It’s been a while since my last post. It has also been a while since my last dream-story post.
Coincidence? I think not.
Believe it or not, this dream-story is completely from the dream. I didn’t add anything (except to smooth a few transitions, you know how it goes).
It all started at that facility. I had been there almost as long as I remembered, any memories of any other place being a foggy reminiscent of what I take to be my childhood home.
I lived and worked in this facility; what I actually did was mostly unknown to myself. Or I never particularly paid attention, I suppose. It mostly seemed like what I did there was live.
I shared a room – a nice, spacious room – with two other men, a guy around my age, and, oddly enough, my uncle, only a few years older than I. They were both friendly enough, and, despite not being entirely sure what I did there, I enjoyed my life at the facility.
I went into my room and found Eric sitting on his bed, cracking open a blister pack of gum and adding a piece to the already large gob in his mouth. He gave a distant smile as he chewed it, and looked at me.
“How’re you doing, Dean?” he asked.
“Fine,” I answered. “Just went on a short run.”
He continued chewing the gum. “You want a piece?”
I frowned. “No. I didn’t know that you chewed gum.”
“I don’t, usually,” he said. “But they just got this in the shop, and it’s really great. And sugar-free.”
“Wow,” I thought, “Imagine that, sugar-free gum.”
He continued. “It also makes you… feel better. Or something. I don’t know. I can’t really put my finger on it. It almost feels like I’m doing something. Other than chewing gum, I mean.”
I frowned. “Weird.” I sat on my bed, grabbed one of the books I had recently taken out from the facility’s library, and started reading.
My uncle came into the room shortly afterwards, and Eric offered him a piece of gum as well. My uncle took it with a smile, popped it in his mouth, and started chewing. He came over to me, looked at the cover of the book I was reading, then went over to his bed and lounged there, his eyes closed.
A short while later, my uncle opened his eyes and said to Eric, “I see what you mean about the gum. It’s nice. I’ll have to get some of my own.”
That scene didn’t strike me as particularly odd until a few days later, when I noticed that virtually everyone I saw was chewing gum; specifically, that brand of gum. There were several flavours, and it seemed like more were created every day. The suddenness in which it became popular hit some chord within me that echoed as foreboding. I made it a point to abstain from having any of the gum. For one, it didn’t particularly interest me, but, for two, the quote from Mark Twain is imbedded deep within me:
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
I didn’t intend to join that majority.
Aside from that, though, it did seem as though it made people more congenial in general. Or, at least, while they were chewing the gum, which was near-always.
A week or so after that, though, things changed. I didn’t actually see any of it happening, but people began to become sick, or dead, or insane, or a mix of those. It was discovered that the gum raised levels of a certain chemical in the body that caused these effects. It was a lucky break that I had somehow avoided anyone who had highly raised levels, because it appeared that at certain levels it became contagious, in a way, and those who were only “casual” chewers of the gum could become just as sick as the others.
I was allowed to leave the facility and return to my childhood home. It was strange, being back. None of my family was still alive, but it was a strange collision of metaphysical memories and physical reality to actually be in the place.
Shortly after I returned, I found that this place was just as troubled as the facility. I looked out the window, one day, to find myself staring at, nearly half a mile away, a forty-foot-tall creature, similar to a grasshopper, but more squat. It slowly approached the house, and I made some primitive attempts to prepare to fight it, somehow, but it just slowly continued past the house.
My house was on a small hill, and I was able to see into the town. Down there were a dozen or so of similar massive insectoid creatures, roaming about in a seemingly pointless manner.
Suddenly, I was pulled away from the spectacle in the town to the sudden flooding of my entire area with a thick, blue liquid. It seemed as though my entire area was swept away in the deluge of the stuff, and I was now standing on a small strip of land, the only island in the sea of the icy, viscous liquid. There were several men, in full-body suits, like for radiation, walking a distance away from the island.
At that point, I remembered what my job really was. Not the job I did at the facility; what I did before that, or what I had always been meant to do. Report. I had the paper and pencil in my hand, and I approached the men. They warned me to not step into the liquid, but I didn’t heed them and plunged in.
It was incredibly cold, colder than ice, or anything else I had experienced before. But the coldness lasted only for the moment of entry. After that, I felt as though it had adjusted to me, or I to it.
I asked the men what it was.
“Well, you see,” one of them started, “there’s recently been this insurgence of this gum that raises the levels of a certain chemical within the human body. And this is the pure chemical. That’s why we’re wearing the suits.” He gave a stern look at my clothes, which the chemical was leaching up as we spoke.
For some reason, the fairly imminent danger that I was in didn’t concern me. My bodily levels of the chemical must already be far over safe, or, even, “dangerous”, levels, but I didn’t feel “changed” at all. In fact, I felt quite good.
Nonetheless, the facility deemed us too dangerous. It seemed that the facility’s reach was far larger than merely over its own building, and it had legislation to ship anyone who threatened its existence to wherever it liked.
For the men in the liquid and I, that place was space. We found ourselves on a large metal platform, drifting in space. We had no protection around us, and were subject to the unadulterated wrath of the void, but… survived. It appeared that the obscenely-high concentrations of the chemical in our bodies made us untouchable to the cold vacuum.
We drifted from the orbit of planet to planet, nothing to do, nothing to eat, nothing to live on. But we survived. For all the years we were out there, we survived.
But then, after almost a century, we found ourselves plummeting back to earth. And, convenience of conveniences, we were, specifically, falling straight towards the facility.
It seemed as though many things had changed since we left, and the facility was larger, with a large bay and heavy artillery guarding it. When it was obvious to all that that’s where we were going, the armored doors started closing and the artillery, a strange blend of physical projectiles and lasers, rained down on us.
Somehow, we avoided it all and crashed into the bay. We ran off of the platform and into the main section of the facility, hoping to find hiding places wherever we could.
I didn’t wish to infect anyone else with the chemical, but I was back on earth and intended to stay there.
The leader of the facility, a stern woman who had been leader when I had lived in the facility decades ago, yet was still as controlling as ever, spoke over the loudspeaker, telling everyone that anyone with the raised levels was to be killed. It was for the good of the whole planet, she said.
I began to wonder at the true role of the facility throughout this entire thing.
I made my way into my old room, where I found my uncle. He didn’t wish to kill me. He didn’t wish to kill anyone. It seemed that, shortly after the leader had commanded to kill us all, a small civil war had broken out in the facility, between those who sided with the leader and those who didn’t exactly “side” with either, but didn’t think that the infected people should be killed.
He sat with his back to the door, peering out into the hall with a gun in his hand every few minutes. He told me that, oddly enough, the gum that had started it all was still being sold in the store.
For some reason, I made my way to the store, which was deserted, and took a pack of it. Without a rational thought, I broke open the pack and put a piece in my mouth and began chewing. I went back to my room, where my uncle still kept a watch out.
I sat next to him, chewing the gum, and drifted away.