I heard the screams. Sounded like mom. I bolted up the stairs. I could smell it. I went to the backdoor and saw the smoke pressing against the glass.
“Mom? Dad?” I ran through the house, searching darkened hallways and empty rooms. But I couldn’t find them. I ran outside. The sky was orange and intermingled with the smoke. I jumped into the car and reversed out of the driveway. Suddenly, as I started down the street, there was a crowd. They quickly surrounded my car, their hands pounding against the windows. I yelled at them to stop, but their faces swarmed around me. That’s when I pressed on the gas, and the bodies in front of me started to fly and roll along the sides of the car, and I darted through the smoky neighborhood.
“Maybe they took the camper,” I tried to convince myself that they were safe. Suddenly I was at the pier. A lone firefighter waved at me and I leapt out of the car, and I joined the line of people trying to escape. I looked back and the smoke covered the horizon, inching closer and closer to us.
We were quickly escorted onto the ship. The sails unraveled themselves and we were off. The smoke followed us, but soon stopped as we sailed deeper and deeper into the ocean.
The sky above us was overcast. People were given roles on the ship. I was scrubbing the floorboards and the mast. Something compelled me to stop as my eyes peered over to the distance. There it was: a whale tail rising from the grey seas.
“Look ye there!” One of the nearby sailors pointed. “My God! Thar she blows!”
And over to my right, I heard the laughter of two other sailors. “Told ya he would say it. Where’s my nickel?” One of the sailors pulled out a silver locket and dropped it into the other’s while muttering to himself.
“Man the stations!” Suddenly, everyone turned into a blur, bodies rushing around the deck of the ship, but I stayed where I was. Looking down I saw the captain, a three year-old in Napoleonic garb and a giant hat. “This won’t be the end!”
Suddenly, I was on a smaller boat, floating along with other sailors, and to our side was the whale, pinned to the side of our boat, net draped over its flesh. Its skin was filled with holes and tiny mouths. I looked into its black eye and it stared back at me.
As we approached our ship in the distance I leaned over and placed my hand in the water, swishing it around. That’s when I realized it. On closer inspection, the water wasn’t grey, but a translucent blue-green; I pulled my hand out and smiled. This was a dream.
Suddenly, the boat, the ship, and the whale: we were all surrounded by the edges of my parents’ pool. My dad was over there, skimming the surface of the pool with his net. Did he see us? And on the hillside behind him was a fire, but there was no smoke. It just silently burned there.
I was back on the deck of the ship and saw the faces of the crew and passengers. They all looked like what I imagined the European settlers looked like when they first came to the Americas. Their faces were silent as they stared at me, as if waiting for judgement. But I turned away, and started walking on top of the pool. I was now in control.
Tired of walking, I let my body slip into the pool, its water filling the space around me with its cool touch. Soon, I pulled myself out of the pool and sat beside dad who was still skimming the pool for leaves and debris.
We had a pleasant conversation until I noticed his attention frequently turning away. I followed his eyes and found a television monitor fixed into the wall of the house. We were then teleported into the living room where he was watching the pundits on FOX news. That’s when I decided, “Hm, fuck it,” and got into a debate with the old man. The discussion covered a range of topics, and every argument that he countered with I smugly toppled, citing not just the factual inconsistencies and fallacies he was employing, but the emotional impetus of his words. And I would end and restart the debate, wiping my dad’s memory each time, searching for an end to the discussion that was both satisfactory, to me, while being logical to who my dad was.
Until, I said, “Dad, why are you so angry all the time? You watch this crap at TV, allow these people to yell at you and make you afraid that the media and the Left are trying to ruin this country? But, can’t you see the bigger picture? Why can’t you see the nuances? You’re allowing these people to manipulate you. I know you won’t admit it, but they are preying on you so that you vote against your interests. They want you to be afraid. They want you to be afraid of the “illegals” or “Iran” so that those in power can keep you complacent and scared while all of your hard-earned money ends-up going to concentration camps and drone strikes. You’re allowing these people to profit off misery because you see everything as an ‘us versus them’ situation because it’s easier to see the world that way. But, you’re smarter than that. Right? Would you rather the government spend more on the military than on things like healthcare for all and renewable energy?”
But, he just sat there, blankly. His mouth opened, about to say something, but then I swiped him, and the rest of the room, away with a brush of the hand, leaving only a white void surrounding me. I knew what he was going to say wasn’t what I wanted to here, even though I was controlling pretty much everything he spoke. It may have been cathartic to “own” him and to properly diagnose him, declaring that I knew him better than he knew himself, but it wasn’t satisfactory. None of it was real, and it just made me feel like I was different than what I thought of myself.
I stood-up in the void and sighed. Now what? Suddenly, a paintbrush formed in my hand, and I started painting below me. An array of watercolors bloomed from the brush, and slowly spread across the void. What did it create? I decided on a grassy hillside. One that never existed, except in previous dreams, except now it seemed more real. Maybe I had been here before, in real life.
Over there, was a table which seated a bunch of people. Friends I hadn’t seen in ages, Agnes and her master, and the poetry club from the now-gone bookstore. They were all talking enthusiastically and eating all sorts of colorful fruits and meats. And they were all happy and fulfilled. Each one of them has accomplished something in their life. They may have suffered, but their suffering meant something. Now they were great artists, scientists, thinkers. Conversing the issues of the world with passion and zeal. Thought-provoking theories and questions danced above the table, their words providing insight to the air.
And I stood over them, listening and watching without having to engage. Was this the highest form of life? Was this the epitome of our existence? Normally, I wouldn’t be sure, but here, I was content no matter the answers.
A hand reached out and held mine. She smiled up at me. A pure smile, one that came from nothing, but a place of sheer joy and contentment. She pulled me away from the table and soon we were on top of each other on the grass. He kissed and caressed each other. Every time I opened my eyes her face changed. One moment she was someone from my past, another a celebrity, and another, an invention that seemed more real than the grass or the sky above. Everyone at the table came and watched over us, laughing and basking in the beauty and passion of the moment. But then, I stopped. I looked up from her face and I was suddenly locked onto something in the distance. A schoolboy sitting at a desk.
Back in my room, the morning sun blaring in the window. I checked the time before heading off into the kitchen. Despite the abrupt end I still felt satisfied, and a little sad that I was now back to reality so soon. But what lingered still carried me as I headed up the stairs. I stopped and looked at the Christmas tree. The ornaments glistening, and the lights twinkling.
I pulled a glass milk bottle from the fridge and poured some on the stove.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
I turned and saw my mom who was in a white nightgown, her hair unfurled and dirty. I didn’t say anything. We both stared at each other. And then her face twitched. A cockroach emerged from her skin and traveled down her grey face.
“What’s going on here?” My dad stepped inside from the backdoor, holding the pool net. “GODDAMN IT!” He slammed his fist down and glass shattered around him.
My eyes opened. The room was dark, and I still heard my father’s voice echo across my skull. “Fuck.”
“Yeah, that was terrible.” I sat up.
“That was weird,” I said to Burt. We were both seated at the same booth at Romero’s as before.
“So, what were we talking about?”
“I don’t know,” I yawned. “Something about baby powder?”
“You okay, you look tired?”
“Yeah. Just a stupid dream.”
Burt took a sip of his coffee and then poured the rest down the wall. “Look at that. I’m an artist.” He smiled. “So, are you still lucid dreaming, or what?”
“What?” I stood up and looked around the restaurant. Fuck, am I still dreaming? Wait, yeah. Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be? Or was I always asleep?
Suddenly, I was standing in the middle of the road, staring up at the hills. The flames hissed as the smoke gathered around me. The houses on both sides were burning from the inside.
My eyes popped open with a scream.
“Eric!” I immediately sat-up and ran up the stairs. “Eric!” My mom was in the living room as she handed me a dog.
“What’s going on?”
“We got to get out of here! Grab everything you need. We’re being evacuated!”
I rushed down stairs, set the dog aside and grabbed all my favorite video games. Then I went into my room and found my backpack and made sure my homework was in there.
I ran out the door. My parents were filling up the camper and yelling at each other.
“Where’s the dog?” My mom asked.
“Eric, you idiot!” My dad yelled and slapped me upside the head. He then ran back into the house.
“No!” My mom screamed after him. Suddenly, I looked down and the dog was in my hands, but I didn’t say anything.
“Oh no. NOOOOOOOOOO!” My mom collapsed at my feet, blood on her apron. “He’s dead!”
A fire engine pulled up next to us. “Come on! You have to get to the pier!” The pier? I dropped the dog which ran off into the smoke, yelping. And I started walking in the opposite direction.
“Eric?” My mom was still on the ground. “ERIC!”
I stopped. “OK. You can stop now. This is just a dream.”
“What the–Eric come on!”
“You have to go,” the fireman yelled at us. The fire engine drove past me and I continued walking, my mom screaming after me.
Today’s prompt: It blows
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