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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dream On (Part 1)

This is probably the second short story I ever wrote (and actually finished). It's about a young man who toys with the concept of lucid dreaming and suffers the consequences.

     John’s alarm startled him awake for the five thousandth time, once again interrupting a most pleasant dream. He dragged himself out of bed, stepping onto the cold tile floor of his efficiency apartment. Rubbing his head and rear simultaneously, he stumbled to the bathroom, bleary eyed. After using the facility, he took the thirty-some steps to the kitchen and poured himself a huge mug of coffee. Thank God for timers, he thought as he took a sip, grabbing the TV remote from its place on the back of the couch. He sat slowly as to avoid scalding himself, and switched on the cable news channel; the same channel that had lulled him the night before. John knew even before glancing at his watch that he had less than an hour before having to slog off to “the coal mines”.

     “Hey, thanks for joining us on American Morning. The program that helps America rise and shine!” expounded the cheery talking head.

Man, these dudes must be up before dawn. How many cups of latte has that guy had? thought John, mildly amused.

“Tabitha, what’s on the agenda this morning?” asked the over-zealous anchor.

“Well, Bob, we’re going to have an interesting conversation with Dr. Phyllis Schulz, author of the new book, Lucid Dreaming, the Healthy Escape -  A Guide to True Inner Peace.

“Before we approach this dreamy subject Tabitha, let’s hear a few words from our gracious sponsors. We’ll be right back with more American Morning.”

Bob’s practiced grin led the show into the commercial break, and John took the opportunity to pour himself a bowl of bran flakes with skim milk. He took his place again in front of the tube, its glow no longer the only light in the room as the sun began peaking in through the window, John only half interested in the interview in progress.

“Lucid dreaming can be achieved by anyone. It basically means that the dreamer is aware, and is able to manipulate the experiences in their dream environment.” The Doctor explained.

“So, if I decide to dream of Angelina Jolie, say, I can make the dream play out any way I choose?” asked Bob.

“Be careful tiger, your wife may be watching.” Tabitha chided.

“I know you meant that for a laugh, but to answer your question, no. The dreamer can alter certain aspects of a dream, but cannot completely dictate the outcome. The subconscious is still in control, or should I say, out of control.”
     John glanced at his wrist watch. Jeez, I’d better hustle. He was surprised at how much time had elapsed. He took a five minute shower, beating his best time by a good three minutes, shaved and dressed, heading out his apartment door within a half an hour from the time he’d clicked off the set. He hopped on his Vespa scooter sans helmet, which remained bungeed to the back, and headed for work. Parking his Vespa beside the dumpster (his very own private parking space), John headed in the back door of the Café Cliché, Chicago’s latest entry into the over-saturated coffee house market. Swiping his I.D. card through the time clock, he hollered out, “I’m here!” to no one in particular, realizing that he was five minutes late once again.

     John grabbed an apron and pushed his way through the double swinging doors, right side labeled “enter”. Emma turned and looked his way, a tight smile on her face, and said,

“Good thing you’re here. Not that we’re busy or anything. Connie’s gunning for you, you know.”

“I know. I know. Maybe she won’t notice.” At least not until she sees the time clock, John thought in exasperation.

     Connie was the manager, and took every employee infraction seriously, a little too seriously. John knew that the shop had been struggling lately. They were down to two “Café Gurus” on the morning shift; Café Guru being the Café Cliché’s moniker given to their employees. John could be on thin ice, but was surprised that he really didn’t seem to care. Originally, he’d taken this job to support himself through his internship, but once out of college and unable to find a job in his field, he’d found his way back here.

     John went through his day as usual, mindlessly preparing a litany of coffee concoctions for a seemingly mindless group of patrons. He joked and flirted with Emma, a cute twenty something with died black hair and an eyebrow piercing. At the end of his shift, he collected his meager tips that at one time could total upwards of seventy dollars, clocked out, gave a wink and a “see ya’” to a scowling Connie, and hit the employee exit.

     John climbed the stairs to his apartment on the third floor. The elevator had been out of order ever since he’d moved in here. The apartment was cold. Winter, although not officially here, was definitely breathing down John’s neck. Soon the Vespa would not be a viable form of transportation. John hated the busses. Tired, he made a quick sandwich and had a glass of milk. Is this what my life is all about? Making just enough money to pay the rent and see the occasional movie or eat the occasional pizza? I have a few acquaintances here, but no true friends. Maybe Emma… but do I really even know her?

    After a few hours of television, John realized just how tired he was and decided to turn in. He knew how ridiculously early it was, just past nine, but could hardly keep his eyes open as he sat on the edge of his bed. He skipped brushing his teeth, stripped down to his underwear, and slipped between the sheets. His mind came back to the American Morning program and the conversation of lucid dreaming. John dozed off thinking how nice it would be if Emma were to keep him company in his dreams.

     Drifting into a deep sleep, John’s mind soon entered into the realm of nightmare. His boss Connie stood before him, her too thin face scowling at him. “You’re late again!” she screeched, spittle flying from her pinched lips, landing on his clean brown apron. As he was about to respond, he noticed that her Café Cliché uniform had been replaced by a ragged clown costume, her long emaciated fingers becoming longer as she reached for his throat. This is a dream, floated through John’s mind, and he forced open his eyes. He lay staring at the moon lit ceiling of his room as his heart rate slowed to a normal pace. Was that a lucid dream? he wondered. He was exhilarated at the thought. Could he control his dreams? He didn’t totally grasp the possibilities, but was excited by the prospect.

to be continued 1-27-12

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