Sunday, January 24, 2010
Last night, I dreamed that two HR representatives from Blockbuster were waiting outside my house. As I went outside to meet them, I stepped onto a red-carpeted train, which began to move slowly. I had to decide: should I jump off or should I stay? I noticed my brother and his friend sitting in the back of the train. What are they doing here? Where are they going? I decided I should stay to find out.
"Mr. Fuller? Would you please come take a seat?" one of the HR representatives, a man, called me over. He sat next to his partner, a woman, at a table with a white tablecloth. I sat down and she pulled out some paper work. What is this about? Am I in trouble? Don't they know I quit?
"Do you know this woman?" she asked. I looked at a photo of a short woman with long black hair and distant eyes.
"Yes. She was my manager."
"Did you notice any suspicious behavior involving this person while you were employed?"
Before I could answer, the train came to a screeching halt. Where in the world were we? I looked outside and saw a pine forest covered in snow. Icicles hung from branches. On the ground, I could make out the faint outline of a second stretch of train tracks.
The conductor came on the intercom, "We're experiencing some minor difficulties. Please remain seated. Do not, I repeat, do not exit the train."
I realized I was already far from home and going the wrong way. Nuts to this, I thought, and began walking to the back of the train. I spied my brother and chided him.
"What are you doing on this train? If mom finds out you're all the way out here, she's going to be furious." I grabbed his hand. "Come on, let's go."
He pulled away from me and jumped out of the train. I followed him outside. The wind had picked up, swirling snow into a visionless white void. I raised my arm, shielding my face from the bitter cold, and shouted, "Come back! Where are you?"
I took a few steps and sank deeper into a snow bank. It was hopeless. Behind me, the train's whistle sounded off with a terrible screech and the lumbering machinery slowly began to move again. I looked out into the snow once more, searching for my brother, but seeing nothing. I ran as best I could, grabbed a hand rail on the train, and pulled myself back inside. Just as guilt was beginning to well up inside me, I found my brother once again sitting in the back of the train. Except now, he was alone, and the interior of the train had taken on a darker, more oppressive atmosphere.
"Where's your friend?"
"I don't know. I think the man took him."
My brother pointed down at the other side of the train. I squinted and saw a tall dark figure standing in the shadows. The glint of his crooked white teeth was clearly visible. They curled into a wicked smile.
"Who are you? What do you want?"
The shadow stepped forward and revealed itself: a massive Roman soldier, with a shaved head, wearing brown civilian robes and a rope belt. His face was dirty and black grime was smeared across him in streaks. His smile stretched wider and he answered.
As I screamed, "Get away!" my brother's stuffed bear fell from his hand and sprang to life, striking a menacing pose. My long-loved, stuffed tiger jumped out from behind a seat and joined my brother's bear. It turned its head and spoke to me.
"Quickly! Take your brother and get out of here!" Our two animal guardians charged the Roman soldier and tackled him to the ground. My brother and I seized the moment and ran past the fray, toward the front of the train. Once we had made it into the adjacent car, I looked behind and heard a sound, an echoing THUNK! like a boulder dropped into the sea. Ripples surrounded the Roman soldier, permeating through the air, and knocked our animate animals unconscious.
"Run! NOW!" I commanded and pushed my brother forward. The Roman got to his feet and gave chase. He laughed maniacally. Shadows danced across his ghoulish face as he got closer and closer. He reached out with one of his giant hands and nearly grabbed my collar! But before he could grab me, over head compartments began to pop open and living, breathing stuffed animals began to pour out. Turtles, lions, dinosaurs, and birds swarmed the soldier, pressing him to the ground, covering him until he was no longer visible beneath a mountain of plush toys. My tiger and my brothers bear leapt on top of the pile, jumped down and joined us by our side.
"They won't be able to hold him long. Hurry! We must continue!" The hollow THUD! sound from before began to ring again as stuffed animals were flung in large groups up into the air and across the train. The four of us ran from car to car until we reached the engine room. The conductor had disappeared. Our guardian animals tried to pull the break, but they were too weak to do it alone. My brother and I lent our hands and together we pulled with all our might until the lever gave way and the train slowed to a stop.
I opened a door to the outside and was surprised to find the snow had gone, replaced by warm sunlight, and the edge of the pine forest was far in the distance. Before us, a vast suburban neighborhood sprawled out in all directions. Despite the sunny atmosphere, an element of gloom pervaded everything. The houses were old and crumbling and strips of white paint dangled from the walls of homes. It was desolate. There was no one there, not a soul.
We jumped off the train and ran to the nearest house....
[To be concluded...]