On the evening of Wednesday, November 14, 2012 I had the following dream: I was a dinner guest aboard a small aircraft. The host was a bearded man and we sat together at a square candlelit table with a tablecloth. When he served the meal, I realized the meat was my own left leg. I felt it was no longer a part of my body the moment he removed the cover from the platter. He was smiling because he knew he had me. What follows should be no surprise; he threw me out the cargo door of the plane before I could even take a bite. This was the end of the dream.
I want to make several points clear. First, there was no one else onboard that plane. No one at all. Second, the leg was a male leg (which is natural as I am a man). While the cooked meat inside the covered dish was indistinguishable from thinly sliced roast beef, in my mind’s eye I could clearly see my own detached leg. The skin pigmentation was clearly Caucasian with a tan that ended at the sock line. The leg sprouted brown hairs which grew thicker and more curly around the ankle. This describes to a tee my own left leg at the time of the dream. Third, I did not fight back against Our Beardman, nor did the possibility occur to me. Fourth, the dream ended when I fell out of the plane. I did not hit the ground, nor did I feel myself falling. Instead, I saw myself pushed out of the hatchway as though from the vantage point of Our Beardman. Those who claim otherwise are either lying or else manipulated by those who lie.
It pains me deeply that anyone should deny that I had Our Beardman Dream on that date or reject any of the details that I know to be true from my having experienced them. And yet, this is exactly what I have had to face. Many have asked why I didn’t come forward sooner, as though to insinuate that I made it all up for the sake of publicity. The simple fact is that I had been keeping a journal at that time which I later forgot about. (I had no reason to expect it would ever be made public.) Keep in mind that when we started to mass dream, no one was even talking about an “original dreamer.” The diary was not specifically a dream journal, but Our Beardman Dream was so lucid that I wrote it down half-asleep. Here is my exact entry: “11/14/12 Strange dream, beard guy dinner, cut off leg then fell from airplane.” I think I meant to go back and expand what I had written, but I never got around to it. Anyway, it was a private matter.
The charge that I am a mere attention seeker is unwarranted. I have been called a fake, a doubtful candidate, a media whore, an alleged dreamer, a hoaxer, and most notably “a latecomer in the parade of phonies, crackpots, and charlatans trying to eke out a career based on farfetched interpretations and claims to authorship of Our Beardman Dream.” The reality is quite different—I have suffered ridicule, the loss of my job, and the support of many friends and family members merely for stating what I know to be true. The money I take in from interviews, articles, and speaking fees is actually very little, and also necessary as I am now otherwise unemployed.
As to the question of why I didn’t come forward sooner, it was because I assumed that if I’d had the dream that far back other people would have as well. I was in no rush to call attention to myself because of a claim that would be meaningless if someone else in turn remembered having the dream earlier than me. We tend to forget that in those first days things were still quite unsettled. No one knew how far back it went, because some nights you remember having Our Beardman Dream and some nights you don’t. Even the so-called experts acknowledge that personal dreams died away gradually. Think back. One night you had Our Beardman Dream and the next your teeth fell out. And then you were swimming in the ocean, and then you were back in high school, and then you were on the airplane again with Our Beardman. Some people used to keep very meticulous dream journals, but even they have no way to prove they remembered every single dream. It was only after all the clamor surrounding Tony Bradson that I began to ask myself, why is this man famous? Here is someone who has published three books, given countless seminars, and, in short, achieved quasi-mystical status based on something (a single solitary fact) that I know to be untrue. Because he is not the original dreamer. I am.
When I did finally come forward, it was only because researchers were by this time studying the phenomenon, and I thought my case might help solve the enigma of mass dreaming. Psychologists were warning us about mental illness and the loss of identity. Wouldn’t they want fully accurate information if the human race itself were in some kind of danger? And yet, such is the media sway of Bradson and his ilk that my claims have been roundly dismissed without careful examination. To date, the only academic to meet with me personally turned out to be a grad student in some kind of “folklore studies” program. I will not recount that humiliating episode here, except to say the footage was heavily edited to make me appear delusional. The truth is that I am not an attention seeker at all. I miss that initial period when all dreamers were equal. We were all dumbstruck by what we now shared. A plane would fly overhead, or a candle would sit on a table in just a certain way, and you would meet eyes with a stranger and you both knew. It was frightening of course, but we were all interconnected. Then there was the panic, and later when the world did not end, people started looking for the answers that would allow them to live their lives just as before. But not everyone who gave those answers was qualified to do so.
How are the Tony Bradsons of the world able to sway people to this or that experience of Our Beardman Dream? We all re-live exactly the same thing night after night! A year ago, the talking heads were all yammering on about the mysterious woman on the plane. Everyone was speculating about who she was and whether she was allied with or against Our Beardman. Today though, it is nearly impossible to find anyone who will admit to having believed she was aboard. I remember when the “third passenger” phenomenon first appeared as an internet rumor. At that time there was a group of us meeting weekly in the basement of the Bellvue Community Church. We all felt especially connected to the dream, and we sure as hell weren’t getting answers anywhere else. Back then we would sit on metal folding chairs in a big circle and talk for hours. We called ourselves The Deep Dreamers Meet-up Group. There were many groups like ours forming spontaneously all over the country. The best part was that there were no leaders. No theory or question, however farfetched, about the dream was taboo. On weekends we would have sleepovers. We would set an alarm for some ungodly hour and then wake-up together with Our Beardman Dream still fresh in our heads. This type of session was so intense we didn’t even talk afterwards. We would just sit there, nodding at each other and smiling for hours, totally connected. It was into this free flowing environment that the idea of a third passenger, a female, was first introduced. Groups like ours all across the country were discussing the same ideas. After a few meetings dominated by long conversations about whether or not she was there, the mainstream media took notice. (It had been tossed around on the blogosphere, and in grassroots organizations like ours with such ferocity that it was inevitable.) I don’t recall who in our group first stepped forward to agree, it was more that it had just reached a boiling point. Suddenly our little society was separated into those who had sensed her to be there, and those of us who were still trying to. This was the first time I felt a sense of division, of competition, of an orthodoxy of belief that was being established. For about a week I looked for her in vain, but I never felt her. I didn’t have the courage to deny her existence outright, but luckily the whole idea blew over as quickly as it had appeared. Yet somehow the sway, the social energy, of those who had supposedly felt her remained. They were quickly becoming the priesthood, if you will, of our little group. Nationally, the same thing was happening on a larger scale. Bradson and other famous dreamers heavily promoted the third passenger once it caught fire. But the idea couldn’t last, because no one was actually dreaming about her, however hard they tried. When the idea began to die away again, we listened to all their equivocations about how a presence isn’t the same as a person and they still retained their authority as powerful dreamers. Maybe no one wanted to confront their own credulity.
Of course, what most people reading this will want to know is, did I really have my own leg amputated? The answer is Yes, yes, and yes. You see my mother passed away, and I was deciding what stuff—hers and mine—needed to be cleared out. I’d already moved a lot of my “junk” (as she called it) out to the garage. She was always complaining about my titty mags, so I started there. Survivor’s guilt, call it. Emotionally, it was a lot easier than dealing with her stuff. My old journal must have gotten mixed in with the Hustlers. When I saw the date and re-read the entry, it floored me. Sitting there in the garage I felt the path of my life change forever and completely. I think all those dusty stacks of books and magazines are still right as I left them; this was the moment where my life’s journey was revealed to me. I forgot about cleaning out the house that day and haven’t worried about it since. When I could stand up again I immediately called Outback and told them I was taking a sick day. I never went back. I couldn’t. It was becoming clearer and clearer to me that Our Beardman Dream was the key to everything. I needed to organize my life around it, not the other way around, as I had lived before. And the more I concentrated on it, the sharper the details were becoming. I felt I was really close to something.
After a few days I started making phone calls to doctors. Most of them were too mired in the jargon of physical maladies) to understand the psychic necessity of my amputation. Some of them just hung up. But eventually I found one who understood right away what I wanted and why. She has asked to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, but I assure you she is a capital P professional. Dr. X insisted on waiting several weeks because she wanted me to be certain. Believe me, at the end of those two weeks of prayer and contemplation I felt more certain than ever of my destiny. She assessed my mental stability several times both on the phone and in person, and was completely satisfied that I was normal.
At home I experimented with what it would be like afterwards. I bought a wheelchair at the thrift store to test out, and found it so liberating I was soon spending almost all of my time just sitting in the thing. I don’t know how to describe the sensation except to say that it just felt so natural. Reclining there in my chair watching cable news, the whole concept of Our Beardman Dream changed yet again. Everyone on television strained to speak with authority even though they were baffled. The more I watched, the more it became obvious they didn’t have a clue as to what was going on or what it meant. They would converse matter-of-factly when they didn’t have any answers. They would become confessional when there was nothing at all to confess (since their experience of the dream is no more or no less than ours). The public meanwhile, had slumped back into its normal pattern of apathy. When the world didn’t end, our nation collectively shrugged its shoulders and went on as before. As people grew more ambivalent, ratings hungry commentators ratcheted up the hysteria all the more frantically. Every day new unproven theories would emerge, and every day this led to more fretting about whatever the speculation of the moment was. We all remember the controversies over gender, the flyers versus the fallers, the CIA conspiracy theories (all unproven). Now we’re all meant to be meeting with locus of control councilors.
The idea that there is some possibility of stopping Our Beardman is wishful nonsense. If you simply pay close attention to what you experience every night and ignore the talking heads you will discover this to be true. As we live nocturnally Our Beardman Dream, we have no desire to fight back. Some people are distressed about it during the day, but never at night. Never during the dream itself. I think it is significant that we continue to call it Our Beardman Dream and not Nightmare. Our Beardman is like a father to us. It never occurs to us to refuse the platter he has offered. This is just one example. To cut to the point, as the popular media was trying to guide us away from our own experience, I was ever more determined to move towards it.
When the two weeks elapsed, I could hardly wait to have the leg removed (I had ceased calling it “my” leg). I felt as if the removal of it was already true, and the operation merely a confirmation of the fact. This long slender abscess was still attached to my groin, but it certainly wasn’t a part of me. It didn’t belong there. I found it distasteful to control the leg’s movement with my mind, but since I was using the wheelchair 24/7, I hardly ever needed to. The first time I went public in the chair was to attend our deep dreamer’s meet-up. What did people think? I’ll never know. I arrived late, mostly because it was the first time I’d taken a taxi wheelchair bound. What I encountered could have been straight out of one of Tony Bradson’s seminars on “resisting the beardman” (in other words, a total waste of time). After about half an hour I wheeled myself out without saying a word to anybody. My surgery was the next day and I didn’t have any time for nonsense.
I couldn’t sleep that night, which was awful because I needed the dream to calm my jitters. The next morning when the phone rang I was finally dozing off in my chair. I had a sudden panic: What if the clinic was calling to cancel? Luckily it was just the taxi driver waiting outside. When I arrived, no one questioned my use of the chair before the procedure. The receptionist even held the door open for me. Perhaps she knew, as I did, that the leg just wasn’t a part of my body any longer.
Looking back, my only regret is that I was not allowed to keep the leg. Doctor X, although sympathetic, has a somewhat conventional attitude. She “drew the line” there, fearing I would eat it. (And it’s true, I would have!) She masked her reticence in legal language, but I don’t think that was the real issue as her performing the procedure was already something of a gray area. I did get to see the leg after I woke up from the surgery. They presented it to me wrapped in plastic on a stainless steel cart which they rolled up to my hospital bed. The sight of the thing completely bundled tormented me. There I was, a child on Christmas morning not allowed to open my presents. Finally I caught the doctor’s attention with a pleading look. She waved a hand at her assistant and left the room. The nurse was blushing. First, she fumbled around with every box of latex gloves in the cabinet, as though it were somehow necessary to restack them all before choosing one. It took her forever to open the box, then another lengthy period of purgatory passed as she actually put on a pair. She couldn’t look at me. It was as though she had been ordered to strip and reveal her own legs. When at last she unveiled it, the sight was not as pleasing as it might have been because now the woman persisted in hovering like an overly vigilant museum guard. I couldn’t take it. I met her eyes and stared her down. Wordlessly, she went over to the other side of the room and pretended to fiddle with some charts. A profound sense of relief washed over me. The leg looked so much as in Our Beardman Dream I had to catch my breath. The cart was of the same dimensions as the dining table in the airplane! Was this by coincidence, or design? For a moment I wondered if the nurse, only pretending to be antagonistic, had arranged the leg at just such an angle or if the lighting had been secretly adjusted beforehand in anticipation of this moment, but no, the answer was more profound. I was the original dreamer and this moment was a needed sojourn along an arduous spiritual journey. The universe had revealed to me that I was indeed traveling the right path, a path that only a one-legged man could walk.
Without even realizing it I had extended my hand and was caressing the calf muscle. Running my palm along the downy hairs, I let myself reach up to give the thigh a good pinch. I was curious about its weight, which had always been impossible to gauge when it was still attached to me. My fingers were already wedged underneath the thickest part when the nurse started towards me. She advanced quickly, calling out “sir, you—you—can’t—” The petulant creature was so out of breath she could barely get her words out! To show her how little I cared, I hesitated. After a few moments I moved my hand away again with easy deliberation. As I drew back I squeezed with my thumb for leverage and raked my nails along the bottom of the thigh. Whether Nurse Ratched noticed this I don’t know or care; what mattered was that I had collected some of the skin under my fingernails. The next few days in that hospital bed were ambrosia. As I lay there going in and out of consciousness (in and out of Our Beardman Dream!) whenever I awoke the scent and taste was on my hands. Curled up under the covers, I nibbled at the skin a little at a time, making it last as long as I could. I believe this is the closest anyone has ever come to knowing Our Beardman Dream.
Did I purposefully grow a full beard to further resemble Our Beardman? Most people seem to think so, but what happened is far more innocent. After I returned home from the surgery I was still peaked and bedridden. There was no one to help me with daily chores, so I stopped doing the least important ones. The dishes piled up, the laundry didn’t get done, and yes, I stopped shaving. What people should ask themselves instead is why my beard naturally grew to the same length, color, and fullness of Our Beardman’s. Of course, once it did happen, I wasn’t going to shave it off. How could I? It was one more piece of evidence that had fallen into place.
After a substantial period of rest I was adjusting well to life in the chair. I had already figured out how to do a lot of things one-legged, but believe me, there is a world of difference between voluntary paraplegia and actually having one leg when it comes to something like changing a light bulb. However I was coming up with a lot of workarounds, and domestic life was more like a series of rewarding challenges than anything else. One of these was grocery shopping. Of course I’d stocked up a lot of Hungry-Man’s in anticipation, but at some point it was all going to run out. I was sick of convenience foods, and I had a hankering for some cold cuts. What I didn’t anticipate was the violent reaction my full beard in combination with having an amputated leg would provoke out in public.
I called City Taxi as always, but the driver who showed up wouldn’t let me in the car. I demanded to know why, and he said he had the right to refuse carriage to anyone. Again, I asked for an explanation and he said that I should know why. When I reminded him of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he just muttered something and got back in his cab. I phoned the company to complain, and they gave me some cock and bull story about the safety of their drivers. Of course I could wheel myself to the grocery store, I just wouldn’t be able to carry as much back.
From the reactions I received, one would think I had arrived at the supermarket without any clothes on. As far as I was concerned I was the one acting normally. What is more mundane than going shopping? I received some strange looks, a few “oh my God’s,” and whenever I turned the aisle there was another surprised gasp. I didn’t mean to initiate this behavior, but nor could I stop them from following me around the store. Someone snapped a cell phone picture and then others started joining in. I didn’t give anyone permission to take my photo, but all I could think to do was ignore them. Finally, I was in the deli section gathering up packages of roast beef, by which time a semi-circle of whispering onlookers had gathered around me.
While I don’t blame the general manager for wrongly assuming it was a publicity stunt, his handling of the situation was far from professional. I thought he had come to my assistance when I saw him pushing through the crowd with an air of concern. But like Nurse Ratched, he was a petty dictator who sensed disorder but lacked the imagination to handle a situation that fell outside of his limited understanding of the world. He was a stout balding man without much of a neck. He sported a small red beard that was carefully shaven, but spotty and unpleasing. He didn’t even know what to say, and so he just stood there with the other gawkers. Finally he came out with a question that was both ridiculous and insulting.
“What are you doing in a wheelchair?”
“Well,” I responded, “several weeks ago I went to a doctor and had the left leg voluntarily amputated.” Why was he asking this? He could clearly see the bandaged stump.
Red splotches began to appear all over his face. His ugly little beard had company.
“Or perhaps,” I continued, “I don’t need a wheelchair at all, and I’m just faking it.”
After another silence the inept interrogation continued.
“Why are you buying that?”
The question was so stupid I found it challenging to tender a response.
Isn’t this a grocery store? I thought to myself. Isn’t the meat here for customers to buy?
And then I turned the question back at him.
“Do you dream every night that a bearded man serves you your own left leg to eat, and does the appendage transform in your mind into thinly sliced roast beef?” (I waved a package of the very stuff for emphasis as I spoke.) “And isn’t that why you’re really asking me these questions, because you’re afraid of what’s inside your own head?”
At this point he asked me to leave the store. I demanded to know why. He responded with a string of illogical and untrue statements. If the gentle reader will kindly refer to any of the YouTube videos (the original ones, not dance remix or OMGFREAK), you will clearly hear him referring to a fake beard and a fake wheelchair. What on earth is a “fake wheelchair?” As we continued to argue, I had to ask him why it mattered if my beard was fake or not? And why wasn’t his nasty little patch of whiskers against store policy?
I want to make it clear that he attacked me, not vice versa. While the lady with the giant cookie makes it difficult to tell from the footage, I urge you to consider that ZimCo Foods wouldn’t have settled out of court if the facts were in their favor. The general manager seized me by my beard, and when he did so he was acting as a representative of that company. Although what ensued has been repeatedly referred to as a fracas, it would be better described as an assault. The simpleton truly thought that he could yank off my “fake” beard. I threw up my hands to try to defend myself. Mind you, I was only trying to make him let go because of the pain. He cold cocked me, and as anyone who has seen the video will know, he threw me out of the wheelchair and onto the floor.
Things really spun out of control when I revealed myself as the original dreamer in the WBUN interview. While I wouldn’t take back a single thing I’ve done, some of what’s happened since has hurt me deeply. First, I understand that The Deep Dreamers may have needed to distance themselves, but there was no need for personal attacks. Watching my fellow dreamers go after me like that on the local news was truly more painful than the assault. Second, the way many journalists have characterized my lawsuit against ZimCo Foods is inaccurate. I would never provoke anyone to violence for the purpose of suing them.
The fact is that I face great discrimination because of who I am. Among the things I cannot do anymore, I cannot eat in a restaurant, I cannot go to the park, and I cannot ride the bus. Even the police have expressed reluctance to protect me. Can you believe that when I showed them some of the death threats, their response was to suggest that I should shave? My supporters protect me as best they can. I thank Our Beardman for the small but growing community that recognizes me as the original dreamer. Those who have not yet undergone their own amputations do my shopping and guard my house around the clock. But those who would silence me cannot be held at bay forever. What will happen when the original dreamer is killed? I have written this document because the truth must not die with me.