“No, I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is that I still expect to wake up at any moment.”
Elizabeth Walsh tossed her rubber gloves into the sink and removed her apron. She hung it next to the refrigerator and wiped the sweat from her brow. Her husband, Mark, sat at the kitchen table, leaning the chair he sat in on its back legs so the front were several inches off the ground. He had a bemused grin on his handsome face and his hands on the top of his head, ruffling his dark brown hair.
“You still think this is all a dream?” he asked of his lovely strawberry-blonde wife of twelve years. “You think that you, me, our kids, they’re all a part of your dream and that none of our life here has ever happened? I mean, that’s funny, but you’re not serious, right?”
This was the point in the conversation where she had always told him that he was right, she wasn’t serious. They would then have a laugh, kiss, make love, and go to sleep. But tonight, for the first time, Elizabeth decided to press on.
“I am serious,” she said. “Serious as a heart attack. I don’t think that you or our family are real.”
Mark looked perplexed, surprised by the turn of the conversation. He had obviously been expecting the usual answer and needed a second to process this sharp left. He paused, then lowered the front of his chair to the linoleum floor.
“Babe, you’re worrying me,” he said, finally. “Are you feeling OK?”
“I feel fine,” Elizabeth answered. “More than fine. I feel fantastic. Every single day I feel fantastic. I have a wonderful house, an incredible husband, and kids that I love more than I ever thought I could love. And that can’t be the case. It doesn’t make sense. I mean, I shouldn’t wake up feeling fantastic every day. I should have bad days, grumpy and tired days, days where I just feel bloated or depressed or something. But instead, I just have the best day after the best day after the best day. That is weird, Mark.”
Her husband pondered what she was saying, his fingers now interlaced over his mouth. She always thought he looked sexy when he was deep in thought. She always thought he looked sexy when he did most things, which was another weird thing. He should annoy her more, right?
“It’s survivor’s guilt,” Mark said, finally.
“Survivor’s guilt?” laughed Elizabeth. “Yeah, OK.”
“I mean it. You feel guilty, for some reason. You feel like you don’t deserve to be happy so your happiness has to be not real. I mean, I think most people just get depressed when they have survivor’s guilt, but you’re building some sort of delusion because of it. I can’t say that I’m pleased about that, it’s…worrisome, but I’m glad that you’re sharing it with me. Now that I know you feel this way I can help you through it. Help you to understand that this, our life, is real. Our family is real and you deserve all the happiness that comes with it.”
“I don’t think it’s survivor’s guilt,” Elizabeth said. “I mean, what did I survive that other’s didn’t? Don’t you generally have to survive something where other people died to have survivor’s guilt?”
“What about the fall?” asked Mark.
“The fall? What about it? I fell alone, no one else fell with me and died.”
“But you’re not the only one who fell. You’re one of those who found safe haven, though. The thought has to weigh on you a little bit. At least, the thought has crossed my mind. I assume it has crossed yours.”
“Not even once,” answered Elizabeth. “After all, this is a dream. So the fall was- is a dream. So anyone else who fell is in that dream. So no one died. No survivor’s guilt.”
“Let’s assume that it isn’t a dream.” Elizabeth gave him a look, annoyed that he wasn’t taking her seriously. “Just for a second,” he continued, sensing her agitation. “Bear with me here. If this wasn’t a dream, would you feel bad for other people who fell and didn’t make it to safety? If this were real and not a dream, would that thought upset you?”
Elizabeth sighed. “Yes, of course it would,” she said.
“Then maybe your mind is telling you two things at once, but it’s the same thing. Maybe you feel survivor’s guilt and as a coping mechanism, your brain is also telling you that this can’t be real. In order to assuage your conscience, that is. Do you think that could possibly be the case?”
“No,” answered Elizabeth. “Not a chance.”
“Why? Why is there not a chance?” asked Mark.
Elizabeth beckoned him to follow her. He stood as she led him out of the kitchen.
“Because we have running water!” she said as they walked. “Because we have a gas water heater! Because we have electricity and a hospital where I gave birth!” They walked through the dining and living room, through the entrance door and out on to their front steps. “AND I have a handsome husband and wonderful kids, somehow.” She gestured to the dark sky. Instead of a field of shining stars above or clouds or a moon there was a blur of jagged wall zooming upwards. Light from the homes and buildings around illuminated the passage that the entire community was falling through. There were large boulders in the tunnel, dirt and stone, crystals, and all sort of sediment flying by at terminal velocity. “All while we are still falling!”
“Well, honey,” smiled Mark. “You know that our town was built by collecting falling materials over the course of many years and bringing them together until we were able to construct buildings and power lights and make medicine and da da da. You know all this. It’s been explained.”
She stared at him blankly. “That doesn’t make any sense,” she said, suppressing her anger. “It wouldn’t work. I don’t care how bottomless this pit is. That wouldn’t be possible. Not enough stuff would fall. And not all at once. And not in such a way that people could use it as they fell, too. It defies logic. And physics. And how people survive.” Her teeth were gritted, much to her surprise.
“I know it’s improbable, but here we are,” said Mark, smiling. “A happy community. Now come on inside and let’s get to bed. James has a soccer game tomorrow morning and we don’t want to be dragging for it.”
Elizabeth sighed. She wanted to wake up, but as long as she was still dreaming, might as well make the best of it. She smiled and took her husband’s hand. She walked with him back into the house. She glanced up at the pit’s walls flying by, a constant reminder of her dream-state, and entered the home, closing the door behind her. She kissed Mark and started taking off his shirt.
Thanks for reading! I haven’t decided if Elizabeth is dreaming or not, what do you think?
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