Something I rewrote for a three-minute fiction contest.
When I open my eyes, I am absorbed in an overwhelming sense of dread, of unchained loneliness in the wake of infinite possibility provided by my dreams. The walls close in. Reality chokes the skin and makes it hard to breathe. All the world seems a cage and nothing seems possible anymore.
I rise, shrugging off the burden of the impossible, stumbling to the coffee machine.
The tile floor is cold. The creaking wooden floors tell the walls where I’m going. I move about my apartment in a dance of boring routine and sad monotony. I keep on moving to successive points and destinations common to any modern city dweller. I distract myself, like the good commuter I am, with improvised rhythms tapped out just beneath my pockets. I let anxiety and uncertainty dissipate through tiny sonic explosions rising from my fingertips.
I stumble through the doors of classrooms and workplaces and do what every good boy should do until I can’t stand it anymore. I step outside for a break. I grab another coffee. On the way back I light up a joint in the corner of an alleyway.
A homeless man walks by. He tells that me that one day soon, “e’rything is gonna come topplin’ down.” I smile and shake his hand and give him the rest of my joint.
Back through the doors, back past the water coolers, through another set of doors and into a device that will carry me skyward until it doesn’t anymore. The music in these vehicles is shit. The people don’t seem much better.
The offices drain me. The classrooms invigorate me. I’m overwhelmed by inspiration at the strike of six pm, departing through the front door with a smile that couldn’t be subdued by the most dramatic of tragedies.
But the modern world is no place for epic tragedies. The modern world is sly, subversive, and by small increments of marginal devastation, the inspiration is gone. I see a homeless man lying in the street alongside his dog. I watch young men and women walking in slow, staggering paths with their faces buried in small, glossy metallic devices. I see skyscrapers and try to picture what may be happening within that shiny glass cage. I can’t help but wonder if any of it is relevant. I can’t help but wonder if Mars or Jupiter or Venus would care.
Then, emerging from the familiar blur of human bodies infinitely compressed and compartmentalized on sidewalks and street corners, a vibrant, purple flower pedal finds its way to a place beside my foot. I make eye contact. The buzz of the crosswalk underscores our encounter.
Some journey, something magnificent or boring or otherwise unworthy of mention has brought it here, sitting humbly, searching the sky for the nuclear fireball it calls ‘Mother.’ Instead, the pedal finds me, gazing down at it with a hushed, desensitized stare.
From where did it arrive? Where was it going? Turning to my left, I see a man in the distance darting through the crowded streets with a box of chocolates and a bouquet of purple flowers. His haste is polite, and he bobs and weaves through the crowd without disrupting their worn paths.
The flower pedal is still at my feet, that curious arrangement of stardust unlike my own. I bend at the knees and rise with the pedal in hand.
All is well and that’s all that it will ever be. The glowing white walk signal appears across the way and I continue on.