Nathan and Alice are from a story I wrote in college, inspired by a trip I took to Cripple Creek, Colorado. I was in a gift shop, and a teenager carrying a baby—I can only assume her own—was imploring her mother to take him because she had a date that night. Her mother asked her who she was going out with, and the girl’s answer was “Nathan Quest.”
So I kind of wondered what it would be like for a kid named Nathan Quest, which is such a super-heroey name, growing up in a small town. And I turned Nathan into a fictional character, a kid who has superpowers but who doesn’t realize it because his superpower is that things he imagine become reality. And he eventually develops into a superhero in the more traditional sense simply by imagining he has powers. As a kid, he wears a Superman shirt everywhere, that plays largely in the story.
Anyway, Alice is his girlfriend in the story, a girl who he may or may not have imagined into being. Her full name is Alice de la Reya, and there’s some suggestion that she is actually a little Alice in Wonderland doll that Nathan’s mother owned, brought to life. But the story literally always ended in the scene, where, at sixteen, the two kids find themselves three feet off the floor after losing their virginity. Nathan has a very small cameo in my novel, because his father, Ben Billings, is a recovering mad bomber (what happens to him is similar to what happens to Nathan, except that his paranoia makes him believe the government is after him…and then it turns out the government is after him).
Last night, I had a dream about Nathan and Alice where they were a little older than they were in Nathan’s original story, just out of college, and Alice has become a television star as the hostess of a dance competition on an internationally-broadcast Spanish language channel that had become a sort of dark horse runaway hit. Nathan is, like his father, building inventions that shouldn’t work, but do, but not making any money. I get the impression that they stayed together through college, that, or got back together after, but they seem pretty well-settled in as a couple.
The dream was largely from Alice’s perspective, which was interesting because she’s not a character I ever
really felt strongly about. And it had a voiceover.
It started at a party being hosted by Alice’s television network, and at this point, I had no clue that it even was Alice, because she was older and much more sophisticated than she had ever been. She was wearing this black dress with a ruffle and sleeves that were clearly Flamenca-inspired, although it was otherwise a very modern, svelte dress, and she was dancing in a crowd.
The party shots are intercut with shots of a couple in their early 30s, making out passionately (but clothed) in a dark office. Signs all over the office proclaim “Re-Elect Cavanaugh.”
“The first thing you learn in my line of work,” she said in the voiceover, “is that there is always someone more famous than you are.”
This is where the non-diegetic soundtrack, which was these very haunting Coldplay-ish minor chords, started in the first time
The view shifted to a redhead, who was glowering from the sidelines, and sipping a cocktail.
“And the second thing you learn,” said Alice, “is that there’s always someone trying to take you down a notch.”
The problem with dreams is that this is where the dream would have established that the girl the camera had cut to was Whitney, a reporter on the same channel’s news show.
“We all knew something was wrong,”
Cut to a man taking the stage, looking very somber given the occasion. The strobe lights stopped as he hit the microphone to get everyone’s attention.
A hush fell over the crowd and then all turn to watch the man. He speaks, but the film, or whatever you want to call it, has already moved on.
There is a funeral motorcade, winding down city streets shadowed by skyscrapers.
Funeral motorcade is intercut back to same couple, but then something happens. Something, a dark mass, hits them both, pushes them away from the desk that they’re currently backed up against. There is a struggle, but we never see the shadowy figure going after them.
A stage, a podium. A man in his late 40s, with graying reddish hair, in a well-tailored but somber black suit, looks out at a sea of black-clad individuals as he takes the microphone. He looks back at his wife, a woman about ten years younger, but whose blonde hair is also graying, his two teenaged children from his first marriage, and the two younger children from his second, current marriage.
This is another one of those moments where I knew things the dream didn’t tell me. The man taking the podium was a man named William Cavanaugh, who was an incumbent US Senator running for re-election. The funeral was for the senior senator from the same state, who had died of a sudden heart attack.
Back to the office. We hear a gunshot. We see the woman’s face. She screams, but the sound is muted.
“We knew something was wrong,” Alice said, “when the first one happened. But no one said anything. No one. No one did anything.”
A police officer comes onstage at the funeral. He whispers something into Cavanaugh’s ear. Cavanaugh’s face goes white. Freeze frame, and zoom out to see the same image behind Whitney as she reports the news. She gives her report. I don’t speak very much Spanish, so my dream had the report overlaid with a male voice in English.
“Tragedy struck the Cavanaugh campaign today as two of Senator Cavanaugh’s top campaign aides were found slain in his (town name) headquarters, on the very day of the funeral of Cavanaugh’s friend and mentor, Senator Henry Jackson.”
Then there is a montage of the next few deaths—all people related to Cavanaugh’s campaign, intercut with footage of Cavanaugh and his opponent responding to the press.
“We all saw it. We all knew what was going on,” said Alice, “but none of us would come out and say it.”
Cut to Nathan. Nathan is boyishly handsome, with Clark Kent-style good looks, the kind you’d expect from someone who pretends to be a superhero. “I have to do something about this,” he said, getting up from the dinnertable in a rage. “Someone has to.”
Now, here’s the part where dream-brain is a problem, because the story kept changing. In one version of it, two people got killed using this weird personal rocket-launcher thing that launches people into the air but in another version of the story, the rocket launcher thing was this thing that Nathan had invented that dispersed a human being into his various molecules. But it wasn’t tested. I am not really sure. Anyway, Nathan decides that he has to get into the machine and use it in order to solve the murders. So let’s jump ahead to that.
He strapped himself in, and Alice, who was clearly apprehensive, helped him set the thing up and timed the launcher.
“Now I really wish I had that blue shirt with the S on it,” he said.
“You don’t need it,” she said. “You’re the real thing.”
Then she pressed his palm up against his and the creepy Coldplay-esque soundtrack came on as the rockety thing powered up and launched and he shot through the air.
And that’s when she said “I love you.”
She sat in the room, watching the window for a long time, until this friend of theirs showed up and told her to come inside. She pointed into the field in front of them. “I can show you where he went,” she said. “You see that fern beside that oak tree? And then that fern, beside that oak tree a little further off? If you connect the dots, you can follow his trajectory.”
And then she got up and turned to the guy in the room with her. “In all these stories,” she said, “there’s always a woman left behind. Well, I’m not going to be that woman.”