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The Essay
Show #364
Titanic Dreams
David Gunn

Skipper is having another bad dream, the third one of Saturday's wee hours. He is tossing about in his bed so violently that a small corresponding blip registers on the seismoscope in the geology lab of nearby University of Hummock-on-Smythe. His parents, though, are heavy sleepers, together weighing 82½ tonnes, and are unaware of the nighttime tremors. Skipper's dreams are graphic, thrilling and horrific, the sort for which Howard Lovecraft and Ed Poe so often pined. His current dream is one that Skipper has suffered repeatedly. He is chained to a boulder on the side of a mountain. He wears no clothes save a sequined loincloth on which "Property of Olympus" is stenciled. A 9-hole miniature golf course is laid out on his abdomen, arms and legs. A big bird swoops down from the sky and alights on him. With some difficulty, it grasps a mashie in its beak and plays the par four 9th hole, the one with the windmill obstacle. Timing the rotation of the blades, the bird whacks the ball so that it caroms off of a blade and lands a mere two feet from the cup. Unseen spectators gibber appreciatively. The bird holes out on its next stroke. Skipper's subconscious recognizes the metaphor of the eagle and, sure enough, the bird responds by unfurling its wings and approximating the image on a quarter. But then it spits out the golf club and begins to peck madly at the windmill. It yanks it off of its base, which exposes Skipper's entrails. With the skill of a veteran surgeon, the bird meticulously removes his liver, which it promptly eats. However, the organ, bile and all, grows back, but just as the bird is about to have second helpings, Skipper, as he normally does, awakens.

The dream seems so real because--well, because it is. It is a temporal projection of an event that took place precisely 99 million years ago. Long before Tennessee ever dreamed of harboring a football franchise, Titans roamed the earth. The Titans were mighty giants who sought to not only wrest control of heaven and earth from the Olympian gods but also to co-opt their concession rackets. One Titan who repeatedly irked the gods was Prometheus, who one day stole their fire and gave it to the nascent human race. He was caught red-handed, as it were, and he had to do time in an Olympus penitentiary plus pay a hefty fine, which bankrupt his father, Iapetus. As soon as he got out, though, he resumed his wild ways, swiping from the gods both their civilization and their arts and, again, handing them right over to mankind. Well, the gods were not about to tolerate a recidivist in their midst, so Prometheus was sentenced to be chained to a rock on Mount Caucasus where an eagle would eat his liver, starting afresh each day after the organ had regenerated during the night.

For the first couple of eons, Prometheus stomached this punishment with dignity. But soon--this is in the cosmic sense--the eagle began to get on his nerves. For one thing, it didn't give a hoot about operating under sterile conditions. It tore out his liver with filthy talons that were probably a microbe's paradise. And, no matter he had the constitution of a nearly omnipotent giant, Prometheus still worried about disease. There was no managed health care in those days, so if a giant or god for some reason fell ill, he or she could usually kiss immortality good-bye. But Prometheus had an idea. He began to lather his belly with a reddish-brown kibble made from dehydrated chicken livers. With a bit of giant-to-bird hypnotic suggestion, he got the eagle to readily eat the concoction, convinced it was genuine Titan gland. Afterwards, it made its daily report to Zeus, the Olympic warden. Also, Prometheus figured out how to disable the electronic anklet circuitry that shackled him to the Mount Caucasus rock, so, except for the eagle-duping time, he was free to hang out with his mates and plot the overthrow of the Olympian gods.

There was only one problem. The image of the eagle-eating liver didn't just vanish. It had to go somewhere. It was one of those universal Olympic dictums that flew in the face of logic: "If you think something is happening, even if it isn't, it is." So even though the eagle wasn't really eating a liver, it thought it was, so ... it was. Prometheus either didn't want to or couldn't project the liver-eating image on one of the gods he so disliked, hence he sent it as far away from his own reality as he could--99 million years into the future, a future in which a singularly impressionable boy named Skipper is receptive to dreamscapes punted from the past.

In the overall scheme of things, mankind--Skipper notwithstanding--has a lot to thank Prometheus for. Fire begot alarms, ants, crackers, hydrants, sales and wood. Civilization turned liver ripped higgledy-piggledy from the nearest abdomen into a more elegantly presented foie gras. And the arts gave humanity clowns on velvet, bobble-head Beowulfs, Laszlo Toth, the polka, Jonathan and Darlene Edwards plus other musical luminaries and, by extension, this 364th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, as well as its survivors of seven whole years of radiophonic broadcast foibles who are eponymously known as Damian and Kalvos.