The Journal of Provincial Thought
jptArchives Issue 18
lildiamond1-Iss18-luminancediamond2_18 Pigasus- Cogito ergo nix iss18- c2007 Schafer
copyright 2010 Owen Scott, III

Double Take

A novel of the post-'60s

Owen Scott, III

Author's Note Table of Contents

Take one.  Once upon a midnight dreary

            I woke with something in my head.
            I couldn’t escape the memory
            Of a phone call and of what you said.

            So let me begin, O Muse, to record the things I remember before they start to fade. 

            Here I sit alone at my desk, ballpoint in hand.  The room is dark except for the luminous FM dial and the green 40-watt glow of a second-hand Art Deco brain lamp on the desktop to my right.  I prefer low lighting, even keeping the blinds in my apartment closed during the day to create the desired effect.  Right now, though, it’s late in the evening. It could be midnight.  I don’t know the exact time, as time doesn’t have its usual meaning here.

            Earlier, as a last resort, I attempted to extract something more from Professor Deirdre Barrett’s intriguing chapter on dreams and dissociation.  But finding nothing furthered through perseverance, I finally put the book down and closed it.   I don’t know what I thought reading it one more time would accomplish.  Does it matter?   Perhaps nothing here matters.   Perhaps there is no here.  I’m not certain of anything.  All I can tell you is, after everything that has happened, my mind is saturated; I’m numb and devoid of emotion, like an exhausted traveler who was put off the train at a deserted station in the middle of the night.  Yet, I can feel myself moving semiconsciously to Blues Traveler’s rhythm, relentlessly catchy even in my state of depletion.

            And when you're feeling open I'll still be here
            But not without a certain degree of fear
            Of what will be with you and me
            I still can see things hopefully.

            Indeed, what will be of you and me?  You, the girl of my dreams, ha…   I’m sure nothing will come of you and me.  I don’t know where I will be if there is a tomorrow; the future’s just another void.   It might make sense to do nothing and see what happens.  Or go to sleep.  OK, but that’s not what I have in mind.  Yes, I lack the capacity to assimilate new facts or to ponder old ones; but, no, I am not ready to surrender consciousness willingly to the threatening oblivion of sleep.

            My name is Will Siegfried.  I am twenty-five years old.  This is the start of my recounting what has just happened during three extraordinary days with my imaginary friends at a place called Morpheus Institute.  The plan is simple: I will write down what I remember chronologically in this spiral notebook, the one with the purple cover that I carried to campus on the first day of classes.

            That’s all. 

            Hmm, this may take awhile.  But that’s OK.  It’s what I need to do. 

            I’m sure of that.

            Now I’m contemplating the lamp, whose single bulb is sending forth just enough light to pass through the glass shade and realize its purpose, illuminating in ghostly green the lines on the pages and the tentative trail of black ink that marks the course of the pen, the first steps on the long journey.  Now all I lack is a croaking raven to sit on the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door.

            But you!
            Why you want to give me the runaround?
            Is it a surefire way to speed things up
            When all it does is slow me down?

Day One:

Too much to dream

In the beginning was the word.

John 1: 1

1.  A dream within a dream.

            I am in a group of men being held hostage by World War II-era Japanese soldiers. I don’t know any of the other captives but I note that all of us are white males of varying ages.  We are clad only in tight-fitting blue jeans.  Our captors are authentic 1942 N*ps—pure Hollywood patriotic movie racist stereotypes—short young men in neat, brown uniforms with caps.  Every one of them holds a carbine with bayonet mounted.  All are wearing eyeglasses.  The N*ps form a circle, holding us at rifle point against the walls of a hootch of some kind, relentlessly jabbing their bayonets a few millimeters from our chests.  They are fierce and professional.  I am afraid but I am in that detached mode, focused and concentrating solely on survival.  I hear my inner voice interpreting the flow of events and giving me instructions.

            You’re supposed to keep a low profile, I am telling myself.

            Running commentary is a familiar part of my stream of consciousness except that the thoughts seem unusually loud.

            Don’t say any more than you have to.  Don’t draw attention to yourself. 

            The air in the hootch is hellish.

            Within the circle of infantrymen, their leader sits in a rattan chair.  An older officer, the J*p commander wears no glasses.  An identical chair, empty, faces him.

            The hot seat.

            The commander is dignified, relaxed.  Despite the suffocating heat and humidity, the J*p officer looks for all the world as though he could be sitting in a beach chair, enjoying the breeze as he meditates on the ocean.

            At the perimeter where we are backed flush against the walls, a flashing bayonet tip extends an extra millimeter and one of our guys is cut slightly.  "Lousy g**ks," he mutters audibly.


            My stomach drops as two g**k soldiers instantly prod him into the center with their rifles.

            "At least it’s not me," I hear myself murmur, which triggers a wave of shame on top of relief on top of fear.  A razor-sharp blade sweeps close to my jugular vein.  I notice the poor guy they’ve singled out has a pot belly—the tight jeans are pushing it upwards into unbecoming prominence.

            "Please sit down," the officer says politely, with only the slightest accent.

            The man sits, eyes wide open, pupils dilated.

            "What is your name?" the officer inquires.

            "Gerry, sir, short for Gerald," the captive proffers.

            Knows he f*cked up.  Now he’s trying to show respect, I think.  About fifty, blue-collar, maybe a truck driver.

            A trickle of red blood mixed with sweat moves slowly across his meaty chest, heading down toward the bulging gut.

            Too many six-packs. 

            I feel sweat streaming down my chest.

            "Your last name?"

            "Geary, sir," he says. "Gerry Geary."

            Midwestern accent?

            The officer frowns ever so slightly.

            "And where are you from, Mister Geary?"

            "Gary, sir," replies Gerry Geary.

            "Gary?" the officer repeats.

            "Yes, sir.  Gerry Geary from Gary, Indy."  He grins desperately.

            Colts fan.

            I am starting to feel more anxious.

            "And why are you here?"

            The tone of the questioning has stiffened.

            "I don’t know why, sir," Gerry Geary from Gary, Indy replies.

            Yeah, why is right.

            "YOU LIE!" shouts the J*p commander, leaning forward, the cobra sizing up its prey.  Unable to escape the glaring eyes, Gerry Geary from Gary, Indy can only shrink backwards.  I note the stereotyped absurdity of the dialogue without questioning its premise.  All the g**ks are glaring at us even more ferociously, a pack of hungry leopards, elegant and deadly.  Except now they all have on these black Drew Carey glasses.  Their bayonets are pointed at our vital organs.

            "Why are you here?" the officer repeats, back to his original calm, educated tone.

            "Sir, I told you, I don’t know."

            The commander's silence feeds back into rippling tension.  I notice the J*p officer is holding a silver can with a red and black label.

            Hmmm.  Charcoal lighter?

            "I am asking you again, Mister Geary, why are you here?"

            "I’m sorry, sir," he stammers.  "I don’t know why I’m here."

            "YOU LIE!"  This time the officer squirts fluid from the can onto the man’s blue jeans.  The smell is like one of those bayonets going up my nose.

            Ungh.  Fire starter all right.

            Gerry Geary from Gary looks completely terrified.  I must look almost as bad.

            Jesus Christ, man, tell him anything, make something up!

            The repetitive questioning continues in this vein for an unbearable eternity as every answer is punctuated by a squirt from the silver can.  Petrochemical pungence permeates the stifling air.

            One spark and the room’s going up.

            "What is your mission, Mistah Geary?"  The J*p commander, though he controls it well, is agitated.  The accent is a bit more evident.

            "I swear I don’t know about any mission, sir.  I’m sorry."

            "YOU LIE!"  Squirt.

            Stop asking him those stupid questions.  I am almost praying now.

            "One more time, Mistah Geary.  Why are you here?"  The J*p officer is holding a book of matches.  His eyes have taken on a horrible look.

            He’s psychotic.

            "Please, sir, I’m sorry, really, I don’t have any idea why I'm here."  He is ashen and shaking uncontrollably.

            The J*p officer lights a match.  He uses it to light the entire book.  Two grim g**ks, now wearing Wayfarer sunglasses, have stepped forward and are holding down Gerry Geary from Gary, Indy by his shoulders.

            Shades of Roy Fricking Orbison!

            On cue, the music and crooning voice come in from out of nowhere.

            Pretty woman, walking down the street.
            Pretty woman, the kind I’d like to meet.
            Pretty woman, I don’t believe you
            You’re not the truth...

            The J*p commander stands up and tosses the blazing matchbook onto the prisoner’s fluid-soaked blue jeans.  Flames and screaming erupt simultaneously.  The two g**ks in Wayfarers drag Geary out, blazing jeans and all.

            The officer, staring wildy at him, shrieks, "LIAR!  LIAR!  PANTS ON FIRE!"

            Two other g**ks in Wayfarers swing their rifles deftly over my arms and shoulders on both sides to herd me into the middle.  The J*p commander, having again become the wise and timeless Buddha, is smiling at me in welcome.

            Pretty woman stop awhile
            Pretty woman talk awhile...

            I awaken in abject, helpless terror; I sit up; then, I release my breath.  It was just a nightmare.

2.  Purple haze.

            I am relieved though still groggy and disoriented.  The phone by the bed is ringing.  I reach over for it.


            "Will, it’s me.  Wake up call."

            It’s my girlfriend by way of a message playback recorded the previous night and programmed to go off in the morning.

            "Hey, guy, I really enjoyed talking to you at the party!"

            I hear party sounds in the background on the recording, meaning she left the message before she left the party.  Her cheery voice helps counter a lingering disquiet from the horrible yet darkly humorous dream.

            Liar!  Liar!  Pants on fire!  The things my mind comes up with!

            "Don’t forget you have a big day today."

            What time is it?  I wonder, unable to recall what I set it for.

            "Time to wake up and get ready, Will.  See you soon, OK?"

            Do I hear a slight note of angst?  She hangs up.

            I look around and don’t see a clock.  I sit up—my head doesn’t feel quite right.  The nightmare is still fighting its way into my awareness even as I try to focus on the need to get out of bed and get dressed.  

            OK, I’ll write it down when I get a free moment. 

            My thoughts are still a little loud.

            Soon I am driving in to school.  I glance down at the spiral notebook, a deep grape purple, lying against the tan fabric of the empty passenger seat.  From the car stereo speakers superb instrumental music, Good to Go by the Steve Morse Band, wails forth, giving me a sense of cool satisfaction, as if I am the star of a road movie.

            God, how I love the way that guy plays!

            Now I am turning into the entrance drive that takes me to campus.  Ahead is an imposing brick gateway with two piers jutting forward from a great arch to serve as suitable pedestals for a pair of fantastic sculptures that flank the driveway and glower at approaching motorists.  A brick wall topped by wrought iron spikes stretches away in both directions.  Beyond the entranceway, across a long, steeply sloping, manicured green lawn, the small group of picture-perfect angular brick edifices with white columns perch atop a hill.  Before I reach the bronze guardians, the automated traffic gate with its white barrier post blocks the path.  I fish in the console for my gate card, find it, and lean out the window to insert it in the card reader.  The card is the same purple as the notebook.  The post lifts and I proceed into the lair of the monsters.  The pair are not identical twins although both combine the attributes of several animals, reptiles, birds, mammalian predators.  Chimeras?  Ferocious-looking, whatever they are.  You can almost hear them growling.  On the left pillar of the arch the raised lettering of a square plaque gleams golden in the morning sun.  Shielding my eyes I can read the bold inscription:


For Advanced Studies of Consciousness

On the right pillar is a similar plaque bearing only the simple phrase


            I am a graduate student here.

            Moving past the entrance structure and its massive iron gates, now swung open to welcome the incoming traffic, I glance at my wrist and am annoyed to find nothing.  I am not wearing my watch.  Jesus Christ, I think, frustrated with my carelessness, why do I always do this sort of thing to myself?  I wonder if I’m late?  After parking the car, I hurry up the wide steps ascending to the massive white doors.  The familiar aroma of academic institutions greets my sinuses.  The halls are empty.  Where the hell is the classroom?  I pull a sheet of lavender paper out of my pocket and unfold it.  I can’t quite concentrate on the words, which seem to be crawling around on the page, because of these pulsating sensations in my head...

            "Down here, slowpoke!"  The same bright voice of my girlfriend, sticking her head out of a door midway down the long hall.  I am relieved to see a safe person. God is she cute!  And she doesn’t appear concerned.  I must not be too late.  Double relief.

            I enter a darkened classroom and spot Professor Hayes in the glow of the instrument lights on a huge wraparound lectern, a fiftyish olive-skinned female, lanky and torpedo-breasted, with long, straight, brown hair.  Braless, of course, no doubt having burned them all.  The Professor has on an eye-popping multihued, tie-dyed T-shirt and tight jeans that leave nothing to the imagination.  And an amazing crushed velvet jacket in bright purple with matching suede boots.  I seem to have missed the memo about International Purple Solidarity Day.  She turns from her task—the class is watching a 1960s style light show to the insistent music of the Jefferson Airplane’s classic pro-drug anthem, White Rabbit, as black and white newsreels of civil rights protesters being accosted by state troopers with dogs and night-sticks, and U.S. soldiers on patrol in rice paddies, parade across the walls, all of which the professor seems to control from her lectern—and eyes me enigmatically as Grace Slick intones

            One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small
            And the ones that mother gives you
            Don’t do anything at all...

and I hurriedly slide into the empty desk next to my....

            "Welcome to Introductory Psychedelics, Mr. Siegfried," Professor Hayes addresses me while the words

            tune in ...

            turn on...

            drop out...  

begin to flash on the wall in a relentless cycle, superimposed in huge spidery letters on top of the other images.

            "Thanks, Dr. Hayes."  She is still gazing at me with that odd look backed by Grace Slick’s hard-edged delivery:

            White men on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go
            And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom
            And your mind is moving slow.

            Something is not right.  What is it?  "I’m uh…sorry...hope I’m not...not too late."  I am stammering lamely.  My head feels funny.  I look around for reassurance.

            When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
            And the White Knight’s talking backwards,
            And the Red Queen’s "Off with her head!"

            My girlfriend is still smiling as if it’s OK; the other students are smiling, too, except more... what... smugly?—especially this one guy who looks like a bearded satyr with his dark eyes and his black shoulder-length hair and goatee and an expression somewhere between a leer and a smirk…  Mick... Michael...

            Remember what the dormouse said,
            "Feed your head!  Feed your head!"

            Am I the only one who isn’t in on the joke? my thought voice is shouting at me.

            "You’re late!" says a burly, blonde, blue-eyed guy who might be a cast member of Springtime for Hitler.

            "You’re late!" says a hip-looking Oriental guy wearing a T-shirt and jeans.

            Pause, then all my classmates together with the punch line:


            Everyone except Dr. Hayes breaks into loud laughter and even she may be smiling slightly.  I am laughing loudest of all.  This is totally outrageous... hahaha... it’s not haha-gasp-hahaha it’s not real ...  It’s another fricking dream!  Hahaha!  The nightmare about the J*ps... I never really woke up!  Hahaha!  Morpheus Institute!  Gasp ...  Introductory Psychedelics, good one... haha...haha!

            "So... Dr. Hayes," I finally manage to cough out words.  "What’s with... all this?"

            "Professor Violet Hayes."

            Without so much as cracking a smile, she is putting on an outrageous pair of purple and yellow sunglasses with oversized, squarish frames and lighter lavender lenses, the kind Elton John might perform in.

            "Introductory Psychedelics," she continues.

            The strands of a hard rock tune kick in, as familiar to me as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  It’s the Jimi Hendrix Experience from Are You Experienced? and the erotic rhythm commandeers my body like an electric demon, making me want to get up and play air guitar.   

            "What’s that song, Mr. Siegfried?"

            "PURPLE HAZE!" I shout along with Jimi.

             ...all in my brain

            Everyone laughs harder—I am totally undone.  Violet Hayes......Now I get it!  Tears are running down my face.

            Everyday things they don’t seem the same


            Acting  funny, but I don’t know why...

            "And what’s the difference between a dream and an hallucination?" she continues deadpan.

            Excuse me while I kiss the sky!

            "What’s the difference?" hahaha...  Professor Hayes is not laughing but is still looking at me.  The song winds on as I continue laughing uncontrollably.

            Is it tomorrow or just the end of time?

            "hahaha..."  Jimi, having finished with his erotic grunting, moves into the fade-out, rapping,

            Help me... I can’t go on like this

as the two white look-alike English guys with electric permanents chant "Purple Haze!"

            "What's the difference, Mr. Siegfried?"

            The laughter and the music have stopped.  I realize that everyone is waiting for me to answer the question.  I finally stop laughing, too, and reflect.

            "In an hallucination you’re awake and in a dream you’re asleep?"

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jptARCHIVE Issue 18
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