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Saturday, August 7, 2010

MARK TWAIN_THE DEAD DO NOT DREAM_{GHOST OF A CHANCE Prelude}


(Entry for D.L. Hammons’ High Drama Blogfest http://dlcruisingaltitude.blogspot.com/2010/07/high-drama-blogfestgiveaway.html )

{“I have heard it said that truth is mighty and will prevail.

There is nothing wrong with this … except that it ain’t so.”

Mark Twain.}

Samuel Clemens here. His ghost really.

I can’t rightly call myself the ghost of Mark Twain.

Mark Twain was my pen-name. And isn’t a pen-name a ghost of sorts? Whoever heard of a ghost of a ghost?

I’m prattling. I know. I know.

I know what you want to read.

I – I can’t do it. It’s too fresh, too raw, too deep.

I can still see Roland’s face … so horribly burned.

And then over his poor face, like some mist, I see the face of my brother, Henry, whose seared hand I held as he died from those terrible burns from that steamboat explosion.

The damnable explosion that I had dreamt in detail a whole month earlier.

It was then I realized that life was more than I had supposed.

No, I realized that the night when I first met Roland and Marlene Dietrich in my nightmare at the age of twelve … in the Shadowlands.

For you see, time is fluid and strange in that dark place.

Shadowlands you ask. You’ve seen them, too. Yes, you have.

That flicker of movement out of the corner of your eye. You turn cat-quick to catch it clear, saying it couldn’t possibly be what you thought.

And it wasn’t. It was worse. Worse than you could possibly imagine.

The Shadowlands are not Dreamtime, though they are connected, usually by the bridge of nightmare.

Roland’s mother could walk them, as could her Lakota grandmother. But only Roland is called a Name in them :

DreamSinger.

He who sings to life dreams … and nightmares.

It was in a nightmare that I first met Roland. I was alive then, for the dead do not dream. I was twelve years old and caught up in the hunt.

I was not hunting. I was being hunted … by the spirits of my vengeful and dead sister and brother.

What to write of those times? They burn in me, and they keep me restless at night.

But now they can never be said. Besides, they would require a library and a pen warmed up in Hell.

As with most dreams, I will start this one in the middle :

It was night. It was Missouri. But not Hannibal.

It was the almost invisible village of Florida.

It was a scrawny pup of a place. Only two streets, each but a hundred yards long. The rest of the pathways would be paved with tough black mud in winter, rain or thick dust in summer. I had been born there.

The skies were blood. The clouds rolling billows of fire.

Those sermons my mother had dragged me to were surely making an impression on my nightmare. I almost expected the chariot with the struggling figure of Elijah to come streaking across such a night’s sky.

The rumble of summer thunder echoed overhead. A wolf’s howl pierced the shadows with its mournful wail.

I tried to bolster my wavering courage. “N-Now, Sammy, that there’s just an hungry old wolf. That ain’t no omen of death. No, it surely --”

An unseen owl hooted. “Oh, Lord! I didn’t mean no harm to Bennie. I surely didn’t.”

And then behind me, I heard a deep voice like a happy, flowing river. “These woods sure are a little scary, huh?”

I whipped about. And that was the first time I saw Roland. Lord, his eyes. The memory of them haunts me still.

They seemed to have seen all the pain in the world and felt most of it personal and close-up. Dressed in a strange black shirt I later learned was called “T,” jeans, and boots, he winked at me.

I winked back. “Little? Why these woods are humongous scary.”

And I relaxed just like that. He was a friend. I could just tell. And with the foolish trust of a twelve year old, I stuck out my hand. “Name’s Sammy. What’s yours?”

“Roland. Good to meet you, Sammy. Are those spooks over there friends of yours?”

“S-Spooks?”

I whipped around so fast I left my smile in the air behind my head. And there they were : my dead sister and brother.

Their wispy figures of black mist flowed to my right. I felt my face go tight. They were apparitions from the spirit world.

No, not the spirit world you might be thinking of, but the spirit world each of us carries deep within the dark of our souls, the prison for our mistakes and those regrets they give birth to.

They were giggling, a hungry, soulless sound, and I made my throat work,

“Benjamin. Margaret. You leave me be.”

“What he said,” laughed Roland.

I turned to him. Why in tarnation was he laughing? Couldn’t he see they was about to make a meal of me?

He pulled out a battered pad of paper from his jeans pocket and looked over to me.

“There is power in words, Sammy.” (And that sentence of his changed my whole life. Although at the time, I did not realize their impact.)

Margaret and Benjamin both bent in unnatural ways as they turned and glided towards Roland, but only my sister spoke, revealing tiny, needled teeth.

“Lakota, you have no hold on us.”

Roland just chuckled, bending towards me so that I could see what he was writing :

“And Margaret and Benjamin were caught up in the winds of forgiveness never to bother Sammy ever again.”

A keening moan hollowed from my right. I looked to where my sister and brother had been. They were gone. I turned to Roland like I had been whalloped in the head by a mule’s hooves.

“H-How did you do that?”

“I think it has something to do with my Lakota blood.”

“What blood?”

“Lakota Sioux Indian.”

“You’re an Injun medicine man?”

“Sort of. What I write sometimes comes to pass in dreams.”

“Only sometimes? Then, why was you laughing just now?”

“I always laugh when I’m scared spitless.”

“Now, you tell me!”

I edged closer to him. “You mean you could write anything down there and it might happen right now?”

He nodded. “Oh, sure. I could write : the most beautiful woman in the world flows out of the night mist and falls in love with Roland. But I won’t.”

“Why in tarnation not?”

“Being selfish with your gifts always turns out bad somehow.”

“Really?,” husked a woman from out of the fog that flowed in billows to our left.

We both jumped a foot up in the air, and the most beautiful apparition of beauty I had ever seen glided up to us.

A long gown of gleaming satin, as alabaster as the moon’s face, clung to her so that even the twelve year old boy I was started to come to attention in certain places.

“I – I didn’t write anything down,” stammered Roland.

“What a strange dream this is,” she smiled, sending tingles all through me.

She looked down at the shaking page in Roland’s hand and lightly tapped them.

“Does this mean you see me as the most beautiful woman in the world? I, whom you have never before seen?”

And Roland said, “All men have seen you before -- in the lonely corner of their hearts. Only a very few are lucky enough to ever meet you – even in dreams.”

Years later, when we were both ghosts, Marlene Dietrich confided in me that was the very moment she fell in love with Roland. But right then, her eyes just got deeper. Then, she faded away with the night mist.

I looked up at him. “Does this sort of stuff happen to you a lot?”

He smiled a sad, crooked grin . “All the time.”

And that is the face I will try to remember. It comes to me now that in my heart, he was my brother, Henry, given back to me.

Roland, I miss you.
***


30 comments:

  1. Hi,

    Loved it, and now know I'm guaranteed a giggle over here alongside the spirits whom prevail!

    best
    F

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  2. "No, not the spirit world you might be thinking of, but the spirit world each of us carries deep within the dark of our souls, the prison for our mistakes and those regrets they give birth to." Funny how we learn to live with this stuff. We even manage to forget that it's there and go about life as if we aren't all haunted-until something 'bumps the box,' knocking the lid off, allowing those ghosts out to remind us, refresh the agony of what cannot be undone...

    Fantastic post. I have tons of questions now...

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  3. Hi Roland,

    This was a wonderful blogfest post. I definitely enjoyed the ghost of Mark Twain, and especially so since he corrects himself and us. That gave me a little laugh. The seriousness of this excerpt is well written, too. Something that stuck out to me was "turning cat-quick" and "seeing it out of the corner of you eye." Claiming some world exists in that small fraction of viewing it is an interesting concept. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Excellent post! Eerie and atmospheric. I loved the line..I whipped around so fast I left my smile in the air behind my head.

    Great drama indeed! Thank you taking part. :)

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  5. Roland you build tension and drama with the most lilting of prose. Good job.

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  6. As always I love your writing and style! Great buildup!!!

    Wonderful entry!

    Visit My Kingdom Anytime

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  7. Roland, your imagination knows no bounds. Love the stuff you come up with!! What it must be like in that head of yours... :D

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  8. I love the uniqueness of the this! I was hooked right away. "I whipped around so fast I left my smile in the air behind my head." I adore this line, I can just picture the smile still fading as the thoughts have changed. great post!

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  9. You never disappoint, Roland. This was an awesome entry for today - I loved it! :-)

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  10. ...just so you know, despite the dayjob's demands, I've made a point of catching up on your on-going drama, reading your posts from the past several days...and glad I did:)

    Damn it all, Roland, you've really got something here, and not earning a dime for it! (although I'm crestfallen over Roland's character at the moment:)

    In any sense...well penned as always.

    EL

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  11. Mr Clemens, we do have the most complex relationships with our siblings don't we? I'm glad Roland helped you out by the sheer force of words! Although I noticed how helpless even he became with his pen and paper when the Divine Ms Marlene glided in. She really has the power to make grown men not only speechless but wordless!

    Take care
    x

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  12. Hi, Roland. Here we are again! :-)

    As always, your entry blazes like a sun. The time is fluid concept--reminds me very much of the "time is a spiral" concept in Terri Windling's "The Wood Wife." I've always been intrigued by that sort of idea.

    Good luck with Marlene. lol

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  13. This is a very cool piece of writing. I love the voice and the tone and the mystery. The blending of worlds, fictional and otherwise--very clever. Nicely done.

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  14. “All men have seen you before -- in the lonely corner of their hearts. Only a very few are lucky enough to ever meet you – even in dreams.”

    So beautiful. *wistful sigh!!!*

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  15. It's so odd to feel so at ease in anothers made up world of dreams and nightmares.

    I enjoyed the nightmare feeling of the scenery. I could see the town and the blood red sky.

    And dead??? I am still catching up with my reading ;-(

    As for the video, I had watched that movie again the other day. I loved the end. The prayers before the battle and the leader of his men siting kingly against the fort, dead eyes to the world but all loyal eyes on him. I love those scenes.

    Great job as always Roland!

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  16. You, sir, are an artisan wordsmith.

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  17. Whoa! What an interesting piece! Here's my favorite part:

    That flicker of movement out of the corner of your eye. You turn cat-quick to catch it clear, saying it couldn’t possibly be what you thought.

    And it wasn’t. It was worse. Worse than you could possibly imagine.

    Thanks for posting!

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  18. Great stuff, Roland! You have such a powerful voice. Thanks for sharing!

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  19. As always, what can I say. Wonderful, powerful writing. And touching. You always manage to touch me somehow:)

    My fave line: Roland’s mother could walk them, as could her Lakota grandmother. But only Roland is called a Name in them :

    DreamSinger.

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  20. Beautifully crafted, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well done!

    —Portia

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  21. I loved the creepy parts with the bro and sis- and the bits of humor speckeled throughout!

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  22. Some seriously wonderful stuff here, Roland.

    One question: did Mark Twain stammer as a boy?

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  23. I'm finally able to sit down and read last night's post. You write so masterfully that even though I know you are as alive as I am, it feels like you're not. Come back soon!

    You are the consummate storyteller.

    Thank you, that rebel, Olivia

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  24. I whipped around so fast I left my smile in the air behind my head. And there they were : my dead sister and brother.

    Lovely writing.

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  25. Compelling and intense; eerie. Such haunting loneliness. A well crafted scene.

    I've really got to see this movie. A good dramatic scene itself.

    .......dhole

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  26. Beautiful and eerie, all wrapped in one dramatic package!

    And thank you from the bottom of my heart for your constructive criticism of my own entry; it's advice like that that really makes me want to continue on my path toward publication.

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  27. D.L. : Thank you for hosting such a great blogfest. I really enjoyed participating and meeting many of my old friends. I've visited most of you who have commented on my entry. But my blood center called me in, eating up my time to write to the rest of you.

    Shannon : Your comments always make me feel as if all my effort has not been in vain. Thank you.

    Kitty : Yes, put me in the presence of true beauty and I'm a stammering fool!

    Kathryn : As for little Sammy stammering. It was seeing the vengeful ghosts of his dead sister and brother out to make an unHappy Meal of him that caused the words to sputter in his mouth!

    Damyanti : I tried to find your post to comment but my high tech is low down. I'm sure it was intense and fine.

    Donna : I think you would 13th WARRIOR. I liked it because it portrayed a man of faith staying true to his beliefs while surrounded by death and those who believed counter to him.

    Olivia : Your comments always make me feel better. And in Sunday's post, I am back, although in a flashback. Whew! Elliot has a point : I'm crafting my very best and not getting paid a cent! But I love to spin a good tale. So long as all of you find entertainment and enjoyment, that is reward enough for me.

    I am exhausted. Getting hauled back into the harness on my day off drained me. Hopefully, tomorrow will truly be a day off! Happy Sunday, everyone.

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  28. If you could see me, Roland, you'd know I'm on my feet, typing this comment. Standing ovation! I loved everything about this piece, from your unique premise, to the voice of Samuel Clemens you captured so well, to your amazing word choices. I loved all the times your descriptions alluded to fire (searing hand; a flicker of movement; clouds rolling billows of fire, a pen warmed by Hell, etc.)

    To choose one favorite line would be impossible, but I loved this one, describing the Shadowlands: For you see, time is fluid and strange in that dark place.

    Your writing is intoxicating. I'm a fan :)

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  29. Sorry I'm late to the party but am ever so glad I showed up. What a powerful, well written piece just full of metaphors (or at least they were for me). I agree with Elliot, you should be compensated for such wonderful work....here's a HUG!
    Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  30. Roland, I'm still making my way through entries. I enjoyed your entry as always. Your writing is so dramatic. Applause!!..:)

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