Still-Waking Sleep



Also featuring:
Further NPCs and, maybe,
Scene Title Still-Waking Sleep
Synopsis Dreaming is a habit that Ghost got out of, and a hard one to adapt to once again.
Date September 9, 2009


When Teo dreams about turning into Ghost, it starts the day after the man loses everything. It's sunny over Darien, hot, one white sun shining down with an egg's eerie luminosity, rays that melt to wavering against the sidewalk and the street. Cricket song strains toward him from the recesses of desiccated bushes. He is sitting on the porch and listening to himself hollow out with every reverberating breath. He's wearing flannel. Al's old flannel. It smells of mothballs, myrrh and, still, of Alexander himself.

An enigmatically shrunken old woman stops across from him, two lanes away. She says, "You must not do this. What hate consumes, love may conquer. For you this life was fashioned, and though it starts in a mean and crudely chafing handle it will come to its point. Get a grip. Stay the course. You have friends and family among whom you must find your guiding star, some pillared flame, a glorious revolution— renewal, and you may know again great heights. You need to be brave and you need to be good; or else, by acting brave and good, you will become a man who is both." But already, the wind is picking up. "You must not give in to the void, for there is cowardice and sorrow, no superficial leprosy or ailment of skin or teeth or musculature, but the decomposition of yourself."

Teo says nothing. In the dream, the street implodes, snaking fissures up to her brown beetle shoes. A sheet of dust and light made ambient lifting itself off the concrete before that, too, is suddenly sucked maelstrom down into the blackness, vacuum eating away the street in huge brutal bites. Wind whines in their ears.

"Don't let it take you!" the old woman says.

And then she is flippantly yanked off her feet. Too large for the chasm lengthwise, she snaps in half like a stalk of pinestraw before going in, with a futile shriek.

A mailbox follows, a hoarse snatch of loose Aralia leaves, tinkling backup keys snatched out from under a staircase, a tiny fox terrier pinwheeling end over end from down the block, hooked down sharply and swept into darkness. Teo gets up and goes over. Jumps to follow them in.


Ghost lunges up, drags at the door with enough vehemence in his hands that its hinges buck in their rivets. "I'm tired of it in here," he growls. Sometimes, it doesn't seem like there's much of him left over after the turbulence of Kazimir's passage. Other times, that would appear to be unequivocally and terrifyingly wrong. "Let me go."


This is the good dream, or supposed to be, and it also takes place at the house in Darien. The future is bright: Georgia is bathed in sunlight, this time, rather than inundated and baked by it, but it is ultimately very quiet, as well. It starts in the summer: mosquitoes clinging to the flyscreens as if in desperate fascination at the news report about fire in Argentina, while porpoises play in a sea that comes right up to meet the cypress trees.

Time passes in recognizable differentiation of seasons: plum season, sunburn season (mmmmostly Alexander's problem), apple season, hunting season, holiday season. Three weeks before Christmas, Al throws a wadded handful of flannel at his head when he catches him whacking at his arms and breathing down his fingers. They have a tree: a conifer that leaves a spotted rash on the back of his hand where his calluses are peeling loose without enough physical trauma to renew them, and Al vises his arm between his knees and sits him down, docilely disgruntled, to figure out the disinfectant and bandaging. Alexander and Teo make a competition out of decorating its fronds, then Al chases him across the house when he realizes Teo is taking his work down and replacing baubles in their carton, to even the odds, he says, despite that Al insists he hasn't been cheating.

In only a week, the tree's base is blockaded in with a brown clutter of packages from out-of-town, kept in their original travel paper and string, an odd, rustic homogeneity to them unalike to the bombastic patterns displayed on television commercials. Except that Sonny writes an E-mail, and Peter and Gillian who send a truck. A new one. A bigger one. When Al drives it to work, it looks like the Ice Aged carcass of a fucking mammoth half-unearthed at the stationhouse's roadside, craggy black and mottled by the snow. If there were criminals in Darien, the truck would be a monolithic promise to their destruction and the coming of the Petrelli dynasty.

It is two and a half years before Teo begins to get scared, and another half before things get really quiet. By now, the locals have normalized the degree of prestige that staving off a viral apocalypse warrants to the approximate equivalent of being a veteran of the Iraq War, most recent, and in another year it will be generalized further still to all wars, visible in beautifully retained manners, deliberately nonspecific compliments, and the half-beat hush of recalibration that falls over the bars whenever no one wants to be so insensitive as to discuss the rising probability of World War III against China. Al gets rid of his dogtags one day, and Teo doesn't really notice until they go to bed— in the dark, so as to conserve electricity and meager paychecks— and his teeth don't pinch anything except skin. He doesn't ask, because it's supposed to be a good thing, and he can picture Alexander's shrugging monosyllable in his head anyway. Eventually, he comes to realize that experiments in punctuality lead more often to missed opportunities than close saves or presiding conviction in good luck.

Time passes. Teo cultivates an enormous library of modern literature, Baltic languages, questions for his aunt, soybeans in the garden, a few enemies among his students at the local high school, and a crop of fur on his teeth on those nights that Al works— chooses to work?— that graveyard shift. He sleeps too much, considering how much he runs. Once, Al has to ask him three times then catch his face between his hands and ask him if anything is wrong before Teo actually hears the question. Early in his thirties, he starts to watch what he's eating. Time passes. The gray nipping out into the russet red of Alexander's hair seems to bleach with it the feeling from Teo's hands.

Deckard sends a postcard. This made me think of you. It is a photograph of an electrically singed cat. Abby said I needed to write. I can see psychopaths! And Teo can not tell if this is a reassurance or a threat. Maybe, this is a nightmare too.

Tribeca — A Safehouse

Teo wakes up with a jolt to a damp chin and stomach lurching empty. The room spins about thirty degrees through a revolution before snapping violently back into place in the clumped haze between his eyelids. There's the butt of a handgun trying to burrow into the ranks of his ribs and a chalky coating on his teeth that reminds him that he forgot to pocket his toothbrush leaving Staten Island the other night.

"You're awake," Joanie says, across the room. "It's eleven. Sweet dreams?"

Instead of answering, Teo excuses himself with a groan and crabs his legs across furniture, trying to lever himself to sitting up. He succeeds with the assistance of getting his elbow accidentally stuck between cushions."I overslept. Where are the Andrews?"

"The Andersons?"

"The Andersons." Teo winces, but Joan doesn't seem to mind. She understands how it goes as well as he does, and it doesn't particularly offend her sensibilities that Teo's mind sieved out the names; they both remember that the old dowager who'd led the family, how she had wept to have ceramic plates again even if only for temporary use, and how the twins awakened him the first few mornings they found him on the couch by attacking with full-bodied embraces and an accidental heel upside his chin. A glance over his shoulder and finds that the sink is mired with ramshackle towers of dishes risen again. He is faintly disgruntled, having cleaned and set them all away the night before, and separately again because it seems inconceivable they wouldn't have been loud about it.

The Ferryman smiles, puts her cigarette out in its ashtray. The stump screws crooked kidney bean holes through the silky ash of its fossilized ancestors. "They left this morning. Tried not to wake you."

"Would've been okay."

She lifts one weed thin shoulder, lets it fall again, the nonchalant motion proportioning out a rasp from the beaded fringe of her shawl and a click from underneath her chair. "They're heading over to Staten to pick up paperwork, few days by the harbor, then there's a bus up to Canada on Monday. I told them you might drop by before they go. If you're in Jersey. For some reason." It is unlikely he will see them again. It is improbable that she will, either. They both know this.

Teo nods his head and gets upright. Wedges his feet into his shoes, experimentally, before resigning to the inevitability of actually having to undo their laces. Fuzzily, he tries to count the hours it's been since his last shower and is not overmuch disconcerted by the integer that pops out of his right brain. Despite this and the other nuisances of being unemployed and homeless, he generally likes living between Ferry safehouses: rarely at a loss for things to do or purpose allotted to each hour, with weekend supply runs five times a month, human cattle to be disguised by the somnolent herds of civilian sheep during the weekdays, and spontaneous emergencies unconfined by the demarcations of season or calendar dates. "Need anything today?" he asks, scratching his stubble.

"No. I think we're pretty well covered for groceries and repairs. I'm going to turn over the rooms by myself. You should go—" she makes a scissored flick of purple fingernails at the doorway. "Do something new."

Well— well, he's busy, but that isn't what comes to mind. Teo blanks his face and gives her a quizzical look, coloring abashed despite that there was nothing even particularly joshing about her tone. It the worst of all his conceits, and the least attractive of his departures from either Ghost or his younger analogue: too often, he feels like he's done everything already. Tricks with glow-sticks, heroin, the feel of a stranger's smile curved across his stomach, hoarded friends among terrorists, sailed the Atlantic, wrote (started) a novel, played with thermite to save the world, died thrice, once even biologically, killed and met (met and killed) half a dozen he would've liked to marry. Even his dreams seem to be hacking, slime-coughed exercises in regurgitation, messes he avoids to dwell on.

He shakes his head. "Like what?"

They consider in silence.

"Sudoku," she says, sliding the day's Tribune across the table. "I'll make coffee. Come help me."

Despite initial reservations, he does. He tries.

… O me! What fray was here?
Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.
Here's much to do with hate, but more with love.
Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate,
O anything, of nothing first created!
O heavy lightness, serious vanity,
Misshapen chaos of well seeming forms,
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.

William Shakespeare,
Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene i.

It's a good line, just I guess coincidentally irrelevant. :(a

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