Dr. Sleepypuppy

It's December 1985. Jack Nemo has had no sleep for several nights in a row. It has been one weird interruption after another for this elderly homeless fellow. Terribly fatigued, he boards a city bus, simply hoping to catch a few z's out of the rain. But little does he realize that this bus---and existence as he knows it---are about to take a sudden detour into a chaotic realm of unrelenting strangeness, presided over by the chthonic entity known as...

 
  
Dr. Sleepypuppy
 
by  Laika  Pupkino
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PART ONE: UP ALL NIGHT
 
       If you had asked me how things were going during those awful rains last week I would've used words like "crazy" and "unreal". But that sort of craziness was just a pale overture to the madness that would soon overrun my world. As vexing as all that was for me I look back on it with a kind nostalgia. The rains, the cops, my run in with nutcase Ronnie and with the whistling bean soaker; that whole convoluted sequence of events that I see now had been maneuvering me toward my fateful 5 a.m. boarding of that bus like some Rube Goldberg mechanics of Destiny.
 
      Destiny is not one of those concepts I would have seriously entertained back then, but it has since become almost palpable to me, this sense of finding myself the plaything of some bored, amoral Olympians---or whatever they're calling themselves these days---The realm of the gods, the land of dreams and that of madness all being within shouting distance of each other, the shallows between them easy to blunder across at low tide...
 
      But I suppose I should confine this narrative to what I have actually observed. My story is going to get confusing enough without my going off on flights of metaphysical fooferaw...
 
      It started with that reporter coming down to our beach on that drizzly mid-December morning to do his paper's annual homeless article. I knew the guy spelled trouble, his whole viewpoint fairly obvious from what he considered an impressive necktie- a world of meaning in that gray-on-gray pattern of the designer's brand repeated over and over ........... A slick young twerp with all the standard ambitions, who knows in his heart he won't always be working for this cheesy two-section rag in this suburban backwater.
 
      And I believe he might just go far. Not a fresh idea in his head, and with the proper penchant for simplification, the visual angle. Figuring that if he could just find her, the desperate young mom in the rusted out station wagon with all the crap lashed to the top, get a picture of her standing dourly behind her three dirty shellshocked imps for some caption like:
 
NO SANTA CLAUS FOR THE McSIMMONS FAMILY
 
      Dish up some of that good old yuletide pitifulness for the folks like a real newspaper do...
 
      But unfortunately for him, although there were plenty of bonafied homeless hanging around down by San Clemente pier, and all very eager to be interviewed, Skidmark Adams, Jojo Mongo and those guys just weren't a very pitiable bunch. Would not stop their grinning & mugging & joking & smoking & hooting & jiving- their splotchy windburned mugs looming large and grotesque in the Thursday morning edition halftone-blur as they rambled arrogantly on about how they all scavanged for food, snuck into the showers down at the yacht club, and avoided the rains at night...
 
      And I warned them not to even talk to this joker, these ostensibly streetwise dudes never stopping to consider that to do so might bring about a replay of what happened last year up in Laguna, when a gaggle of the Main Beach derelicts all posed for that zany rock-and-roll-band portrait along the boardwalk there for the Tide & Times photographer. It was the same exact deal. They had been in town so long that they'd gotten complacent, had started to think they had some immunity against the cops, the raids that invariably follow this sort of article ............ Especially when they have you bragging about how much more fun you're having than all those dumb jerks who have to go to work every day. The arrogant reckless fools.
 
      But my colleagues all figured I was just being Jack. Old Jack Nemo, that weird old som'bitch who doesn't even get loaded. That holier-n'-thou jerk who thinks he's better than the rest of us bums because he wears that fedora, the carnation in his label and trims his beard all Nigel Faversham Esquire ............ Who will bend your ear every chance he gets with some endless story about how he is sueing the government for some experiment he says the CIA ran on him!
 
      All of which I overheard Hamburger Mary telling No Toes outside the Forest Avenue library, the account having taken on a life of its own by now, my words now completely stretched out of shape and bearing no resemblance whatsoever to what I had said.
 
      The stuff was called Placidexinol, a trial drug I had agreed to take when I went in for the anxiety attacks I was having, and wound up having to be hospitalized when it made everything worse- a "bad trip" that I didn't think I was ever going to come down from, that immobilized me for over three months with the constant gnawing sense that something strange and horrible was about to happen.
 
      That VA doctor Pointsman swore that this breakdown---and the second episode 18 months later---had nothing to do with the Placidexinol; that they happened in spite of rather than because of the stuff. But this trial took place ten years ago and they never did put the shit on the market. And I wasn't the only one who had a reaction like that, but my class action suit fell through when the others in the trial went for that chickenfeed settlement they offered...
 
      And I never said the CIA, although Pointsman sure did seem like some kind of MK Ultra wannabe, upping my dosage when I was begging him to give me less, with a cock-and-bull theory about some "paradox effect", but I really think just for his own amusement, seeing what it would do to me ............ So that I went in vaguely antsy and ended up with this whole spectrum of entrenched disorders.
 
      All of which the bums around San Clemente made a huge deal out of, as if my mental issues were somehow worse than the way most of them seemed to pass through detox facilities on a regular basis; putting themselves thereno less, through their dissolute self-ingulgence; And with no real plans to change their ways but only there to take a breather, getting some chow and a bed at the taxpayer's expense! But even considering the source it stings to hear this sort of talk. To have so little credibility even among these shiftless flakes!
 
      And so I am tempted to gloat over the fact that only I saw it coming, had any sense of real world cause and effect. The lot of them flushed out two nights later, like clammy white nocturnal creatures under the glare of the parachute flares and carted off in the black mariahs! Although there is little satisfaction in being right when I lost my own spot as well. I was already moving to abandon it when I saw them yucking it up with their pal from the Coast Foghorn. Staying one jump ahead while they crowed about their greatness, their uniqueness, expecting what? Praise?
 
      I gave away my cooking stuff, all my paperbacks and most of my plastic tarping, dropping it off at the entrances to my neighbors' cardboard hooches. Getting my gear down to a manageable 30 pound load. In normal weather it would have been as simple as finding some new patch of field to sleep in, but this rain and then the crackdown had seriously narrowed my options.
 
      I spent the next two nights in one of the bathrooms around in back of The Burrito Bungalo. Dry at least, although I slept poorly that first night, like I do in any untested place. And it was far smaller than I would've preferred, given my (courtesy of guess who...) persistant claustrophobia.
 
      So I racked up maybe an hour and a half's sleep before I was warned of the impending dawn by the little travel alarm I'd bought with my last check. I assumed that I would be making up for this the second night in there, hoping to get a week out of this spot while I looked for something better.
 
      But after about 45 minutes of fitful dozing I was awakened by a car pulling up onto the gravel parking lot, then sounds from the kitchen- someone filling a pot with dry beans and running the water. The owner, who I hoped would just start the big pot of refritos and then leave. But a radio went on and he tackled a load of dishes, whistling like someone washing dishes in a movie. I was wide awake, my breath hot and shallow at the prospects of discovery, of slinking away in canine embarrassment from his: "HEY! WHAT THE HELL D'YA THINK YER DOIN' IN HERE?!"
 
      He eventually did take off, after taking a whizz in the women's crapper, which was five steps closer to the kitchen. But after this it was useless ......... I was in that weird middle phase, where anxiety---the fear that you won't be able to fall asleep---actually prevents you from doing it. Or it would take so long to do so that you would still be conked out when the morning crew walked right in on you.
 
      So I stashed my pack in some shrubbery and spent my last pocketful of change drinking coffee at the Denny's for the rest of the night. As bleary as I was I still had fared better than the others did that night. Four who had escaped the dragnet came straggling in at 3:45 with their bundles of stuff, to recoup and make plans. One bedraggled young thug at their booth accused me of calling the law on them, the fact that I had so conveniently disappeared being proof enough for him. An accusation like that can be dangerous, another of those rumors that don't need to be true to proliferate, but luckily the others didn't buy into it at all. As strange and obnoxious as they might think I am they at least know I'm not a fink.
 
      Toward the end of their pow-wow the three who weren't glaring sullenly at me said how they were going to blow this fascist burg for a spot out in the desert, some caves along a canyon wash up above Palm Springs, where the rain clouds (blocked by Mt. San Gorgonio) seldom reach and the party never stops! One even offered me a half-hearted invitiation to meet them out there...
 
      But I picture the constant loud drunken yammering, the generations of trash and probably even lice in those caves and they can have it! Besides, it will be to my advantage to have them all gone from around the pier in the mornings. The two or three homeless that remain will seem hardly noticeable to those who worry about the city's image as a tourist mecca...
 
      Bumbling around all sleepy and dazed that day, bored and also hungry, the coffee not sitting well and wishing I'd stretched my money a little farther. I wasted the morning in the library, reading magazines. It was sunny out for a while so I took a nice long walk, where I happened upon what seemed like it would be the perfect sleeping place.
 
      And so ten long hours later I unrolled my bedding on the upper landing of a stucco enclosed stairwell at a little two story office complect on South El Camino Real. The little landing is way up inside, where the stairs continue up from the 2nd floor and then turn back again before running into a locked hatchway that led onto the roof---a part of the stairs that no one who knew the place would ever go---so that even some harried insomniac realtor coming in at 3 a.m. to shuffle some files would pass by right below me...
 
      That night it poured like crazy, enough that I know the grassy little bowl my hooch had sat in must have turned into a miniature lake, and I'm smug and content over having found this safe haven. The galvanized hatch above me rumbling like Niagara Falls but not letting in a drop! Lightning strikes the emerald green space age water tower up on the hill two blocks above us and the whole inside of the stairwell lights up like a flashbulb going off: BOOMRATTLE-CRAAAAAACCKKKK! I light up a little cheroot and smile. Run my comb through my beard.
 
      Footsteps coming up the stairs. Okay I guess this is the test here...
 
      But each step was squooshing soggily, accompanied by a strange whining conversation of one, so that even without seeing this person I could tell it wasn't someone who had just stepped out of his BMW ........... And then they continued right up past the second floor, until there he stood, backlit by a lightning flash and looking like the ghost of some drowned mariner, his long hair all plastered down with (I seem to recall...) seaweed in it.
 
      His glasses were all busted up and taped back together, but the slick black electrical tape was unfurling now, trailing limply down his nose. I recognized him, a drunk named Ronnie Prima, who fancies himself some sort of writer.
 
      "FUCK!" he bellowed when he saw me. And then, with a show of weary magnanimity he sighed, "Okay, fair is fair. I'll leave..."
 
      And when I insisted that there was plenty of room for both of us, and to "pull up some cement", he plopped down and started drying his hair with a Hawaiian shirt. He pulled out a big bottle of supermarket rum with a grin that announced it was all worth it. The rain, the nightly hiding, all the chaos and impermanence of life on the streets.
 
      He went to hand me the bottle and then I guess remembering what he'd heard stopped, and asked if it was true that I didn't drink. When I confessed that it was he nodded, telling me that this was "admirable". And when I told him "Don't let my not drinking stop you," he snickered, saying, "Believe me, it won't..."
 
      I'd seen him in the library a lot, and I liked the fact that he was always writing something, but I had steered clear of Ronnie after another wino warned me that he tended to "wig out bad". But then again I'd heard similar statements about me---how nuts I'm supposed to be---and the guy seemed friendly enough for now, and might prove worth talking to. Also I figured from the way he was guzzling the stuff down, he would just dropp of to sleep after we talked for a spell.
 
      Mistake. Before long a sarcastic edge crept into his voice and he started challenging everything I said ........... Like when I commented on Mother Nature's fireworks display taking place up on the hill he sneered, "People who say 'Don't you just love the rain?' never had to fuckin' live in it, man!' –this despite the fact that I was obviously as much on the street as he was.
 
      And then when I mentioned that I'd been involved in real estate and owned a small apartment complex back in the 60's he REALLY started giving me hell; berating all the damned "baronial" land owners, who charged whatever they pleased for rent, squeezing out the working class with a disregard that was simply heinous. A point that I might have half agreed with (while most seem fairly reasonable my own last landlord had been exactly this kind of capricious cut-throat bastard-) if he wasn't being such a sloppy drunk blowhard, not even letting me finish a sentance!
 
      And so I played the role he'd assigned me, asking him if he thought it was better over in Russia, and he told me that I was depressingly predictable.
 
      And I said that reason usually is predictable, which he didn't like at all. While he had already been talking way too loud he was screaming now!
 
      He tended to change the topic in mid-sentence so it was hard to tell what he was carrying on about, but I think it was how dare I insinuated that he was a communist, when those fucking bastards in Russia killed some dog by shooting it into space; Which hardly seems like the worst of the Evil Empire's crimes, but it didn't matter at this point because now he was on about Iran for some reason---which really had nothing to do with the conversation---except that it seems he'd been permanently traumatized by how the Islamic Revolution had stormed into the bar at the Tehran Hilton back in '79 and busted up all the bottles of booze in the place. I think this was what his beef was, he was all over the place...
 
       I found myself laughing at how worked up he was getting---I mean it was just ridiculous---but it wasn't actually funny since he was really giving away the fact that we were up there, even over the noise of the wind and rain, that second floor hallway funneling his shrieks right into to the back windows of the apartment complex next door!
 
      He continued with a totally disjointed list of historic evils---from Apartheid to male supremism (he really went on about that one for some reason)---connected I suppose by the fact that I was somehow responsible for them all. All this because I'd said something about the usefulness of reason.
 
      Now bellowing with his eyes shut that my reason, my fucking reason ......... was killing all the .......... fucking ......... little .......... things!
 
      "What things?!"
 
       "YOU SEE?! YOU DON'T EVEN KNOWWWWWWWWW!!"
 
      Somebody must've reported that they heard someone being murdered over here, as quick as the cops showed up! They took him in, and told me to get lost. I sure didn't have to be told twice!
 
      As I hoofed it down the sidewalk starred by drowning writhing worms, with the ice cold rainwater running down my neck, I was comforted by the fact that at least I wasn't in jail!
 
      I just can't understand the attitude of guys who claim to not mind doing jail time. Home sweet home- jammed into a hideous grey windowless box of a room with 150 sweaty, smoking, farting big-dog-fuck-the-little-dog criminal idiots! And they're annoying, but not as bad as just the fact of the place. The bars on the windows, the mechanically circulated air .............. I valued my being free, even if it meant I was exposed to less than favorable weather. The notion that I could pick up and start walking to Maine if I had the urge. Which I didn't, but it was nice to know I had the option.
 
      Although this makes it sound more rational than it actually is, a mere distaste for locked doors, when is more in the nature of a blind unreasoning fear (the result I'm sure of the Placidox and its aftershocks, where I found being held in that psych ward intolerable...), which has caused me to take off running from the police when my chances of getting away were zero and all I got for my troubles was a "resisting arrest" charge tacked on!
 
      Reflections on wet asphalt. Silhouetted palms, their shaggy manes rustling up there in the wind. A blimp passed directly over me---a large black oval of missing stars bracketted in red running lights---low enough to hear its diesel engines chug-chugging dutifully...
 
      Past the black windows of businesses, only exit signs and such aglow in them now. Rows of jackets and suits zigzagging up through the darkness of a dry cleaners shop under their steel rails, a conga line of big-shouldered ghosts. If that pink neon circle of a clock was correct it would be another five hours until sunup...
 
      It started raining again, big fat cold drops. I went to pull the plastic liner out of what looked like an empty sidewalk trash can, planning to tear int into a rudimentary poncho to slip over my black pea coat, but the sack was not completely empty. There in the seamed corner bulging with rainwater was a shiny black rectangular shape. A wallet!
 
      Someone once said that there is always a sort of dream-feeling when you find money, and it's true. The sense of unreality washing over me as I picked it up and pried it open, then fading when I saw there was no cash in it.
 
      It could have meant another all night caffeine-&-crossword-puzzles marathon at the Denny's, or even getting a hotel room, but it was just as well. It saved me from that nagging little voice of conscience cropping up over the next few weeks, telling me I should have turned it in. Or the other voice, that of need and greed and don't be a sap- so that you're damned either way.
 
      What I did contain was a drivers license, a picture of a whole family with ears like Prince Charles, a soggy social security card, a bus pass, and a couple of ruined 27¢ stamps. I figured that either someone found it on the sidewalk and rifled through it before tossing it out, or else they pickpocketed or mugged James M. Danninger of 77355 Calle la Boca, Irvine CA .......... In any event it felt like bad luck for me to be holding onto it, so I dropped it into a mailbox for him, but gave into self-interest at the last second and kept the December bus pass, even though his reliance on public transportation was a clear sign that he wasn't exactly rolling in dough...
 
      Yeah, well the spirit is noble and right-minded and everything but the flesh is cold out here, and in desperate need of some sleep. I figured I could sit it out until dawn someplace and then do the last few nights worth of sleeping today on the Orange County Transit District busses. That long haul up to Long Beach being a 2½ hour trip, and then coming back again would be enough sleep to get by on for a little while. And if I was this this sleepy now I would be tired enough by dawn to snooze through just about anything or anyone a bus ride would throw my way...
 
      So I parked my carcass under the vaguely Polynesian overhang of San Clemente's Sea Knoll Lutheran Church and finished my stogie, reading my stupid espionage thriller under the green floodlights. When a police cruiser slowed down questioningly I pointed at the bus bench, signalling that I was waiting for the bus, only here where it was dry, and they nodded and rolled on. Then I boarded the 5:15 a.m. ROUTE #1 bus in a stinging, wind-driven rain...
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PART TWO: ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL
 
      Predawn black outside the windows. Just me and the driver on this very first bus of the day here, but it will be filling up with college students and what have you by the time we hit Laguna. I've had maybe three hours sleep. They have the very back bench divided into seats by raised nylon ridges now, so you can no longer stretch out on it; so I grab the next best place on the bus. This solo seat just ahead of it, neighborless and with twice the legroom of any of the others, and with this rack of steel slats alongside it, which covers the hump of the right rear wheel well.
 
      I drop my rucksack onto the shelf and hike my arm up over it like it's my good old dog. Can now sleep without any paranoia about someone running out the exit door right here with it while I snooze. Not too likely that anyone would want it, but still...
 
      As we roll down the deserted street and turn onto the freeway ramp I fold my damp coat inside out and pillow it against my pack, lay my ear on it and close my eyes. Bus to Sleepytown. Steady hypnotic roar of the heaters.
 
      A long row of pictograms up there, between an ad for KINGPIN BAIL BONDS and a faded Coppertone ad, announcing the transit district's rules against food, drinks, playing radios, etc. ....... I'm glad to see they have no rules against sleeping, although there are public transportation systems that do forbid it ("Book him, Dano. And take those hard little yellow deposits outta the corners of his eyes for evidence!"). You can't make living in your area too comfortable for the transients, or they'll decide to stick around. I gaze up at the Ridership Rules placard, in no-nonsense black ink on ugly glossy white; and I must be tired if I didn't notice the thing next to it..
 
      It's a little projection box like a fake t.v. set up there above the windows, its screen a sheet of white styrene, the film reels and rollers inside clattering louder than the soundtrack. An ancient film put out by YOUR TRANSIT COMPANY, with pale bleached-out lighting and actors recruited from the employees and their families, pantomiming the rules and Handy Rider Tips. The narrator speaking in such a dull and sensible tone that I don't notice at first that what he's saying is utter gibble-gabble. Esperanto played backward. Maybe the thing is busted...
 
     Looking to the front of the bus I see that the driver is a huge 400 pound fat man in striped pajamas, asleep at the wheel! His head is rolled back as if he were studying the concave metal ceiling, his features sagging in deep rapturous sleep while the bus angles sharply across the freeway lanes and tears through the wire fence and into the oncoming traffic-
 
      I bolt upright, my heart racing wildly!
 
      And an extremely relieved to find that this bus is plodding along on the appropriate side of the center divider here on the first mile of its journey, which in fact was on the freeway but we are leaving the 405 already, coming down the overpass, across the concrete channel of San Juan Creek, to where old Coast Highway starts in Dana Point.
 
      Four Mexican restaurant workers in yellow rain slickers get on at the Pacific Coast Highway and Del Obisbo stop, giggling about some comical incident or other. They sit right behink me, on the bus's segmented rear bench, but I don't think their talk will bother my sleep any. Not in the way a conversation that I could discern the content of might. I lean back, close my eyes...
 
      It has been said that everybody dreams, whether you remember having them or not, and I believe it. Insisting that you don't dream is like saying that you don't have kidneys; that you never felt them inside of you so they must not be in there ......... And I have noticed the attitude of people who maintain that they do not dream is underscored by an ornery sort of pride, as if they are somehow too together to dream, dreams being silly and hard to make sense of, like some obnoxious Czech art movie (and no doubt potentially damning if some leering Freudian-type were to get ahold of them!)...
 
      But you know that you have at least one kidney by the fact that you're not mortally ill and turning ugly colors. And you can bet that you've been experiencing dreams if your brain hasn't melted down in the course of day-to-day living ............. I guess this fundamental need for dreams is why these first ones after a long period of sleeplessness tend to be so frantic. It's your unconscious mind struggling to catch up on its work.
 
      I used to take this #1 bus up to the VA hospital in Long Beach quite often for tests and such, and so I know that if a person absolutely had to ride the buses in Orange County on a regular basis, this would be the line to be stuck with. Watching the girls in the Summertime. These dark majestic waves in the winter. Or just checking out the diverse features of these little neighborhoods...
 
      The prestigious ones with the gorgeous rainbow flowerbeds, their narrow bays crowded with ponderous fat white yachts. The claustrophobic party towns with all these run down duplexes, their 2nd and 3rd stories tacked on any which way, spilling out into these cramped little alleyways that pass for streets. Others which are merely featureless stucco suburbs that just happen to be next to the ocean.
 
      These distinct regions all brought closer together now in appearance and mood by this cold hard rain. Everything soaked and grey. Ocean rising and pounding at steep little buffers of sand. Palm trees bent miserably back by the moaning wind. It's quite a show from in here with the heaters on, snug as a bug!
 
      And then I'm asleep again, although I don't notice the transition. For without finding fault with this change in context I'm watching another film. A commercial this time. An ad for the new 1985 FORD SIESTA: Especially Designed for Folks Who Fall Asleep At The Wheel...
 
      At first I'm just watching myself- Hey, that's me in this ad! When did I do this?! And then I'm no longer merely viewing it, it's not a film now but actually being here, in this comfortable white enclosure, and very sleepy...
 
      This interior comprised entirely of pillows. Holding the little square tassle-cornered steering wheel pillow. A puffy dashboard with a vague array of lights and buttons embroidered on its fabric surface in cheery baby-land colors. Pillow windows set in stuffed rayon doors. The windshield too is opaque fabric, printed with an unchanging generic landscape, but I guess I'm not supposed to see outside. Just sleep...
 
      I'm lulled by this dreamy steel guitar music, I sense the car moving by itself, drifting across a pale shadowless landscape, rocking serenely as it knocks apart all these insubstantial foam rubber trees and boulders and embankments...
 
      I startle out of my nodding-off-at-the-wheel when I notice this already cramped interior is constricting steadily toward me!
 
      I go to push away the pillows, but my arms are striped dacron pillows- dumb stubby handless things jutiing from pillowcase sleeves! I scream airlessly---can't breathe!---my lungs having turned into these clumpy sacks of feathers inside my sagging ribless chest; And in my attempt to shout my huge fabric lips flap numbly open and apart, peeling from my pillowface as I thrash, my whole body coming apart in a riot of tumbling pillows!
 
      I wake up, hollaring and kicking! My breathing is ragged and strained, and I gasp like an asthmatic for a long time .................. Christ, what a horrible dream!! And yet nobody on this bus noticed a thing....
 
      And it's not that they're pretending not to notice, like you do when some weird guy seated next to you starts shouting, "WHOAH JEHOVA, CALIBRATE MY TENNIS SHOES!" or whatever, the studied avoidance and oh-so-casual changing of seats...
 
      No, they truly didn't notice my panicked bellowing. Which in itself seems unreal. And maybe I'm making more of a deal of this than it warrants, but I am haunted by a growing sense of the uncanny---more intense than anything I've felt since the VA psych ward---a feeling that at any second something something inexplicable and terrifying would occur-
 
      Suddenly the face of one of the Mexican men seated behind me comes swooping in from over my shoulder and is staring into mine, announcing with a mad jeering grin, "You PILLOW!"
 
      My heart leaps into my mouth as I yelp and jump away from him, bracing myself against instantly turning into an idiot tumbling of pillows for real this time-
 
      But I don't ............ He hands me my bundled jacket, which had fallen to the floor behind my seat, proud that he knows the English word for it- "You pillow. Almohada .......... is pillow!"
 
      "Right. Very good. Gracias," I nod inanely.
 
      Past Aliso Pier---which is being shook pretty good by a series of large brooding rollers---and up into Laguna Beach, bumper to bumper through all the art galleries and frozen yogurt shops.
 
      After ten in the morning the busses usually run between half full and empty, but these early morning ones are packed. My pillow-finder and his pals have gotten off; and now there's this nerdy college kid back there, telling a girl across from him about a game him and his buddies were playing the previous night. Something called Trivial Pursuit.
 
      Loud, nasal, braying: "Boy I tell ya, that TRIVIAL PURSUIT, TRIVIAL PURSUIT, TRIVIAL PURSUIT ............. Me n' my friends are just the CA-RAZIEST BUNCH OF TRIVIAL PURSUIT PLAYIN'-"
 
      This is a public space I can't expect everyone to be quiet for my benefit, but he just won't shut up about it, until I wind up muttering, louder than I intended to, "Your whole fucking life is a trivial pursuit..."
 
      But when the girl he was trying to impress gets off he quiets down, until he gets off somewhere up the road. I lean back, close my eyes and drift...
     
      What is with all this trivia garbage? Doesn't the very term trivia indicate to people that it's NOT IMPORTANT?! But it's everywhere now, like with how it's no longer enough to cover a baseball game on t.v., they have to cram every half second of silence with the most pointless assortment of factoids, the average annual rainfall in the third baseman's hometown in Montana; a wallowing in meaningless informational bric-a-brac divorced from any useful body of ideas...
 
INTERESTING TRIVIA FACT: I was reading about this film historian who did a survey of thousands of movie scripts, and concluded that the sentence most commonly uttered in English language movies (with the exception of "Look out!"; which he counted as more of an instinctive cry than a real line of dialogue...) is: "Try to get some sleep now."
 
      I dream more dreams. Dreams influenced by the sensation of stopping and starting, of rounding corners; by the greasy pneumatic farting of the brakes and the DING! DING! DING! of the bell.
 
      By the driver calling back wearily, "You only got to ring it once."
 
      I hear someone say this is the worst storm we've had in eight years...
 
      I am talking to the fellow in the seat across the aisle to me, next to the left rear wheel. Ask him, "Haven't I met you someplace before?"
 
      Big fat man in pajamas, robe, slippers. A huge frame on him but also very fat, his ass spilling over the sides of the seat. His massive fingers twined smugly together up on his belly, holding his bathrobe shut. He tells me that we are evacuating, the word rolling langorously off his tongue like Alfred Hitchcock. E-VAC-hew-a-ting...
 
      Which must explain his odd attire. Plus the fact that many of the seats have been removed from this long dingy box of a bus, making way for all the steamer trunks and big canvas bundles. There is a grim and nauseous silence, like stagnant water, rippled here and there by faintly hissed arguments over where we're supposed to be going, or if we'll really find refuge there, or whether refuge is even attainable. The rest sleep, piled against each other in little groups on spread out horse blankets, totally exhausted. There is a stench of dirty flesh and even dirtier clothes in here.
 
      I ask the large man what we are evacuating.
 
      "You know ........... The End of the World."
 
      No I didn't know. A weird grey gloom outside at noon, darker than all these clouds would account for. I say, "You seem to be taking it pretty calmly."
 
      "I'm okay," he grins, yawning. "I'll just sleep through it. I can sleep anywhere..."
 
      "Sleep? But you'll die like the rest of us!"
 
      His voice is far away, "Yes, but I'm giving up a lot less than you are. Falling into the abyss---so to speak---from a much lower place. I sleep 20, sometimes 23 hours a day. I'm a narcoleptic."
 
      I startle as a huge shadow crosses swiftly over the bus. Silent, more like a great bird than any sort of aircraft. I strain to make it out. a cupped black shape like an oak leaf made of greenish flesh up in the dark sky, getting farther and farther away...
 
      Nobody is sure what it was. For some reason I am convinced it's one of those anomolous "dense bodies" that Voyager II spotted with its radar mapping equipment as it flew past Jupiter last year, moving against the methane wind...
 
      Someone has a horrible coughing fit that ends in a groan. Looks are exchanged. All we need now is cholera...
 
      I ask the narcoleptic man if he dreams during all this sleeping, and he says yes, he has lots of dreams. Mostly about falling asleep, or dreams were he is just watching himself like an unthinking camera monitor while he sleeps and sleeps and sleeps. He seems happy with this. He gestures out the window and smiles placidly, "So all this is really no big loss for me..."
 
      The bus is pulling farther and farther off the main road, off of some uncharted part of Pacific Coast Highway in a rocky, forbidding land. Down crumbly-edged old asphalt roads along the spines of breakwaters, levees that cross a vast grid of rectangular ponds like the remains of some endless oversized rice plantation in the murkey light...
 
      The sky is full of clouds, black to grey to purplish cobalt color. Everything about this place tells me that this really is the end of the world, not just in time but geographically as well...
 
      The leaf shape pulls a wide U-Turn in the sky, maybe thirty miles away, in front of a wall of huge thunderheads. Someone starts screaming, "It's coming back!! It's coming back!!"; and the bus is gripped by a sudden hysterical fear. The driver floors it!
 
      The thing (a manta ray?) flaps slowly, the flapping more like a reaction to than the source of its supersonic speed. And although it had not previously given any indication of being a threat or even having seen us, it's clearly after us now, shifting with every turn the driver makes along the tops of the levees.
 
      We're all terrified, knowing how hopeless this is, our pitiful range of possible evasive moves we can make on this grid of levees as it zeroes in on us! The terror is enough to wake me-
 
      Thank God! I'm back in the warmth and relative cheerfulness of the #1 bus, with the heater working and these bored-looking people reading their newspapers. Up and down over the green hills of this last unspoiled little stretch of coastline north of Laguna, then down into this expensive but vaguely seedy main drag of Corona del Mar.
 
      Sunglasses plus. Happy Herbivore Natural Foods. Ali Sadr Imported Carpets...
 
      It's windy here. Strands of Christmas Lights have been blown down off of store fronts, candy colored dots of light spilling across a wet sidewalk that shines like a mirror. Up on a streetlamp hangs a styrofoam snowman with most of his head missing. In doorways bright drifts of carnival wreckage. Affluent shoppers crowd the white tile interior of Zee French Bakery, half-obscured by steam on the windows. They crowd the counter of MAILBOX USA (opening at 6 a.m. all this week) laden with parcels.
 
      And seeing this I am unexplicably set upon by the "holiday blues" that the news media threaten us with each year, the suicide hotline numbers scrolling across the screen to the advice of paid alarmists- all of which I had generally smirked at...
 
      I order myself not to be a sap, that a day is a day and I have a sense of purpose that isn't dependant on the annual progression of merchandising schemes, and that while I don't have a family to rejoice in; I have a connectedness to the Earth, the trees, the whales spouting off of Point Fermin on their way south; the kinship of sentient life everywhere! This has sufficed better than you would probably believe.
 
      But that last dream has left me with its dreadful mood of doom, its sense of opportunities lost forever. And suddenly here this morning, when something emblematic comes along---like this Volvo wagon with the holiday wreath on its grill---it uncovers a latent yearning in me for someone somewhere to mail a batch of burnt cookies to. For a feeling of belonging that's a bit less abstract than to strangers and dogs and creatures half a galaxy away .......... As if life for all these early morning shoppers was one big misty-eyed phone company commercial; and I'm here outside, this irksome eyesore that it would put a damper on their holiday cheer just to notice.
 
      I'm having a regular orgy of self-pity here, but at least it's making me weary so I can maybe get back to sleep here. I rearrange my bundled coat, gazing all gaga-brainless up at the corners of the buildings and the jumbles of black telephone lines I see from this weird angle.
 
      Pillow. Look out. Try to get some sleep now. The sleep of reason produces marshmallows...
 
      We dribble through the bottleneck at MacArthur and PCH, then loop in through Newport's business center. I doze. and am drawn back in through the big red fiberglass clown's mouth (unconvincing guffaws grinding forth from little black-grilled speakers-) and experience a series of short dreams that I only remember bits of on awakening, like this one about having to gather up and rescue all these grotesque little wrinkled hairless kittens from an old condemned building as a pack of robot cranes with wrecking balls destroys the place floor by floor, wing by wing. The kittens keep hopping out of the box and wandering off in all directions, mewling feeble-mindedly at nothing in particular...
 
      The narcoleptic man sleepwalking through these dreams on some private itinerary of his own, turning up like that crispy-fried maniac with the razor fingers from that teenage horror movie series. And I am glad the character haunting my dreams seems a lot more benign, although there is something exceedingly creepy about him.
 
      The way he flaunts it. His bragging about being for all intents a vegetable. And with that rum-dumb smile on his kisser and that hoaky long red nightcap with the big pompom on the end falling down his shoulder. At least he could make an effort to get dressed!
 
      To our left, the waves rear up abruptly to what seems like thirty feet, then collapse clumsily onto themselves with a great roar. I'm drifting back under, gazing out at the pearl-colored sheets of rain. Huntington Beach pier is being clobbered so hard that it looks ready to come down again, like it did during that winter of back-to-back storms we had seven years ago...
 
      Though you always fear it will happen when it's a really bad one, you seldom go back to the same dream after being awake for a spell. Just sitting up for a smoke is usually enough to clear the machinery, set your brain up with a whole new batch of images. But this time I do go back.
 
      Perhaps it's all the bus noises that are filtering in through my ears, and my brain's unease at being asleep and vulnerable in a group of strangers, but I am back on the evacuation bus again. The same grid of artificial lakes extending in all directions, the same gunky dark sky...
 
      But a few details have changed. The highway isn't as strictly confined to the tops of the strips of land now but forges across them here and there on ricketty wooden pilings. And where they had been formed out of dirt and piled granite bolders before---like jetties---the high steep banks of these rectangular pools are now fashioned from some slick wet stuff like purple adobe...
 
      Or maybe this world hasn't changed but we've moved to a different part of it, closer to that terrible edge where the cliffs collapse without warning, tumbling off into the void. The black water shines like dull copper where the shafts of sunlight pour down from between the roiling clouds.
 
      The bus's interior is made out of wood, rough and dessicated, beat up and splintery- like a boxcar that should have been decommissioned decades ago. The windows are square holes with chicken-wire screens, but we're moving at a crawl and there is no breeze to freshen the stagnant air. Everyone is awake in here now, as if from the terrifying commotion at the end of the last dream, even if they remained huddled in the exact same spots they'd occupied before.
 
      Since I first wound up living on the street I have counted myself among the poor people of the Earth, the felaheen; but the withered faces and matchstick arms of some of these refugees are making me feel conspicuously well-fed. As if I actually have more in common after all with this Texas businessman perched on his expensive suitcase than I do with these ............. they look like 10th generation sidwalk dwellers, and like they've only known sporadic freedom from hunger in their lives. So not all of us on this bus are as bad off as others here. Some seem like they'd had to abandon nice homes on very short notice, and didn't always grab the most sensible items to begin their new lives as refugees.
 
      A South American peasant woman sings a nursery rhyme under her breath in some lilting tongue unlike Spanish or Portuguese as she dances her baby girl on her lap, holding the chubby little hands aloft as the girl's feet take mincing steps on the patterned wool of Mama's skirt. Pleased with herself, the infant does not notice the despair in her mother's eyes...
 
      Without changing very much on the inside this bus has become a decrepit monorail; the kind with the arm on top that hooks over the overhead rail. It groans and wobbles forward at 20 miles an hour, moving in tandem with our wobbly reflection on the the surface of the lagoons beneath us. Dark shapes move beneath the water. Colliding. Fighting. Fat shapes now raising up their long necks, tiny heads bristling with sharp teeth ............ My God, pleosaurs! Perhaps they plan to bring the dinosaurs back after they finish us off.
 
      The clouds shift, the darkness changes shape. An old man points, staggers and collapses, his mangled scream rebounding off the rough-hewn walls! The green/black thing is back, swooping down on us through the columns of angry thunderheads that seem to be sixty miles high! It's way the hell up there but closing fast, and we only now realize just how huge it is!
 
      A fierce looking eye opens in it, where the front angles up into a dull point like the prow of a ship. From past the horizons comes the ominous BA-WOOOOOOOOOM of what sounds like kettledrums the size of Everest-
 
      And again I am frightened awake! I will probably always be able to picture that eye. Human in shape but bigger than the Astrodome, bulging from the wrinkled flesh of the thing---vastly intelligent but without a trace of mercy---weighing and judging us. It traffics in souls but it is definitely not God!
 
      The dingy florescent light from the white plastic semicylindrical bulge that runs down the middle of the ceiling---patterned with the silhouettes of dead moths---is like sweet Spring morning sunshine to me, in this world with at least something of a future. I'd give Mr. Trivia Pursuit a great big hug right now if he was here!
 
      But my relief is only momentary, for I am no longer on the bus to Long Beach. Or if I am we are utterly fucking lost! Speeding through- where is this? Cerritos? Could I have somehow gotten off and changed buses in my sleep?!
 
      What the hell is going on?!! I walk forward, gripping the metal overhead rails all the way to supplant my legs, which feel numb and wobbly; and am relieved to find our driver is the same one from when I'd gotten on in San Clemente. Outside we pass an oil pump that's been painted green with big cartoon eyes and fitted with garage-door spring antennae to resemble a grasshopper. It sits in a field next to an old wooden house bracketted by two squat fat palm trees. The rain is really coming down now. Mazes of stucco apartment blocks painted a dirty white and scarred with inelegant one-color graffiti, chain-link fences around big oil tanks with rust streaks down their sides...
 
      Well this does look sort of familiar now, but we're not on the normal #1 route at all. I ask the driver, "Hey what's going on?"
 
      He's amused at my perplexity, "What? Do you think we're lost?"
 
      "No, I-"
 
      He guns it through a flooded intersection, the bus throwing back foaming gray sheets of water. By the time I crane my neck to see what the overhead street sign says we're through it already. He decides to clue me in- "PCH is washed out along Bolsa Chica. They've rerouted us inland all the way to Warner, which is where we are now. Gonna rejoin the highway in Sunset Beach, hopefully...
 
      "Washed out? Destroyed?"
 
      "Well it's underwater anyway. With the high tide and these waves we're getting, it's pretty nasty!"
 
      I have to chuckle. Silly paranoid me, I was really going there for a while, but there's a rational explanation for all this after all. I head back to my seat...
 
      The narcoleptic man is sitting in it, smiling at me.
 
       This creation of my dreams is sitting there, and I am awake. I'm certain of this. For although the differences are subtle, taken cumulatively they're unmistakeable. The range and scope of your access to memories. Mental dexterity, your awareness not running down a groove in a dark tunnel---a virtual passenger of the dream---but able to dart around, to really question if any this is real and not just stumbling across such suspicions out of dumb luck. Visual continuity that's untampered with by the editing room of the unconscious. Those bodily sensations you don't truly experience in dreams, like an awareness of smells. It all points clearly to this being real. And yet here he is.
 
      The only two other passangers at the back of the bus right now are a pair of shaggy haired adolescent boys seated on the rear bench, holding boogie boards upright in front of them. I ask them, "Excuse me .......... Do you see that guy sitting in my seat?"
 
      They look at each other. Who is this old jerk? One says, "You think you own that seat?"
 
      "No, what I mean is, do you see him? Is he really here? Am I hallucinating?" I bark in a panicky voice. The nightcap wearing man gives them a coy little innocent fruity smile.
 
      "He can sit there if he wants to. This ain't your bus!"
 
      "BUT HE'S IN HIS PAJAMAS!" I scream. The handful of riders in here are nervous of me; as if I'm the thing that's bizarre in here. The bus is stopped at the light where Warner has rejoined the coast highway. Far out at sea, huge waves rolling in cause the horizon to waver up and down ominously...
 
      "It's all good. Just another kind of shirt and pants," shrugs the taller kid as he rings the bell for the next stop. He says to his friend, "This is where Jen lives, those condos in the back of these ones here. Her folks are down in Puerto Vallarta until New Year, and you know Jennifer..."
 
      "Cool!"
 
      They start down the two steps next to the back door as the bus sloshes up to the curbside. One whispers to me helpfully, "You better leave people alone! That driver's gonna call the cops on you."
 
      "But he didn't get on the bus!" I yell, "We didn't stop for him! He materialized! Doesn't that strike you as just a little goddamn weird?!"
 
      "Hey partner, these roads are pretty slick. You'd better sit down! Can you do that for me?" calls the driver. It's a polite first warning, but from here on he'll be watching me like a hawk. We roll north through Sunset Beach, a jumble of those bungalows with the makeshift-looking second stories has cut off our view of the ocean.
 
      The giant man smiles at me. This is bad. This is very bad...
 
      "Don't be afraid," he says gently.
 
      "Don't be afraid? YOU'RE A FIGMENT OF MY GODDAMN BRAIN!" I shout, and then say to myself, "Not to panic here. Not to panic .............. You're obviously still dreaming."
 
      "This isn't a dream, you know that. All those differences you so eloquently enumerated to yourself just now. I do manage to get out once in a while, to manifest myself in what you out here call The Real World. Just to see a movie, or grab a bite of solid food. Food tastes a lot better here, don't you think?"
 
      "In that case look! There's a Wendy's up there. They have that new, uh- Cajun Teriyaki Burger, it's fantastic. You should go try it!"
 
      "Oh no no no no," he demures, his eyes glazing over with affection, like the host of a children's show might do when he's really laying it on thick, "I came to see you!"
 
      "Well I don't wanna see you-" I snarl, but it comes out a weak and childish whine. As unassuming as his whole routine is I know he is my own personal boogie man. A being born out of some contested borderland between myth and reality. A chthonic intermediate to the Sandman and the angel of Death, this ghostly bastard isn't here to see me he's here to GET me .......... Here to turn me into a narcoleptic like him!
 
      He puts an arm bigger around than my thigh over my backpack. Pats it, "Sit down, please..."
 
      I shouldn't have looked into his eyes. Now they're locked onto mine, and I find myself plopping down into the seat across from him like a puppet he's controlling by telepathy. He purrs gently, "I understand you're scared, and maybe you're bitter. You think of all those other people, in that world out there, who live normal happy lives, and you say to yourself, 'Why me?'"
 
      Voice like honeyed quicksand. My head lolls around, huge and heavy on my spindly little neck. I think and speak with great difficulty, "What're y-you talking about? My life, uh ........... my life is....."
 
      His words and his tone are like some soporific gas, making me relax against my will as he continues calmly, "You say to yourself, 'Why me, Lord? I don't deserve this shit?' Well that's why I'm here. I've been sent as a counselor, a guide. Sort of a .............. you know, a big brother. Sometimes the adjustment can be rough, and we just need someone to talk to. But I'm sure you'll come to see that every individual is unique, special; and that even a comatosed person can have a rich and active ......... Heh heh. Well maybe not active-"
 
      "Comatose?" I squeak. This is about as bad as I'd feared!
 
      "Oh yes! Deeply," he intones, and with a giant hand he indicates my body, which is lying crumpled before us in the aisle with people just beginning to run to it. He says, "I myself am strictly a narcoleptic, but I find myself called on to counsel all sorts of Sleepy People, or 'non-awakes' as some of us prefer to be called these days."
 
      Shocking to see myself down there, the strange bloody gash in my head, and my eyes clouded over like a dead man's. But at least it has allowed me to break away from the sucking whirlpool of his eyes. My tongue is thick---novacained---as I croak, "Bullshit! This is all a dream! And anyway you can't just come out of nowhere, appoint yourself my counsellor! You've got to have a ......... get accredited by the Board of uh .......... I mean have a ........ a license or a-"
 
      He had been waiting for this. Whips a business card out of the air like every cheap hoaky conjurer you ever saw and flips it to me. "My card!"
 
      A lavender business card with mint green lettering and a little emblem of a tassled nightcap. It reads:
.
 
BENJAMIN T. SLEEPYPUPPY, D.S.S.S.S.S.S.S.S.S.S.S.S.
.
 
      "This is stupid," I snap. "There's no such degree as D.S.S.S.S.-"
 
      "Sure there is! That's Doctor of Sleeeep .......... Sleeeeeeeeep ............ Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeep-"
 
      His voice is booming from all directions like slow gelatinous thunder. And more than ever before there is something so powerful and commanding in it, so hypnotic that you just have to-
 
      "Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep..."
 
      -and cannot resist. A lugubrious cadence, the word resounding in my skull like a great bell, my concentration scattering, becoming weaker & more dissipated each time he chimes that
word-
 
     "Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep..."
 
      Staring dully. Twelve S's on this card. My vision darkening, crimping inward at the edges. And I know that when he pronounces that last one....
 
      "Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep..."
 
      Oh yawn. Should'a lunged at him when I could still stand up. It's black out there past the windows, vague dark shapes sway and twist line noodles boiling in a pot. Should have kicked him in his big old lumpy nose and run...
 
      "Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep..."
 
      You gotta wake up, Jack, but you're going the other way. Going deeper, aren't you you old bum? Hobo's Lullaby, Boxcar Bill, all the rest of thos old maudlin dead-bums that all those folk singers were so fond of .................... They are knelling for you now.
 
      A bum, a boat, old seadog derelict ship now busting with a loud crack on the inky purple sea. Bubbling, shiver me timbers. It's cooooooooooooold down here .............. spinning down into sleep within sleep within sleep unimaginably darker & darker, silver bubbles in the black .......... This word he's repeating no longer like a voice at all but is a loud resonant ringing, the clang of a gong that is ordering:
 
      "Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep..."
 
      The bubbles part like a curtain onto another scene, revealing that what I hear is the midnight tolling of Big Ben itself, rising over the intricate scale model London here in the Peter Pan ride; always a favorite here at Disneyland California. These pirate ship gondolas with their black enamel sheet metal sails stamped with grinning white skull & crossbones; hanging from the overhead rails, creaking precariously as they pass---empty---in front of the pocked red telephoto moon. Another once proud amusement park gone to shit. But you can't blame Disney or his heirs, or even the maintenance crews. They're all as long gone as the Third Dynasty Egyptians...
 
      And for some reason this is not the ride's cutesy Disnified London-of-Yore beneath ous but grimly industrial and modern. Deserted streets with trash blowing down them. Knots of dead stripped cars and toppled double-decker busses. The blackened ruins of the Battersea power plant off in the distance. This ride is closed...
 
      Whole world empty, enveloped in a crushing sadness. And the tin tub we ride in is all that's left of the evacuation bus, this rickety toy sailboat-monorail thing that you could fall right out of now, since the safety bar is missing. Me and my oversized Virgil are tilted way back, reclining side by side like a pair of Gemini astronauts as the thing climbs almost straight up. Half hearted loops of coathanger wire now occupy spaces where important bolts used to go...
 
      "Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep..."
 
      High over the city with Big Ben way down there, striking midnight for the last time- not a musical sound at all but harsh and final, accompanied by they lunatic noises of mammoth springs snapping, of giant gears crashing down through rotten wood. Each sound sharp and terrible, they are the last this world will ever know. The Thames river is just a dusty red gulley.
 
      "Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep," he commands, lip synching with the knelling of the great clock, his brow hunched sternly like Beethoven's, his deep eyes so hard and cold.
 
      Ten chimes. It dawns on me that his repetition of this single word has been the chanting of a spell, an invocation with great power over reality, and that if I don't waken before the twelfth ring of the bell I never will!
 
      I try to move my hand, a thing seen but not felt there on my knee. It just lies there. I might as well be attempting telekinesis...
 
      Okay then, so start smaller. A finger. Just one finger. But those fingers are so remote, that pale alien jumble, so many branchings and branchings of nerves leading down to them...
 
      Finally my thumb twitches. I try again. Feel where it is. Good. Flex it. Good! Now lift it...
 
      And the hand floats up, hangingly from the thumb I've connected with, but I manage to clumsily open and shut the whole fleshy apparatus-
 
      "SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPP..."
 
      Flop hand foreward to smash against the bar that connects this swaying car to the sail, and to that overhead wheel assembly bearing down on the trackway, a square rail from which haphazard metal braces angle off to God knows where in the gloom.
 
      Grip the tubular mast. Slide hand down it. To this rusty wire stuck through it, twisted around itself like the tie on a sack of bread. Grab it. No, grab it there! Turn it. No, the other way! Good. Now again. Hurry!
 
      His eyes are closed, he's luxuriating in this, the splendor; How he is bringing about the final stasis of everything- "SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-"
 
      Pull dammit! Won't budge, got all this weight pressing on it, the slightly slipper pole inside the upper section ................... I wiggle and tug, hope it doesn't break off-
 
     The two poles SCHLUNK! apart and the dark line of our track streaks away upward, or so it seems, until the car tips, pointing us nose down- and the moonlit city comes into view.
 
      At which the full enormity of what I've done becomes evident!
 
      A refinery miles below us is a tiny a metal rack; these strata of clouds between us and the metropolis' dark grid obscuring much of it. My nemesis takes in the view as we fall, not nearly as angry as I'd hoped he would be. He looks at me as if to ask what it is I think I've accomplished...
 
      Clumsily, still barely able to move, I grip the stump of the mast and swing my legs out into the wind, and push away...
 
      We're falling side by side, until the fat man scrunches up his mouth in disgust and pulls a steering wheel on a post up from inside the gondola. Click.
 
      And now the car is no longer falling beside me. I twist to see it up there, tootling off toward the moon like a black iron bathtub...
 
      I'd hoped that the pure visceral fear generated by falling from this height would force me awake, like it does in falling dreams ................... but as terrifying as this is I am still dropping like a rock! As the ruined metropolis seesaws up toward me it is growing harder and harder to dismiss that old folk tale, the if you hit the ground in a dream you die for real! Because as real as this feels (It's freezing cold up here! The wind stinging, hurting my damn eyeballs-) I don't see why the pavement below wouldn't meet me with an equal but far more devastating degree of realism!
 
      And yet in spite of this I feel an odd sense of triumph. That I had at least acted. Did not just give in to his spell of despair- overwhelmed by his power to orchestrate my reality! And with this defiant thought there is a change in the whole terrain, or maybe it's that I'm close enough for the details to show, details that distinguish this whole city as a pasteboard miniature. Because now it is rushing up at me impossibly fast; box shaped buildings, boulevards a mere meter across, and-
 
      SHIT THAT HURTS! I crash through Picadilly Circus and part of the Royal Albert Hall, leaving a crater in the shape of an immense spread-fingered outline. And now I'm inside out or something.
 
      Or no wait, I'm right side in; It's space that's inside out...
 
      Or now it's plain old space but I'm in a nest of these things, thrashing and wrestling what feels like a mass of ornery sock puppets and rubber octapuses! They struggle to drag me down, into the depths but I'm a lot more adrenalin-charged and just plain pissed than they are. They actually seem hesitant to charge me as I kick and punch them. Take that you fuckers!
 
      Is this the best you can do, Tubby? I've been fucked over by some real experts in my time, I expected more resistance than this! I rocket upward, toward the sun the sun that wobbles and grows ever more distinct beyond the surface of this transluscent squirming spaghetti stuff-
 
      I break through, screaming in triumph- "I did it! I won! I'm awake! I'm free! I'm ............... Hey, get off of me!!"
 
      Four sets of arms holding me down. Not rubber octapuses after all but four men, grunting and swearing. And men in uniforms, at that. Two County Sheriffs and two from the fire department. The sun that I had been rising toward is actually one of the paramedic's flashlights ............ I stop struggling but they continue to clamp down tight. They're sweaty, breathing hard, as if we've been battling for some time.
 
     Oh shit. Best to act normal: "Hello there."
 
      They ignore this. Are discussing me.
 
      "He did hit his head," says one of the paramedics.
 
      "Well go ahead if you want him so bad," says a cop whose shirtsleeve I have torn halfway off, "But if you ask me this wack-a-loop belongs in jail..."
 
      They get up off of me but stay ready for trouble. I tell them I'm okay, quite sane, but had fallen asleep and was having one of the scariest dreams I'd ever had.
 
      One of them helps me into a seat, now that the cops have ceded control of the situation, and says, "That's good, but we're going to take you to see a doctor, so he can watch you for a while, and make sure you don't have any more 'bad dreams'..."
 
      I know what this means. The patronizing tone he's using ........ The bus has detoured inland again, off the coastal highway, but this time heading away from the beach cities entirely.
 
      "What are you doing?" I ask in alarm.
 
      Two stoplights ahead of us is the 605 freeway, a dark slot where it crosses over the boulevard. The bus moves into the right lane, lining up with the onramp...
 
      "We're going to Metropolitan State Hospital, aren't we?" I ask, and now I'm practically shouting, "Oh come on, no! No please, I'm fine. Really I am!"
 
      They tense up, ready to pounce, "Calm down Mister Nemo."
 
      Like I said, I can't stand being locked up...
 
      Terror overtakes me, as primal and basic as needing air when you're being choked! I hear myself shouting, "No! Come on, no! You can't do this! Let me off-"
 
     "Grab 'im!" hollars one of the cops as I dive between them and run forward, up the endless center aisle as the bus wigs and wags up the onramp. My legs are dragging like I'm trying to run through water!
 
      Dr. Sleepypuppy is driving now, in his pajamas, with his eyes shut and head bobbing as if to some slow, unheard music.
 
      I should have figured out before this that this awakening had been a false one. I mean they wouldn't be driving me to the mental hospital on the bus itself, but would have transferred me to a cop car or something. Dreaming...
 
      Nonetheless, I've been made a monkey of long enough.
 
      "Long time no see," chirps the eyeless narcoleptic, his caved in eyelids stitched crudely shut with coarse black twine.
 
      "Hello dog shit. Is that supposed to make me reel in terror, a cheap gimmick like that? 'Oh God! This is just like some horror movie! The driver has no eyes! He might ............. Oh Dear no, he might crash the bus," I moan sarcastically- "LIKE THIS!"
 
      Giggling dementedly, I grab the side of the steering wheel and yank with all my might-
 
      The bus swerves crazily on the rain-slicked freeway as we wrestle over the wheel! God
this fat bastard is strong! I shriek, "Take me to Sleepy Land, will you? You stupid fuck! I'LL TAKE YOU TO HELL-"
 
      I pull, send us across the lanes, through a wire fence as insubstantial as paper, straight at the steel flank of a gasoline truck that reflects like a mirror. We slam into it, fly toward the windshield- Explosion and fireball! An instant of pure total pain like I had never imagined!
 
      I wake up.
 
      And find myself back in time 20 seconds, battling for control of the steering wheel. With one last all out yank I send us screeching through the fence and into the gleaming tanker! Roaring fingers of orange solar corona fire blossom hungrily through the hail of safety glass and engulf us-
 
      I wake up.
 
      Wrestling for the wheel. His huge hands, eyes sewn shut. He laughs merrily, "Give it up!"
 
      "NEVER!"
 
      Jerk wheel, slide us into truck. Sideways this time! Crush of heat and thunder, people shrieking, tossed forward into inferno- I'm burning right down to bones but I'll keep it up forever if I have to, locked into this horrible tapeloop---this fiery Ragnarök---where I can maintain at least a shred of control over my fate, my reality! This is hell I've taken us to, but it's MY hell, dammit! My eyeballs burst from the heat!
 
      I wake up, and again I'm battling over the wheel- but it's not the steering wheel, and it's not my obese nemesis...
 
      It's some guy in the left-hand seat at about the middle of the bus who had been carrying home this large white styrofoam flying saucer that has portholes crowded with cute little cartoon Martians printed on it and a pizza inside, which I seem to be been fighting him desperately for. I've practically climbed into his lap!
 
      The abrupt appearance of this new face, eyes wide with panic and bellowing into mine makes me hollar myself and let go. He wasn't expecting this, and the take out container goes flying forward, seperating into top and and bottom haves as it cartwheels across the windows, slices raining everywhere, people shouting as the dodge them.
 
      The driver pulls over to the side of the road, throws on the safety brake and runs back, "What the hell is going on back here?!"
 
      "Goddamn derelict jumped me for my pizza!"
 
      "I DID NOT!"
 
      "THEN WHO DID?!"
 
      "I wasn't after your stupid pizza. I was having a nightmare, and I was trying to crash the buh- I uh, I was dreaming that the bus was crashing, so I grabbed the wheel..."
 
      The driver looks around at all the pizza, "Did anyone see what happened?"
 
      Someone verifies that I had indeed been in the throes of a nightmare, sputtering and moaning, then had jumped up in the middle of it, yelling about the devil taking me to hell or something.
 
      "You want me to call the cops?" the driver asks the man I'd been fighting with.
 
      The guy flicks a slice of mushroom off his shoulder and sighs, "I'd just like to be able to ride the bus unmolested."
 
      I am kicked off the bus, here on PCH about halfway through Seal Beach. As a gesture of contrition I gather up all the slices, but as I'm piling them in the foam container it occurs to me that this pizza is still warm from the oven...
 
      "Hey wait a minute. There's no pizza places open at this time of morning!"
 
      "OFF!" roars the driver and heads back toward his seat.
 
      "But it's fresh, you can see it was just baked. Where did he- Nevermind, forget it!" I mutter, abandoning my inquiry when he picks up his radiophone mike and gestures pointedly with it.
 
      I grab my pack and push out through the rear exit doors, somebody commenting behind me that I probably intend to eat this mangled and grimy pizza...
 
      It has stopped raining for now but the curbside is still a small river. I drop the foam disc into it and watch it spin and bob down the gutter, disappearing through the eager maw of the storm drain.
 
      I head north through Seal Beach, past the dim doorways of nautical-motif taverns, adorned with dusty stuffed puffer fish and old nets dangling from the rafters in the dull glow of Christmas lights. It's about a mile to the Long Beach State College library, where I'll do some reading before I try this sleeping-on-the-bus thing again, the return trip. And I'll make sure it's a different driver.
 
      After what I have been through I realize I could actually still be asleep. Or comatose, or even possibly dead. That tumultous, confusing afterlife that the Tibetan Book of the Dead promises will buffet the untrained and spiritually backward soul, forcing him into some unprofitable rebirth.
 
      Whatever this is, I must assume that I'll be given this illusion of wakefulness for a while, only to have it yanked out from under me, over and over. I need to remain vigilant for any incongruity...
 
      My path down the sidewalk is a jerky spiral, turning and turning, trying to get the jump on whatever forces are fucking with my perception. To get an early glimpse of anything which might prove that this is still a dream. And sure enough...
 
      A Tom Hanks type in a ridiculous flowered shirt---holding a brown sack with a couple of foil capped champagne bottles protruding from it---comes storming out of a liquor store and confronts me, "Hey Pal, do you need a hand?"
 
      "Do I what?"
 
      "It looks like you're kind of down on your luck. Could you use a couple hundred bucks? I just won the motherfuckin' lottery!"
 
      He looks up at the sky and lets loose a joyful howl, then pulls out this wallet which is bursting with stiff new bills.
 
      I stare him dead in the eye. "Do you expect me to fall for that? What kind of idiot do you take me for? Go on, beat it!"
 
      He drops the champagne into his double-parked brand new convertible and says, "Hey it's great you got your pride, and won't take a handout- but you don't have to be an asshole about it!"
 
      He hops in, slams the door and varooms off!
 
      Down by the Ralph's market a woman in a Mercedes SE---not some 18-year-old centerfold by any means, more like a young 50 but very classy and fine in a form fitting high-tech jumpsuit, a short haircut that accentuates her cute face---pulls up to the curb and smiles, twining her gold necklace around her finger in a flirtatious gesture. She drawls saucily, "Do you need a ride someplace?"
 
      "Oh yeah, right! So you can get me in the sack and then turn into a 400 pound narcoleptic man? No thanks!"
 
      Her jaw drops and her face turns bright red. She throws it into gear and pulls out, burning rubber!
 
      I shout at the passing cars, "Okay, who's next? Talking horses? Lucky the leprechaun? Nixon Incognito? MUFON folderol? Eye in the Sky? Pork Wingnut Howdy? Sure thing, bring 'em on! Come on, try me!"
 
      I laugh and laugh and laugh...
 
      Then I hunch up my shoulders, stick my arms out front and back, the one bent up and the other down, palms out flat, and I walk down the street like an Egyptian.
.
 
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Probably Should Have Expected...

...something like what you presented here, given the teaser and then the admission by the narrator that he'd had psychotic incidents in the past, whether his explanation for them was valid or not. Not sure why I didn't -- I suppose it's because the narrator, with his determination until almost the very end to explain things rationally, left me expecting him to succeed.

I suppose he did succeed, sort of; it's just that the explanation has nothing to do with reality as we know it -- unless we're expected to think that those last few benign events are actually happening in the real world, and he's too far gone to appreciate them. (Untrustworthy narrators do present that problem.)

Certainly some very vivid scenes, and effective continuity. As you've probably figured out by now (from previous comments of mine if not this one), this isn't my favorite kind of story, but taken under its own ground rules, this seems to be a very solid effort.

Eric

A deep sleep fix - will there be more?

R.K.Galvez
It took me a while to get into, I have to admit, mainly because it was complex in the way it merged various states with social realism [which I found very believable, which probably explains why I took so long reading and re-reading it...Reality used to be a friend of mine!]. I was wondering about your own experiences, too, and I have had various narcoleptic experiences in the past - although, the less I say about psychosis the better! It might take up this whole message box, so I'll stay on message...But your work[and I would add to Eric's comment that is more than just a "solid effort" - it is definitely highly accomplished] doesn't throw any pretensions; it is very direct and reads like a highly researched thriller, while simultaneously subverting all generic expectations of what can be perceived as the usual hallucinogenic stereotyping. I was wondering if there might be any more? I enthusiastically encourage you to continue with this, despite the fact that some people[well, me!] might struggle with any underlying idea that there's a real basis to this - it is, however, a very rewarding and meaningful read. And as a side point of varying importance: what of Skidmark and Jojo? They sounded pretty interesting too.

Peace to you.

deep sleep fix reply

No, RK, I have absolutely no idea where I would go with this from here. The dream sequence about the evacuation bus turned monorail was a real dream, and I'd dreamed where I was in a car being abducted by some scary guy and grabbed the wheel to crash us both rather than have him decide my fate. The character of Ronnie Prima at the end of part one was me what I used to be like as a drunk(my Roger Di Prima stories) carrying on hysterically about ridiculous shit. Embarrassing now...

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