Another dream, and you’re there, along with Jamaica Pete. A street festival, some small town in the South, but here the fire-and-brimstone preachers dance through the streets with ladies of the evening, string ties and glasses and fishnet hose doing some sort of offshoot of the Can Can to the tune of Camptown Races on banjo and splintered guitar. Men and women and children line the streets in a pulsating mass, screaming and smiling, excited but not pushing dangerously.
You sense it, though, the adrenaline rush that starts riots. It’s strongest in the eyes of the young, but those flames dance madly in the eyes of every person here.
“‘Ey, mon,” and you can’t help but roll your eyes and grin at the white man with dreadlocks and a filthy daishiki. “‘Ey, look – sometings comin.” Gary Oldman was much more convincing.
But you follow his skeletal finger, trace the path from a yellowed and chipped fingernail through the ballroom ministers and their Babylon whores, past the clowns with their running colors and beyond the all-Negro marching band, almost to the horizon, and you see it.
You see her.
The distance is playing tricks, tendrils of fog coming up off the dirt road the parade travels. There’s a silence pushing through the bluegrass ragtime banjo and horns, like a Klieg light shining through a pinhole. Her blond hair blows in a wind that exists only for her. Her eyes, green as absinthe, and the rest of the world around her starts to desaturate, leaving the dreamworld of Oz.
There’s only enough color in the world for her. Only enough music for her. Only enough air for her.
Only enough you.
You’re suddenly and violently aware that you’re about to be trampled under foot by the oncoming parade, squashed like a grape by redneck clowns and dancing Baptists, and you grab for Jamaica Pete to head for higher ground. Pete shrugs, pencil arms amazingly strong, and you suddenly realize that, just like him, the crowd has stopped, the hookers have stopped, the band has stopped. No one moves, not an inch, good ol’ Walt Disney would be amazed and jealous at the suspended animation. Everyone in the world, everyone in this world, locked and trapped in her beauty.
Like flies in amber. Like dinosaurs in tar.
And she’s right on top of you, fifteen yards, then ten, then five. And she never stops smiling, never stops looking directly at you, until she’s nose-to-nose with you. Her skin smells like vanilla, her breath like fresh strawberries, her hair like lavender. Her dress, silk and translucent red, brushes against you in her breeze, caressing your arm. You open your mouth to say something, say anything, but her finger, gently as a lover, presses against your lips, the heat of a million stars just at the edge of your tongue.
“Shh.” One syllable, a thousand seconds of aural bliss. And you hear her voice, echoing and distorting and whispering and shifting phase, singing to you an eternity of chords in undiscovered tones, her lips never moving, never twitching, never breaking that beautiful smile that captures and immobilizes. The happiness on her lips is multiplied in her eyes, and you feel yourself drowning in a sticky hallucination that burns your throat and blurs your world.
“We all unfold as we should.”
And then you are awake, back in your quarantined hotel room, condemned walls barely covering condemned wiring and condemned pipes, you on a mattress that puts fire hazards to shame. Your left arm heavy and tingling, pinned beneath your head, your shoulder pinching the sensation away from it’s inferiors.
“Welcome back, mon.”
Does that bastard bathe in Patchouli or something?