(Yes, dear readers, this is excerpted from the forthcoming Balloon Heart by Tom Andrews)
It was shortly after I first met up with Ed's ghost that I had the nightmare. Maybe “nightmare” is a little strong – it was just a bad dream, I guess. Anyhow, it had to be about a week or so after I met his ghost, and I suppose that it still had something to do with it. I once read where some doctors who study such things think that dreams might just be our minds sorting out all the garbage that we encounter during the day and are unable to make sense of. The subconscious mind then takes it, shakes it up, spreads it around and it gets crapped out of our gray matter as a dream. So the guy mowing his lawn and the car pulling out of the funeral home parking lot and the bird landing on a gazing ball become a seven-headed hydra eating a bacon-cheeseburger while a garden gnome plays a harp. Or a nice lunch with your naked grandmother. Or whatever. You get the picture.
So I saw Ed's ghost and about a week later I have this dream, and the dream scares the living shit out of me. There's a guy who looks like he was a a clown, except almost all of his clown makeup has been removed. His face still has smears of white on it and there is a reddish halo around his lips. No fright wig, no rainbow wig, no big floppy shoes. No red ball for a nose. Just these scary remnants of makeup and greasy, jet black hair and black irises in his eyes, with no pupils. And he's talking at me. AT me. Really fast and forcefully. And I can't figure out what he's saying and it scares the crap out of me. And then he starts threatening me with what seems to be a baseball bat, except I can't see it. The baseball bat or whatever is, like, just out of view. He keeps his hands down low and I can't see what he's holding.
Well, this guy starts getting really animated and yelling at me, and he moves at me, and I put up my hands to stop him just as he raises the bat or whatever it is that he's holding, and it looks like he's about to brain me with it – he has it up over his head with both hands. And just as he starts to bring it down I close my eyes and turn my head. That's when I hear it. I swear I hear a whack and the squealing of a dog or maybe a puppy.
Shit, I think to myself. In fact, I say it aloud in my dream, and I might have actually said it aloud in my sleep – I don't know. But when I open my eyes – in my dream, that is – I turn to look and I expect to see a dog with his head bashed in, and instead I see an elderly lady in the same position. It's awful. And I turn my head away so I don't have to see it and I look at the guy with the clown makeup and I see that his face has turned into an exact duplicate of the old woman's whose head he just bashed in – complete with the blood and the little bits of stuff you don't want to see.
So I look around in the dream and then everything is gone, and I'm standing in the same place I was when I saw Ed's ghost, except Ed's ghost isn't there. And I can feel the wind blowing the same way it was that day when I saw him. It was strange. The wind, that is. Like it was generated by a machine, only I know it wasn't. I turn my face to look into the wind, to see if I can tell where it's coming from, and then I woke up.
I had the worst diarrhea that morning, and I guess it was probably due to the oily gin I keep in my footlocker – the same reason my head was banging just a bit. It couldn't have been banging as hard as what I just dreamed, though, and I was pretty thankful for that.
The craziest thing was that as we were getting ready to go out on patrol that morning, I realized my boots were too loose. It was like my f**king feet shrank over night. The squad leader shouted at me to get a move on, so I just put on an extra pair of socks to make them fit better.
I've been doing that every day since the dream.