Tuesday, April 6, 2010

David's Dream Bubble - Part I

On the heels of my most recent post about our haunted house, I thought I'd follow with a short story written in college that might keep you in a creepy mood. Written for a creative writing class in 1999, the assignment was to begin with the teacher-supplied line: "When the man looked in the mirror, the small beady eyes of a rat looked back" and spin an original story from there. Despite the gnawing desire to update aspects of my writing, I'm going to leave it as-is to allow you to enjoy the tone I now recognize as from my "angsty" and "student workshoppy" phase. Here is Part I of III:

When the man looked into the mirror, the small beady eyes of a rat looked back.

[I am dreaming]

He rubbed rough knuckles into his eyes and, blinking, looked into the mirror. The face was his. A long, narrow nose still jutted oddly from beneath wild eyebrows. His chin was still a hard square and his tight skin, as usual, was pale and unshaven. Cheekbones, wide and pronounced, dominated his slender face. They were two 25 cent gum balls unnaturally buried beneath his stretched cheeks. His round cheekbones were familiar. They had always been there.

Framed between his hairy brows and bulging cheekbones were the new eyes. They were black and glassy. His eye sockets and lids had adapted to their size. In a different context, in a smaller face, the eyes may have gone unnoticed. In his large face, they were impossibly small.

[I must be dreaming]

David would not panic. His rat eyes flicked about the bathroom. They worked well. The bathroom was drawn with crisp, clear lines. The tiles above the wash basin were thousands of pressed grains. He could count each particle that formed them. From across the bathroom, the grooves of a soap bar in its shower dish were clearly defined. David could not tell if his fingers were broken or if the doorknob evaded his reach, but he failed his first attempt to exit the bathroom. His fingers were useless sticks of butter. His arms were useless rubber pencils.

The door opened. He stepped from the false bathroom light to the lamp-lit hallway. It was foggy. It was under water. David realized he was seeing with his own eyes. As his gaze traveled over the white walls and hung photographs, he did not detect the cat slipping around his legs and into the bathroom. When he reached the living room, he scanned for changes. He studied the black couch, the lamps and the coffee table. He did not notice the motionless rustle of the draperies or see the cold air seep through the window cracks. When he had crossed from the bathroom to the hall, he had awoken from whatever dream he had dreamt.

The phone was ringing. David melted into his couch and pulled the phone onto his lap. It was his mother.

[I just had the strangest dream…]

His voice was nervous and she offered to come over. The thought made his head ache, but he agreed.

She bustled in the doorway with a brown bag of groceries. Each light was clicked as she walked. David was annoyed by the invasion of his mother and the light she inflicted upon the house. He took her bag to the kitchen and placed it on the counter anyway. She was immediately unpacking it and making coffee. She told him he looked tired. His eyes, she said, were red.

He could hear the sound of his mother opening and closing his cupboards as he walked down the hallway. He could see her mouth twitch and her brow crease as she discovered their contents. He could hear her unpack broccoli and apples and bottles of vitamins—things he did not have or want. He decided he would take a shower. He would forget about his dream.

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