It is early morning, late autumn, in Fairfield, Iowa. I am driving to work at Art Select while the sun rises in the east. The clouds are all purple and yellow and orange. The office building sits nestled between cornfields just north of town.
The parking lot is nearly empty. I am one of the first ones to arrive this morning. The air is quiet and still as I lock my car and head inside.
As I head down the wide corridor toward my office, I hear a man’s voice coming from my office.
I open the door and see I.T./Q.A. guy David S. at my desk, talking on my phone. His tone reverent, and he lowers his volume as I enter the room. He does a casual head nod to note my entrance and lifts a finger to me, as if saying, “I’ll just be another minute.”
I nod and wave back, sign language for “take your time, its fine.”
I put my bag on the floor and take stock of the office as he finishes.
It is a large room, roughly 20-foot square, lined with print drawers on the southern wall. The print drawers are large flat drawers in which we keep print samples should we need them for client calls, art product design, that sort of thing. As the company is going through a transition period, having just been bought up by a firm out of town, the drawers and their contents will need to be sold or otherwise liquidated.
I overhear some reference to “Afghanistan” and words like “timeline,” “imminent,” and “final approach,” as David wraps up his phone call.
David hangs up. He lets out a big sigh and slumps his shoulders for a moment, before physically marshaling his will and standing up. He apologizes for using my phone, “but I couldn’t use the phone in my office, as I did not want the other I.T. guys to overhear.”
I blow the whole thing off as fine with a casual waving gesture.
The conversation shifts to the print drawers and print samples. David asks what is going to be done with them.
I say that the details are still being worked out, but we will set up some sort of distribution network amongst the employees for anyone interested in getting some prints, and we will figure out some sort of lottery or drawing for popular items that several people may want, or maybe a silent auction. I shrug.
David thanks me for the use of the phone, and as he heads for the door asks if he can put together a wish list of specific titles that he is interested in.
“That would be fine.”
He opens the door, leaves and then turns back into the room just as the door is about to close behind him. He says in a hushed voice, “The military helicopter will be arriving shortly, and the Afghanistan bomb run is imminent, it will take place before dawn.” He does not look me in the eye as he says this. The words are emotionless and flat. He could be reading them off a cue card or a shopping list.
I grab my bag and follow David outside.
The office building is no longer set outside the fields of Iowa, but has been relocated to sand dunes will clumps of saw grass. The air has a settled, canned quality. Surreal, as if we are not outside, but rather on an indoor movie studio set. The sky looks painted and flat.
Outside David S. is no longer David S. but has been switched to the character of David S. as portrayed by the actor Stellan Skarsgård. I follow him toward a large dune. A handful of other ArtSelect employees walk silently with us: Heather M.R., David N., Robert R., Lane B.
We crest over the top of the dune and see a helicopter set. It is a piece of off white crème linoleum that is cut in the shape and scale of a helicopter floorplan. On it are metal folding chairs, set roughly where the chairs in a military helicopter would be. It looks like a minimalist set a la Lars von Trier’s film Dogville.
In the center of the “helicopter” is a barber chair. Behind the barber chair is a free standing wall that has fake windows, a couple pieces of art and a door – all these details are painted on the wall – which just adds to the artificial, surrealistic quality of it all.
As we arrive, we are introduced to the character of Giddy Burnette, played by Alison Brie, with long lustrous hair (ridiculous how gorgeous this hair looks, it is “shampoo commercial” pretty) and a big smile. She is wearing a dark brown pencil skirt and an argyle sweater. She sits in the barber chair, and is flanked by military personnel, Left Military is played by Sean Gunn and Right Military is played by Michael Rosenbaum.
We take our seats. Left and Right stay standing. Giddy giggles. Right hands Giddy a large flat cardboard envelope, with writing on the front. I am trying to make out what it says, but the angle is wrong (the relative position of Giddy’s barber chair is elevated above my lowly folding chair). Left hands Giddy a very large black felt tip marker.
A code is given over the radio, nonsense sounds to my ears, but Right and Left clearly understand it, watchwords and countersigns. They take turns translating it to Giddy, who uncaps the marker and begins following their instructions to black out portions on the front of the envelope. She laughs and looks at me and winks.
A second later the sky goes pitch black. The helicopter is still lit from the inside with a soft glowing light from an unknown source.
Another code from the radio, another portion is blacked out.
I catch a glimpse of the envelope and finally work out what I am seeing. Giddy has redacted the country code and city, and that is when the lights went out. She then redacted the street address.
My focus has narrowed to just Giddy and the envelope. Has the light gotten dimmer?
There is a feeling of discord. Of inevitability.
Giddy does a hair flip as she crossed out the company name, her line through is crooked, so she has to go over it again to get all the letters. She needs to be through.
With just one line left, Giddy’s mouth opens and the pink tip of her tongue slips out to the side. Her brow furrows in concentration. She has to get this last one just right on the first go. Left Military’s finger is pointing to my name, which I can see now, clearly printed on the top of the envelope. He lifts his head in my direction and everything goes black.
Just for a split second.
Then I wake up.
It is a sudden “all the way awake” kind of crystal clear alertness. Like my consciousness has been pulled backwards from a hypnotic state.
Celebrity Images courtesy of Getty
Comments encouraged, feel free to delve into “what it all means” or share your own similar dreams.