This Week’s Prompt: 4. Horror Story. Man dreams of falling—found on floor mangled as tho’ from falling from a vast height.
The Research:Perchance to Dream:Dreams and Mr. Lovecraft
The Worst Horror Is The One You Have To Live With
By our guest necromancer,
Like many widowers and fathers who have lost their children, David struggled to sleep. His insomnia was provoked by silence and nightmares. Even his days were marked by triggers that would leave him paralyzed in pain: his wife’s button-down shirt, the voice of his daughter on his voicemail, the dramatic decline of bills to be paid.
He started with the television in the living room. He kept it running during the day, drowning out the birds the family used to feed, and long into the night to drown out the silence of absent giggles, the lack of clicking heels on their wooden floor, and the phantom tinkle of glass he would still sometimes hear as if someone were getting a late night sip of milk. Soon the bedroom television played 24/7 and the basement television too.
First, his favorite shows became the soundtrack to his life, but they led to accusing nightmares full of pointing fingers and his daughter being swallowed up into darkness. Children’s shows made a brief appearance, but they were quickly rejected after he dreamed of his family together and woke up sobbing. David kept searching for relief, dragging his body to work, reminding himself to breathe, to blink, to live.
His reprieve came in commercials.
Ads did not care whether he was safe or happy or warm. As he watched them, time seemed to fly by faster, week by week. They only had the most basic of wants: buy the product, buy the service, buy, buy, buy. Their intention was clear; it was their special sauce, as it were, and David loved them for it. They paraded naked women and racecars and celebrities in front of their audience, never once asking them to think deeply. Their underlying message repeated like a delusional, obsessed parrot. Buy. Buy. Buy now?
Later his coworkers would say that he had seemed happier but distracted. Dazed, muddled, dreamy, they would argue, bouncing vague descriptions around to label their dear friend. Soon, even when he was away from a television, the commercials began to play in his mind. Like good neighbors, they were the best part about waking up. He would dream of fluffier pillows and plumper lips and Legos. He would go through his workday with commercials racing in front of his eyes: Rodeo burgers, Hot Wheels, Pretty Pretty Princess. He would sing Subway’s jingle of the Five Dollar Foot Long. He would reenact the sketch to the latest Skittles commercial in the breakroom. He would hum along to the rhythm of the song that played in the background of a Toyota car commercial.
The Home Shopping Network would later add that David was one of their best customers, buying ten, maybe twenty, items a night. Never afraid to indulge himself in a good product – I mean, these are quality products that are worth the investment, after all, the Executive Manager of QVC was quoted to have said.
David daydreamed of deals, of colored pencils that came in sets of a thousand, of knives that never rusted or dulled, of molding clay that could make realistic mountains, of lawyers that would bring him justice and a handsome settlement if he ever had a tragic trampoline accident.
When he came to work that fateful day, the coworkers near his cubicle greeted him. They were mildly befuddled when David took one of Sam’s pens, but they thought it was just another one of his wild, kooky jokes. They didn’t hear him murmur how great a deal it was under his breath. They grew more worried as the day progressed when it seemed that David was beginning to hoard rolls of toilet paper in his desk drawers and at lunch when he took Peggy’s Lean Cuisine. All in the name of great sales he raved. In the middle of meetings, David would start meowing and then ask if anyone wanted McDonald’s one dollar cones. He was met with stares and silence.
Give him a break, said Mark, one of David’s oldest friends. Of that Kit Kat bar, asked David as he walked by. Mark had nothing to say after that.
David had a water gun fight on the stairs leading up the roof. He cradled Sam’s pen, a roll of toilet paper, and a half-eaten Lean Cuisine. He jumped up and down on a trampoline with his friends. Up and Down. Up and down. The floor of the trampoline seemed more solid and less forgiving than he would have imagined. He looked around at his smiling friends. He tried to do a flip. Halfway in the air his flip seemed to turn into a flop. His trajectory was off, he realized. He was falling, falling. He wouldn’t hit the trampoline at this rate but the sidewalk. Smiling, his friends watched on. David couldn’t tell if they knew what was happening to him. I’m falling, he thought, I’m falling. He tried to yell for help, but nothing came out. One of the friends looked an awful lot like his daughter, he realized. Falling. Falling.
They found him on the sidewalk. Mangled. Bleeding. Alive, but barely. He had dreamed of falling from a trampoline but fell somewhere between living and dead instead. David was silent after that. When his friend Mark later searched his house for some of his personal effects, he found a television roaring static in every room, blue and white reflecting off the walls. In the corners of every room all of his late night shopping products were stacked neatly. The cable company told Mark that they had shut off David’s subscription nearly three months ago.
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