The Alarm
The dream was horrible. Endless corridors, hallways, courtyards, doorways. People almost everywhere: individuals, small groups, large conglomerations. And many of them were Slashers. Slashers. Wielders of straight razors. Cutters of scalp, of flesh. Some were killers, but most simply slashed when they felt like it, peeling flesh, causing blood to gush and spurt.

Their victims were chosen not at random, but I was unable to predict who might slash whom, or when, or where. I was a frequent victim, staggering nearly paralyzed with fear through doorways, down corridors, around corners. Young people would approach me, offer fine-looking stainless razors at reasonable prices, horrifying me all the more.

This was an entire society operating by bizarre rules that condoned -- no, demanded -- that everyone get out and join the activity. To what end? For what purpose? Small children would slash calves and thighs, their mothers watching. Most of the people seemed immune, or nearly so, to attack, but some individuals were clearly likely to be repeated victims.

My scalp was practically flayed away by a razor-wielding slasher who seemed to greatly enjoy the art of his activity. His friends held me down while I screamed and pled for mercy. I was released, drenched in my own blood but still alive, only to find myself fleeing into another slashing in a nearby corridor. Doors everywhere. All apparently leading to yet more corridors. Some people, like me, anxiously attempting to flee the insane bloody butchery, others out enjoying the evening, others excited with a restrained and incomprehensible blood-lust. The real horror of this is not the slashing, but the fact that this society thrives on it. As basic as bar-b-ques and car travel are to my waking society, razor-slashing to this society is somehow a cultural necessity.

I wake up in a sweat. My bunk is wet, soaked with blood I think at first. But then I realize I have been in the world of my dreams, that I am actually asea, adrift on my boat on the Pacific Ocean with fishing gear deployed, waiting for salmon to blunder into my net. Good God! What has transpired to cause such terrifyingly real and repugnant nightmares? My crewman, awakened by the same alarm that drew me up from my despairing depths, seems mystified by my vague, unfocused efforts to prepare for the hauling of our net. But I cannot quickly shake the disturbing images that have possessed me so strongly.

On deck an hour later, untangling fish from gillnet while bobbing about on the restless surface of these Alaskan waters, I remain haunted by the vile images that had gripped me in my sleep. What can this mean?

It finally comes to me: I have been thinking about my future. In an oblique way, I have been thinking about the eventual necessity offinding a career, an occupation that is not so physically demanding, one that I can do even in my sixties, can do with or without a strong body, can do in any weather. I have been thinking about getting a desk job.

A desk job? A chair in a cubicle through a door off one of the endless halls of commerce? A workday that begins at 8:00am, has scheduled breaks, and ends at 5:00pm? Breathing air that is endlessly filtered and recycled? No wind, no spray, no salt? Could I fit into this ordered and pointlessly predictable world that is so many times removed from the boisterous chaos of the stubborn and irrefutable sea?

I am not sure I can cut it.

© 1996 by Buck Meloy.

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