“You think this is a game? My dear boy. Don’t you know in order to play a game, you have to know the rules. You don’t know the rules yet. You know nothing. In fact, you know less than nothing and don’t you forget that. All you know is you ‘think’ you know something, which is, and always will be, your greatest downfall. When we’re done playing this little game as you call it, I’ll have broken you. I will put you through an agony you couldn’t possibly fathom in your feeble little brain. You think you know suffering? I’m going to torment your mind. I’m going to force you to see things you will never erase from memory. Ever. You think this is a game? Fine, let the games begin. By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll have wished you’d never met me.” Joseph Everett
Macaroni, glue and paper. What a ridiculous project. Of all the things I could be doing with my precious time as an adult, here I was caught up in the dream realm, sitting by candlelight, doing my best to create a duck out of pasta. I couldn’t leave the refuge until I had done better than my best.
Joseph had blown out the candles along the table and allowed two to remain lit. Coloring with crayons was no longer an option. The lights stood to either side of my paper and I had to squint to see what I was doing. I was angry, embarrassed, and knowing I was in a dream I wanted nothing more than to wake from this nightmare.
I made sure to convey my feelings as often as possible.
I sighed. Rolled my eyes. Exhaled hard. Drummed my fingers along the table. Stood and stretched. Moved my neck around in circles.
The old man paced and wandered the room, hiding inside the shadows. Joe waited patiently for me to complete the task.
On the table he carelessly left his pocket knife wide open, within hands reach.
Just after the Old Life, and fairly recent into the new lifestyle, I had a dream. I know, I know… Don’t roll your eyes, it’s quick.
I had a fight with someone and I could barely see any facial features. I was straddling the chest, knees pressed down on either arm pinning the individual flat on the back, one hand tight around the throat while the opposite was raised above me clenched tight in a fist. Trying to punch this person in the face, my hand traveled to the flesh in ultra slow motion. Like I was pushing through a thick clear gel. I could feel my arm moving, but the connection was an eternity. I believe I awoke before making contact.
It was the same with the uncooked, short, hollow pasta. The elbow macaroni was placed on the paper with absolute focus and precision, yet the speed to get them adhered and adjusted was forever and an hour. In order to make the time move forward in a speed I desired, I had to be inches above the paper, the macaroni close by in a pile, and the squeeze bottle of glue had to be a permanent fixture to my hand. As long as I remained in the glow of the candles, time moved at a more steady rate.
Joseph’s face appeared in the light and the old codger was grinning ear to ear. His sudden appearance startled me and I dropped my short piece of pasta to the floor. Once the butterflies fluttered away, I snatched up another and applied a dab of glue; returning my attention to the project and ignored his intrusive presence.
I looked to him and his smile vanished. He didn’t expect my continued defiance. “You tell me not to act like a child, and you give me a childish project. What’s the point of all this?”
He hovered in the glow and I could tell he was now sitting in his chair. “Perhaps there is no point. Perhaps the moral of this exercise is to see if you’d actually participate. I gave you a ludicrous choice and forced you to pick one. The whole thing is absurd. The door is wide open, Jeremy. You can leave if you want to.”
I looked over my shoulder and the double doors were open wide and the moon was shining through the trees. The light from the sky glinted off the falling snow and I was subconsciously pulled to leave the building.
“Jere, the first step to completing any task is the courage and desire to want to try. How do you know if you’ll enjoy it, without trying?”
“When you force someone to choose, it’s no longer a choice. You lied and said I can’t leave until I choose. By not wanting to participate, doesn’t mean I made the wrong decision. I wanted to choose something else.”
“What would you have done, if I didn’t make you choose between the two?”
“I’d leave. At least that’s what I would try to do.”
“You keep coming here for a reason, Jeremy. Why?”
I have no idea.
I placed another piece on the paper and situated the pasta perfectly. “I don’t know. I suppose you keep bringing me here for something. But I don’t know why. I got an idea, Joe. Why don’t you tell me why I’m here.”
“I can’t do that yet. You’ll just have to trust me.”
My hand flew across the table and I snatched the knife from the surface. Joe didn’t even flinch. Using the blade, I chiseled off a dried piece of macaroni, careful not to tear the paper, reapplied the glue and placed it back down at a different angle. I closed the knife and set it to the side.
“Before we continue this little dance, Jeremy, I have to tell you a few rules.”
“I don’t care about your rules, Joe. I think I’ve had enough of your little game.” I held up the finished product and despite the wavy curved features of the duck, I had completed the task assigned to the best of my ability.
Joe rose from his chair and the candles lit up bright across the table top. “You think this is a game? My dear boy. Don’t you know in order to play a game, you have to know the rules. You don’t know the rules yet. You know nothing. In fact, you know less than nothing and don’t you forget that. All you know is you ‘think’ you know something, which is, and always will be, your greatest downfall. When we’re done playing this little game as you call it, I’ll have broken you. I will put you through an agony you couldn’t possibly fathom in your feeble little brain. You think you know suffering? I’m going to torment your mind. I’m going to force you to see things you will never erase from memory. Ever. You think this is a game? Fine, let the games begin. By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll have wished you’d never met me.”
At the crack of dawn, I opened my eyes, and drew in a quick gasp of air. My blanket was pulled tight to my throat and my alarm was scheduled to go off in less than an hour. I squeezed my lids shut and try as I may, I was unable to return to the refuge that night. Despite that, the game continued as did the visits for another handful of months.
The dreams stopped altogether the night the refuge exploded and erupted into flames.
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