Today I wanted to do something a little different. Instead of dealing with Eager Observer as I have a few other times, I thought it would be fun to write a story about someone telling a loved one about a dream they had.
I’m trying to write a Story a Day every (week)day this month. I won’t be posting all of them, only those I think will be great for my blog followers. The stories will all be tagged [Free Short Fiction] for easier browsing.
The first prompt for today’s story comes from Our Write Side:
Kerfuffle and/or Fuss
The second comes from The Daily Post:
“Which is the true nightmare, the horrific dream that you have in your sleep or the dissatisfied reality that awaits you when you awake?” ― Justin Alcala
Anatomy of a Dream
I wasn’t going to tell anyone about this. It was only a dream… a very realistic, horrifying dream. I wasn’t going to write to you about it, but when you made such a fuss about me keeping secrets, I knew this is what you wanted.
It always starts out with the doors opening on a restaurant that’s scary only in how garishly bright its lights and how happy everyone inside seems. You know how the server at a restaurant always seems put upon, even at the beginning of the shift? That isn’t how this starts. These servers seem genuinely happy to be at this restaurant designed for children.
The host’s smile is huge as she leads the four of us to a table. Or the five; you know how it is in dreams, where one minute you have four, one you have five, and another minute there are six or seven in your group, some of them random, like actors from a show you watched when you were six or the cashier from the store you visited the day before.
She leads us to a table and tells us one of the big, goofy servers will be over to take our order soon. She says the kids can run wild, then, but you know how we are. We would never let them do that.
The creature who comes up to the table is a server, but he isn’t really a man. Have you ever seen Killer Klowns from Outer Space? He sort of looks like that. He’s obviously not a human clown, but a creature born to look like a clown, almost as if he were molded from rubber like those masks you can get cheap at Halloween to give your friends a quick scare.
Even though this clown’s facemask is ghoulish, the kids seem to love it. They’re wearing the same too-wide smiles as the host. It’s unlike them, and in the dream, I wonder if they’ve been replaced, but the thought quickly goes away. Somehow, this clown creature has put you and me at ease, and we’re happy to be there.
He takes our order. I never know what we’ve ordered, but have images in my mind of a smorgasbord of random junk food: pizza, wings, cheese sticks, cotton candy, nachos, chili pie – and it all topped off with ice cream sundaes and banana splits the size of a canoe.
We’re told we can explore while we wait. Nothing but the back room is off limits, and in this dream, the back room is through the door I thought we came through. But this door is one of those double swinging doors restaurants have to the kitchen in movies, so it wasn’t the door we came through. Somehow this doesn’t surprise me.
You and I decide to let the kids roam by themselves, so we split into groups of two. At this point, everything is still fine, if weird. We’re holding hands and being in love. No one bats an eye, even though I’m sure we’re still in the bowels of AmeriKKKa we’re told is called Texas.
…But maybe we’re not. Maybe when we walked through the front doors of this Willy Wonka wet dream, we stumbled into another world.
I’m never sure when things have gone sideways until they do. I’ve slipped off with someone else – presumably a friend from high school, but it’s never someone I remember, and I’m never quite sure why I would sneak away from my wife to hang out with a loser like this – and broken a rule.
We’re stealing ice cream from a machine we’re not supposed to touch. Though I know it didn’t happen, I remember in the dream that we were explicitly asked not to touch this machine. And, suddenly, it’s not that random friend from school next to me, it’s our son. He’s the one who has broken the rule. And we’re all together, the four of us, but we have a couple extra tacked onto our group. One of them is from that show I watched and wished he was my dad; remember when I told you about that?
“What is this kerfluffle?”
It’s the clown from before, and suddenly I’m afraid of him. He’s larger now. He’s angry.
We’ve hidden, but I know that it doesn’t matter. He’s going to find us, and when he does, we will pay for our son’s indiscretion.
What else can we do? At this point, we run. But the bowels of this restaurant are like nothing in reality, and as we’re running, things are getting weirder and weirder. We see exposed pipes steaming along the walls beside us, but they’re cotton candy pink and blue, seemingly made of plastic, like a child’s toy. And the clowns are laughing behind us.
The end is always different, but it’s also always the same. We’re cornered somewhere, and the clown from before, the one I assume now is the head honcho, walks up and tells us that we’re going to be punished for being naughty.
He reaches out a gloved hand – although it looks as though the glove is part of him, which makes the next part even weirder – toward me. I grapple with him and the glove rips in a sound loud enough to signal the tearing of the fabric of the universe.
Then I wake up.
Normally that’s it. I’m in our room again. You’re not there, of course, but I can still see remnants of you everywhere I look in the darkness. Isn’t it funny how our eyes are always adjusted to the darkness after we wake from a nightmare?
Normally, I get up and go to the bathroom, and in that light, I see in the mirror that I am alive and the dream was a product of my imagination.
But last week was different. That’s probably when you felt me pulling away. Even when we’re separated by distance, you can always tell, can’t you? That’s one of the reasons I love you: you get me down to the core of my being.
Last week I went to the bathroom and realized I was holding something. It was a white glove like the kind cartoon clowns wear.
I don’t know when you’ll get this message, but please, come home soon.