Lost in a paradise-nightmare world of abandoned aspirations and passions, a young Chicano battles insanity in the surreal dimension where everyone endlessly relives humankind's abandoned dreams. Except for him. But are Vietnam vet fraggers, Lenny Bruce, a Midget Godzilla, vampires, Neanderthals, a Black leper, Marilyn Monroe, Che and Chrisie the Bruiser foes or allies? And when the rebellious captive discovers special powers, and his desire to escape contends with empathy for Dreampeople, can he salvage his identity and rally them to overcome the Closet's mysterious secret? Before it's too late.
The Closet of Discarded Dreams is a strange, surreal novel where a Chicano man wakes up in a fantastic world of abandoned 'dreams' where one can bump into an imaginary Che Guevara or Marilyn Monroe. – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
"The Closet of Discarded Dreams – a cornucopia of image and incident, a Dantean journey, an amazing gothic ziggurat, replete with eyeball kicks and well-powered by Garcia's hypnotic stew of spanglo slanguage, wry and funny, with mordant takes on Chicano life amidst Anglos. At a meta-level, the book is about the author's quest to dream it up. Spicy and satisfying."– Rudy Rucker, author of The Ware Tetralogy, a cyberpunk founder and Philip K. Dick Award winner
"Garcia has created a crazy, raw, hilarious and often bizarre world in his debut novel. Don't expect a peaceful summer read with this book. Garcia is an original new literary voice."– Daniel A. Olivas, author of The Book of Want, editor of Latinos in Lotusland
"A polyglot tornado of words, in which Magic Realism meets Punk and develops an Attitude. Dizzying!"– Eileen Gunn, Nebula Award winner
"The Closet of Discarded Dreams is something new for the new millennium. A post-cyberpunk vision that captures the struggle for identity and reality that is growing up Chicano in the Information Age of colliding symbolism and exploding civilizations. I hear rumors of an international Latino New Wave in speculative fiction. The Closet of Discarded Dreams is a powerful example of what this new subgenre can become."– Ernest Hogan, author of Cortez on Jupiter and Smoking Mirror Blues
"Garcia's incredible leap of imagination takes us to an entertainingly bizarre world of dream people before tapping into something innately human. The search for meaning."– Warren Hammond, author of KOP, Ex-KOP and KOP Killer
I still couldn't get over it—everywhere, people and things. A group of lab-coated, science types testing a laser-edged guillotine. A bunch of black-suited jocks with sunglasses, deboarding a Lear jet to face a crowd of raving fans. An elderly craftsman polishing a bungalow constructed of brushed steel and blue glass. Further out, what looked and sounded like a quinceañera, except the attendees didn't remind me of a regular mexicano coming-out party. Why, I couldn't say.
There were so many smaller things I spied nearby—tulips and enormous orchids growing in a row of multi-level miniature gardens, a store rack of raccoon overcoats, and motorcycles parked for inspection. Chingos of broken-open cases of vino, and a ring of super-wide plasma monitors all tuned to the same Catholic channel. Countless leather-bound tomes filled mahogany bookcases. Hundreds of Oscars, Emmys and trophies on individual pedestals snaked off into the distance.
I thought a couple of things might have suddenly disappeared into pink blurs, but I assumed the dim lighting was confusing me with how it gave the impression that the contents ran to eternity. I quit looking to stifle another surge of vertigo that came from the realization that none of the things I saw cast a shadow. Not even me, no matter how or where I moved my hand. How was that possible?
The area where I'd awoken was more brightly lit than the rest of this vast "warehouse," and brightest near the orange wall. Plus, over there lay much more breathing space, maybe seventy feet up, enough to possibly rid myself of the claustrophobia pressuring my whole being. I got up to head over. Turned out to be un mal idea.
The Flooring undulated with disgruntlement and worse, garbled threats emerging from beneath the surface. "For Closet's sake, didn't you read the Suggestions!" "Hey, Sucker!" "Pinche vato!" "I'm gonna kill me a Newbie!" Though predominantly in English, I could distinguish European, Asian and other languages.
Through my bare feet the underlayment simultaneously shifted, as if scores or hundreds of beings fidgeted to find new locations, not that it hadn't moved before, just more so now.
My body dropped, not, I dropped down. I say it that way because that's the feeling that flooded me, as if someone remotely operated me through those nuclear-facility glass walls where you insert your arms into the glove holes so you don't get radioactive. I lay still, wondering what to do.
I'd never felt or had problems like this that I could recall, at least not in the past I did remember, and more was returning with each minute. I knew I'd always taken care of myself: no excessive drinking, no addictive drogas, one-night stands, extremist politics, or religious perversions. Yes, I'd hung out on the streets more than one time in my life, but I'd kept myself relatively clean and out of trouble. A new wash of memories engulfed me.
Híjole!—for as long as I could remember, I was so "pure and clean" I'd only had one credit card and never gone over its limit! That had been my lifestyle, keeping things simple and myself focused, how I'd gotten onto the short track to middle management, why I'd almost accrued what I needed for an obscenely early retirement. My IRA bubble theoretically bust-proof. To boot, I'd never even seen a shrink, never needed to. Then, I sensed that somewhere recently in the past, my life had drastically changed. Something earlier than this place, but the specific memory of it remained blocked.
Over to my side Mr. Many Muscles raised himself onto his elbow, glaring like a cannibal who couldn't remember his last steak nacho. Dressed only in blood-red satin briefs, he looked like he'd suffered many a fight before entering the Closet, I'd surmise, what with his misshapen limbs and twisted digits, and large bruises covering much of his torso. "Don't try and go running again," he rumbled. "Read the rules. Makes it easier for everybody." Luckily for me, I thought, he rolled over and resumed his snooze.
Still, I considered shaking him to make him answer my countless questions, but stopped because I still had that robotic feeling and didn't trust my mind, same reason I hadn't asked any of the voices anything. Although the disorientation was waning, something occasionally interfered with my train of thought. Reminded me of trying to drive through a night-blizzard while a drunken buddy jokingly keeps grabbing at the steering wheel.
Instead of walking I decided to roll my body toward where the light shone brightest, to look for a way out of this madness. I must have gone fifty yards that way, not putting my full weight on any spot or anyone, getting my ribs stabbed or my stomach jabbed, having to detour around a huge blue-steel safe and taking forever.
As I stopped to see how much territory I'd covered—the light source appearing no closer—someone's hand rose out of the plethora of merchandise and for unknown reasons slapped me with one good cachetada. I quickly left that spot, but the stinging in my cheek made a mockery of my attempt to not offend, as rewarding as the way some Anglos I'd met still hadn't looked me in the eye even after I'd avidly contributed to their choice of conversation.
Chingau!—I had no business acting like the bolillo mamás use to flatten their homemade tortillas. Other people here knew how to walk around, so I too could learn how. I risked getting up, treading carefully this time and heard hardly any profanity. After an eternity of lightly stepping I stood fifty feet from my goal.
A yellow spotlight over a plain, closed door seemed the only source of illumination, although that should have been impossible. So much lighting had to come from somewhere else. Was this the "Door" mentioned on the marquis?
Between me and it lay this funnel of emptiness—really, half a crater—angling down forty feet and opening into maybe two hundred square feet of bare floor space immediately in front of my target. I couldn't determine what that plane surface was made of but knew I had to cross it.
I felt more alert now, somewhat in control, and this monstrous urge to reach the Door seized me—even if I hated treading on peoples' body parts—because maybe on the other side I'd find someone to explain how I'd gotten here and where and what here was. And how to get out.
Before I made another move the Door sprung open and out catapulted a purple cap and gown, like for a graduation. It slammed shut just as quickly.
A little redheaded girl, a solid-looking 3-D cartoon creature!—not human, though human-sized—removed the cap that landed on her face and tossed it to me. I glanced at it, stupidly wondering who it belonged to, and why my disembodied sensation had returned. The cap was ordinary enough, but I avoided looking at the colored-cartoon girl, hoping she'd disappear so I wouldn't have to deal with the fact that she looked alive!
I jerked toward a voice coming from a handsome kid who'd somehow appeared on the crater rim to my other side.
"Who you think you were doesn't matter more than a hill of beans. You're not that person. Never were. Your memories are fat lies."
A long curl hung to his chin, dressed Elvis-50s in a cream-colored silk shirt opened to his sternum and brandishing a mouthful of gold teeth. He reminded me of the "Teen Angel" oldie I'd always hated and I stopped the humming of it from filling my head. Seated cross-legged, he twirled what looked like a necklace of umpteen diamond carats.
"You've got some of that person's memories but you're not him. You just used to be one of his dreams." He chuckled, appearing to hold back something more telling.
A flood of remarks rose from beneath: "Wish you were my dream." "He is." "No he's not! He's been mine for eternity." "In your wettest one!" The underground voices finally quit their quibbling.
Teen Angel threw the necklace away frisbee-fashion, underhanded and backward like a pro. "You'll get used to being in The Closet," he said. "After a few of our days, everybody does. Best thing about this place is, nobody goes bonkers or gets sick in other ways, either. Nobody gets older, gets the flu or pimples, unless they brought them in with them, like those Sector 201 biker gorilla gangs by where I used to live." He laughed again, this time in a bored tone. "By the way, what's your name? Not that it matters."
I was about to tell him I had amnesia, when a two-hundred-square-foot area behind him caved in like a sinkhole, a diuretic gasp of the Flooring. I heard people scream, yell, groan and cuss, laugh and sigh. Then everything resettled, the surrounding half mile rippling to redistribute itself, like a plug had stopped up the draining of a Godzilla-sized bathtub filled with mole. The surface didn't appear to have sunk any.
It took me a couple of tries to get my words out. "What. . .was that?"
Teen Angel gazed and scratched at his toenails like his manicurist had missed spots. "Who knows? From the size of it, coulda been a mountain vacation cabin or a champion, Texas Longhorns football team. Don't matter. Just means somebody revived his big dream or... You're a Newbie, obviously, and don't know: this is the Closet of Discarded Dreams. Okay?"
Okay, so now I knew what C.D.D. on the marquis stood for. But what in El Diablo's culo was that! Why was I in it? And what was with the unnatural sensations?
Teen Angel moved off before I could ask. He didn't get up and walk: he breaststroked across the Flooring, over some mink stoles and what could have been Da Vinci manuscripts, the soles of his feet the last thing to disappear as he dove under. I waited but he didn't resurface.
That made three weirdo crazies I'd heard or talked to, all of them Anglo—if the cartoon girl counted—although I'd spotted the one Chicana from a distance. My vision blurred for a few seconds and in that time a realization came to me, a connection to past encounters with Anglos. Though I remembered only some details, apparently back in the real world I'd felt out of place many times or not fit in. Yes and a few of those strange encounters of the Anglo kind had stuck me almost as strangely as what I'd undergone here. But only almost, because what had occurred in reality resembled experiences here no more than pepper tasted like a freshly picked habañero.
"Habañero," I rolled like the word like a native. Whatever had happened to my memory, I had no doubt I was Chicano. Words popped into my head that I orally checked, "Empanada de fresas, bien educado, las chichis preciosísimas, la raza cósmica vencerá," all sounding Spanish and comprehensible to me, so my vocabulary went beyond one-word profanities. I could see from my skin and in a nearby ornate mirror that I was either a Chicano or a most handsome, tanned, white guy with latino features. So, I was at least half. But I didn't know from where nor what my name was. I ran through the alphabet: "Abelardo?" "Beto?" "Carlos?" Nada. Nothing rang a bell... I gave up after "Pepito?"
Even if I couldn't remember my name, I knew I had to get out of here. I tried copying Teen Angel and swimming down to the Door—a crawl not a breaststroke—but had trouble convincing my brain it was possible to swim on something non-liquid. No doubt looking like a wounded spider moving through tar, I finally reached ten feet short of the crater bottom.
Just as I stood, next thing I knew I was back on the rim, like a leprechaun who'd blinked out to transport himself elsewhere. I tried again but gave up after the third unsuccessful attempt. I sat, wondering what next, succeeding at squelching the anxiety returning, building in my chest.
– fin –