Dick is America, America is Dick
Episode 17 from Must Not Sleep, a new novel which takes place in shamanic space, a realm of shapeshifting and trance. Check out episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16. A free download of Michael Brownstein reading from the novel is available on Podiobooks.com.
On Saturday, February 15, 2003, the day of the peace marches in cities around the globe, an observant person travelling to Washington D.C. on the 1 p.m. Metroliner from Penn Station in New York, upon boarding the third car from the front, would have noticed a most unusual couple holding hands and dressed entirely in white.
With wide eyes and big, unarmored smiles, they appeared to be as much emanations of light as human beings. Pearly light leaked from their bodies, giving the windows and seats around them a subdued glow.
"I AM the universe," they whispered.
And "We have no history, it's all been burned away. No private history, no public history..."
"I know you wanted to take part in the peace march," I said after the train was underway, "but this game's too far along for us to fall back on things like getting out the vote. Survival of the human species is at stake. Real healing -- real change -- can only happen personally, one-on-one. We have to reach the entities with their hands on the controls. The challenge is to get at them, because they're insulated and unapproachable. But fortunately you and I don't have to stand in line. We've been given the priceless gift of operating in nonlocal reality. Here, there, and everywhere. Besides, Georgia, be honest. Isn't reaching into Dick's heart and doing psychic surgery more of a turn-on than getting trampled by police horses and then going home to discover you've been frozen out of the evening news? This is where the action is. I say bring it on!"
"What about Osama? Doesn't he deserve to be healed? He has a heart too, you know."
"Wow, that's true. You're right. But don't forget that Osama's a product of our greed. He and all his fabulously wealthy in-laws would still be herding camels in the desert if we hadn't upended their cosmos by grabbing for oil and sticking our air bases in their holy land. This is American television we're watching, remember. It's an American story. Dick is America. America is Dick."
I looked out the window. Under an overcast sky we were making our way through a pale winter landscape. Grey, stubble-covered fields gave way to further installments of the great Eastern seaboard megalopolis. Factories, auto repair shops, taverns and houses. Shopping malls and office towers. Power lines, backyards, streets and boulevards. Garbage dumps. Warehouses.
In our crowded compartment our fellow passengers read or tried to sleep or talked on their cellphones. They quieted their kids. They got up to use the bathroom. They lurched past us, wandering from car to car. Teenagers, college students, carousers, businessmen. And members of Botox nation with permanently creaseless faces.
We'd been fasting since Thursday morning and I felt telepathic. The thoughts of those around me leaped into my head. I had to keep deflecting an onslaught which otherwise would have left me submerged.
"It's like when we were on the street in New York last month," Georgia said. "The light's just pouring out of us. Doesn't anyone notice?"
Occasionally someone was brought up short, stopping in the aisle, staring at us, but for the most part we existed as labels--hippie couple or weirdo cult members--if we were noticed at all.
I was surprised by this middle realm through which we were journeying. I'd assumed it would be the everyday reality I'd always known, but the train ride showed me something different. People's voices were muffled and indistinct, even when they laughed, even when their children bellowed. And the light--not just coming from us but the light everywhere--was milky and diffuse but somehow impenetrable.
As we approached Baltimore a brown-haired male entity in his thirties dressed in grey slacks and a grey sweater appeared in the aisle beside us. He was carrying a cardboard tray filled with snacks. He stared straight ahead and on his forehead a black and white rectangle flared.
"There it is," I whispered excitedly, poking Georgia.
Yawning, she eyed his receding back. "What? Where?"
"Next time. But be on the lookout. Even though they pretend not to notice us, the only way to neutralize them is by resonating at their frequency. You need to have a sense of what that is: expressionless, imperturbable, but also eminently reasonable and agreeable. So baseline that you can't argue with it. You can't throw it off balance. It just is."
Arriving at Union Station, we moved through the grand beaux arts cavern to the taxi stand outside. The weather was milder than in New York. Weak late afternoon sunshine filtered through hazy clouds.
As we stood waiting we could see the impressive dome of the U.S. Capitol.
"The Naval Observatory on Massachusetts Avenue," I said to the driver.
He turned in his seat. "The Observatory's closed now. You can only visit the telescopes every other Monday night."
"That's OK. We like domes," I said, pointing at the Capitol and smiling.
We drove for miles past townhouses, restaurants, embassies, and office buildings, all coated with that same milky, impenetrable light. Finally we approached Observatory Circle. We saw the dome of the observatory and the big white ship's anchors at its entrance.
Getting out of the cab, we walked onto the grounds and found a bench. Waiting for twilight to descend, I pointed north past the observatory.
"Behind that wall of trees is the Superintendent's Residence. That's where we're headed."
"It's off-limits, isn't it?"
We sat silently, following our breath, emptying ourselves of all thought. Eventually I took her hand and we stood up.
I snapped my fingers twice and said, "Whatever happens, don't clutch. No hesitation. Remember, from this moment onward we're invisible."
Gazing at the sky I called out, "Powers of twilight be with us. We open in your mystery and walk in your gifts."
We proceeded along Observatory Circle until we came to the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 34th Street. A high fence and dense foliage concealed the Superintendent's Residence but through a break in the hedges we could see a white three-story Victorian brick house. A generic-looking row of offices had been added to the north side, and on top of that was the flat roof with antennae and armed guards dressed in black I remembered from my previous journey.
We continued around the Circle to the entrance.
A horizontal pole blocked incoming vehicles, which upon admittance were funneled by concrete barriers past a guard house and onto a ramp for further inspection. Six or seven soldiers wearing fatigues stood by the pole. A walkway for pedestrians ran along one of the barriers, passing directly beside the guard house.
"No more than a breeze in their faces," I whispered.
We approached the soldiers, two of whom were carrying on a conversation in the middle of the walkway. As we squeezed past them one said, "Strange, I smell pussy."
The other one laughed. "You're ready for some R and R, dude. Too bad we're not overseas."
We floated up the driveway onto the porch and opened the front door. Once inside, we moved past a large, brightly lit reception room filled with sleekly dressed white guests wearing photo IDs around their necks, holding drinks, and chatting. Uniformed black maids hurried around us, their trays covered with canapes. I plucked a miniature smoked salmon sandwich off one of the trays and popped it into my mouth.
Continuing along a wood-paneled hallway lined with antiques and full-length oil portraits of 19th century naval officers, we passed security, business suits, and secretaries, all bustling single-mindedly in various directions.
Eventually we found our way to RESTRICTED ENTRY, a glass-panelled door leading into the annex. Staring at the row of buttons beside the door, I punched the first numbers that came to mind and turned the handle.
We stood in a hallway shorn of display or decoration. Off this hallway were cramped offices filled with computers, telephones ringing, calendars tacked to walls. Framed portraits of Vice-President Dick sat on every desk. Young, pink-faced men with their suit coats off and their sleeves rolled up held Blackberries and cellphones and pagers.
Soon we came to an intersection I recognized. We approached the elevator and I pressed DOWN. As we stepped inside, I whispered, "Now we're entering a completely different world."
-1, -2, -3, -4, -5.
The elevator opened and we found ourselves in a narrow, featureless hallway similar to the ones in the annex upstairs --flat white walls, fluorescent lights overhead, scuffed linoleum floor. Except that this one felt claustrophobic because the few doors leading off of it were shut.
"Wait," I said, hearing the alarm in my voice as the elevator closed behind us. "Something's wrong. This isn't Dick's hideaway."
"It's like we're in a hospital," Georgia said. "Can't you smell the disinfectant?"
Then three identical Caucasian entities dressed in civilian clothes rounded the corner at the far end of the hallway. Wearing neatly pressed khaki slacks and tight-fitting, short-sleeved plaid shirts open at the neck, they were smiling as they approached us. They looked like younger, clean-cut versions of President Butch. One of them carried a clipboard.
"Hi, Isaac, hi Georgia," the one with the clipboard said amiably, reaching out to shake hands. "My name is Mathew. And these are my brothers, Luke and John. We're triplets."
He looked crestfallen when we didn't respond.
Luke grinned and said, "Don't take offense, Mathew. Probably they're not greeting us because they think they're still invisible."
Turning to us, he added, "But you're not."
Before I could react, he poked me lightly in the ribs. And then he said, mimicking my voice on the train, "This is where the action is. I say bring it on."
All three of them burst out laughing.
"Yeah," John spoke up, "I AM the universe..."
Erupting in more laughter, eventually they quieted down until Luke intoned, "My flag has a glorious sunburst on it. A sunburst surrounded by smiling faces."
Now they were doubled over, guffawing and slapping their knees.
"OK, brothers," Mathew said. "That's enough. We don't want to give Isaac and Georgia the idea that we're having fun at their expense, because nothing could be further from the truth."
He turned to me. "Actually, your mother's quite worried about you, Isaac. She believes you've been abducted by a religious cult. She pleaded with us to find you. ‘Do whatever's necessary to rescue him. He's a nice Jewish boy. I want him back,' she told me. Those were her very words."
Luke sniffed the air and echoed sarcastically, "He's a nice Jewish boy. In fact, I can smell the lox on his breath, can't you, John? A little Jewboy far from his Momma..."
Now Mathew sounded angry.
"I told you to cut it out. These are formidable people, shapeshifters or shamans or whatever. We make light of them at our own peril."
Then he said in a reassuring voice, "We're your friends, Isaac. Your mother--well, she's a mother. She has every right to be concerned. But of course she's a bit off the mark. With all due respect, remaining Jewish is sort of like being half-baked. The fact is, not to beat around the bush, we're here to save your soul. We understand that you think you're Jesus Christ. And that you've been seeing extraterrestrials. Virtually everywhere."
Eyeing Georgia uneasily, he said in a prim voice, "And as for you, young lady, we're here to save your soul as well. We know how much you're suffering and our hearts go out to you. There's nothing more dangerous than being caught in the tentacles of unbridled sensuality. Pleasure is God's way of calling you to a life of responsibility. Otherwise it degrades and cheapens you, and something infinitely worse too. Because if you don't find your way out of it soon, you'll end up burning in Hell forever. The Good Lord only has so much patience, you know."
Glancing down at his clipboard, he cleared his throat.
"So we have work to do, don't we? Luckily, you couldn't be in better hands. Luke and John and I are God's therapists. We're sanity Christians. Sanity and sanitation come from the same root, and so do we. We're here to preach the gospel of right living. Family values. The sanctity of marriage. We have a sanitorium up in the mountains. A really wonderful place, more like a spa, where you'll be comfortable and happy while we work together to return you to normal. To get you back to your old selves again...Wouldn't you like that?...Both of you...A chance to wipe the slate clean, start over. A house and kids somewhere, maybe out West. Good jobs doing something gratifying and wholesome. Contributing to society. Little League games. Saturday afternoons at Home Depot, planning another addition to the house. And Sunday mornings, worshipping at the church of your choice...Really, it's for your own benefit. You're only going to destroy yourselves by pursuing this sinful craziness. No one else gets to be Lord Jesus, Isaac. That slot's already been taken. This Cosmic Christ stuff where everyone's divine, it just won't work. Nobody can handle it anyway. And as for the aliens..."
He gave me a long-suffering look. "Please. For your own sake, flush that nonsense out of your system. It's a ticket to the real funny farm. Not like our sanitorium where we're inviting you to join us but the place with bars on the windows and certified psychos stewing in their own excrement. You don't want to go there, believe me. Whereas now we're simply talking about a period of re-adjustment. In beautiful surroundings with talented, compassionate people. People like ourselves. Don't let Luke's teasing mislead you. He's taken time off from some very important assignments to be here with you. We all have. That's because we care about you. And because there's nothing we'd rather be doing than the Lord's work. The Lord as we see Him, that is...Our fondest hope is to bring you back into His fold where you can practice right living again," he said, grinning confidently as he and Luke and John moved forward.
Nervously fingering the medicine bundle in my pants pocket, I discovered that in my excitement I'd gotten a hard-on.
"Take your clothes off, sweetheart," I whispered in Georgia's ear. Backing away from them while we disrobed, soon we were naked. I closed my mouth over her red and swollen nipples and sucked them until she began whimpering like a puppy.
"What the hell are you doing?" Mathew demanded, his grin freezing in place.
"I'm going down on her. Just like Jesus did for Mary Magdalene."
"Don't you dare!" Luke screeched, his voice breaking. Biting the back of his hand until the blood came, he shut his eyes.
I lowered Georgia to the floor. As I opened her legs I said, "See how I'm on my knees? I'm servicing the Goddess now. It's the original form of prayer."
I licked her sex until she was soaking wet. Raising her head, a glorious smile playing on her lips, she stared at each of them in turn and sang out, "Love...Love...Love...How come it feels so damn good?"
I heard three distinct popping sounds behind me. When I sat up and looked in their direction, the triplets were gone.
After quickly dressing in the narrow hallway we opened the nearest door and a damp, moldy smell enveloped us. In a large room lit by a row of dangling lightbulbs, long metal tables piled high with American money stretched as far as the eye could see.
The next door squeaked loudly as we pushed it open. Four figures dressed in black looked up from the table where they were reading newspapers and reached for automatic weapons which lay on the floor beside them.
Slammming the door shut, I stood still as ice.
Sharpen your intention like a knife.
I pointed to the last door on the right at the end of the hallway. As we rushed toward it, we heard a squeaking sound behind us. Georgia turned the handle and we stepped inside.
"Relax, my darling. Like a soft breeze through summertime curtains," I whispered as we entered a vast high desert landscape.
It was late afternoon. The tops of distant purple mountains were illuminated by the sun's oblique rays. I released my uneasiness when we passed the low rise where I'd been buried. I'd been vouchsafed a vision in this desert. If we never wavered from what we were here to do, the spirits would protect us.
Inhaling the fragrant air, we made our way through sagebrush past cactus and juniper and pinyon and then followed the dry riverbed running parallel to the mountains. Birds sang around us, swooping close to display their plumage and then darting away. The land teemed with wildlife. We saw deer, antelope, bear, and elk, all of whom sent emissaries to greet us. And, sensed but not seen, the spirits of vanished people, incalculable in number, filled the space around us with their presence.
After we'd been walking for a while, I stopped and tapped her on the shoulder, cupping my hand to my ear.
We heard the faint straining of machinery. A line of oil wells stood against the base of the mountains in the distance.
"Oh, God, Isaac. How can they be here? I can't stand it."
"I know. They really bummed me out the last time I saw them. But actually they don't affect the sacred power of this place in the slightest. They're an aberration. Just like Dick and his insane crowd. One day they'll be gone. I mean, look at the animals. They're at home here, exactly as they were before and as they'll be in the future."
"What are you talking about? If the wells were all over the place, not just a single line of them out there, everything would be ruined."
"No, I don't think so. This isn't an ordinary landscape, Georgia. We're in the spirit realm. But all landscapes on the planet are connected to this one and those wells serve as a warning. They're a display, just like the plumage of the birds. A display of what's gone wrong."
We sat on the sand beside a gnarled, old juniper and watched the sky deepen into a preternatural violet. Sliding into meditation, we stopped watching and wondering and remained motionless, no inside or outside, until night came with its rich array of stars. The temperature dropped and a sickle moon appeared over the eastern mountains. We waited in silence until the moon reached its apogee.
"Now," I said.
Picking our way around boulders and fallen trees, we proceeded slowly until our eyes adjusted to the darkness. Eventually we saw lights in the distance. Stepping out of the riverbed, we silently approached them.
The same black horses I'd seen before stood tethered to a post outside the log cabin. Walking past them, we strode up to the front door and knocked. Moments later, Dick stood before us dressed in a black Western shirt and pointy lizard-skin boots.
"Two pillars of light! I never thought you'd have the guts to show up here again. What sang froid. And you even brought company."
He shielded his eyes with one hand.
"Can't you turn the wattage down? You're blinding me."
I snapped my fingers twice and the light emanating from our bodies dissipated. Appearing as flesh and blood now, Georgia and I lingered in the doorway.
"Aren't you going to invite us in, Dick?"
He looked searchingly into my eyes.
"I can't believe you're not angry with me, baby boy. It's that Cosmic Christ stuff, right? Forgiveness, unconditional love, turning the other cheek. I must say I'm impressed."
He coughed, his face turning pale.
"Don't think I'm a pushover, though. I'd erase you in a nanosecond if I wanted to, it's just that-"
"It's just that even out here your heart's not working right. You know you're gonna die soon if you don't find some way to turn this thing around. And that means me."
Sounding vulnerable he said, "I need you, baby boy, I don't deny it. And obviously I have a temper. I'm not perfect. But you weren't exactly impersonating the Dalai Lama either, were you? Abandoning me to my death without a second thought and then topping it off by leaning through that window there like you owned the joint. I lost it then, I admit it. And I know you won't believe this, but I felt terrible leaving you up to your neck in trouble. I almost turned around and dug you out but it was too late, the sun was about to rise. Then I got called away on urgent business. Had to cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate for our new energy bill. Melting that permafrost up in the arctic with our heavy machinery is more important than what happens to you or me. When I finally showed up a week later I was so happy to see that big hole in the sand instead of a pile of bones. It was a miracle. Another Resurrection."
"You were happy? What hogwash. You didn't seem too happy when you spotted me at the military base. How do you think I escaped out there in the desert, Dick? Did I have any help?"
We eyed each other warily. When he didn't respond I asked him again, "Aren't you going to invite us in?"
He grinned and stepped aside.
"By all means, partner. Haven't you heard of Western hospitality? Mi casa, tu casa. Make yourself at home."
We brushed past him as we passed through the doorway. A rancid smell accosted us as he announced to someone out of view, "Here they are, the Cosmic Christ and Mary Magdalene, come to grace our humble manger. But why did he bother bringing her along?"
He turned to Georgia and hissed, "Men only, honey. No sluts allowed."
Smiling I said, "Don't take offense, Georgia. He means well. Under that gruff exterior beats a heart of gold. Or it will soon, anyway."
Image by blmurch, courtesy of Creative Commons license.