loving exhortations to return to the fold and veiled threats of a world of pain once they get me back to the compound. Part of me wants to cave in just to meet one of those doctors.

Afraid of the open, most of the cult members hounding me fall back to the compound as I reach the plaza which is down the street. Only my syrupy group leader, that annoying bitch, remains to follow me. I was counting on the shops that are on that plaza to be open, to have witnesses, to see normal people, but it's the early morning and everything's closed. Maybe it's the week-end; I don't know what day it is. I hide my frustration and the surge of the fear that's been boiling in my chest since the beginning of the escape and proceed, still holding my dad at knifepoint, to an annex of the post office which apparently has a 24 hour desk.

I rush in this haven and scream at the clerk behind the desk to call the police I've been abducted they're waiting outside quick. The sleepy civil servant emerges from the doze where he's probably spent the night. He's got little more than a piece of software's ability to deal with situations other than the ones he's been trained for and asks me to rephrase my request and please take your time there are procedures to be followed here. I realize that my agitated state doesn't lend itself to much clarity, but I would've thought that keywords like "kidnapped" and "call the police" could be parsed by anyone. Apparently not. I repeat, calmly but with anger bubbling to the surface that I've been kidnapped and sequestered and that he should call the police right the fuck now. My dad starts to dispute me, claiming I'm deranged and the helpdesk guy shouldn't pay attention to what I'm saying. He's my dad, he's going to take me home and take care of it. The civil servant raises an eyebrow at me. My dad's kept his cool and obviously still has his charm and wits going for him like eight years ago; meanwhile, with my adrenaline-induced agitation and the kitchen knife in my hand, I'm the one looking like a lunatic.

Realizing the futility of arguing before a helpdesk monkey, I ask him to just call the police, they can lock both of us up and sort it out later. Which he does, but he informs me that in order to process kidnapping charges they need me to go to the police station and file a complain. I boggle. When you're kidnapped you have to go to the police before they can start looking for you? I'm still out on whether that kafkaian twist was completely dreamspace-related or if it could happen in real life. Weirder stuff's happened, after all. Refusing to take a trained monkey's word for it I reach behind the counter and put the phone to my ear, but it's already hung up. I dial again but get a tone. No-one answers.

By now I realize that if I stay in this office any longer I'll be trapped in by the sect's goons and will have no chance to escape, so I decide to take off. My plan is to go to the police station and, if I have to, to kick a cop in the balls. Better jail than going back to that place. Annoying Bitch is still outside, faithfully waiting for me. A parked car next to the post office is conveniently unlocked and I hijack it, my dad still in tow, driving away.

 

The next part of the dream is also lost to limbo. I don't know if I reached the police station or not, and what happened after that. What I remember next is ending up in some house in the middle of a field. I'm holed up in the kitchen with my father, and I can see Annoying Bitch outside the window, still besieging me with her presence. There's a Rio Bravo quality to that scene that I don't like at all. As the adrenaline wears off, the real fear sets in: not just the fear of being caught, but the fear of the consequences: torture at the hand of the doctors but, worse yet, the fear that my spirit could be broken, actually make me into a follower. Has it been broken already? Why can't I remember the past eight years? Have I been trying to escape this place for all this time and failing, forgetting each time? Has Dad tried to escape until he was broken and made into a nice, subservient follower?

Somehow my dad gets ahold of a club and we find ourselves ready to leap at each other. I know that if I hesitate in a fight it's over, so I do a quick soul searching to find out if I could really plunge a knife in my father. I find out that yes, I could. Only then do I notice (dreams are funny that way) that the side of his face is disfigured by three scars going from his chin to the top of his head, his hair unable to grow on the scar tissue, no doubt a result of the sect's ritual flagellations. I'm horrified that my father, an intelligent man if there ever was, would actually be a loyal follower of such a cult. Still, even though I could kill him I really don't want to, so I try to reason with him.

Like myself, my father is a devout Catholic, and I'm surprised to find out he could have let himself get caught up in some wacko sect. I argue the intellectual superiority of Christian theology over the psychobabble of that band of fanatics, although when it comes out of my mouth it sounds more like "How could you? ...You!" He tells me that he's rejected the Catholic faith ever since his years in the monastery. Monastery? I don't tell him that I don't remember the past few years in order not to complicate the situation further and play along, trying to milk more info out of him. I gather that he tried to become a monk and, after a few years, the experience turned him off the religion entirely, traumatizing him. This is silly, but I realize this road's a dead end and switch to arguing against the sect instead of advocating his former life and religion. He's still got a lead pipe and me a knife, and we're still ready to plunge at each other's throats with a killing fury.

There's a poignant moment where I see in his eyes and his tone that he doesn't believe, or rather doesn't give a shit that the sect's right, it just gives him meaning and he won't give that up. He's compulsive about it. Yet, after a few minutes of arguments (more emotional than rational), of telling him I'll never be a member of the sect, of pleading, I finally get him to agree with me to a life outside the sect, a normal life.

I put away my knife. The plan now is to escape the house undedected by Annoying Bitch and run like hell to the first patch of civilization we can find. That state of friendship and wordless understanding that Dad and I sometimes share returns as we scour the house for anything that might help our escape. We find some clothes in a cupboard and get out of our cultish uniforms and my dad gets into civilized garb. At this point, he grabs my clothes and runs away, climbing out a window. When I ran there, I find him greeted by Annoying Bitch. From below, he resumes pleading that I accept the love of the cult and return to the fold. Annoying Bitch prefers to highlight the fact that, naked and without hostage, I've got no chance to escape make my time. Not that the two genres aren't related (they are), but this began to feel less like a western and more like a zombie flick. I point out that I've still got my knife and will sell my life dearly before I let them take me away, and that if they think being naked will stop me running like hell, they've overestimated my pudor. Then I think: do they have shotguns? I haven't seen any, but they could. I make a silent pact to die sooner than return. In reality, the thoughts in my head are more in the line of "Oh shit oh shit oh shit" than "I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees." For the twelfth time, I begin running a mental inventory of the house's contents for stuff that could help me

and my alarm clock rings.

 

My first thought when I woke up was, of course: "Am I back at the compound? Do I have amnesia again? What year is it?" Then, as the reality of my dream dawned on me progressively, I felt the frustration that I always feel when one of my dreams is interrupted, but also a huge feeling of relief that it was over, that the tension in my mind could be eased. I never felt the anguish of a nightmare during the nightmare. I rarely have true nightmares, although my dreams are often pretty bleak. But few made me feel as bad as this one. It wasn't so much the desperate cliffhanger and catastrophic situation as much as how realistic it felt. There are cults out there, and who knows when they can fuck your life up for good. More importantly, the "characters" (dreams feel so much like movies, don't they?) felt very real. Talking like my father was a lot like talking like my father, except for his broken, compulsive personality, but that was the most scary part: if his mind broke down, I know that's what he'd be like, sect or no sect.

It doesn't take Ziggy freakin' Freud to decypher that dream. My relationship with my dad has evolved considerably over the past year. It started out pretty iffy, what with all the physical abuse and kidnapping and neurosis and mind games but, as I grew and as hard as it was for him, he learned to acknowledge me as an adult. I grew up hating my father. Literally. Cold, mature hatred that a child should never have to feel. I also hated myself for never being able to confront him, always retreating to a web of lies to escape him and his attempts to manipulate my psyche. Now I don't even blame him for all the bad mojo he sent my way, because his parents are even higher on the neurotic scale than he is. He's always belittled me, trying to bring down my self esteem to make myself more malleable for the grand plans he had for me.

Anyway, that's enough whine about my sad childhood in a first world country with rich parents who loved me. It remains that I have a new relationship with my dad, based on mutual respect (in the most beautiful sense of that overused word). The culmination to the switch to this new relationship happened a few nights ago when, over dinner, we shared secrets we'd never told anyone, and where he told me about his life, when he'd always remained silent about his biography. I don't know how other people's father-son relationships are, but mine now feels good. We have a real, healthy bond, and the burden of having to hide my real life from him is almost gone.

This dream is about the fear of losing this new relationship, losing him to his neurosis and his crazy family. But, I take having this frightening dream as a good thing. I like being afraid to lose my dad, when only a few years ago losing him would've been the best news in the world.

 

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