Bodyless Horseman of the Apocalypse

Dear Dreamy Readers,

Growing up with a neurologist can really mess with your head.

Especially if he’s got a brain in a jar at work, and spinal columns hanging from IV stands at home. Unphased by it all, I used to hang out in his den and read everything from the Merck Manual to Pediatric Neurology to the History of the Freakshow and variations of the Apocrypha.

But one day these books and body parts started to take a toll on my subconscious. And I developed a recurring dream. (Warning, the following is very disturbing.)

I’m walking someplace and see a head on the ground. At first, I think that someone has been decapitated. But as I get closer I realize the head has two little feet and is walking and talking.

            “Hello,” I say, looking down at the head, trying to pretend it’s a completely normal situation.

            “Hello,” he says back. The head belongs to a young man.

            “Where are you going?” I ask.

            “To school,” he says.

            “Is it far from here?”

            “Nope, just around the corner.”           

I want to carry him, but he appears fine. He doesn’t have a backpack or anything. How could he? He doesn’t have arms. I wonder where his stomach and kidneys are. How can he process food for energy? How does he eliminate food? But clearly there is some way because he’s alive and seems to be angst-free, unlike me.

            “OK, then, have a great day!” I say.

            “You, too,” says the head, and he trots off.

            Then I see a mushroom cloud in the distance. I realize the world is coming to an end. It’s a nuclear holocaust. I can feel the wind pick up and I know radioactive material isn’t far behind.

            I run home—back to 310 Harborview Lane in Largo—where my tree house was, and where Beau had a den filled with neurology books.

            I forget about the atomic bomb, and pull all of the neurology books down from the shelf. I sit down and start thumbing through one and then another, looking for a picture of a person who is solely composed of a head. I look through two hundred books. I don’t stop for anything. I don’t eat or drink. I have to find out what’s wrong with that boy. I need a name for his condition.

            I finally find it. But it’s not in a neurology textbook or journal. It’s in a freak-show guide that’s been stuffed in with the professional literature.

            A man, named Avuncular, stands on top of a high box and crowds look up at him. From this view, they can see that his internal organs are all pushed up into the cranial cavity—sharing space with his brain. It’s all there. He has no brain damage, and is quite articulate. He’s also seems to be very proud of himself. He is smiling. No, he’s beaming.

            Avuncular knows he is rare. He believes himself to be superior, the caption tells me. But nowhere can I find the name for his condition. Plenty of children have been born without heads or brains, but I see no history of body-less babies.

            I try to call my father, but my fingers keep slipping off the dial. I lie down on his pink corduroy couch with Pediatric Neurology for the Clinician.

            The phone rings, but I can’t get up to answer it. My legs don’t work. I’m only four steps from the desk, but it’s no use. My legs are paralyzed. I reach around for the spinal-column skeleton hanging from an IV hook. It’s on wheels. I use it to slide to the phone. The spinal cord clatters and bangs against me. I pick up the phone and fall to the floor.

            “Hello, Dad? Is it you?”

            “Hi, is this Nancy?”  It’s not my father.            

            “Yes, who is this?” I ask.

            “It’s Adam, the boy you met earlier today.”

            “When you were on your way to school?”                       

            “Yes, that’s me!”

            “How did you get this number?”           

            “Your dad gave it to me.”

            I am speechless.

            “He wanted me to tell you that I am fine. Please don’t worry. I can live like this forever.”

            “What is the name of your condition?” I ask.

            He’s answering me, but I can’t understand what he’s saying. His speech is garbled and there’s static on the line. I ask him to repeat what he just said.

            The line goes dead.



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