In a Dream, in a Vision of the Night

The scene bothered Frederico, but not enough to make him exercise his limited options. People did not leave this organization freely, and old men -- what of old men? What of this old man? The old man had been preaching too vigorously against drug use, filling peopleís heads with strange notions that undercut the drug use that their profits depended on. "FROH-nay-mah sar-KOHS," "Romans chapter 8," "Greek for Ďmind of the fleshí " -- what was all that weird stuff anyway -- and now the narcotraficantes had the old man in hand, their prisoner, sleeping under too few blankets for an old man, guarded in a jungle forest clearing, a prisoner among their camp after his kidnapping. The leaders and the more vicious of the men would make sport of him for a while, show him whose "god" was real and powerful, and then... Frederico looked around the little clearing, the old man, the people of the narcotraficantesí operation, the guard on duty with his Kalashnikov automatic rifle, the fire whose presence in the night showed the power of their sovereignty in this area.

Sometime in the middle of the night, the old man stood up, stiffened, and began to walk across the little clearing. The drug-lordís guard cradling his Kalashnikov started, coming out of a slight trace of sleep, pointed the weapon meanacingly at the old man. The old man neither quickened nor slowed. He stared at the drug-lordís guard with a fixed, intense gaze. The drug-guard pointed the automatic weapon forward, curled his lip in a cruel snear -- but the old man kept trudgingly silently through the little patch of fire-lit night that separated them. Not toward the jungle forest on either side, to attempt an escape -- directly onward against his oppressor. As he neared the place where he could have reached out and touched the drug-guardís Kalashnikov, the guard pressed the trigger home, emptied the magazine into the old man, and took half a step back in shock and horror at what he had done. He enjoyed the menacing, the thrill of demeaning the non-drug powerless ones...   the blood from multiple wounds, the strange look on the dead old manís face, these were unnerving in the meager firelight and the stillness of the watching forest.

The captainís reaction in the morning was business-like enough. His guard had done what had to be done, what he was stationed to do and expected to do. People who didnít buy drugs were of no value to them and old people were of no value to anyone. They hacked the body to pieces, burned the face in the fire to forestall identification in the unlikely event that the body parts were to be found, and moved camp,

It began three nights later. The captain began to see the old man in his dreams. The captain hadnít seen the old manís stare on that fateful night, but the face in his dreams had the same stare. "Give me liberty or give me death." The old man would walk slowly toward him, staring straight into him, eyes that bored into his soul ... The captain would wake up, tense savagely, pat his own cherished 45 pistol... He had proven his nerve, on his own terms, many times with that pistol. According to the best of his philosophy, he had proven that no one like that old man could stand up to him.

The captain would go back to sleep, but sleep was no longer his friend. The old manís face would come again, not right away, but too soon, before sleep had refilled his well. In the daytime, the captain was fatigued, and in a few days, he was drained, more and more so as days came and went, some blessed with half the sleep he needed, some tortured by far too many appearances of a face whose expression he could not comprehend, reaching from some world unknown to the drug-captain to bring an accusation he could not deny.

Weeks of this, and the captain lost his temper one day. He began screaming at the drug-guard who had killed the old man. The guard looked from side to side in terror, crouched in fear, and the captain emptied his entire 45 pistol magazine into the man. With a flood of relief, the captain put a new magazine in his pistol and glared at his other men.

But relief was momentary and unavailing. That night the old manís face seemed to move more slowly, but just as fixedly as ever as it came through a flickering firelight into the captainís dreams, closer, boring into the depths of his power-crazed soul, unavoidable, un-repell-able. The mortal tension again brought the captain awake.

Weeks more of this, turning the life-restoring flood of sleep into a drizzle totally inadequate ... Only a few weeks now, as his men watched him with sidelong glances and profound fear, then the captain resorted again to his pistol. One shot this time, to his own head, and his agonies in this world were ended.

The men dispersed, in every direction that trails ran across the hills, attaching themselves to other units of the narcotraficantes.

They were not a blessing to their new comrades. The commanders of these units and the men in them who had been the most harsh wielders of their oppressions -- these began to see the old manís face, a face they had never known in life. Brief snatches of it at first, only a few seconds beginning to move in the dream-world firelight towards them, then longer, coming closer, till the stare on that face forced them to tense and then to awaken... The mortally-cursed sequence began to close upon the narcotraficantes, the old manís haunting presence first shortening their sleep, then shredding it, then shattering it. Then, even day-time naps brought the presence they could not shake, and lost the power to assist the guilty soul. Suicide and defection shattered the ranks of the drug-lordsí organization.

Frederico heard many stories from them of these visions in their dreams -- sometimes seen even while waking, if tired or distracted -- sometimes, with a tremendous power, even at the peak of some endeavor! They would describe to Frederico the face, the expression, the stare, the silent moving forward with stillness all around, and he knew it was the same old man. But he never said anything about that, about what happened in the middle of the night in that clearing -- these people might be angry with him if he told them, and he valued his life, especially now, as he was moving more and more out of the evil kingdom.


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THE TITLE is from Job 33:15 in the Bible: "For God does speak -- now one way, now another, though man may not perceive it . In a dream, in a vision of the night... he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword..." Later this chapter speaks of "an angel on his [man's] side ... to tell a man what is right for him... He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God's face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God...that the light of life may shine upon him" (verses 23-30).

The original title of this was "Telemachus II," but the history of the monk Telemachus has disappeared from a secularized America. My reference point for that statement, is that the Encarta CD encyclopedia has the Greek mythological Telemachus, but NOT the monk who walked into the Roman Coliseum between the gladiators and said, "Stop!" The crowds shouted "Kill him! Kill him!" and the gladiators did -- then, as his crumpled, robed body lay in the midst of the spectacle-chamber, the more sensitive and perceptive Romans began to file out ... and it was the end of the blood-sport. Click here to read the account of the monk's action...

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