In my dream, my father and I are driving at night through downtown Fort Bragg, on our way to somewhere, only Fort Bragg has changed, radically, into some sort of hybridized version of Tokyo on Victorian steroids. I can see the shapes of towering imitation Victorian buildings, like downtown Healdsburg, with wide sidewalks and incongruous cherry trees raining blossoms onto passerby. The trees are festooned with white Christmas lights, I almost expect it to be snowing. Every business is lit up with huge plate glass windows that seem very out of place with the architecture, but most of the sparkling altars to consumerism are hidden by mobs of people, milling at every corner, a wedding party flashes by in the windows of a suddenly ground-level Bistro while a gaggle of school girls giggles at an almost unrecognizable Laurel Street, and I see a row of old fashioned cars.Horrific vision of our overdeveloped future, or run of the mill nightmare?
“Stop,” I say to my father, “let’s see what’s going on,” but he doesn’t acknowledge the vision outside at all. He is bent on our joint destination, and we abruptly find ourselves in a landscape which resembles rural Ireland, rolling dark hills to the ocean with indistinct white blobs that might be sheep and a single rambling white gravel road. We reach a crossroads, two roads and four directions, and get out of the car.
“It’s here,” he says, “I know it’s just here,” he repeats, and he casts about in the gravel and peers up at the crooked road sign. “It’s supposed to be here, the crossroads.”
“What are you looking for,” I ask, standing awkwardly next to the car and shivering in the sudden cold.
“It must be here,” he insists, and he starts to dig.
“It’s a box,” he says, “a box with the answer to the riddle inside.”
“Ah,” I say, and I start to look in the gravel, too, before raising a hand and crying “accio box,” and it comes to me, small and wooden and damp, cracking. It was once inlaid, I think, and precious, and now it smells musty and worthless, gobs of dirt clinging to it and rubbing off into my hands.
We open the box together and I see three rusting skeleton keys and a broken and warped piece of wood which once fit into a nest in the box. My father looks at me expectantly and I look into the box with the growing realization that I am supposed to understand what it means, what’s inside, how to use it, and I look back into my father’s face.
“I don’t know,” I say, “I’m sorry,” and I shrug helplessly.
“It’s all ruined,” he says, and we stand there in the darkness looking out over the ocean, white gravel road under us glowing like it’s on fire.