Sixtus made a bed for his new pet Aspinwall out of an old Easter egg basket and moth eaten blanket, and then finally got to settle in his easy chair and watch his daily quota of four Andy Griffith Shows, or what the locals slangily called “Mayberrys”. Upon subsequently switching off the TV and getting ready to retire, Sixtus took Aspinwall, who was happily curled up inside the blanket in his basket, upstairs with him and put him under his bed. He petted the still smiling snake on the head and whispered good night to it before crawling under his own covers.
That night, Sixtus had five dreams, the most important being the final one. This fifth dream began in the middle of a basketball court behind the house of Arthur Montrose, Sixtus’ best friend in middle school. To the left of the dreamer, on the edge of the court, stood a stooped old man with a long white beard and very wrinkled gray skin which looked very much like the cloth wrappings of Egyptian mummies. Despite his lack of color, the man had what is best described as a red-violet aura surrounding his body. Sixtus recognized him as his father, but he also had certain characteristics belonging to Mr. Dundee. Despite the raggedness of his breathing, Sixtus also knew that the mummy-man was somehow being brought back to life, a thought which terrified him.
The dreamer suddenly became aware that his girlfriend June Roberts was standing directly in front of him on the basketball court. Tears were running down her cheek, and Sixtus sensed that she was also frightened because the old man was being resurrected. He also realized at this time that the old man’s real name is Wheeler, which was also, unbeknownst to him previously, the true name of his father.
June then moved forward and embraced Sixtus. “I love you,” she whispered in his ear, but somehow Sixtus couldn’t repeat the words back to her, even though he did love her too. He couldn’t get the picture of the passive Egyptian mummy, who was the same as his father, out of his head.
He opened his eyes, intending to look once more toward his left at the raspy breathed man, but instead his head reflexively twirled to the right to examine the source of what sounded like a small explosion coming from his friend Arthur’s house. June and Sixtus, drawing away from each other, jointly examined the strange spectacle of a large furry creature emerging from the basement, which, in this exiting, had apparently blasted the basement door off its hinges. Sixtus guessed the creature must have been seven feet high, and was covered with what looked like, upon closer inspection, a yellow-green moss like substance from head to foot. However, the most riveting aspect of the moss monster was its eyes, which were blazing blue-green pupils set in electric yellow corneas. They glared at June and Sixtus as if attempting to melt them down to the concrete they were standing on. Sixtus suddenly sensed the terrifying monster was a manifestation of his mother’s rage, combined somewhat with the prominent bitch facet of Mrs. Dundee. He also knew that the creature’s name was Wilson, a companion monster to the oppositely disposed Wheeler mummy on the other side of Sixtus.
Suddenly the moss creature pulled out something which looked like a very oversized blue-green child’s jack from behind his back. The monster then hurled it violently into the sky above them, and as it grew quickly smaller Sixtus knew that June, like the jack, was also fading, as if becoming invisible. But Sixtus only sensed this indirectly, as he couldn’t take his eyes from the disappearing giant jack, which was becoming more and more minuscule as it continued its upward climb into the sky. When the jack finally completely disappeared he was able to lower his head to see what he already knew: June had disappeared too. Sixtus looked again at the sky, hoping to see the jack returning to Earth, reversing the diminution of its upward course. One either side of him, approximately ten feet away, he felt Wilson and Wheeler staring at him, psychically ripping him into two parts. Sixtus closed his eyes, unable to stand the tension. He felt his grip on reality waning, like a continual forking of the life force into increasingly remote roots of a once strong and vital plant.
It was at this point that Sixtus’ new pet, the small gray snake Aspinwall, entered the dream of Sixtus from his own dream sphere, as he had done once before in the dog’s colon. He reversed the direction of the forking roots which possessed his master’s mind into coalescing and merging green limbs which were actually Colon, the mature manifestation of this snake body. The body surged upwards, turning from gray to green, following the upward temporal path of the giant jack. Then Aspinwall impressed in his new master’s mind that *he*, Sixtus, was actually the true manifestation of the giant “jack”; this became his own reborn and reinvigorated identity in the dream now.
Jack looked down through the drifting clouds from the great green beanstalk he was climbing to the landscape now far below. He was trying to see where he came from, the place in the middle of the four color-energies. Like a child’s jack, the man Jack – who was the same as Sixtus – was aware of the six prime directions within him. He was aware that the most important direction now was above, and that an opposite version of himself was falling into the Earth instead of rising above it. There were also four other directions within him – left, right, forwards and backwards – and Jack had exteriorized these directions onto a part of the landscape he had now left behind. However, Jack realized that he would only see two of these externalized directions, as the other two had disappeared, so to speak. He peered intently through the cloud bank, trying to follow the beanstalk down to its origin; to where the two remaining directions might still be visible. Then he suddenly saw them as the clouds parted to offer a view of the beanstalk’s base far below. There were two minuscule dots on either side of this base, colored red-violet and a yellow-green. They were barely resolvable to his eyesight, and Jack knew that that would probably be his last glimpse of where he had come from. He thus stared at the two tiny dots intently, imbibing their irresolvable opposition into the core of his being until the clouds obscured them once again. Jack then turned his head back to the open sky and again set himself to the task of climbing the beanstalk to wherever it led him, gaining footholds in its spiraling stems and rising ever upwards in the direction he knew to be right.
After several more hours of laborious climbing, jack saw that the beanstalk disappeared into a solid cloud bank above him. He felt that this was his appointed destination, and correspondingly quickened his pace over the remaining distance. Shortly he was at the bottom of the billowy roof which extended endlessly in every direction, and, with a last look at the incredible inverted landscape, followed the beanstalk into its interior. There he was enclosed by a fog so thick that he could barely see the beanstalk directly in front of him.
Suddenly a deep hollow metallic male voice boomed out from his left. “Be careful which side of the cloud bank you step out from the beanstalk,” it warned, “for it is a choice which is permanent. There will appear to be a choice of two worlds you can enter here, but actually there is only one correct choice.”
A much higher and melodically pitched feminine voice suddenly sounded from the opposite direction. “I guess that’s my cue to enter the debate, huh?” the voice intone to the other entity. Sixtus could not see the origin of either of the mysterious voices through the thick fog. “I offer protection and security to you Jack,” the feminine voice proffered, “while he only offers the hot steaming sun of harsh reality.”
“A harsh reality that is needed to pierce your dreamy, misty netherworlds of fantasy and illusion,” retorted the male voice gruffly. “To open light into dark labyrinthine passages that would never be understood otherwise.” Jack then thought he glimpsed a shaft of golden light piercing the thick mist to his left, and then, through a clearing, saw a part of the being that he realized must be the source of the masculine voice. The glint of golden light seemed to be a reflection from the being’s surface, which appeared like molten gold to Jack.
“You know I’m no good at these arguments,” said the feminine voice from the other side, sounding much closer to Jack now. “That is why you always goad me into them.” Then, seeming to talk directly to Jack, her voice softened: “ But I have things the he can never give. I give free reign to the imagination. I open the possibility to take flight into infinite worlds of thought and feelings.” Although she was apparently much closer to Jack than the opposing entity, he still could not see her through the fog.
However, on Jack’s opposite side, the masculine being was becoming quite clear. It was indeed a mass of molten gold, gleaming incredibly bright in the rays of the still hidden sun, with vague references to limbs and a head, but with no detailed features such as eyes, ears, or hands. Jack felt himself irresistibly drawn to the fierce harshness of the golden being, but at the same time wished to look at his feminine counterpart before leaving the understood neutral ground of the beanstalk. He had left behind a dichotomy at the bottom of the beanstalk only to face another at its top. Should he choose the gold male entity, and face the harsh consequences, or should he choose the female being, who offered imagination and security. The pull of the golden being was becoming even stronger now as the mist parted on his left side, bathing it in the full power of the sun.
“I feel I have lost again,” sighed the female voice in resignation as the pull from the left threatened to rip Sixtus from his feeble hold on the beanstalk. “But in listening to your thoughts,” she added, “I see that you are worthy of taking into his world the seed of my imagination, which you must protect and cherish as if it were your very life. Here, brave journeyer, take this silver cube before you are forever pulled into the land of harsh reality.”
As she was speaking, an incredibly smooth and polished silver hand emerged from the ever-present mist to the right and offered him a small cube of pure silver. As the pull from the golden begin became even stronger, ripping him from the beanstalk, he quickly grasped the proffered cube, and simultaneously glimpsed the face of the feminine being. It was a face which matched the color and texture of the hand, a face that redefined forever the meaning of beauty for Jack. How could reality be so cruel as to pull him away from such a creature, not even letting him glimpse her beauty until after his choice had been made? But even while he was thinking this, Jack felt the touch of solid ground underneath him, and felt the scorching rays of the merciless sun beating down on his exposed head and neck.
Jack watched as the silver face faded into a small point, as if receding into a distance. When he eventually turned around – upon giving up hope that the face would reappear – Jack was confronted by what seemed to be an endless flat red-brown plane, broken only sporadically by large, light brown ovoid rocks and, far in the distance, a mountain range. What was this place he had chosen, which seemed to be deprived of life and where the sun was relentlessly shining? The only thing to do was to begin walking, and hope that he would find something else eventually.
Sweat began to form on his skin as he forged ahead, and adding to the discomfort of the heat, he had the eerie sense of being watched. The ovoid rocks, however, were the only objects around him, although he rationalized someone or something could be behind them. A distant alien howl from an animal suddenly broke the silence, startling Jack so badly that he actually jumped several inches into the air. As an aftershock, he also heard shuffling-type noises from all sides around him, and when he looked around, he could see that a multitude of what would best be described as “eyes” had opened up on each one of the surrounding ovoid rocks. He had to take a very deep breath to keep from panicking and running aimlessly. Jack decided that the only way to retain his composure was to look straight ahead, where there were no eye studded rocks to be seen.
At the very spot he stared at, a small black point formed and grew larger, reminding him of how the silver woman’s face dwindled into a black point. “Maybe it is the woman with the silver face come to save me from this hellish place,” he whispered aloud, “to take me to her place of safety and protection she offered.” However, as he looked down at the silver cube in his clutching hand and remembered the silver woman’s last words, his hope faded. The small black speck quickly enlarged to become the shape of a walking human, not female but male. As the man kept coming straight toward him, Jack realized that the stranger must have known all along where he was. Interestingly, Jack could see in his peripheral vision that the rock eyes didn’t stare at the other man as he approached, but kept their gaze on Jack, as if they were used to the presence of the approaching person but not him.
The stranger wore a black suit and white shirt, and had black hair to match his suit. He was also carrying a black attache case. Sixtus then realized he looked a lot like his seldom seen housemate Saucy Sales, but his face betrayed unfamiliarity.
“Don’t be concerned about the potatoes,” the stranger said, who was now standing directly before Jack. “They are just curious about newcomers. Eventually you’ll get use to them, and visa versa.” The man waited for Jack to respond, but he was too confused to think of anything to say.
“My name is Colfax, young man,” continued the stranger. “I was sent her by the King to greet you. However, I need to see some proper identification from the queen before I can give you more information about our land. Do you have proper identification? A silver cube perhaps?”
Jack held up the silver cube for him to look at. “I can show it to you,” he said cautiously, “but I cannot give it to you. If the queen is the woman with the silver face, she told me to guard it as if my very life depended on it.”
“Excellent,” cooed Colfax. “The queen would have been proud of you.” At this, he exposed a perfect set of chalk white teeth which, to Jack, contrasted sinisterly with his black suit and hair. “I can now show you the plans the king wanted me to tell you about. It is quiet exciting to be like him, you know,” and Colfax indicated with his thumb the nearest “potato.”
“I don’t want to be like a giant potato,” Jack exclaimed after briefly thinking the matter over.
With this sudden, bold retort, Colfax was taken aback. “Of course you’re not going to be a potato,” he then replied. “You’ll be a perfectly fit and normal human being. Here, let me show.” With this Colfax took his briefcase and laid it on the dusty red ground. He talked excitedly as he opened it and shuffled through various groups of papers.
“It just so happens I have only come from the Dunne Colony, where I ordered a new shipment of Gales. Of course, this situation won’t occur forever; we’re getting close to finding her essence in the soul pool stolen by the man in the orange jumpsuit… damn him. Luckily he can only tap bits and pieces at a time. The seemingly eternal search for Altoona.”
With this, Colfax looked up at Jack’s puzzled face, realizing that none of what he had just said could have made any sense whatsoever to the young man. But actually, Jack was still dwelling on the potato comment.
“You never did tell me what you meant when you said I’d be like one of them,” said Jack, mockingly imitating Colfax’s thumbing toward the nearest potato.
“Oh there’s really no choice in the matter at all,” replied Colfax assuredly. “Either you become one of those,” and here Colfax pointed again to the nearest ovoid, “or join us as a brand new Peter Dunne.” Jack was about to protest again in his confusion, but Colfax stared him into silence with dark, serious eyes.
“This is a very old world, Jack,” continued Colfax,” And there is a virus out of control here which turns humans into potatoes, a virus which has been raging for centuries. This arid land lying all around you used to be a part of a lush tropical jungle before the jasper virus hit and the Brainard head died.” Colfax looked up at Jack, realizing that he was getting too far ahead of himself again.
“Anyway,” said Colfax, his voice more subdued in an effort to restrain his excitement,”The virus originated in an early cloning experiment during the Scientific Era which temporarily turned humans into giant potatoes, which, when their eyes were sown, made many new giant potatoes. At this point, the process was reversed so that the new potatoes returned to human form, creating a multitude of humans identical to the original.” Jack still wasn’t sure what was going on, even though he could tell Colfax was making an attempt to explain it better.
“Believe me, it’s not so bad being a Dunne,” expressed Colfax after a brief pause, “especially thanks to a handy friend of mine. Let met show him to you.” Colfax then winked an eye at Jack and again leaned over the black briefcase. He retrieved from deep within its bowels what appeared to be a small, flat wooden dummy, which possessed the same black suit and black hair that Colfax did. Colfax set the dummy on an outstretched hand. A thin, adolescent-type voice issued from its suddenly masticating mouth, and simultaneously its big blue eyes popped open.
“Time to encourage sales again I guess. I didn’t think we would have…” The voice suddenly grounded to a half as he looked around, staring first at the desert all around and then at Jack, as if not realizing where he was. His bright, baby blue eyes were obviously not human, but at the same time Jack saw that they were intensely alive. He flashed his head quickly toward Colfax, posing a question at the same time.
“Came through the portal?” the dummy asked. Colfax nodded his head affirmatively, and the dummy’s head slowly revolved back to face Jack.
“So he’s got the cube,” said the dummy during another quick rotation toward Colfax, who again nodded. Then once again the much slower return forward.
“Jack,” said Colfax, “I’d like you to meet my friend, and I might add your friend, Mr. Boyce. He is a magical creature, quite alive I assure you.” As Colfax spoke, Jack couldn’t seem to look away from the dummy’s eyes.
“He is the master of dreams,” continued the older man, “and was given to me by the King as a gift for long service under his rule. He said he is the product of the original world of Altoona, and if so, he might be the only one of his kind left.”
But Colfax’s words were becoming fainter and fainter to Jack as Mr. Boyce, who still directed a riveting stare at Jack, was apparently putting the young man in a hypnotic trance. The dummy’s mouth started to utter incoherent chants. Then, as if switching from one dimension to another, Mr. Boyce’s chants suddenly became understandable to Jack, and were also instantly “translated” into the surrounding landscape.
Jack was now on his feet, wandering through a beautiful forest at the beginning of spring, and all around him were blue bellflowers colored exactly like Mr. Boyce’s eyes. Each of the flowers was psychically relating its individual variation of the one master chant. He was on a path through the flowers with a clear, rocky stream to his right, following it to what he knew to be some kind of paradise several bends ahead. He walked on and on through the woods, and the bellflowers grew larger and darker as the stream turned in front of him down a gorgeous rocky canyon where even more exotic flowers were growing.
Jack couldn’t wait to explore even further, and was about to quicken his pace again, when an incredibly ugly machine noise arose in the opposite direction, shattering the trance. He suddenly found himself staring at the dummy again, but Mr. Boyce’s eyes weren’t as blue and hypnotic now, as if an energy line between them had been abruptly shut off with the unexpected, aberrant noise. In fact, the dummy’s eyes looked quite alarmed. He quickly turned toward Colfax again (who looked equally alarmed), this time twice as fast as before.
“The noise,” Mr. Boyce said very softly and ominously to Colfax. “He heard the noise.”
Colfax looked confused. “What noise?” he asked.
“The noise of the dump!” Mr. Boyce said angrily to his keeper, and his blue eyes suddenly reignited. “The noise that was suppose to die alongside the old head Brainard centuries ago. The noise! The NOISE!” The dummy shook furiously, and it took several moments for him to calm down enough to continue. Colfax sat motionless all during this time, as if petrified with fear.
“Only a person from the real world could hear it,” Mr. Boyce began again more calmly, “… could disturb the Peter Dunne dreams I awake in all the clones.”
“You mean you aren’t going to be able to clone him?” asked Colfax incredulously, his eyes widening to reveal a black and white dichotomy between iris and cornea.
“ I don’t think so Colfax baby,” Mr Boyce replied rudely. The flat puppet turned his head back to Jack. “You see, you were never suppose to know you were turning into Peter Dunne, for I was to hypnotize you and put you in a pleasant enough place designed through your own desires and fantasies. Then you would gradually become Peter Dunne as I implanted his mind into yours, and then you would be paired with a corresponding Zona Gale. You may remember the prototype Peter Dunne, the early 20th Century journalist who invented Mr. Dul–“.
Suddenly, Colfax cleared his throat, interrupting the monologue. Mr. Boyce, interpreting his partner’s hint for silence, said: “Just be patient my obese buddy. I think our new friend has a right to know what we were tricking him into.”
“But the jasper virus,” colfax said weakly. “As long as he has the silver cube–“
But Mr. Boyce then sarcastically mimicked the throat clearing of his partner in a much higher and louder register, and Colfax fell silent. “It’s about this time that we take the silver cube from him anyway– I mean under ordinary circumstances – as the Dunne personality takes hold and he becomes immune to the virus. We then transport him and ourselves back to the Dulley Colony through it, and to his awaiting Gale.” By this time the dummy’s head had rotated back to meet Jack’s still thoroughly confused look.
“Here, let me demonstrate,” said Mr. Boyce, quickly reaching over and grabbing the silver cube from Jack’s limp hand. Sensing Jack’s remonstration, the dummy quickly responded. “Don’t worry about the queen’s foreboding, boy. We can’t do any harm now, believe me.” The confused Jack decided to let the dummy have his way; he was much too flabbergasted to stage a fight.
“First I take the cube in my left hand and energize my right hand.” As Jack watched, the dummy’s suddenly very humanoid right hand began to glow in the primary colors of the chromatic wheel: the palm was red, the fingers blue and the thumb yellow. “Then I rub my right hand on the front of the cube like so,” and when Mr. Boyce’s hand finished passing over it, the three sides of the cube facing Jack were also red, blue and yellow respectively where the corresponding color parts of the hand touched it. The wooden dummy then held up his now normally colored right hand to show that the three colors had actually passed out of it and into the cube.
“Then I turn the cube around,” he continued, “and hold it in my right hand while energizing my left hand.” Jack watched as the same parts of this like-wise humanoid hand also glowed in three chromatic colors, except this time they were the secondary hues of the color wheel: green, orange, and violet. Wordlessly, Mr. Boyce then passed this hand over the cube, which effected a transfer of the colors onto the three remaining faces, as before. Again, he held up the just de-energized hand, and simultaneously set the colored cube down on the ground between them.
“Now, the trick of the matter is to stare at the cube, rotating it in whichever direction you may, until all the sides turn the color indigo. This is the missing color of the spectrum, the one which bridges dimensions. I might add that this is the correct solution to any color fixation one may have.” Mr. Boyce then winked at Jack, who just stared back dumbfounded. “Once you find the indigo center, then you are automatically back home where you belong, wherever that may be.”
Jack, upon Mr. Boyce’s urging, began to stare at the cube, trying to achieve the unifying indigo color the wooden dummy told about. He turns it first one way with his hand, then another, attempting to find the right combination of the six possible colors facing him at any one time. In doing this, Jack became oblivious to the surrounding landscape, as well as to Colfax and Mr. Boyce. His whole attention was now geared to finding the right combination of colors and activate the indigo center.
At a certain point Jack began to turn the cube solely with his mental power, without any physical intervention. Suddenly, without warning, each of the cube sides vibrated and turned indigo, a most beautiful and satisfying spectacle to Jack. He was now quickly accelerating down a silver tunnel, with the indigo cube in the lead. Then the transformation occurred: Jack-as-Sixtus woke up, and found that he was back in his bedroom, safe and secure.