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From Burning Sky, copyright 1998, Rachel Polllack, published by Cambrian Publications

A cashier in a bookstore dreams that a man approaches her with a book containing her own life story. Blood from a Turnip reads the title, and for a moment she thinks she has made a mistake, how could such a book concern her? But as she leafs through the pages, pretending to search for a price or a discount sticker, she discovers that the book in fact describes her life in embarrassing detail. She finds it unpleasant to read the story of her conception, when her father brought a large codfish to bed to place between himself and her mother.

"Where did you get this?" she asks the customer, who points vaguely at either a section labeled "Fantasy Cookbooks" or one called "Paranoid Physics."

She reads further. Now she finds discrepancies between the book and her life. The aunt who refused to let her keep a stray cat becomes an uncle drowning an incontinent dog. Her first lover, a theology student from Columbus, Ohio, here appears as an undercover agent for the Vatican's financial department.

The book, she realizes, has improved her life so as not to dull the reader. Her divorce, a dreary litigation by mutual boredom, now features a cancer-ridden CIA husband and a locked diary of lesbian encounters. Or has her divorce happened at all? She cannot remember. She cannot remember her husband's name, only a dim sense that she forgot to move in with him after the wedding and has never seen him again, except once, on the way to a tupperware party where she bought a vibrator autographed by Amelia Earhart.

She wraps the book in gold foil gift paper. As the customer leaves he kisses her neck and whispers, "Blessed memory insures the survival of art."


In a clichéd society, why should dreams remain original? Wouldn't our dreams fall into standardized forms, open to literary parody? Many people consider dreams something we experience. To me, they have always seemed like creative acts, works of the imagination, and therefore subject to repetition and failure of originality (I have sometimes awoken from a vivid dream with the clear sense that the dream creator had come up with a great plot twist, but couldn't think of how to end it, and chose instead just to get out of it by waking me up).

Russell Baker once wrote of the forgotten task dream. Students dream that exam time has come and they discover that they signed up for a difficult course and forgot ever to attend. Teachers dream that they forgot ever to show up and teach their class. Plumbers dream that they suddenly remember an emergency flood call they forgot to answer. Baker suggested that the President must dream that re-election time has come and he suddenly remembers that four years ago he got elected and forgot to go to the White House.

The "Fake Dreams" series are fake in two ways. They are fake in the sense that I consciously compose them rather than discover them while sleeping, and they are fake because they are parodies. At the same time, I have tried to reach for the playful absurdity of dreams, and for their mystery as well, that sense of a numinous truth just out of reach.

Please see the Archive for previous stories, tales & book excerpts

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