Saturday, September 30, 2006
But just to sneak in a toehold for a September blog entry on the last day of the month, here's a story in progress that I started this morning. It's an idea that struck me as funny when I woke up this morning, playing with some afterlife cliches and expressing a side of me that doesn't want to come back from dreamland. But my wife and I went to see "Science of Sleep" tonite, the new Michel Gondry movie about a guy who sleepwalks and messes up his life by confusing reality with dreams, and it wasn't very appealing to not focus appropriately in the present reality. Let's be here now, as the old hippie would say, whether here is physical waking life, or another reality, or semi-lucid dreams where physical laws aren't so important. I always get so worried in dreams about things falling, spilling, breaking, etc. I remember once in a dream I attended a meeting at my job, and my guide was there, and she was saying Carl, it's just a dream, you don't have to be so serious about this meeting. And I said to her shhhh, I'm trying to hear what their saying and take notes, let's talk about your ideas about dreams later. Ironic, isn't it!
a short story by Carl Schroeder, copyright 9/30/2006, all rights reserved
I fell off the ladder and hit my head. My last thought in my body was, thank God, I’ll never have to clean the gutters again.
Then I woke up on a charming village green. In fact, the grass was fabulously green, really gorgeous. My head didn’t hurt, and neither did my lumbago. Praise the Lord, I thought. It’s about time.
But where was the welcoming committee? I surveyed the quaint houses around the New England coastal square, all dressed in delightful matching pastels. The sun sparkled on the sea down the hill. Marigolds in more happy hues than were ever seen on Earth radiated outward from a central monument erected to the memory of the Unknown Human, and a flag fluttered on a flagpole to announce my arrival to somewhere pleasant in a combination of inspirational symbols. I thought I could make out a peace sign, an om sign, a fish, a ying yang, a smiley face, and a mastercard globe. But I couldn’t be sure about the om sign.
There’s supposed to be a welcoming committee, I yelled telepathically. A bird fell out of a tree, then scurried off. Other than that, there was no sign of life.
I spied a post office at the end of the square, so I headed over there.
I knew I was in the right place when I got inside. There was no line and all the free shipping materials were fully stocked. I couldn’t help picking over the fold-up boxes and noticing there were additional sizes, including some that migtht be perfect for my dvds and assorted media. I panicked for a moment to wonder if I would ever see them again. But of course I would, I assured myself. At least my favorites anyway, that’s the whole point of this place.
“Can I help you?”
I stepped up smartly with a big grin on my face to the matronly postal clerk.
“Hello,” I said cheerfully. “I’ve just arrived, and I must say I’m so happy to be here. I’ll be expecting all the amenities with none of the drawbacks. This new body feels great and the town is lovely, so we’re off to a good start. But I seem to have missed the welcoming committee.”
“Son, you’re not dead. You need to go back.”
I was horrified. “Oh no, there must be some mistake. I fell off a ten foot ladder while working on the house. Judging by the thud I’d say I hit a rock. So I must be dead.”
She put on her glasses and leaned toward me to examine my lapel.
“Nope, just what I thought. Insufficient postage honey, I can’t send you on.”
I put my hands together and pleaded. “No, you don’t understand. It’s a jungle back there. It’s all corporatized and productized, I can’t take it anymore. Commuting and vacuuming and microwaving dinners and shredding junk mail. If I go back and still have to clean the gutters, I’ll… I’ll shoot myself.”
“No you won’t, you’re not the type. Pay for someone to clean them for you, and next year try an extruded gutter replacement. My great great great grand children swear by them.”
Then she grabbed a big Return to Sender stamp off the shelf, inked it up good, and came around the counter at me. I ran as fast as I could on my new legs out the door.
I didn’t stop til I got to the other side of the square, where I saw a quiet little gas station. I darted inside to look for the attendant on duty. But I couldn’t find anyone, until finally a mechanic called out from under a car in the service area.
I stopped to catch my breath, until I realized that I didn’t need to. This new body was great!
“Hi. I’m looking for uh, someone in charge? Like a tunnel of light or something?”
“Sure, drive to the edge of town, assess your beliefs and values, then hit the gas. Any direction, it doesn’t matter.”
I paused. “But I don’t have a car.”
The mechanic rolled out to look at me.
“Oh, a tourist. Okay well, the bus stop is at the end of the block. I don’t know your return schedule though, it depends on which group you’re from.”
I didn’t like the implication in that. “Oh no I’m from here now, I'm not going back. Just this morning I fell off a ten foot ladder and hit my head and died. My welcoming committee just hasn’t found me yet, so I'm a little disoriented.”
He wiped the grease off his hands and got up to squint and study me closer. “That so. Well, you’re not one of my group, so I can’t help further, sorry.”
Then he got back under the car to continue his work. I was about to ask him something when he started banging metal on metal, so I gave up and walked out.
NOTE: ...where to go? Some kind of twist to make him want to go back would be nice.