My eyes are closed but I know where I am. I am at the top of my favorite hill, a seaside cliff of dreams. Any moment now, I will hear the cries of gulls circling overhead and that is when I will lift my eyelids and see what I already know is there.
Someone will be waiting for me here, someone always is, but I'm in no particular hurry to find out who is here today. For now, I'm content to listen. I hear nothing, not even the sound of waves breaking on the shore far below. This worries me. Perhaps I am not where I think I am.
I take a few steps forward before I realize that my eyes are still shut. If I am at the peak of a cliff, I had better open them before I start stumbling around.
Even in dreams, accidents can happen, I think, and am immediately struck with the thought that I am probably wrong. Dreams may be the only place where accidents never happen.
I take a look around.
Something has changed and there is no one here to explain it. The large rocks at the top, which , until now, have always been spotted with lichens and punctuated with small, hardy shrubs, are barren. At my feet, I see a familar path cut into the stone but there is no sign of life, no tufts of grass sprouting in the cracks, no birds above, nothing.
"Well?", I call out. The word doesn't echo off the stones, it simply leaves my mouth and drops into nothingness. My eyes track the imagined descent of that syllable and are led to the small, secluded beach far, far below me. The sand should be starkly white against the dark grey stone, but it isn't. I can't distinguish the point where the ocean ends and the land begins. The endless stretch of water- which should be bright blue- is as dark and motionless as the boulders lining the nearby path.
This sucks, I complain to myself, I will have to walk all the way to the bottom alone, with no one to talk to. Until this visit, I have always had a guide in this place- a character from a book or TV show, a favored pet, a stranger- but there is no one here.
I decide against walking. I take a running start and leap off the cliff's edge. Despite the changes, this is my place and in this place gravity obeys me, not the other way around. I'll glide gently to the surface below and find out what has happened to the beach.
I fall fast and hard, landing in a reeking pile of dead fish. The smell and the impact leave me breathless for a moment, all I can do is lay there, looking up at the clifftop I have plunged from.
Wow. That's a hell of a jump. I should be dead. It's a good thing these fish broke my fall.
I peer more closely at my heap of lifeless benefactors. At first glance they look like black flounder; flat with two eyes at the top of the skull but as I gaze at them, I notice that they have triangular bodies and long, trailing fins resembling those of angelfish. Their skin is smooth, scale-less and transparent, their bodies are swollen with thick black liquid. What I had first thought were eyes are actually lesions, horrific, pustulent boils full of dark poison- these transparent fish are eyeless, blind and diseased. They look like they were meant to live in a leper colony deep underground.
Their bodies litter the narrow beach- it's why I couldn't see the sand from the clifftop. Did the tide leave them here?
No. There isn't any tide. The ocean is flat, black and silent, not even a ripple disturbing the opaque surface. I don't know what the dark liquid is, but the color matches the fluid inside the surrounding fish. They have drowned in this quiet, deadly sea.
This needs to be cleaned up, I decide. I have power here. With a single thought, I can transform these stinking fish into helium balloons and they will float away into the sky. Watch.
I don't want to be here anymore. I have visited this place a dozen times or more but I have never felt trapped before. I will myself to wake up.Nothing happens. I control the local gravity. I can fly here. I should be able to float back to the top of the cliff.
I start feeling panic. I need to return to the top even if it means walking the entire distance. As I walk, my steps cause the bloated fish underfoot to rupture and spill, the black death inside them pulls at my feet like quicksand, making each succesive stride more difficult than the one before.
This is going to be a long walk.
Finally, I reach the bottom of the cliff. The upward path should begin here but it doesn't. There is nothing in front of me but cold, vertical stone. Again, I try to wake up and fail. I'm stuck here.
I feel despair filling me and I suddenly know what killed the fish and murdered the ocean.
I could use a little help here, I think desperately, I have reached the end of my rope.
Rope? There is a thick, braided yellow rope hanging directly in front of me.
From above, I hear a woman's voice.
"Dude. I spent all day tying knots in that thing. The least you could do is climb it."
I don't know what to say so I say nothing as I climb. It doesn't take long for me to reach a good-sized ledge about halfway up the steep, rocky wall. There is a house built into the cliffside,a large, surprisingly solid structure. I recognize it but the doors are gone- the rope has been lowered out of a window, but it is not open wide enough for me to crawl through- it feels good to be off of the beach but it would be better if I were inside.
I peer through the window, looking for assistance and see a large white screen mounted on the opposite wall. It flickers slightly but there is no sign of life inside the house.
"Hold on.I'm busy back here. I'll be out in a second."
"Whew! Thank God...hey,I see you got a plasma TV. That's pretty awesome."
"Don't watch that.It's broken. Just hang on."
The TV screen shifts into bright blue, then yellow, finally settling into a steady image.
"Hey, is this thing connected to your computer? It's showing email...now something is downloading...do you trust this unknown sender?"
"Do I what?", asks the voice, sounding annoyed.
"I'm just reading what it says on the screen. The download is almost complete."
"Damn you, I told you not to look at that. It's broken. Stop."
I disobey and watch through the window as the screen changes and the email background becomes a highway map.
"Hey. This is a map with directions to your house. They left out the part about the cliffs and ocean though."
"I TOLD YOU IT WAS BROKEN", the voice replies in cold anger. The rope, which I had been idly holding onto, writhes and jerks out of my hand, snaking it's way through the window and vanishing into a shadowy corridor. The window, untouched, slams shut.
Denied, I rest my back against the wall of the doorless home and cry myself awake.