Notes on Forest Nymphs and Ambrose Bierce

AUSAA least once a week, I wake up to an esoteric note written in sleepy chicken scratch. The notes are always in my unicorn very manly notebook which sits on the night table and whose sole purpose is to catch these night-time ramblings. I live alone and don’t do hallucinogenic drugs anymore, so I can’t blame it on a sneaky flatmate, the cat or those pesky wall elves.

I often spend the rest of the day trying to decipher the note. Sometimes, this is not a difficult venture, as in the case of last week’s note:

Scarlett Johansonn must marry me on the mountain.

OK, so the mountain is a bit confusing, and disturbing, but I think the gist is clear. Sometimes, these notes prove undecipherable and their mystery tortures me throughout the rest of the week. March 16th, 2012:

This dog is not my dinner companion.

Who is this dog? Did I buy him dinner? Where were we eating? Could we still call it a doggy bag? This line of questioning filtered down until it eventually became just another part of my normal shame cycle.

At times, however, a note strikes a chord with me in some way. These notes have inspired blog posts (not this one), short stories, essays, jokes, articles and lesson plans. They added details to my book. They have inspired weighty decisions that changed my life in a positive way:

Prague beats Pittsburgh with a late inning triple.

Or in a negative way:

Cassandra the forest nymph is the one for you.

The first one has led to eight years living in Prague and the second led to a four-month relationship that ended with me dodging dinnerware and cutlery in the forest nymph’s kitchen.

One of the more intriguing notes I have woken up to was last June:

Are Ambrose’s ghosts guilty?

I had been reading a book of Ambrose Bierce’s ghost stories so deciphering the note was not too difficult. Bierce, who is one of the fathers of American horror, wrote several well-known stories, including An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and Chickamauga. He was also a journalist, a linguist, philologist and a highly decorated Civil War veteran. Many of his stories involve both ghosts and soldiers. And I was wondering in my sleep, where I am evidently more thoughtful than while conscious, if his ghosts were meant to display his soldier’s guilt.

Fine, no big deal. Maybe. No. Enter weighty decision.

On a whim that haunts me in my daily life, I decided to make this subject the theme of my master’s dissertation.

Now, Ambrose Bierce is a full-time presence in my life. I write about him, I read about him, I (apparently) dream about him. At times I stuff my face into a pillow and shout his name at the top of my lungs. Sometimes I find pictures of him on the Internet, draw a crude copy, tape it to my door and then throw darts at it.

Still, as the idea came from me, I feel some sort of deeper interest than if I had pulled it off the list of dissertation topics. Furthermore, it has allowed an in-depth understanding of one ofAmerica’s great writers. Pasted below is a link to a book of his stories, all accessible online, called Present at a Hanging and Other Stories.

This morning I woke up to read:

Piranha Racing in Uganda.

This could be trouble.

  1. #1 by Najha on May 15, 2012 - 6:06 am

    The Buddha belly I now posses compels me to inquire if you have indeed considered reincarnation, dreamy man. Or is it…
    Master Bierce?
    Is that you, my good sir?
    Lawsey, lawsey! If it be you, I may surely swoon! My pantaloons…

  2. #2 by Damien Galeone on May 15, 2012 - 8:01 am

    Oh dearest Hawaiian super elf, tis me. Ain’t you got no sugar?

    PS: Buddha belly?

  3. #3 by j. Nicolas on May 15, 2012 - 11:27 pm

    I’ve been reading through The Devil’s Dictionary for years. Still have yet to make it past “C”.

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