This is a short story about an Irish student who finds himself lost in Paris… via his dreams!
Where was I this time? It was icy cold and I attempted to push myself deeper into the closed doorway. Across the way, a giant black man tried not to stare at me from the shadows of the night-time alley.
I checked if I had my sachlet… Thank god – passport, credit card…After the first time, I always sleep dressed and with my bag. It would make my way home easier.
God that first time, I had woken up with my boxers and nothing else in a middle of a forest (which had turned out to be the Wicklow Mountains). That was an event that forever screwed me. It took me a day to find a road, another to find people. American tourists with a big camper van who had got lost finding their ‘Irish roots’ as it happens. They were more then willing to help. One of them kept winking at me and saying something about college fraternity prank. My arse.
It was the second time that convinced me. I was at a party at one of my college friends rented kips. I had drunk way too much and as I waited for the taxi (there wasn’t a hope in hell I was going to sleep here, there was Rachel for one), I conked out on the sofa. I stretched a little later and found that all the lights were off. Pissed that I had missed my taxi, I jumped up and turned on the nearest lamp- I was back in my own bed-sit. A little perturbed by my lack of memory of how I got here, I checked my watch. The taxi wasn’t due for another half an hour! Then my mobile rang ‘Phil? Where the fuck are you? Your taxi’s here!’
I then did a little digging. I went to Mum. Mum and me were a little distant now since Dads death. I was okay with it, she wasn’t.
After she laid on a few guilt trips, I got out of her that as a baby I had always managed to escape what ever she put me in, particular at nap time! And even older, I had a dangerous bout of sleepwalking where they would find me asleep in the park or the schoolyard or other places. Of course I remembered these but I had not realised the extent or their possible meaning!
Then I started to think about things my father said. As a child I had wholeheartedly believed the tales from my father that we were descended from Wizards and the Boogie Man was a distant cousin. As I grew older, I was less inclined. He had hinted that there was mystical secrets in the family. The problem was, it was hard to believe a drunk. Especially when he was slagging my own pet interest in the occult at the time.
Well ever since I discovered all this, its been happening, pretty much, once a month. I sleep, now, in my clothes and with a bag containing my travelling essentials.
But none of this solves my current situation. It was fucking cold. I pulled my thin denim jacket tight in an attempt to stay warm. The black guy doesn’t seem to move at all as if he’s a granite statue and shadows grant him an illusionary life. I had better move than freeze here. The street was brighter than the alley but not warmer.
Hold on a sec, this doesn’t look like Dublin. All the shops have neon sides, brightly blinking what they are. They all look like expensive McDonalds. There is another problem too. The names are not f*cking English.
The caf� is warm.
“Thanks.” I hold the coffee in my hands. Thank god for the Euro.
“You’re English?” The bartender beams at me behind his white apron and black waistcoat.
“No, no. Irish.” His grin somehow widens.
“Ireland. You’re on holidays? Not the kind area to find Tourists.”
“Something like that and I’m kinda lost…”
The mobile, thankfully, works fine over here.
“Hi, Rachel? Yea, it’s me?” I hold the mobile a good distance from my ear. I don’t know what she’s saying but it’s loud. The shouting subsides.
“Yea, look, I’m in Paris?” Rather more disturbing is the near utter silence that comes from the mobile. “Hello?”
“Yea? eh? I just felt like getting out of Dublin for a while? eh? I’m alone, there’s no one here but me? well not just me of course, I mean Paris huge? no I’m not being smart? listen? yea I know? I am not cheat?” She hangs up on me.
Rachel, Rachael, Rachael. If I’m descended from Wizards and Boogie Men, she descended from Witches and Princesses. We’re meant for each other really, so much so, we can’t stand each other. Which would be fine, if we could stand being without each other. You get my point?
We’re doing different degrees in the same college and met up at some Party. Ever since then we’ve been breaking up, getting together, breaking up again and it’s not always my fault.
I sprawl out on the hotel bed and pull out my notebook and start scrawling away about what I’ve seen of Paris.
The bartender recommended the small hotel. It’s small, dingy, cheap but not dirty and unclean. Not the first time I’ve had to find accommodation in the middle of the night, but the first time when I can’t read the signs or ask directions.
Plan. Tomorrow I’ll head to the main airport, where ever it is, and try and get tickets back to Dublin. I’m exhausted so I relax and close my eyes. Sleep comes quickly and dreams follow sharply after.
The walls were lined with skulls and bones. Empty eye sockets gaping at me. I reeling from left to right in the darkness. As soon as I came to a wall I saw the bones stacked so high they touched the stone ceiling. I wanted to run the opposite way from every wall I came to.
The laughter chased me. It was a deep booming continuos laughter that sounded more like a hundred fog horns then a man.
Then the thought struck me. I didn’t want to wake up here, I didn’t want to find myself locked in this terrible graveyard built of human bones. I shook and tore, my eyelids were like lead and refuse to open. I could feel the dream around me. I did not want to be here.
The laughter started to subside and it turned into a roar. It felt like a hurricane was coming for me.
I twisted and turned. The roaring was turning down the corridors of bone, hounding me to the last. I grabbed on to the walls as it reached me.
I woke in pitch-blackness. The air was cold as if it had just risen from a refrigerator deep down. Shivering I attempted to pondered why it had happened again so soon.
Slowly an eerie light cast on the stony walls. The shadows hung in drips and drabs among the crevices and cracks of the side. The whole chamber seemed to be modelled out of sticks but made out of stone. It was cold to the touch.
I took a deep breath. The light swelled and retracted. Somebody was crying, whimpering. Darkness filled the chamber as the light suddenly moved and there was a tremendous thud as if someone landing from a great jump. The voice was louder now, he was shouting, “Non… Non…”
I reached into my always-handy bag and pulled out a tiny torch, swinging around the chamber. The walls were more intricate than I first imagined, as the light seemed in places to pass right through it. I passed the light over the nearest wall… I nearly dropped it in shock. The light made its empty sockets black and it’s rounded skullcap shiny. The walls were made of bones and skulls. “Fuck” I whispered.
Where the hell am I? I groped on the ground and found the torch again. The whimpering returned. I crept forward, staying low and pointing the torch down. I didn’t want the skulls staring at me. At the end of the chamber the walls of bone formed a junction. I looked right and I saw him. He was huddled in a corner and covered his face except for one eye that flicked maniacally around. The green light poured over him. Steam or smoke curled towards him and there was a grunt that sounded like a wild bull.
He saw me.
I placed my fingers to my lips in the international sign of “shut-up” but he didn’t get the message. His eye caught me and started babbling away in French and pointing with his other hand to the origin of the green light. He started crawling towards me. That grunt I heard happened again. The green light seemed to move, coming around the corner. I turned to my right, planning to run… “Shit!” I exclaimed. It was a dead end.
The French man started crawling towards me using only his legs and still managing to cover his face. He seemed like a human spider that a kid had pulled all its legs off. It revolted me. I swung the torch back down the chamber I had come from. It was a dead end too.
Thud. I swear I felt the bone walls rattle. Thud again. Perhaps it was my bones. Thud. The light poured into the junction.
Something huge, something large was stepping around into the junction. I covered my face yet I could still feel it’s enormous size.
“Ah.. hows it going?” A voice boomed at me. It had a slight Dublin accident. I peered through my fingers and then quickly closed my eyes. It was big, roughly demon-esque, horns and animal-like face…
“Your here for the party I bet?” His voice shook the chamber and the French man quivered and shook in spasms. The French man was clinging to my trouser legs. I opened my eyes again. Okay it’s a demon, real, no doubt. Holding a green lantern in its hands, though it’s hands were the size of my head. Black eyes, green-ish skin but everything looked green in the light. He tilted his head as if curious why I hadn’t said anything.
“You’re a … a demon…”
“I’d prefer the term ex-dimensional being. My wife says we shouldn’t suffer stereotyping any more but I prefer demon myself. Has more… baggage to it…” The French man was in terrible spasms around my leg.
“You speak English…”
“I have very little French, I’m only over here visiting relatives you know. It nice to meet some home folk out here. You are a Dubliner aren’t you?” I nodded dumbly. “You’re a bit confused too… you don’t know why you’re here or why you’re not babbling like this picking here…” he pointed to the French man who was trying to crawl up my legs.
“Eh yea… something like that.” I relaxed my hands from my face. The demon pulled something from around the corner and sat down on it. “Well tell me how you got here…”
“Well it’s hard to explain…”
“Well I kinda dreamed myself here.”
“Well that’s it.”
“You didn’t get an invite? Or your half-demon self dragged you here?”
“Come closer I can’t see you very well.” I shook the man from my legs and tenderly stepped forward. He tilted his huge horned head to the left and right and said “Well there looks like there’s nothing wrong, probably your Irish blood.”
His eyes opened up wide at something I was apparently ignorant of.
“You don’t know? Well I suppose, in this modern day and age.” He leaned his head as close to me as he could. I was staring into his black eyes. “All Irish have some demon blood in them. In you it’s quite strong.”
“Yea.” He leaned back. “Not like human blood which is passed onto child from parents but from the land and others. Everyone who lives long enough in Ireland gets a little and sometimes a particular strong taint does pass from the parents.”
“So that explains the dreams?”
“‘Fraid not. Demon blood has nothing to do with dreams. That’s something else entirely. So you might as well join the party. It’s just in there.” He pointed with his thumb over his shoulders. “These French can really party.”
“What about him?”
“Do you want some? French soul is wonderful. It’s got these absolutely wonderful traces of purity and dirt mixed in together. You can nearly taste?” He stopped when he saw my horrified expression and laughed. His laugh nearly knocked me down to the ground. “I’m only joking. I haven’t eaten a human since my Dad’s time. It’s not allowed. Apparently it’s not progressive. Wife words.” The monstrous head stretched into a spasm of a smile. “He won’t remember anything. He’ll just wake up in the morning with a bad headache.”
“Em. I have a few questions?”
“Only one you know. That’s a tradition I wont’ break. One question.”
“Where the fuck are we?”
The catacomb; a massive graveyard that had been buried by the sprawling city of Paris. It was so large that at one time it housed thousands of people. There are spots hidden from the normal folk and only accessible to those of “demon blood.
But what I saw next was not the classic catacombs.
The Demon let me into “the party”. I expected it to be full of huge horned Demons bellowing over burning corpses.
It was very different.
For a start the hall looked like a Victorian Boudoir converted into a night-club; Red and gold curtains hung from every wall, chandeliers twinkled lights, low comfortable seats that encouraged people to sprawl out on their backs or sides, classical music played from somewhere but all laid out with modern sentiments.
Second it wasn’t filled with 10-foot monsters. It was filled with human-enough looking people. People with horns or tails or oddly colour skins. Some with thick fur covering every part of their bodies and others that seemed half animal. What was striking was that they were dressed normally, very fashionably. A girl-fox wearing black trousers and top and bushy red hair falling down her back winked at me as I stood a little dumbly at the door.
A tall man that looked human except for the tail that keep tangling around his trousers started yappering away to me in French. I didn’t know what he was saying but I could tell by his hand actions that he was very camp.
I started to speak and he switched to a near fluent English and explained that the wine was free, the food was being cooked and to enjoy myself, tapping me every so often on the shoulder and laughing a little girlishly.
I escaped him by saying I’d get a drink. I really needed one.
There was a man serving wine. I couldn’t tell if I had caught his attention because his eyes were completely black. But obviously I had. There was cheeses laid out too. Blue, green, yellow, some full of holes, some streaked with another colour?
I tried a white one. Bad choice, I nearly downed the red wine in one go to get the taste out of my mouth.
“Try this one.” It was the girl fox that had winked at me. She held a different cheese that was white and streaked with blue. “Eh thanks.” I tried it and it wasn’t bad.
Even though she was covered completely in red fur and had a snout instead of a mouth, she wasn’t bad. In fact she was kinda of hot. She wore a colourful small scarf around her neck, which contrasted, with her black top. White fur from her chest stuck out over the edge of her top.
“I’m Phil.” I offered my hand. Her furry hand was the softest I had ever held. “Jean.” Her French accent made it sound somehow sexy. “You looked a bit lost.”
“Yea you could say that?”
“Are you alone here?”
“What you see is all I’ve got!” I nearly sung it.
She introduced me to her friends. A boy-fox, a singer with horns, a computer programmer with little tentacles behind his ears that keep swirling freely in the air and a red skinned woman who didn’t speak any English.
We sat (or rather lounged) beside a great gold pillar. They never asked how I got here or what I was doing in France but they asked about Dublin. The boy fox really didn’t like me though, kept snorting occasionally at me when I was speaking.
The place was full of little clich�s. Small groups talking and laughing among themselves. There were a few that moved between the little groups, a satyr (you know his legs are like the legs of a goat and has a tail and furry ears) with a bottle of wine in his hand pretty much demanded that I accompany him as he floated between groups.
I was introduced to a plethora of people and started to forget about the little physical oddities of each one just as easily as I forget their names. And the night dwindled on.
At some point people started to leave. I found myself talking with Jean. She asked about Ireland and Dublin and explained how she would like to visit. I suggested she should look me up if she wanted to come to Dublin. I then unburdened myself about how I got here. I don’t know why I did. Perhaps it was the drink or the shock of the evening but I instantly regretted it, afraid she would find me not really one of them. But she just winked and said, “we all have our mysteries, non?”
She and the fox boy walked me back to the hotel. I kissed her on both soft cheeks and we promised to meet up if they ever came to France.
Thankfully there was a different attendant then when I booked in and returned to my room.
The next day I got to the airport and was lucky enough to catch a just vacant seat on a plane to Dublin. Back at my rented place the answering machine was full of messages from Rachel which started from Insulting and ended up with Worrying and Fearful. I called her and said I was okay. She tried to make me promise not to do that again and I tired my best to dodge answering.
It was only two weeks later that Rachel, who was staying over in my place for the night, answered the door. I heard a little yelp and a thud.
Rachel had fainted at the door. Jean and her boyfriend (in all their foxy-ness) were standing there a little embarrassed. I wonder will Rachel dump me again this time?