Pictures came in waves; distorted and disjointed. His body was sluggish, painfully constricted and held up as though by fishing wire.
With the pictures came the pain, breaking over him like seafoam. A distant, nebulous thing it never seemed as painful as he thought it ought to be. And as each wave rolled by he soon forgot the details–everything was blurring together. Through the orange murky water he tried to peek through, try as he might to fight it, his eyes crossed and lids closed. Out of the roar and crash of the surf coolly called a collection of tiny voices.
Time was less a wave and more like the tide. Coming and going at modest levels, a neap tide, it was the rare and extreme spring tide that dragged with it the pictures and pain. Months or more passed between the spring tides which, as hot coloured blurs, hurried on in a frenzied afternoon.
Counting perhaps two such tides, he heard a voice. Time was particularly hot this passing–the blurring lessened. He thought he saw himself holding a tuft of burnt brown feathers. The dream was too real to be possible, opposite of all prior experience.
A new voice cried out now, different from the collected whispers of ages prior.
Is someone calling to me?
Quick and worrisome, the voice appeared to address him directly.
Did I oversleep again?
Another first for him: the dream was staring back.
Wake up! Wake up dammit!
It smells like…smoke? Is the apartment burning? No, Cameron burnt toast again. I’ll have his head for it.
Help me! Wake up!
The voice was too emotional and far too young to be his husband.
Why does…why does my chest hurt so much? Lawrence! Is that really you?
His brother calling out? At what point in his life had he fallen asleep–Lawrence had been gone a decade.
Wake–no! No! WAKE UP!
>>>LOCAL CONTROL overridden: AUTOPILOT engaged
His whole body shook itself to life. The fog and confusion which had forced his head under the ocean of his mind entirely vanished. Reality took over and he frantically rose.
His heavy body moved a few steps out of the smoke and haze. Strewn about him were intricate doll houses all burnt and broken. Smashed toy cars lay at his feet, strewn about the four lane road which he fully straddled. To his right was a nearly miraculous structure: a five story apartment building his height. He went to touch the building and felt his arm slow to respond.
Pot marked with carbon scorching and dotted with tiny foreign writing, his entire body was glad in blue-grey armour plating. Feeling his face he could tell a helmet and been stuck on him, yet his field of view remained unobstructed and perhaps even enhanced. Like some high tech knight he stood among the elaborate play sets, speculating if he’d been drugged and put on some bizarre game show.
What are you DOING? It’s coming!
The young voice shouted from within, hurting his head and forcing him to pivot around. A spiral of visions and half-remembered stories stabbed at his brain; images of lima beans burned into his conscious. Something like a living truck tackled him. He punched back, jagged metal plate protruding from his gauntlet knuckles cutting the wall of muscle and feather.
Screams from the creature dizzied him as he was sent barreling backwards down the avenue. A powerful tail whipped around by the feathered thing demolished the five storey playset as it wormed on the ground. Both were slow to regain their footing and each took a moment to survey the other. What he beheld was a feathered monster as tall as himself and adorned with tearing claws and a meat hook toe, its opened mouth a drawer full of knives; that powerful tail doubling its length. Body feathers a drab collection of brown and black, its crown and wings burning iridescence coals.
A…Utahraptor? Absolutely a dream.
It isn’t a dream you idiot!
Deeper into him the voice twisted a tightening knot of fear. The raptor lowered itself, took two steps, and leapt at him. Impacting his chest feet-first and leveling him to the ground. Its meat-hooks drove into the plate armour, scarring it in a torrent of sparks. It went to bite his head and he caught a jaw in each hand. Claws scratched at his face and impulsively he tore its jaws apart. The raptor leapt off him and staggered a ways into the ruins. Getting to his feet he watched as its jaws wiggled freely before snapping themselves into place.
It made him wretch.
The raptor again charged at him. As it leapt he caught it midair, spinning out of momentum. He let go and watched as its huge body sailed into a collection of half smashed doll-apartments.
He wanted nothing more to do with the whole affair–the surreal sense of living, the suit of armour, his own apparent super strength, the damn dinosaur. Attempting to leave, lima bean-laced imagery again flooded inwards. The life and times of an unwilling bean buried in his brain enlightened him: it didn’t want to be here anymore than he did. Pressed into service only out of necessity, a last resort after near total collapse. Concurrently, memories of himself were exported to the young bean. He felt them leave, inspecting each one and saw his life as it was before arriving in the land of dollhouse dwelling legumes. Marriage, his greatest height. The death of his brother, his deepest pit.
He said nothing to the voice and the voice answered with silence. All they had now were each other. In the smoke and late day light they made their stand.
Surging forward off the street and into the miniature ruins, he seized the initiative. He embraced the raptor amid a hug of claws and sparks and offered it his left arm. It bit down on the armour, puncturing it through to the flesh. Hot pain shot through him and he heard the shrill screams of the voice. With a single spiked punch he drove his fist at the throat of the raptor, irreversibly smashing its windpipe and shattering its cervical vertebrae. In a final convulsion it clamped down all its claws and teeth before going completely limp.
Prying his arm from its mouth, he collected himself with deep, steady breaths. Coming down the road a column of scaled tanks rumbled out of the destruction, each turret trained on him.
Pins and needles poked the back of his neck. Growing in amplitude and oscillating between hot and cold the pinpricks spread across his body. Foreign creeds and chants drowned out the young voice as they both panicked. First his legs, then his arms–a third party had seized the reins. Like a drill press the foreign voice bored itself into his brain, commanding him to stand down and blurring the world together. Surrounded by tiny tanks and now a growing plethora of other miniature war machines, he faltered and gave in to their demands.
>>>AUTOPILOT overridden: EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN engaged
Time rushed out as a neap tide and spatial information rolled along as sparse waves, murky orange water submerging him once again.
REVISED: 21 JULY 17
ORIGINAL: 4 DEC 16
T.B. "Tuberculosis" GEORGE