A few nights ago I had a vivid dream which has stayed with me. These are the details:
I am seated at the end of a long, white, rectangular, dining table in a bright, white room. Except for the pitch black chairs pressed up against the dining table, everything inside of here is so white I imagine for a moment that I am floating in a cloud. Even though this is an unimaginably large room, I feel claustrophobic, and I am straining from side to side in search of an exit. Before I get up from my chair I see that I am seated beside a dictator in a diaper. He is a short, pudgy, man-child with no hair. His squinty eyes and his cheeky face are so stereotypically “Oriental” as to be almost cartoonish. He is dressed in a Mao outfit. Resting over the Mao outfit is a white bib with a red hammer and sickle printed on front. The man-child keeps his little fists on the table like he is strapped to a highchair and ready to clamor for more fatty food. He glances at me beside him from time to time without ever facing me directly. Whenever he does so I can see the condescending smirk on his face. Physically, he may be a baby, but mentally he knows that he is in charge and could have me carted away to be incinerated or cut up and fed to alligators with no more than a snap of his pudgy fingers. I know this just as well as he does. I am frightened out of my wits and careful not to say or to do anything that might offend.
I look up and see that across the room there is now a flag hanging from the ceiling. It is a white flag with a red hammer and sickle in the exact middle of a red circle and on each side two black Schutzstaffel SS. I notice the improbable mix of political symbols. I sense that this flag is a joke. It is as if the tyrant seated beside me is telling everyone that he is so much in charge that he can mix and match political symbols at whim, and the rest of us have to go along with it like what he has done is beyond brilliant.
I look to my right and see that the dictator’s older sister is seated at the table. She has a long, horsey face, oversized owl glasses perched on a nub of a nose, and frizzled, graying hair that extends below her shoulders. She reminds me of an Asian “Lizaveta” from the Dostoevsky novel, “Crime and Punishment.” Like “Lizaveta,” this devious woman keeps a lot of debts close to her heart. She is always calling them in when most opportune, and as a result she has developed a reputation as a conniving hatchet woman. People loathe her as much as they fear her. Indeed, the man-child beside me does not inspire much of anything in comparison to the fear I have towards her. She senses this in me, and smiles devilishly. It is then that I note her cute figure clothed in a traditional, red, Oriental dress. Notwithstanding her unattractive face I would find her strangely attractive from the neck down but for all that fear that she inspires. She turns her attention to her brother, and in listening to their conversation I discern that they are married as well as siblings. As she reprimands her younger brother, he turns to me, winks, and smiles as if to say, “women!” Apparently, I am not outwardly appreciative enough of what he said to me, for he turns to his sister then and tells her with a laugh that if “our guest” does not measure up soon he will be “disposed” like all the others. She laughs hysterically, and looks at me with red eyes that sparkle like Christmas Tree decorations.
The man-child and his sister-wife start to speak to one another in muffled tones. Clearly, their conversation is more serious now than before. I take this opportunity to beg pardon to go to the restroom. The man-child just waves me off derisively, and so I stand up, bow formally, and step away from them. The restroom off to the side does not have a door, so the man-child and his sister-wife can stare at me in there whenever they want. Because they are so immersed in their own conversation, though, I see an opportunity to get out. I push back on what I know is a trick tile. A hidden door in the tile wall opens up enough for me to squeeze into a chute. The door shuts on me as I start to slide down the chute.
The chute drops me into a nondescript, bright, white hallway. I walk from door to door, and while doing so I notice that the hallway is not making a perimeter around this floor so much as spiraling downward. None of the doors will open, until I finally reach the last door before an EXIT sign. The EXIT sign is above a wall at the end of the spiraling hall. I check to see if perhaps there is a trick door, but there is none. I have no idea where this EXIT actually is. Nevertheless, the side door before reaching this blank wall is unlocked, and so I step inside and discover a bright, white, conference room. There is a young man with a slight beard waiting for me at the conference room table. He is wearing a preppy suit and has the genial good looks and charm of a well bred Ivy Leaguer. He gestures for me to sit down beside him. He explains that I am in a CIA safe house deep in the bowels of “the dark kingdom.” The CIA wants to question me at length, but I make it clear that I want to get out as fast as possible. I feel that I am too close to that dictator upstairs, and no doubt he and his horsey sister have sent assassins already out to dispose of me. The CIA operative is not going to help me, until I make it clear that I shall divulge everything when I am safely back home. He thinks a moment, smiles, and then agrees to help me.
I am standing on the beautifully manicured grounds of an elite prep school. Behind me are several stately brick buildings. Up ahead are small hills of green grass interspersed with gold brick paths and gold benches. Here and there are clusters of palm trees that provide shade. There is a flagpole nearby. I look up, shield my eyes from the white sun, and see the man-child’s flag snapping briskly in a hot wind. I look down and see a lot of privileged children in school uniforms marching out from the stately buildings. They are the sons and the daughters of the elite. The tyrannical state is a horror for everyone else, but for them it is a savory plum ready to be plucked off the branch. I envy and hate them in equal measure. I look down at my clothes and see that I am dressed in the uniform of an Army medical officer from the Korean War. There is a line of middle aged, white, tired men like me similarly dressed. I presume that I am meant to be with them. We stand all in line out in the hot sun, while the children marching passed us glare at us with haughty contempt. We are careful not to exhibit any displeasure, for any one of these snotty kids could tattle on us if given the slightest provocation.
An Army van inches toward us on one of the gold brick paths. It follows a little, Asian girl in a school uniform who is twirling a baton. She walks with slow, confident steps, and as a result the van cannot accelerate at all. Instead, the van glides forward in neutral, and it is only because of a slight downward slope in the path that it does not stop altogether. It is evening when the van reaches us. The children are gone except for that super serious baton girl. She watches us filing into the van with the iced cold contempt of a Red Guard girl about to set fire to a cowering landlord. I am careful not to look directly at her, for no doubt this girl is looking for the “counterrevolutionary escapee” with as much tenacity as the adult police officers and “party guards” that are behind every corner. I sit on the front passenger seat and stare forward without making the slightest facial expression. In due time, the driver starts up the tired engine, and we leave with as little fanfare as possible.
No one speaks inside the van. Everyone seems lost inside of their own quiet nightmares. I pull down the visor in front of me. There is a small mirror. In my dimly lit reflection I am able to see that I am now sporting a mustache for the first time in my life. Also, my face is considerably older and more gaunt. I am no one’s prize, but I may be different enough in appearance now to slip out of this country without being noticed. I push up the visor. It is dark outside, but a sparkling light in the distance tells us that we are approaching a roadblock. The driver pulls to the side and urges me to hide “down below.” He thinks we are going to get hassled at the roadblock otherwise. I nod, get out of the van, and hide in a compact space inside the chassis. I hold on to a steel bar just above my face, when the van resumes its drive toward the roadblock.
Indeed, as expected, the roadblock guards decide to detain us for awhile. I can see their Army boots grinding the dirt just inches from my face. They are in animated discussion with the driver. I suspect he is going to have to pay them a stiff bribe in order to go down the road any further. One of the guards tosses a cigarette that almost singes my face. I am blinded by my nervous sweat pouring down from my forehead. I hear my heartbeat trying to punch a hole into my chest. Eventually, the van continues down the road, as I hang on for dear life. It is awhile before the van pulls over, and the driver allows me to take my seat again beside him. This same routine happens a few more times that night, before we finally reach the international border at dawn.
Again, I am nestled in that tight spot inside the chassis, while border guards question the driver. There is an altercation. A gunshot is fired. There are fast moving steps, and I grip the steel bar just as the van starts to roar down the high bridge that separates the two countries from one another. Shots are fired toward us. Several of these shots snap the gravel and ricochet towards me. Someone in our van starts firing back at them, and the van starts to swerve erratically. I hang on as hard as I can, but when I sense that the van is about to drive off the side of the bridge I let go. I am scraped badly by the chassis, but I am alive still when the van crashes through the side rail. I hear guards running on the bridge towards me. They seem to be coming from both sides. One side wants to kill me; the other wants to deflect them long enough to snap me away to freedom; and I am too weak at the moment to lift up my head to see which side is closer to me. Instead, all I can do is to stare up at the early morning sky. It is going to be a clear day. I just hope I am alive to enjoy it.