Last night I have a vivid dream which has stayed with me. These are the details:
I am in a narrow aisle of books far back inside a library. The books I want to read are too high above my head, and there is no stool or ladder on which to stand. As I cannot read those particular books, I pay attention to the whispered conversations around me. All of the people in this library are young, college aged members of a cult, it seems, and they will be convening soon into an assembly. I am not a member, but I am interested now in attending the assembly to find out more.
A grandmotherly schoolmarm with owl like glasses steps into my aisle. She announces with a scowl that the library will be closed in minutes. We must make our way at once to the assembly. Leaving apparently is not an option. I shall have to check out this cult now whether or not I want to do so.
As I am walking down the aisle, I pass by two attractive, college aged girls in identical red, floral dresses. They have long, red, curly hair that compliments well their dresses. The girls could be twins, and the dresses suggest that they are transplants from 1920s Kansas. Only their Birkenstocks suggest a more modern day sensibility. They do not see me, as they are engaged in animated, whispered conversation with one another, while they are still seated on the library floor beside the stacks.
The assembly takes place in a brightly lit, white, amphitheater style classroom. As the students take their seats, I am thinking that the cult leader must be an academic, and we are supposed to take copious notes on whatever he says. Like the girls I saw earlier, the cult members seem like young transplants from an earlier time. They dress and act in a decidedly old fashioned manner. This stands in contrast to the modern, minimalist decor of this classroom. In the row behind mine is an older woman who looks a lot like the “Janine Melnitz” character in “Ghostbusters.” She is wearing a dark skirt and white top that are much more modern and corporate than what the students are wearing. She also has her feet up on the back of the chair in front of her, and she holds a pen and an open notebook on her lap. Her age, dress, and manners set her apart as someone who is “important” or at least has seen this “dog and pony show” often enough not to be at all intimidated by what is going to happen.
The cult leader himself does not address us. Instead, one of his “top students” does. He is a young zealot with tight, curly, black hair and even tighter leather pants. He looks like the privileged son of a Hollywood producer who has been given a top job on a studio lot for no other reason than abject nepotism. He asks each of the students to give us a story of their early days in the cult. The young men relay this or that detail about their initiation rites. They all went through some manner of hazing that included stripping down to their birthday suits and performing an occult like ritual. This cult seems more like a fraternity than anything else especially given that only the young men have any compelling stories to tell. The girls are never questioned, and they mostly just sit there giggling nervously at the proud tales told by their male counterparts.
The two redheaded girls I saw in the library are seated directly behind me. They see me, and tell me in whispered tones that they were never asked to strip down or to engage in any occult like ritual. Indeed, though they are in the cult, they seem not to have been put through any kind of initiation rite at all. They are deeply hurt by this fact. It is as if a very important part of their lives has been denied to them simply on account of their sex. The girls have enough temerity in them to relay their true feelings to me, but they do not talk to the rest of the assembly. I sense that they are wise to do so. The wannabe Hollywood producer orchestrating this assembly would not be open to their protestations.
I do not speak, since I do not have any initiation story to tell. After the last of the male cult members has spoken, we are all invited down to the front of the classroom to taste from several barrels of ice cream. The white barrels are lined up beneath and in front of the front table. We each are handed a small, white, plastic spoon for dipping into these barrels. Since we each shall be using the same spoon to dip into more than one barrel, I note that this cult is not particularly hygienic. Nevertheless, that has never deterred me from partaking in free dessert. Before tasting any of the ice cream, I overhear the older “Janine Melnitz” lookalike speaking with a few others. It seems she is the wife of the cult leader and is also an attorney. She rolls her eyes with clear disdain when remarking how her husband is pulling the wool over the eyes of these people. She does not elaborate on his misdeeds, though, but insinuates that he cannot get rid of her because of her status as an attorney. She would sue him if he cut her out, and that would destroy the house of cards on which this cult has been built. For all of her outspokenness, though, she does not seem intent on helping these students to get out of the cult, and the students in turn seem unfazed by her discontent. They are just as excited now about dipping into the ice cream as before she made her disparaging comments. She too wants to dip into the ice cream barrels beneath our collective gaze.
One of the ice creams looks like a French vanilla with caramel swirls. Others look more chocolaty, and one of these looks like a decadent mousse. I dip into the mousse, but am disappointed as soon as I taste it. The ice cream looks amazing but tastes like dried up cardboard. Beside tasting so bad the ice cream dries out the inside of my mouth, and I want to find something to drink. There is nothing to drink, so I watch the others dipping into the ice cream barrels. I cannot tell if they really like the taste or are pretending to do so. Interestingly, the “Janine Melnitz” lookalike seems to like the French vanilla with the caramel swirls, notwithstanding her discontent with everything else. Perhaps, her vocal protests to the contrary, she has acclimated herself to this cult as much as the others.