The Journal of Provincial Thought
jptArchives Issue 18
lildiamond1-Iss18-DoubleTake contluminancediamond2_18DoubleTake cont Pigasus- Cogito ergo nix iss18- c2007 Schafer
Double Take
A novel of the post-'60s

Owen Scott, III

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jpt 1st installment, continued

3.  So I’ll just play along.

            It would seem that I have won the first round of Name That Tune.  And Professor Hayes's question was right to the point.  What kind of episode is this, a dream or an hallucination?  I’ve answered her question; and perhaps she’s ready to answer mine.     

            "You asked," she states, lighting up a thick, suspicious-looking, home-rolled cigarette, "‘So, Dr. Hayes, what’s with all this?  What’s with all this, Dr. Hayes?’ you asked."

            I notice the inimitable smell of marijuana wafting over from the cigarette, actually a big, fat joint, she is smoking.

            "That’s right, Professor.  I did ask you that."  She’s getting off on listening to her own voice. 

            "What’s with all this," she finally declares, her Cheshire Cat to my Alice, "is for us to know and for you to find out."  She hands the joint to the bearded Satyr, who takes a long toke from it and holds his breath.  I feel distaste toward him.

            "Well, how about a hint?"  I turn to my classmates.  "Do any of you know what’s up with all this?"  They all shrug and, to my annoyance, make the sign of the upside-down palms.  Except for my girlfriend, Gabriella Gayle Grace, a.k.a. Go-Go.  I suddenly know her name and her silly nickname, as well.

            "We’re all dreaming," Go-Go asserts, "everyone at Morpheus Institute.  All of us students, at least, are caught in a dream..."

            "Far out!" exclaims Professor Violet Hayes, waving the remote she is holding as Alice Cooper comes pouring out of the hidden sound system at high volume.

            “I’m caught in a dream,” Alice sings, to which his band replies,

            "So what?"

            "You don’t know what I’m going through," Alice bitches in retort.

            The students are up and shaking their tail feathers, some going so far as to jump on top of desks, everyone gyrating like, dare I say it, go-go dancers, more Laugh In than MTV.   The joint has gone to an earthy woman with dark hair and eyes, at least five years older than me I would guess, then to the Oriental guy.  The big refugee from the Hitler Youth passes on it, as does a striking, dark-complected woman in a green sari, though both are dancing maniacally.

            "I’m right in between," Alice laments.

            "... and unable to awaken fully," Go-Go states, ignoring the foolish hubbub and going on with her explanation.  "All of the research here, the classes, and all of the studies of advanced consciousness are aimed at figuring out the mechanisms behind this state with the ultimate goal of waking up."  Her words on the telephone come back to me.        

            "What about the faculty?  Do they have any answers?"

            Go-Go smiles knowingly. "They act as if they do.  They seem to be in a different category from us.  I think they have some useful information and that we will do well to pay attention to the clues they throw out.

            "I believe our dilemma is analogous to Real Life science," Go-Go continues.  "If we had all the answers, we would be finished and everyone could stop doing research.  I see the role of the professors being to point us in the right direction but we have to do the research to solve the problem."  The other grad students, no longer dancing, are all nodding their heads like the chorus line in a musical comedy.  In fact, the music is still playing, albeit softly, in the background.

            "Would you idiots please stop that!" I find myself shouting at them. They all look sheepish in unison.  Except Michael the Satyr, who laughs and looks even smugger.  If that’s a word.  Which if it isn’t, it should be. 

            I turn back to Go-Go.  "So, what about you?  You must... "  My heart suddenly falls.  "Does that mean you’re just a product of my imagination?  That you’re the beautiful girl in a good dream who disappears right when we’re finally alone and I’m about to kiss you?"

            Great, I’m already whining.

            "You mean right when we’re finally alone and you’re about to get my shirt off?" Go-Go says coyly. 

            Go-Go—except for the ridiculous name—is perfect.  She’s wholesome and athletic, several inches shorter than me, with soft brown eyes and copious golden brown hair.  In truth, she looks like a goddamn cheerleader or a model for J. Crew who wandered off the set, some banker’s niece seeking perfection, a girl from whom I would never expect a second look in Real Life.  The ones who were attracted to me were always the pale Gothic types with oddly shaped bodies who were clueless about their sexuality.  I realize as I listen to my own spoken words to her that I am pained, very disappointed.  I don’t want her to be a mere figment. 

            Jesus Christ, am I emotionally invested in this asinine dream or WHAT?

            “From your perspective it’s true that I am just a dream character," she smiles.  "But to me, I’m just as real as you are.  Don’t I seem real enough?"  She reaches out and touches me gently on the arm, causing me to blush.  "And, I am an excellent student... "

            Yeah? Me, too!

"...I’m motivated, and I’ve already started working on the Morpheus project, because clearly we have a lot at stake here...”

            I like where this is going.

"...and I’m hoping..." Go-Go pauses, gazing into my eyes and giving me a different smile, a very warm one, "that if I ever wake up, you’ll still be there."

            That’s when I realize my sex drive is intact and I’m still wearing the jeans from the fricking nightmare!  The other students apparently realize it, too, judging from the giggling, which causes me to glare at them and lose the moment.

            "This is totally absurd," I mutter.

            "Totally absurd," echoes Dr. Violet Hayes, closing her eyes and taking a deep draught from her oversized number, which has come back around to her by way of a tall, thin black woman.  "Totally absurd," she repeats to herself, "totally absurd."

            Yet it is already dawning on me that, given my personality and the particulars of the dream, not least of all Go-Go, it makes a great deal of sense for me to play along, too.

            As if listening in on my thoughts, Alice Cooper chimes in,

            So I’ll just play along with you-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo!

4.  I am the Lizard King.

            I want to sit down and have coffee with Go-Go after Professor Purple Hayes’s mind-altering class.  I need to take stock of things and try to clear my head.

            “I’m all confused,” I tell her as we stand up from our desks.  “Do you know what’s going on around here?”

            “Do you remember anything about yesterday?” she asks.

            “Not a thing,” I confess.  “Do you?”

            “We found out some of the basics at an orientation session prior to the party.  You must have forgotten.”

            “Totally.  Let’s go somewhere so you can fill me in,” I suggest or, more accurately, plead.

            "We don’t have time," Go-Go warns, hurrying me down the hallway with the herd of students from Intro to Acid.  "We have to get to Psycholinguistics."

            Lemmings or cattle?  I wish I could turn down the volume on my thoughts.

            A moment later the name Lezard pops loudly into my head along with a mental picture of a distinguished looking man of about sixty.  "What time is it?" I ask, lifting my naked wrist where she can see it.  "I forgot my watch and ..."

            "You didn’t forget.  There are no watches, clocks, or any sort of time keeping devices at Morpheus Institute or anywhere else in this dream world."

            We go on silently for a few steps.  "What do you make of that, Go-Go?"

            Go-Go stops jogging and gives me a serious look.  "I make of it that we are operating in a relativistic time-space continuum outside the constraints of the mundane Newtonian universe we normally occupy.  Time doesn’t have its usual meaning here," she says.  Then she flashes me yet another kind of smile, one conveying intelligence and self-confidence. 

            Odd how you don’t usually associate cutesiness with brains.  "Nothing has its usual meaning here, does it?"

            "That’s right."

            We resume running.

            "How do you know when we have to be places?" I inquire.

            "I just know."

            "Oh."  We are approaching a staircase.  "So, how come you know that and I don’t?"

            "Because back in Real Life you never knew what time it was.  I always did.  You were continually late and I was the Punctuality Gestapo."

            True, that.

            We all run up a flight of stairs to the second floor, then down the hall to another classroom.  Go-Go ducks in and I follow her as the clangorous tintinnabulation of tardy bells goes off seemingly all around us.  I am breathing hard but my head feels a little clearer.


            Professor Lezard stands at his lectern looking serious and dignified in navy blue blazer, white dress shirt, buff sweater, club tie, and grey wool pants.  In contrast to Elton P. Hayes, Lezard looks Ivy League, maybe even British.  Except for the belt and shoes— both black crocodile.

            "Good day, young ladies and gentlemen.  I am Dr. Theodore R. Lezard, Elektra Records Well-Endowed Professor of Psycholinguistic Metaphysics."

            Elektra, that was the Doors’ label.

            "My name is synonymous with language."

            And the accent is courtesy of Professor Henry Higgins?

            The Oriental guy with T-shirt and jeans (that’s Takashi), in the desk to my left, leans toward me and whispers, "The R. stands for ‘Rex.’  His nickname is the Lizard King."  Lezard glares at us and I expect to see a forked tongue dart out.

            I smile slightly.  Takashi seems like a cool guy.

             "Yeah, or how about T. Rex?  Notice how glaring seems to be de rigueur around here?"

            Takashi chuckles.  Professor Lezard is continuing his introductory remarks.

            "You are attending my graduate seminar entitled Linguistic Landscapes and Labyrinths: the Course of Time."


"If life is a classroom, Truth is the teacher.  Truth teaches us in many languages.  How many of you speak English as your first language? "

            I count six hands including mine.

            "And the two of you?"

            Takashi raises his hand as does the woman, or young lady as the Professor would call her, in Hindu dress.  I notice for the first time that my Japanese bud’s got on Drew Carey eyeglasses like the N*ps in the nightmare.  The young lady has long, straight ebony hair that falls thickly on the silken shoulders of her emerald sari.  Eyes of the same brilliant green shine forth from the dark skin of her face.  She and Takashi look to be about my age, although it’s hard to say; she may be a little older.

            "Japanese, sir.  We moved to the USA when I was five, so English was secondary."

            “And you, Miss Chandrikasapna?”

            "Hindi, Professor Lezard, but English was also spoken in our home."

            "Very good.  By the way, Mr. Nakamura, those eyeglasses are atrocious.  You are making a bloody spectacle of yourself."

            Argh!  We roll our eyes at one another.

            “And how many of you have studied French?  Spanish?  German?”

              Various hands go up during the roll call of tongues.  Myself, the Satyr, and the Aryan poster boy raise our hands for German.  It had been a favorite subject of mine.

            “Russian?  Japanese?  Mandarin?  Hebrew?  Latin?  Italian?  Arabic?"  No hands. The Lizard King’s lipless mouth curls down.  "No one speaks Arabic.  Most unfortunate.”

            "La illaha illa Allah, Muhammad ar-Rasul-Allah," he recites.

            "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet," I translate.  "The Confession of Faith, one of the five pillars of Islam.  A Muslim friend taught me that." Lezard considers me with what might be approval.

            "Have any of you studied languages I failed to mention?"

            The tall black female student raises her hand.  “I know some Bulu.  It’s a ..."

            “...West African language of the Bantu subgroup, closely related to Fang,” Lezard finishes the sentence for her.  “And how, Miss Brown, did you happen to study Bulu?”

            Miss Brown is quite pretty and is dressed with both style and good taste.  She has the look of someone who will go far in life.  “My grandfather did missionary work in Cameroon.  He taught me the basics and gave me a Bulu translation of the Bible.”

            “Yes, we have a copy in the Morpheus Institute Research and Theoretical Library.  Very interesting.  I should like to hear more about your grandfather at a suitable time.  Anyone else?”  No more hands are raised.  "I shall now recite for you the opening lines of a poem."

            Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel
            Ordnungen? und gesetzt selbst, es nähme
            einer mich plötzlich ans Herz:  ich verginge von seinem
            stärkeren Dasein.  Denn das Schöne ist nichts
            als des Schrecklichen Anfang, den wir noch grade ertragen,
            und wir bewundern es so, weil es gelassen verschmäht,
            uns zu zerstören.  Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich.

            "Herr Siegfried?"

            "Each single angel is terrible," I quote in English translation. "Rainier Marie Rilke, First Duino Elegy."  One of my favorite poets.

            "Sehr gut!  Now, the rest of you with no German, what did you experience listening to this poem?"

            Go-Go raises her hand and, being acknowledged, speaks up bravely.

            "I couldn’t understand the meaning but I guessed that it was German.  I found the words almost hypnotic.  I never knew that German could sound so beautiful."

            Lezard smiles.

            "You see, unless you know German you can only hear the sounds.  Yet if you recognize it as German, certain prejudices come into play in how you respond.  Now, let’s try it again in English translation by Albert Ernest Flemming.  While listening, I want you to disregard the meaning of the words entirely and appreciate them purely as sounds."

            Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'
            hierarchies? and even if one of them suddenly
            pressed me against his heart, I would perish
            in the embrace of his stronger existence.
            For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
            which we are barely able to endure and are awed
            because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
            Each single angel is terrifying.

            Lezard stops reading. "What did you notice when you listened to the sounds but not the meaning?"

             “The language was too powerful!”  “Impossible!"  “I want to hear the rest of the poem!”  “I couldn’t do it.”  Everyone is calling out similar reactions.  Even the Satyr has momentarily dropped his smirk.

            Lezard raises his hand to still the chaos.  “Neither can anyone else who speaks English.  Your brain forces an interpretation on those sounds.  You have lost forever the capacity to hear English as pure, meaningless sounds.”

            “Language can be many things and many things can be language.  Language can be all things.  Or it can be nothing.”

            Please, God, no more riddles today.  I have a headache. 

            "For you, as for most people, language is a prison.  Yet it can also be the means of escape." 

            Something in the chain of ideas has found a tiny receptor site in my brain and activated it.  I open the purple notebook and click my ballpoint into readiness.

            Locked and loaded.

            "Success at Morpheus requires the mastery of multiple meanings, even contradictory and paradoxical meanings.”

            And mastery of shoes and ships and sailing wax, too, I’m sure.

            “In the Course of Time, you shall learn what language is.  You think you already know this.  You think that the understanding of language is a matter of common sense.  A former student at this institute"— the Lizard King’s eyes narrow—"asserted on the first day of this seminar that we have no need for the study of grammar.  His argument was that as long as one speaks properly, it is totally unnecessary for us to analyze the structure of one's speech."

            Professor Theodore R. Lezard is silent momentarily so that we might savor the foolishness of this notion.  Then, he scurries quickly toward the corner to his left where I notice for the first time a little black curtain covering the opening to some sort of cubicle.  Lezard allows the suspense to hang for a moment before he yanks back the curtain to reveal... a young man asleep in his desk, looking for all the world to have drunk from the waters of Lethe.

            “Behold the man,” Lezard announces triumphantly as he wheels back to face the class.  We all gawk in surprise for several seconds at the unsettling sight.

            “Failure at Morpheus is somewhat less challenging than success,” the Professor observes.  “Alas, this pig has no wings.”

            The man is reading my fricking mind!

            Lezard winks at me, then draws once more the curtain of darkness across his exhibit of eternal, blissful ignorance.  Lezard returns to the lectern with authority.

            “Never assume that you know enough.  Complacency is a form of sleep, one of the many.  Unconsciousness breeds unconsciousness.  Do not close your eyes, your ears, and your hearts to Truth as Judah did to the message of the Lord’s prophet.”

            Don’t get religious on me, Professor!

            Miss Brown, perhaps emboldened by her earlier recognition, calls out in a strong, clear voice,

            And he said, “Go and say to this people:
            Be ever hearing but never understanding.
            Be ever seeing but never perceiving.
            Make the heart of this people calloused.
            Make their ears dull,
            And close their eyes.
            Otherwise, they might see with their eyes,
            Hear with their ears,
            Understand with their hearts,
            And turn and be healed.

            Lezard has found a student to his liking.  “New International Version.  Chapter and verse?”

            “Isaiah 6: 9 and 10.”

            Professor Lezard beams like an alert crocodile eying a hapless wildebeest crossing his river.  I am writing feverishly, trying to capture Lezard’s words verbatim, and I use this interlude to catch up, recording only the citation of Isaiah.  Meanwhile, Lezard is moving into the finale.

            "Like the walking dead of today, the ancient ones serve as an example to us.  But, neither should you be gullible, taking all that is said with authority as Truth."

            I wonder if he has another unconscious student hidden somewhere in the room.

            "Remain at the center of the battle, where skepticism clashes with our desire for certainty.  This is where Truth stands tall.  And as the dust settles on the fallen, Truth will still be standing and so shall you; for Truth is your shield and your armor.  Knowing Truth awakens us; thus, Jesus teaches rightly, "The Truth shall set you free."

            There is no stopping Miss Brown now.  “John 8:32!"

            Having been raised as a Presbyterian until I became old enough to refuse to go, I am not pleased about Jesus’ appearance in Morpheus World, even in such an incidental form.  Nonetheless, Professor Lezard’s message speaks to some part of me and I begin to think that he might be O.K.  Except for that creepy feeling about him somewhere near the surface of my awareness.  Hmmm.  I look up from my brief reverie and tune the Professor back in.

            "Here at Morpheus Institute, in our books and in the knowledge we possess, we hold for you the plunder of a thousand civilizations.  Yet, we are merely the guardians.  Everything at Morpheus Institute, the hidden treasure of knowledge, all belongs to you:  It is yours to know.  You may take possession of it whenever you are ready. 

            “I see great potential in the members of this class; but, you must decide whether you wish to pay the price of admission into the circle.  Asleep or awake, young ladies and gentlemen?  Pick your poison."

...Dr. Scott's reality of dreams: next issue, installment 2

back to top copyright 2010 Owen Scott, III
jptARCHIVE Issue 18
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