I walked south, sunshine piercing my eyes, encouraging growth to the young wrinkles at the corners. Ahead was a sprawling apartment complex shifting like shadows of trees along a traveled highway. I was looking for somebody, engorged with an angry happiness. I didn't know why I felt this way. Upon rising out of thought, I found myself surrounded by the complex. Screams of children, barks of turtles( I know that turtles don't bark, but the dream was master) thrummed within my ears. I smelled beef being cooked and didn't feel hungry.
The individual apartments weren't so strange. Balconies and sliding glass doors on each one, the bottom floor open, a stone path leading to each slab of cement. But trying to look at all of them simultaneously made me dizzy. They connected to each other in a mazelike fashion, spiraling around each other, several levels high, connected by rope bridges with wooden slats.
I went around a corner and singled out an apartment on the ground floor. It was that one! I knew it! Running onto the patio I yanked open the sliding glass door. The air inside was so cold, snow fell when it came in contact with the heat outside.
Inside, the TV was on. Three women sat side by side on a very small couch. One was a woman I worked with two years ago. I hadn't seen her in a year and a half, but she smiled at me as if that time was five minutes ago.
"Hey, Todd. How are you?"
"I'm good," I said, just standing there, obsessively hating these obligatory greetings uttered every day. "How are you?"
"I'm good. How are you?"
I didn't say anything. I knew if I did I would be there forever. Instead, I noticed that her daughter sat in the middle. She was a big, tall girl who smiled at me frozenly, as if by the air or by the enormity of her infatuation with me.
The woman on the right was grotesquely fat. I had never seen her before. Even in the sterile cold her unyielding stink offended me. The end of the wooden sofa on the left was an inch higher than her side. She ignored me.
I took all three of them in a glance, feeling sourly disappointed. I was not looking for these women.
"I have to go. Bye."
She tried to pull me into her circle again. "Bye, Todd. You have a good day." The last syllable rose in pitch, expecting a response. I shut the door. I began to curse, and the viciousness of my language wounded the air around my head. Blood pattered on my shoulders, my arms. I shrieked, terrified, and ran down an enclosed corridor summoned from thin air by my fear. A small ramp at the end halted at the cross-section of one of the bridges. My chest slammed into the wooden slats, and the bridge swayed lazily. I looked down. The tips of my boots protruded over a white abyss. The bridge stretched the length of it, for the width was insignificant.
Several loud barks startled me and I glanced up to see an enormous dog running ahead of four others on the other side of the gap. They ran through thick grass of an untended lawn, around several vehicles bereft of wheels. The lead dog was bigger than a donkey, and its teeth made its head seem shrunken. An old man sat on a concrete block, yelling, "Get that shitblister, Bucket! Get him for coming round here!"
I started to back up, but Bucket growled and leapt onto the bridge, sinking its teeth into my forearm.
"Oh, God! Let go of me! It hurts!"
My stomach began to ache from the pain, and the old man, laughed, farted, laughed, farted. "How's he taste, Bucket? He taste good enough for me?"
Bucket made a noise. The top half of his body hung over the rope railing. I forced myself to look at my arm and gasped. No blood. Bucket's teeth had sunk in the flesh clean, as if I was made of clay.
"Sir, please call your dog off. I didn't mean to come down this way. I'm just looking for somebody."
"Bucket, don't eat him all up. Save some for me!"
I would get no help from that guy.
Gritting my teeth, I jerked my arm down, causing Bucket to flip over the rope and fall into the gap. His tremendous weight threatened to pull me with it, but my arm ripped away and the abyss swallowed the dog. The other dogs barked and jumped after their leader.
My forearm was gone, but the stump was smooth and pink, as if a year had passed.
The old man screamed. "Bucket's gone! I can't walk around in his head no more! Gone!" He got up from the block and began to run toward me. Each step shook the ground, my body, like a train. I pirhouetted and bolted up the ramp through the corridor, emerging into wonderful sunlight. The shaking had stopped and immediately I felt safe from any danger. I stood in grass in some sort of courtyard. A parking lot was in the middle, hosting a single mustang covertible. In front of the parking lot was a couch. Sight of the couch coaxed out overwhelming exhaustion, and I sighed and ran, jumping on it, falling asleep at once.
The sound of women's throaty laughter and whistles woke me. Four gorgeous black women sat in the Mustang, staring at me with aggressive smiles. Still half-asleep, I raised my left hand and gave them one of the grins that work. They whistled louder and the car backed up and left the lot.
My right stub bristled with needles from having been slept on. I sat up and shook it. As the circulation energized, my forearm and hand coalesced before my eyes. To me, it was ordinary. Another cup of coffee, another blink.