Passive Aggressive

Story Illustration by Yutaka Houlette



-Christina Lengyel

            On tonight’s “Twitter Trending” segment, we’re asking how you slept last night.  If you’re one of the 5 million Americans who tweeted about nightmares today, Channel 3 offers our sympathy.  From UFO sightings to mass bird deaths, we’ve certainly seen tweets fuel the fire, but this particular phenomenon has a lot of people talking about the end times.  We’re speaking live via satellite with nightmare expert, director Wes Craven.  Wes, how do you react to these kinds of coincidences?

            It took a few days for the lucid dreamers to realize that the gates separating them from the collective had been broken open.  It took about a week after that to get organized.  It only took a night’s work to create mass hysteria.

            He went to sleep without thinking of her.  He did not notice that her scent lingered on the pillow beside him, a strange blend of patchouli and Dior J’Adore.  He did not know or care if she was crying somewhere else.  He simply slept.

The room is full of smoke.  He is on his hands and knees, but there is no relief.  He chokes and wretches and looks for the source or a door.  He finds neither.  A phone rings.  It’s an old rotary phone, the kind he hasn’t had or seen in years.  “Help me!”

“Hello?  Is this Jake?  I can’t believe you would call me right now.”

“Amber, Amber, please.  The house is on fire.”

“I’m sorry, who is this?  Did you get the baby out of the freezer?”

The line goes dead.  He crawls desperately.  He has a sense of urgency.  He has to find the freezer.  He has to get the baby.  Now he’s in the kitchen.  There is no smoke there.  He looks in the oven, but there is no baby.  The baby is not in the dishwasher or the cabinet or the refrigerator.  The baby is in the freezer.  He opens it and begins tossing the human heads that are blocking his view.  They are expressionless.  They have young faces, like his.  They are not severed, just disembodied.  They do not make a sound aside from the dull thud and occasional crack as they skid across the parquet floor behind him.  He can hear the baby wailing as he gets closer.  He finds the snake and puts it lovingly under his shirt.  He has to warm the baby.  It stops wailing.  It coils under the thin white fabric of his t-shirt.  He thinks that Amber will kill him.  He does not remember when they started speaking again.  “I’m so sorry, baby.”  He pulls a stool up to the island.  The kitchen never had an island before.  No, he was in his best friend from fourth grade’s kitchen.  He remembers he is supposed to peel his nails off today.  The sound bothers the baby, and he feels its fangs sinking into his chest.  A throbbing pain courses through his arm.

Amber had good technique.  She rolled over, stretched a tattooed arm above her head and placed a hand on her empty middle.  She cried herself back to sleep.

            Last night, we were the first to report on the Nightmare Epidemic.  This morning, we’re bringing you minute to minute updates on the outbreak of strange behavior in Los Angeles.  While unexpected downpours have been soaking the city since early this morning, angry Angelinos have been undeterred.  Vandalism and looting are rampant in neighborhoods like Beverly Hills and Larchmont and as far north as Encino.  One witness, Rachel Cohen of Westwood, claims to have seen a pick-up being driven by a group of men with shotguns on Rodeo Drive.  She also reported having dreamt of a flood.

            Excuse me.  My producer has just notified me that our L.A. affiliate station is being picketed by a group with the simple message, “Learn to swim.”  Very strange, Todd.  City officials claim that they are doing everything within their power to calm the current situation, but they remain tight-lipped about the growing Nightmare Epidemic.  Whether the two are connected remains unclear, but many are speculating that the unsettling sleep problems are a factor in the riots.

            Once the lucid dreamers realized the collective was powerful enough to change the weather, they bolstered their forces.  They made an agenda.  They gave themselves a name.  They laid quiet in waking.  They did not know how long the gates would stay open.

            She went to sleep thinking about the numbers.  She did not think about the people in the waiting room or the people in the morgue.  She thought only of the numbers.  Her husband snored loudly beside her.  Earlier, they had laughed about the nightmares.

She is walking through the emergency entrance to the hospital.  Her pulse beats in her head like a war drum.  There are no patients.  There are no doctors or nurses in the waiting room.  There is no soothing music or blaring intercom.  Angie in reception’s face seems to be blank—not expressionless—without eyes, a nose, a mouth—featureless, and she notices for the first time how very bad Angie’s color is, how very pale.  She looks at the clock and tries to check her racing pulse as she stumbles closer to the triage desk.  The secondhand moves slowly, and she counts fifteen heavy thuds in her chest before it passes to the next notch.  “I’m in V-tach.  I need a defibrillator,” she gasps as she falls onto the floor.

She is in her husband’s office.  Rolls of blueprints are everywhere.  She wonders how long it has been since he tidied up.  She wonders how long it will be before she dies.  “Jerry, Jerry, please,” she wails.  He appears above her, his jaw squared tightly.  “Honey, I’m leaving my body.”  He makes no reply.  There is a hammer in his hand.  There is nothing in his hand.  There are drumsticks in his hand.  There is nothing in his hand.  There’s a T-square in his hand.  Rain begins to pour down from the ceiling.

“You know, I really should have gotten the roof fixed when you asked me to.  Now all the sandwiches will be ruined,” he says.  She gasps and flails and screeches.  Words aren’t coming anymore.  She can see herself, her pupils fully dilated, her fist clenching and unclenching, her hips writhing back and forth against the faded Persian rug.  She can hear breath drawing violently in, like the sound of a toilet being plunged.  She is dying now.  She is certain of it.  “Honey, you’re a real bitch, you know that?  I mean, you’ve really changed.”

She did not wake up.  Jerry woke up.  He was not surprised to feel the sweat that had seeped into his side of the sheets while his wife wriggled beside him.  He was not surprised that she was not breathing.  He tried to hide the sound of satisfaction in his voice as he spoke with the 9-1-1 operator.  He finally had his chance to live without her.

            The mayor of Los Angeles has just announced that they are making plans to evacuate the city as flash flooding becomes increasingly more dangerous.  If you have loved ones in the L.A. area, please see the FEMA website for further information.  We have been assured that there will be no danger posed to those who leave promptly.

            In other news, hospitals across the country are overflowing with patients as the Nightmare Epidemic continues.  Some are claiming that many patients are being declined in order to deal with those who seem to have sustained significant injury during the night.  Adding to the chaos, County’s own head administrator, Dr. Sarah Rogers, died of a fatal heart attack early this morning.

            There’s still no word from the president on these matters, but other government officials have assured us that they are doing everything they can to deal with the current situation.  No one seems to be willing to give details until there is a feasible explanation for the incidents.  In an editorial in the New York Times, the former Speaker of the House has speculated that top government officials are struggling personally with the effects of the Epidemic, about which we expect to hear an address from the White House no later than tomorrow afternoon.

            Many nightmare sufferers have begun referring to themselves as “targets” and claim that a terrorist group is behind the Epidemic.  Medical doctors, psychologists, and dream researchers have refuted the possibility but have yet to offer an alternative explanation.  We now take you live to Todd Baxter who is speaking with witnesses on 2nd Ave. downtown.

            “I’m standing here today with Mr. Ronald Fisher, owner of Fisher’s Pubhouse.  Mr. Fisher, you claim you’re a ‘target.’”

            “Yes, sir.  I was having this awful nightmare.  There was a giant fly and it was picking me up with its sticky legs, and it gave me a message to tell everyone.”

            “A giant fly?  Fascinating.  And what message did it give you?”

            “It said, ‘We are the Dreamers’ Liberation Front, and we will not rest until justice is served.’  Then it said something about bars and TV and guns and health care and some other liberal nonsense.  I don’t remember it too well, but the point was that if the people and its government did not meet those demands, this problem was going to continue.”

            “Well, there you have it, Tina, straight from the fly’s mouth.  Thank you for your time, Mr. Fisher.”

            “Thank you, Todd.  And to all your viewers, if you’re scared, why not come and relax with a beer down at Fisher’s?  Half off you-call-its till bedtime.”

            Well believe it or not, FEMA seems to agree with Mr. Fisher’s advice.  Until they find a solution, they are recommending that citizens try to avoid excessive thought as they are unsure of its effect on this mental Epidemic.  Stay tuned to Channel 3 for more live updates and government instruction.

            Lucid dreamers from other parts of the world wanted to get involved.  The Organization was reluctant.  They needed scapegoats.  They declined the offer, but they began to orchestrate a plan for the termination of their work.  They encouraged the foreigners to take action in their own countries and prepare for the finale.

            He went to sleep with the weight of the world on his mind.  He went to sleep sure that the world would not be there when he woke.  His mind raced through drafts.  He did not want to sleep for long.  He set the alarm on his phone for every fifteen minutes throughout the night and promised himself he would wake up by 5:00AM.

He sees nothing.  He is dreaming of darkness, cold, overpowering darkness.  He feels pressure all around him, though, in this moment, there is no him; there is only the sensation he had as a boy when he spent countless math classes imagining what it would feel like to run his teeth down the chalkboard.  Terrible chills vibrate through the empty space.

A single light appears in the center of the nothing.  It feels like a vacuum, pressure increasing by the moment, but he—his consciousness—moves no closer to it.  He can see his hands now.  They are shaking and covered in liver spots that were not there before.  They are numb—not in way that would suggest a low temperature—in a way that felt as if he was losing all circulation.  He is overcome with the feeling of powerlessness.  A shrill voice seems to come from the light in the center of his vision, but he cannot make out the words.  He feels certain that he is being given an ultimatum.

He is standing in a garden.  The sun is calm and unconcealed, like a plump Valencia orange.  He thinks he’d like to eat it, and he reaches for it.  As he puts his hand around it, it disappears, and he is back in the void.

“You should not be so quick to dismiss us,” says a spider who has rode her silk in rapid descent, coming to rest in front of his chin.  He can feel her hot breath on his skin.  He touches his face, as if to wipe away the sickening tingling sensation, and the rough edge of his 5 o’clock shadow scrapes against his palm.  He looks down at his fingers, now covered in thick blood.  The smell of sulfur is all around him.

“I need to know who you are.  I need to know what you want,” he stutters.

“Respect.  Change.  Peace.”  Her voice heightens into a sound almost like a baby’s coo.  He thinks of his mother.  He wonders where she is.

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because nothing else has worked.”  She is matter-of-fact.  She is laughing.  She is gone.  He sees his mother from the corner of his eye.  No matter how far he turns, she stays in the periphery.

He flew back to life at the sound of his alarm.  It had only been fifteen minutes.  He got up in search of coffee and decided he could go without sleep for one more night.  Natalie would not miss him in the dream.  She loved being a spider.  She had been perfecting her efforts at being an arachnid since she learned how to become lucid.  In the deciding trials the day before, she had been elected ambassador, the cleanest, the most versatile.  She rolled over easily in her single bed and relinquished control.

            We are coming to you live with an address from the President of the United States.  As the chaos continues, a lot of people are wondering if the President himself has been a target of the DLO.  Other government officials have remained tight-lipped about whether or not they have been affected by the Nightmare Epidemic, and there is no word yet on how the attackers are achieving these effects.  Millions of Americans are currently stuck in their homes, wide-eyed, sleepless, and praying for relief.  We hear at Channel 3 are with you.  Now, live from the White House, the President.

            “My fellow Americans, take heart!  I am speaking to you today with a message of hope and resolve.  We cannot and will not allow the events of this week to break our stride.  Everyone in every agency and office is doing everything they can to calm the current situation, but we can’t do it alone.  Today I’m asking you to be brave, to report any suspicious activity you may see, and to stay strong.  We are currently recommending that Americans sleep as little as possible.  We are unsure if there is a biological or chemical agent that is allowing these nightmares to manifest.  No matter how unfamiliar the territory, it is clear that our thoughts as a nation are impacting these events, so please do everything you can to stay positive.  Help a neighbor get to the store.  Spend time with your family.  Read your favorite book, and say your favorite prayer.  Sing your favorite song.  I can assure you that I and other officials are safe.  We have put our nation’s best on the job of defending against these attacks.  This DLO, whoever it may be, cannot achieve success if we stand together and guard our minds.  I give you my word that I will tell you everything I can as I receive more information about the Epidemic.  Now, I am handing it over to the new Secretary of Consciousness for further questions.  God bless America.”

            Well, there you have it.  It doesn’t seem like there is much new information out there, but at least we can be sure that the president is safe, albeit tired.

            They went to sleep, some with terror in their hearts, others with excitement.  They went to sleep in America.  They went to sleep in Morocco, in Hungary, in Dubai, in Peru, in Finland.  They went to sleep in the desert, on the ocean, and in the mountains.  They went to sleep beside lovers, and they went to sleep alone.  They went to sleep in broad daylight and in the darkest hour.  They were answering the call of their people, following the lullabies.  There was power in numbers, and this was their best shot.

They see a deep green field of shifting lights.  They see each other, all six billion or more of them at once.  They see babies and junkies, princes and wise old grandmothers.  They see themselves.  They hear an indefinable sound that reminds them each of something different.  Some think of rain, others rivers, others wind.  They see a silver mist above it all, filling them with a sense of peace.  One by one, a thousand insects descend out of the mist.  They coalesce.  They whisper.  They are a single spider.  When they have stayed there in quiet for a full revolution of the earth, she says, “Keep this.”

























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