Did you ever have a really great idea? I'm talking an earth-moving, soul-shaking, supreme-being-like epiphany - something that rocked your entire worldview and was certain to establish the next evoloution in human nature?
Ever put such an idea off as 'I've GOT to record this!...but (insert real life situation here) comes first' resulting in going on about your life until the hot idea gets buried in the back of the deep freeze of your mind, to wallow in a slow-death of freezer burn, never to emerge into the warmth of the kitchen again?
Yea...me too. All. The. Time.
I'm sure there are millions of unrealized ideas that once struck me, but I've misplaced in the everyday drudgery of earning enough currency to keep me and mine's carbon-based meat containers fed, clothed, sheltered, medicated, educated and entertained.
I do have a story to share with you today, however. It's an old story, and it comes with another story to explain the story. So get all comfy, kids, and settle down into your blankets and pillows and jammies...because it's story hour.
Although if it takes you an hour to read this post - I may need to reevaluate my excessive use of esoteric verbiage and relegate myself to straightforward vernacular henceforth.
I had a dream.
Yea, it's been done before...but in this case...it's accurate.
It wasn't a 'change the world,' M.L.K. type of dream - it was one of those with disturbing, heart-pounding imagery liberally laced with dream-logic. I tend to have a lot of those. Sometimes I write them down, sometimes I'm happier just forgetting them, letting the dream logic fade out like fog on a sunny morning.
This particular dream was determined to stick around without my writing it out, and in defiance of the then-brutal schedule I had running my life.
See - at the time I was working a very demanding 12 hour shift at a manufacturing plant - 6pm to 6am. It was a mythological-beast of a job (think...Kraken, Minotaur, Dragon, etc...big, demanding, and ready to eat you in one bite for crossing that imaginary line) - half the day spent on a dirty, dusty, noisy factory floor, standing the entire time - cutting big sheets of labels into finished packets of labels, and sorting for flaws as one went through the stacks.
If this sounds mind-numbingly boring, then I'm describing it right.
But once you learned the job well, you could set yourself on auto-pilot, which allowed for conversations with co-workers (if you could hear them over the shriek of the machinery) or time to let your mind wander aimlessly on whatever subject had caught your fancy.
I fleshed out a couple of good book ideas on that shop floor, hundreds of short stories, had countless conversations with myself, and somehow managed to save the world a dozen times over between picking bad labels out of the good ones.
So, back to this dream that I had...
That sucker was branded into my brain. It demanded more than simple acknowledgement, it arrogantly commanded delivery out of my head to paper (or its electronic substitute). It absolutely refused to be silent, to be patient, to wait for the opportune time to become more than an idea. It was a spoiled brat, throwing a defiant temper-tantrum in the face of the Draconian Job which was interfering with its creative birthing process.
I listened to the incessant whining of this spoiled-brat idea all throughout my work shift, trying to quell the ever-more shrill demands for attention as the night wore on. At about the midpoint of my workday, I started spinning the story in my head as I moved product from point A to point B. I wrote brief notes on my breaks, so I could put the everything together once I had time to sit at the word processor. I knew this one would be a short story - a single, crystallized slice of time - but I was getting excited to put it to paper.
There was only one large problem with typing the story out.
It was the middle of the work week - which meant another 12 hour shift after only 12 hours off . 12 hours to:
Eat. Sleep. Bathe. Dress. Prep for work. Family interaction. Travel to/from work.
Unwinding from the work day by putting an idea to paper was not in the schedule - it wasn't going to BE in the schedule until the work-week was done. Time between shifts was Premium, Ocean-Front, Deluxe 8 bedroom Mansion Temporal-Real-Estate. Unwinding between shifts was sleep...there wasn't spare time for anything else.
So I sat the little spoiled-brat idea down in a virtual chair, and explained the situation. I pointed out the real-life, paper notes I had written out. It received some attention, and tomorrow, after work, was 'us' time until it was properly constructed. I think I even gave it an imaginary hug and wiped away some pretend tears.
Grudgingly, spoiled-brat idea acquiesced to real-life situation.
So...I had a little breakfast. Spent some time with the fam. Hopped in the shower. Proceeded to the bedroom to catch some Zzzzz's.
Spoiled-brat idea whimpered in my mind as I composed myself for sleep.
It whistled a bawdy show-tune off-key, while bouncing a fake ball off the supposed walls of my mind.
I rolled around in bed - shushing spoiled-brat idea, reinforcing the need for sleep.
It lit a bonfire, fanned the flames in my head.
I rolled around some more.
And some more. I think that's when the keg was tapped, and the rock music started thumping out of the speaker stacks.
The idea would not settle down enough for me to sleep.
"ENOUGH!" I mentally berated my over-active imagination.
I got up, took a couple of sleeping tablets and went back to bed to let them hit. It was the Pharmacological equivalent of a quick spanking and "Go to your room!" banishment to spoiled-brat partying idea.
It responded by turning UP the music, breaking out the hard liquor and 'shrooms, and inviting the metalheads over to the crib for a 'Wicked Disaster of a Random Fiesta!'
Attention: NOW. No time for sleep, no time for dreams, no time for restoring the body - "you can sleep when you're dead, dammit!"
There are times when I really dislike the creative voices.
I finally got out of bed at 2. I was supposed to be up by 4, so I figured even if I COULD get to sleep, a bare 2 hours of rest to go work a 12 hour shift wasn't the best idea in the world - especially when you work in a factory using really big and wickedly sharp knives, dies and spinning cutty things powered with 2 TONS of hydraulic pressure.
I wasn't about to flirt with amputation...So I called in an absence to work, and allowed the birthing-labors of spoiled-brat idea to proceed.
Society of this time will say that sleep deprivation is not a good reason to miss a day of work - but that's an issue I'm not going to address in this posting. Maybe later, we'll discuss the finer points of this country's obsession/problem with trading labor for survival and all subsequent judgements - but not today.
The story itself took around a half-hour to write.
A half hour. 30 minutes. 1800 seconds. A good power-nap is quoted at 20 minutes. You can cook a frozen pizza in 15, let tea steep in the cup for 6-8 minutes, and remember to brush your teeth for 3 full minutes 2 times a day.
30 freaking minutes - when I wasted 5 whole hours rolling around in my damn bed. Why, WHy, WHY?!?!?! didn't I just write the blasted thing before I went to bed???
Hindsight - it's always 20/20 vision...and I still regularly mentally kick myself in the can for it.
But the story was worth it - let me know if you agree...
PRISON OF THE MINDI pound against the rainbow hued glass walls of my prison beyond the point of pain, slamming my fists against the unyielding surface until even my arms grow numb. I scream and beg and plead for mercy until I am too hoarse to send even a whisper up the funnel shaped ceiling. A torrent of tears flood from my eyes as I curl up on the bowl shaped floor. I cry myself to sleep, exhausted both physically and mentally.I awake oddly refreshed, and suppress the wave of insanity that demands I continue the cycle, pounding, screaming and crying until I am no longer me, but some shapeless mass of cringing emotions and nerves ready to be shaped by the malevolent presence that would free me.No. Not free me. Freedom is now beyond my grasp, forever lost to me. Unless. . . .I MUST ESCAPE!!!I throw myself bodily against my prison wall, beginning the cycle anew. My mind splinters into fragments of feelings. Rage, pain, terror, panic all compete with my rational being for the ultimate control. Control. What a tremendous joke. I have no control left. That, too, was stolen from me by my captor.I feel my hands. The pain gains control of the shattered fragments of my mind. I focus on nothing but the red hue of my pain. It is a living thing, sucking my soul, this pain. A dry croak rips from my throat, demanding attention. Water. I must have water.I stop pounding for a second, feeling this sensation of having a dry throat. This feeling, too, seems to be a living thing, capturing my attention. Without pause, there is a glass in my hand. I can feel the moisture of condensation on the outside of the glass; it feels cool and soothing on my sore skin. The water feels good against my dry lips, my raw throat. The glass is empty, and I hurl it against the wall. The glass shatters against the prison wall, the shards spreading against the unyielding collage of colors like water across tile. Before they hit the floor, they are gone.It felt good, that bit of control. The act of violence snaps the fragments of my mind to a whole. Yes. For a while, I am free of the madness that stretches its fingers towards me. I can think, I can remember. I remember why I am here.An innocent day. An ancient bottle, stuck on the top shelf of an equally ancient shop, in a tumbledown shack of a curio shop in India. The beautiful swirl of colors glinting in the dusty sunlight. My longing to have the antique in my hands. The wide, blackened teeth smile of the wizened shopkeeper as he takes it from the shelf. The old glass stopper, made of the same myriad color glass, flaring out from the neck of the bottle then tapering to a delicate point. Tight, the stopper, hard to remove. Inside the bottle the scrap of ancient parchment. Giddy with curiosity, translating the words. Blackness and light. Here.A fire ignites behind my eyes as the rage builds. Remember the words! Those words trapped me here, those words changed my world, and those words changed my being. Those words so violated me, those hateful words. I need to remember them, to scream them out!I feel the need to splatter myself against the walls of glass to end this existence, but I cannot. I traded my freedom for the dream, the unreal. With those spoken words I imprisoned myself.I am the genie in the bottle.