Born in Santa Monica, California, on December 4, 1951, Mick Garris made 8mm home movies as a youngster before later becoming a freelance critic for a number of film and music publications. In 1977, he was hired as a receptionist in George Lucas’ newly formed company ‘Star Wars Corporation’ and served as the on-screen host for a Los Angeles cable access interview show called Fantasy Film Festival, with guests including John Landis, Joe Dante, John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, William Shatner and Christopher Lee. In the 1980s, he made a name for himself directing ‘making-of...’ features for such films as Scanners, The Howling, Halloween II, The Thing and Videodrome, then served as one of the writers and story editors for Spielberg’s Amazing Stories.He also wrote for TV shows such as Freddy’s Nightmares and Tales from the Crypt. In 1990 he wrote and directed Psycho IV: The Beginning and in 1992 directed an original screenplay by Stephen King: Sleepwalkers. At the request of King, he helmed the six-hour mini-series The Stand, which was one of the highest watched TV mini-series of 1994, and The Shining TV adaptation (1997). Later that year, Garris oversaw the directing for Quicksilver Highway based on a pair of horror stories by Stephen King and Clive Barker. Garris and King have reunited twice more for Riding the Bullet and Desperation. His numerous short stories include ‘Dream on Me’ and ‘A life in the Cinema’ which was also the title of his first collection in 2000. He has published a novel called Development Hell, available from Cemetery Dance.
I woke up wearing someone else’s smile.
It was chocolate. The smell, the flavor, the unmistakable texture of the good stuff… creamy, dreamy and dark, so rich that it woke me up. As it dissipated, it left in its place an overwhelming rush of disappointment, bordering on depression.
Now, I’m not a guy who salivates at the mention of a Hershey bar—I’ve always prided myself on my clear thinking and level-headedness—but in my dream state that morning, I’d have killed for a hollow Easter bunny.
I never dream…not so I remember, anyway. On the rare occasion that I do dream, I never remember the dream, merely the dreaming. I’ll wake up, my head filled with the most amazing bubbles and shadows of boundless nocturnal thought, only to have it vanish as I dredge myself into the waking world. Dreamland and I remain perfect strangers.
But this chocolate heaven stayed with me into the light of the morning sun. The purity of its taste, the milky calm of it melting down my throat, the gentle caffeine rush flowed through me with such sensual pleasure that I immediately understood why our great-grandparents considered the stuff a powerful aphrodisiac.
Since the divorce led me into the gym and a macrobiotic diet all those months ago, this was wish fulfillment I never knew I desired. I can take sweets or leave them. I thought. But if I take them, I can hire out to Macy’s on Thanksgiving Day.
But the diet isn’t so tough. Nothing ever used to be much of a problem. Sure, the marriage was less than successful, but we handled it in a civilized manner. We didn’t hit each other, or scream all night, or fight endlessly. It just didn’t work, so we ended it. It was a passionless affair, from the time the vows were said, and we’re better off now apart than together. And Babette and I are still friends.
The day The Dream woke me, I had to go shopping. Since the Schick Center aversion therapy, it’s no big deal. I could guide my cart past the beckoning candy and cookies with considerable ease. But today, the lingering taste made life more difficult. With fierce determination, I loaded the basket with the required rabbit food: sprouts, spinach, pao darko tea, you know the stuff. But it was when I headed to the meat counter for the ground turkey that I heard their little voices.
A Nestlé’s Crunch called me by name; the Cadbury with hazelnuts was trying to crawl into my cart; the M&Ms—plain and peanut—were trying to melt in my mouth, not in my hands. I turned away from the meat counter, and went looking for Mr. Goodbar.
I raced home with my bounty, and tore into the candy with a voracious desire. Stuffing it into my mouth, where there should have been a surge of sensual satisfaction, a chocolate itch scratched by Godiva, there was only letdown.
It was creamy, rich and sweet... but meaningless. I could take it or leave it. Even though alone, I went pink with embarrassment; it really wasn’t worth the hypoglycemic rush I knew I would have to endure. I didn’t crave that shit.
I gagged down a salad, and washed it down with unfiltered carrot juice.
Senses are important to me. I create artificial flavors for the food industry, and my first fear was that the olfactory was acting up, and my career might be jeopardized. But the Chocolate Experience was an isolated one, and it was soon forgotten.
It must have been two weeks later when the sneezes blasted me from slumber at about four in the morning. It was the damned cat. In my sleep it hummed and sputtered in my lap, as I stroked it, loved it, cuddled it as if it were my closest life-long chum.
But I’m allergic to cats.
Okay, I love animals, am a member of Defenders of Wildlife, PETA, and the Cousteau Society, but I just hate cats. They’re sneaky, annoying, leave their hair all over the furniture—which they’ve clawed to shreds—and make my eyes go red and teary. My deviated septum packs up and explodes when one of the little darlings is near.
So what in the hell am I doing cuddling and cooing Puff in my sleep? And with all deference to the wisdom of my allergies, since when does dreaming of a cat make me sneeze?
Something was going on here that I didn’t understand. It struck me that perhaps I was dreaming someone else’s dreams.
But it turned out to be more than the purloining of slumber fantasy. What was happening to me was much more than a dream.
One night, while driving home from a particularly tiresome day at the lab, the dream spilled into my waking hours. I was overwhelmed with affection and warmth, overflowing with a rush of romance that would have made the Brontë sisters blush. Somehow, I was a human radio tower, receiving emotions of such depth that I nearly crashed the Mazda.
Here I am on the way home from Consolidated Flavor Enhancement, looking forward to choosing from a variety of at least half-a-dozen boxes of Lean Cuisine in the freezer, a light beer, and a stroke magazine I hid in the evening Examiner, and I was nearly knocked senseless by this rush of true love so inestimably foreign to me.
I thought I’d been in love a hundred times—I know I told a hundred women I loved them, and I sure meant it at the time—but I’d never known true love. And from this experience, not even a reasonable facsimile. With a crescendo of sudden shame and embarrassment, I realized I didn’t know shit about love. I was suddenly hit in the face with my shallowness, so incapable of emotional depth that I never knew such feelings—at such depth—even existed.
When the transmission ended, it left me drained, and unbelievably sad.
Supposedly you never miss what you’ve never had, but now that I’d felt this exhilaration, I was left deflated and so depressed that I actually cried my way home.
Even as a child, I never cried. I used to lie in bed at night, trying to summon up the image of my dead grandfather to make myself feel enough to spill tears, usually without success.
And now, caught in the valley-bound gridlock of rush hour traffic, my anticipation of Pritikin bread and Cookin’ Bag chicken was trespassed by the swelling and spilling of heretofore arid tear ducts.
To a newcomer, feeling is pain.
But it was a glorious pain, and once felt, I needed to experience it again. What was happening to me? And why?
Over the ensuing weeks, the transmissions were random. Somehow, I was a psychic burglar, stealing someone else’s senses. Without warning, I would suddenly see through someone else’s eyes, taste with their mouth, or—by far the best of all—feel what they were feeling.
But nothing I could do could will the transmissions on. They struck at random and always alone: smell without sight, touch without hearing, emotions without vision.
However, now that I seemed to understand what was happening, and looked forward to receiving the signals, they were denied me. I wanted to feel the emotions of a true human being, someone who felt deeply and passionately, and seemed to take a proper place on the planet. I felt like a welfare tenant in Hearst Castle, that I deserved to be evicted from the planet for impersonating a human being. I wanted to be allowed to grow.
But days passed, and the only emotions to roll about in my head were, disappointingly, my own. I kept occupied at the lab, made myself so busy that it kept me from wishing on the empathy rush.
Just an ingredient or two from perfecting an imitation honeydew flavor for Jelly Bellies, it struck again. No longer confined to dream infiltration, the transpositions chose to attack in my waking hours, and usually at the most inopportune of moments.
Like the first time, it began with a smell. It was almost-roses. In my business, I knew immediately that it wasn’t real roses, but a very good simulation. I’ve since identified it: Tea Rose perfume. And then, the feeling. I covered myself with my arms, suddenly standing naked in the middle of the lab, toweling myself dry, powdering my body, softly, luxuriously, sensually pampering myself.
It was a woman!
And as swiftly as she was there, she was gone, and the heavenly scent of almost-rose on her skin gave way to the syrupy stink of near-honeydew. A bad bargain, but it left me with a raging erection.
Though I hadn’t seen her, I knew she was beautiful, judging her from the inside out. She was filled with love and goodwill, and her abrupt departure was painful. I needed to know her better. I needed to know her at all.
That was the day. From that point on, it was all I could do to live my own life. I thought about her endlessly, wondering who she was, where she lived, what could be the sonnet that was her name. What did she look like?
The next phase was paranoia.
Was she receiving me? Was this sensual exchange a two-way circuit, or merely a party line on which I was invited to listen in? And if she were receiving me, she could see how relentlessly superficially my life had been lived. Before finding her, my deepest thought was the perfection of imitation top sirloin, and I was sure she’d found me out. She must know about the men’s magazines that littered my bedroom and bathroom... and in turn be aware of the inordinate amount of time spent with my left hand. Even before the divorce. I suddenly felt very lonely, in the most literal sense of the world, knowing that she deserved better than me.
And so did I.
For the most part, what I received from her were the most beautiful and pure thoughts and feelings that I had ever experienced. They were so good, so generous, so giving that I could but envy her. I threw out the beaver books, dusted and vacuumed the house, and even scrubbed the toilet. I even began to make the bed every morning. You never know...
Perhaps my attempts to impress her through the two-way mirror I imagined existed between us was a little overboard, but I had to be my best for her, and thereby for myself. I wrote checks to wildlife organizations; I began to compose hopelessly romantic poems; I had fresh roses around me at all times; I even went so far as to buy a cat. If she knows, it is worth the sneezing and the watery eyes.
I tried not to consider the more likely possibility: that she was blissfully unaware of my existence. I needed to find her, to see her, to talk to her, to make her a living, breathing soul mate, who would no doubt find me her ideal companion for the rest of our lives. I knew that it had become obsession; I needed her to know it, too. My most fervent hope was that she would transmit while writing the return address on an envelope, or while giving out her phone number. Was that too much to ask? After all, didn’t there have to be a reason for our psyches to become entwined in the ether?
She just kept doing little things that drove me more and more madly in love with her. She sang in the mornings! Can you imagine a soul so bright and cheerful that it could start the morning with a song? She laughed a lot. And when she cried, it was for joy. But it broke my heart to feel the wet of her tears. She needed my shoulder.
You’d have fallen in love with her, too. But I was there first.
In bed one night, I drifted off to sleep in her bubble bath. The water in her tub was so bubbly and relaxing that I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I hoped she slept as easily as I.
It was only a couple hours later that I bolted awake.
There were hands on my chest. Rough-hewn and horny, they gripped and kneaded our breasts, twisting, massaging, pinching extended nipples, and I felt overpowering heat in my loins. I realized in aroused horror that she was sending again, and this time...
It still embarrasses me to even think about it.
I felt our breasts get hard with the rough handling. I felt a hot, wet mouth circle the nipple, the tongue tickling the hardened teat into a miniature pagoda of flesh. My heart thudded with fear, confusion... and excitement that I hoped I could attribute to her. I didn’t know how to react; he was playing rough, but it felt... good.
I could feel wet heat working its way down my body, and before I knew it, I felt penetration! My body had by now completely given way to hers, and I felt things I’d never felt before—nor wanted to! The first stroke was absolutely the most shocking experience I’d ever known. And it kept going.
And then, before taking leave of me, the experience reached its apex, and I experienced my first vaginal and clitoral orgasms. And to complete the set, my rocket launched, making a mess of the newly washed sheets.
After the physical devastation, I just lay there in bed, sweating, feeling guilt and shame, and a curious sense of empathy that no other man can know. I was nauseous with post-coital confusion, and didn’t sleep the rest of the night.
Sleeping never got any easier. She was constantly on my mind, the thought of her constantly gnawing at me. I needed her as much as I wanted her, and I’d never wanted anything so much in my life. Even though I only received flashes of her for a few minutes total during the course of a week, I felt that I knew her better than any man has known any woman. And for some time, there was no reason to believe that it wasn’t true.
Who chooses their soul mate?
Would that it were so simple: to meet all of the available potential partners, and using mind and body, making the most intelligent decision for a life partner. No, love chooses us, not the other way around. And once hooked, there is little turning back. I was in love with a nameless woman I’d never seen, who quite probably had no idea I even existed. Had I known it was hopeless, I might have been able to stop it. Or I might not. But I didn’t, and I didn’t want to.
And neither would you.
A few days later, she was sending again. I looked down, and we were painting our nails. Her hands were long and tapered, and the polish was a wet, blood red. The polish was applied slowly, gracefully, peacefully, and her thoughts, as ever, were loving and calm. When she finished, my view followed her hand as it grabbed the door of the bathroom medicine cabinet, and pulled it open.
Her image whooshing by in the cabinet mirror was so casual and inevitable that it took me a moment to realize I had actually seen her! Instantly, the transmission fled, freeing my own senses to realize what just happened. The vision settled in the lightning flash of memory permanently embedded on my cerebellum, and my fury with the brevity of the vision gave way to tides of joy. In my mind, at least, I had grasped the Holy Grail, if only for a fraction of a second.
She was breathtaking!
That was no surprise, having known her as I did. But she was nothing short of a goddess. Her hair, still damp from the shower, was brown, and fell to her bare, milky shoulders. Her pale green eyes were huge and innocent. And she was naked. Her firm, small breasts acted as proud hosts for her attentive, brown, eraser-like nipples.
She was truly all that a human being could be. And then, she was gone.
It was fully three weeks before I heard from her again: three weeks of the most intense loneliness I’d ever felt. I wanted her so badly that I couldn’t eat, which suited my waistline if not my heart. It was the cruelest form of impotence I could imagine; I needed her to know that she was the most important thing in my life.
I kept putting in the hours at work, but my heart and mind were far away. I managed to bring the Honeydew Project to a reasonable end, and the Jelly Belly people were happy, but I knew it wasn’t perfect. But I didn’t care; that shit didn’t mean anything to me now. I wanted to share my good fortune with her.
I found myself riding an emotional roller coaster, and I was never sure if it was hers, mine, or ours. My spirits would soar to the heights of ecstasy, and in moments plummet to the depths of gut-churning despair. In one moment I’d share a smile with everyone I’d pass, and in another be screaming at the slightest misdemeanor that encountered me. I’d gone from a man whom few had ever seen angry, to a veritable amusement park of emotions.
The next time she visited me was embarrassing, but at least it was a visit.
As a child, did you ever dream of going to the bathroom, only to wake up and find that you’d wet the bed? I did it a couple times when I was little, lying in the top bunk over my older brother. Boy was he pissed!
Well, that’s what happened. But it wasn’t a dream; it was her! She must have gotten up in the middle of the night, and I woke up peeing in my bed. It was the weirdest eliminatory experience I’ve ever had; I was pissing for her, and it felt like it was coming from someplace it wasn’t. And then, when she wiped, it really felt strange.
When she went back to bed, we couldn’t sleep. Something was bringing us pain, and I couldn’t bear her hurt. She deserved only joy, and there was nothing I could do about it. And, with random rancor that too often typifies those things over which we have no control, this transmission lasted longer than any previous one.
But I didn’t mind; it was time together. And perhaps she was reaching out to me for help. I would have died to keep her from hurting, and I hope somehow that she knew that.
I felt tears splash down on my naked chest, but when I looked down, my skin was dry. I ached for her, and she was gone.
All I could do was worry about the woman I loved. I wanted nothing more than to block out all of her pain, to bring the boundless joy back into that beautiful, uncluttered, loving intelligence. I called in sick the next day, for even though I was no longer receiving, I was nauseous with her anguish.
Later that day, it came in a brief flash of incredible anger, and was gone. It was a shock getting this unannounced flash of temper stabbing through me in the middle of my Weight Watchers whole-wheat pizza like that. The strength and nastiness of the emotion was devastating; it was something of which I thought she was incapable. Something must have pushed her to the brink to ignite such horrible fury, and I wanted to destroy it for her.
By night, however, it appeared that all was well. I was watching a heart operation on PBS, when suddenly I broke into a gale of her melodious laughter. It was a joyous, cleansing experience for us, and I knew that she must have crossed that bridge over troubled water. I actually cried with the joy of relief that the gorilla on her back had been shot and killed. God, I never wanted her to hurt like that again!
She was gone quickly, but I went to sleep happy. I probably dreamed about her.
A few days later, I knew she was still happy. Her next transmission was uncluttered and clear. She must have been lying in a meadow somewhere beautiful. I could feel the prickling of the grass, and took deep breaths of the cool, fresh air, scented with just the faintest touch of real carnations. We were completely at peace, and I happily wore her smile again. Now that my fear for her happiness was put to rest, I could go back to needing and wanting her again. If only we could meet, I thought, I’d give her anything she wanted: all the love and support she could stand, and then some. But I wouldn’t smother her, I promised aloud.
Though I ached to be with her, I was sleeping better. I knew she was untroubled, and that made my life better as well. I knew that someday soon, somehow I would find her. That’s all there was to it.
And then, several days went by without so much as a smell from her, and I worried anew. I would panic on those occasions, certain I’d lost her, that I’d never hear from her again. Hurt and crestfallen, I never allowed the feelings to become anger or resentment. That was beneath me and the purity of my love. I would try to convince myself that I was lucky to have had as much of her as I did, that she had made my life better and more complete just by existing.
But that didn’t cheer me. I missed her terribly.
Then came Saturday. I was lying on the couch watching The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad for the first time since I was about twelve. Trust me, it doesn’t hold up. In fact, it lulled me into a sleep so deep it was as if somebody had flipped a switch and turned off the world.
Then came the rush, and I slept so soundly that nothing made any sense. My hands gripped something tightly, and I was completely confused. I was lashing out, poking, slashing. The blanket began to lift, and I felt like filth.
We were killing.
I felt the long, phallic blade in our hands hit flesh. It slowed at impact, then ripped through the living meat in sickening penetration. We hacked repeatedly through the squirming, helpless flesh, hitting bone with jarring abruptness, then tearing through. The vibrations of flesh being rent moved through my hands and into my body, settling in the acid pit of my stomach, and I shivered with the hideousness of it. I felt the warm, wet spray of blood like tears on my face, felt it run down my arms in hot, pulsing rivers.
Then, the slashing stopped, and she was gone. The next emotions were my own. I felt indescribably dirty and savage, with a sense of degradation I had never known. I wore a bloody sheath of sickness and depravity I’m certain will never come off. If you haven’t felt it, you can’t know it... and I never did before this. I was red with shame and humiliation, sweating a foul stench of guilt. I retched repeatedly over the side of the couch until I went limp, my stomach empty. And then I couldn’t stop the tears that splashed into the puddle.
That was months ago. I haven’t heard from her since. This is the longest time by far between transmissions, and I’m resigned to the likelihood that there will be no more. She lied to me, cheated on me, used me. I want to hate her, flush her from my mind.
But I can’t. Love chooses us. And I can’t stop thinking about her. So I’m still waiting, just in case.
I need someone to tell me how to feel.
© Mick Garris
© Paul Kane 2003-2017. All rights reserved. Materials (including images) may not be reproduced without express permission from the author.