Sweet Dreams

A faint buzzing rumbles through the woman’s briefcase. She sweats—or at least, that is what you hope those crystals are. Frozen dew matted in her snout and fur. A strange, bestial head mounted on an otherwise humanoid body. Politely staring at their phones, no one else on the train seems to really mind. One man glares, flicking his too-thin forked tongue out, dropping it down his chest lazily. His tie unknots and drops to the ground, but rather then pick it up, he steps on it when the doors open, abandoning the rest of you to enter the dimly lit void.

You reach down despite yourself, taking the rough fabric in your hands, it is unremarkable. When you turn the mustard-colored accessory, the other side is plaid, and the tag has been ripped off. Turning it again, the mustard side is now a silken emerald color. The plaid, too, has disappeared.

Dropping it, you resist the sudden urge to stomp it into the floor.

The buzzing grows heavier, hitting you like an x-ray. The beast-woman looks at you, you wonder if she can see your bones now.

The crowd shifts and murmurs, passengers exchanging for new passengers, while the void outside grows only brighter and brighter. The train seems to barrel down the track even faster, though now that you can see past the windows, you notice none of the trees or houses seem to move. The city outside is static, and the buzzing feels as if it is electrocuting you now.

A flash of red, like a child shrieking, announces the next stop on the LED screen above. The doors slide open, and you begin to move. The houses have become unending skyscrapers now, and your watch tells you that you are embarrassingly late for work.

“So very, very late!” it cries out in anguish. You do not remember buying a watch.

Adjusting it, you begin to walk down the brick streets, feeling the buzzing now vibrate through the dirt. Glancing back, you see the woman trailing behind you, eyes forlorn. Huffing, you quicken your pace, only to find she is moving even faster to keep up. Breaking into a sprint, your serpentine through the busy streets, causing every car to swerve in the opposite direction, miraculously never hitting another.

Nothing deters her.

Kicking off your shoes, you toss them to her face, but they only rocket off and hit the ground without so much as a wince. She seems to be a blend of a wolf and a bear, perhaps some type of large cat or rejected cryptid.

She flings the briefcase in your direction, decking you in the neck and sending you flying down to the asphalt below. The buzzing enters your skin, and you feel your eyeballs shake in their sockets.

Footsteps fall closer and closer. You sigh, accepting your fate this time.

“Hey, Margaret,” you say as she offers her hand to you. “Nice head—I barely recognized you. Is it new?”

She doesn’t answer, only lifts you to your feet and into the air. You tuck your hands into the pockets of your jeans, cracking your neck and looking down to her. She shields her eyes against the sun, watching as you ascend higher and higher.

You consider breaking your wings out, but they are only black ink beneath your skin, and you would rather not test your luck.

Margaret opens her briefcase. Stacks of papers fall out, more than should be able to fit. All are blank, and dance around in a wind that isn’t there, circling one another until a tower forms in the air. The weak tornado whips around you.

Fumbling in your pocket for a pen, you extend your hand to catch the end of one of the pages. After scratching your chin for a few moments, you decide on a new story, decorating the white paper with your chicken scratch cursive.

The world around you freezes, turning black and white. It melts into a desert landscape, several tents propped up in a circle, their sheets a blood red color, absorbing the beating sun. You squint. The heat waves are nearly visible, causing your vision to wiggle.

You are holding a briefcase. It hums against your thigh. In the other hand, you clutch a piece of paper, notes written, waiting for the game to begin again. Margaret always has a new face for the new scene, and you scan each individual present — or you would, if there were any.

A man ducks his head from one of the tents.

“Margaret?” you ask.

He shakes his head, then reenters his abode.

The humming at your leg becomes more aggressive, and you follow its cue to rush to the tent. The ground beneath you becomes a treadmill, pushing you further and further away despite how forcefully you run. Jumping, you make it over the pit, bursting to the tent as quickly as you can.

Floors give out beneath you, dropping you with a splash into what feels like the bottom of a well.

A nickel hits you in the head. You glance up at a smiling man. Wadding up a piece of paper, you chuck it as fiercely as you can at him—for once, Margaret seems startled, tripping over and colliding into the well with you.

Balling up does not help — the man still hits you full force when he drops. The murky water clings to the wall, shooting upward as if it were a tidal wave. The briefcase now rumbles, the clasps on it twitching and threatening to burst.

“My turn,” the man says. His mustache is so thick, it nearly covers his entire mouth. “Why are your stories so short?”

“Because every time you give me the paper, you never let it sit still.”

“A true dreamer doesn’t make excuses!” Margaret says, calloused hands wider than the last form, with the beast-head and woman’s body.

Huffing, you roll your eyes, opening the briefcase and letting the pages burst out.

Margaret takes a pen from his coat, tapping it against his lips and considering what to write about for this surrealist game of tag you both have played throughout the cosmos for centuries.

Grinning, words begin to fill the pages, and you shut your eyes when you feel the world beginning to fade again.

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