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Awake

A Short, Short Story

"Awake"

I keep having this dream—well, nightmare. Well, it's hard to say, really. I guess it really is all a matter of perspective, when it comes down to it. But onto the recurring, well, whatever. I wake up, and I'm lost. I'm confused. I have no idea, in a way, where I am, and I am all alone. I mean, I'm not really all alone. My wife, my kids are there. My coworkers...well, they're not all in the room with me, but, well, what I mean is that in my dream, my wife is, normally, and sometimes one or both of my kids. But I wake up, and I look around, and everything scans normally. Completely usual. Par. For. The. Course. It IS my wife, my kids, who crawled in bed with me and my wife at some indeterminate point in the middle of the night. When, I can't recall, but I normally can't. It's my bed, our bed, our bedspread, that we bought seven years ago, when she had gotten tired of the last one. That's my TV, our TV, all of our's TV. It's all there, just as I left it when I went to bed. The same. But different. It's all a little off. Just enough off that I can't put my finger on it, that I'm left behind, unsure and underwhelmed by the difference, trying to label it as something real, or rather as some unidentifiable bit of potted meat or undigested potato or scuttling crab claw from the night before.

It's me, it is me, and them, "them," but it's not. I'm not me. Not like I am in real life. And I'm now realizing that it's not them that's different, it is me. I'm empty. The dots are all there, but they're unconnected, and I'm the only one who realizes it. I'm the only one who sees it; or, maybe I'm not.

I can't ask, because that's against the rules of the dream. Dream rules are often unstated yet so palpably heavy as to be equivalent to chains. So I take a deep breath, I turn off my alarm, and wake the kids, and wait for the wife to wake up, and perform my morning abulations, following the ritual: driving the kids to school, saying goodbye to my wife as she drives the kids to school, working, interacting, living my life, all in this dream, all knowing it isn't real, it isn't me; this is not us anymore. But I can't stop. I can't break character. I can't explode the dreamality.

I'm not sure what that means, but I just know it isn't. It's something else. And I struggle and I strain, and my fists clench and unclench at least a thousand times, because THIS IS NOT REAL and THIS IS NOT ME and THEY ARE NOT THEM, but I soldier on, trying to find my way, trying to find some connection, trying to reconnect the dots in some way that does not make sense.

But it doesn't come, and then, finally, in the end, before the day is over, after the kids have been tucked in, and had their nightmares eaten and their dreams reprogrammed, after my wife is lying fast asleep, I step outside, shut the sliding glass door, and scream. Silently, for almost 24 seconds, and then I un-clench my fists, sigh deeply, open the glass door, step inside, slip under the covers, and fall asleep again, afraid of what my dreams within dreams may bring. 

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