A company I was working for sent three or four of us to some third-world central American city for a few days -- not quite sure what we were doing, writing an article for a newspaper? investigating another company? I don't know.
I remember distinctly there was at least one other male in my group, but don't recall if there was one or two women with us... but I'm thinking just the other man's wife or girlfriend.
Although this land was central America, it was not forrested, all the trees had been cut from the hills. It was dark and gloomy and had an aweful stench, probably due to the dead bodies strewn about the street every once-in-a-while. The housing, hotels, and restaurants were all ghetto and filthy, and although everyone was poor, no kids ran up to us begging for money. There weren't any people on the streets trying to sell us worthless junk which you could find on every street corner. Nobody had anything like that to sell!
We didn't carry much baggage with us. I just had one of my duffel bags with a few changes of clothes, my camera equipment, and my cat, Patches (she liked to ride in my duffel bag, who knew?!)
But, although the city landscape was dark and muddy streets with the garbage and an occasional dead body strewn about were the norm, many people seemed to have amazingly high tech equipment.
We were assigned a cab and driver for our stay. I don't remember the guy's name, which did become important later in the dream, but I remember it wasn't a typical central American name (like I really know what's typical down there!) It sounded like half-Mexican, half Italian, and maybe three fourths something else. He was skanky. And although his cab was actually a flying cab (most were in this city), it was in a state of disrepair, and actually blended quite well into the city. It was dirty, covered in oil or grease, and probably feces and blood, but we weren't going to take that close of a look. The driver was the same way, grease covered, carrying a rag looking more like a mechanic than a cab driver. His front tooth was buck, missing one in his not-quite-so-genuine smile.
Amazingly enough, our cabbie also happened to be the helicopter pilot who was giving us an aerial tour of the city. It didn't look much different from 1000 feet than it did walking the streets or riding in the flying cab at 70 feet (the cabs couldn't go very high). The only difference was there seems a lot more traffic in the air the higher you got. Corrupt police, helicabs, the flying cabs below, scrungy bankers in their private helis, laborors in air buses, farmers in some sort of tractor which could fly for long trips when not plowing (I never did see any farm fields) and vehicles looking like early 1940 to late 1950 pickup trucks loaded to the rims with laborors of all sorts, dirty, grimy, and covered in sweat.
It seemed there were dumps and junk yards everywhere. Even with all the lights from all the aerial vehicles, and an occasional land car, the city had the dimmest of glows. And although it was dark, it was still fairly easy to see. And though there was a horrendous stench from time to time, the air was pretty clear, with a light cool mist settling in near nighttime (I guess you'd call it nighttime, everyone was off work and bahaving like it was night, although how one could tell the difference between day and night, I wasn't sure. Sure, there was some sort of faint glow of a sun overhead during the day, but the thick smoke high up in the air, which never seemed to get blown away, kept both day and night pretty even in the city's lighting.
Now this is a pretty large, yet very poor city. Although you'd think all these flying vehicles wouldn't fit in, they just seemed as natural to the environment as everything else. Hell, we didn't have flying vehicles up here in America, but they have them in this delapidated city in central America. The dumps never seemed to be overwhelming. It wasn't like there were people living in or near the dump searching for stuff they could use that someone else had thrown away. Yes, you'd see little girls walking around in raggedy, torn and dirty dresses, and little boys with ripped and dirty slacks (slacks?) looking more like the Flintstones than anything else, they didn't look underfed and weak. They could all still run, play tag (or their version of it), kickball, and other games kids play.
Everywhere you went, you could still find the homeless, hovered around fires built in metal fire bins, or gathered around an abandoned rail-car where they slept, smoking cigarettes, store-bought, not hand rolled. They probably shared weed and wine as well, but whatever my job was, that wasn't important enough for me to know. Even the mangy dogs looked healthy enough to survive. The people weren't starving; it looked as if they had the energy to work, and these were probably the laborers carried around in the mid-1900 flying trucks I saw.
Searchlights from the occasional police heli would shine on the homeless camps, but moved on after the briefest of moments. They really weren't looking for anyone or anything in particular. They were just reminding you that they were there.
Buildings tended not to be more than four or five stories tall. They weren't made out of adobe or any other mud products, but they still didn't look strong enough to get any taller than that, especially with the earthquakes that this area got on occasion.
I'm not really sure what my part in the research was, but apparently, after this last ride through the city, my companions and I were supposed to head home.
The cabbie dropped us off at the place where we were staying, more like a house than a hotel. He set our luggage on the porch at the top of the cement stairs which led to our door. The other two started taking the luggage in while I stayed out talking with the cabbie, probably getting some last info, or talking about house repairs, or who knows what. After everything was inside, the cabbie left.
I went in to check all the pictures on my camera when I suddenly noticed it was missing. Missing, as in not in my bag. That was very hard to imagine, as that bag was with me the entire time, except when my coworkers had taken it inside and put it in another room.
Not only was the camera gone, but all my clothes were strewn about down the stairs which were inside the house.
My bag was never left alone, except for the few moments that my companions had come back to the door to wish our cabbie/pilot a good night.
Not only that, but Patches was gone, too. (In my dream, she was not as skittish around other people as she is in real life.)
-- to be continued --