I Had a Dream
I woke up screaming, but I didn't know why! I was consumed with terror. I opened my eyes and saw nothing to warrant my panic. I was in a small, well-lit room, perhaps a hotel room. The furniture had that unremarkable, but not unpleasing, sterile look I associate with inexpensive hotels. I was lying on my back, on the floor. I sat up slowly, feeling a bit dizzy, but otherwise okay. The clock on the nightstand said 8:30. The last thing I could remember was sitting in the L.A. airport, waiting for my plane to Shanghai. Had I been shangaied? No, it couldn't be, or I would be in the hold of a ship, not on the floor of a hotel.
I stood up carefully, my head throbbing. I walked to the window and, with fear welling up in my chest, I pulled open the heavy drapes. The window looked out onto a courtyard that was dominated by a large, flaming pit. It was odd...it looked like a typical hotel courtyard, which ordinarily would have a swimming pool as its centerpiece. But instead of blue water in the "pool," there were red flames leaping into the air. People were sitting around on deck chairs and beach towels, and now and then one of them would stand up and walk to the edge of the fire pool and dive in. I could see several people in the shallow end, laughing and talking as the flames licked their skin and smoke puffed from their burning hair.
Something was dreadfully wrong. I crawled back into bed and resolved to never, ever again eat jolokia peppers right before bedtime.