Dream Asylum

I don't pretend to understand them.


Carolyn and I escape from the house party, driving in midwestern springtime hills along a winding one-lane ribbon of pavement. I'm at the wheel of a white miata, with the top down. Our route swings close to a mountain river, foaming in steps through dense shrubbery and rocks. I remember that this river is the River Saratoga, named after a man who was involved in a horrible car accident many years ago.

To my left, up the hillside, I see the retaining wall of the freeway. We are driving alongside it, just as it enters Los Gatos. I know it's full of commuter traffic.

People driving dangerously makes me angry.

I am Jesus Christ.

I float up out of the car, white robe poofing out behind me like a windsock with a gold tassel. My long hair blows flat across my back as I accelarate, cruising over the fast lane. Do the cars see me? Look at how fast they drive. I hate them.

I drift down low, in front of a new-fangled Volkswagen bug. The woman behind the crystalline windshield swerves a little, but not enough to ram into the school bus in the left lane. I weave back and forth in front of her, up and down, I fall back until my sandals are standing on the hood of her car. She doesn't react. She's good.

Frustrated, I push off the hood and fly about 10 meters up and in front of her. From somewhere in my robe I produce a basketball and finger it menacingly. I spin around and hurl it at the Volkswagen. The windshield cracks and the woman loses control, slamming into the side of the school bus, which brakes and crumples. A gasoline tanker plows into it from behind, sealing both lanes, and various expensive commuter cars begin to compress into wreckage. I am satisfied.

But only until I see the coal-driven commuter train sliding along on the nearby railroad tracks. It's not righteous anger - I'm not taking retribution for the evils of fossil fuels. I just feel like smashing things.

I fly low along the track, shooting past telephone poles and under bridges. The tracks are an endless washboard beneath me. For some reason, I cannot catch up with the train - the classic wooden caboose stays annoyingly out of reach. The black iron anchoring wheel pokes up from the roof, taunting me, inviting me to grab hold of it and unhook the cars.

The train passes into a tunnel and defies physics by rattling up a root-encrusted slope, turning vertical before streaming out through an open manhole. I follow the trail of tracks, exerting tremendous willpower to make my body drift carefully up the wall. By the time I get to the manhole it is closed, and the tunnel has constricted around me.

I reach up to turn the wheel of the pressure hatch that the manhole has become, and before I grasp it, the hatch flies open and a girl blinks down at me. English features with a light Californian tan, short blond hair in front of a distant cloudy sky.

She lets go of the open hatch as I rise through it. She is wearing a t-shirt and shorts, and stumbles backwards in surprise. She is a low-ranking preistess, and it had been her duty for years to stand vigil by this hatch in the ground, in order to open it when Jesus arrives.

And I have. I touch down on the grass and stride forward, falling to my knees in front of her, embracing her bare legs with my arms. Her shorts have vanished. She is one of hundreds of preistesses stationed all over the world, pretty young women who accepted the job because it promised well-paid, uneventful hours during which an enterprising youth could study her way through school. Most of them didn't take the contract seriously when they signed it, including the part that bound them in complete sexual servitude to me when I arrived - for Jesus would be seeking a mate.

I open my mouth and begin to lick her crotch. Her soft blond hair has been carefully trimmed in compliance with the keeping of a priestess. Despite her surprise, I can taste that she is becoming aroused. I mark it down to religious fervor. My mouth is very dry though, and I pull back and smack my lips, wishing for a drink of water. Just to capitalize on the opportunity, I stick my tongue back in and taste her some more. I eventually finish with her, and nearly wake up. I realize that my mouth is dry in reality. I have been breathing through it. I shuffle my limbs around and sink back into sleep.

Other things happen that I can't remember. I pass through a whirling portal and find myself in a drab rec-room in a health spa. The walls and floor are stapled with abraisive brown rug. There is a shiny weight machine nearby, and a metal sink on one wall.

I walk out of the room and across a patio. A soggy hedge and a few battered deck chairs age in the afternoon sunlight. I pass through a doorway and into a wood-paneled rec room. Just to my right is a fireplace made of rock slabs, flush with the floor. To my left, an arc of stools runs in front of the polished counter of a bar. Racks of upside-down glasses twinkle in the yellow sunlight from the patio.

Several of my old friends are seated at the bar, including Brad. They recognize that I am Jesus, and this distances our relationship somewhat. I decide that I should do something profound, though being in their presence makes me uneasy.

I begin walking for the doorway at the end of the bar. There is a glass jar of pennies on the counter, and I stop next to it and turn to face my friends. Staring at them meaningfully, I tilt the jar so the pennies spill out onto the bar. How profound. Statement made, I turn back around and walk through the doorway.

The next room is a simple cube of unfinished wood, with a plain raised stage and a cross on the wall to my right. Track lighting on the ceiling gives the impression of a restaurant heating bin. A handful of nondescript people are standing around, dissappointed that their religion is a boring sham. If I claim to be Jesus, they won't believe me. Instead I make my eyes glow with yellow fire as I walk to the doorway on the far wall; a more subtle sign.

They may not notice this, so I also shoot a yellow fireball out of my right sleeve, up towards the ceiling. I pass from the room into the quiet entry hall of a victorian-style hotel. I stop on the plush oriental rug and think to myself "That fireball could be done by any second-rate magician. I bet they're still not impressed."

I turn around and march back in. This time I swing my arms like swords, toiling around the room as if I were hacking through foliage. The eyes of the people see me carving neon trails of purple and blue fire in the air. I also make "swoosh" noises with my mouth, which become a StarWars-esque soundscape to my audience. The people stare at me, fascinated, but as I leave the room for the second time I doubt that they will ever make the connection between me and their God.

Discouraged, I leave the hotel through the open door. On the outside the place resembles a greek temple. A shallow fountain of blue water nearly fills the courtyard. The buildings around me are angular and indistinct, though I sense that marble and cement are involved. I take a walkway, and climb a flight of stairs to a platform overlooking the city.

A distant, blue-tinged mountain range encloses the region. The houses crowd right up to the side of the mountain, then stop abruptly. In the foregeound I see a building that resembles an ornamented skyscraper; some sort of temple.

I am sick of this town, and sick of being a diety. I want to go home. Supposedly I could just jump off the platform and fly up to heaven. Jesus is supposed to fly, but I feel afraid of flying. I make swimming motions with my hands, and kick my feet out. Casually I float up, as if I were in water. Before I can rise very high, I hear a young man's voice pleading for help behind me.

I turn around and look at him, mildly irritated. I recognize him as one of my recent flock. He asks me if I can take him up to heaven with me, since he's got terminal cancer and doesn't want to suffer any longer. I shake my head and tell him that if I did that, it would technically be suicide, and I could not then allow him in.

He walks away. I continue to swim. A small crowd of people materializes around me, swimming as I am. These are souls of the recently departed, and they're going to follow me to heaven. They chat amongst themselves, about their deaths and their experiences. I read somewhere that Jesus is supposed to care about small talk, and enjoy listening to it. But I don't.

We pass through a cloudbank and I am at the prow of a pirate ship. All the recent souls are crowded onto the deck behind me. The sea of clouds is treacherous, and filled with identical brown mermaids with big breasts. They snatch at the souls, but I wave my arms and they drift obediently away.

There is a gaping hole in the nearby clouds. Through it I see the pointed top of the skyscraper, a gnarled stone monument clingy with mist. My ship gives the hole a wide berth.

Soon we are docking at heaven. The water near the pier is crowded with the heads of floating monsters, all brown. They aren't attacking, just taking up space in a passive-aggressive effort to inconvenience me. They are also curious. I wave them aside and my passengers disembark onto wooden planks, and walk into a huge misty building that is the beginning of heaven.

Some time later, I am walking around in the odd funhouse of heaven. People are exploring their new home. I pass by a group of dwarves - short bearded men in armor - who are looking over the railings of the walkway with great interest. Beyond is a patch of forest floor and a hillside, with the rocky opening of a mineshaft cut into it. The dwarves are heatedly discussing the implications of finding their old mine entrance duplicated in heaven.

I walk by, pretending not to notice. Around the corner, I prop my elbows on the railing and look out over a cityscape of cobbled streets that I recognize as a section of Berkeley. I think to myself: "Now they know heaven's big secret. It's not their ultimate reward, it's a mixed-up reflection of the world they recently left, where all the props are stored. After a while here, they'll be shipped back to earth to begin new lives."

I sit by myself and ponder it all. "And what about me?" I think.

"Jesus is a buddhist."