Wordzzle 74 - Judgment
This is the eighteenth time I've played the game.
Ten Word Challenge:
running the bulls,
tossed in the towel,
"I'll give you fair warning," the psychiatrist said. "This will probably end up costing you a lot. Each session, in fact, is too expensive for most people."
"That's okay," I said. "I'm not wealthy enough to be a philanthropist, but I should be able to handle it, at least for a while."
"We should get started, then, to make the most use of your money. What seems to be your main concern right now?"
"I have had a lot of strange dreams. Sometimes of good things happening, but usually of very bad things. I feel that they are trying to tell me something. In fact, sometimes I am actively looking for things in the dreams. Sometimes I am going down corridors full of locked doors, and I try key after key in them but none of them work. Other times I am in a maze of rooms that I can't get out of. And sometimes it's a maze of mirrors, where I keep seeing my own reflection over and over."
"That is odd, but we all have things we hide from ourselves. What about the other dreams, the ones about the disasters?"
"They tend to be about battles being fought, in what is apparently a horrific worldwide war. I hear the whine of bullets and the sound of explosions. Sometimes I see, from somewhere in the air, saturation bombing. Sometimes I even see mushroom clouds. And sometimes I'm just looking at a vast screen, watching the arcs of missiles going across a map. Sometimes I see refugees gathering outside ruined cities, some dying and the rest facing starvation. All I remember, though, is just fragments. I don't know how it got that way, how things had deteriorated so much that something like that could happen."
"What about the dreams with the good endings?"
"In those, the war never happened. The world is almost like an Eden, with burgeoning greenery, plants everywhere, everybody has enough to eat and all the nations are at peace."
"Very interesting. You do know, don't you, that dreams are normally about us and our situations, and shouldn't be regarded as saying something about the world at large, although sometimes current events can be incorporated in them."
"Yes, I figured that. I used to be in the journalism business, but had to get out. I was afraid I was putting the news in my dreams, or at least fears brought on by the news. It didn't stop after I left, though, and years have passed since then. I really feel that they are trying to tell me something, not just about me but about the world. I do feel that I will be a part of it, though. An important part."
"Hmmm. We are all major figures in our own dreams. Perhaps it's simply that."
"I feel that it's more than that. It's been going on for a long time, and though I don't really remember much of any dream, a sense of things has settled in, and I feel that they're trying to tell me something important, about something that will really happen, and about the role I will play in it, or should play in it."
"What is it that you want from me, then?"
"I want you to help me find out what the dreams really mean, but not in terms of dream symbols, unless they can be translated to show what the dreams are saying about the real world. I also want to know what my part is. You are a trained hypnotist. I want to be hypnotized to find out what they mean. I'm sure my subconscious mind knows more about them, and I could probably remember more of them under hypnosis."
"Yes, I could hypnotize you, but we should have a few sessions first, to give me a chance to know more about you and for us to become more comfortable with each other."
"I understand, but we really need to speed this up. I don't know how much time I have. The war might happen soon, or it might be years from now. The dreams don't give me any indication, except that since I seem to be important in some way, it will be sometime in my lifetime. However long that is."
"I guess we could have a preliminary hypnosis session, then. Probably more will come out in later sessions, though, after we've had more time to establish trust. Okay, now look at me, pay attention, I'm going to put you under..."
I opened my eyes. It didn't feel that anything had happened. I looked at my watch, and found that quite a bit of time had passed. "I guess you really did hypnotize me, though I don't really feel much different. Did I say anything interesting? I hope it didn't include too many indelicate details."
I looked over at him, and found he was asleep. I was unable to awaken him, and finally left. I never received a bill from him, and was unable to contact him for future sessions. He never answered the phone, and wouldn't return my messages. At first I thought he had simply tossed in the towel on me and given up, but later I began to think that it was something else.
There were always people, somewhere, who wanted war. Some just wanted to rule over other countries, perhaps even wanted to rule over everything. Others just regarded it as a game, almost a test of manhood, like running the bulls. Sometimes the bulls won, though. Sometimes things didn't go your way, but they never really believed that would happen. Not unless they simply wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. And sometimes everything would look fine, with the world heading toward peace, and a tiny spark would send everything the other way, with clouds of war quickly burgeoning. Sometimes it seemed that people simply had too many hormones.
I had begun to see my place in all this. Although I didn't remember anything from the hypnosis session at first, as time passed more and more of it came to me. I was remembering more of my dreams, too, and remembering other things. I did have a crucial part to play in all this. And there was a plan. In fact, it dated to before I was born. It was not something that would happen right away, though I did have to get started at it. I had years to go, but I had to be at the right place at the right time, and the world had to be ready for what I had to do. Sometimes, the road taken is more important than the road not taken. It all depends on what you want the ending to be.
"90 days hard labor!" the judge said, slamming down his gavel.
"Wow. Wow. What are the charges?"
"Failure to make sizable contributions to my account, and playing your trumpet late at night."
The man looked at him blankly. "I don't own a trumpet."
"You don't? But then, who..." He peered at the papers in front of him, and shuffled through them, looking confused.
"Um, it was me, Dad, I'm practicing for school, remember?"
"What? But, Timmy, but, but... Well, okay, we'll talk about this later." Turning back to the man he said, "If it wasn't the trumpet playing, what are you here for?"
"I was just passing through town, and I was under the impression I got caught speeding."
"You got caught speeding? How? The place is too small to have a police department, and we're too out of the way for state troopers to bother setting speed traps. It's too small to have a judge, too. I'm normally the mayor, when I'm not at my normal job, running the general store and service station. Where's the arresting officer?"
"I didn't get arrested, and the officer didn't stick around. He just told me to come here."
"Hmm. Do you at least have a ticket?"
"Just this," he said, handing the judge a paper.
The judge took it and stared at it. "This isn't a regular ticket. It's just something written on paper. It doesn't even have the officer's name. Rather childlike lettering, too." He stared at it for a few moments, rubbing his chin. "What did this officer look like?"
"I don't know. He kept his hat pulled down low and wore big dark glasses. He was pretty short, though."
"Dang. I knew we shouldn't have gotten Billy that police uniform for his birthday."
"But he was driving a car, with lights and a siren."
"That doesn't mean anything. Everybody around here can drive, as soon as they're tall enough to look over the dashboard, and usually before."
"But the light and siren?"
"There's a junkyard a few miles off. All kinds of things there."
"I'm, um, free to go then?"
"Well, there is the matter of speeding."
"But he wasn't a real police officer! And that's not a real ticket!"
"Doesn't matter, you've pretty much admitted to it."
"Actually, I didn't. I just came here because I thought I had been given a ticket for it, but the person who gave me the ticket was impersonating a policeman and in any case couldn't be relied on to give correct information regarding that. He was just play acting."
"Are you calling my son a liar? Maybe you deserve some hard time after all."
"For speeding, reckless driving, wasting the court's time, whatever else I can add on."
"Wow, this is really great!" a woman said. The man turned and looked at her, and saw she was busily writing on a pad of paper.
"Oh, no," the judge groaned. "Not another lurid headline!"
"Yes, but this one will really fit the story," the woman said.
"You have a newspaper?"
"Just a newsletter she mails out every few weeks or so. It's usually full of ordinary things with fantastic headlines."
"Well, I have to make it sound like something people want to read! But I don't have to try very hard with this one! How about 'Judge Throws Book at Imaginary Speeder'?"
The judge groaned. "Look, maybe we can just do a quick fix on this. Mow my yard and we'll call it even."
"'Judge Sentences Crazed Speeder to Quick Yard Work'"
"Alright, alright! Go ahead, you're free to go."
"Um, there is one other thing."
"Oh? Well, what is it?"
"He confiscated my car."
running the bulls,
tossed in the towel,
The sign shone luridly through the smoke and fog. It was only a gas station sign, but I couldn't even tell that until I got close. I thought of using the pay phone and trying to find directions, but it wanted a sizable contribution to use it, more than I had with me. It was probably for the best anyway. I felt too exposed at it, even with the dim visibility. It could have been just the general mood of the place, I guess, the overall foreignness of it. I picked a damp newspaper out of the trash and tried to read it in the dim light. It didn't have anything useful in it, except showing how much journalism had slipped since I stopped reading them.
I heard the whine of a car approaching and hid behind the trash bin till it passed. No point asking for trouble. The last incident hadn't worked out well, and I had learned to be a little more cautious. I decided to sit down there for a while and try to get some sleep, even though I really didn't have the time for it.
I had been on the run for days, and I wasn't used to such hard labor. Not anymore. The wound in my side was hurting, too, the one I told the girls I got from running the bulls. I had never done such a thing, but it was a better story than the real one. I had a lot of things like that in my past, with plenty of indelicate details that no one needed to know.
The sound of a trumpet woke me up, but it turned out to be just a kid on a bike with a fancy horn. I started to get up, and a burgeoning pain spread throughout my body, and I fell back on the pavement. I had to get up, though, and finally did, gritting my teeth.
I had to get some money, too. I needed to go out and search for a philanthropist, but the bums along the street had probably passed the saturation level. I wouldn't blend in with them, though, and would stick out like a sore thumb, which could be good or bad.
It felt like almost anyone else would have tossed in the towel, but I knew that I couldn't. Not yet. There would be no quick fix for me, and no quick fix for this. I had been given fair warning before all this started. Quite detailed warnings, in fact. My head was in the clouds, though, and I didn't think of them. Not really. I never thought it could be like this. Never thought it could get this bad. All I could see was the celebrity and the money, or the possibility of it. It was like an injection of hormones. If so, it had pretty much worn off now.
I looked at the ever-present cameraman, and wondered how my partner was doing, wherever she was. I had never known that "The Amazing Race" could be so rough.