The Last Apocalyptic Dream
Theodore Mriya, writer of intricate and chilling apocalyptic dreamscapes, was found dead in his tiny Harlem studio earlier this week. He was in his late sixties.
Additionally there are no birth, school, marriage, drivers license, passport, medical or any other records to prove that he ever even lived. Only a Certificate of Death confirms the physical existence of this singular writer and visionary mind.
It was only after he had already been cremated that the funeral home director was asked to confirm any resemblance with the oil portrait found hanging on Mr. Mriya’s wall. The painting was signed on the back by Charles Stanley (1943–2005), an artist who moved from New York to Maine in the mid 1980s. A few neighbors had already stated that the portrait did resemble what Mr. Mriya must have looked like as a younger man.
In addition to his writing, which basically earned him some noteriety and pocket change, Mr. Theodore eked out a meager living doing what Father Chasha at St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church referred to as “maintenance—everything from small repairs to replacing candles, dusting pews—you know.” Only two neighbors we interviewed even knew that he was a writer.
Mr. Mriya claimed that he had his dramatic, almost mystical, and always apocalyptic dreams every night since the late 1960s. His one or two paragraph descriptions, often compared to written versions of Hieronymous Bosch paintings, were first printed in the East Village Other in 1968. In the following decades they appeared mostly locally in the New York City area—in The Village Voice, The Gothamist and Time Out. A number of Pittsburgh and Chicago biweeklys also ran a couple pieces. The furthest from home that Mr. Mriya’s dreams found a home was in two California publications in the 1980s—The Mendocino Commentary and Anderson Valley Advertiser—having caught the interest of a syndicating editor named Wanda Tinasky, who found in him a literary descendent of H. P. Lovecraft.
The method he utilized to submit his work to various publications — always typed on yellow legal pad paper and mailed in a plain business envelope—helped Mr. Mriya maintain his anonymity. The royalties being small enough, he received them either in cash or money orders.
Mr. Mriya never gave any interviews. In 1982, when the editors for Small Magazine Edited by Greater Manhattan Artists included a note with his payment, stating that readers “loved his dreams”, he enclosed a small hand written note with his next submission stating “I always found hearing other people’s dreams quite boring.”
Since the dreams came so regularly he would often send two or three at one time, offering the editors the choice of one. On the upper right hand corner of each sheet he always typed The Last Apocalyptic Dream.
In January 1970 he had submitted a dream to the underground newspaper The Chicago Seed which ended up securing him a much bigger audience.
The dreamscape was one in which some force had offset the center of gravity at the core of the planet. People and cars were lifted up off the ground, airplanes came bobbing and flipping downward. Terrifying chaos took hold as every person and object levitated in the atmosphere above the earth—”the sky was like a different kind of water and everything floated and swam in it like fish”.
A few days after publication a writer for the New York Times stumbled across the piece, got permission from the newspaper to reprint it, supplemented it with an illustration by the then famous science-fiction illustrator Frank Nuttella, and included it in the Sunday Magazine.
The dream was considered prophetic by some after the September 11th attacks in New York. As recently as last year there were CGI movie directors intrigued in bringing the fantastic imagery of that New York Times piece to the screen.
Mr. Mriya was always pleased to see his work getting recognition, but he did write a less-than-pleased letter to the editors after the New York Times event.
“It looks like a sci-fi book cover which, like the those stories, always fall so short of a good imagination.”
He was similarly displeased when another of his dreams was, in 1991, illustrated by Bob Ross; but he pursued no legal actions.
Ostrich Books has announced that a collection of Theodore Mriya’s dreamscapes is being prepared for publication later this year.
The following is Mr. Mriya’s last completed dream record — the sealed and stamped envelope was on his desk to probably be mailed the next day. It included a brief introduction—something Mr. Mriya had never previously done—and it was addressed to The New Yorker.
The Last Complete Apocalyptic Dream
I stumbled across this news story in the Times yesterday. I suppose if I’d kept up with technological advancements I could have jumped on a computer and found lots of details online—but paper and I get along—and too much information clogs the head and blocks the eyes from seeing clearly.
It was an article about Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world. 110 billion it said. The article said that regularly he “made hundreds of millions in one day”. “Made”—that’s a joke.
Anyway, asked what he was going to do with all that wealth, the bastard was quoted as saying: “The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel. That is basically it.”
They showed a picture of the rocket — it looked startlingly, embarrassingly, like a penis. What are we going to do with a generation of boys who grew up on television, sci-fi, video games and porn?
Anyway, this nonsense must have floated around in my head and then it decided to color my dream when I fell asleep.
The Last Apocalyptic Dream
So I’m in a house, familiar and not, and we—the usual unclear collection of characters around me—look out the window and see a rocket taking off. Way too near to any place anyone would be living I’m thinking. I keep repeating: it must be that Bezos thing . . . it must be that Bezos thing.
Soaring upward, leaving a vast trail of white and then—boom!—it explodes. The sky comes crashing down. Huge pieces of debris landing on the street outside, crushing cars. And then there’s this pouring water, wilder than any rain, a tsunami pouring down on everything, flooding. There’s water above my ankles in the house and up to car windshields in the street. This goes on for quite a while, panic, people rushing around—and then it all suddenly settles down, the water abates, the sky clears and the sun emerges. There is quiet.
[ I lay awake for a while and then went over and made myself a note—to hang the memory of the dream on—so I would recall it better in the morning.
“Remember dream: Bezos, rocket-explodes, flooding, sudden quiet.” ]
But then, back in bed as I dozed off and returned to that scene there was a horrifying roar, the loudest sound I’d ever heard—painful—and as I looked out the window I saw a massive black thing coming down towards the earth, towards me. The sound wave was so intense it threw me to the ground, pressed me face down against the floor. I sensed that it was my end but also understood that there was something in whatever was coming down that was going to destroy so much more, possibly everything. I woke up.
Postscript — The Unfinished Apocalyptic Dream
Theodore Mriya was found dead by the exterminator with whom he’d had an understanding to fumigate every first Monday. He was lying on his bed with a peaceful look on his face, his eyes wide open as if looking at something overhead.
There was a piece of paper in the typewriter.
The Last Apocalyptic Dream
Remember dream: An assassination carried out using a drone. Talking heads on television news reporting that both sides in the controversial assault were calling each other murderers — all were claiming that god was on their side.
There will be a small gathering at the New York Gothic Club this Friday to remember Mr. Mriya with a reading of some of his dreams. Attendees will be encouraged to share their own apocalyptc visions.
© AleXander Hirka 2020. All Rights Reserved.
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