My Personal Dream
Fiction by James Ward Kirk
Dan Teagarden suffered the candlelight, knowing the flickering shadows of flame reflecting on the walls destabilized his thoughts, intensifying the dread and horror biting at the boundaries of his remaining sanity, increasing the vibrations of his growing insanity. Yet the shadows also encouraged him to tell his story, even though the quill on the table before him opened like a sword prepared to stab his gloom trepidation, and his yearning to tell his story, the and inkbottle opened wide to accept his head.
I burn myrrh for purification, the haze mixing with cannabis and tobacco smoke, but I find no relief. My desires are ordinary, I think, but my story is not. Insanity progresses slowly, like a funeral march. Dan’s story began and finished in Indianapolis, he the son of a rich man making his fortune in Indiana Limestone.
My father, a harsh man, as inflexible as the material he stole from the earth.
One late afternoon not many days surpassing Dan’s sixteenth birthday as he argued in a rather frenzied fashion with his tutor, Mrs. Beatrice Wills, regarding the philosophy of life and death, a secret in the building blocks of Dan’s psyche revealed itself.
Dan argued the position of existential nihilism, as the depression so deep as to darken his complexion offered no other possibility, rejecting the existence of God and therefore morality.
Beatrice quoted First Corinthians, Chapter 13, versus 11 and 13, supporting her conviction, that death is but a bridge to the afterlife and the veil shall soon be lifted.
Dan, with all the arrogance and cruelty inherent to youth his age, reasoned so bitterly as to bring Beatrice to her knees where she began praying for his eternal soul.
Dan laughed at her but only momentarily as a blow to the back of his head sent him reeling from his chair and across the room where he hit his head on the wall so hard as to bring about disassociation.
My father, Lionel Teagarden, an expert at beating me, having silently entered the room, and certainly overhearing the entire conversation, stood just within the doorway in one of his finest suits, covered from hat to shoe in white limestone dust, quite the apparition, and appearing as surely as any spirit Beatrice so sweetly spoke in favor of, said, “How dare you protest the existence of God! Do not argue youthful arrogance and ignorance even to thyself!”
“My dear Father,” I cried, “how can I argue the existence of God when His proof, so sturdily bestowed within you, stands before me in condemnation? I simply played the role of devil’s advocate!”
Lionel Teagarden walked away, not another word for Dan, or even a nod toward Beatrice as if she did not exist, because she did not, the only proof of his appearance were dusty footprints and the stink of disgust clinging to the furniture and walls. Dan withdrew within himself, and another blow to his head would happen without acknowledgment so deep was his extraction.
Upon awakening the next morning, I found a very large copy of the King James Version of the Holy Bible. I take the text everywhere with me, lest I forget my father.
Like most wealthy men, Lionel hoarded and guarded his resources. Second to his wealth, he valued his young wife, Dan’s sweet mother. Dan did not weep at his father’s funeral, the man crushed to death by the same material he so coveted, rather, he coveted and was captivated by his mother’s green eyes.
Unlike his father, Dan’s most precious resource was Angela. In her eyes, she made him a man and worthy of her attentions.
Unlike my father, I valued his wife even above the God that compressed him. I held my mother closely at Father’s funeral, not for modesty of tears, rather, to conceal the smile tugging at her mouth and the heat in her eyes.
For Dan a childhood filled with leaning—from books and beatings—grew into an adulthood of indulgence. Picnics with Mother, and fine dining, theatre, opera and symphony, conversations late into the night; no pleasure did they deny. When she died, Dan thought an important part of him died with her. Not quite; yes, a part of Dan died, but a birth took place too, like an earthquake delivering new earth.
At first, Dan hated his Angela for leaving him alone to mourn the new earth within him. Slumber became impossible, then inevitable, then, joyously, Angela began coming to him in his dreams, blond and brimming with goodness, taking him to her breast. Within Angela’s bosom, Dan wept away his anguish, his freshly remembered hatred for life.
Without fail, he awakened to damp sheets and shudders, hating Angela again for leaving him a dreadful and unbearable life, a life burning him like candle-flame flashed to existence by her own hand. But the night always came without fail, and sleep like a magic carpet carried him back to her sweet embrace.
To visit Angela, in their mausoleum, and share life with her while she lay in a marble casket next to him, was a feat Dan could not accomplish.
Sometimes I feel as if I do visit my dear Angela’s resting place, she drifting above my habitus as if in a dream, awaiting, and falling into my embrace upon my smile and open arms.
Dan commissioned a house of his own for construction, one sprawling floor and a cellar, and an attic for a full library, nearer the cemetery, but in quite the upscale neighborhood. Unable to tolerate life in his father’s home, he built with brick, not limestone, and furnished the mansion for a man of his rank and privilege, decorated with the finest of European art and sculpture. A portrait of sweet Angela adorned every important room.
Dan, a recluse, pondered his situation from time to time. A singular part of him, the thoughts he retained a modicum of control over, led him to consider medical attention.
I am not normal.
Dan’s first attempts at replacing the affections of Angela failed. He assumed such an endeavor doomed from the beginning. His romantic and sexual adventures moved him through the wealthiest families in Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville, from grand parties, to taverns, and brothels to women of the street.
Finally he found a certain woman intriguing, meeting her one blue day in May, a Sunday in Church—a habit his dear Angela insisted upon. Quickly he fell under her spell.
Her name was Ida Sidney Whitley, educated at The Women’s College of North Carolina, heiress to a textile manufacturing fortune, raven-haired and full-bodied, and haughty beyond compare; rightly so, and Dan loved her rapturously.
Sid’s sexuality knew no boundaries, do debauchery deprived. No entrance denied, no number of other women to lie with denied, together or separately; rather, she encouraged, even begged, for the most craven of sexual acts and encounters, together or separately. Yet she swore allegiance only to Dan, and he believed her.
Dan and Sid conversed early mornings, limp from existence, of heaven and hell, evil and good, of life and death. Absinthe, opium, cocaine and uncounted intoxicants bridged their dreams of sex and love. For three years, they rode the dragon of thick dreams and sticky intercourse.
In the end, alas, Dan’s dear Sidney grew weary of him and set out for the South in search of new adventures.
Again, Dan lived life without human company, a singularity, but pondering the number one led him to consider the number two. A writer named Poe, now dead, his stories newly favored by some critics, introduced him to the notion of duality. He considered this: the human body has two eyes, two ears, two nostrils; the brain contains two hemispheres, the liver two lobes, two ovaries and two testicles. Reproduction requires two. Much of the human anatomy is divisible by two: the chambers of the heart, the number of teeth, eight fingers and two opposing thumbs. There is the earth and the moon, the earth and the sun, God and Satan, heaven and hell, angels and demons.
So he wondered, then, how could there be only one soul? Human nature includes love and hate, good and evil: but only one soul? His thoughts wondered toward Angela.
Angela calls out for me, come my beloved son, for together we equal one.
Sid’s breaking away left Dan hollow, a mere apparition, as emotionless as the new breed of doctors naming themselves pathologists, their faith professing the secrets of life and death may be uncovered and discovered simply by cutting away the skin and muscle—looking deeper, for the secret of life.
Perhaps there is truth in this new religion.
In need of comfort, lovelorn, humanity depleted, Dan discovered God. In discovering God, he met Virgil Overman. Dan allowed Virgil residence in his house, but when not arguing theology with Dan he spent his time in the attic’s library. His heavy pacing often nagged at Dan, but Dan was lonely.
Virgil, tall, thin, like the rule of thumb, red-haired, offered an imposing presentation; his black eyes people found mesmerizing and, at times, when engorged with righteousness, frightening. Dan, a sinner, and again playing devil’s advocate, argued against Virgil’s firmly held belief that those born before the Passion of the Christ, and his rebirth, are denied heaven. Virgil argued these souls born before Christ’s death are spared the agonies of hell, but Dan posited the mere knowledge of some superior form of being but forbidden its delight must surely be a more hideous form of hell than hell itself.
This existence of the non-damned describes our subsistence on earth.
Virgil, a man of few words, emoted his condemnation of Dan’s opinions in the fashion of a hammer striking iron stakes. Virgil, Standing firm in his belief God loves both the Godly and sinners, parted ways with Dan for a place he called “the heart of darkness” to assist in spreading the word of God. Absent Virgil’s presence, Dan regressed.
Dan became unnerved at the notion of living off the fortune of a man he so detested, and so desiring to make his own fortune he traveled to the territories called the Black Hills in search of gold.
It seems I was not so unlike my father after all, as I too sought to exploit the earth.
Dan’s journey began by train and ended by stagecoach, migraines his only companion. For Dan, Deadwood might best be escribed as parallel to the first cantos of Dante’s Inferno. The leopard, lion and wolf walked the thoroughfare shaped like men and women, but their spirits, surely an affront to God, existed without shame. The town for Dan was surreal, lacking in depth of reality; inhabitants seemed one dimensional, as if upon turning sideways they disappeared. Color appeared dull, and the sun shone dimly even as he noticed fellow strollers squinting with intolerance. Shadows seemed solid, and he walked as if in a nightmare’s dreamscape. Scent often did not match origin; for example, the customary bouquet of wine offered the ambiance of soft mink.
Without difficulty, Dan purchased several parcels of land and, by design, connected to one another, from men that found they actually had no stomach, or patience, for working their acquisitions. Within a month, Dan struck a rich vein, and within six months purchased and placed needed machinery for heavy industry from a company in San Francisco. Dan became a millionaire, twice over, in addition to his father’s fortune.
Inevitably, a man named Garrison Hearst, known for his wealth and power, and ruthlessness, learned of the rich finds in the Black Hills. Without second thought, Dan sold his mining interests to one of Mr. Hearst’s agents even before the great man’s physical appearance in Deadwood.
Dan began his retreat to Indianapolis, suffering migraines, reclusive because of sudden outbursts of sudden and unsupported anger.
My mother traveled to and from Deadwood with me, a communion of sorts.
His only relief came in the form of a telegraph received at one of the many train stops, informing him his new home was complete and ready to live in.
Renting a coach at Union Station, visions of his new home clouding his surroundings, he rounded the corner, turning onto Meridian Street. His heart beat as if it held every intention of bursting from his chest, breathing ragged and not easily drawn, sweat on his brow—time stopped for Dan.
Over tipping the driver, Dan stepped down from the carriage and beheld Succession des Anges, named for his mother. Dan’s eye immediately discovered the structure’s only flaw, a slight crack in the right corner of the house, but remembered even the greatest works of art must contain some insignificant flaw.
Throwing open the doors to his mansion, Dan moved to his knees, reverent, a great portrait of his beautiful mother overwhelming both him and the entrance to his great house. He cried out, Mother, wracked with sobs.
Sidney and Virgil return, proclaiming within my mind the exquisite countenance and nature of Mother as if truly kneeling beside me.
After a full six days and evenings of ecstasy, leaving neither nook nor cranny unexplored, Dan grew despondent. He missed Virgil and Sidney.
On Monday, he carried from his front porch back issues of the Indianapolis News. After breakfasting upon two boiled eggs, he placed the newspapers in order and began reading.
I was immediately appalled.
Six women murdered—and all upon the same dates and route traveled to Deadwood. He remembered no news of such events in the Deadwood Telegraph. And six more murdered upon the date and time of his return to Indianapolis!
How could such a madman have escaped his attention? True, he had traveled in a private car, and took his meals there alone but he had walked the train from engine to caboose twice a day for exercise, encountering many different sorts of folks, and always spoke pleasantly to them no matter their rank in society.
The News reported the murdered women shared no common linkage in wealth, education, or destination but each traveled in solitude; they were, however, “stocky” in size, but “crushed of bone.”
Dan decided to take upon the task of retracing his route to and from the Black Hills, prepared to solve the mystery and take into custody the fiend that perpetrated the murders, and the mission undertaken as a triad of adventurers.
I contacted Virgil Overman and Ida Sidney Whitley, after discharging my serving staff.
Twelve days passed before Ida joined Dan. She too knelt in awe of Angela’s portrait, tearful, loving Dan, swearing her love to the woman he called Mother as such a woman so dear to Dan deserved the love of all that loved him.
For two days, we joined in intercourse, pausing only for fresh fruit and sleep. On the third day, she shared a secret. Over the course of her time in Kansas, and having sponsored many lavish parties, and taken many lovers, she encountered a type of Kansan as to draw out her violent nature. She declared these men, twelve in all, large and imposing in nature but small in genital endowment, took upon her a beating.
Knowing my dear Sidney as I do, she might have encouraged some masochism in the throws of erotic passion but only had they requested such two-party amusements. But they did not, so she murdered them by bashing in the back of their skulls with a granite statue of Bacchus she kept near her bed. She disposed of the bodies in a deep pond at the edge of her property. As those men were married, political in disposition, and industrial businessmen with many enemies, Sidney reported receiving only the mildest of police inquiries.
I am as familiar with Sidney’s spirit as mine. She holds no murder in her heart. Sidney is a survivor, a warrior, and my lover. All she really needs is I, and she finds contentment in assisting me with fulfillment of my desires.
Virgil Overman, as thin and fiery as ever, arrived twenty-one days after Sidney. He enthralled Dan and Sidney with tales of wild Africa and the efforts to conquer the savage beasts of that far continent, both animal and human. Efforts at bringing Christ, he testified, brought both hope and despair. These black men and women understood the power of the sun, the moon and the lion—things they live and are affected by. At times, disillusionment filling the creases of his face as he recounted his experiences, he came to believe it better to murder them than to preach of God and His son Jesus Christ because, if God is denied, then they are doomed to hell. Having never heard of God, then simple purgatory awaits them upon death rather than the fires of hell.
Dan did not contest Virgil’s discourse as to do so chanced rancorous retort. Sidney wisely, although unexpectedly, followed Dan’s lead.
Over breakfast the next morning, Dan approached his friends with his plan to hunt down the brute that murdered those poor women.
Rather excitedly, they agreed, although for different reasons. Virgil said it was the right thing to do, and Sidney said she’d enjoy the adventure.
Dan left home soon after lunch, first visiting his attorney and then arranging travel. He arrived home in the early evening.
Dan found Sidney in the cellar, examining relics from the Sioux, native to the Black Hills, and rare stones brought home from my mining adventures including actual gold encased with quartz. She found fascination in the small hand tools required for shaving minerals from gold recovered in streams, and in the axes and picks, and photographs of the huge machine used for crushing and opening the earth.
Returning to the main house’s main floor, leaving Sidney to her imaginations, he heard Virgil stomping around the second floor library. Virgil, an avid reader, especially enjoyed books on law and justice, and methods to apply such to the human condition. Dan took a chair in the parlor, wishing to relax for a few moments before calling Sidney and Virgil down for dinner. He saw the Bible, the one given him by his father, lying on the table before his chair.
The Bible, hollowed into twelve parts, each part containing ground bone, ruined me. I demanded Sidney and Virgil abandon me, here, in this mausoleum.
His first psychiatric appointment turned disappointing. Dr. Richard Longstaff, an improbable name, Dan recognized, and could not understand the thought process leading to such a decision, told Dan that Dan frightened him and refused any further service.
Dan made a second appointment with a doctor named William Wilson, a doctor whose credentials included studying under an Austrian psychiatrist by the name of Sigmund Freud. Dr. Freud, a man gaining quite a reputation in Europe, appealed to Dan’s sense of propriety.
I arrived a bit early at Dr. Wilson’s office. His secretary, an attractively plump redhead, poured me a cup of tea while I waited.
After a few minutes Doris ushered me into Dr. Wilson’s office. Dr. Wilson, also plump and of small physical stature, busily lit a pipe, cleared his throat, and then by given name invited me to sit.
Feeling somewhat offended at his lack of manners, but saying nothing, I accepted the chair in front of his mahogany desk. The room was crowded with books, something I accepted as a positive sign.
“Tell me, William” I said, “where shall I begin?”
“Please refer to me as Dr. Wilson.”
“Please refer to me as Mr. Teagarden.”
To his credit, Dr. Wilson appeared unruffled by our introductory remarks.
“Today, Mr. Teagarden, I ask you to simply listen to a theory I’ve taken to heart.”
I am rather relieved, as I will not be frightening this doctor away—at least not today.
Dr. Wilson continued. “I support the notion that the human mind is made up of three layers. There is the superego. The superego acts primarily as a comptroller over what is named the id. The id is where our most basic instincts lurk—the desire to do physical harm to others, sexual licentiousness, gluttony in all things. The id is subconscious; that is, we have no intellectual experience of the id as it flows like an underground river through the channels of our brain. The superego, more or less, operates like the id but is to some degree attainable.”
Dr. Wilson, perhaps to catch his breath, or to allow his words to sink in, relit his pipe. He smoked cherry flavored tobacco. My god.
He continued. “The ego is the conscious mind. The ego is working as we sit here, our conscious thoughts, and perhaps what even let you here to my office. Allow me to add this: there are times when the superego and the id directly affect our ego. This can be both good and bad.
For example, as one walks down a city street and sees a beggar. One may offer the beggar a few coins—the superego—or one may kick the beggar and tell him to move elsewhere—the id.”
Dr. Wilson paused to relight his pipe. “Do you follow me?” he asked, through a cloud of blue smoke.
“Yes,” I replied, expecting to vomit upon his floor at any moment.
“Good!” The man seemed quite pleased with himself. I wanted to kick him in the head.
“One more thing, Mr. Teagarden, for your consideration until again we meet. I am quite the observant man.” Dr. Wilson paused, a reflective expression upon his face. He committed an obvious mental shrug. “I have read scientific papers in the field of uman psychology and an interesting posit I’ve come across is that of multiple personalities. Some symptoms of multiple personality disorder include headache, amnesia, time loss, trances, and ‘out of body’ experiences.’ Perhaps we might discuss this theory someday.”
Dr. Wilson coughed. “That will be all for today, then, Mr. Teagarden. Please do not forget to pay Doris my fee on your way out, and to make another appointment. In the meantime, consider what I’ve explained to you today.”
Dan understood Dr. Wilson’s theories. He spent countless sleepless hours considering what could be done to save him. As the clock struck midnight, on the third starless eve, the only possible outcome occurred to him, overwhelming him in its natural brilliance.
Gathering what strength remained in me, I left my house, never to return, the cemetery my destination. Entering my parent’s mausoleum, I began to weep for now I understood my true desire, my final destiny. Moving the granite lid to my mother’s coffin, I climbed in, and then moved the slab closed once again. Finding my sweet Angela’s hand, I moved it to my cheek, her touch warm and wonderful. She stirred, taking me into her embrace, cradling my head, and in only in a moment did I find her breast and suckled.