Zombie Dream

Author’s Note: I dream sometimes. Maybe you do too. And I had this dream, or this dream had me, several years ago, around 2013 as I recall. I have a pretty good idea of what it means. However communication is what the listener does, so if you have an idea feel free to post it in the comments.

I am scheduled to compete in the world wiffle ball championship match against the Chinese national team. I am batting second. The game takes place in a large indoor hall with rafters, etc. The pitcher is a regular looking Chinese man in his early 20s.

No audience is technically visible, but there is a lot of light on the situation. I am somewhat nervous. Before the first batter steps up to the plate, I sneak into the bathroom, taking an artificially long time to avoid having to bat. However, I sense that the game is waiting for me, and eventually return to the field of play. Shift scenes, and I am still competing in the wiffle ball championship but now instead of a large open space I am batting across a table like a ping pong table. There is about 5 feet between me and where the pitcher will stand. There is no pitcher. I swing my bat and try to look composed.

From the far end of the hall, a new pitcher emerges. He is clearly Chinese, but his face is swaddled in bandages. He wears a grey cloth cap with ear flaps. What little of his face is visible is snowy white. He is a zombie. The new pitcher is flanked by military men who prop him up to some degree. It is clear that he had been disinterred only for this occasion. Grey from head to toe. He takes his place across the table, but before the first pitch one of the military escorts tells me that the pitcher wishes for me to kiss him. This seems like an unnecessary form of gamesmanship, but not wanting to offend I agree.

The pitcher rounds the table and raises his left arm high in the air. He is wearing a grey T-shirt. The area where I am supposed to kiss turns out to be a kind of bumpy lymph node. It is fully revolting. Two hecklers behind me suggest that the lymph node is coated with cyanide. I try to ignore this suggestion, feeling that this is simply more gamesmanship. The zombie pitcher lines up to pitch. I dig in and focus. The pitch comes, and I hit it toward center field.

Suddenly, the zombie transforms himself into the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. She is also Chinese, but an archetype of all women. She fields the ball herself and tries to tag me out as I reach for second base. Too late, and I double. But, she clearly could have tagged me if she wanted to–this is clear to both she and I. Nonetheless, I am relieved. I’ll take the double. The zombie is nowhere to be seen, but a sense of unease lingers. The archetypal female is also the zombie. This is unsettling.

People are looking at me as if in expectation of some kind of comment. I have nothing to say.


The lingering image from the dream is the grey cloth cap and the white face. The zombie is both terrifyingly composed and also a little pitiable as he clearly serves such a narrow function for the glory of the state. And, I doubled off of him/her.

The Hired Hand, Part I: Azerbaijan, 1990

So you think you can tell/ heaven from hell

Pink Floyd

March 7th, 1990. Mitchell Grey waits at a make-shift roadblock on the Iranian side of the Iranian/ Azerbaijani border at Astara. The Azerbaijani populace has been on a 40 day general strike since a desperate and cornered Gorbachev ordered a crackdown on the citizens of Baku. Nerves on the border are stretched thin, to say the least. Grey takes his time, keeps his head down. He turned 30 in November, a mid-Sagittarius, born adventurer. Not that he’d had much choice. Of course, Grey is no more his name than it is yours, unless that is your name happens to be Grey.

Four or five people, all men, are processed and it is Grey’s turn. He turns over his passport for inspection. The customs officer looks it over, gingerly.

“What is your profession?” he asks, in perfectly inflected English.

“Engineer,” replies Grey.

He had settled on this option after much thought. Grey stands 5 foot 10, with clipped hair, three-day stubble, and work boots. He is operating on a $1500 advance paid three weeks ago in Milan by his handler whom he had met for 10 minutes. Precious little remains, and Grey is in no position, no mood to pretty himself up for the Astara crossing. He does not look like a businessman or financier, and is not about to take the risk of trying. Nor does he look like a writer, despite the capaciousness of that particular category. He looks like what he is, a hand for hire, a mercenary. Engineers are scientists, more or less, and he hoped that at least a patina of respect would be accorded his proffered status.

“Engineer of what? You are here to steal our oil, yes.”

Not a question. The border guard gives Grey a look somewhere between a sneer and a smirk. A game player, thought Grey, a patriot perhaps, but a game player first. This is usable information. Grey takes a low deep breath, forces himself to relax.

“A structural engineer. I specialize in basements and aqueducts,” he replies.

Grey hoped that the word “aqueduct” would escape the guard and that he would tire of the game soon. However the young man was not such an easy mark.

“Basements,” says the guard, with heavy sarcastic emphasis. He turns to the man to his right, an older man, long past fed up with the conversation. “You have business in our country about basements?”

It was time for Grey to fall back on the cover story. “I am not here on business. I am meeting an elderly couple in the countryside. They are passionate hunters, and we will be hunting your famous Caucasian snowcock. As well as of course quail and pheasant.”

“So you are on holiday,” askes the guard. “Holiday, now, after the brutal crackdown of the Russians, you are here to shoot birds on holiday.”

“That’s correct,” replies Grey.

He produces a letter of introduction to the couple, one Mr. and Mrs. Verlandier. There is indeed such a couple, extant, with a villa in the hills. They had received $500 through a cut-out of a cut-out of a friend of a friend. Essential plausibility, the first principal of trade craft. Now, a letter of introduction is just a piece of paper, as the border guard was well aware. Nonetheless, the scruffy looking traveler had produced paper, and paper suggests organization. And organization, well organization suggests friends. The Soviet Union was in tatters, matters were moving fast. Who knew who was with whom? The guard has no wish to inadvertently insert himself in a game any larger than hassling an apparent criminal drifter. Still, he can not resist making his feelings known to this Mr. Grey.

“That sounds like a very interesting pastime,” he says placidly. “I know a little bit about Caucasian cocks myself. In fact, I have a reputation of being able to spot them from hundreds of meters away. Just something people have said.”

Mr. Grey takes this in stride, nods, and thanks the man for his passport back. Eyes low and feet slow, he tells himself. Don’t fuck up; “go see the Verlandiers.” He crosses the border and takes his first steps on Azerbaijani soil. He has three hours before his appointment. Every minute matters.

to be continued…

Dedication: For Eric Ambler, the GOAT.