Someone Else's Dreams: Part II
By: Paco Aramburu

"Where's that?"

"By my house, in Ravenswood."

"I've never been. See you Monday Diego."

He stopped me again, but this time he looked me in the eye, frowning.

"What? I need to catch the 5:45."

"Chuck, that's where Gierko lives. Ravenswood Manor."

I took a step toward the exit, then looked back at Diego, who was still standing there, eyes fixated on mine.

"Go visit Ronan Park. See if it's your place." He yelled.

I didn't want to show my anxiety, so I turned around and sang: "Have a nice weekend."

On Sunday morning, taking the opportunity that Marta Alicia was brushing her teeth and couldn't answer, I announced that I was skipping our breakfast and planning on going to Chicago instead.

She followed me downstairs, mouth foaming. "What's got into you lately?"


"Come on! Every night you're waking up in the middle of the night —"

"I had bad dreams. Well not bad. And you don't want me to tell you my dreams, so."

"So, you're leaving me to have breakfast by myself?" She played with the gold cross hanging from a thin gold chain around her neck, a nervous tick that appeared when she felt vulnerable.

After assuring her my journey was not at all nefarious, I left her holding her toothbrush with a puzzled look on her face.


I wanted to believe that all those weeks of recurrent dreams were not about a real place. I found Ronan Park right off Lawrence Avenue; a stretch of open green dotted with trees and benches and, before the river, a humble trail that, much to my dismay, was paved with mulch. My reluctant steps took me along the wooded trail. I recognized individual trees that I had passed on my dream walk. The weather was not as hot and humid, but the actual plants were the same, down to the individual hanging branches on the trail. I was certain that I had never been to this part of the city.

All the way home, I rehearsed ways to tell Marta Alicia what I saw in a way she could understand. We still had an argument about my "so–called excuses for leaving the house on a whim" that lasted until dinnertime. The rest of that Sunday we spent in silence.

That very night my recurrent dream changed. I'm on the now familiar path holding something heavy; a blanket. Early morning light palls a gray mantel, making the greens dull and the shadows long. I duck under a branch crossing the path. My steps stop by a grouping of budding prickly brambles. The heft of the blanket tells me I'm carrying rocks in it. With my boot I kick and push down the thorny shrub so I can advance toward the muddy river shore. I see a pair of legs sticking out from under a white skirt belonging to a body covered with branches. I look around me. I duck, then dump the blanket on a shrub that is rubbing my arms; the rocks fall to the ground. Through the dried leaves, I see there's a crimson hole and dried blood splattered over her pink sweater. I see a gold chain around her bloody neck, but I cannot see her face or hair. The insect buzzing gets more intense as I bend over her. In this dream I cannot smell anything. Where did I know that skirt from? I clear the branches laying on her torso, look around again, pick up the blanket, lay it on the ground to wrap her in it. I step on thistle to turn her body over the rough fabric. I grab a large rock that has fallen beside a tree trunk and put it on top of her legs. A pair of rocks have rolled down and are lodged under her. I have to pull up her hip up to retrieve them. I am curious about her face, but she's turned over. My gloved hand yanks the gold chain and hides it in my back pocket. Now the body is fully wrapped. A roll of packing tape is in my hand and I wrap it around her ankles to secure the legs. Her middle takes more time, but the head is tightened easily. I take a long breath. I look around, then push the wrapped body over slick tree trunks, over lose sticks, and drag it over the mud toward the current. The bottom is too shallow, it won't sink. Aided by a crooked stick, I push and roll it until it's under the water line and farther away until it's not visible anymore. When I woke up, I ran to the bathroom to vomit.

That morning my routine was disrupted by me trying to find Marta Alicia anywhere in the house; she was not at home. I was forced to buy a cup of coffee and a bagel at one of those franchise places where I didn't know the language the attendants use. She had to explain the difference between "fabuloso and grande." I entered the set five minutes late. I know everyone looked at me wondering what had happened. One of the assistant producers, a fellow named Wilhelm or Wilhem handed me my Cecil The Dog costume. Diego didn't say anything about my tardiness and gave me my script without a word. I looked at the paper, I read the words, but they didn't mean anything to me. Stella, the woman who plays Constance the Maid of the Lake, was already in her whites and ready to regurgitate her sugary lines.

"Diego, tell me what you know about this Gierko guy."

"Now? We're ready to roll."

"I cannot do it unless you tell me what you know about our CEO."

Diego sent Wilhelm or Wilhem away with a gesture, took my arm and guided me to an isolated corner of the set. "I'll tell you but after that promise me you get into that costume and say the words I send you."

I nodded.

"Okay, I heard from Solina —"

"The one with the boobs out to —"

"Yeah. Apparently, Gierko wanted to bring her to one of his rituals."


"She says he belongs to a certain Assembly of the something … the presence, a cult that engages in sacrifices."

I took a long look into Diego's eyes and said: "Tell them I'm sick, I cannot be Cecil The Dog now. I have to see this Gierko character. Tell them whatever you need to. I have to go." And I marched to the corporate office with one goal in mind: talking to this weirdo and getting him out of my dreams.

I wasn't ready for the look of the penthouse. The reception desk was made of one piece of rough oak supported by stainless steel legs that looked like they belonged to a giant spider. The walls, covered in slate of muted earth tones, supported glowing blue glass sconces throughout, giving the reception area an atmosphere of warmth and mystery. I felt that I was walking into some sort of Art Deco lounge mixed with medieval dungeon.

I was greeted by a tall, painfully thin woman who stood behind her desk measuring me with a cold stare.

I waited in vain for her to say anything. I spoke, half expecting to be ignored. "I'm here to see Gierko."

She raised an eyebrow and remained sphynx–like.

I changed strategy. "Tell him I'm here about his dream. Yes, tell'im that. His dreams are in mine. Go ahead, tell'im."

She pressed a button on her phone then said: "Someone to see you." No response. "The one you…" She stood still until the voice came back with "Okay."

A mahogany door opened slowly. I went in.

The floor to ceiling windows made it look like the office was floating above the city. Gierko stood behind a glass–and–steel desk, features darkened by the sunny background. I took a wave of his hand as invitation to come in. Except for his glass desk, black chair and the two facing him, there was no other furniture in the room. Add to that the preternatural silence that enveloped the whole penthouse, and that justified the stress currents along my arms and legs.

"You must be Cecil The Dog." His voice, thick and sweet, sounded rehearsed.

"Well my name is Chuck. Charles —"

"How is Martalicia. You have a fine wife, she's so … well you must know better than I would."

I swallowed a couple of times before I said: "You came to our —"

"Do you believe in Destiny?" He remained standing. Behind him, his black leather chair had a logo that looked like a disturbed star of David. I counted the points, eight. That was also the star of Ishtar, the Queen of the Heavens. He went on. "Some say it's written in the stars. No matter how cleverly we might shelter it, our faith is going to last forever." The sunlight behind created a halo around his head, his features remained in the dark. "So here you are, visiting me, stepping into your patch of this immense human fabric that we cannot help but be the threads that make it."

I reminded myself of my purpose. "How come I have your dreams … your disturbing dreams. And, and why have you chosen my Marta Alicia?"

"Have a seat. Do you want coffee, water, something harder?"

As I sat, I realized how tired I felt, how much I needed to tell everything to my wife, to be enveloped in our old intimacy. All I wanted to know was about: "The dreams?"

"Frankly Cecil I don't —"

"My name is not —"

"Names are placeholders for meaning. For the CEO of this company you're Cecil The Dog, because whoever you are in your own time doesn't mean much to me. Does it?"

"Okay. What about my, I mean, your dreams in mine."

"Have you heard of the sacrifices of Gilgamesh?"

"Is that like Gargamel, of the Smurfs?"

"The intended consort to the Goddess Ishtar. After rejecting her sexual advances and nearly being killed for it, with a new sense of his own mortality, he went into the ocean to look for the plant of eternal life." He turned around and walked to the window. His features, now illuminated by the sun, appeared to be forty, fifty years younger than the old man who talked to me in the cafeteria, or the man who I saw in my dreams. I swallowed hard; he continued. "That was six thousand years ago. Do you have a concept of what it is to live that long?"

At that moment, I became conscious of something frightening taking hold of my mind. It was a feeling that permeated the straight lines of the steel and slender rays of light next to those of the dark. A fear that emanated from the ugly bloody color of the carpet and up the legs of the chairs cleaned to an antiseptic perfection. In the shadows there were arousing terrors overtaking the light polygons on the carpet that corresponded to anxieties that grew like sharp crystals, like stalagmites, like parts of me turning into a solid, noxious mineral.

He turned around to face me. "Cecil, dogs have simple dreams like chasing rabbits, or smelling a good butt. You shouldn't concern yourself with anyone else's." He bent to press a button on his phone and spoke. "Cecil The Dog is leaving. He has a show to shoot." The voice said okay and I heard the door open behind me. "Kids are waiting for their funny pet."

I did not wait. I left the station thinking about how to organize my exit, my retirement. I had never thought of destinies, purpose, or anything beyond going to work, putting on my costume, and saying the lines Diego would whisper in my transponder. I hopped on the train, champing at the bit to surprise Marta Alicia; Martalicia as he called her. The creep.

She wasn't home. I called her mobile, she didn't answer. In the way home, I had rehearsed what I would tell her and had created a mise–en–scène where every possible reaction had been enacted in the theater of my mind. Now, in our empty house, the actors were fading away like blown smoke. Down in the basement, I yelled at the portrait "Where is Marta Alicia?" I stopped the dramatics when I detected a subtle, oil–painted smile that I could have sworn hadn't been there before.

I desisted calling her number after reaching her voice mail more than ten times. In her absence, that husky voice accompanied by her faint Spanish accent made me appreciate how sexy she sounded. I walked around the house, unable to find a purpose, anything to do in the early afternoon. I realized how attached I had been to my routine; it kept me from seeing more than one step ahead. Without the comfort of knowing exactly what to do next, I was forced to see what Gierko talked about, destiny. At that moment, before the pall of death falls on us, I had given up my destiny and bartered it for the ease of seeing everything as a comedy. I had been a slick stone in the river of life, nothing bothered me, everything washed over me, until the hand of destiny picked me up and crushed my smooth surface. I sat on the old sofa, a place we seldom occupied, watching the fronds of the maples whispering to the wind and making their shadows dance on our window.

I spent the next two days calling the Assembly of the Pure Presence, the real estate agent, hospitals, police, her old friends from Waco. The cops took a report over the phone and asked me to bring her photos to the station.

That same night, two detectives came to my door. "We're sorry to inform you that we found your wife."

"Great! Where is she, when can I see her?"

They cleared their throats, then "She passed, sir. She's in our, err facilities. Do you have an X–ray of hers to bring to the coroner for comparison?"

"X–ray? No. No sir. No. You're … wrong. We. We went to bed together. I think she … Can I see her?"

"The coroner wants a radiography first, maybe from the dentist. You know, to confirm. Please."

Every single good of my soul had just been ripped away from me. All that remained was an empty, useless shell, void of consciousness. I walked around opening her drawers on her side of the closet, her flowered boxes smelling of jasmine, and the cedar boxes with mementos of her life before me. Leaning against the wall, my hand found a large Manila envelope from when she had fallen off a horse. Shaking, I went downstairs to give my last hope for a mistaken identity to the detectives who were looking through the insides of her books in our library. They cleared their throats, put the books back, and came to receive the X–rays.

I realized I had been crying when they took the envelope and they stared at my face with analytical expressions. I took my handkerchief from my back pocket and hanging from my fingers was a broken gold chain with a gold crucifix.

"That's the crucifix she was wearing in that photo, over there. You should come with us to the station. Sir."


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