by David Maney
March 21, 2020
Every man has his own mask but mine was made by The Director, with instructions from a book called: Big Heads and How to Make Them.
I had a dream that I was trapped inside this mask. The eyes were cut out on either side in such a way that I couldn’t see straight ahead. But in my peripheral vision, in the dark, the bright, eager eyes of an audience.
A light came on, like headlights, straight-ahead. Not that I could see straight. But on the back wall — made of rock like the base of a mountain — a shy and monstrous shadow moved: pointed snout, trembling whiskers, hairy back and fidgety claws.
On instinct I ran towards the shadow. The spotlight followed me. I froze. The audience gasped.
Did it look like I was trying to escape?
As I got closer to the wall the shadow became hard and small and mimicked my movements. It was me… The Rat.
May 22, 2020
A wet star fell from the darkness of space. The Dreamer, a bearded fellow with knobbly knees, bent down and reached into the star’s squelching guts and pulled out a tin pipe. As he played it the pots plants that surrounded him were pulled away, into the darkness, like they were on string or rope or some other universal force at play.
July 12, 2020
I dreamed I was The Rat again. I came out of my crawl space and chewed through transmission wires — it brought the entire train system to a standstill. Commuters trapped in tunnels furiously texted their delayed arrivals.
When they looked up from their screens they saw me in a black suit, briefcase in hand, wet beady eyes looking back at them.
My whiskers scratched against the face of the woman seated next to me. She screamed and pummelled me with her umbrella.
I squealed: “I’m clean! I’m clean! I swear I’m clean!”
I used the broken umbrella to pry the train doors open and make my escape.
September 3, 2020
My body was embalmed in a dry river bed — encased in dust but not yet turned to dust. My summer hibernation was interrupted by The Goat.
From its vantage point atop the cliff The Goat spotted the glistening morning dew on a tuft of grass. It scampered down, jumping from rock to rock. With its crooked teeth it pulled at the tuft. When the tuft didn’t gently release itself from the dust The Goat dug its hooves into the ground and pulled harder, sending up a fresh cloud of earth with each exertion.
I woke up and saw The Goat pulling at a tuft of my pubic hairs! I swatted The Goat away, in the process smacking my girlfriend (laying asleep beside me) on the bum. At the moment of impact I instantly woke up, before quickly turning over and pretending to be asleep.
She hasn’t asked me to explain myself yet.
October 12, 2020
I dreamed I was in a dungeon.
It was strangely clean. No dust. Lit by fire lamps, like a movie set. The stone walls were painted in shadows to make them look heavier than they actually were.
There was a shirtless man, muscular and yet decrepit, with a bald head translucent like an onion. He was teaching a young boy the art of torture. Action followed instruction, as if he were building a table:
First, you give The Rat a near-drowning, he said, to increase their appetite. Then you heat up the bucket over hot coals. Then you put the prisoner in the chair and strap their arms and legs to the arms and legs of the chair. The chair has the same measurements as the King’s throne.
(The boy seemed impressed by this)
The Torturer went on:
Place The Rat on the prisoner’s belly. It doesn’t really matter if we get a confession. Use the tongs to wedge the hot bucket between the pelvis and ribs.
(At no point did The Torturer ever raise his voice, even to speak over the screaming. He spoke in a methodical, warm whisper. He made practical sense and therefore didn’t need to raise his voice)
Do you smell that? he asked The Boy. That’s burning flesh. And that’s the singed hair of The Rat. And that sound? The percussion of The Rat on the bucket as it tries to escape.
(There’s that word again. Escape. As if I could).
Notice how the scream changes, said The Torturer, when The Rat burrows into the floor of flesh. Only moments ago it was drowning in water, now it is suffocated by a feast of skin-fat-flesh-offal. The most awful offal in the world.
When I woke up my pillow was wet, face smeared and crusted red. I’d had a blood nose during the night and tossed and turned throughout the whole ordeal.
Better put my sheets in the wash.
November 5, 2020
He writes his dream out on the enquiring page but every time he finishes he realises his eyes are still closed. There’s no pen in his hand, there is no page. And perhaps if he opens his eyes there will be no dream. Only these drafts.
January 1, 2021, New Year
This morning I experienced a 4.6 billion year old sun rise over a 30,000 year old volcanic crater rim. The colour of the sky and the depth of time were awe-inspiring. A simple act of cosmic complexity no less beautiful for its indifference to our presence.
June 23, 2021, Winter Solstice
For the shortest day of the year it sure did feel long. At the darkest hour of the night I threw my intentions into the fire. This morning I move through the world with smoke in my clothes and the embers of desire.
Something has shifted in me. I think I have waited a long long time for it to be over but it won’t be over or ending any time soon. So this waiting is waiting for something that will never arrive, never depart, never numb fully or heal properly. It has stranded my senses but I’m ready to fight for feeling again.
August 29, 2021
The Director made a robot that hurled and splattered tomato sauce everywhere.
I was The Rat again and needed to avoid the projectile condiments. The Director sat back in the tech box, feet on the desk, tearing pages out of Big Heads and How to Make Them.
Why did you ask me to be The Rat? I screamed, from behind the mask.
Because you’re a good person, he said.
(Because I was a good person? This was a child’s way of reasoning. It was as if his curiosity had protected him from ego)
But what is the show really about? I asked.
The show is a re-creation of a dream I had. A rat bit me on the finger and no matter how hard I shook my hand I couldn’t escape.
(There it is. That word again)
September 21, 2021
John Berryman was in my dreams repeating the phrase: some masks stress the features, some masks stress the features, as if it were a mantra.
He sat in front of a homemade shrine of empty dog food cans, stroking his thick beard.
Some masks stress the features, he repeated, others are far from the original.
I woke up and searched for the quote on my phone.
In searching for his words I forgot what his face looked like.
They weren’t his words.
Did he even own a dog?
January 4, 2021
I dreamed about a widowed pilot.
He flew his single-propellor plane through the sky, dragging bedsheets behind, gathering up the clouds in its threads, then ringing out the unfallen rain into bottles to be sold at fancy restaurants. The sheets were passed down through his wife’s family, only the couple hadn’t had any children before she died. So he continued to collect water from clouds, like a farmer of the sky, selling it to the fancy restaurants.
David Maney is an award-winning comedian and writer working across theatre, audio, and any place the written word is read. His work is a mash-up of art forms told from the personal to reflect on the weird and universal. He is also a member of the AD Collective, providing audio description to the blind and visually impaired. In 2020 he was a Writers Victoria Writeability Fellowship recipient.