Monday, July 27, 2009

Quaidscape Dream Potlatch

Free daily newspapers swarm across the train carriage. Seven teenagers cower next to the sliding doors, hands held, earphones crisscrossing, the buzzing of faint guitar riffs filling the space between here and the next stop. Gnarled faces look askance at the cohort, gazes shifting at five second intervals, now concern, now indifference. A foul stench of ink and manufactured need diffuses in the staid air. The plague gets ever worse in the land of sun hours, the deep blue glow of months held aloft by titan summer hands, punishing swelter, a chthonic squeezing. A man gets smacked awake by an advertisement for Tunisia. A child screaming has its ululation silenced by a paparazzi fold-out – forty pages of tight angle leg snaps.

A young fellow stands near the rear, Young Gottlieb we’ll call him. His eyes bounce over pages of the most meritorious journalism, eyes buoyant in their absorption of relevant information, all that pulsating knowledge, true knowledge, the innumerable vital words that ceaselessly escort wisdom to inviting minds. His tail, were he to be so endowed, would right now be oscillating furiously at the excitement induced by this product of the press. Headlines and blurbs, reportage, cropped images of celebrities checking their email. Tireless hands fold one page into another, vestigial punctuation blurring into grimacing promotions coated in cyan.

A moth shoots past, now clinging to the window, a stain soon apparent.

Our young hero skips three pages, his enlarged neocortex pushing him forward, a bodily flow through the river of content. There it is, the TV listing open before him, casting rays onto his face, a rich yellow colouring anew his skin. His now-bulging forehead dips as he moves his eyes closer to the page. A few seconds pass as daylight’s programming is consumed, chewed up and discarded. Now the turn of night.

Suddenly the prophet sees his messiah. With a head looking more and more misshapen, Young Gottlieb sports a smile. He knows what is lying on page sixty-two. Never before has he had precognitive powers, but this time is different, this time an antediluvian spark spun from forgotten, dusk-hewn corners of his brain has left him with no doubts: page sixty-two is patched together in strands of Quaid.

Young Gottlieb – his head now beyond the limits of curvature – stares into the pages. Dreamscape is on tonight. Broadcast during the segue of the days, a bridge to tomorrow, how fitting. Epic nightfall treats are not mere items on the agenda, they are the agenda – and the agenda is written on the grinning face of Dennis Quaid. Dreamscape, thrust into repeated existence by randomness, is a treat in plural, its number not restricted to the inertia of one.

A jubilatory march erupts somewhere nearby – perhaps someone else knows the news.

Bubbles rise from Young Gottlieb’s head, spherical nebulae escaping from a fissure in his scalp. In them are contained concrete moments of Proustian glee. First a memory of a child’s viewing of Dreamscape. The precocious sprite sat down opposite the screen, distracted twitches of the head suggesting a preference for other things. Then rupture: images no longer filtered through the cathode ray, now spooled through miles of cranial flesh. The Dreamscape effect has the child delirious – assimilating or being assimilated, it’s hard to tell.

A second bubble has a spotty teenager being given a copy of Dreamscape. A scene of festivity surrounds the gift-giving. The bubble floats along the ceiling of the train, before reaching a hairy man engaged in a paperback. Initially he sees his reflection, the vain image forced upon him. A moment passes before the bubble reveals its innards. He seems affected by the scene of generosity. Pop. A splattering of mind pus later and he’s recoiling back into his paperback.

More bubbles sail through the air. One has Max von Sydow kneeling before a masked figure, seemingly pleading something, an imp prancing around behind him, cutting his Bergman chains, shoving him into exile. Another has Quaid helping a young disabled child cope with his nightmares. Beside a hipster lands a bubble in which Quaid fights a demon beast, Belial or some such, with a fork. A tourist watches a bubble ricochet off a window, the image of shameless Quaid grinning at a blonde swirling at its centre.

A noise is heard from the rear. It’s Young Gottlieb. His head has stretched to breaking point. Two seniors wrap themselves in newspaper, afraid of the imminent mess. Pop. Sheets of ooze fly over the seniors as a thousand bubbles fill the carriage. Some people tilt their heads, some lie supine, some stand with their faces in their hands. Kinetic scenes of bravery and sub-horror almost-Disney tit-fest Quaid-zone madness cascade through the air. Smeared with spit, the tantalising motif of 80s science turned bad becomes clearer as it sheds one gooey exterior. It falls into the lap of a nomad. He peers expectantly at it. Then the bubble shifts form, becoming the grin of Dennis Quaid. Now all the bubbles have become the grin of Dennis Quaid.

“What sacred gift is this?!” screams a little Bohemian girl.

The free papers drop abruptly to the floor. Eyes move from startled to amazed. A mighty surge of emotion overcomes the passengers. An idiot stands up and tries to hug one of the Dennis Quaid grins. He fails, then sits down. Fool. By the time we reach the station all the grins have disappeared, breathed in by anxious lungs, now tethered to the body’s interior. Grinning phantasms left to multiple in the hot moist cavern of the body, held in check by nothing, spreading Quaid cancers to everywhere. Organs shut down, masticated upon by chopping yankee gnashers, spelling the end of everything.

Too many things that begin as a gift, end as a massive inconvenience, like cancer. Thanks Dennis Quaid.