It was getting late. Brandy had been
a long time changing. Simon went to the bathroom door and softly knocked.
Still huddled on the floor, Brandy, using
the sink for leverage, managed to hoist herself.
"Just a minute."
She looked into the mirror; the face that
grimaced back looked positively ghoulish.
Terrific. What a
finale. I step out like this, he'll run for the hills.
She splashed some water on her cheeks,
then sponged off most of her makeup. Feeling a bit revived she turned and openedjust
a crackthe bathroom door.
"Simon? Would you bring me my robe?
It should be in that suitcase next to the bed."
Simon found it, then passed it to the
disembodied hand that reached from behind the door jamb.
Both hand and terrycloth bathrobe
were withdrawn. Brandy dusted herself with baby powder, donned the robe, then tried to affect
as self-composed a reentry as misery would permit.
"Sorry I took so long; Im
feeling a little queasy. Remember when you were a kid and your parents drummed into you,
Never take a swim just after youve eaten? Well, never, ever belly
dance after youve gorged; I feel horrible. I know better, too; I just wasnt
She sat on the bed.
"Ever seen one of those mixing
machines they have in paint stores? Imagine, just after dinner, strapping one on."
She toppled over sideways, almost
comically, and uttered a lengthy moan. Simon left then returned with pen and paper.
"I feel seasick; thats the
worst of it. All I want to do is curl up and die. I have these God-awful cramps all
through my midsection."
He touched her forehead.
"No, no headache."
permission, I can help.
"Anything. Shoot me; it might be
He eased her onto her back, then propped
her head on one of a pair of pillows (Brandy grabbed the other and clutched it to her
gut). Cupping her calf in his right hand, Simon pressed with his left thumb,
into a shallow depression beside Brandy's tibia. With firm deliberate pressure he slowly
(inciting a tingly sensation, like bumping one's funny bone; it hurt, but
only a little)
clockwise motions applied with moderate force
to sustain her curious pins-and-needles)... at the same time, pulling gently, he
straightened out either leg, rubbing each in turn (while Brandy felt the
tingle ineluctably spread)
shifting back and forth between the
Whether the buzz traversing Brandy's body
actually helped or merely distracted her, she felt the nausea ease. As long
as it worked, she resolved, he could do what he liked.
Prying one of her hands from the pillow,
Simon applied a similar treatment to Brandy's wrist, pressing between two tendons,
kneading with his thumb (again clockwise). Soon the same sensation encompassed her entire
arm. She offered him the other. Her queasiness was diminished; her cramps
were still intense.
Despite the slight discomfort they
causing, Simons hands (strong yet tender, youthful yet embossed with
prominent veins) soothed and wooed simultaneously
as they moved in
sync with Brandy's pulse, his focus so intent he failed to notice the
as she watched his steady
breathing (its measured cadence calm),
reflected upon his beard (its shade
of haystack blond slightly darker than his
contemplated his nut-brown brows (set at melancholy angles) that cast a subtle shadow over
azure eyes so clear, so lustrous eyes (they shown like sapphires),
appraised his mouth (its corners like parentheses, sorrowfully downturned)
a poetic face, she concluded, whose
made her sigh with yearnings less than chaste.
Finished with her wrists, and careful to
expose only the area around her grumbling tummy, Simon parted the flaps of Brandys
robe. About four inches above her deep-set navel he pressed, again with his thumb,
resuming circular motions (though using much less pressure). With his other hand he
searched for and found a place behind her ear, massaging there with his index finger, spurring a
mild uneasiness that offset the one below
where, lo and behold, the cramps began to
He switched hands.
The relief spread
infiltrated nerves like steam through ganglia
Brandy, growing ever more
relaxed, allowed her eyes to close
indulged, past all resistance, the therapeutic press and
probe of Simon's thumb—replaced now by the heel of his roving hand
in slow ovals
each one broader
precise than the one before
until she felt it brush—or was she
dreaming—her bosom's naked undersides.
To Simon, Brandys slumber was
somewhat problematic, leaving him alone with his own rekindled id, tempting him to stray
from caresses strictly curative to those that might arouse said acquiescent
trace their plump perimeters, fondle their rosy tips...
young girl again, a child. Im playing with my dolls up in my room. No. Now its
the backyard, on a blanket. The grass is full of dandelion ghosts. I must be six years old
because there are six dolls; my father bought me a new one for every birthday. They had
special names. Im talking to my least favorite, the one with long black hair and a
peasants costume. What is she saying? I cant quite hear her voice but her lips
are definitely moving.
robes lapels the better to contemplate each ample sphere...
have to speak up, Adrienne
No, I will not send the others away; they have
just as much right to be here as you.
Shes envious of her
sisters. Im a little scared of her. She does nasty things sometimes. Shes
taken one of Rachels ribbons and wont give it back. Ill have to coax her
out of it; if I reach over and grab it shes likely to bite me. She has
sharp little metal teeth that nobody knows about, besides me and the other dollswho are
inching back toward the blankets outer edge. I wouldnt have brought Adrienne
along, except, when shes left alone in my room, she tends to steal things.
while were on the subject of theft, young lady, suppose you tell me where you hid my
music box. No sense denying it; you were seen.
Uh uh, I refuse to say by whom.
Adrienne's face very closely now. Her eyes are following mine as if shes suspicious;
I know she doesnt trust me. Shes flexing her chubby fist, scrunching up the
recalling how they
had felt the night before when Brandy's muffled heartbeats drowned out
Guilt eclipsing the unclad goose
flesh, Simon drew the curtains on his peep-show impropriety
only to catch a glimpse of
nakedness further afield
Brandy's hairless crotch arousing boyhood fantasies (bred
by books on art with classical nudes depicted, their private parts, more often than not,
glaring at me with that defiant look of hers. I feel like Im losing my authority.
She seems bigger. She is bigger. Or Im getting smaller. Maybe both. Im
starting to feel numb all along my arms and legs. She wants me to help her stand
but I refuse; she's already much too tall.
likewise, bare between their legs, inflaming his libido (as Simon spied
their rigid-limbed passivity in sundry downtown showcases)
shes moving. All by herself. Shes circling me. Im stiff all over. I
cant move anything except my eyes. Shes doing something directly behind my
back; I can hear her rummaging through my sewing basket. Oh, oh; mother's shears!
what are you doing?
My voice feels like its
trapped inside my throat.
Another pang of conscience
gave Simon guilty pause; the liberties he was taking were grossly indiscreet
she, his victim, seemed blissfully unawarewhich only served to make his trespass more contemptible.
doesnt have the scissors; shes moved back in front of me. Instead she has a
spool of thick black threadthe strong kind that's hard to break even with your
teeth. Except hers are razor-sharp; shes biting off lengths: one, two, three, four,
five, in all. Now shes grinning. Whatever it is shes up to,
his nose to the unsuspecting pubes
breathing in their scent of
sweat and lilac soap—sultry and fecund as rain-doused earth in spring. Once again, he drew the
grabbing at me; she has my arm. I'm staring at my hand as she manipulates it. Shes
knotting a length of thread around my right thumb. Too tightly, I can tell; it's making a
nasty groove below the knucklethough I can't feel it. Now shes let it drop to
tie up my left. Ooo, this is frustrating; I cant even budge! And nobody's trying to
help; all the other dolls just gape, scared stiff. Im scared, too; Adrienne just
tied both my legs with the threads. And, oh my God, shes using the
last to make a noose!
Easing from the bed, Simon
turned off the light, removed his clothing, then slipped back under the covers
gone. Where? A breeze has sprung up, setting the dandelions free. Theyre floating
over the yard like wisps of see-through cotton. Oh, oh; shes back
snapping it in two
making it into a cross
now tying it to me
fastening all four threads and putting the fifthattached to the
crossbararound my neck. Jeezus, shes enormous! My face now only comes as high
as her knees.
against Brandy's supine body, resting his palm on her belly, his thoughts at
being jerked into the air! My feet are dangling just above the picnic blanket. I must be
hanging by those threads; the feelings coming back to my neck, knees, and elbows.
Whichever way theyre yanked my body has to turn.
oddly, as if overlapped... by someone else's dream(?):
I see an endless plane. Very sparse. The grass is all
discolored. As if a gigantic tarp has blocked it from the sun. Except, along the horizon,
it still looks green. And there are people, I think; I see tiny silhouettes. I'm moving in
their direction. Not walking, exactly. Im close to the ground but neither foot makes
contact. Sounds, way off in the distance, are carried on a bone-dry breeze.
Music! Its my music
box. Adrienne has opened the lid and its playing my favorite tune. She wants me to
dance to it. Shes making my arms and legs flail about; they feel dislocated.
Shes hurting me.
hearor doesnt want to. Shes laughing. Theyre all laughing, all the
dolls. Before, none of them would help; now they think its funny. Im crying. I
feel humiliated. The music keeps on playing. Why won't it stop!
I recognize that melody. It's faint but getting louderor maybe I'm drawing nearer. I can just make out my shadow
as it races underneath. There's something weird about it, though. Yikes,
the thing has features! Dim but
recognizable. I think theyre mine!
Im hoping, when the
music stops, shell stop. When the music box winds down this nightmare will end.
My double has
sped ahead. All thats left between us is
a slender length of chord. Stretching. Stretching thinner. I feel Im losing ground.
I can barely hear the music. Those figures that I mentioned are far away again. Why is it
important, I wonder, for me to reach them?
Shes dropped me.
Im lying in a heap all tangled up in threads. Those traitors are
applauding my predicament, clapping their little hands. I ache all over.
Please, no more!
Ive had enough.
leaving. Adriennes tucked my music box under her giant pudgy arm and is leading the
others off to who knows where.
Im gaining ground on them again. My shadow's
up ahead. Or maybe it's disappeared.
Theyre moving away. All save one.
They're gone. The ground is grassy now. I'm almost there. The one they
left behind is lying on a small patch of cloth all alone in a vast expanse of green. I can make out her features
sprawled and all disjointed, her limbs like those of a
Here, I'll help you up. What happened?
How should I know? A
nightmare, I think. I remember dancing, is all. I must have fallen. Where are we?
As you see.
What are we doing
So I am.
But I thought
Whats going on? Where are we?
Im really not sure myself. But I have an
I think were dreaming.
No, I dont
think so. This doesn't feel at all to me like a dream.
Just the same, I think thats what it is.
Well, I thought I was alone until I saw you and your
You dont remember?
I saw them. I was a long way off at the time, but I saw
I couldnt tell. Five or six, maybe. They left before I got here.
This is freaking me
out, Simon. I dont understand. If Im really asleep, dreaming, then you, and
everything youre saying, Im making up.
'"Ill let you be in my dream, if I can be in
You seem to think
this is pretty funny. How can you take it so lightly?
Listen, Im a bit jittery too, but, if this is what
I think it issomething Ive imagined for a long, long timethen going with
it, enjoying it, is better than panicking.
Will you hold my
Delighted. Shall we float on up
for a look at the-lay-of-the-land?
What do you mean,
Just what I said. Like this.
Jeezus, Simon! Let
go! Youll get us killed! No; don't let go! Oh, God, this is absolutely
Relax. Its all right. Really. Calm down. Rules, it
stands to reason, don't apply here. Or theyre very different. Go ahead; let go. Believe
that you're suspended, and youll be fine.
I only want to
believe I'm back in bed. This is too bizarre. If we should fall right now, wed splat
But were not falling, are we?
anyway. Why, is what Id very much like to know. And how come everything
around us is absolutely empty?
I dont know.
nothing: no houses, people, trees; not even my blanket. I want this to be over!
Brandy, I cant answer most of your questions; I
can scarcely answer my own, but
You seem to know
Not really. Im simply trying to let this
dont have to stick around.
I thought this was your dream.
If that were true,
Id end it; Id wake myself up.
I cant; you
wont let me.
Why is it up to me?
Youre the one
who yanked me off my blanket. For all I know that may be the only route back.
I hardly think thats rational.
Is it "rational" to hover hundreds of feet in the air having a two-way conversation
with a self-styled mute?
Point well taken.
Not that it makes
any difference. As soon as we wake up, things will go back to normal.
But what if this is something other than a
probably something neither of us should fool with.
Dont you want to know? To explore?
Theres nothing here.
Maybe not here, exactly, but surely there are other
places, other realms.
Well, you can chase
those wild geese by yourself.
Brandy turned and opened
her eyes. Simon lay beside her under the covers, his hair spread over the pillow like a
tarnished golden fleece, the fingers of his left hand interlaced with hers. Careful not to
disturb him, she disengaged herself, and went to fetch her journal.
Yikes; I hadnt realized
no reference points.
Nothing but myselfI, me,
and mine: left,
right, up, down, forward, backward, are all meaningless. Am I moving or am I not? I
cant quite tell.
Okay. Think things through. There's no need for alarmjust because you're TOTALLY DISORIENTED!
Nothing is all that threatening; theres
only what? Emptiness? Waiting to be filled? By what? Imagination? Maybe Brandy was
right; it's only a dream.
it's much too lucid. I won't be sure, of course, until I've
awakened. If I awaken. I dont want to, however; not yet. Brandy wanted
to wake up; ipso facto, Brandy no longer is here.
Maybe Im dead! I hadnt thought
about that. Except I
dont much feel like Ive expiredthough
something, in relation to nothing, is not what I'd call vigorous. Odd, when
I was a kid, this is how I envisioned Limbojust me and maybe a few
drifting around, abandoned, forgotten. Thats it! Im creating this myself. If I
want these things to be different, all I have to do is to picture them otherwise. Okay, change!
Everythings the same.
All right, if Im not in control, then who the
hell is? Brandy? Where did she go, anyway? BRANDY!
Okay, thats enough. Time to wake up. I want to
wake up. Concentrate!
So, if Im sleeping, I ought to remember what I
was doing just beforehand. Where was I?
In my sleeping bag, no doubt. Alone?
No; with somebody else. Brandy? Except she was lying on a blanket. In a pasture. By
Or were there others? Yes, there were. There are;
they're suddenly back! Standing in a circle. Brandy's back, too. We're being ogled, faces
all agog at the fringes of our platformor
blanket, rather. Strange; their eyes are shut, yet its perfectly plain they see.
They look like dwarvesnot fully formed, or somethinggesturing to each
otherand to uswith their rubbery little mitts, daring us to take a few steps
and join them. Don't! The ground is false, beyond; theyre making it up to fool us.
Oh, oh, seems they're closing in. We'll have to make a
Run, Brandy, run!
Theyre after us! Im holding Brandys hand;
she'll have to go faster. Theyre all around our legs, tripping us up. Brandy!
Theyre all over her. Im straining with all my
might but I can't turn back. Shes fighting them off but there are too many.
Theyve got her pinned. One of the little monsters is prying apart her legs
CANT I HELP!
while another is sticking its hands, now its whole head inside.
Brandy's screaming. Her belly's suddenly bloated, like giving birth in reverse, each dwarf, single
file, pushing and shoving till all six cram in.
"Simon. Hey, are you
gonna sleep all day?"
The instant he awoke, amnesia drew a
heavy curtain. Oblivious to his nudity, Simon sprang from the bed. A smattering of random
images was all he could retain: blanket, grass, dwarves. He searched for pen and paper.
Brandy watched his antics, admiring the
"That side, too."
Using his writing pad as a fig leaf, he
backed toward the bathroom.
Brandy, gathering his clothes, carried
them in his wake.
"I expect youll be needing
Simon peeked out, grabbed them, then
ducked out of sight.
Unable to squelch her laughter, Brandy
made the bed while Simon hurriedly dressed. She had been up for over an hour, part of
which was spent on primping and preening. The remainder she had devoted to Simons
'autobiography.' His muteness being a choice, not an infirmity, had come as no surprise.
Nor was she too upset about being deceived. If anything she felt sorry for the taciturn
hitchhikerjust as much a victim, she decided, as his dearly departed girl. He blamed
himself; that was obvious. Why else confess to a perfect stranger? Was homelessness, too,
a private act of contrition? Like his silence? Simon's letter cast far more
light. Why, for instance, had he accepted her invitation to share the motel room? What
(and this one really puzzled her) did he accomplish by watching her sleep? And how (when
she could hardly explain it herself) had he intuited the name
Adriennewhom Brandy now recalled from a former life.
Extrasensory forces, she concluded, must be at worklaunched by what (or whom) she
was loathe to hypothesize (lest the purported Gypsy be tampering againwith
Simon reemerged, looking a bit sheepish.
Brandy found his shy embarrassment
"I thought a bee maybe stung you out
from under those covers."
He stuffed his hands in his pockets.
"Youre blushing! How
He looked away, unused to being teased.
"Sorry. What did you scribble, by
the way, on that silly little pad?"
Removing it from his pocket, Simon showed
An eerie chill crept up and down Brandy's
spine. She read: blanket (recalling a picnic somewhere);
grass (in a park, or
a backyard); dwarves (dwarves?
six of them).
Then, she recollected, Simon had been there
had actually held her hand during their
daydream's denouement. Hiding her alarm, she merely shrugged, then handed back the pad.
"Lets go get some breakfast,
okay? Bring your notes along; well chit-chat later. I cant even think
till Ive had my first slug of coffee."
The streets were crowded...
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