Frank had learned how to control his dreams. He’d never experienced nightmares before. That’s why the past several months were so disturbing for him.
His power over dreams first came when he was a little boy. He saw a magazine photo of Michelangelo’s famous scene on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome’s Vatican. It depicted Adam, from Genesis, receiving the electric shock of life with an outstretched finger. Ever since, Frank used that mental image to adjust his dreams in any way he liked.
Whenever dream sequences seemed to be taking a darker turn, he taught himself to employ a simple trick. He would snap his imaginings back to a dark country lane at midnight. High in the heavens, between a lacy veil of branches, a full overstuffed moon would hang bright and shiny.
From out of the horizon on Frank’s left, a giant finger would reach across the sky and push the moon’s bulbous presence. That action would be the equivalent of hitting a reset button. The former awkwardness would immediately vanish and Frank would be transported to a different place, to enjoy ethereal good times once again.
His life was fairly sunny to begin with. He met with mostly success, first in his academic endeavors, then in his business ventures. He usually slept with a sound conscience.
In his dreams, he’d be the star quarterback on a professional football team. Or the best hockey player in the world. The ladies adored him. Their shapes came in all varieties and guises. He travelled the phantom world and was given the keys to the kingdom wherever he alighted.
That’s the way things had been until a couple of months ago. Suddenly everything was altered. Whenever he walked down that back country lane, the tree branches would bend over and block out his sighting of the moon. He’d hear some distant music that was familiar and haunting, but frustratingly inaccessible.
Then out of the blackness, they would emerge – the crazed-eyed and clearly mad creatures doing their slow dance. It was a league of zombies advancing relentlessly and voraciously to embrace him. Later than usual in life, he was starting to acquire a familiarity with night-time dreads.
Frank would wake up with a start in a cold sweat and be afraid to go back to sleep. This was leading to a persistent insomnia that was affecting him badly. Going to bed was no longer a pleasant experience. His nocturnal misadventures did open his eyes in another way, however.
He began to notice vampires were everywhere. Maybe it was only make-believe – but then again, perhaps not. There were thousands of books on the subject. Television was inundated by “undead” programming. So were the movies, with one blockbuster hit after another showcasing actors with pale and haunted demeanors. People lapped it up. Frank just could not see the appeal.
The seduction and eroticism were obvious attractions. And for self-absorbed baby boomers, eternal life was going to be a drawing card. But what was one to think of all the blood? That was more than a little icky and tasteless. Frank was himself a vegetarian and blood was a type of non-traditional dietary supplement beyond his comprehension.
His daylight hours were becoming ever more difficult, but Frank wasn’t ready to give up. He was going to confront his demons. Every night when he went to bed, he tried harder and harder to escape the stranglehold of the forest. If he could just get to a clearing and see the moon again, maybe he would understand what was going on. Had Adam’s limpid finger abandoned him?
Finally, the night of significant breakthrough arrived. After a particularly awful day of walking around in a fog, Frank fell into a deep and troubled sleep. Before the zombies could approach and while the music in his head was just a murmur, Frank retreated up the lane as fast as he could.
Then it happened. He stumbled backwards into a clearing among the trees. He looked skyward, seeking celestial help. What he saw instead chilled him to the bone. This time, instead of Adam’s gnarly digit of old, it was a huge white-gloved hand that was stretching across the sky.
A gentle push was applied to the milk-white bauble and the music rose to a crescendo. Now the tune was recognizable. The sound track from Thriller reverberated through his skull at full throttle. At the same time, he realized all was hopeless. His rhythm and soul were lost. His only option was to moonwalk back into darkness. When it came to Frank’s sleepy-time wanderings, Michael Jackson was now calling the shots from his perch in rock and roll heaven.
Travel a gentler path to wisdom in Witness to a Backyard Execution.
MJ also appears in There’s No Such Thing as Time, although the ruminations in that story don’t just take some weird turns, they conclude with a surprisingly satisfying joke.