Football season’s over.
My new blue pen scratches on to the first line of the first page of my new notebook. Why is that line so familiar? The opening sentence of Hunter S Thompson’s suicide note, of course. I scribble over it, half out of respect for the dead, and half out of my fear of coming across as derivative.
I am standing on a bleacher, overlooking the high school football field.
Little old ladies are laying out their sagging cakes on foldable tables.
I observe farm hands strategically placing bales of hay. Makeshift seating.
I imagine the hay sticking into the back of my thighs. The same feeling as when I lost my virginity in a friend’s hay shed and ended up picking dried grass from my undies all night.
That was a long repressed memory.
Although it’s spring, it’s a grey day and the metallic chill of the bleachers shoots up my spine.
Over a squashed cheese sandwich, I wonder why I am in America. I wonder why I am reporting on a mid-West town fair.
After a while, people begin to filter onto the football field. I weave between the stalls, peering at homemade quince pastes and Christmas decorations made from sticks foraged by children. I pretend to make notes and nod approvingly at hopeful stallholders.
One of those quaint husband and wife duos start playing some folk tunes on the guitar and harmonica. The man’s harmonica is not in tune with the guitar. It’s cacophony.
I shudder, but no one else seems to notice.
There is always something so terribly menacing about these wholesome community events. Something that I can’t quite put my finger on. It reminds me of those weird Soviet theme parks. It’s mindless, manufactured distraction.
I lean against the goal post when my phone rings. On the other end is a familiar man’s voice. My editor. I have never met him, but I imagine his face to be much like that of David Duchovny.
It’s funny how your expectations of people’s faces never quite work out. It’s like finding out that that radio voice of crushed velvet is coming out of someone not unlike Danny Devito.
He asks me the usual editorial questions: How is it going? Many people there? Is it as fucking boring as I imagine it to be? And I reply with the usual cynical answers when I hear an unmistakeable noise.
It washes over me and now there’s a buzz in my ears.
I remember when my brother built his own gun and out of curiosity. After hitting a few targets, he shot himself in the hand. I just wanted to see what it felt like. I stood watching at the window agape as the hot lead lodged itself into his skin and he remained calm, despite the blood. He threatened to shoot me if I ever dobbed him in to Mum. I never told her. And she never noticed how Jack could barely use his hand for over a year. The bullet is still in his hand, you know. He beat the infection himself somehow.
I drop my phone and run into a bush. I peer out and a can see a boy, no more than 17, wielding a semi-automatic hunting rifle.
The illogical, unfeeling part of my brain wonders if David Duchovny on the other line somehow lined this up as a favour. You know, to boost my rather uninspiring career in journalism. From town fair to mid-West mass shooting in two minutes.
And then I see a kid, about six, running to his mother. The shooter zooms in on the child and shoots him in the back. He falls down right in front of me and the mother screams. I want to scream but my most basic instincts keep me silent.
This can’t be real.
It doesn’t make any sense. Why am I in America? How did I get here?
I don’t even know what town this is.
But the sensations are real. There are screams and shots and screams and shots and the iron scent of blood entwines with the chilly air and the gunpowder to form the odour of war.
I can hear a distant, high-pitched beeping. It’s not a car and it’s not an emergency alarm, but it gets closer and louder.
The shooter notices the beeping coming from my bush. His eyes lock with mine so I run, but the beeping follows me.
I feel heat radiating from my shoulder deep into my chest. I fall to the grass behind a donut stand. There’s another woman laying there too, most likely dead.
I still hear this beeping, but the sound is being distorted by the pain.
How did I get here?
I remember that I have to be at work back in Melbourne.
I need to call them. I need to tell them I’ve been shot. My mind is racing.
I close my eyes and open them again – they are filled with sunshine nothing like that of the frosty mid-West.
I am in a bed. My bed. I’m at my house.
It’s 8.40. I need to be at work in twenty minutes.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
My heart is throbbing to the rhythm of my morning alarm.
I wrote this dark piece of fiction in response to my previous post Writing from the Dreamscape. It is based on a dream I had a few weeks ago that really disturbed me. I wanted to play with the idea of writing dreams into my fictional pieces. This is my first attempt at blurring the lines between reality and very vivid dreams.
Have you had any dreams recently that you have written/would like to write about? Let me know in the comments below.