15 August 2006

carnival of souls


Marian and I were going about our normal, Sunday morning routine of puttering around the house. Gathering papers and magazines, making semi-organized piles rather than really putting things away...made a light breakfast.

Light, yes. Felt a little light-headed, as well. Eyes seemed unfocused. Time to update my glasses perscription?

I went for an aimless walk around the block, and noticed that my body wasn't casting a shadow in the morning light. That's odd, I thought. I know fluorescent lights are designed to cast no shadows (or minimal ones anyway), but it was half past nine and the sun was rising: there should be something underfoot.

The usual folks were loitering here & there on the street, and nobody acknowledged me as I passed. This was also quite odd; I usually get a "good morning" from somebody.

The Georgia Avenue bus approached and everyone crowded around the corner stop. One teenage guy blindly shouldered into me, and freakin' hell: my arm completely warped around his shoulder, without resistance, like a half-filled water balloon against a stone. I saw this happen, but didn't feel a thing.

This was damned strange!

I ran back home in a frenzy and barked out my experiences to Marian, who accepted all of it without question. She had been having some odd discoveries of her own, while I was out.

The two of us walked into the neighborhood and took careful note of everything. To everyone, it was like we weren't there. A peculiar sensation; we were being ignored by the world. I asked her, "I know it sounds insane, but could we have slipped into another layer of space?"

It was as if we had slipped under another set of sheets during the night; we had slipped between the air as it were, and now we were trapped there. Invisible and only partially solid.

Weird? Yes fine, weird. But seriously: what to do?

Already ten hours had passed and our condition hadn't changed. Neither of us had become hungry or tired, or emotional at all. We just needed to figure this out: I had a huge day at work to look forward to; the next issue of the magazine was going to be a big one, and the Editor would need cover art concepts by noon... Marian had a meeting first thing Monday morning as well, and here we are stuck between the air.

That was my only way to describe it. Stuck between the air. Nobody could see or hear us, and any attempt to make contact resulted in that horrible, queasy body-warping jellyfish experience. We figured the most responsible thing to do is to go back home and try to sleep. If this was a temporary condition, we might "recover" just as suddenly, and could return to our normal routine. Who would believe it anyway?

When I was a kid, I had recurring dreams that I'd wake up and spend one miserable day with my teeth completely out of place, like a bag of broken rocks. Then magically, they would be restored after the next night's sleep. Sleep fixes things.

After another ten hours, sleep was still impossible. No bodily functions seemed possible. I remembered my first morning walk, when I brushed past the guy at the bus stop: I got a distinct flavor of his emotional state in that split second: I know it was his. Not his literal thoughts, just a quick fingerprint of mood, somehow soaking into my own awareness upon contact.

It struck me that perhaps we had DIED during the previous night, somehow, and we hadn't realized it.

The 1960s film "Carnival of Souls" had that premise, and it had fascinated me for years: A woman dies in a car accident, then wanders through her normal life for weeks, slowly fading from the world without understanding what was happening. I chuckled at the thought that we were experiencing a sci-fi movie plot, but really, it's pretty hard to disbelieve a fantastic concept when you're standing in the middle of it.

Goddammit,
Marian said, if that's the case, then I'm traveling. Why not? We could probably wander onto any airplane without being detected and sink into a corner, or even lie in the middle of the aisle like bear-skin rugs... go anywhere. Amsterdam, Brazil, Sydney...

I thought, man, if I can just keep my head together well enough to manipulate a keyboard, I could blog these experiences...a daily dispatch from beyond death. It might even become more popular than that "Guinness Diet" blog from Britain, where the guy lived on nothing but Guinness and vitamin pills for a week. Or would that be too vain for someone who seemed trapped outside the world? It was a desperate and melancholy sensation.

Then I remembered that old childhood myth, the one that claimed if someone dies in a dream, he dies in "real life"...

I've never been convinced there was a difference.

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