THE MAN IN THE GRASS CLOAK

 

 I’ve never had a dream like it before or since. Longer than normal, it had connected scenes with seamless transitions. Even after all these years I remember it as clearly as the morning I awoke. It was a prophetic dream, of course. Others don’t stay with you like this.

Drones peppered the afternoon sky, moving north. I was filled with dread but didn’t let it immobilize me. On the contrary, my sister and brother in law and I had been making plans. We had been watching the news, reading the signs of the times. A collapse of the economy, foreign invasion. All the worst parts of the bible. Something. Everything.

Scene two.

I only had a few miles to drive. Just two days before I’d been there but today the whole thing had changed drastically.

They didn’t keep birds but now several cages of wood and chicken wire had been erected. Inside them were exotic birds, some with wild, varied plumage. In each cage was a bag of fruit.

Weirdest of all was the profusion of people lying in the yard. Some lay on the grass, others on blankets. I didn’t inspect this strange development immediately but went in the house. What I expected to find was my brother in law boiling water and my sister ripping sheets for bandages. Instead, I found no one. Nothing seemed to be missing or out of place.

Muttering,“No,no,no”, I ran to the storage building. The door was ajar and all the supplies we’d stockpiled were gone. To say I was dismayed is a vast understatement. I was shocked, horrified and felt a lonely displacement. “They left me,” I whispered and fell on my face in the grass to cry.

No time for that. Could not take even a minute more to feel sorry for myself. There were people here who couldn’t even stand up while I was the picture of good health.

Walking among them, I studied but didn’t touch. Most appeared to be sleeping with no visible mark on their exposed skin. There was no smell of putrefaction. A few opened their eyes when I blocked the sun out but they didn’t speak. One man kept his eyes open longer than the rest. I asked him, “What has happened to all of you?” He only closed his eyes again, remaining silent.

I went to the porch swing and sat down, wondering what to do next. Where to go. An audible pop sounded and a feeling like standing before the bass speakers at a rock concert hit my chest. From my upper peripheral vision I saw two figures descending from the sky. Unaided by bubble or machine, they dropped effortlessly to the ground.

If you watched much of the ‘70s Saturday morning show Land of the Lost you no doubt saw the Zarn. That’s what these beings looked like. A full body suit covered their humanoid bodies, spangled with flashing colored lights. No eyes, nose or mouth were visible.

Mind to mind they communicated to me. “You cannot remain here. Go anywhere but home.”

Okay. Gotcha. I stopped at a bird cage and opened it. A large cockatoo eyed me but didn’t peck. I peeled him an orange and told him, “Sorry. I’m going to need this.” Taking the bag of fruit, I fled.

Scene three.

I’m in the car driving. In dreams you go places without knowing where you’re traveling but you get to the right place anyway. My destination turned out to be a flea market. I went inside.

All manner of goods were for sale. There was camo clothing and farming implements. One whole row was made of bins of tools. Gas masks and survival knives, tents and fire starters. I traded my car for a backpack, hunting knife, bottles of water and dried food, a carton of cigarettes and two Bic lighters.

A rough-cut man checked me out and pointed to the back door. “Leave that way.”

Scene four.

The sky outside the flea market was brighter than when I’d gone in. Behind the structure was a huge pasture but no cows or horses. A profusion of wooden walkways cut a maze across the grass, leading to stiles and covered bridges. Covered bridges? But there was no water. Odd.

I climbed through the barbed wire and watched other folks moving down their chosen walkway. It didn’t escape my notice that I was alone on mine. I crossed over a stile and abruptly my walkway ended.

Walking east, I drank only when thirst demanded,and sparingly at that. For hours I walked and as the sky darkened I heard what sounded like pounding horse hooves.

It was a horse. On its back was a bearded man dressed in a combination of animal fur and cloth. Incredible. On his back was a cloak of living grass. I could see roots hanging down. His beard was wild as was his hair. The look on his face was somehow friendly but impassive at the same time. Now I could hear the beat of helicopter rotors in the distance.

He was riding bareback. Leaping from the horse, he swung the cloak over his back and disappeared beneath it. The horse moved several feet away and munched on dandelion greens. I gawked at the man’s peering face and he made a gesture to convey I should do as he’d done. I got out my knife and hacked out a pocket and slid into its tightness. The man nodded and grinned.

Overhead the copter droned like a big, fat bee. It moved slowly and I put my head down and prayed. Not knowing if it was an enemy, my own people or my own people become my enemy, I shook with dread. Not until we could no longer hear it did we emerge.

I finished cutting out my own cloak. It had a few small nodding flowers and a grasshopper on it. The man swung onto the back of his horse and gave me a salute. I hurried after him and he slowed to allow me to follow.

There was no thought in me of where he might lead. I didn’t care. I knew who I was going with. As the sky grew dark I followed him into the harsh, new land that had been America.

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