I dreamed. I was on stage but it was clear that no one could see me as I walked among the band members. Their music sounded muted, distorted. In the crowd, I kept seeing faces that looked familiar – girls from junior high, boys from the high school football team, my tenth grade science teacher. At the back of the crowd, my father saluted me. Then, in a flash of light he had another face – distorted with scarring, one eye sewn shut, more zombie than human. His gash of a mouth smiled at the instant I felt a blade hit my throat, right in the soft indentation. I felt with my hands – blood, hot and black covered them as though it were a living organism. I held my hands up in front of my face, coated in that strange, phosphorescent goo, already congealing onto my fingers like gloves. A spotlight swung around and latched onto my hands, pulling them up for everyone to see.
My hands were no longer attached to my upstretched arms, they were floating above me in the spotlight. From the darkness I heard Jamie yell, “Wow, cool!” as they shone with amazing colours, turning this way and that in the light. My extended arms tugged with their movement, as though an unseen tether held me to them.
I tried to yell for help as blood continued to spill from my throat in torrents, but my voice box fell out of the gash in my neck. I felt it hit my foot, and heard it fall open on the floor, a wooden music box. A haunting, familiar tune rose around me.
I couldn’t move my head or my body. I was stretched and helpless, held by my hands shining above me, pulling me upward so I was forced onto my toes. I felt I was the ballerina, trapped and turning in place. I desperately scanned my eyes downward, trying to see the box, as though it could somehow save me. It taunted the edge of my vision. With great effort, I managed to kick at it with my foot. It slid just into view, and I caught a glimpse of something inside: white, small, vulnerable and alive. It was glowing and I couldn’t look right at it. I heard a voice start to speak; instantly, the box caught fire. The fire rose as a white light that suddenly darted, a two-headed snake, right into both of my eyes, blinding me. I woke with a start.
“Rise and shine naughty children,” sang out Trix. She had flicked on the overhead lights as she ducked through the doorway to the workshop.
“I thought I said the bunkers for this one. What’s the matter, Mouse, afraid those girls might ruffle your feathers?”
“It was Jamie’s idea.” I grumbled, my arm over my eyes.
“Sell out,” he muttered beside me.
“I’m sure it was. He’s not one to pass up an opportunity, our boy.”
Trix seemed so smug that I realized she had never expected me to sleep in general housing. She knew Jamie would take care of me when she passed me off, and that I’d be safe with him.
Trix bent over us and stage-whispered, “I hope you kept your virtues intact.” She obviously didn’t doubt it for a second. She mussed Jamie’s bedhead and leaned over me to kiss his forehead with sturdy affection. I felt a surge of intense love for them both. Never did a boy need a mother more than Jamie. I could almost forgive her for locking him out, because she loved him so well now.
Before I had even processed those thoughts, Trix was all business.
“Jamie, I need you. Changes and ideas – we can take about an hour before I have to go. Then Mouse, you’re with me.”
“Unless you have something more interesting planned?”
“More interesting than what?”
I stared at her dumbly. Her eyebrows compressed with a questioning smile at the emotions playing over my face. She might have invited me to the land of Oz – I hadn’t felt this kind of anticipation since I was a kid. But I couldn’t go.
“I have a client this morning. I have to hike out to the burbs to teach a teeneybopper how to strum a guitar.”
Trix was unperturbed.
So simple. It never would have occurred to me. I couldn’t just cancel it, could I?
“What do I say?”
She pursed her lips as though my naivety personally offended her.
“How about you say you’re busier than expected getting ready for the TRIX AND TRACES show where you are PLAYING on Friday, and would she and her friends like to be listed at the door?” Trix was almost bouncing in place, so anxious to move the day forward.
“Just take care of it. Now, out, out, bathroom down the hall, shower in the bunkers. Back here, one hour, not before. Dress comfortably.”
She picked up my bag and ushered me to the door, handing it to me just as I crossed the threshold. She closed the door behind me. I had been dismissed.