Cartoons. I dream about cartoons. Scoob and the gang. Mostly Shaggy. Shaggy with his stoner voice and his constant hunger and his bell-bottomed pants. I always secretly wished the monsters would catch him when I was a little boy, because Shaggy always really got on my nerves. Fuckin’ hippy.
I dream about Bugs Bunny, and about how Elmer was always trying to make him into stew, how Elmer never realized that if you skin him first, you won’t have all that trouble with him dressing up as a woman later and tricking the shit out of you.
The dreams are all scrambled together, mixed with reality, shaken, not stirred. I wake up at one point, I hear the chick yelling about how she knows, she knows, she just didn’t see it. I sit up and see that she has just crashed into another car. The world is a dead empty place, these are probably the last human beings on the planet with a working vehicle, and she has managed to crash into someone. I look at the owner of the other vehicle, and am unsurprised to see that it is a rotting corpse.
“Nice driving, bitch,” I slur. “Let me guess—he backed into you?” She turns and glares at me, and it seems like years pass while she throws the van into park and climbs back to punch me in the face. One hit, and I’m out.
“Who’s the bitch now?” I hear, and the voice is like rumbled thunder as I sink back into the depths. I smell the sweet stench of marijuana in my dreams, but under that, there is something else—something that smells like chemicals. And under that, there is the smell of rotting meat.
I dream of soap operas. Of drama and arguments, and plans and plots and paranoia. I dream of love affairs and vendettas and anger and unbelievable storylines. The only clear part of the dream is when I find myself sitting on my old couch back home, and my mother is beside me. We’re eating our lunch off of TV trays—grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup—and the television is blasting out the stupidity of daytime drama at us.
I look over at her and say, “You know, there are always doctors in soap operas. Seems like almost everyone is a doctor.”
“It’s because there are always so many people in comas,” she tells me. “The only thing more exciting than having a character fall into a coma is to have one come out.”
“What? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s exciting to have a person go into a coma? Next you’ll be trying to sell me on the idea of X-treme napping.”
She shakes her head and takes a bite of her sandwich. “You’re missing the big picture. People want to see the character wake up.” She’s talking instead of chewing, and a big chunk of half-chewed food falls into her soup.
She uses her spoon to pull out the lump of sandwich, and now that it’s soaked in tomato soup, it almost looks like some body organ or another. She slurps it off of her spoon, and the soup dribbles down her chin.
“Remember when you used to eat like a civilized human being?” I ask her.
She turns to look at me, and I see that she has no pupils. Just two solid white orbs, and a mouth that is drooling blood. She lifts her spoon to her mouth, and I see that it actually is a bit of entrails. It drops from her spoon as she tries to get it into her mouth, causing a splash from her bowl that is filled with blood now instead of soup.
“Times change, Bri. You should know that by now. Now wake up, dearie, because you’re out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
I open my eyes and immediately wish that I hadn’t. The dirty fuckin’ hippy is standing directly in front of me, naked. He’s up on a stage of some sort, so his dirty hippy wang is dangling right at eye level. I try to cover my eyes and realize that I can’t, so I just shut them again.
“It’s okay, man, you can open your eyes—I know you’re awake.”
“It’s not that I’m trying to fake sleep, you dipshit. It’s that even with all the horrors I’ve seen in this twisted excuse for a world, nothing has been as bad as seeing your skank-ass butt-naked in front of me.”
“True beauty is not in material things but in nature’s simplicity. Nakedness is a beautiful thing, man.”
“Yours isn’t. Am I…did you tie me up?”
“Yeah, man. Sorry about that, but it’s totally necessary.”
I open my eyes again, careful not to look forward, and see that not only am I tied up, but that I’m dangling over a huge vat of bubbling water. I also realize that I’m soaking wet. “What the fuck’s going on here?”
“Dude, it’s Burning Man, you know? Burning man?”
“Put some fuckin’ clothes on if we’re gonna talk, okay?”
“No way, man. That would ruin the exhibit.”
I look around and realize that I’m out in the middle of the desert. Another damn desert. There are dirty hippies everywhere, running around in various states of undress, most of them great reasons for why clothing was invented in the first place. “What the hell is going on?”
“This,” the dirty hippy says, “Is Burning Man, man. It’s a festival of freedom and creativity. It’s about findin-”
“Get me away from the stew pot and cut me down, hippy, or bad things are going to start happening.”
“You have way too much negativity, dude. It’s gonna be the end of you.”
“No, motherfucker, it’s gonna be the end of you.” I focus my rage and prepare to unleash the animal. I can worry about getting down later, but for right now, I just want all of these creepy bastards dead and out of my way. I have just a second to think about how I used to be such a nice boy, and then I feel the energy explode inside of me, almost like my soul having an orgasm, and I open the floodgates.
If you care to keep your eyes open when I do shit like this, you can see the air ripple a bit, like how it looks over an asphalt road on a really hot day. But then you’re generally exposed to a shitpile of carnage; and even though I’ve been forced to unleash this mental beast a couple of times, I don’t usually like to watch as it goes to work.
This time, there is no ripple. Instead, there’s a snap inside my head—as if I have sprained a muscle somewhere in my brain—and then there’s immediate pain. My nose begins gushing blood immediately.
“See, man? I told you—too much negative energy. How many times are we gonna have to go through this?”
“Oh, shit,” I whisper, as I realize that we have already gone through this routine a few times. The blacking out makes me forget, apparently. Makes me forget that I don’t have any “powers” anymore, or else they’ve changed again. Makes me forget that trying to call up the killing results in pain and memory loss. Makes me forget that I’m just making an ass of myself every time I try to destroy.
Where was my beast? How many times had I tried to kill this piece of shit hippy? What kind of damage was I doing to my brain each time? What the hell is Burning Man? “Oh…shit.”
I passed out.
I wake up, dripping wet, vaguely remembering a dream about my mother. My skin aches. I open my eyes and see the dirty hippy and his dirty hippy wang. The girl’s standing next to him, with her unshaved everything.
She’s naked, too, so there is entirely too much unshaved everything exposed. I think about killing them, about unleashing the beast, but something stops me. “Epilady, bitch, hear of it? Or Gillette? It only itches the first couple of days.”
I hear a few gasps, a few groans of unpleasantness, a few titters of laughter. I look around and see that I’m surrounded by a bunch of hippies. I also realize that I’m tied up, and hanging over a vat of boiling water.
I start to tell them that if they don’t let me down right now, bad things are going to happen, but I hear my mother’s laughter in my head, and decide to keep quite. “The hell’s going on?”
“Burning Man, man,” the hippy says. “Don’t act like you don’t know.”
“How about you put some clothes on, let me down, and we’ll talk about this,” I tell him.
“Everything out of your mouth is a business proposition,” the chick says. “You make me sick.” She spits on me. I’ve been trying to avert my eyes, trying to avoid looking at filthy naked hippy bodies, but everywhere I look, there’s a naked filthy hippy, so I turn to the two freaks in front of me. The two freaks with the van. The freaks that drugged me, kidnapped me, and hung me above a vat of boiling water.
Judging by the pain and the wetness of my clothes, I’m probably going to have to add “the freaks that dipped me into a vat of boiling water” to that list.
I look at the guy, and see that his grungy hair has parted enough so that I can see his face. He looks like a slack-jawed inbreed, and I tell him so. More gasps form the surrounding crowd. The bitch mutters something else about how I’m a white oppressor. I notice that she’s white, too, that she has perfect teeth, and that her skin isn’t broken out too bad, which leads me to believe that she has spent most of her life just as pampered as me.
I look right into the guy’s eyes, ignoring the expression of idiocy, and hoping for a spark of intelligence. “Please tell me what is going on.”
“Burning Man, man.”
“Care to expound?”
“No,” the bitch hisses, and then spits on me again.
“You’re their exhibit.”
I look for the voice, find it. He actually has clothes on, which is nice, and he seems to be semi-lucid, which is even better.
“Care to expound?” I ask him.
“This is the Burning Man festival. It used to be something worth seeing. These days, it’s just a fuckload of debauchery, and the more twisted you get, the more artistic they claim you are.”
“Not true, man, and we don’t need that kind of negativity.”
“Shut up, stupid hippy,” I tell the guy with his wang in my face. I turn back to the kid with clothes. He’s wearing jeans, sneakers, and a white t-shirt that has the words “Five of your fattest, cheapest hookers, please,” printed on it.
“You’re an exhibit, man. ‘Art,’ as it were. I don’t know what they’re calling you—something like ‘Down With The Man,’ I think. Every time you wake up and get pissed off, they dip you into that boiling water.”
“I’m’a kill all’a you motherfuckers,” I say to the gathered hippies.
“Yeah, saying shit like that? Doesn’t help.”
I started to reply, but that’s when they began lowering me down in the water. I suddenly remembered everything: waking up drowsy as they pulled me out of the van and injected me with something; all of the dunkings; all of the murder attempts I had made, and the consequences.
I looked at the kid in the jeans. “So who the hell are you?” I asked as I continued my descent.
“I’m that douche bag’s brother,” he said, pointing to the dirty hippy who was lowering me slowly towards the boiling water.
“Everybody’s got a brother these days,” I said.
“Yeah, well,” the kid said, lighting a cigarette, “At least my name isn’t Cupcake or Larry.”
I was shocked. It took me a full thirty seconds to regain my composure enough to ask him how the hell he knew about that, how he knew those names. But by then, I was in the water, so all I could do was scream.