2020-2021, Short Story


Featured in the 2021 Spring Issue of Rambunctious

By Samuel Kim, ’22

Chapter 1

Glitter and gold is what I want, skies of raspberry-blue and fields of vermillion scarlet, that is my desire.

A pearly black void, it felt like, as James slipped down the same process of deep rest and entered into the world of the mind, as if being reincarnated into someone who he was not. The other world awaited his command, and with his wishes of tranquil pastures received, the black void faded, and fuzzes of dream-particles started assembling themselves as blades of sweetgrass, globs of what was once thought-material morphed into clouds of cotton, flaking at the edges in a way that seemed to be stroked on with brilliant enamel-colored oil paint on a canvas of deep glittering turquoise.

James, still in the process of journeying down with his conscious self into his own little inner world, relaxes, the feeling of falling had become natural to him, honed by practice over the years he realized this ability to control his dream world. He felt his physicalities being absorbed into the darkness as he continued to cross the gates into his subconscious, and soon enough, he began to see the small visual features of the fields beneath him, along with an overwhelming feeling of peaceful assurance and security, as he inched closer to the waving grass.

He was just a speck of thought and spirit now, his ego manifesting as an essence of his adrift consciousness. His troubles and anxieties seemed to wear away, dissolving in the simulated scent of dried grass and the calm summer breeze. Pleased by all this, he finally paused in his descent, arriving at the ground and no longer able to continue down any longer. He stood there for a moment, taking in the scenery and landscape before him.

I am getting so good at this. I’ve never dreamt up a prettier dream than this one, he thought. He was glad to have dreamed such a landscape, and evoked a sense of pride that one would feel when creating a great piece of art.

After a few moments of bliss and steadiness, a sound of a monorail became audibly noticeable in the areas behind his field of vision. Aroused from his present calmness, he turned to address this disturbance behind him, where, to his surprise, a monolithic metropolis, on a scale he had never seen before, became visible to him in the distance. To his side, floating steel rails manifested themselves, juxtaposed against a forest of pink and blue oaks and pine trees.

I-… Whoa.

James had never dreamt such an experience as grand as the scene before him in the past, and certainly not to such a detailed scale. Then, a splitting headache, one that had felt as if it were happening to his physical head, rose up in his mind, and staggered him down on the earthen floor. He shut his eyes and writhed in pain. Seconds after the thundering moments of pain, as if almost instantaneously, the pain dissipated. He could feel the ground beneath him change its texture from a gruelish brown dust, to a rough, jagged and solid feel. The sudden change seemed to hurt where his hand would have been, and the surprise caught him off guard, and his arms gave way, sending him crashing down into the floor. On the floor, still reeling from the pain, he opened his eyes, noticing that the creamy skies were no longer visible, and before him lie gargantuan, concrete and gray buildings that seemed to stretch for miles upon miles in the sky.

Standing himself up from the floor and recovering himself from the jarring experience, he twisted his head, analyzing his surroundings, and to his shock, realized that a bright white truck, barreling towards him at a frightening pace, was inches from crashing into him.

Chapter 2

AAEEHAUH!” James bolted up from his standard dormitory bed, with blue coverings and a pillow covered with drool. Wiping off his spit-laden cheeks, he noticed the time on his phone.

|–9:32 AM– 2 Alarms missed|

“Crap!” He gasped as he hurriedly staggered out of his sheets and onto his feet. Dashing through his bedroom door and into the dorm hallway, he sprinted towards the bathroom in order to get himself tidied up for his day. He tried to turn the doorknob to enter, but it refused to budge, and inside, someone shouted in a groggy and tired voice:

“I’m taking a shit, can you wait a bit?” The voice seemed to be in quite a shock as well, startled by the sprinting and commotion outside the bathroom.

“Dammit Matt, why do you have to take a dump during the morning all the time? It always smells like someone threw a gas bomb in there or something.” James winced as he recalled the wretched smells that came after Matt’s visits to the bathroom.

“Consider it a welcome present.” Matt quipped. “Now get the hell away, let me crap in peace.”

“Hey man, I know you need to take your business, but right now isn’t the best time. I have a date at Quixote’s at ten, and I’m really running late. I’ve told you about Margaret before, haven’t I?” James pleaded desperately.

“The stuck-up chick who can’t handle any of my jokes?”

“Sure, but to be fair, you didn’t exactly make the best first impression. You know her, she’s really strict about her schedule and all, so could you please hurry it up in there?”

“Your fault for sleeping in in the first place, genius.” A twang of impatience was hung in Matt’s speech. Noting this, and without much time, he dashed down the hall and into the kitchen, where he flipped the dirty sink faucet on, and hurriedly washed off the spit and oil on his face. Twisting the faucet handles back off, he raised one of his arms, taking a whiff of what was underneath, and almost immediately regretting it, he cringed his face and recoiled his head. Groaning, he made a dash back to the bathroom door, and internally gleed with rejoice as he heard the loud flu-shhhh of the toilet. As Matt finished up, the sounds of running water in the background, James tucked his face towards his phone, trying to glance at the time.

|–9:38 AM–|

As he glanced back up at the door again, he heard the running water stop, and Matt, looking quite refreshed and quite satisfied with himself, strolled out of the bathroom and gave James a large slap on the back.

All yours, buddy.” James followed him with his eyes as he casually strutted towards his bedroom, curiously wondering what he was so proud about, and when he entered the bathroom, a horrid, putrid smell was hanging in the already messy space. Despite this, he drove straight into the medicine cabinet, applied some deodorant, and hastenly brushed his teeth, all the while anxiously worrying about how late he was going to be.

With the last remnants of the toothpaste spit out of his mouth, he grabbed a towel and dried his face. Finishing up, James placed the towel back on its rack, and made a dash towards the front door. He grabbed his coat and bag, both hanging by the lampstand. Heading outside, he impatiently waited for the downtown bus to arrive at his stop, just outside the house. He considered for a brief moment cancelling the date altogether, but refused this, picturing the face of disappointment that was to be smeared on Margaret’s face. Finally, around 9:52, the bus finally arrived, the bus driver looking much more tired and disgruntled than usual. Boarding the bus, he sat nervously near the back, thinking about how angry Margaret must be by his late arrival.

Jesus Christ, I’m so screwed… Why’d this bus have to come so late today? Gosh…

The bus took off shortly after James took a seat, giving a slight groan and rumble as it pushed itself off of the warm tar-sheened road. Still incredibly anxious and worrisome, he checked his phone over and over again, timidly awaiting for a barrage of text messages from Margaret, scorning him for how late he was going to be. It was a completely irrational thought, of course, but he just couldn’t help thinking it.

He wished, and hoped, that in some sort of miracle world, that the bus would suddenly take off at light speed, ignoring all rules of the reality that surrounded him, and burst onto the serene outskirts of that quiet old cafe, Margaret’s favorite meeting spot. He knew from the very beginning, that this wishful thinking would never achieve him anything, but he was still beholden to that speck of fantasy, easing his mind and calming his nerves.

Looking outside again, shaking his mind off from the fantastic wonderings that was present at the time, he observed that the bus, was now cruising along at a strangely smooth and leisurely pace, was heading down a dirt-trodden pathway, a massive forest filled with songbirds flapping about the treelines, small rabbits and squirrels hopping along the leaf-covered floor, calling and responding to each other’s motions, as if communicating in some unknown but mystical way, charming James’ eyes and imagination. This can’t be right, he thought, he had never been down this particular avenue before, nor has he seen such a forest of such magical and extraordinary scale.

Yet, this all felt familiar to him. He has surely never attended this area ever in his life, yet a sense of nostalgia, longing, and a tint of anticipation and warmness covered his heart, and a sense of deep deja-vu coursing through his mind. Wide-eyed, he took his eyes off of the ambrosic windowsill for a moment, and observed that the rows of bus seats, once filled with passengers ready to start off their day, were emptied out, barring the busdriver, who started to whistle a mirthful tune. James glanced upwards to the driver-use mirror, and saw that the grumpy driver seemed as of that moment, was emitting a sort of calm exuberance that showed a nonchalance towards whatever ailed him during the day.

Understandably quite chilled about all of this, he reached for his phone in his back pocket, hoping to get a sense of where he was. Grasping his phone, he clicked on the power button with a hopeful resolve, yet had that sense crushed when it did not turn its usual crackling blue eminences of light towards him, instead grimly greeting him with a cold and empty of dark non-response. Before his heart even had a chance to drop, the bus gave a lurching halt, throwing the still-standing James out onto the clear aisle in front of him. He braced for impact, assuming that he was to hit the cold, metallic floor beneath his feet, but this had not happened. Noticing the lengthy time it took him not hitting the floor, he peered through his squinted eyes, and realized that he was floating through the long halls of the ghosted bus, slowly sailing above the worn-out green seats. A sudden smile and grin slowly forced itself upon his face, the sudden weightlessness tickling his body with this new sensation. At that moment, he abandoned all of his ailing senses behind him, his worries and paranoia about his date melting away along with the ether air.

The bus driver, as he noticed, was no longer present; his seat emptied along with the rest of the passengers. This did not worry James, as he was completely immersed and focused on the floating activity at hand. He jumped and bolted from end to end, propelling himself by pulling from the plastic seats, acting almost like a boosting platform. James was filled with utmost euphoria, the sensation of featherweightedness proving to be a great novelty.

A while of this back and forth travelling passed, and James had been fully enamored with the activity. But once, as he was drifting towards the front end of the vehicle, he had missed the last seat that was to stop him from reaching the edge, into the windshield, and collided with the glass. Again, defying all expectation, the glass of the windshield provided no resistance in his momentum, and instead of shattering, the material seeming to be glass dissipated into thin air, the tiny vapors of glass becoming too small to see with the eye.

As James drew forwards into this new, wild frontier, his sense of weightlessness still held. His speed going into the collision with the glass being quite high, he continued drifting away from the front of the bus, and deeper into the canopy of the forest. Briefly panicked for a mere moment, he took hold of a tree branch located an arms reach away from him, and put an end to his weightless motion forward.

Positioning himself back around, James gazed at the municipal bus, which was now drifting gently upwards, tilting slightly, exposing its dark, pipe-lined underside. He was still wondering what this was all about. He fully realized that he was dreaming, the occurrences of this moment being much too absurd than anything that would happen in the real world. Realization suddenly dawned on him, the insight crashing down upon him like that sudden halt of the bus.

THE DATE!” he cried, the forest branches crackling with the departure of nesting birds at the sound of his exclamation. In an instant, the leaves of the tree branches gained their weight in metal, slamming to the ground like bullets hailing down from the sky. James too, falling along with the leaves, had lost all of the jovial weightlessness he’d had before, and terror and frightened agony spread across his body. At the moment that he was about to meet his fate at the bottom of the leaf-littered soil, he shuddered awake, jolting suddenly up from his seat, into a straight sitting position.

The bus was still as full as he remembered it as before, and the driver seat mirror, thankfully, showed the grouchy-eyed driver fully focused on the road. Recalling the cause of his roused dream-state, he swiftly pulled out his phone, checking the time, gladly realizing that the time displayed a bright 9:58. He quickly whetted his wit, sending a text to Margaret explaining that he would arrive later than expected, and that he would explain it all when he got to the cafe. Margaret seemed unusually understanding about this, and expressed that she would also be a bit late as well. This truly melted away James’ fears, knowing that he was not the only one at fault.

Fully reassured, but intending to stay awake for the remainder of the bus ride, James straightened his posture, and grabbed his pair of earbuds from his leather bag. He snuggled them inside his ears and turned some music on, at a reasonably high volume, hoping that it would keep him awake. Pondering the two exquisitely vivid dreams that he had had that day, and how long the most recent one seemed to be compared to the time which passed through his physical reality, a new appreciation was gained. An appreciation of perception, he had derived, as his mind warped his sense of time and being into unknown but captivating lands and domains. Had the flow of time and the stance of reality around him warped as his imagination fiddled with them like clay? Surely not, he presumed, as the perception of an eye, looking at his physical body from an outside point of view would have perceived time in their own sort of way, constant to their own interpretation, and possibly along with others. He pondered these notions for a while, and realized that his stop was not far ahead. As the bus skidded to a stop, James removed his earbuds and placed them back in his bag, and walked through the aisle, recalling the emptiness of it that he had imagined in his dream, and the joys he’d experienced in his own headspace.

He walked down the stairs leading to the bus stop nearest to Quixote’s and spotted Margaret, who was hastily applying bits of lipstick onto her mouth in her car, parked not too far from where the stop was. James gave a slight grin and sigh of relief, and approached her car, tapping lightly on the window. Startled, Margaret quickly turned her head towards the knock, only to give a slight blush realizing who it

“You’re late,” Margaret teased, cracking the door open and emerging out of her seat.

“And what about you?” James replied with a coy smile. Margaret gave him a slight shove as they both walked towards the entrance of the cafe.

“Your hair’s all rumpled up, what happened to you? Took your time to get here, I assume?” James glanced at Margaret, who was expectantly waiting for a response.

“You couldn’t have dreamt of it.” James replied as they both entered the cafe, and clocks indicated the time of 10:13 AM.

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