(Yes, dear readers, this is excerpted from the forthcoming Balloon Heart by Tom Andrews)
It wasn't that the dream freaked me out or anything – it just left me feeling like things were a little more real. Like everything was just about to happen, and happen in a real heavy way. You know what I mean? It's like when you're drinking with a bunch of friends and everybody is getting real sloppy and drunk and having a great time and then when you least expect it one of the guys you're drinking with falls out of a window and bashes his head in or breaks his neck, or something dumb like that happens and suddenly everybody comes to their senses – you know the feeling. A buzzwrecker of gigantic proportions. Well, that's how the dream was – but only as I look back on it. It seems now that everything was in slow motion or that I was looking at it while half in the bag, and then I have the dream and suddenly everything gets real serious. I can't look at anything with that drunken veil anymore.
The first time I realized this was when we were out on patrol, almost the next day, if I recall correctly. We were clearing through a bunch of what had been apartments for people who were too old to work – except these things weren't part of the Project. These were put up by some kind of a church or something. Some kind of superstitious bunch who did what they were doing because they thought they were gonna' get some kind of metaphysical or spiritual reward of some sort, I guess. Well, these old deserted apartments still had a few Threats living in them, and we would patrol through from time to time and clear out as many as we could. It made for an interesting morning, and it wasn't too terribly risky.
Well, on that morning I was following our squad leader up a flight of stairs when I heard something move in a room off to my left. I spun back to my right, and shouldered my weapon. There was a dog, growling at me and baring its teeth. Now, normally I would have popped a couple rounds into the damn thing to shut it up, but something inside of me recalled the dream, and so I just backed up a bit. Good thing I did, too, because just then a young girl stepped out from behind a door that was hanging crooked on its hinges and she levels one of those old-style handguns at me. It all looked suddenly very real, and I saw the veins in the girl's eyes, and I saw the saliva on her lower lip, and I swear I could see the rifling in the gun barrel that she had pointed at me. And all at the same time I could smell that the dog had gas from eating something that he couldn't digest all the way. And a voice inside of me just says “go, go!” So I put a quick three-round burst through the girl's chest and then a couple of singles through her head and she drops like a brick. But I looked at the dog and he just looks back at me, like nothing happened, like he's looking for some more food.
And I didn't feel so bad about dropping the Threat the way I did, but I felt bad that I didn't have any kind of treats to give to that dog. That's when I started realizing that things looked different.