My dad had this to say about brain waves, via text, when I texted him for a refresher:

“There has been, and probably always will be, intense research into brain-waves and ways to make it workable in every-day life — the military is a prime example — what if the US military wanted to know what those Russkies were up to?  Where are their planes and bombs and troops?  Why send up spy planes or send over Americans who can speak Russian fluently and infiltrate Russian government agencies and military bases, when you can just train psychics, also called remote viewers, who can safely and accurately come up with the required information?  So Uncle Sam set up a remote-viewing unit to intensely look into all this, but after a few years they disbanded the unit because spy planes and spies were more reliable.  Or so they said.  I think they just dropped out of sight, and the intense interest is still there.  jsnip is a good friend with Dick Allgire, who is world-famous as a remote viewer, but Allgire will admit that he’s not always correct — however, when he’s on, he’s really on.

“Anyway, researchers have learned that normal humans generate four different brain-wave frequencies, which they have named beta, alpha, theta, and delta.  We are generating all four frequencies at the same time, but at any given moment one of those frequencies will be dominant, while the other three will be less strong.

“When Beta predominates we are fully awake and conscious in our everyday world.  We can get a lot of work done when we’re at the Beta level, but it becomes more and more difficult to stay wide awake, until we will fall asleep involuntarily.

“The Beta level is where we are the most defined as an individual, but as we get more and more relaxed, our sense of self gets more and more fuzzy — we still recognize ourself as an individual, but we seem to be in a different world or setting, where we can meet and interact with friends, strangers, and loved ones that we know have died in the Beta world, but are very much alive in what is called the Alpha level or Alpha world.  Is it real?  It’s as real as can be when you’re in it.  And you can do things like fly through the air if you want to — you just decide to do it and it happens.

“Then the Alpha state diminishes and the Theta state predominates.  You barely have any sense of individuality at all, and yet you feel that you can go anywhere you wish and learn anything you want.  The Theta level is usually quite fleeting — you will be quickly descending into Oblivion — yearning for it, not resisting it.  But this Theta level is of the greatest interest to remote viewers, because that’s where the most valuable information can be obtained, with the least distortion caused by the ego.

“But soon consciousness falls into the Abyss, and either dies or comes back up through Theta and Alpha back into Beta.  The brainwaves predominating during deep sleep are called Delta.  There is no sense of self during Delta — Self has merged into Source, perhaps to return, perhaps not.”

AND THEN MAYBE YOU DIE lolll.  This closing remark is typical of my dad’s uber-objective spiritual-philosophical baseline.  I was going to include more about brainwaves in my blog yesterday but he didn’t get back to me in time.  I’m glad because this is a soup course of its own.  Essentially we experience identity *at the expense of* ease, ability, and connectedness.  A big part of my identity, for instance, is constantly flagellating myself for not meditating ffs.  Reading the words I just wrote, I literally had this huge chagrin response to not being a better steward of my brainwaves, which I think is the opposite of what my own point about brainwaves is, here.  Good lord.

This context is especially interesting in light of our national obsession with identity politics right now.  It really does seem to be an infinitely traversable spectrum — if experiencing myself as a “me” at all functions in a manner naturally exclusive to my more god-like states and abilities, then how much more fragmented can I become on purpose, mistaking my own ego identity as my route to connection and ability when it’s actually the opposite?  The ego is easily demonized, of course, but utterly necessary.  I tend to think about us all as tires (probably because I’m a truckdriver) and our ego is the rubber meeting the road.  Need that part!  And it needs to be steel radial for these road conditions, goddamn.  But our alpha state is the air in the tire, and we really need that as well.  They tried solid tires FYI, early in truckdriving’s history, and it sucked.  Pneumatic tires represented one of the industry’s biggest engineering achievements.  And I suppose I could make our theta and delta states symbolic of our rims and hubs somehow if I really tried, the part most connected to the drive train of Source.  I’m not sure the analogy bears extending that far.

One of the most interesting things about cases of split personalities and the connection between mediums and the entities they channel is that the same physical host can assume and alternately relinquish physical limitations, such as poor eyesight, depending upon the ego identity in control.  We tend to think about our limitations as being physically built into our bodies but that’s perhaps not as true as it seems.  This has also been documented in cases of speech impediment, stuttering, etc.

According to my dad, animals don’t operate in the beta brainwave state.  They stay down in the alpha, where all the connectivity and ability is.  I had a surgery several years ago where they kept me doped up on some really good drugs for several (many?) hours afterwards.  I wonder if that’s kind of what it’s like.  I was totally receptive to people talking to me, and in fact I loved them very much in this natural way (oh hi!), but early on I also felt some pain.  I didn’t connect the pain to anything, there wasn’t any sense of time, or cause and effect; everything was simply immediate, whether positive or negative.  It’s a real gift to have experienced, even pharmaceutically, a sense of timelessness.  And it’s interesting that I remember so much about what that was like, even from within the confines of my monkey mind.

I often feel jealous of people who’ve cultivated their psychic and intuitive abilities because I haven’t, and I’ve tended to think about all that as something extra, or above, a reach that I haven’t reached for.  So this capture of my dad’s is a good reminder that it’s not “up there”, it’s “down here” — it’s not an extra layer of identity, it’s a willingness to surrender more of the calcified identity I already have.  I wish I could have somehow gotten paid by the military to damn near go to sleep, but like tactically.

We sustain ego wounds, in our beta state; I wonder if we can be wounded in our alpha state?  Obviously we can be physically wounded in any state, but I mean psychologically and emotionally.  When I was post-surgery doped to the moon, if someone had come up and said, “Hannah, you’re a terrible person,” I don’t think I would have really taken it in.

Some terrible psychological events can occur in the alpha state, though, or what I interpret as alpha when I’m only half awake.  Perhaps I’ve been a bit leery of it because all my life, I’ve had horrible intrusions on that level.  I’ll just be floating along, very similar to the good hospital drugs, and then it will occur to me that a pig is being butchered right now.  Right now somewhere, a pig is experiencing that.  And it’s not like I’m mentally considering it from within my own consciousness; it’s like I get accidentally dropped into the pig’s consciousness for a second and the immediacy and senselessness of it is…well, nothing I have any defense against, except to wake up.  My 20’s and 30’s had a lot of that, and also specific incidents of soldiers and civilians in wartime.

When I was in fifth grade I had a notable nightmare: someone sat me down in a dark little theater and played an old fashioned reel-to-reel movie for me.  I mean, reel-to-reel was still current then but the flickery nature on the screen seemed old-fashioned.  I saw a jungle, and a fat warlord and his goons, cutting people down with machetes.  The fat warlord became hot and winded, from all this killing, and at one point took out a white hankerchief, dipped it in a pool of blood, and dabbed his own sweaty forehead with it, while sitting back against the trunk of an Amazonian tree. Fifth grade I dreamed this!  I remember the house we lived in, the bedroom I woke up in, that’s how I know.  I don’t know that I had heard much, or anything, about jungle warlords.  We didn’t have a TV yet, I don’t think?

And then oddly, last night I had another alpha state immersion into someone else’s experience, real or imagined.  It was the Chinese-Muslim Uighurs, that the Chinese government has been rounding up and sending off to camps.  I’m been aware of it but haven’t looked into it.  I had a waking but still asleep…vision, or consciousness-hovering-right-there experience, of flame throwers being used on those people.  Not even angrily, but as a matter of course.  I have no idea, and I hesitate to research, and even if that was true, how would we know.  It’s fucking China, why wouldn’t they use flamethrowers on people for fun.

Well, great.  I just googled it and it’s true.  That’s fucking gross.

I don’t feel personally wounded in these excursions of consciousness, but waking up and becoming myself again does feel like a natural defense.  They are upsetting.  I think I also experience much more positive and bizarre-but-neutral excursions of consciousness as well, but they don’t “stick” as much as these upsetting ones.

Now I’m wondering if my conscious sense of myself as having no psychic or intuitive abilities is less about not having any, and more about having them and not liking their impact on my life.  It does seem I’m naturally drawn to consider the anguish of others — I don’t think I could have figured out to be vegetarian when I was five or six (whatever age that was), if I hadn’t been able to empathically connect the dots between animals and meat in reasonably full consideration of the animal’s consciousness meeting such an awful, brutal end.  I do remember that I quickly pivoted to not thinking about that part of it very consciously, refusing to even offer that as a reason in conversation, but then having these startle responses in my sleep or half-sleep, all throughout my teens, 20’s, 30’s.

Earlier, in my single and barely double age digits, I do remember being startled awake with the realization that I would physically die someday.  It seemed unimaginable, and I would get up to pee or whatever and stretch out my arms in the dark and consider them.  These won’t always be my arms.  I don’t think I ever assumed I would entirely cease to exist; simply that my body would stop being a part of me, and that seemed just heartbreaking.  I love my body.

That happened less and less as I got older, though, and intrusions of other forms of psychic suffering became more common.

Wow, that’s a shit sandwich.  Good to actually consider, though — I really never have before.  I’m a very non-squishy person in real life, or I’ve constructed myself that way.  I was always kind of brisk with patients in the hospital.  I would try to not act sorry for them, especially if I was very sorry for them, because I thought it would be the last thing they want.

There was this one guy I had a whole string of nights in a row — he’d broken his neck so he was in a “halo”, which is a lot less cool than it sounds.  Basically like the upper half of Ripley’s badass mech-suit in Aliens, but literally bolted to his skull so he couldn’t move his head or shoulders at all.  And then he was trached, so he couldn’t talk either, and I had to clean his trach and suck out his airways all the time.  I would be like, “Hey, they feedin’ you good?”  Obviously he couldn’t eat real food and was on a feeding tube.  “We had pizza in the report room.  I was gonna bring some but there’s just something about you that screams ‘gluten intolerance’.”  He could barely even smile, he’d just track me with his eyes, but he kind of smiled sometimes.  He wasn’t a big fan of getting his airways sucked out so I was probably kind of a blessing and a curse.  And he couldn’t say if it was enough or too much, or nod or shake his head or anything, so I did probably err on the side of too much irrigation and vacuum, but the last thing I wanted was to *not* get it all, and have him sit there for hours again, unable to communicate, with some tickly shit in his trachea.  So I’d suction him and he’d buck around a little bit sometimes, and I’d obviously super slow my roll, but tell him not to get his panties in a bunch.  Maybe he hated me; I have no idea.  I just tried to make it as not-weird, and not-sorry, as possible.  He spent months in that thing.

Back to my alpha states, probably some psychic defenses are in order.  I wonder how you do that?  I’m not sure an antennae of hopeless suffering is the kind of antennae I want to be.

If nothing else, it’s just made it obvious to me that there’s no difference between animal suffering and human-animal suffering, which seems flagrantly obvious in any case.

One final thought, this one about bugaboos.  I don’t know how, but we started calling our little dogs “bugaboos” and it just kind of stuck.  When we just had Buffy, it didn’t seem necessary to have a group term, because she was just Buffy, or The Buffster, or Burf, or Burfinator, or Burfaletta, or Paw Princess, or Queen Comfort, or Little White Comma, or Baseline Zero, or any number of other individual monikers.

Oh, and quick side note: I cut off all her hair the other day and it makes her look much less like a Maltese and much more like a Chihuahua.  People always ask what breed she is and then immediately supply the answer according to what they feel sure of, and everyone’s always very sure of something, but it’s always a different thing.  I mean, I found her, and I have no idea.  But Nick said, yesterday, “She looks a lot like a Chihuahua now,” and I said, “You know, one time?  Shortly after I found her?  I had a bunch of Mexican leftovers in a styrofoam container, and she seemed interested so I put it down for her, and she ate everything.  And I thought to myself, I wonder if she’s a Chihuahua.”  I did find her in the road in South Tucson, where everything is either a pitbull or a Chihuahua, so it’s not unreasonable.

So we googled “Chihuahua Maltese”, and turns out that’s called a Malchi for fuck’s sake, and the pictures did look just like her.  So then I found an article about temperament and it had this to say: “Never in a million years will this dog be happy if it feels it’s being marginalized,” and Nick and I almost fell down laughing.  Buffy frequently goes into dramatic sulks that seem to cohere with feeling marginalized, and in fact when we rescued Milo, she went through a big barking spell that was truly unprecedented.  She was just a horrible little barking bitch for weeks, and I couldn’t believe it of my nice quiet dog.  She’s since calmed her ta-tas, but the article’s observation was so prescient, which was extra funny in the context of the article being quite poorly written as a whole.  Buffy hates feeling marginalized so much that she actually marginalizes herself and must be coaxed into functioning with the family — we have to constantly prove to her that she’s important.

So we spent the rest of the day asking her if she felt marginalized, and I feel pretty confident that a blood test would confirm she’s a “Malchi”.  And like me, she looks much prettier with a full head of hair.  We’re just beaky, otherwise.

Anyway, once we rescued Milo, it became advisable to have a group term for the dogs, and “bugaboos” is what stuck.  The term has evolved interestingly, though, to encompass any kind of being that seems to primarily be saying, “Oh — hi!”

There’s a sub-Reddit called “r-aww” that we both follow, and it’s such a welcome relief from the cultural and political coup that’s occurring.  We saw, for instance, amazing footage of a man sitting in the ocean on a rocky shelf, catching a bright yellow fish and throwing it out into the water.  The fish would land with a splash and then swim determinedly back into his hands.  He’d catch it again, throw it again, and it would return again.  This went on, maybe half a dozen times on the video.  Nick spontaneously exclaimed, “Well — it’s just a bugaboo!”  Translation: it’s just a critter saying hi, as hard as it can!

We saw one yesterday — a woman relaxing on her belly, and a VERY LARGE black cow snuggled next to her in a sort of Grecian half-recline.  The cow, whose head was the size of a small wheelbarrow, nuzzled her over and over, very lovingly.  It was almost alarming, because the cow was so heavy and not highly coordinated, but the woman was laughing, and the cow was just snuzzling as hard as anything’s ever snuzzled, with a beatific expression.  “It’s just a bugaboo,” I remarked.

Big cats hugging people, house cats hugging people, chickens jumping up on people’s laps and stretching their necks up against the person’s neck to be hugged.  There is hardly an animal on earth, it seems, that isn’t in the mood to be hugged at least sometimes, and their signals along those lines are very clear.  Puppies spooning human babies, dogs spooning cats, mice being startled in entirely human reactions, otters handing items back and forth to humans with a sense of industrious importance, owls enjoying being bathed, squirrels riding on people’s shoulders triumphantly, baby foxes snuggling stuffed animals, raccoons reaching for hugs with their actual little hands, pigs playing in plastic pools — it’s just endless.

They’re all bugaboos, you come to realize, and they’re all consciousness saying, “Oh — hi!”  If you tune in, you can almost hear it — a magnificent global chorus of critters loving us and saying hi.  Maybe that’s what characterizes the alpha brainwave state more than anything.

I’ll include a fiction excerpt I wrote in grad school, just for fun.  I always like to blog something fresh, but it seems related to today’s topics.  If you’re out of time, then let’s call this the end of the blog, but below the asterisks is a little idea for a story.  It’s called “The Seduction,” and it’s about a sexually transmitted curse of consciousness.

*******

The 3 Second rule is a rule – not a recommendation – because women are turned off by hesitance.  If you make eye contact with her, and then back down for a later approach, she will feel dominant at best and amused at worst.  It is extremely important for you to establish your confidence and spontaneity at the outset of the seduction.  Even if you don’t know what to say, you absolutely must say something within the first three seconds.

Lonely Jack had left his book, Fast and Easy Seduction Strategies, on the milk crate beside his bed along with his glasses, contact lens case, and an X-Men anthology issues 46-58.  A pencil served to bookmark his place at chapter eighteen, two chapters from the end.  Steve from accounts receivable had loaned it to Jack with a conspiratorial wink.

When Jack walked into the bar, silently reciting seduction rules to himself, he inadvertently locked eyes with an adorable brunette who had just turned his way with a tray of pool balls held to her pulvinate bosom.  He then immediately looked down at his feet while remembering the MAN rule (Women are all the same in terms of their psychology.  She wants to feel like the WOMAN to your MAN.  You must step into your genetic inheritance as a strong, dominant leader, who expects the attention and interest of beautiful women as his due.  Watch leading men in the movies, pay attention to their body language –).  Jack thought of James Bond.  James Bond would have seized the moment with a look, a secret smile, an arched eyebrow promising clever repartee to come.  Jack’s eyes snapped back up.  The brunette’s gaze had just begun to slide off of him and forward again.  Jack counted to three, idiotically.  Her back was to him now, as she walked away.

God dammit.

Okay, he told himself, that didn’t count.  I wasn’t ready.

He looked down again – lest his eyes should light upon any more attractive women who would then discount him immediately after three uneventful seconds had passed – until he was safely belly up to the bar.  It was a Tuesday night, and he didn’t have to wake up early tomorrow.  Just in case something worked out.  The book virtually guaranteed something would work out, if Jack would only follow the instructions, but even the deceptively simple 3 Second rule had so far proven treacherous.  The bar girl sashayed by with a grip of frosty mugs and asked him in passing what he’d have.  “Uh, Cockburn’s, please.”  Here, Jack was on more stable footing – he’d recently hit upon tawny port as an excellent compromise between his sweet, chick-drink preferences and the classy, masculine aura recommended by his book.  The Cockburn’s was delivered with a smiling flounce by the tattoo-speckled bar girl, whose cleavage winked becomingly.  “Four-fifty, please.”  Jack slid her a five and a couple ones, trying to think of something clever to say.

Nothing came.  The moment passed.

Jack sat down on the barstool and looked around covertly.  A bunch of dudes playing pool – why did he choose this place?  Oh well, there were other places, and the night was young.  He didn’t have to be at work until 2 p.m. the next day, because warehouse had to do their twice-yearly inventory in the morning.  He had better get used to being at different bars on different nights.  The book said it didn’t have to be a bar, and that Jack should look and feel his best at all times, just in case; but that women at bars were more receptive because they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t on the market in some sense.  Even if they said they had boyfriends, the book had ways of negotiating that.

Jack resisted a sudden pang of shame.

But nothing else was working.  He’d made it with a girl once, but they had grown up together.  Years of bewildering celibacy separated him from that night, now.   When he did meet nice girls, they always seemed to lose interest in him after a week or two.  Like he kept failing some sort of secret test.

Down towards the end of the bar to his right, by the pot-bellied stove and the bookshelves full of moldering poetry, sat a girl with a long striped scarf wound about her neck.  Her drink sweated onto its napkin, clear and cold-fogged, with bubbles still crawling up the sides, and what looked to be a thin circle of cucumber on the rim.  Just when Jack’s guard was down and he thought it might be safe to look around again, she met his gaze and smiled, distinctly, right at him.

With galvanic effort, jumpy Jack smiled back.

She held his gaze for a moment and then turned her eyes forward again, almost as if to demonstrate her total and complete aloneness.  Jack was beside her then, and didn’t remember walking over.  She wasn’t pretty at all.  Jack found this wildly soothing, and was amazed to hear himself say with some panache, “You shouldn’t have come here looking so pretty.”

Her face crinkled with coy pleasure.  “Well, I apologize.  Usually I take the time to tone it down, but I just got off work.”

Jack laughed with her and then froze up completely.  Oh no.  What did the book say to do?  The only thing that came to mind were the FIS’s (fast isolation strategies): (At house parties, there are women and there are bedrooms, and it is your job to find a way to combine the two.  The more quickly you isolate the target after completing pickup-up artist steps one through four, the less LMR –) that stood for last minute resistance – (you’ll encounter.  Tell her it’s too crowded and you’d like to talk more in the bedroom, but not to tell anyone.  If she doesn’t have to account to girlfriends for her absence, she’ll be more likely to –)

– useless, stupid –

The girl’s face grew smooth again and she extended her hand with mock formality.  “I know, it’s overwhelming.  My name’s Kate.”

“Jack.”  Their hands met and, unaccountably, Jack felt a nudge of physical arousal.  Her eyes were very green and thickly lashed.  She was smiling up at him, but there was something about her eyes.  Something…desolate.  He seemed not to have let go of her hand yet.

She laughed and renewed her grip.  “Ummm…Kate Evans, then.  Do you need my middle name and social security number, or can we stop shaking now?”

She was awesome.  She was gorgeous.

Jack laughed, easily, genuinely.  “No, miss, that will do for now.”  He brandished his port snifter threateningly.  “For now, I say.”

Kate sipped from the straw of her cucumber cocktail, her eyes never leaving his.  “Oh, my.  And shall I be awarded your surname, in turn?”

Oh god, this always happened.  “I don’t think it’s important,” Jack smiled.

“I’m absolutely certain it’s not,” she affirmed.  “But still, I’m curiouser than a cat…”

Jack threw caution to the wind now.  “It’s Russell.”

“Russell.  Jack Russell?”

“Yes.”  Wait for it.  Something about a terrier, now.  Like clockwork.

“Well, that’s a very fine name.”

He felt dizzy.  “You think so?”

“Quite.”

“It doesn’t remind you of anything.”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Doesn’t remotely suggest to you a small, springy circus dog.”

“No.”  She reached out and lightly stroked the left side of his face with her fingers.  Jack was painfully erect now.  “It suggests to me…a sort of impressively bushy, dark eyebrow-ness…a sort of – oh, shaggy haired small town boy-ness…”

Lucky Jack choked on a sip of port and was still coughing when Kate ordered them two more cucumber drinks.

*

She said her place was a mess and that they should go to his.  Jack wasn’t fit to drive, and Kate propped him up against a lamp post until the taxi came.  The cold night spun in lazy circles around him, and then the back seat of the taxi somehow did the same thing.  He said his address carefully, and then the taxi stopped and Kate helped him out.  She asked which one was his, and Jack felt unable to form any more words, but rather shuffled towards #112 determinedly.  Kate got his keys from him and opened the door.  Jack wondered why his apartment smelled so good, but then realized he himself had wisely adhered to the housekeeping recommendations (Candles, clean sheets, inviting surfaces are a must.  She won’t want to give it up in a dingy flophouse…) prior to going out that evening.  Pumpkin spice.  Not bad.  Kate helped him to the bedroom and got his shoes and shirt off.

“I’m sorry…” murmured Jack.

“It’s okay, sweetie.  Here, I got you some water.  Careful…”

“I’m so drunk.”

“I know you are.  All those sweet drinks.”

“So sweet…”

“Here, take more water, it’ll help.”

Jack drank with utmost concentration and then fell back amongst the pillows.  “It’s not helping.”

“It’ll help later.  There you go.”

“Kate…you’re so beautiful…you’re so good to me…I’m sorry…”

Jack’s eyes shuttered again, and he drifted off to the gentle sounds of rustling.  When he squinted up at her, Kate was suddenly nude in the dim light cast from the kitchen, down the hall.  The cloud of her hair was limned with fire, and her green, green eyes were the only color in the monochrome vision of secret convexities.  Her body was the curve of a vase, the sheen of a fruit.  She settled herself next to speechless Jack and began to smooth his chest and shoulders with her soft, warm palms.  Jack’s speechlessness increased.

“It’s okay,” she soothed.  “We still can.”

“We can?”

“Yes.”

“Tomorrow?”

“No.  Tonight.”  Kate widened her jurisdiction of gentle massage.  Jack closed his eyes.

“I think you’re right,” he whispered.

Jack was rendered nude as well, and for a time there was only the soft soughing of her hands over his skin.  In all Jack’s fantasies of sexual conquest, he had never imagined this ecstasy of being touched.  Just touched.  Lovingly.  Steve, who had loaned him the book amidst many oblique references to his own conquests, had never mentioned any hook-ups that included erotic massage.

Jack couldn’t wait to tell Steve about this.  Or maybe he should act the gentleman?  Maybe Kate would be his girlfriend.  Conquered Jack imagined scenes of he and Kate: buying groceries together, having picnics, drinking hot tea and watching the moon rise.  Making well-massaged love.  He floated in space, anchored only by her hands, and colors washed over his mind’s eye.

“Jack.”

“Yeah.”

“There’s something I want you to do.”

This was more in line with Jack’s fantasies.  “I’ll do it.”

“No, listen.  I have a sort of…curse.  You can help me get rid of it.”

Kinky.  “What kind of curse?”

“It makes me sexually irresistible –”

Yes…”

“– and it also makes me have…bad dreams.  And I can’t get rid of it unless someone accepts it.”

“Um.  Okay.”  This was starting to remind Jack of page 31, detailing the forms of LMR most often encountered.  (Last minute resistance usually happens when girls have too much time to think.  They don’t want to seem slutty, to themselves or to their friends.  They want it, but they don’t want to admit they want it.  LMR can manifest as anything from a sudden shyness about their bodies, to guilt about a boyfriend or husband.  The important thing is not the excuses themselves, but the psychology behind it.  What she wants is for you to take charge, so that she doesn’t have to accept responsibility…)

“You can help me.”  This was whispered into Jack’s neck.  Kate was crouched over him now, and the heavy warmth of her breasts, her thighs pressed against him.  Her streaming hair was a fragrant tent around them.

“Mmmm…” Jack moaned, not in particular relation to her appeal.

Her tongue was laving his ear now, and her body was sliding, slowly, against his.  She whispered, “You just have to say: I accept.”

The book had predicted this – it was uncanny.  “I accept,”  intoned drunken Jack.  “I accept.  I sooooo…so accept.”

Kate exhaled, slowly and passionately, and her breath was wine.  Then, with a twitch of her hips, she began deftly to fit him into herself.  Jack, who felt he might soon be unable to form words anymore, gasped, “There’s condoms – in the drawer –”

Kate smothered his lips in a kiss and then said, “I already put one on you.”

Jack didn’t remember that she had, but soon didn’t care.  His orgasm was so intense, it felt as if he were crucified by a rod of light that exploded behind his tight-shut eyes.  He heard himself scream, borne atop an impossible crest that rose and rose, and his body was a rictus.  It was unbearable.  Finally he was released, to drift downward into a senseless abyss, wrung of every conscious thought.

*

Jack dreamed: there was angry screaming, the sound of sticks beating metal enclosures and the flesh inside.  There was fear, stench, filth, and death.  The booted feet came towards him and Jack felt his bowels release in terror.  The bars swung away and he shrank back.  The stick lashed out, beating his head and spine indiscriminately, the voice shrieking, “You motherfucker, get out!  I’ll fucking kill you myself!”  Jack, his own waste streaming down trembling legs, ran out and was herded into a corridor.  He couldn’t sort out the sounds, the cacophony of fear all around him.  He cried, choking in the miasma.  A figure in a blood-splashed apron loomed, and Jack tried to wheel around, but the man with the stick beat him forward viciously, still cursing, and then Jack’s hind hoof was clasped into a shackle.  Jack gasped as his body was hoisted up and up, and it hurt so much for all his weight to hang from that one hoof, but then his throat was opened and this fresh agony eclipsed all else.  Jack saw his blood, black in the gloom, rain up onto the floor in a torrent, and he couldn’t breathe, he was drowning in the iron tang of nausea.  Jack’s body thrashed wildly.  His hoof tore free from the shackle and his face crashed against the floor.  He couldn’t breathe, he sucked and gasped, and felt himself sliding over the concrete in the slick warm wetness –

Jack crashed against the dresser, tangled in sheets, sobbing and clutching at his throat.

He was alive.

He was alone.

*

Steve’s eyebrows beetled together as he dragged on the cigarette he was lighting.  Smoking was his new affectation, and a great way to meet girls, he claimed.  He exhaled slowly and then said, “So.  What you’re telling me is that…this girl got you drunk, took you home, foreplayed the shit outta you, confessed some sexually transmitted curse thing, got you to accept it, and then gave it to you in style.  And now chicks dig you.  And you have nightmares every night.”

Haggard Jack nodded.

“I don’t know if I buy it, man,” Steve pronounced.  “We’ve been under a lot of stress lately, with all the accounts coming over from the Islandia branch, and the warehouse being such bitches about that missing pallet –”

“No, Steve.  It’s real.”

Steve flicked his ashes.  “Well, sure.  But I remember having crazy dreams all the time, when I was a kid and my parents broke up –”

“Did you dream about being a different animal dying a different terrified death every single fucking night?”

Steve froze, and then woodenly resumed his smoking.  He offered the pack to Jack, and then cocked the lighter for him too.  Jack took a drag, and suddenly began to cry.  His chest heaved and his hands trembled as he smoked, one hand over his eyes.

They were both silent for several minutes, but then Steve whispered, “Dude – pull yourself together, it’s Susan from sales.”

“Fuck you.  And fuck Susan from sales,” murmured Jack, voice cracking.  But the proud clip-clopping of her high heels came closer and then stopped at Jack’s side.  Jack didn’t even look up, remote in his misery.

“Hello, Susan.  You look amazing today,” Steve hazarded.

“Jack, are you okay?” she said.

“No.”

“My god.  You look terrible.  What happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.  Please go away.”

Susan from sales took a hesitant step back.  Her gorgeous ankles, perfect stems rising from their burgundy patent shoes, the only part of her Jack could see, somehow conveyed her conflict.

“Well…okay.  But I was just going to lunch.  Would you like to come?  We can just talk about work.  Or…sports?  Anything you want.”

Steve waited one polite heartbeat and then interjected, “Jack’s sort of under the weather right now, but I know this great little steakhouse –”

“Not you,” said Susan faintly.  “I don’t date smokers,” she amended.  Jack’s smoke drifted across her.

“No.  Thanks.”

“Well.  I hope you feel better…”  She clip clopped away while Steve savored the view.  He turned back towards Jack as Susan distantly started her car.

“What a bitch!  Anyway, even if this is for real, it can’t be too hard to get rid of it.  It’s like your pockets are stuffed with friggin’ catnip or something.”

Jack was silent.

“Did you, ah, hear me?” asked Steve finally.

“Yeah.  I did.  I was just trying to imagine myself telling some girl that…I have this problem…and that she needs to take it off my hands…and getting her to accept it, and then leaving in the middle of the night like Kate left me so I don’t have to see her wake up with that look on her face –”

“Maybe you don’t have to tell her.  Maybe your Kate chick was just being an extra good citizen or something.”

Jack sighed.  “I don’t think it works that way.  But even if it did, and I could just pass it on, I just can’t see myself putting anyone through this.”

Steve laughed without much humor.  “So, what?  You’re gonna get butchered every night for the rest of your life?  That’s your plan?”

Jack stubbed out his cigarette and stood up abruptly.  “I don’t know.  I gotta go.”

“Well – do you wanna get some lunch with me?  I’m going to the damn steakhouse anyway, I’ve been working my magic on a little waitress there –”

Jack paled.  “No.”

“Oh.  Yeah.  Sorry.  See you after lunch, then?”

“I don’t know.  Take it easy.”

Jack was almost to his car when Steve caught up to him, breathing hard.  “Hey…Jack.”

“You need a ride or something?”

Steve swayed, catching his breath.  “No…no.  I was just thinking – that was crazy, with Susan.  Wasn’t it?  She’s the hottest girl in the whole place, and she’s never given either of us the time of day, and all of the sudden she’s begging you to hang out with her.  I didn’t know she even knew your name.”

“Neither did I.”

“So…I know it’s hard, with your dreams and all, but…you’re not even taking advantage of the situation, here.”

Jack turned to face Steve fully.  “I don’t know how else to say this to you, man.  I’m tired.  Last night I was a monkey in a head trauma testing lab.  The night before, I got anally electrocuted, except it didn’t quite kill me and I was still alive when they pulled my fur off in one piece.  I wanna blow my brains out.”

Steve started to say something and then looked off towards the freeway instead, hands on hips.

“What.”

“Jack – Jack.  I would…do anything to have it, what you’ve got.  Even with the dreams.  I don’t care.  I haven’t had as much luck as maybe I’ve led you to believe?  With that book and all, I mean.  I’ve never had a girl like Susan come up and just…want me.”

Jack’s hopes flared even as his stomach lurched.  “Steve?  What are you saying?”

“I’m just saying…I don’t want you to off yourself.  And I really think I could handle it.  Honestly.  I have bad dreams all the time.”

“Not like this.”

“Maybe not, but –”

“Dude.  No.”

“Yeah.”

No.”

“Fucking – yes!

Jack rubbed his face with his hands.  He was exhausted, and terrified.

“Come on, Jack.”

He looked back up.  He stared at Steve.

Steve stared at Jack.

*

Jack’s apartment no longer contained pumpkin spice candles.  He couldn’t stand the smell, after.  He wandered into his bedroom and sprawled across his bed.  He picked up the book, and removed the pencil from its place at chapter eighteen.

The One: what if you meet her?  How will you know?  Even a player can fall in love.  The important thing is not to confuse love with libido.  The ranks of serious PUA’s (that meant pick-up artists) have lost too many good soldiers to amateur sentimentality.  That’s why it’s important to make your kills; you have to know you can trust your instincts.  If you do score a special lady, here’s some advice on how to play her psychology in your favor and keep her highly motivated to please you –

Jaded Jack put the book down.

The doorbell rang.

Jack opened the door.

“Steve.”

“Yeah.  I’ll take a beer.”  Steve’s smile looked pinched on his already sharp face.  His overly groomed hair was as offensive as ever.

“I’m out.”

“Oh, for chrissake.  Coffee, then.”

Jack turned away from the door, and Steve saw himself in.  “Hmm.  Smells nice,” he observed.  Jack scowled.  Steve blinked and ran his hands quickly over his face.

Jack made coffee, poured it into mismatched cups, and joined Steve at the kitchen table.  Steve glanced sidelong at Jack, whose hands wrapped the cup though his eyes gazed impassively off into the tiny kitchenette distance.  The silence aged and grew brittle.

“I wasn’t going to come, but then I thought you’d worry,” said Steve.  What the hell? he thought.  I sound like a girl!  A nervous girl!

Jack’s gaze floated lazily from its unguessed-at vista to fix, with beetled brows, Steve’s suddenly hot face.  “Dude, you sound like a girl.”

Speechless, Steve gulped his coffee, but it was so hot he jerked and spilled it down his shirt.  “Ow!  Damn it!

Jack got up and, as he threw Steve a hand towel, snarled “What are we doing here?  Is this a date?  Is this some of your book shit?  If it is, I’m not impressed.”

Steve didn’t know what he was feeling – he thought he’d just wanted to help Jack out, to…talk about options.  Whatever was going on, there seemed to be a real crisis at hand.  Steve didn’t know what to make of Jack’s dreams, but Jack needed help.  But then he’d felt like he was on a date, the last minute or so, with someone out of his league.  Admittedly, this was a familiar feeling to Steve, but not when it came to jinxed Jack, the one guy with less luck than himself.  Now it was more like je ne sais quois Jack – everything was all confused and confusing, except for an abrupt and clear flash of engorged humiliation.

Steve stood up from the table, besmirched in shirt and dignity both.  “You know what, Jack?  Sweet dreams.  Sweet fucking dreams.  I’ll see you at work.”

Jack mechanically finished his coffee and the rest of Steve’s, too, setting Steve’s empty cup carefully back in its spilled coffee ring when he was done.  Then there was nothing else to do but finish the pot.  Later, just as his dorsal fin was sheared from his large, muscular body and he was tossed overboard again to drown, Jack started awake and headed to the bar where he’d met Kate.

“What can I get for you, shug?” winked the bar girl.