November 29, 2014

Dreams



Hey.

Mushroom Forest?
It's the almost-end of November! To celebrate the nearly finished semester and the end of NaNoWriMo (in which, of course, I didn't participate), I present a story. A story outside of the anthropomorphic object universe. Or maybe it's in the same universe, but it has nothing to do with speaking inanimate objects.

This is actually a story I wrote a couple years ago that I revised as an exercise for one of my translation classes, and I must warn you, Dear Reader  there isn't much of a plot. (Ed. I'd make a male novelist joke here, but Mallory Ortberg over at the Toast has already made all of them)

I apologise in advance for the lack of cohesion. It is, after all, a Dream.

Dreams

The Queen’s Court is built with storm clouds. Tall, fluffy pillars lining the walkway. Grey steps pointing up to the fat queen. Bored, uncaring, she lounges on the Cloud Throne while two servants scurry about like rats on each side. They don't accomplish anything. They merely scurry.

Gathered at the foot of the steps, a smattering of people whisper among themselves. The queen stands up. The people fall silent.

“Who,” she booms, “will be my book?”

Everyone looks at their feet. I quickly glance down.

“You!”

Guess I wasn’t quick enough.

She isn’t even looking at me. She is busy ordering her servants, while pointing a rather threatening finger in my general direction. “Bring her here!”

All four servants rush down the stairs and pick me up. They carry me through the growing crowd, and stand me in front of the queen. She squints her piggy little eyes at me.

“Alright, open up now!”

“But Your Majesty, I’m not – ” I start to protest. She cuts me off. “Books do not talk back! Now, open!”

Her words literally flatten mine. I turn and bolt. Some of my friends help me open the large wooden doors.

“Catch them, you dolts!” she screams at her servants.

My friends and I run for our lives as the Black Suits materialise.


Passing a series of wooden cottages, we end up in a tin hut. There is no way we will be safe in there. I go back out and run into the woods. My friends are not far behind, but they are still too slow. I fight through the tangle of branches blocking the river and jump onto a sanded-down log floating in the water. The Black Suits don’t come after me. They hate the water.

“You can’t run forever,” one of them shouts. His comrades have captured my friends and are preventing them from jumping onboard. I feel horrible as the current gently pushes me downstream, but I can’t do anything about it. I float past their boss, a suave, blonde, square-jawed man in a standard black business suit, standing on the rotten boardwalk. Ever the gentleman, he smiles and waves as I pass, unaware that I am his quarry. I smile back tightly and start pedalling as if I am riding a bike, like it will somehow make the log go faster.

It seems to work. I pedal air, and the log speeds up until…




*****
Looking-Glass, Looking-Glass, let's jump in
The mirror world swims, the story begins
Talk to the flowers! Sigh with the Gnat!
"But she said a great deal more than that!"
*****



… I find myself on the highway, as if the river had morphed into pavement. I can’t tell where the transition had occurred, or whether it had happened at all. Gritting my teeth, I pedal my log down the shoulder of the road.

The sky is grim. The scenery is as flat as a steamrollered squash – reminiscent of Saskatchewan prairies. I don’t recognise any of the exits. The further I drive, the darker it gets, until dusk has firmly settled in. A blue-grey light tints my surroundings, muting all the road signs. 

Something compels me to exit onto Broadside Road.

The rest stop is a dirty, no-name fast food place. I sit at a small table. Beside me, a mother is trying to control her screaming children. I get up.

It's dingy in the washroom. The spaces between the little white tiles on the wall are crusted with years of grime; the fluorescent light above the cracked mirror flickers dimly; there is a lunchbox in the sink. “Jimmy’s Lunchbox,” it says. A stall door opens, and a rough-looking man with disgustingly greasy hair steps out.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

“That is a very menacing tone,” I say. “I would prefer it if you were a little kinder.”

My father comes in. “Oh, there you are,” he says to me. I vaguely wonder why there are two men in the women's washroom. He turns to the Greaseball. “You stole this lunchbox, didn’t you?”

The Greaseball looks like he is going to throw a punch. My father grabs my arm and starts pulling me back to the eating area. I grab the lunchbox as we leave.

“You better return it,” he says. I agree. Straddling the log and pedalling languidly, I begin the journey back to the highway. As I drive, I take out my mobile and dial Jimmy’s number. His mother answers.

“Hello? Have you Jimmy’s Lunchbox?” she asks.

“Yep,” I reply, “I’m bringing it to him.”

Suburbia. Jimmy’s house is one of the clones rapidly developed to cope with the population spillover from the nearby city. Pretty, in a white picket fence sort of way. I ring the doorbell. Jimmy answers. He had obviously been crying.

“Thank you so much!” he blubbers as I hand his lunchbox over. I nod and turn back to the street.


My log is gone. Jimmy’s neighbourhood is gone. I am standing in front of my old house with my parents beside me. We go one street down and start walking towards my high school bus stop. Several painfully normal sedans drive past. A burly, bearded, middle-aged woman and her chihuahua walk past. A man on a giant uni-pogo stick bounces past. I gape. “Did you see that?”

“See what?” my mum asks.

The man presses a button and his seat starts to extend upwards. It looks like the sound of steam, if the sound of steam was a booster seat. The pogo part is a sort of rubbery purple and doesn’t even remotely resemble a pogo stick.

He turns a corner. As my parents and I pass the same corner, I see him bouncing down the street. We reach the bus stop. My next-door neighbour is there.

“Hey,” he says.

“Hey, did you see that guy on the weird uni-pogo stick?”

“Yeah, he came past here a few minutes ago.”

“I guess he just went up and down the street.”

       “Guess so.”

We hear the bus coming around the bend. The log – although by this point, I think of it more as my log – appears and stops in front of us. After we are mounted, it drives us to an independently-owned tea shop. The owner is at the door, and ushers us in.

The store is spotless and sterile and overwhelmingly white: pallid walls, blank floors, empty ceilings, all blinding. In the middle of the floor stands a single table carrying a bone china tea set. The owner pours some tea into each cup and offers one to me. I try it. Lemon and ginger. He hands me another cup. “I’m sorry, I already I have one,” I say. He continues offering it to me, smiling benignly. I place my cup and saucer onto the table, and accept it. I try it. Chamomile.

He nods. Behind him, my log appears. I realise I am late for school. He tries to hand me the last cup, but it smells suspiciously like bleach.

"Clean," he says, still nodding and offering me the cup.

I take a step back. "I – I'm sure it is. But I've tried two types already, why don't you have that last one?"

The owner is staring at me blankly. His face fizzles, as if someone had adjusted the rabbit ears on an old television set. His face pops and bubbles, like a carbonated drink. His face disappears.


I need to get out.

      I run past him. As I, once again, straddle the log, it suddenly occurs to me that this is very strange.

[redacted]

Keep in mind that this is a dream.

The End







This story was the last part of a slightly longer short story. The ending was deemed a little too unnecessarily violent, and was consequently cut. The first part of the short story is actually referenced in 'The Leaf' (Let me tell you about Aly Grave). Other stories about anthropomorphic objects found here, here, and here.