Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” Nat King Cole crooned out of the car radio.

Bob Smith angrily snapped it off. Snow was falling on the Long Island Expressway, traffic was thick, and he was distracted enough. He had received a phone call at the office from his wife.

Dear, I want to warn you-“she had said.

“About what? Did Mark’s bus get in all right?”

“Yes, dear, that’s what I’m calling about. He…he looks a lot different than he did at the beginning of the semester. And I don’t think you’re going to like it, and I think you need to prepare yourself for a little surprise.”

“Oh, for pity’s sake, Mary, I’m a grown man. I can handle it.”

“Bob, remember your blood pressure. That’s all I ask.”

He remembered it now, and unclenched his fingers from the steering wheel. What had his idiot son done? He knew he should have forced the boy to get a haircut at Thanksgiving.

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Was reminded this morning of a dream I had in the spring of 2009:

I, along with a party of dreamfolk, had been kidnapped by a group of cannibals. But these cannibals were not so banal as to simply murder and eat us. Instead they forced to run an elaborate and deadly obstacle course. We weren’t supposed to get through it. They intended for us to succumb to one of the lethal hurdles within, so they could fall upon our corpses Sawney-Bean style.

But somehow, miraculously, we made it to the end. The cannibals were waiting for us at the finish line. We assumed they would be furious at being thwarted and braced for an assault.

But no. They merely congratulated us. They seemed impressed. Then one of their number, a dwarf, raced among all the survivors, dabbing our hands with a pastry brush dipped in skin-soluble LSD.

Was this a new trap? Would they expose us to horrible things so we would tear out our own eyes in the depths of the worst of bad trips?

Nope! Again, much to our surprise, the cannibals showed us hospitality. They brought out colorful toys and children’s books. We all had a happy psychedelic time.

Nothing bad happened. Once we came down, the cannibals, apparently considering us prime talent, invited us to join them. They offered us brochures and VHS videos on how to kill and eat human beings.

I declined, though politely. I still didn’t want to risk angering these homicidal manics.

Then I woke.