I’m here, in the hole, alone, or almost.  There was a demon here when I came in, but he didn’t like my singing.  And there’s the ghost.  He tells me my singing is fine, but too loud.  Sing more softly.  He can hear me just fine, if I sing, yes, softly, singing.  Whirling and twirling around, here, in the hole, where I’m safe from the streets.  I can hear loud noises, explosions, from the distance.  Bright lights, flashing colors, twinkly shapes appeared and receded while I was outside.  Outside the hole, in the dark with too much noise and light, no.  Better here, safely, in the quiet almost dark candlelight, whirling and twirling, singing, softly.  This ghost is okay.  Not angry, not mean.  He can stay here, in the hole, with me safe, warm.  Way too warm.  Hot, humid night and I’m wearing all these clothes.  Unlayer!  Unlayering.  There is a story about nights being cold.  The ghost says it doesn’t matter, just keep some clothing on for protection; don’t sweat the sweat.  Yes, the fiber gives my running water a place to soak into.  He tells me to drink bottled water, from the pack on the floor.  What comes out must go in, for perfect balance.  I have a good haul on the floor.  Packaged food, water, pills and liquor too!  And look!  A lovely patchwork skirt to twirl in.  A right proper party I’ve got me, eh Ghostie?  Got ourself a party good as any out on the street.  Drinking brandy from the bottle and twirling.  More heat and sweat, but I’m relaxed into it, feeling so fine.

The ghost is impatient.  He wants me to go out to the big party uptown, to see the Carnival.  Can’t you see we have a better party  here?  We don’t have to share.  No demons, no annoying people with all their chaos here.  He is not dissuaded.  He wants the lights and noise, cacophony, or at least the people parading through the streets to watch.  I am warm and liquid.  Watching pretty lights, pretty costumes, parading, maybe, could be, a pretty party favor.  I blow out the candle,  adjusting my eyes to the darkness of these back streets.  I take my bottle along, twirling through the street in my pretty party skirt.  Warm, humid night full of noise and lights, so dreamlike.

“One more drunken reveler,” the ghost whispers.  I have arrived, surrounded by lights, by crowds dancing and prancing to lively beating bands.  Swirling, twirling colors and light and movement, a dream made real, created by mass imagination.  I feel free in this crowd.  Nobody’s stopping to question to be involved in anything but the grand, sinuous movement.  Even the ghost is caught up in the spell.  He is caught up in another space, another mind, only so slightly attached to me at all.  I am free, sinuously dancing, enmeshed in the beautiful crowd, the beautiful light, all fantasy, all play, no drama.  Entranced in the music, palpably joining form and shadow, so high, floating, in a beautiful sea.

The ghost remembers me, whispering:  “Go back to the hole; be safe.”  I am caught up in the floating sea.  I feel fine here.  The hole will wait, a safe refuge to be in the fullness, if that dawning ever comes.

“Hey, space lady, got a name?” I am being addressed, casually.  I seem to be moving back toward consciousness after a celebratory passing out.

“No memory.  No me,” is my, to me, cleverly ironic reply to her.  Everything is hazy, out of phase.  I appear to be sitting in a kind of semi-circle around a blazing trash can.  For light?  It’s much too warm a morning to need a campfire.

“Well, hey, Nomi.  This here’s Charlie; and they call me Little Red.  That disreputable mess passed out next to you calls herself Thistle.  Couldn’t tell you why; and it can be hard to get out in certain head states, if you know what I mean.  That was might fine brandy you brought to the table.  Welcome to hang, if you like.  Less you have impending business or waylaid kin to attend to.”

I have no reason to leave, or reason at all.  “I’ll hang for a bit.  I’m not at all sure where I am anyway.  Maybe once the cobwebs clear …”  What?  Little Red doesn’t seem to care.  She passes me a home-rolled cigarette she’s had a few tokes on.

“My special blend,” she proudly informs me.

The haze intensifies, with added color and sparkle.  “I haven’t got any plans.” I tell us.  “I’m here at Carnival to party.”

Little Red is satisfied I am a kindred spirit.  I pass the cigarette to Charlie, a somewhat burly gentle looking taciturn guy.  We all seem to silently agree to enjoy our unplanned day.

Little Red is indeed little, yet tough-looking, all long frizzy red hair, gap-toothed grin, and a variety of visible scars, with a warmly welcoming stand-offish manner.  I feel welcomed, companioned, with no strings or expectations.  The morning is warm, heavily humid.  There are small groups here and there, but the street is abandoned compared to last night’s gala.  I’m still not sure where I am, who I am, what if anything I have meant to do, but it doesn’t matter.  I am here.  I am me.  I will do what comes naturally, or whatever.  Hot, hazy, humid, no fit atmosphere for thinking or doing much at all.  Just going along with the dream.

Thistle is stirring.  Long brown arms and legs, a tousle of dark hair, a flash of dark eyes over a wide yawn, then an impish grin.  There is talk of food and cleaning up.  Apparently, the city provides way stations with public showers.

My mind fuzzily seeks access to knowledge of a hidey-hole complete with food and drugs, but I am distracted.  Embracing strong arms, a wet whispering kiss on my cheek, accompanied by a warm contralto:  “Hey, Nomi.  I’m Thistle.  Good morning.”  Then, out she pirouettes ahead of us as we move, packlike, toward the showers.

The Carnival city planners are no dummies, or perhaps they learned from experience.  There’s no need for smelly, hungry hordes of would-be partiers to dampen the scene.  Enroute to the showers are complimentary booths giving out coffee and pastries along with literature from their various sponsors, colorful streetmaps highlighting attractions, and schedules of entertainment events.  I get caught up in this and that, and lose track of my new friends.

Despite the food, I am feeling light-headed, disconnected, so tired almost somnambulant.  It must be the heat.  It occurs to me to find shelter.  I conceptualize the hole, and realize that’s where I am heading.  I just need to sleep for a bit, until hopefully cooler evening hours.

I escape into the hole.  It has been waiting for me, or so it seems.  Escape into restless sleep of dreaming in a dark and quiet refuge.  Dreams dark, but not quiet.  Or am I dreaming?

I awaken to the darkness of the hole.  It is quiet, but not quiet enough.  Someone else is here.

“What do you want?  What are you doing here?” I cry out.

“You looked to be needing help.  I followed you.  Let me help you.”  Thistle moves to me out of the darkness.  She sits beside me, cradling, crooning, soothing.

“Nightmares in the day?  Tell me.  I know some things about unwanted dreams.”

“I’m not certain they are dreams.  There are words and moving images, ideas, actions.  They seem to be impressions from some apocalyptic meeting, not surreal dream imagery.  It seems more like a warning of what may occur, if right action isn’t taken.  But what am I to do with such a warning, if that’s what it is?  It could just be me dreaming in paranoid fantasy induced by recreational drugs.  I don’t know what to tell you.”  I try to explain, though I don’t know why I trust her.

“I know a technique that might help,” she whispers, clearly concerned.  “Let me walk your dream.  I can help to make it clearer for you.  We can figure out this warning, what it wants you to know.”

She seems so certain, in charge, like a wise care-giver.

“Sure.  What do I have to do?”

“Just dream, and don’t resist me.  Let go.  Let it all flow together, my presence and the imagery.”  She kisses my forehead, softly croons soothing, hypnotic phrases.  We meet in the dream.

We are in a fancy hotel conference room, complete with conferees.  There’s a group on a raised platform, clearly in charge, in crisp, tailored uniforms.  They are addressing others, in business suits, sitting at a semi-circular table slightly below their podium.  A majestically erect member of the uniforms is speaking.

“We have made adjustments in the formula.  Those science guys assure us the new crop will be much more subservient.  We won’t need to be concerned about future rebellions.”  I see from his inner panorama a large white laboratory filled with vats containing children in liquid solution.

“We’ll be able to build up our troops in a few years well beyond the numbers we had before.”

A business-type in the audience asks:  “What about the ones we’ve got who haven’t had the rebel bred out of them?”

The leader responds evenly:  “Eventually we’ll retire most of them.  The ones that prove their worth can be kept as team leaders.”

I see the mass cremation after the bodies have been harvested for saleable parts.  The human ash, too, has its industrial customers.  These mercenaries are proud of their efficient use of resources, leading to ever-expanding profit.

“Meanwhile, we keep our eye on them, and encourage them to keep their eyes on each other.  We seem to have kept the most manipulable or loyal.  I guess we can thank the rebels, now that they’re no longer a threat, for weeding out the trouble-makers.  We’ve learned through our experience, and know how to make our future enterprise so much better as a result.”

They are congratulating themselves for some successful explosive battle, for destroying those who defied them.

“Right now we are working pretty much at capacity.  Soon, though, we will be able to take on new clients.  There are plenty of local despots, industrial and political, who are favorably disposed to our services in controlling their subject populations.”

They are practically salivating, thinking about lock-step civilian workers, watched for any deviation, controlled by constant surveillance and fear.

Another of the uniforms speaks:  “We are completing our prototype rehabilitation camp for any of those, soldier or civilian, that prove difficult to control.”

I see there is no rehabilitation involved, but rather derisively contemplated sadistic experiments, torture techniques and data on the line between lethal and barely holding on.

“We can also use the camps for excess unskilled laborers, the undocumented, any source of potential unrest.”  Murmuring approval and self-congratulation ensues.

I get a flash from the obvious leader of the uniforms as he tells his business associates what they want to hear.  He sees himself raising a jewel-encrusted goblet of sweet liquid fire in toast to his private God, shouting as in salute:  “Today the world.  Tomorrow the solar system!”

I jolt awake.  I know this is not some drug-induced nightmare.  Somewhere, not too distant in time or space, this is real.

Thistle is shaken.  “We must stop them!” she cries out.

I feel her become overcome by calm.  “I have an idea of where to start,” she says, smiling briefly, without mirth.