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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #407
David Gunn

"Xeno Bengaze, Oneirocritic." As Jerome picked up and squinted at the business card, the eyeball that was the most prominent image on the card squinted back. It seemed to peer into Jerome's subconscious where, finding imagery that it didnít sanction, it rolled in its socket in haughty reproach. Well, that was the job of the oneirocritic, wasn't it? To take a person's subliminal thoughts and recontextualize them for application in a reality-based universe? And Xeno Bengaze's dream interpretation skills were frighteningly good, a claim that even his gifted nephew, Beano, couldnít make. Thus, when Jerome had been unable to fathom the perplexingly disturbing dreams that had plagued him for the past eight months, he had taken the advice of the Ronco saleswoman and come here for analysis. "Here" was a 50-foot tall, papier-mâché teepee, white with striations of gold and fuchsia that looked like a Rorschach test for chromotherapists. It sat on the back of a flatbed trailer that was parked on the campus of the University of Hummock-on-Smythe in southwesternmost Lincolnshire. The door flap did a surprisingly good job of muting the outside traffic noise; inside, Jerome was aware only of the gentle nictitations of the blinking eyeball on Bengaze's business card.

He tried to put the card down, but found that he couldn't. A sticky goo had oozed from the card's interstices and cemented itself to his fingers. Trying to shake it off precipitated an attack of blepharospasms in the eyeball, which tickled Jerome's fingers. He dunked his hand in the glass of mineral water on the table, and almost immediately the door to Bengaze's office flew open. Wiping his eye with a towel, the oneirocritic motioned for Jerome to enter.

Jerome didn't know what the sanctum sanctorum of a dream decipherer should look like, but he certainly didnít expect it to be furnished with two iron maidens, a Judas Cradle and an heretic's fork. The floor, too, was blanketed with razor-sharp concertina wire, but Bengaze pointed to a non-threatening shepherd's rug in the center of the teepee and the two of them sat down there facing one another.

"These items inhabit your dreams," explained Xeno Bengaze, spreading his arms to encompass the room's macabre appointments. "As you have surmised, they are not conducive to a good night's sleep." Jerome tried to recall when he had dreamt of the iron maiden, but couldn't. "No, of course you can't," said Bengaze patiently," because, till now, you hadn't had this dream."

A ripple of anxiety tugged at Jerome's subconscious. Then, he was dreaming now? But ... but it all seemed so real! "You call this real?" mocked Bengaze, as he turned himself inside out while jamming six inches of toothpaste back into its tube. Jerome had to admit that, at least for now, reality had gone on holiday. "Good. Now letís get started. This is only one of several house calls I have to make tonight," said Bengaze, re-inverting himself into the bewhiskered image of Sigmund Freud and pocketing the toothpaste.

"Zese images zuggest," he began, his voice taking on the Viennese lilt of the curmudgeonly psychoanalyst, "zat you hated practicing ze concertina as a child." Jerome's face reddened at the memory, and he inadvertently squeezed the card that was still stuck to his fingers. "Is all right," reassured the oneirocritic, rubbing his eye, "I hated ze instrument, too. I wanted to play ze drums. But nein! My mutter, she made me play ze damn concertina!" Wisps of smoke leaked from his nostrils as the Sigmund part of Bengaze began to fume, and Xeno had to concentrate to regain control. "However, ve can fix this," he said calmly again, "by zimply eliminating ze memory." He snapped his fingers. The rolls of concertina wire abruptly vanished from the teepee, a gap simultaneously materialized in Jerome's memory, and he relaxed the pressure on the card.

"Now ve must address ze more difficult issue of ze instruments of torture," Xenofreud said. But before he could continue, the doors to the iron maidens flew open and from their ghastly innards came the most demonic tintinnabulation. Xeno Bengaze had wandered through a lot of bizarre dreamscapes during his years of oneirocriticism, but never had he encountered one so sonically chaotic. Jerome, however, knew the sound all too well. He reached up ... and up and up, his arm snaking out through the hole in the top of the teepee. Then down, down, down it plunged until it hit the button on top of the alarm clock.

The sudden silence prompted Jerome to abruptly sit up and look around. He was in his bed, in his room. There was neither iron maiden nor heretic's fork in sight. He stared at the concertina snuggled up next to him on the bed and felt only ambivalence towards it. He reached out to touch it, but the card that was still stuck to his fingers directed his hand instead to the tube of toothpaste on the nightstand. It was empty, after all.

The opposite of an empty tube of toothpaste is a full episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, such as this 407th, which features nary a note of concertina music but plenty of finger-tickling tunes along with the psychomusical analysis of Kalvos.