I sincerely hope everyone has a great year in 2019. May all your dreams come true!
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
Connor arrived promptly for his 11 a.m. appointment with Dr. Reicha and found the psychiatrist with putter in hand attempting to drive a golf ball across his office’s plush grey carpet into an upended teacup.
Reicha looked up at his visitor without any show of embarrassment at having been caught out in his pastime. “Great practice,” he remarked. “I’m all right with the long drives. It’s when the ball gets on the green that everything falls apart.”
“I never played the game myself.” Connor looked at the row of balls lined up on the carpet’s edge. “They don’t have any golf courses I know of here in Manhattan anyway, so I guess it’s just as well.”
“Plenty out on Long Island. That’s where I go when I’m able.”
Connor took a seat. “Don’t let me rush you. I’ve plenty of time if you want to take a few more swings.”
“Thank you for your courtesy.” Dr. Reicha glanced appraisingly at his visitor as he studied his next shot. “You look much more relaxed today than you did the last time.”
“Professor Elicott said the same thing to me yesterday. I guess I’m settling into the routine. It’s not as big a deal as I’d thought.”
“Yes, I talked to the professor myself this morning. He told me you seemed a good deal less candid lately. He said it was as though you were no longer were inclined to discuss your experiences while dreaming. Is there any truth to that?”
If Connor were surprised by Reicha’s directness, he didn’t let on. “No, not at all.” He folded his arms and looked the psychiatrist directly in the eye. “These are just dreams we’re talking about. I’ve no reason to hide from you anything that happens in them.”
“No, you haven’t. And that’s what makes the professor’s suggestion all the more puzzling. You know perfectly well that you can’t be held responsible for anything you do in a dream even if in waking your life the same actions would be considered criminal.”
Connor sat bolt upright at that, and his breathing grew harsh. “Are you accusing me of something, Doctor?” His voice rose. “I haven’t done anything illegal, not in my dreams and not when I’m awake either.”
Reicha held up his hands defensively. “No one’s saying you did.” He paused as if considering how best to word his next remarks. “It’s the university that’s sponsoring this project. In doing so, it’s applied for and received grants from several federal agencies. It’s accountable to those same agencies for the manner in which the project is conducted. Years of planning have gone into this. Professor Elicott and I are both required to make sure the experiment follows the correct guidelines as laid down by the A.P.S., the Association for Psychological Science. If everything is not done properly according to these standards, then the results are worthless and we’re all just wasting our time being here.”
“I wouldn’t do anything to sabotage the project.”
“I know that, Connor.” Reicha took his shot but narrowly missed. “If I thought that’s what you were up to, I’d have you dismissed. I couldn’t afford to risk the damage you might do to the prestige of both the university and its psychology department of which, incidentally, I happen to be a faculty member.”
“Why are you telling me all this? I haven’t caused any trouble.” Connor gripped the arms of his chair with dogged determination and his face took on a defiant expression.
Reicha seemed to realize his words were only hardening Connor’s attitude and driving him deeper within himself. “No, I’m sure you would never do anything consciously to jeopardize the goals we’re striving toward,” he agreed. “The problem with any experiment involving human subjects is that, even to a trained clinician, individuals are wildly unpredictable. We’re not able to fully understand their thoughts and motives any more than they themselves are. The more normal someone appears, the more wary I become.”
“I understand that much.” Connor loosened his grip on the chair.
“Good. Now having gone through all that, I’ll ask again – is there anything you’d like to tell me, or any question you’d like to ask?”
Connor shifted uneasily in his seat. He badly needed the other’s reassurance but wasn’t yet ready to fully trust him. “There is one thing I wanted to know.”
“Is there any chance that an experiment like the one you’re currently conducting could cause someone to go over the edge? I mean, could the dreams I’m having become so intense that I’d risk losing my mental balance?”
Reicha studied him attentively. “Is that what’s worrying you?”
“Sometimes, yes,” Connor admitted. “Things have been happening in my dreams that seem to be carrying over into the real world.”
“That’s something we can discuss.” The psychiatrist put down his putter and took a seat behind his desk. “Can you describe any of these occurrences in detail?”
Connor hesitated. “I took a photo in my last dream just as I’d been directed. When I checked my camera yesterday evening, the photo was there on the memory card. How could it have gotten there if I’d only dreamed I’d taken a photo?”
The psychiatrist gave no indication of having been taken aback by what Connor had told him. “I don’t know. That’s the only honest answer I can give you.”
“Do you believe what I’m telling you? That’s the real question.”
“I believe you think what you’re telling me is true,” Dr. Reicha replied evenly. “Does that help?”
“Not really, Doctor. I’d believe it to be true whether it really happened or if I were… delusional. I need to know which it is.”
“I don’t think you’re psychotic if that’s what you’re getting at. There are other ways to account for what happened. When was the last time you used your camera? You could have forgotten you’d taken that photo and then seen it again in your dream.”
“Sorry, but I can’t accept that.” Connor’s voice was firm.
“No matter. If that’s the only instance in which reality has become confused with the dream state, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. There’s a rational explanation somewhere. We just have to determine what it is. Is there anything else?”
“I met a woman on campus. She’d bought the same book I’d been browsing in the campus bookstore. We talked for a minute and then she disappeared. Later, she was present in my dream.”
Reicha shrugged. “Well, there’s nothing mysterious about that. We’re continually encountering people in our dreams whom we’ve only recently met in our waking lives.”
“I suppose. But it was almost as though this woman were there for no other purpose than to help me find my way.”
“A role you yourself gave to her,” Reicha pointed out. “Surely you can see that.”
Connor abruptly gave in. He realized how futile it would be to argue the point. “I guess I’ll have to,” was all he said.
It was some two hours later, after having walked from one end of the campus to the other, that Connor finally located Deirdre. Dressed in jeans and a tie-dyed tee shirt, she was sitting alone on a bench near the football field. A copy of the Shakespeare textbook lay open beside her.
“Still reading those sources?”
Deirdre looked up and smiled. “No, I’ve finished. None of them come close to Shakespeare’s own plays, not by a longshot.”
Connor moved the book aside and sat down on the bench next to her. “No, they don’t. None of those authors had anything of his genius with words.”
“It was worth reading them, though, to find that out for myself.”
“I guess it would be at that.” Connor stared at her. “I had a pretty wild dream yesterday evening. You were right there in the middle of it.”
“Oh, yeah. That was great. Wasn’t that Beatles concert too much?”
Connor was too startled to speak for several seconds. Then he cupped his hand under Deirdre’s chin and gently pulled her face close to his. “How did you know what I was dreaming?” he asked.
Deirdre looked at him as though he were crazy. “Because I was there with you. You remember I was. You just said so yourself.”
Connor tried a different tack. “Are you really here right now then?”
Deirdre leaned a half inch forward and kissed him lightly on the lips. “What do you think?”
“I don’t know what to think.” Connor slumped back on the bench. “I’m not used to people coming along for the ride when I’m having a dream. It’s just too strange.”
“You seemed like you were glad for my company.” Deirdre was pouting. “And you never would have been able to find Thoreau’s cabin without me. Did you save the photo you took? Can I see it again sometime?”
Connor ignored the questions. “So going to Walden Pond was your idea?”
“I would have let you pick, but you had no idea what direction to take. And I’d never been there before. Thoreau was such a huge inspiration for us back in the ‘60’s. It was as if he had foreseen the birth of the counterculture that was still so far in the future. We felt he was one of us.”
“What nonsense are you talking now?” Connor couldn’t hide his impatience. “You weren’t alive in the 1960’s, Deirdre. I’m twice your age, and I wasn’t born until 1972.”
“Yes, I know. It was all over by then – Janis, Jimi and Jim Morrison were already gone. It bummed Donny and me out so much when they all died at once.”
“You said that name once before. Who’s Donny?”
“Never mind.” Deirdre grew evasive. “You’ll meet him soon enough anyway.”
“Where am I going to I meet him?”
Deirdre looked at Connor as though he were a very simpleminded child. “In your dreams, silly. Where else?”
“Oh, Deirdre. Give me a break, won’t you? This is all getting to be too much for me.” Connor let out a groan. “I don’t know if I’m losing my mind or what. I certainly feel like I am.”
Deirdre put her hand on Connor’s brow in a show of compassion. “You poor guy. I can imagine what you must be going through. You’ll figure it out soon enough though. In the meantime, just go with the flow. That’s the easiest thing to do right now”
“Will you please stop talking like that,” exclaimed Connor in exasperation. “Just because you dress like a hippie, that doesn’t mean you really are one. It would have been a great experience I’m sure. But, like it or not, we were both born too late.”
“We never used that term ‘hippie’ ourselves. It was just a label the media laid on us. Mostly, if we bothered to call ourselves anything at all, the word we used was ‘freaks.’”
“Whatever. Next you’ll be telling me everything is groovy.”
Deidre laughed. “I almost used that expression once or twice already when I was talking with you. I just thought it would be too out of date.”
“Listen, I’ve got to get going now. But I’ll see you again soon.”
“In my dreams?”
“See that.” Deirdre giggled. “You’re already beginning to catch on.”
“Wait a minute, won’t you?” Connor fairly begged her. “What if I want to get in touch with you? Where do you live?”
“Right where you’d expect to find a degenerate hippie like me. I’m down on St. Mark’s Place in the building next door to the Electric Circus. Look for me the next time you’re in the neighborhood. Everybody knows me there.”
“Oh, sure. I’ll wear some flowers in my hair.”
“Uh, uh. You missed that time. That was a great song; but it was about the Haight, not the East Village.”
“I give up.” But Connor was talking to thin air. Deirdre was already gone.
Monday, December 24, 2018
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and great health and happiness in 2019.
(I shot the above photo in 2016. It's unfortunate I didn't have a more recent photo, bit there hasn't been any snow yet in New York City this December.)
Friday, December 21, 2018
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
It was past midnight when Deirdre returned to the St. Mark’s Place apartment she shared with Donny. The studio was dark, but there was still enough streetlight streaming through the window for Deirdre to make out the room’s sparse furnishings. Aside from a double mattress in the center of the floor and an unpainted wooden desk and chair propped against the far wall, there was only an impromptu bookcase made of sagging pine planks that had been laid across cinderblocks lifted from a nearby construction site. Most of its shelves were filled with tattered paperbacks. Kerouac’s On the Road sat uneasily beside The Portable Nietzsche and Sartre’s The Age of Reason. On the top shelf were a turntable, speakers and a Pioneer 626 receiver surrounded by vinyl albums, the topmost of which was the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet. The walls themselves were whitewashed sheetrock on which hung two posters – a dayglo Easy Rider and Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.
Deirdre saw that Donny was awake. Still fully dressed, he lay sprawled across the mattress while smoking a joint the size of a cigar. He was big man and his presence seemed to fill the small room. If it weren’t for his waist-length hair and untrimmed beard, Deirdre thought, he could be mistaken for a pro football player. She watched as he shifted uneasily. From the look in his eyes, she knew he had waited up for her return. Even in the dim light Deidre had been able to see how troubled his expression was as he had watched her walk through the door. “Uh, oh,” she thought to herself.
“Hey, babe. Good to see you,” Donny said in a low voice.
“How are you doing, sweetie?” Deidre asked. She hoped her tone was as light as she’d intended.
“You’re getting in sort of late,” Donny observed. “I don’t think you’ve been here before twelve any night this week.”
“Really? I hadn’t thought to keep track of the time. Guess I need to buy myself a new watch.”
“I did,” Donny replied. “Keep track to the time, that is.”
“Listen, you. I was busy shaking my ass at the Purple Onion trying to make a few dollars to pay the rent. It’s almost the first of the month already, and our dear landlord’s not going to let us get away with being late again. You know that.”
Donny took a long toke of the grass and held the joint out to her. He pulled back his hand when he saw her shake her head. There was silence for a moment as he held the smoke in his lungs.
“Where’d you get the grass?” Deirdre asked, more to hear herself speak than for any other reason. There was far too much tension in the air as far as she was concerned.
Donny finally exhaled. “Picked up a lid from Johnny Hastings. Remember him? He and I went to high school together out in Bayside. He still deals, except now he sells out of an Irish bar in midtown. I had to take the subway all the way up to Grand Central to meet him.” He looked appraisingly at the joint he was still holding. “Worth it though. Doesn’t take much of this stuff to get me wasted.”
Deirdre shivered. “I remember him all right. You introduced me to him a couple of months ago at the Gate when you were buying hash oil from him.”
“Yeah, that’s right, I did,” Donny recalled lazily. “I’d forgotten all about that. Must’ve had too much to drink that evening.”
Deirdre made an effort to keep her voice steady. She didn’t want her boyfriend to realize how upset she was. “Donny, you’ve got to listen to me. I told you before that guy is evil. I’ve heard bad things about him. And about the drugs he sells.” She saw the skepticism in the other’s eyes. “It’s true. I wouldn’t make up shit like that about anyone.”
Donny only shrugged. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve been getting high long enough to know good grass when I smoke it.”
Deirdre started to reply but Donny cut her short. “Make much money tonight?”
“I wish.” Deirdre kept it brief. “None of those dirty old men wanted to give a girl a decent tip. Not tonight anyway.”
Donny took another long toke and once again there was silence. Then he blew a perfect smoke ring in the air. They both watched it drift across the room until finally it dissolved into nothingness.
Deirdre noticed a paperback lying open on the mattress beside Donny. “What are you reading?” she asked.
Donny absently picked up the book and riffled its pages in the semidarkness. “It’s Carl Jung’s autobiography. It has one great line in it that really rocked me. I read just a little while before you came in.”
“‘Nights through dreams tell the myths forgotten by the day,’” Donny recited from memory.
“Oh, yeah, that is cool. It really ties in with what you’ve been telling me about lucid dreaming, doesn’t it?”
“I don’t know if he had lucid dreaming specifically in mind when he wrote that, but yeah, it certainly does fit well, doesn’t it? Jung believed all myths, and all dreams too, were veiled messages from the unconscious mind just waiting for us to understand what we were being told.”
“Have you done any more experimenting with lucid dreaming?” Deirdre asked. “I really freaked when you first explained it to me.”
“Our minds haven’t any limitations at all when we’re asleep. We spend our waking hours thinking so many things are impossible. In dreams, we just go do them.” Donny paused long enough to take another toke. “I’ve been trying hard, and so far I’ve managed to travel back into the past and learn about our earlier incarnations. Once I’ve got it down pat, I’ll just as easily be able to go forward and discover what the future holds in store.”
“It’s such an amazing idea, isn’t it?” Deirdre marveled as much to herself as her boyfriend. “Ever since you first gave me the idea I’ve been working on it myself, trying to leave behind me – even if it’s for just a little bit – the world we’re in now.”
“Far out,” said Donny. He reached once again for the joint, now burned down to a small roach. “Let me know where you end up landing.” There was no mistaking the condescension in his voice.
Deirdre was hurt that Donny wasn’t taking her seriously. “Is there any reason I shouldn’t be able to do it just as well as you?” she asked. “Do you think because I’m a woman I’m too bubbleheaded to be able to pull it off? That’s not very fair of you.”
“Hey, don’t get so sensitive,” Donny sat up straight. “There’s no need to lay some misogynist trip on me. I wasn’t trying to put you down.”
“Sometimes you’re so hip, Donny, and sometimes you’re just as much an asshole as those guys at the Onion. They don’t think I’ve got a brain in my head either. All they want is to watch me strip off my clothes.”
Donny stubbed out the roach. “Actually, I was over on 3rd Street this afternoon. I stopped in at the Onion looking for you. You weren’t there, of course.”
“You were checking up on me?” Deirdre flushed angrily. “I was probably around the corner getting something to eat.”
“Cut it out, Deirdre.” Donny’s expression was pained. “I’m not your jailer. If I stopped by to visit you at work, it was only because I missed you and wanted to say hello. That’s all there was to it.”
“Was it really? Then why do I get the feeling we’re on the verge of some major scene where you play the jealous boyfriend and I’m the unfaithful harlot who’s done you wrong when you weren’t looking?”
“You’re a free person, and you don’t owe me any explanations,” said Donny quietly.
“But you want an explanation anyway.” Deirdre raised her hand before her boyfriend could protest. “Come on, Donny. Don’t you think I know you well enough by now? You’re hurt and suspicious, and you’re waiting for me to tell you where I was so you can apologize for having been such a fool as to have ever doubted me.”
Donny gave in. “If I want to know, it’s only because I love you. But I’m cool – if you really have met someone else, I’m ready to let go and wish you happiness. I won’t try to stand in your way.”
“You won’t? You promise?”
Donny shook his head solemnly. “I know it’s not easy living here with me. I kept telling you when we first met what a great novel I was going to write and how famous we were going to be. I guess things didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped.”
“How famous you were going to be, you mean. Sure, I remember. We were all set to be another Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald hanging on the Riviera with Picasso and company.”
“Did I really say that?” Donny asked sheepishly.
“That and a whole lot more.” Deirdre looked around her. “And instead all you do is get up late, put some rock & roll on the stereo, and stay high as a kite all day long.”
“Yeah, I can’t blame you for being fed up with that. You deserve better.”
Deirdre couldn’t help laughing as she knelt down on the mattress beside him. “You know something, Donny? For a smart guy, you act awfully dumb sometimes.” She kissed him passionately on the lips. “There’s never going to be anyone else for me but you. Not now, not ever.”
Donny smiled and kissed her back. “Yeah, I guess I should know that all right. Besides, where are you ever going to find anyone else as screwed up as me anyway?”
Deirdre jumped up and giggled. “But you’re right. I did meet someone else.”
“What?” Donny’s head jerked back.
“Don’t worry. It’s nothing like you’re thinking.”
“And just how do you know what I’m thinking?”
“Stop being such a baby.” Deirdre was laughing openly now. “I think I will have some smoke after all. Why don’t you make yourself useful and roll us both a joint?”
Donny didn’t need to be asked twice. He folded a sheet of Bambu and began sprinkling it with grass from the baggie at his side. “So, you were going to tell me about this guy you met,” he persisted.
“You don’t give up, do you? His name’s Connor. He’s into lucid dreaming too. That’s what got me interested in him. He’s already had some amazing experiences.”
“Such as seeing the Beatles perform in Liverpool.” Deirdre didn’t bother to mention she’d been there too.
“Really? Far fucking out.” Donny allowed a stream of smoke to escape from through his nostrils.
“That’s exactly what I thought you’d say.” Deirdre took the joint from Donny’s hand while he struck a match to relight it. “I’ll bring him over sometime so you two can compare notes.”
“Sounds good to me.” Donny took the joint back from Deirdre as she coughed on the smoke she’d just inhaled. “He’s welcome whenever he wants to visit.”
Monday, December 17, 2018
Impressionist Camera: Pictorial Photography in Europe, 1888 - 1918 was published to coincide with an exhibit of the same name at the Saint Louis Art Museum in 2006. The exhibit had traveled to that institution after first having appeared at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes in 2005.
The history of pictorialism has always been inextricably linked to that of the Photo Secession and its founder Alfred Stieglitz. This may have partly been due not only to Stieglitz' preeminence but also to the influence of the organization's publication Camera Work which offered to its readers superb reproductions by a number of important pictorialist photographers, including Edward Steichen, Gertrude Käsebier, Frank Eugene and Clarence White. In the magazine's very first issue, Stieglitz declared his commitment to the pictorialist cause:
"Only examples of such works as gives evidence of individuality and artistic worth, regardless of school, or contains some exceptional feature of technical merit, or such as exemplifies some treatment worthy of consideration, will find recognition in these pages. Nevertheless, the Pictorial will be the dominating feature of the magazine."
What is often overlooked in all this is that the pictorialism actually originated in Europe (in 1869 when its principles were first promulgated by Henry Peach Robinson) and that some of the best examples were by European photographers. Impressionist Camera is one of the few histories that detail the development of pictorialism as an art movement in Europe and trace its progress from one country to the next. Not surprisingly, the two countries which contributed most were England, where the Linked Ring flourished and established strong ties with the Photo Secession, and France, home to the great Robert Demachy who wrote passionately on photography as art while at the same time producing a series of stunning gum bichromate prints. Nevertheless, there were clubs and photographers working in many other countries who created magnificent bodies of work. The interaction among them was one of the factors that the gave the movement its vitality.
Today, pictorialism is considered pretty much a dead issue. If its purpose was to convince the public that photography should be considered a legitimate art form, the argument runs, that has long ago been accomplished and there is no longer any need to manipulate photos in order to achieve such an end. This, at least, has been the prevalent school of thought since the ascension of straight photography and the Group f64 school in the early 1930's. Such an argument, however, fails to take into account photographers' continued interest in alternative processes such as gum bichromate, bromoil, and platinum printing. It should also be noted that the fifth highest price ever paid for a photographic print was $2,928,000 at a 2006 auction at Sotheby's for Steichen's pictorialist masterwork The Pond - Moonlight (1904). This fact alone should be sufficient to validate the pictorialist aesthetic.
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
Waiting for his morning interview – or debriefing, as he preferred to think of it – Connor sat in the hallway outside Elicott’s office while going over in his mind the content of the previous evening’s dream. As he sipped orange juice from a cardboard container, he became aware of a new reticence within him.
Though Connor knew there was no reason to hide from the professor what had occurred – or, to be accurate, what he had dreamed had occurred – he realized he was nevertheless reluctant to make any mention of Deirdre or the role of guide his unconscious had assigned her. Connor wasn’t quite sure why. After all, nothing could have been more natural than that a woman he had met casually on campus one afternoon should put in an appearance in a dream he had had the same evening. It was not as if she had actually been physically present, Connor reasoned; she hadn’t been any more real than Thoreau’s cabin, the Beatles concert or anything else he had witnessed while asleep. After a few moments’ more reflection, however, he decided that it would cause no great harm if he were to leave out any references to Deirdre when speaking to Elicott. There was certainly enough to relate as it was without having to go into that as well. It would only complicate matters.
Just as he had arrived at this conclusion, the door to Elicott’s office opened and a young woman stepped outside. As she moved past him, Connor realized he had seen her once before. It had been Reicha’s office she had been exiting on that earlier occasion. “Excuse me,” he asked without thinking, “but are you part of the project also?”
The pretty brunette turned to look at Connor. He saw now that she was upset and appeared to have been crying. Her eyes were red and her makeup smudged. “Do I know you?” she asked. Her voice was husky. She stared at him with that exasperated expression women always assume when they think a stranger is trying to flirt with them.
“I’m sorry,” Connor said at once. “I guess this isn’t the best time to talk.”
“It’s all right,” the woman relented. She rubbed her eyes with a tissue she’d taken from her purse as she struggled to regain her composure. “It’s just that I must look so awful. I hate to have anyone see me like this.”
“You look fine. My name is Connor, by the way. And you’re Marguerite. We were introduced by Dr. Reicha the other day. I’m sorry if caught you at a bad moment. I wasn’t trying to be intrusive. It’s just that I was just curious what experiences you’ve had. As far as I know, there aren’t any rules that say we participants can’t talk with one another.”
Marguerite studied Connor attentively for a moment without speaking. She seemed to be weighing whether or not he could be trusted. Finally she came to a decision. “May I ask why you want to know about my experiences? Is there some purpose?”
“Not really. Some weird things have been happening lately when I dream. I guess I wanted to find out if anyone else is going through the same thing, or if I’m the only one.”
At this, Marguerite started violently and then directed an almost frightened look at Connor. “What sort of weird things?”
“It’s sort of hard to explain because dreams are pretty strange anyway. At least mine are. They never made much sense before and they make even less sense now.” Connor realized he was babbling. “Of course, it’s not only when I dream that I don’t make sense.”
Marguerite laughed in spite of herself. “That’s not a very good explanation. If I weren’t having problems myself, I’d think you were a little crazy.”
Connor laughed too. “Oh, I’m a lot crazy. But I’m totally harmless. All I really want to do is compare notes with someone who’s in the same predicament as I am.”
The woman’s expression softened. “I’m sorry. I should not joke. After what I’ve been going through, I’m beginning to wonder how sane I am myself.”
“You said just now you were having problems. Is that why you’re so upset? What sort of problems are they?”
“We should definitely talk,” Marguerite answered. Her tone had grown anxious. “Yes, compare notes as you say.”
Connor checked his watch. “I have to go in and meet with the professor now. He’ll pump me for all the details of last night’s dream.”
“Will you tell him everything?”
“No, not everything. I’ll tell him most of what happened, but there are some details I want to keep to myself for the time being.”
“I understand,” said Marguerite, “maybe better than you do yourself.”
“I’ll be free in an hour. If you’ll still be on campus, we could meet at the student center and share a sandwich.”
“That would be good. I haven’t eaten anything all day.”
“I’ll see you there then.”
“Yes, I’ll be there,” said Marguerite. She cast an apprehensive glance at the closed office door behind her and then strode purposefully away.
Connor watched her thoughtfully as she walked the length of the corridor and boarded an elevator. Then he rose and knocked on Elicott’s door.
The professor looked up as Connor entered the office. “So how did your dream go? Was it a success?”
“Oh, yes,” Connor replied as he took a seat opposite the researcher. “The dream was pretty brief, but it went well. Since I was able to take a photo just as we’d planned, I’d say it was definitely a success.”
“Just one photo? That’s all?” Elicott couldn’t hide his disappointment.
“Like I said, there wasn’t much to the dream. I was on the edge of a small lake surrounded by a thick forest and saw a small shed on the opposite shore. It was just an old wooden shack and there was no one nearby. I took a shot of it but didn’t see anything else worth photographing. Then I woke up.”
The professor stroked his chin. “You seem much more relaxed today, not as tense and excited as when you were describing your first dream.”
“I guess I’m finally able to take the whole thing in stride. There’s really nothing to get that worked up about, is there?”
“And there was nothing else to the dream besides what you’ve told me?” Elicott was suspicious. That much was evident.
Connor looked him in the eye. “If there was, I can’t remember it.”
Elicott regarded him closely. “If that’s it, then I guess we don’t have that much to talk about today. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next time.”
“Yes, I’m looking forward to it. I think I’m finally getting the hang of it.”
“Probably you are at that.” Elicott was once more the didactic lecturer. “Controlling one’s dreams is an acquired skill. It takes practice, just as any mental exercise does.”
Connor and Gallagher were tossing a Frisbee to one another on a grassy spot in Central Park. To their backs, on the other side of the avenue, stood the main entrance to the Museum of Natural History. It was late afternoon on a beautiful summer day.
“I’m glad you’re finally getting some sense and starting to date again,” puffed Gallagher. He was out of practice and breathing hard. “You said the woman’s name is Marguerite? Sounds sexy to me. Is she hot?”
“No way it was a date. There was nothing romantic about it. We were just discussing our experiences in the project, nothing more than that.”
“Well, that’s as good a place to begin as any other. You’ll be in the sack with her before you know it. Now quit bullshitting and tell me what she looks like.”
“I wasn’t even paying that close attention. Brunette, not too tall. That’s all I remember.” Connor grabbed the Frisbee as it came to him and sent it sailing back to Gallagher.
“If only you knew what a disappointment you are to me, my friend. How am I going to get any fantasies going if that’s the best you can do in describing this woman?”
“The hell with your fantasies. I’ve got more important things to worry about. Besides, she was nowhere near as interesting as Deirdre.”
Gallagher stopped cold in the middle of a catch. “Who’s Deirdre.”
“Never mind.” Connor pretended to trip and fall. “Shit. I think I pulled a muscle. Let’s sit down for a minute.”
“You can’t fool me that easily. But if you want to change the subject, go ahead. There’s a bench right over there where you can rest your weary bones.”
After they’d sat down, Connor continued his story. “Marguerite was already in the cafeteria when I got there. She had a bowl of soup in front of her but wasn’t drinking it. Her mind must have been zeroed in on something else because her face was a total blank. She didn’t even seem to see me when I sat down beside her.”
“Not a very encouraging start,” Gallagher smirked.
Connor ignored him. “The first thing Marguerite said to me when she finally saw me there was, ‘Have you sensed anything in your dreams that intends you harm?’
“‘No,’ I told her, ‘nothing like that. Why? Is there something like that in your own dreams?’
“Marguerite seemed disappointed I hadn’t had a similar experience. I think if I’d had, she’d have felt less alone. As it was, it was apparent she badly needed someone to confide in. ‘I always have the same dream,’ she began. ‘I know I’m supposed to control it, but I cannot.’
“‘I’m not sure that matters so much,’ I said. ‘Why don’t you just describe the dream to me, and I’ll tell you if it resembles my own in any way.’
“Marguerite took a deep breath. ‘I’m in some sort of mansion or chateau. I don’t know where it’s located, certainly no place I’ve ever been in waking life. There are old portraits hanging on the walls that make me think I could perhaps be somewhere in Europe.’
“‘Are there any other people there besides you?’
“‘No. Not… people.’ Marguerite actually shuddered when she said that and then had to wait a moment before she was able to continue. ‘When I am there it is always nighttime and everything is very dark. But somehow I can see my way about easily enough. I do not think there have been any people living in that place for a long time. The rooms all have a musty smell, and there are sheets draped over the furniture to keep the dust away. The curtains are drawn on the windows, so I am not able to look outside to see where I am.’
“‘What happens in the dream?’
“‘Nothing really. I wander from one large room to the next, all the way from the basement to the attic. I know I am looking for something, but I am not able to remember what it is. This goes on and on, and then finally I wake up.’
“I sat back in my chair and took a sip of my coffee. ‘I don’t see anything very scary about that,” I confessed to her. ‘Is there anything more to it than that?’
“A really frightened look came over Marguerite’s face. ‘The whole time I’m there in that house I know I’m not alone. Something is following me as I move about, some malevolent being that is only biding its time.’
“I couldn’t figure out what she was getting at. ‘What is it you think this thing wants with you? Why is it after you?’
“Marguerite shivered then and I knew from the look on her face she had something terrible to tell me. She leaned across the table so she could whisper in my ear. ‘I know why it is there. It wants to tear me to pieces and devour me.’”
Gallagher jumped up from the bench he’d been sharing with Connor as though he’d been bitten. “Oh, shit. That is too fucking much.” He pounded his friend on the shoulder. “I take it back. You don’t need to be going on any dates. You’re better off alone.”
“Don’t blame me,” said Connor. “You’re the one who wanted to hear the story.”
“I didn’t think it was going to be anything like that. No way. After hearing that, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to sleep tonight myself.”
“You’ll have a couple of beers, check out Playboy, and doze off at midnight dreaming of naked centerfolds.”
“Maybe so, but tonight I’m going to bed with the lights on, that’s for sure.”
When he arrived at his apartment in Brooklyn that evening, Connor remembered he was still carrying the camera in his backpack. He took it out to check the battery level. It occurred to him there might be photos still on the memory card from the last time he’d used the camera months before. Without thinking, he hit the playback button. To his surprise, a single photo appeared – that of a dilapidated cabin on the shore of a small pond. Connor looked at the image in total disbelief for a moment before carefully putting the camera away in a drawer.