This story is part of a series of investigations, reflections, and reminiscences by writers, artists, and musicians who were influenced by David Lynch’s seminal television show Twin Peaks. To read more, or to learn about participation, visit www.twinpeaksproject.com.
Doctor Johansson is a short drive from her office, and she can make it during her lunch break, so that’s what she does. It works this way once a week. This time, she finishes telling him about her dream and there are a few moments of silence between the two before he speaks.
Are you still at your job, Diane?
Last week we talked about you taking action. We discussed you giving notice and maybe going to visit your mother in Denver.
It’s not the right time. I’ve thought about it. A lot going on at work right now, and it wouldn’t be fair to them.
What would be fair to you, Diane? Your dreams have been telling you. It’s time for you to get out. Seek that peace.
There is a knock at the door.
Excuse me for a second.
He walks to the door and opens it carefully the way a person opens the door when they have something they want to protect inside. Diane likes that, the way he opens the door. But the visitor is pushy and nervous. His head peeks inside and steals a glance at Diane before the doctor walks him out. She hears muffled arguing. The doctor is screaming.
Mini-cassettes fly to her inbox from all parts of America. Wherever her assigned agents are stationed there comes forth whispering, shouting, and all manner of ranting about dangerous beings lurking on the fringe mixed in with mundane requests for earplugs and #2 pencils. When she arrives home, Diane unwinds on her velvet couch watching novellas, a habit she took from her mother.
The novella ends and a Mexican variety show is next. A grown man in a baby costume enters the scene where two beautiful, large-chested women dine. He is their waiter, and when they try to order he tells them he went boom boom and asks them to change his diaper. Diane laughs and feels guilty. Though she forgot for a second, she knows the world is burning.
She organizes her To Do list for the next morning:
Agent James O’Leary needs four three-ring-binders mailed to Raleigh, North Carolina on the Lattimer case.
Agent Mort Kohlberg requires additional pens, staplers, and legal pads for his work on the water contamination in Columbus, Ohio.
Agent Dale Cooper requests a detailed description of the differences between a snowshoe rabbit and a cottontail rabbit with accompanying photos wherein the distinctions are highlighted. He also inquires several times if Diane has ever pressed her nose up against a Douglas fir and really, truly taken in the glorious scent. He tells her on the tape, Diane, you really must smell one. You owe it to yourself to once in your life take in this glorious scent. Agent Cooper is a man who thinks life has rules, and Diane wonders if he knows them all.
Diane lies in bed thinking about her youth and her family, and how much she misses her brother. It is because she is still awake that she hears a fluttering noise. It is barely audible. She rises and steps toward the sound. She finds it. It is the doorknob. Someone is working it. She walks across the room, looks out the peephole, but there is no one. The doorknob is still the rest of the night.
Agent Dale Cooper put a Post-it note on the new batch of tapes, asking her to smell them before inserting them into her dictograph machine. He asks her to let him know if the pines or the scent of fresh mountain air resonates on the plastic.
She packs up what he needs and ships it off to him with a note of her own. It reads, Agent Cooper, the tape smelled of strong black coffee and the hard plastic characterizing bureaucratic investigations everywhere.
That night she has a dream about a landscape full of fog where shadow men dance on charred bones. She wakes in the morning and thinks this is something she should tell Dr. Johansson.
Even before she finishes reciting what went on in her mind last night she knows what advice he will give, what questions he will ask, the knowing way his head will tilt as if to say, Listen to me. If you would just listen to me you would be better. It goes pretty much as she expected, only she adds that one of his patients was in the dream. The doctor asks her which patient. She tells him it was the man at the door the other day, the one who had his appointment time confused. The doctor grabs her hand. Never has he touched her before, not even when they first met to shake hands. He clutches it tight now. Listen to me, what did he do? In the dream, what did he do?
Diane says he was eating a bird, feathers and all, eating and smiling. And men were dancing.
That was not a patient, he tells her. That was my son, and he is dangerous. You haven’t spoken to him, have you?
Diane shakes no.
Please God tell me you haven’t spoken to him.
That night Diane latches the door and triple-checks all the windows. She protects herself, for how well would Agents O’Leary, Kohlberg and Cooper fare without her? Not very well, she thinks.
Further into the night, there is a sound that she might have attributed to her cat descending from the top of the refrigerator to the floor and waived off in favor of a return to sleep. But she has not been to sleep. She has not been to her bed all night.
He comes in through the window – he cuts the glass, undoes the latch, raises the pane and steps inside. She sees all of this, and she stands and takes her gun to meet him just as he is making his way into the living room. When he sees her he looks confused, not understanding why she is awake or why she is pointing a weapon at him. She almost feels sorry for him in his confusion, but only for a moment as he rushes forward and then falls backward with two bullets in his chest.
When the police arrive, she tells them she wants to go to sleep so she can be ready for work in the morning. The detectives wonder why she would go to work after something like this. No one would blame you if you took the day off tomorrow, Miss, one of them tells her.
But after the body is removed and the police finish their study of the matter, they are satisfied with how the events unfolded, despite their curiosity about the woman sleeping in the center of their crime scene, and they leave.
That night Diane sleeps without dreams. She arrives at the office in the morning and finds a tape where Special Agent Dale Cooper speaks at length on the flavor of pie he ate that the day prior, how rich and perfect the fruit filling had been, how miraculous the sensation was in each mouthful.
Along with the tape there is another box that Dale Cooper has mailed her. In it is custard pie. He has written, Diane, enjoy the little things in life, for that is often all we have.
She takes a bite and for a moment the taste overwhelms her, and she forgets the horrors of the world. The misery is shoved deep down to make room for the sweet custard. She closes her eyes and forces herself to remember that the darkness holds secrets. That if she gets too comfortable, bad things can and will seek her out. She dumps the pie into the wastebasket, dispatching it with the same swiftness with which she shot her intruder. If she had brought her gun with her, perhaps she would have shot the pie. The things that make you forget, she thinks, are just as guilty as the things that kill you.
Rick Stoeckel is a contributing writer to the Onion News Network, ClickHole, and McSweeney’s. He lives in Chicago with his wife, two children, and one cat, to which he is allergic.