To sleep, perchance…
Rêves actually did “sleep” — not in the same way that humans did, but they could sort of “power down,” at which point they would lose all physical visibility and substance. A Class I Rêve might be able to detect their presence, while Class II and III probably wouldn’t. Pearl, of course, was always aware of where every single one of them was at any moment, regardless of class or waking state.
But Preston didn’t know that yet.
All he knew was that he had curled up with Danny, who may or may not have been him but who was hella handsome nevertheless, and as they sheltered against the storm they both wound up falling asleep in each other’s arms.
It was a cold and foggy morning when Preston woke up. Okay, to be fair, it was visibly foggy, so he just assumed it was cold, which was something he couldn’t feel, although he and Danny could feel each other. He sat up and listened, and all he could hear was the distant crow of a rooster, and then drops of moisture falling from one level of leaves on the trees to another.
He nudged Danny to wake him — Preston could still see him for some reason.
“What?” Danny asked as he woke up and opened his eyes.
“Storm is over,” Preston said.
“So we lived?” Danny asked.
“No, dumbshit,” Preston replied, smacking his arm. “We’re still dead, but we’re still here.”
“Oh. Right,” Danny said. “So… now what?”
Before Preston could answer, there was a shout — “
¡Quédense. Manos arriba!
“What did he say?” Preston asked.
“Fuck if I know,” Danny replied.
Preston stood slowly, raising his arms.
“Y ¿por qué está desnudo en mi jardín, pervertido?” the voice called out again.
“Oh, wait, I think I knew one word, it’s about me, and it’s not happy,” Preston said, getting a good look at the angry father with the shotgun standing just outside the patio door.
“Tengo tres hijas jóvenes,” the man said, shotgun aimed right at Preston’s chest. “Qué ellas no vean sus cuerpos ni sus partes masculinos y forman ideas pecaminosas, si ustedes no se quitan del mi jardín en tres segundos, les voy a disparar y puedan decir hasta la vista a las nueces.”
On that last part, he lowered the shotgun to aim at Preston’s crotch.
“What did he say?” Danny asked.
“I have no idea on the specifics,” Preston replied, “But I think that the general idea is ‘Run like fuck.’”
“Oh, right,” Danny replied. “But wait,” he added. “Why are we running?”
“Because I get the idea he’s going to shoot us?” Preston answered.
“Right, and…?” Danny answered, refusing to move even as Preston got more antsy.
“I… dude, come on. Let’s not waste time. Let’s go!”
“You’re forgetting one thing,” Danny replied.
“What?” Preston barked back.
Danny just smiled at Preston, then turned to the clearly the angry dad, and gave him the finger.
“Are you fucking nuts?” Preston demanded. Danny just grinned and shook his head — and then dad unleashed the shotgun.
And… nothing. Well, nothing happened to them, but a flowerpot behind them exploded.
Preston looked at Danny, confused.
“Dude, we’re already fucking dead,” he replied. “How is he going to do anything to us?”
“Really?” Preston finally asked.
“Really,” Danny replied.
Preston laughed, then turned and marched right up into Dad with Shotgun’s face.
“Look, dude,” he said, “I didn’t want to be here, and I have no desire at all to wave my dick at you, okay?”
Dad with rifle seemed more scared than anything, but Preston pressed on. “On the other hand, I seriously wouldn’t mind slapping my dick on your chin, or you slapping yours upside my ass-cheeks. My name is Preston. What’s yours?”
Preston waited patiently as the dude reloaded two shells with shaky fingers, then fired right at Preston’s chest point blank, this time managing to blow apart a hanging potted plant behind him, at which point he retreated into the house.
There was a long silence, and then Danny just laughed.
“What?” Preston demanded.
“You scared him off, dude. “So… where do we need to be now?”
“I have no idea,” Preston said. “Maybe with my mother?”
“She’s not our moth — ”
“Fake mother, shut up, asshole,” Preston said.
“Okay, okay,” Danny replied. “So which way is that?”
“Follow me,” Preston explained, grabbing Danny’s wrist and Peter-Panning his ass all the way to the cemetery in Glendale… only to find the place empty. Well, not empty. It was full of corpses. They just didn’t see any Rêves around, of any class.
“Notice anything strange?” Danny asked.
“No,” Preston said. “Beyond the lack of visitors.
“Ground’s dry. Everything is.”
“So?” Preston asked.
“You saw the mess the storm left out there. Mud all over the place, some streets still flooded, everything still a little wet.”
“I’m still a little wet,” Preston said, unable to resist.
“Shut up,” Danny replied. “You remember that big flood back home in the summer of ‘10?”
“No,” Preston explained sadly.
“Great, whatever. My point is, during that flood, the cemetery out on Highway 52 was covered with water, and a lot of the graves got washed out. They were finding coffins all over the place for months.”
“Oh. Now I remember,” Preston said.
Danny gestured. “And yet, here…?”
Nothing was out of place, and the ground was still solid, all tombstones intact.
“Weird,” Preston said. “Maybe the flood didn’t get up this far.”
“You didn’t notice the road outside, did you?”
“So what do you think happened?” Preston asked, warily.
“We both already know,” Danny explained to him. “We saw the storm, and what was causing it. There was nothing natural about it. I think it was an act of self-defense.”
“Self-defense, or war?” Preston pondered.
“I guess that definition will depend on who ultimately wins,” Danny said. “Who’s fighting, anyway?”
“Well, we know that the main enemy is some crazy mad scientist from Pasadena,” Preston explained. “What we don’t know is how the classes of Rêve are going to split up.”
“Wait… classes of what?” Danny asked, and Preston sighed.
“Oh, shit, right. I guess no one had a chance to explain this to you. Sit down. This is going to take a bit.”
Danny sat on the marble cenotaph that guarded the buried corpse that he and Preston shared, and then Preston launched into an explanation of what the Rêves were, and how they broke into classes.
The what, as far as they knew, was that they were not ghosts, but rather psychic “echoes” made manifest by human memories. But how close those echoes resembled the originals depended on two factors.
The first: How well did the living beings doing the remembering actually know them in life?
The second: How many living beings remembered them in any capacity, whether they knew them or not?
And so, the three classes.
“What it basically breaks down to is this,” Preston explained. “If you died with a lot of friends and family who knew you, and if they made it a point to commemorate your memory or pass on your stories in any way, then you wind up Class I — an echo of your true self who pretty much remembers your actual life. That’s why recent arrivals are Class I, after all!”
“So I’m not Class I,” Danny pouted, “Since my whole family wants to forget me.”
“Fuck ‘em,” Presteon said. “Now, Class II are the ones remembered by a lot of people who never met them and who died long enough ago that people only know them through cultural artifacts… movies, books, songs, whatever. Or, in other words, celebrities. They come back the farthest from themselves because they can only come back from what people who never knew them experienced of them.”
“But what about a celebrity who died last week?” Danny asked.
“I’m getting to that,” Preston said. “Hey, you met the Marx Brothers, right?”
“Oh, yeah, right. Not helpful at all.”
“Of course. They would have been in real life, but the echoes you met all came from their films. And you didn’t meet Gummo or Zeppo, did you?”
“Nah. Just the big three — ”
“The Groucho, the Chico, and the Holy Harpo,” Preston said.
“Wow. But, yeah.”
“The last of them died almost fifty years ago, so there aren’t a lot of humans left who knew any of them. So, there you go. Class II. But every Class II started as a Class III for one simple reason.”
“Social climbing?” Danny offered.
Preston laughed. “No, silly. Because even famous people tend to die while they still have a lot of friends and family left behind. So when people die with a lot of people who knew them really well in person and a lot of people who didn’t know them well by proxy, they wind up as Class III.”
“That sounds like a demotion.”
“Apparently there were a lot of politics behind creating the designations. Don’t ask… Fake Mom told me. Anyway, These Rêves are in a weird unique position, because they can remember both their private lives and their public ones, and switch back and forth. Ironically, even though they’re Class III, they are probably most in control of their echoes.”
“So, you’re Class III, then?” Danny asked.
“Actually, no. I am Class II, since most of the people who remembered me never met me, but only knew my porn persona. Why the fuck do you think I keep showing up nude, dude? The same reason you probably saw the Marx Brothers in full costume. This was my costume.”
“Okay, but… what if nobody remembers someone? What happens to them?”
“That one, I have no idea,” Preston said. “I’ve never heard of a Class IV. Although if you’re here because I remember you, I guess that technically you’d be Class I.”
“But if I remember you…” Danny started.
“How can you?” Preston countered. “You didn’t live through my porn career —”
“The hell I didn’t,” Danny cut in. “Who the fuck do you think was there the whole fucking time? And yes that pun was intended.”
“I…” Preston hesitated, then looked into Danny’s eyes, and suddenly everything came crashing back as far as he could remember, and he could remember back to staring at the mobile of pink and yellow stars spinning above his crib and hearing screaming and slapping.
Meanwhile, Danny flashed forward from the moment he’d submitted his proof of age documents — a moment that his old mind had kind of put down the shutters to indicate “You died here,” and suddenly rocketed through Preston’s entire porn career and up until his death.
And damn if he didn’t love every second of the ride.
And Preston got to re-experience everything he had lived from the ignition of consciousness until he signed that contract, and damn if he didn’t love every second of the ride.
When they both snapped out of it, they just looked at each other with new admiration and a stronger sense of security that told them, “You are two separate entities.”
“So… what class are we now?” Danny asked just before Preston did.
“Fuck if I know,” Preston replied.
Then, there was a sudden blast of white light from the Chanler mausoleum, and Anabel strode out, lighting flashing around her hair, and she looked pissed as fuck as she strode right to… she didn’t even know what to think of them as any more. Surely not her sons.
“What did you do?” she demanded.
Danny and Preston stared at her, looked to each other, then back to her and laughed.
“What do you mean, mommy?” Danny asked in a fake-innocent voice.
“I mean that you are upending the order of things at the wrong time!” Anabel shrieked back.
“But wasn’t that your thing, mommy?” Preston replied sarcastically.
“I’m not your mother, you little shits!” Anabel screamed. “And you both know it!” Danny and Preston turned to each other, smiled, and fist-bumped.
“Yeah. We know,” they said in unison.
“So… which side do you want us on?” Danny asked.
“Mine!” she replied.
“Sure,” Preston said, “But you’ll have to win us over. And keep one other thing in mind.”
“What’s that?” Anabel spat back.
“Well, it’s a real riddle,” Preston explained. “What class are we in?”
“That hardly matters,” Anabel said. “Two of you cannot outnumber the rest.”
“No?” Preston asked. “Here’s another way to put it. What if one or the both of us no longer fits into any of your three Classes?”
“That is impossible!” Anabel replied.
“Is it?” Preston asked. “For one thing, I’ve now moved up to Class I, thanks to Danny.”
“Who the hell is this ‘Danny,’ anyway?” Anabel demanded.
“Me. Only he died out here unremembered. And he managed to pick up one little detail from, oddly enough, a Class II, that meant nothing to him until, well, we remembered each other, and it’s this one… and it’s a nice puzzle, really.”
“Spare me your puzzles and choose a side!” Anabel demanded.
“Cool your panties, ‘Mom’,” Preston ordered her. So, we all know how the three Classes of Rêve work, right? Remembered personally, only remembered from fame, or combo. But there’s that awkward other one… not remembered by anyone, and generally commended to nature. Yeah, I think that happens to be right in the middle of Pearl’s territory.”
“What are you trying to say?” Anabel spat.
“Um… I just combined the actual person I used to be with the force you fear the most, thereby proving that there is another Class beyond the three, although calling Pearl’s domain Class IV would be really, really bad form.”
“Stop saying — ” Anabel commanded.
“What?” Preston replied pointedly. “Pearl?”
“How dare you!” Anabel shrieked, but Preston just smiled and laughed.
“Sorry, Mommy,” he said. “What did you expect? I think the game we’re playing here is like chess and gay life. It takes one Queen to defeat another.”
“Stop calling me Mommy, you son of a bitch!” Anabel hissed at him.
That was when they all noticed that the wind had kicked up, creating a slight whistle. Preston suddenly sensed a presence, as if hundreds of warm arms embraced him and he felt he a flow of positive thoughts, as if an endless line of people were marching by to greet him, saying, “You’re going to be okay.”
Then he heard the voice in the rustle of the grass, “Preston, Preston” it seemed to say.
“Yes?” he and Danny both said out loud, and both of them sensed a hint of confusion in the presence around them.
A woman appeared before them, and Preston assumed that this had to be Pearl, or some physical manifestation of the thing Anabel had described as a vast collective. She actually reminded them both a little bit of their real mother back in Idaho, little knowing that the original Pearl was from Southeast Texas, but was in fact a second cousin, once removed, of their mother’s.
She studied the two of them, raising a warning arm to Anabel before she could say a word, then Pearl circled them, completely intrigued.
“This is certainly new,” she said. “Not unexpected, it’s just that we’ve never seen it happen.” She pointed at Danny. “You should be one of us,” she said, before pointing at Preston. “And you should be part of that shallow celebrity class that has decided to turn against us.”
She seemed to be almost beaming as she turned things over in her mind. “But each of you is something completely different,” she explained.
She looked at Danny and told him, “You combine a Class I Rêve with one of us, Las Hadas Silvestres, or Pearl, if you will.” She turned to Preston, “And you managed to somehow go from Class II via Class III to pure Class I but strictly on his memories of you. You’re no longer a celebrity echo.”
“I’m Danny, by the way,” Danny explained.
“And Preston,” Preston added.
“Pearl,” Pearl replied. “But this is about to become a war zone, so we’d best do what they did in London before the blitz.”
“Oh, don’t you — ” Anabel started, but Pearl, not even looking at her, knocked her twenty feet back to land on her ass with a gesture.
“We need to evacuate to the countryside, and you two need to meet your real family. Ready?”
They both nodded and Pearl took their hands. The next thing they knew, they were standing in a clearing somewhere in the woods. Preston recognized it as Big Bear. He’d made a couple of films up here back in the day — Lumber Jack-offs, Bears in the Woods, and one of his favorites, Night on Bone Mountain, which actually managed to be artsy. Come to think of it, those were about half of all the actual films he had made. Winston had been right — nobody really wanted full-length story porn anymore.
He wondered briefly whether Anabel had seen any of them, although he was pretty sure she hadn’t.
All that Anabel had seen as she sat up, royally pissed, was Pearl taking the boys’ hands and then the three of them vanishing in a black wisp, like a puff of smoke blown up a chimney to quickly dissipate in the sky.
Her scream sent every bird within three miles scattering frantically into the air, and set dogs to barking as far away as China Town.
* * *