December 22

Whistleblower Dreams

 

The Whistleblower prepares his notes for the next public hearing.  He will stand in front of the microphone and address the crowded auditorium.  He will tell them the truth about the facility where he works, warning them about the dark smoke that billows into the air from tall chimneys.

He knows they won’t listen.

 

#

 

Every night, he dreams about being wakened by sirens.

He pulls aside the bedroom curtain, puts his forehead against the window and cups his hands on either side of his face.  In the cone of light beneath the corner street lamp, tiny swirls of black and gray ash drift toward the ground.  Puffs of other colors float through the light, green and orange and blue specks with white fuzz like the mold on bread or cheese.

On the street itself, cars sit motionless on the main highway past their house, a late-night traffic jam worse than a city rush hour.  Were there really this many cars in their little town?

Angry blasts ripple from automobile horns.  Police and ambulance sirens wail at impotent intervals.  The vehicles aren’t going anywhere.

How does it feel to be trapped?

Several of the car doors open, and people run out as if they’re being chased.  All those people who wouldn’t listen, and now they’re screaming, or holding their hands over gagging mouths, or waving their arms as if to shake off flames, or stopping to peel off layers of skin falling from them like crepe-paper streamers.

Even with the window closed, he can hear a hiss like the sizzle of acid, the drip of hamburger over hot charcoal.

His wife is sleeping, her body turned away from the window.  He grabs his feather pillow and presses it to his nose and mouth and leans over the bed to shake her shoulder.  She doesn’t make a sound, and he shakes harder.  The strap to her pajama top slides off her shoulder.  He brushes aside her hair and touches the nape of her neck, the skin soft with a thin layer of down that glows white in the light from the window.  White, like the fuzz of mold on bread or cheese.

She turns her head, finally awake, and her face is covered with ash and thick, pollen-like spores.  A clump of purple mold flutters beneath her nose as she breathes.  His wife opens her mouth to talk, but produces only a muffled gasp, something like a washrag wrapped around her tongue, white and soaking through with dark clots of blood.

He’s in the same room, breathes the same air, and realizes she must be his mirror.  Is he pushing the pillow tighter to his face, or is something suffocating him from within?

 

#

 

The Whistleblower knows the worst that can happen.  He dreams about it every night.