I’m having the same dream again. The same dream within the dream, with Stevie Nicks, and the unibreasted teen. But when I wake in the morning, I won’t be bothered by it. Rather, I’ll be excited, because it will have been the first time that I ever had a recurring dream.

The rest of the day, I will obsess over the dream’s meaning, fixating at first on Stevie Nicks’s cryptic message. “Seems that my / dove is on the line,” she’d repeated. A vague intuition will suggest Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 self-titled album as a place to start. Near the end of the fourth track, it will occur to me that the “dove” must refer to her 1982 solo hit, “Edge of Seventeen.” I’ll realize that my birthday’s coming up in two days. That I am, literally, on the edge of seventeen. An awful premonition will follow – that pursuing this dream’s meaning would be the end of me, that I’ll never make it to seventeen.

A memory from last year will interrupt my train of thought. I’d had a crush on a girl named Stevie. She was Russian-German. We attended a sci-fi party once – she was dressed as Sarah Connor, and mocked me for coming as Rorschach, from Watchmen, saying there was nothing sci-fi about Rorschach. I brought up Doctor Manhattan, and she walked away – a year later, that’s what I’ll remember most vividly about her.

Why would this dream point me to Stevie of all people? If there’s someone who’d seemingly made no impact on my life whatsoever, it had to be her. I’ll drift back to sleep with thoughts of Stevie floating about my mind; and I will lose consciousness knowing, not realizing or even thinking about, but simply knowing, that I would never dream again.

 

“You won’t wonder who said this!” Startled, I’ll bounce up and out of deep sleep, wondering who the hell had said that. I’ll check under the bed, in the closet, then out the window, when it will speak again: “you won’t look for me in the kitchen.”

In the kitchen, I’ll look in the cupboard, the fridge, the plughole in the sink. “You won’t realize that I’m dictating your actions.” Of course, I’ll instantly realize just that. What an obnoxious creature, whatever this thing will be. I’ll stand in place in the middle of the kitchen, no idea what to do or think. “You won’t try to rationalize me away.” Nope. Not that time. Making no such effort, I’ll decide to go to the store and buy some candy.

As I pay for my chocolate bar, the Voice will let out a big, loud burp. I’ll ask the vendor if he heard that; he’ll shoot me a confused look, and not answer. As I walk out the store, the Voice: “you won’t consider that asking the deli guy was a way to rationalize me away.” I’ll head home, thinking that I finally lost my mind, at first peacefully accepting it. I’d always known it was only a matter of time; that time then arrived, I’ll find myself giddily looking forward to insanity, expecting it to vastly improve the quality of my writing, at least.

“You won’t turn left at the corner.” Fuck this guy. Left will be the way home, but I’ll turn right just to spite him. And so I’ll go, following the opposite of his directions, going as far as to turn back around the way I came when he tells me to go straight. And I’ll think it funny, and a little irritating, that because of his obnoxious tendency to preface his directions with “you won’t,” I’ll be literally doing exactly as he’ll tell me, by trying to do the opposite. This in mind, I’ll decide to stop playing his game altogether, and just follow my own desires: in this case, by walking straight home.

“You won’t keep walking, allowing nothing to distract you.” Despite my decision to ignore him, I won’t be able to resist just one more fuck-you to his instructions. I’ll notice a girl sitting on the sidewalk next to a box labeled “thank you,” with a few dollars and some change in it. She’ll be bent over a guitar, adjusting one of its strings. I’ll stop, consciously taking my time to spite the Voice, and will drop change in her box.

“What are you paying me for, you haven’t heard me play anything you prick.” She’ll look up at me; our eyes will meet, I’ll recognize her as the cute girl from the LIRR, and I’ll fall limp to the ground.

 

She’ll rush to my side, pick up my head and ask if I’m okay. I’ll just lie there, eyes open, fully conscious but not moving.

The Voice will speak to her, cordially introducing himself as Marty, as I’ll have known he would. Undisturbed by Marty’s disembodied nature, she’ll tell him her name is Stevie. If I would still care about anything by this point, upon hearing her name, I would think to myself, “fuck you too life.” But I won’t, so I won’t.

Marty will instruct Stevie to drag me by the feet back to my house, and drop me in the garage. He’ll explain that upon seeing her, I will have been struck with the absolute knowledge of everything that will ever happen, down to the last detail. Knowing everything, there will be no reason for me to do or attempt or consider anything, since I will already know which actions I will take, and what the outcomes will be.

He won’t be lying. Lying there, I’ll see that, because of Marty’s reasoning, I will never act or move again; I will live out my remaining hours on the floor, not doing or thinking anything, only knowing, knowing that this will be the case precisely because I’ll know it.

Marty will tell Stevie that the only way to save me will be to go back in time and prevent me from seeing her. Lacking a body, he won’t be able to construct a time machine himself, but if she follows his instructions, she could build one from common household items.

Two hours later, the machine will be complete. Marty will explain that if all goes well, the moment she activates it for him, she’ll be back at her sidewalk with the guitar and the change box, and no memory of any of this having happened. Then, with a mad cackle, Marty will enter the machine, travel back to that morning, and wake me up with the words: “you won’t ask yourself who said this.”

Seeing me still in the garage, nothing changed, Stevie will panic. She’ll enter the machine herself, only to discover that Marty’s instructions will have been for a machine that works exclusively on disembodied persons.

Stevie will then slowly come to terms with what she must do. She’ll pace, and tell herself that this must be a dream, and painfully pinch herself. She’ll tell herself that this isn’t her responsibility, that she hardly knows me; that isn’t for her to play God, that my family and loved ones should make this call; that taking me to a hospital would be the legally and ethically correct thing to do; that maybe Marty was wrong, or had lied, that maybe there will still be hope for me.

All futile. She’ll grab her guitar and, teary-eyed, postponing what she by then will know to be the inevitable, she will play The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” for me, but forget the last verse. I, for my part, will not care. Stevie will go to my kitchen, and return with a knife. Tears now freely flowing, she will run her hand through my hair, and pull my forehead against hers.

At this point, a choice will open up for me. I will see a fork divide the paths of possible futures. I’ll be free, for a moment, to lift up my arm and place my hand on the back of Stevie’s head, and look into her eyes as she pulls back in shock; then kiss her tenderly; and if I would take this path, I’d then reject my paralyzing knowledge, and tell Stevie this, and we would celebrate; and the process of overcoming such an unfathomable obstacle together would bring us closer than two people have ever been.

But I will also know that I will freely choose not to take this path. I’ll know that at the moment of choice, I will still know everything, so I will still have no reason to take any path other than that of least resistance. The moment will pass, and with her lips pressed to mine, Stevie will slice my throat.

And the last conscious thought I’ll have – as I’ll have known for hours it would be – will be wondering whether the afterlife might take place within the network of associations that lies between those who hear this account.


NEXT: 7. Credits