This is the latest in TMN staff writer Allison Maschoff’s collection of short fiction stories.
I woke up on the plains, the grass up to my hips, wearing a dress I had never seen. It was white and strapless, with ruffles that wrapped around my shoulders and a loose bodice, the skirt cut just below the knee. Of course, with the warm blades of grass pushing against me, I felt the cut of the dress more than I saw it.
I was not as worried about the fact that I did not remember how I got there as I was about the fact that there was an old-fashioned shotgun in my hands.
As if I was in a movie where the audio lagged behind the video, once I noticed the gun, the sound of gunshots suddenly filled the air. I hadn’t realized how quiet it was before that moment.
I threw my arms into the air, shotgun in both hands, barrel balanced parallel to the sky, trying to surrender. Bullets struck my forearms and I yelled out in pain as blood began running down my arms. The dress was turning red and suddenly I was sinking, sinking, sinking . . . until the earth swallowed me up and everything went dark. All I could feel was the shotgun slipping out of my hands as it refused to come with me and the strange sensation that nothing was beneath my feet . . .
I land in a new world convinced I must be in Wonderland. That is until I see a faded yellow brick road stretching out before me.
There’s really nothing to do besides start walking down the path. What else does one do when faced with a yellow brick road?
Mist made the air heavy around me and trees reached up and over on either side of me. There was no sky. There was just grey and black and white and the yellow of the road. My dress had mysteriously returned to its original color, all signs of blood gone.
I walked for ages without any change in scenery. Unnerved by the eerie quiet, I called out for the familiar residents of Oz, but no one replied. All the world was quiet until suddenly I was at the edge of the ocean. The bricks just disappeared into the waves without so much as a sign. I couldn’t even hear the gentle cries of the water hitting the shore until I was less than a yard away.
Without hesitation, I walked into the water and let it swallow me up just like the earth had done.
When no portal opened, I tried to move my arms and legs, my lungs beginning to burn, my mind racing from the realization that perhaps the magic had run out, perhaps the rules of reality were going to suddenly start applying and in that case, I most definitely could not breathe underwater — but my body had become frozen, my limbs heavy as lead. I sunk down, down, down, unable to do anything, even to stop my mind from spinning with the terrifying truth of —
I wake up in a cold sweat, panting and gasping for air.
I’m at my desk.
I’m in my dorm room.
My usual t-shirt and jeans have replaced the dress. My hair is dry. My arms and legs are uninhibited and no wounds mar my flesh.
Suddenly, the dream seems so absurd.
Then I look down at my desk and remember exactly why I hadn’t fought or questioned the dream: the alternative was three presentations, two papers and the test that my professor is squeezing in right before finals.
When the room starts filling up with water, I don’t fight it. Honestly, I’m not even surprised. I just watch my notes crumple and my laptop sputter and close my eyes for the next adventure.