When I was a five year old kid, my older brother explained to me how the radio worked. As you fiddled the tuning FM dial, these magical people would have to race between towers to make sure a consistent stream of music was playing from station to station. The static fuzz in between was the time in which the DJ surfed the radio waves to find the next song. It suddenly occurred to me that’s exactly how This Man, a living entity, is able to jump between the dreams of random, unassociated people… through The Signal.
“Don’t touch that dial.”
Every time I see That Face, I repeat this over and over as a way to control my actions within my surrounding dreams. It lets me stay inside R.E.M phase longer. It’s the technique that works for me, keeps me focused, as I become more proficient at staying in control. I don’t need to do the reality checks anymore. I don’t look for clocks, I don’t try to push my finger through my palm, because I know I’m dreaming when I see this man.
I always let my alarm clock radio go off and use that as a tool too. It goes off, opening verses of what sounds like Forever Young by Alphaville. The dude with the high voice, the fake sounding trumpet solo played on a synthesizer… all of it mimics soothing theta brain waves and supplies the soundtrack to my lucid dream. The object is to track him. I think he’s on to me, prefers his anonymity. But I must know who he is. The song is key. Somewhere on this earth, another person has this earworm stuck in their head and This Man will use it to surf from my dream into theirs. When that happens, I’ll be ready.
For a time, we used to connect face to face. Never in waking life, only in my dreams. He has always been an enigma, sometimes an ally, sometimes a villain but just as often, a random chameleon-like cameo. He’d loan me a quarter for the laundromat. He was the drummer of a bar band, throwing me an encouraging nod when I’d say all the right things to a cute girl. He was my professor for the math exam that I failed to study for, and the dental hygienist behind the mask when all the teeth would fall out of my mouth (I recognized those eyebrows). He was the face of the pterodactyl that flew me into the Denver airport and dropped me in front of that creepy wall mural with the solar flare, and children sobbing over dead sea turtles and jaguars.
Now he observes and influences from afar. His non-descript face, receding hairline and average height blends in the background while he reads a book on a busy subway platform or lurks in photographs, often in my nightmares. Who is this man? What’s his interest in me specifically, especially during the nights when my subconscious is working out my worst insecurities?
I sit on a crowded beach, searching the faces, for his face. The waves are rough, crashing onto the shore, dangerously close to a family with young children. They are watching a vintage RCA Victor color television, circa 1954 sitting in the sand. The big cabinet television risks getting wet with every tide pull.
Dreamlogic is funny that way. The make and model of the TV are exacting. My fear over whether it will electrocute the child that is turning the channel knob is intense. But how the television is even working in the first place — without being plugged in — doesn’t seem to matter.
The dude with the high voice wails about “turning golden faces into the sun”, keeping the signal very strong. That’s when I catch sight of him! This Man! He’s playing the neighbor in some old sitcom I’ve never seen before. Without hesitation, I run to the TV. I knock on the screen! I try to take his attention away from the woman he’s talking to! The sitcom plays on, ignoring me. I see him less and less and the woman more and more. Soon their scene together will be over. This is her show, she seems to dominate the scene. This is probably her own dream and I am intruding upon it.
Suddenly, This Man re-appears one last time, waving goodbye to the woman. He breaks “the fourth wall” and looks directly at me, through the TV, impatient and expectant.
“Why are you following me?” we both ask to each other at the same time.
We both wait for each other to answer, leaving an awkward silence. I come clean.
“You seem to know all my fears, anxieties. Please help. What advice can you offer me?”
This Man considers, then offers me the world. “Do you want to live forever?”
He extends his hand out of the television, to pull me into that woman’s dream.
Too good to be true.
As our hands connect, a tall shadow casts overhead.
A tidal wave the height of a skyscraper over the entire beach.
It is the last thing I see before everything is washed out.
And I bolt upright in bed, soaking wet.
This Man controlled the outcome. He knocked me out of my own nightmare. I’ve never been so convinced of something in my life. But how?
The only way to find out is to close my eyes, and begin again.