Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Outlook (06/02/11)
TITLE: Night Visions
By Michael Throne
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I get confused, sometimes. It’s a condition I have. I can’t tell my dreams from reality.
I climb off the bed and get my daughter some water.
I’m swimming in debt. I’d taken out a second on my house to pay for my BMW and then the housing market fell. I’ve maxed out my credit cards. I owe Sears a bundle on all my new stainless steel appliances. Bill collectors have given up their ineffective attempts of calling and are now, quite literally, camping out on my lawn like jackals, waiting for their prey.
I edge near the window in a cold sweat. For the life of me, the black thing on the lawn does look like a man, or even a jackal in the dark. And in truth, I am underwater on my mortgages.
But the rest, I just don’t know. Honestly, I don’t even like stainless.
Stress makes my condition worse.
We’ve fallen. We were the mightiest nation on earth, but greed and reckless, irresponsible politicians along with the people who elected them have driven the country into a nightmare of debt and destabilization; our currency is worthless and our economy is in the middle of the deepest, darkest depression of its existence.
I get out of bed and open the front door, uncertain. The neighborhood seems the same, though three or four foreclosed properties are in wretched disrepair and, of course, the Martins hardly ever do mow their lawn.
I don’t know. I think I’m dreaming, but it’s so hard to tell when reality is so utterly shocking.
I go back to bed.
I hear him calling out. A man in the street is pulling a wagon and I hear him calling out, “Fifty silver pieces for a loaf of bread, thirty silver pieces for a pint of oil.” It’s the middle of the night, but I hear his voice and then see him out my window. And people are lining up to buy.
My daughter looks up at me.
“I’m hungry,” she says, and for the life of me, I can’t remember if we have any food in the house.
I’m afraid I’m losing my mind.
Everything is back to normal. The president’s stimulus plan has finally kicked in and QE3 did the trick. Unemployment fell to seven percent, then six; inflation dropped back down to single digits. The economy is finally looking up. I shudder and breathe sigh of relief. Life is good.
When I open my curtains, my heart sinks.
My neighbor’s houses are boarded up; the street’s in a state of disrepair and the only cars to be seen are smashed up clunkers.
I pinch myself, trying to wake up; I try slapping my face again and again, until my daughter finally reaches up and holds my arm.
I can’t believe this is happening.
“Nothing ever happens until it does,” she says.
A light flashes across the sky and smashes into the ocean; a mushroom cloud forms the size of a mountain. A third of the seas become wormwood, a third of the birds fall, a third of the fish die.
I grab my daughter’s hand and start running. Out of our house, down the block, out of the neighborhood. Cars are backed up like a giant metal caterpillar crawling slowly out of town, but all we can do is run, breathlessly, feebly, pointlessly, run.
Nuclear fallout spreads like snow and I don’t know where to go.
“Am I asleep?” I ask, and my daughter shakes her head.
I wake in my lawn chair sitting next to my unreliable daughter who is quite reliable except when I’m asleep. I stare up at the clear blue sky which isn’t actually blue, but rather a red pastel, almost a maroon.
It’s been that way for months.
“How long do we have?” my daughter asks and I laugh because no one knows.
But just then a firelight streaks across God’s darkened sky and my daughter’s shaking me, shaking me.
“Daddy, wake up,” she says, but I’m not sure I want to.
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