The following is a short story originally written for a conceptual storytelling assignment at The Art Institute of Jacksonville. I don’t think it’s all that bad and I enjoyed discovering the twist; yes, one of the many things I’ve learned in this class is that sometimes things happen in a story that you as the writer never actually intended. Sometimes the story just takes its own path. Anyway, Stephen King I am not but I hope you enjoy it anyway. As always, feel free to leave your comments below.
A short story by Michael C. Falk
I’m just an ordinary guy. I go to work at a local landscape company where I run a crew of guys mowing grass. I come home to my family every night and love them like a family man should…well, I come home to my dogs anyway. I drink a little more than I should, but I don’t let it interfere with my life. I don’t bitch about my taxes, my neighbor’s lawn or the price of gas; doesn’t do any good anyway. I’m just an ordinary guy…most of the time.
You see, it’s my dreams. There’s something wrong with my dreams. Not all of them; just a few and only every once in a while. Most of the time they’re just the “shitty day at work, defragging the hard drive, stream of consciousness” type of dreams that everyone on the planet experiences almost every night of their lives. Hell, even my dogs have them; although, to be honest, I’m sure they’re just dreaming of catching that pain-in-the-ass Chihuahua next door. No, every once in a while my dreams just get weird; I think the sleep scientists call it “lucid dreaming”, the kind where you’re seemingly in control of your entire dream world, making everything happen just the way you want. Not everyone has them, but I doubt anyone has them quite the way I do. I doubt anyone else can do what I can do when I have them.
When I fall into one of these dreams (and it is falling, I can assure you of that), I can influence the physical world. Yes, influence… make shit happen, to put it in layman’s terms. It’s like that old movie with David Patrick Kelly and Dennis Quaid –the one where they kill people in their dreams- except I’m doing it right out in the open, in the real world, while I sleep. Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. My wife –well, my ex-wife now- used to humor me when I would wake up exhausted, drenched in sweat like I had been running all night long. She would tell me that I was working too hard and needed to stop stressing out over things that were out of my control. I would see something on the news and tell her I had dreamed about it the night before. The first few times she just played along like I was being facetious or trying to pull her chain. After a while she would just get aggravated and walk away. That is, until the day the Vice President was killed. Then she ran…
She had always woke an hour earlier than I did and was usually gone to work before my alarm even went off. Just a kiss goodbye that, most mornings, I barely remembered. But not that morning; that morning she burst into the room trying to wake me up in frenzied excitement. She wanted to tell me what had scared her this much, why the morning news was so horrible that day, but found me already awake, standing in the dark, shaking and drenched in a cold sweat. I beat her to the punch… “The Vice President is dead…and I killed him.” I never saw her again.
How did I ever let it get this far? That’s a good question, but I have no answer. What could I have done anyway? My own wife refused to believe me. Who else could I tell? And what the hell would I tell them? Besides…at first it was all pretty harmless; by the time it stopped being harmless, it had become too much fun. Don’t look at me like that…and spare me your sanctimony. Guys like you don’t do what you do because you have good hearts or Boy Scout souls. When I was in the Navy my wife called it the “God and Country” complex, but she never fully understood any of it. Why I kept going back and doing the things we did…whatever. It makes no difference now. Huh? No…I can’t trace it back to the… “Primary Circumstance?” Is that even a thing? Huh… well, I can tell you about the first time I really recognized it, but everything before that seems to blur into déjà vu. Maybe I was just ignoring it, so I could be normal… for her.
It was one of those nights, a “lucid dream” night, about four months ago. It’s strange when I think about it now… my wife had been bugging me to take the dogs to the groomer; they were shedding everywhere. I had been busy at work and just kept putting it off. That is, until the inevitable fight to resolve my “inconsistencies”. Nothing bad, just bickering back and forth at each other. I went to bed angry, mostly because I was just too damn tired from work. Anyway, that night I dreamed that I had groomed the dogs myself…and was laughing hysterically while I did it. Just a ridiculous dream… nothing more, right? Imagine my wife’s surprise that morning when she went to the kitchen for her coffee. Both Golden Labs, sitting there waiting to be fed, and both shaved like poodles. Funniest damn thing you ever saw. Oh, yeah…I was in deep shit that morning; and for a few days afterward. She accused me of waiting until she fell asleep and then shaving them that way just to piss her off. Never mind that we don’t own any grooming tools; just a shitty pair of dull gift-wrap scissors. No, sir…I never touched those dogs, not with these hands anyway.
Well, it just got worse from there…my boss would be riding everyone at work harder than usual, taking out his failing marriage on us; I’d have a dream and he’d be out for six weeks with a broken ankle. I would dream of coming into some extra money and then wake up to ten grand in my nightstand drawer; that morning’s news would have a story about rival drug dealers gunning each other down over a short-changed buy sometime in the night. My wife would have an affair with the office tech-support guy; I’d go to bed that night and he ends up in the hospital with a flesh-eating bacterial infection on his…well, you get the picture.
So here we are, talking about the Vice President. No, I have no idea why I dreamed of him that night. No idea what he could have possibly done to me; it just happened. In my dream, he deserved it although I don’t know why. Yes, I know he died of a heart attack; yes, I know I was sleeping nine hundred miles away when he collapsed in front of a room full of people; yes, I know you found my fingerprints in the tissue of his crushed heart muscle. No, I don’t know why I did it.
Really? After hearing all of that you still want me, huh? You still want me to be some sort of “super hero”, helping you save democracy and the American people from the “bad guys?” Yeah, I guess I really don’t have a choice, do I? Well, it’s on you then; I can’t control this and I don’t know how it works. I can’t guarantee that it all won’t… just… go wrong…