…pffft…

The cherry flares in intensity like a star about to die, then returns to the mute livid orange that matches, almost exactly the color of the couch.

…hffffff…

Absentmindedly, he rubs the freshly shaven square in the hollow where spine meets skull. The touch-ability of naked scalp combined with the perpetual itch caused by the derms has developed into a kind of
nervous tic.

…pffffft…

He is nervous.

…hffffff…

The dreams have resolved, with each successive treatment, from an undifferentiated soup of psychic noise into a strange geography filled with razor sharp edges. There is now an almost painful clarity of the knife edge of every mountain that cuts the clouds, every river that cuts the earth, every leaf that cuts the breeze, and each coastline that cuts the oceans of this globe that is all at once very familiar, and yet utterly alien in its near complete lack of creatures.
Only flora.

…pfffft…

He chain smokes when awake

…hffffff…

in order to maintain the high level of nicotine that is delivered by the derms while he sleeps. The derms leave a rash at every site, though mild, and the skin needs about twelve hours of rest before they can be re-applied. Not once has he forgotten that its poison they coat him with. Over the course of several months, a map has been developed of his own geography. Each adjustment of location and strength of each nicotine patch has brought the dreams more and more into focus as though the sub-conscious miracle were little more than a slide presentation in need of tweaking.

…pfffft…

You can only turn the lens so far before you have to break something to continue.

…hffffff…

His fingers find his scalp again.

He looks around at the decompression chamber through eyes that, as a result of his systemic nicotine saturation, see the room ripple and glisten as though still wet after a small lysergic cloudburst. He always grins when he refers to it as the “decompression chamber” because it is so very much a family den circa nineteen seventy three. Research showed that an environment replete with the burnt orange, mustard, and wood paneling brown of that ridiculous era was significantly more calming than anything else to test subjects dosed with mild hallucinogens. The team in charge of ambiance took these findings to the nth degree by recreating the rumpus room in painstaking detail right down to the absurdly huge ceramic ashtray the color of some very poisonous toad that lives deep in some rainforest somewhere.

…pfffft…


It is very important that he remain calm.

…hffffff…


It is into this ashtray that he stubs out the last half inch of the cigarette, but not before lighting a fresh one with its doomed ember. He is never sure these last few days when he first notices the lights dimming, whether he is finally fading fully out of this waking existence that becomes more and more dreamlike each time he visits, finally dying, or if its just the lights cycling down per the algorithm written to make him drowsy. When he decides that the answer today is again number three, he crushes out the cigarette and hangs his head, deepens his breathing, slows it, and rubs the naked square while he can.

He doesn’t fight the lights effects anymore, despite the instinctual urge to prove he is not so easily controlled. He doesn’t like to be awake when they checkerboard his body with the insecticide. The memory of the first time is enough to make him visibly squirm. The swoon of thirty five cigarettes, the surgical precision of the growing dim, and serious dedication to the task at hand all combine to drop the velvet hood of sleep over his awareness. It is in this dark night of the first hour or so of sleep that they move him to the applicarium for derm placement, and on into the room he has no memory of ever entering, though he wakes there every day.

With his eyes still closed to the dream, he raises his hand to the back of his now conventional haircut uninterrupted by a derm site.


I am dreaming
He opens his eyes to a rain slick cobblestone sidewalk in a modern city. He is standing in the middle of it. lining the streets are skeletal winter trees strung with white Christmas lights, tall buildings forming canyon walls beyond them. It is late and this city is sleeping.
He is not walking, but begins to move down the block unaffected by gravity as if he were not a part of this world, it turns without him. He looks at the massive granite and marble foundations of the buildings, looking for a door, an address, a name, something.
All he can see is the reflection of the trees bearing stars as fruit. Something wrong with the reflection though, too many trees. He realizes as the buildings become insubstantial, that he is in a forest...

no...
wait...

an orchard of these trees and lights, and no longer in a city at all. Now he is walking, he feels a part of this somehow. The sidewalk now a path of stepping stones, uneven and overgrown, causing him to stumble while gazing at the trees. My god, so many lights, and the trees… he can no longer see the trees, only blackness and pinpoints of light.
Looking down to keep his footing, he finds the stones, the path, the ground beneath his feet have all become ghostly and indistinct. Under this apparition, an ocean of stars churns to the gravitational music of galactic winds.

the city is an orchard whose fruit are stars…

turn around…


He dreams his breath catches in his throat as he turns to find this green planet of the clocks spinning slowly on its axis. The surface of the globe is dotted with lights, the electronic traceries of man’s ongoing attempt to push back the night…

no…
wait…

its something else. All of the lights are white, and while clumped in cities as you would expect, these lights are all the same size and color. Looking deep into a concentration pulls him closer to it, and the nature of the firefly dapple occurs to him.
Stars.
The earth becomes the quality of wood smoke and drifts away to leave him standing again among these alien, yet ultimately human constellations. He now understands…

these are dreamers…

…turn around

A faint drumming enters the edges of his perception as he turns to find the globe dark. He can feel the other stars turn in unison to regard the ebony face of the sphere. The tempo becomes a hammering in his chest as he watches the stars let loose from their hold on emptiness, one by one, and rain down to earth. Each place a star touches down seems to whorl, change somewhat, and brighten; and the cumulative effect is much like dawn racing across the land. He watches in wonder as the stars nearest detach and featherfall homeward. The drums are wracking his frame, the beats comming so fast now that he is literally vibrating at a new frequency...
Something inside him clenches like a fist, and he is wrenched from his heavenly vantage, hurtling to earth so fast that his descent is nothing but a sickening smear.


~UnnnnnUGH~

He is sitting up in the bed they strap him to, every muscle clenched in a violent heave that would have sprayed the room with vomit had they not moved him to I.V. nourishment some weeks ago. Finaly the spasm passes and the cloud of scientists around him resume peeling off the derms. Slicked in sweat, room spinning, breath like a blast furnace coming in ragged gasps, he tries to will his pulse rate down as they finish their work.

"Good work! We are very close now... the nature of the change that is coming is taking shape. Our work here has gone further than any previous attempt.

We should celebrate, William!

Is there anything special you would like?"


Free of the restraints, free of the derms, he sits on the edge of the bed with his head hung low. Looking up at the intercom from where the voice came, each word of his reply drops from his mouth like a stone;

"Cigarette."
"Lighter."
"Ashtray."


His fingers find his scalp as he hacks a dry cough into the other hand.



poisonous frog facts culled from: http://class6f.com/WorldofFrogs/stories/storyReader$32
It's amazing springy

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