I am at a convenience store. The clerk, a woman in her 30s or 40s, is looking at a bunch of numbers and doing math over and over. It seems the register is broken and she’s not good at math.
There is an asian couple there with their two young children, a boy and a girl around 5, who are running around the store, up and down the aisles, examining everything. I smile and wait by the counter with whatever it was I was buying. Occasionally I glance at the kids. I chat with the asian man and his wife as the clerk continues to fail at math.
Suddenly it seems quiet. I look around. The little girl is crouched, holding a coloring book and flipping through, staring intently with naked desire to scribble shining on her face. The boy is nowhere to be seen. “Where is your son?” I ask. The couple looks up with alarm.
The man looks around, and goes to the glass front door and looks out. “Oh,” he says, evenly and without emotion, “my son has been stuck by a truck and killed.” I rush over next to him and look out the door. The pavement outside is smeared with blood and hair, nothing recognizable, like highway roadkill.
“Wait,” I say, after a couple long heartbeats, “it’s ok, that’s not your son.” I point at a couple clumps of fur and a paw of some sort. “That’s an animal,” I say.
“I know,” he replies. “That’s our dog, we left him tied outside. My son must have gone out and untied him.”
“Can you see your son?” I ask. With a gut-wrenching matter-of-fact-ness, he quietly breathes “yes.”
This word crushes me, filling me with horror and dispair that almost sends me reeling. He gestures to the other side of the road, where next to some dumpsters is the mangled, perfectly still body of the small child. The man spoke quietly, so the wife, still standing at the counter, didn’t hear his last “yes”. She looks at me imploringly. I feel lightheaded and sick. I stumble back to the counter, and unable to speak, simply shake my head. The woman wails without making a sound, closing her eyes and turning away. And then I start crying.
The clerk, oblivious to all this, and still looking at her sums, says “ok, I think I’ve about got your tab figured out.”
I gape at her. “A kid has just died,” I sputter, “now is not the time for the bill.”
“Wait,” says the mother, walking up to the clerk, “what is the total, I want to go waterskiing later.”
Her face is now composed, probably in shock, I think. I wonder if she really did have plans to go waterskiing, or if her shock is making her ramble, or if she is having a stroke. After a little more cumbersome math, the clerk makes change for the mother. She takes the girl’s hand and leads her away, the girl’s eyes wandering back to the coloring book as they go outside.
“Would you like to come for a walk with us?” asks the man. I nod and follow him outside. I follow them through some alleys and into a large vacant lot, almost a field. They are setting up a picnic.
“What about your son?” I ask, not understanding their nonchalance.
“He was with us, and now he is gone,” he says, “it was sad, but we have moved on.” The family seems calm, cheerful even, in the sunlight and grass. I halfheartedly wave goodbye and wander away, confused. My heart still hurts and there is a lump in my throat.
In the dream, I wake up. I am at some place of Neil’s. Moses is visiting. It is late, and dark. I get up quietly and find a flashlight and set it to “dim”, but my movement wakes Moses and he follows me when I leave the room.
I go into the living room, looking for a notebook in which to write down my dream. I flip through a large sketchbook, there are a number of watercolors and drawings make with ink and water. Most were drawn by me, but Moses had borrowed the sketchbook, so some were by him. I flip through a couple sketchbooks, but they are full.
I find a small notebook, but it’s in a handwriting that isn’t mine. I flip through it and see a mini photo album towards the front. I realize it must belong to Debbie, she must have left it last time she came to visit. Next to that is a checkbook. I open it and try to make sense of the top check, until I realize it’s not a stack of checks, but a single check made out of cloth, a placeholder that came with the checkbook cover when someone (debbie again?) bought it.
I find a small moleskin book, the pages made smaller from ornate borders on each page, but it is blank. “Writing down your dream, huh?” says Moses, “you should call it ‘The Sacrifice’.” I consider for a moment, “well, I’m not sure if it’s the best fit, but I’ll call it that.”
There was another section of the dream, unrelated, where I was in a tech tradeshow, I had a booth of some sort next to a music booth.
Various famous musicians would come to the music booth and play. I started getting some of their autographs on sticker paper, like name badges. One famous musician died after playing, and his clarinet broke into three pieces, not along the seams but cracked apart. The music booth added it to the things they were selling.
At another booth was a physical version of a game a famous game designer was working on. He did race games that looked like Little Big Planet, sort of layered and hand-painted. But right now it was only a hill and a ramp, which I ran along. It ended in a path of blank plywood. There was some question of when he would finish it, he had recently been diagnosed with cancer so it had thrown off the production schedule.
Another booth had some unique programming language, which I sat down to learn. The book to learn it started off with a metaphor involving a piano keyboard, though it was not music-related. You had to draw the first few keys on a piano keyboard, and put the various keywords on the keys to help you remember them. I had trouble drawing the keyboard though, it kept coming out wrong and each time I redrew it, it was more detailed and realistic, though it was supposed to be just a few lines.
This was all tied into talking to Moses in the living room, I think… we were discussing the release date for the racing game, he thought it wouldn’t be for a couple years, but I thought it might be as soon as next year.
There was another part too, where someone, Judy perhaps, was buying a cellphone, but they were all large old flip-phones, and there was a functional display model as large as a person that they were trying to sell to her.
And in the living room, I think Moses and I made too much noise, and Sarah sat up in her bed, which was in the living room for some reason. I told her to go back to bed, but she said something about being up was the thing to do now, so she couldn’t go back to sleep.
When I woke up for real, and rather than root around on my desk for a moleskin notebook and pen I knew were there, I quietly came downstairs and typed this on my laptop, so as not to wake Sarah.