This week’s story read by Joe McHugh.
Listen to it here.
Read it after the break.
(This one’s prompt was “Sharp vision prevents rash decision”. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted out of this one, and I think I got halfway there. I’ll probably edit and expand on this one at some point. 746 words.)
Stories about ‘this dream I had’ are almost universally terrible outside the realm of being casually entertaining with how absurd they are. That specific sort of real-feeling incoherence dreams have is due to the way your brain works while you sleep. I could make an analogy using computers or television, but it’s not important. I had a dream a short time ago. In this dream I was on the top floor of a hotel and I was in a room I’d checked in to. I had just dropped my luggage onto the bed when I realized that this was not luggage I owned in real life. I was then observing that the room had a color scheme that was unfortunate: a burgundy shag carpet, white walls, and a pale green baseboard separating them.
There was a counter that drew my attention because of its paint job, though not because of the color. It was a dark bluish-grey with white speckles, of a type that I only know to come from rattle cans, and something I had not specifically seen since I was maybe five years old. This isn’t an important detail outside of the fact that it shows how deep my dream was pulling memories from at this point. There was an insect on the counter. It was flat, dark, and wide, with a segmented body and oily wings. At that moment, the realization that I was not going to kill it was more sudden than the impulse to do so. I was just on the vaguest cusp of being lucid that I realized this. I was going to continue with the dream hotel room without letting even the most intangible hint of violence interrupt me.
Even in my sleep state, with my brain’s rhythms unspooled like a broken cassette tape, this was a decision I made. If I had woken up then, I might not have remembered that choice. What ended up happening though, was that as I was going to focus my dream on some other aspect of this terrible hotel room, the insect began to shake. It was giving birth. Its cloaca, which had not existed in the dream for me to notice, was opening to reveal a second insect, the exact type and size as the original. I noted that it should have been laying an egg of some sort, just as I was realizing that soon I would have two of these angry looking bugs in my dream. It was then that, without thinking at all, even with whatever neurons my broken-down sleepy brain could manage, I began to attack. The fight or flight aspects of my ancient brain took over, and I was going to crush the insect, while it was giving birth, with a drinking glass I’d found. It was a counter top, it made sense for there to be a drinking glass to smash an insect with.
I woke up, and felt some small amount of shame. Not that I had intended to do dream violence to a dream insect, but merely because in some part of my brain, that violent caveman instinct exists, despite how long I’ve starved it.
I was doing laundry at a turnkey laundromat a few years ago. I specifically use the phrase turnkey laundromat to denote that it was a coin-operated one rather than any other type solely so this story isn’t berthed into the mind of the reader that I have more than a trivial amount of money. I was doing laundry, by way of washing machine, while I was across the street at a 7-11 purchasing chips. I didn’t leave my clothes attended because the probability alone of someone finding them valuable enough to steal was absurdly low. Further, someone that would find them valuable enough to steal would almost certainly have some sort of completely irrational mindset that simply could not be dissuaded by my presence alone. Regardless, for lack of anything more interesting to do, I returned to the turnkey laundromat.
To pass the time, I skimmed through the magazines that were stacked on top of the turnkey soap vending machine. They were all damp copies of Analog from the mid-eighties. I read two time travel stories and six advertisements for digital wrist watches. There was a printing error in the magazine I was holding at the time; pages 6 through 14 had been inserted into the magazine twice. Pages 15 through 23 were missing. If I had not noticed this, I would have read four time travel stories and twelve advertisements for wrist watches. This would have been poignant to some, but it was all just patterns of matter to me.
I didn’t have my phone with me, and I didn’t remember not taking my phone with me. There was someone else, in the opposite corner of the turnkey laundromat. They were sending text messages from a phone that was the exact model and color of my phone. At the time my phone was three years old, and at the time I purchased it, it was three years behind the times. The probability alone of someone having the same exact phone as me was absurdly low. I became intensely curious as to if this phone was mine, or his. I wouldn’t resort to physical confrontation beyond simply asking for it back, if I needed to. I wanted to know the truth of the situation more than anything. My curiosity was satisfied completely when someone called the phone and he answered with “‘Sup girl?”.
Some time later, after I’d finished eating my chips as quietly as possible, my laundry had finished being washed, and then dried. When I left, I stole the misprinted Analog magazine from the mid-80s. This would have been poignant to some, but it was all just patterns of matter to me.
(Written in response to this. When I saw it, I realized that I too had a laundromat story. It’s possible that almost everyone does.)