This story is by Faith Garcia and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I awake to the foul smell of rotten food and my neighbors yelling yet again. I lean over to grab my phone and knock a half-full bottle of alcohol over from last night. Crap! I pick up the bottle and set it on a book next to my bed. I didn’t even know I owned a book. I look at the puddle of alcohol and sigh, what a waste. I roll back over in bed and look at my phone. The screen is cracked making it difficult to see. Squinting I make out the numbers ten, twenty-seven. No, no, no, It can’t be 10:27! My interview is at 11:00 and on the other side of town, I can’t believe I slept through my alarm! I jump out of bed and grab the first pair of jeans I see.
Now I just need a shirt, preferably one without stains on it. I look across my room and see a pile of clothes on the floor next to some old Chinese food. I pull a black T-shirt out and hold it up to my nose, this will be good enough. I throw the shirt on and grab the hoodie I wore last night. I hurry out of my apartment and down a flight of stairs. I don’t bother to lock the door behind me, I don’t have anything worth stealing anyway.
“Good morning Rogers,” I say to a man smoking a cigarette on the staircase. He’s lived under my apartment since I moved into this dump.
“Good morning Logan,” he replies with a cough. I push through a rusted metal door at the bottom of the stairs and into the rain. I pull my hood up over my head of curly hair and start running towards the grocery store for my interview. I glance down at my phone, now it’s 10:36, that means I have twenty-four minutes to… Suddenly I hear a loud car horn blare and lose my thought process. I look up from my phone and see the bright lights of a car and before I know it my body is being thrown up into the air. I land flat onto my back and feel a sharp pain in my head. The last thing I see before darkness is the stormy gray clouds.
I open my eyes and look all around me in shock. I’m standing in the pouring rain in the middle of a field. How the hell did I get here? I was just on my way to… Oh no! Am I dead? I squint into the rain and see a city out in the distance. This doesn’t seem right, I imagined death would be a lot less… wet. Maybe this is a dream?
I shout at the top of my lungs, “stop!” Suddenly all the rain stops mid-air, droplets float all around me as if someone hit pause on a video. How is this possible? I poke one of the droplets in front of me and like a wave crashing on the shore of a beach, all the droplets fall from the sky at once. Woah, okay that was cool! I wonder what else I can do?
I look at the city again and then close my eyes when I reopen them I’m standing in the middle of the street. This looks exactly like Centerville, my apartment building is about three blocks from here. I’m definitely not going back there again.
Sitting on top of the tallest building I observe the world before me. The world I’ve created. I have no idea how long I’ve been here, days, weeks, years? Time is kinda a blur, day and night come as I please. If I wanted to I could make it so there was never a day again and live in complete darkness. I look down at my once faded tattoos, now perfectly inked into my skin. I’ve added a few more since I’ve been here. Ones I’ve always wanted but never had the money to get. It’s crazy how much I can do with my imagination. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t woken up yet, but part of me feels like it’s my choice. I get to decide when and if this all ends. I’ve already done so much and the possibilities are endless.
I hop down from the top of the building, the feeling of falling so far is something I haven’t gotten used to. I always expect my body to splat on the ground like a bug being squashed but every time I land safely on my feet. I walk down an old alley for a little while and then spot a woman in the distance. What the heck, I haven’t seen a person in here yet. She kinda looks like Janie, that can’t be right.
“Hey! Who are you?” I call out but I get no answer. She turns the corner and I chase after her. “Wait! How’d you get here?” I turn the corner and see her standing in the street. She turns around and looks at me. It is Janie!
“How’d you get here!” I walk up to her but she doesn’t move or respond to me. “You can talk to me,” I say gently, maybe she doesn’t understand what’s going on.
“What would you like me to say?” She responds with an odd lack of emotion. Why is she speaking like that?
“Janie, what’s going on, are you okay?”
Blankly she says, “I’m perfectly fine Logan. How are you.” Of course, she isn’t real, she’s just a part of my dream. I walk away from her without saying another word.
I’m so stupid, why would I assume she’s real? Nothing here is real. This is a world based on my memories and imagination. What’s the point in any of it if it doesn’t count for something. What’s the point of being able to do anything if it doesn’t actually affect someone. It’s so much easier to be here. To not have to worry about where I’m gonna sleep at night or when I’ll eat next, but what’s the point in living in a carefree world if you don’t get to share it? Well, it’s not like I would have anyone to share it with in the first place. I was just as alone in the real world as I am here. The only difference was that the real world still had the potential for a real relationship with someone. Here people are only my imagination. Janie in reality never wanted anything to do with me, no one did. Here I could make her love me, we could be together but it would all be pointless. I need to wake up. Life was hell while I was awake but at least it was real. It may not have been much, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. I can turn my life around in time, I hope.
I open my eyes and find myself sitting in a hospital bed. Sitting in a chair next to me is Janie snoring. Her head rested in one hand and the other in mine. Her beautiful red hair draped across her face in a curtain of curls. What is she doing here? I thought she didn’t want anything to do with me. I tighten my hand in hers and feel a sense of calm rush over me. Janie pops her head up and rubs her eyes.
“Hey, you’re awake.” She says gently.
“What are you doing here?” I say quietly, my voice is raspier than I expected and it catches me off guard.
“I got a call saying you were in the hospital. I came to check on you.”
“Thank you… I’m not sure what to say,”
“Rest for now, I’m gonna go let a nurse know you woke up.” Janie rises from her chair and heads for the door.
“Wait, how long have I been out?”
“Not long, I’ll be back in a second and we can talk more if you want,” she says with a smile. I smile back at her and then she disappears through the door. I’m surprised she came to check on me, I’m honestly surprised anyone did. Maybe I’m not as alone as I thought I was.