Short Story: How You Woke

You are not sure how you got here. Someone is telling you that you will be set up for life if you just drive a truck, and its contents, across the city at the end of the day.

‘There’s no way you can get caught, and if you did, it would just be a misdemeanour.’

‘Ok, I’ll do it.’ You reply. Your reply comes without any sense of decision, more of a robotic response, and like a robot you do not question your inability to choose differently. It is like you are watching the movie of your life through your own eyes.

Without recall as to how you got here, you are now driving the truck down a busy and unrecognisable city street. It is not that the street is unfamiliar to you; it is that the street has no distinguishable features. It is just a street.

Sirens sound. In your rear-vision mirror you see several police cars. Panic sets in as your heart starts to race.

Now you sit against a garage wall off that same city street. Your hands now zip tied behind your back.

The police are searching the nearly empty contents of the truck you were driving. It doesn’t take them long to discover a hay bale sized container of marijuana.

Fuck, you think, as you realise that this is not a misdemeanour amount of marijuana – this is a life sentence.

One of the officers begins to interrogate you. He makes the physical motions of one who would be interrogating you but his mouth merely opens and closes. No sound comes from his mouth at first but then you hear the faint sound of Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude. The officer’s mouth continues to move as though it was his mouth producing the sound. The piano gets louder and louder.

You open your eyes and turn off your alarm.

Only a dream, thank God, you think.

You wonder why dreams have such a weird way of weaving outside stimulus into the physics of a dream.

This is the first dream you’ve had in weeks, and last night also happens to be the first night you went to bed sober in weeks.

I wish that was only a coincidence, you think.

Sometimes you would wake from a dream only to be disappointed by reality. Some dreams like soaring through the clouds or having your own harem of beautiful women are things that, for you, reality can never fulfil.

Other times you experience dreams like this and reality brings a welcome relief. It lets you know that reality isn’t that bad, and can actually be rather enjoyable. It all depends on what you are comparing it to.

You often compare your reality to movies, books or social media portrayals of reality. Ones of which you could never live up to. But when you compare your reality to bad dreams, friend’s realities or those of us who are more unfortunate, you tend to feel rather grateful.

You finish your train of thought and move from the bedroom to the living room. You open the curtains and the window and feel the warm sun touch your skin. The temperature is cold but the direct sunlight brings comforting warmth to the parts of your skin it touches.

You move the sheer curtains so that you can see directly out the window. You see the medium green grass and the dark green trees. The neighbour’s sunflower has wilted but their garden still remains home to a variety of colours and shades.

You hear the occasional insect sending out its song, hoping for a mate. The birds fly one by one across the sky in all directions and tweet and chirp as they do so.

Small children laugh and play in the distance, their sound seems to travel across blocks at the moment.

You are amazed at what the quarantine has done. More people at home resulted in more activity from animal and insect life. More people at home caused an involuntary contentment to sweep over your neighbourhood.

You did not realise that something so good could come from something so scary as an ultra contagious life threatening disease. But it is so.

You blink the water out of your eyes furtively as you hear your girlfriend approaching. One thing you hate is appearing soft in front of other people.

‘What are you doing?’ She asks.

‘Not much, just appreciating.’

She places her arm around your waist as you raise your arm over her head and place it around her shoulders.

She doesn’t speak or say anything. She just looks out the window.

You look at her and then you look back out to the world. You tap into your senses again, seeing the vibrancy, hearing the nature song, smelling the life and feeling your girlfriend’s touch.

You remain present for an immeasurable amount of time. You could have been here for a moment or several hours, it does not matter.

You feel the moisture escaping your eye, which brings you back to your body. You look down at your girlfriend and see the light reflecting from a single line of water all the way from her eye to her chin.

She turns and looks directly into your eyes. Her face is almost expressionless save for the tiniest of lines on each side of her eyes, and then, you both turn away and look back out the window.

You are not sure when you woke up. You have been staring at the ceiling of your dark bedroom for what feels like hours. Your body seems as though it is paralysed even though you know you could get up at anytime.

You remember the dream you had last night, the dream of you flying. Standing on top of a mountain you looked over the endless land below. You were not sure why you felt such power and such contentedness. Then you became lucid, realising the obvious signs of a dream.

I can do anything, I am everything, you understood as you leaped from the mountaintop.

You took off, soaring through the sky in ecstasy. You flew over mountaintops and through clouds. Beautiful women seemed to merely snap into existence, they adored you, and so you lay with them all. Nothing could come your way and hurt you, nothing could make you sad and nothing would take from you; you were unreactive to everything negative. And then you woke up… and then came the disappointment.

Sometimes you would wake from a dream only to be relieved to be conscious. You would have dreams so dark and twisted that reality would bring a welcome relief.

Other times you experience dreams like this and reality brings nothing but dull unpleasantness, or even pain. The dream lets you know that you could feel better, much better, and that life can be lived in a way that is enjoyable rather than requiring all your effort just to not feel horrible. Today you had one of these dreams and you haven’t been able to shake it.

What is going on? You think. I feel like I am a metre behind my body, watching myself watch the ceiling. Why can’t I move? Why won’t I move?

Your girlfriend lay next to you sleeping. You envy her ability to deal with reality. Where you resort to anger and panic, she seems to just get on with it.

A feeling of falling washes over you and you sit upright, your world spinning. Everything feels so claustrophobic and you start to take in deep, heavy breaths.

Why do I feel like I am getting no air? I can feel the air in my lungs but I still feel like I’m suffocating.

You get up off the bed and walk into the living room, but it feels as if someone else is doing the walking while you are merely observing.

You open the curtains and squint at the sudden brightness. The sun feels warm on your skin but it brings no relief, it just adds another layer of sensation that constantly threatens to overwhelm you.

You move aside the sheer curtains and open the window. Looking out you see all the greens the morning garden has to offer. The neighbour’s sunflower is wilted and the sight of the dying plant triggers something in you again. You feel your chest thumping and realise the claustrophobia didn’t leave you when you left the bedroom.

The sun is bright and the colours vibrant. Your ears are overtaken by all the sounds of the birds as they chirp and tweet to each other. You are lost as your senses are taken from you; birds yelling, cicadas screaming, reflections blinding and skin burning.

Just as you feel as though you are about to give in when you feel an arm wrap around your waist. You look down and see your girlfriend has joined you.

‘What are you doing?’ she asks.

‘Not much, just… appreciating.’ you lie.

Her eyes linger on you for a bit too long and you become paranoid that she knows what you are experiencing. She looks out the window and you follow her gaze.

She is looking at the cat sitting on the fence at the end of your garden. You see the smile in her eyes as she watches the cat watching the birds.

The narrative of thought takes you.

What is the point of loving someone if one or both of you are destined to hurt? If I die she will be left in pain, if she dies then I will die also, because I can’t deal with that kind of pain. I can’t deal with reality right now, how could I deal with a reality without her?

I understand why people cling to the fiction of religion and the idea that we will see our loved ones again. Because the reality is that we will never see anyone we love again and that reality is painful. We will never see again, we will never love again and we will never experience again. And we all know this and we all spend our lives pretending that it is not true and that one day we will be with all our loved ones again instead of being with them right fucking now. Instead of enjoying our time with them now we cling to the American happily ever after that will never come to pass. Even those of us who follow no religion and claim to have “no idea what happens after death” still treat life like that of religious folk and put death to the very back corners of our mind. These are perhaps the worst of us because they can neither accept that we exist and then there is nothing, or accept the false promises of religion because they want to feel good.

People are stupid and I am the stupidest of them all, because I see all this and still do not appreciate, still do nothing and still do not live as though when I die it will be in the truest sense of the word.

I am purgatory incarnate and I deserve this feeling.

You are now several metres behind your body observing the interaction between your girlfriend and yourself. You have given in, and you have let go. You know that you can no longer take part in the experience of your life, you are a voyeur and you can only hope that now that you are no longer in control perhaps what is left will actually accept things as they are.

You watch yourself look down at your girlfriend, now your arm around her shoulder. You see yourself blink the moisture out of your eyes as your girlfriend turns and looks up at you. You see the light reflecting from a single line of water all the way from your girlfriend’s eye down to her chin.

You are looking at each other in the eyes, both faces almost expressionless save for the tiniest of lines on each side of both of your eyes, and then, you both turn away and look back out the window.

You can feel yourself being pulled back, further away from where your girlfriend and former body now stand, the edges of your experience close in on you as you fade further and further away, knowing that you made the right decision.


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