Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Writing Wednesdays: The American Dreamer 1.2

This is a continuation of the previous two Writing Wednesdays. Part One is here and Part Two is here. This is a long post here, but I didn’t feel like cutting it off at the third section. Once again, feedback is appreciated.

Jesse Stevens

Of course I know Hank Tasla. He’s the darkie that lives in that poor house near the church. His whole family is one big joke around here. People act like they care about ‘em, but nobody does. They ain’t nothing but coons, and I tell him that every chance I get. I got kicked out of school for a week after I told Mrs. Epperson not teach him. I said he didn’t need to learn the stuff we learn, that he’d never amount to more than a black piece of coal. If I ever catch him alone I’ll make him wish he never moved here.


It’s terrifying. I wish that there was some way for me to convey how real my dreams are. I dreamt that I was walking along a road, paved and wide. All around me were buildings that reached up into the sky, taller than anything I could imagine. Automobiles, which I can only describe as a transportation machine that’s like a smaller carriage but much faster, crowded the streets. People like I’ve never seen before walked all around me. I found myself moving with the crowd, and eventually I ended up inside of a large arena, similar to the ancient Coliseum. My wrist was inspected as I entered, and some sort of red light was moved across my arm. Every seat was full. The attitude was a mixture of excitement and dread. The people around me talked in fear, like they were waiting for something to attack them, but were uncertain whether or not they would actually be victims. Then a flat voice rang throughout the arena, calling out a series of numbers. A man near me let out a wail, moaning like a dying dog, and was taken. Soon a group of men and women were standing in the field below me, stripped of their clothing and trying unsuccessfully to cover their nakedness. Then a group of nine masked men surrounded the naked people. The flat voice spoke again, instructing the masked people to kill the others. At once they began screaming and begging for mercy, but their sounds were silenced as a brilliant burst of light erupted from the nine’s outstretched arms. When the light cleared there was nothing left of the people within the circle of the masked men. We were then prompted to leave, and as I was walking out the door I spied a familiar word, one that I recently read in another dream. TESLA. I’m not sure what this means. It’s remarkably similar to my last name. I’m not sure what it was that I witnessed, but I hope to not see anything like it again.


It was the week before Charles Guiteau was to be executed. The national trial for the assassin of President Chance Garfield made newspapers everywhere, even in the far off places like Mt. Easter. The town was keenly interested in the outcome of the trial, as the Guiteau family had traveled through Mt. Easter a few years before the assassination. At the time, Charles was offering his legal services to anyone interested in them, but no one took him up on his claims. Much of the town’s population was gathered around Aberthon’s Mercantile, waiting for the regional newspaper to arrive, when Hank found himself the victim of a terrible crime. The boy was curious to get a glimpse of Mr. Guiteau, and he decided he was going to go to the Mercantile and buy a newspaper for himself. On his way to the store he was attacked. Hank was hit in the back of the head with a shovel and the boy dropped to the ground, writhing in agony. His assailants took turns hitting him with the weapon, spitting on him, and kicking him until he blacked out. They left him unconscious on the street, his small body broken and swollen. As the citizens filed out of the Mercantile, full of gossip and news of Charles Guiteau, a group of folks spied Hank’s body. He was taken to the Apothecary, where Doctor Stovaugh treated him the best he could. Days passed and Hank Tasla remained comatose and no one knew for sure if he’d ever wake up.


I’m sitting at the kitchen table, shaking my head in disgust and worry. Ella and the kids are at her mother’s house and they’ve been gone for two days now. I can’t remember why, or it’s quite possible that I never knew why. There’s a note scrawled on a scrap of paper in front of me, penned in her sweet hand.

I can’t take this anymore, Hank. It’s too hard on me and on the kids. You either devote yourself to us or to your work, but not to both. It’s not fair to us. Once you make up your mind, you’ll know where to find me.

I wipe the tears from my eyes, wondering how things got this way. Wondering why it feels so real. Wondering why I keep having dreams of being a young, poor boy in a small-but-growing town. Ever since I started working for the T&E Foundation things have grown weird. I wonder if it’s coincidence.

I pour myself a glass of wine and sit out on the back porch, staring up at the stars above. Millions of tiny white pinpricks on the black canvas of space, winking softly down on me. The bitterness of the wine is somehow sweet to me.

A soft breeze blows and I see the faint outlines of some of the kid’s toys tumbling through the yard. Half a mile down the road I can see the next house, illuminated by a brilliant white nightlight. My own yard’s dark. Concealing. I take comfort in the anonymity the shadows give.

I hear the light footsteps on the deck behind me the second before the blinding lights fill my vision. Pain racks through my head. The scent of spilled wine fills my nostrils. My hands dig into broken glass and I wince. I’m hit a few more times while I’m down, and soon I find my hands are tied behind my back and my head is covered.

I’m marched back into the unfamiliar house. Kind voices tell me to keep calm. What do they expect me to do? I’m as calm as I’ve ever been. Apparently my wife and children have left me, but for the life of me I can’t recall the kid’s names. I’m aloof as to why. The only picture of Ella that I can think of is of a small, white girl with brown curls, walking down a dirty road hand-in-hand with a poor, brown boy. Her eyes are the same color as a November sky, impressive grey. I don’t know who I am. Confusion, when completely accepted, is a type of calm.

The bag is removed from my head after I’m seated into one of the kitchen chairs. I’m completely bound to the seatback. My captors all stare at me with hate or curiosity. One is a middle aged woman who looks vaguely familiar. Her blond hair is in a pony-tail, and her eyes greet me with disdain. Another is a nondescript man, full of muscle and strength. He stares at me with blank eyes. The final is a handsome man, his black hair parted and mustache groomed. He looks at me with intent and a smile. He, too, looks slightly familiar.

“Do you know why we are here?” asks the small man. I shake my head, determined to remain compliant. “Hmm. I thought as much.” He paused for a moment, and then asked, “Do you know who you are?” I blink and shake my head. “Hank, I am here to set things right in the natural order of things. Long, long ago I began my work. I worked side by side with Dr. Edison, creating many of these glorious machines we have and use today. Together we were pioneers in the bioelectric and mechelectric fields. Unfortunately, our interests were not always aligned, and so we parted ways.

“I remained dedicated to my calling, progressing leaps and bounds in my work. I found a way to harness and cultivate electrodes in the air, and I knew that this was the way of the future. Countless hours later…” I find myself losing focus. It seems like it’s been ages since I’ve heard so many words. I can’t help myself when I yawn. The man stops talking immediately.

He glares at me for a brief moment and then his smile returns. “Of course, you must be exhausted. A night with no rest will do that to you, eh, and after this many years you’re bound to be worn thin. How is your mind?”

It takes me a second to realize that he’s asked me a question. How do I respond? I don’t know enough to lie, so I’m stuck with the confusing truth. “I’m not sure,” I croak out. My voice is only slightly louder than a whisper. It sounds strange to my ears. “Everything is uncertain.”

The woman is growing bored, it seems, though she still looks at me with hate-filled eyes. “Yes, I imagine it is Hank.” He speaks my name with confidence, like he knows me. My name is one of the only things of which I am certain. “And I am sorry for the way this was handled, but we’ve been trying to locate you for a very long time, and were quite unsure as to how you would react. Thus, we felt that care should be taken to avoid any chance of escape.”

Escape? Why would I run? I don’t understand anything, so I simply nod. “Good. Dr. Hatley, would you mind prepping the serum? Hank,” he says, turning back to me. “I’m going to have Dr. Hatley give you a shot. It will help you relax. When you wake up you’ll feel much better. Is that okay?”

I don’t like the way the woman stares at me, the way she’s holding the syringe, but I remain compliant. I nod again. She steps close to me and I feel a pinch in my arm. My eyes, already heavy, grow suddenly more burdensome to keep open. I blink a few times, seeing my captors watching me with the same mix of eyes: anger, apathy, and curiosity. Within a span of seconds, I keep my eyes closed and fall gently into the realm of Dream.


Crystal said...

Ok, that was not what I was expecting!! You were right when you said last week that this week's posting will be interesting. Can't wait for next week! Great job!

logankstewart said...

Thanks, Crystal. I hope you enjoy next weeks post.

Krista said...

Hey, Logan!!

I have only read the first part so far and it's really good. I'll be back to finish it at lunch :)

Krista said...

Oh, wow! Great stuff, Logan. This ending here got very interesting. Hank is a very mysterious character and I look forward to more :)

logankstewart said...

Thanks, Krista. I'm glad you enjoyed. I aim for the interesting.