You ready for the next chapter?
Yeah, me too.
Chapter 2: Read All About It
Have you ever had a dream where you knew you were dreaming and you could control it? That’s only ever happened to me once in my life, and I guess I kind of wasted it. During the summer between third and fourth grade, I had a dream that I was forced to go back to school in the middle of July. At that age, there were two things I hated – learning and socializing – and school was chockfull of both, in the same way that orphans are chockfull of sin. I realized at a very early age that video games gave me all the human interaction I needed, outside of my mother and father, who bought me new games, and my brother, whose room we kept the Nintendo in. Both of those accursed school activities kept me from my games and therefore needed to be kept to a minimum.
So you can imagine how upset I was when in the middle of the summer, I suddenly found myself in a place of learning, surrounded by smelly, whiny children. My instructor was droning on and on about the solar system or something, her scholastic ramblings a powerful neurotoxin to me. After a few moments of trying to concoct a machine that would simultaneously stab a pencil through my temple while smacking me in the head with my science book, it hit me (a realization, not my science book): I was dreaming!
“Wait a minute!” I shouted, wicked students looking up from the blackest blackboard and staring at me. “You can’t fool me! This is a dream! I’m going to wake up right now and play Super Transvestite Bros.!”
As quickly as the horror had begun, I found myself sitting straight up in my bed, the sheets so soaked with my terrified sweat that small fish had begun nesting in my blankets. I could have done anything in that dream, like fly, play video games, or, uh, fly some more, but instead, I decided to simply come back to the real world.
Now have you ever had a dream where you knew you were dreaming and you couldn’t control it? That too has only ever happened to me once in my life, and let me tell you, it was awful. It happened to me the night after the orphans had beaten me so cruelly. It was as if Satan himself had burrowed through my floorboards to stick hot pokers in my eyes while I slumbered.
Crappy dreams are nothing new to me. I’m used to having bad dreams, because I have one almost every night. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had a good dream. But the one I had that night went from being a bad dream to the worst nightmare I’ve ever had the terror of experiencing. There I was, surrounded by 100,000 miniature orphans (I know because I counted), each kicking me and jabbing me with their teeny sharpened elbows. I was completely immobilized and all I could do was scream like a little girl and wet myself with an endless supply of hot, steaming urine. Now I know how poor Gulliver must have felt as the Lilliputians tied him down, walked all over him and presumably contemplated venturing deep into his massive pantaloons.
I knew that my tiny torturers were simply figments of my subconscious. Yet, unlike the back-to-school dream of the past, I could do nothing about it but attempt to taunt the impish orphans with the fact that I was on to them and their dream-invading ways.
At first they didn’t respond. They just kept walking all over me, stopping only to poke their knife-like elbows into my quivering flesh. However, then I got a reaction I wasn’t expecting. “I know what’s going on!” I exclaimed for the 1000th time, staring at an orphan who was digging his diminutive heel into my collarbone. “I know this is a dream!”
“Ooooh, Dream Weaver!” sang the orphan, jumping up and grabbing a microphone out of thin air, “I believe you can get me through the niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!”
Now I was really confused. The orphans suddenly stopped what they were doing and all followed suit with the first singing orphan, belting out both high and low notes with vigor and vibrato. Thus began the demented orphan sing along of the greatest hits of the 80s, atop their (literally) captive audience. Instrumental accompaniment reverberated from an unknown source, and each orphan suddenly had a shiny new microphone to wail into. I didn’t know what was worse, the orphans beating me once more in my slumber or this wicked medley of 20-year-old superhits. All I could do was stare in bewilderment. After a rousing rendition of Van Halen’s “Jump,” the orphans were halfway through Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” when my eyes suddenly jetted open. I was finally back to the relative safety of my room!
I had forgotten that my clock radio alarm was set to W-ALF, the local ‘80s rock station. For the past 15 minutes it had been going off, signaling the beginning of a new day and assaulting my dreams at the very same time. I sat bolt upright and rubbed the crust and the dried blood out of my eyes.
I felt like I had been slugged by Rocky Balboa - or twice by Apollo Creed, rest his soul. Every inch of my body ached, every muscle cried out for relief. Even sitting up was an act of sheer willpower. Actually, now that I think about it, it was pretty much the same as every morning.
Although I was already behind schedule at that point, I let myself steal a few more seconds of precious idle time. Just when I was about to get up and face the day, though still not knowing how I planned to get to school without a car, my mother burst through the door. Her eyes were red and puffy and she was sniffling. At first I thought that she was coming down with a case of the Wooping SARS, and I attempted to fashion my blanket into a makeshift facemask. But as she got closer and I saw the telltale droplets on her cheeks, it became apparent what was really going on and I felt stupid for missing it. She had a newspaper in her hand, so obviously, some stinky creature, like a skunk or onions, had been living in the mailbox, so when Mom had taken the paper out and opened it to read the funnies (or the obituaries, she enjoys both equally) she jostled the thing from its nest and it sprayed her in the eyes with its crazy stink chemicals.
“Mom!” I exclaimed, jumping out of bed and rushing to her, “your eyes are leaking! Did that odious skunk-creature hurt you?”
Mom took one look at me and threw her arms around my midsection. “That stinkophile must have done a real number on her,” I thought. “She’s hugging me so hard it almost hurts.”
“Oh, it’s awful, Matt!” she sobbed.
“It’ll be all right,” I returned calmly, hugging her back. “All we need is some tomato juice for the smell and some way to replenish the strange fluid that’s leaking from your eye sockets.”
“I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you!” yelled my mother, thrusting the newspaper into my hands. As she continued squeezing me, I peeked over her shoulder and saw the page to which she had opened the paper.
“You’re upset about the Ying-Yang Gang’s latest jewel heist?” Now I know that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but I didn’t think Mom would mourn their loss like that.
“No, next to it,” returned my sobbing mother.
There, in front of me, was something that very few people see in their lifetime: I was face to face with my own obituary. Confusion hit me like a sack full of doorknobs. I knew I had slept an uncommonly long time last night, but had it been so long that my body shut down all functions permanently and I died? I hadn’t even noticed!
Quickly, I checked to see if I was still breathing. Indeed, my morning breath might have been enough to kill a healthy child or a sickly adult, but it was hardly enough to take down a healthy 22-year-old boy/man, especially when that 22-year-old was the source.
Then I thought that perhaps my heart had exploded during my tangle with the orphan marauders, but I quickly dismissed that theory because I could feel the heart in question beating so hard at the sight of my own death notice that I wondered if it somehow needed to get out of my chest and into the outside world.
The possibility that I was actually a ghost was right out of the question as well, because Mom was clearly hugging the heck out of me. If I had indeed been a specter, Mom would have fallen through me and onto the floor when she tried to embrace me, resulting in a tragic, yet dementedly comical event that would have brought a tear to the eye of even the surliest of pirates.
I had been staring at the newspaper the whole time these possibilities were bouncing around in my head, and I suddenly realized that I hadn’t yet read my own obituary. After all, only one in five people are Matt, so it could have been someone else, couldn’t it? I let out a sigh of relief. Obviously it was some other Matt, and once I could get my mother to stop freaking out, I could calmly prove it to her by showing her that it wasn’t really my obituary.
However, before I could do that, I automatically read the page heading with the newspaper name at the top, as my time spent copyediting had taught me. And that’s when the ghastly truth crept into my sleep-addled brain like a lightning bolt through a set of power lines.
The heading read “The Wappingers Falls Tribune, December 22, 2004.” Obviously, because I had failed to show up to work the previous day, my boss assumed that I had died; after all, I’ve never missed a day of work in my life, in this job or the last. As a courtesy to his not-so-late employee, he had quickly added my obituary a few hours before deadline. Ironically, since I hadn’t been there to proofread it, my obituary was full of spelling errors and punctuation mistakes. While reading it, I couldn’t help making mental notes of all the errors. I knew that after I got this whole thing straightened out, I would demand that I be allowed to fix the mistakes and re-run my obituary in the next paper, printing a correction that I really wasn’t dead in the issue after that. I also noticed that since the people at work didn’t know me very well, they had to make up a few things to finish the obituary:
Matthew, of State County, a formar emplotyee of Entertainment For Everyone and The Wappinger Falls Tribune and Homemaker entered into rezt on Tuesday, Decenbre 21, 2004,, after a long and arduous battle with Athleet’s Foot and underarm fungus. He was 22 yaers old.
teh Daughter of Jeorge Washington and Jesus H. Christ he was born in Nov. 5, 1892, in new York City, China. He was maRried to thje late Chairman Meow, the, beloved famliy pet, of 256 years.
Mathew was a graduate of Ministink Valley Middle Skool and an avid Member of the churc h of Sinners for Satan in Walden, Kitten Stompers of america, NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Lov), and foundr of www.BeattheElders.com. A verteran of WWII, he fought valiantly fro the Nazi caus and relished shoplifting from the lokal bakery. A true hobo by nature, he loved hurting childern and picking up sTrange men fromn bingo tournaments. After looseing his last bid for the presidencyt to Allen Keys, he spent much of his time poisoning dolphans and grave robbing.
Survivors inklude Richard Hatch and Boston Rob, as well as anyone who is still alivvve to read this. He was predecaesed by Gandhi, Richard Nixon, and Disco.
Services well be held as soon as we find hiz body
* * *
“My God! There are so many errors!” I screamed, horrified. “I live in Slate County, not State County!”
My mother clung to me like a barnacle, still apparently unaware of my lack of rigor mortis. All that was running through my mind was that infamous line, “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Yeah, no kidding! But even in my current shocking situation, I knew that actually uttering that infamous phrase would have been the most trite thing I could have done, as well as the fact that it would have been lost on my current… unreceptive company.
So instead, I went with the much wittier response of panicking.
“Mom! I’m not dead! I’m right here! Please look at me!” I shouted, worrying suddenly where my magazine subscriptions would be sent if I were thought to be dead.
For the first time since she came into my room that morning bearing the terrible news of my false demise, Mom let go of me. With her hands still on my shoulders, she stared into my eyes and shook her head sadly. “My poor dead son!” she sobbed, “Don’t you know that if you read it in a newspaper it must be true?”
“But Mom, I’m fine! I’m right here,” I replied frantically, putting my hands on my chest as if to illustrate my still-beating heart.
“My only son… dead!” lamented my weeping mother, ignoring me completely and using my nearby homework to dry her tears. Convincing my mother that my heart was still beating was like trying to push smoke into a bottle with a baseball bat.
“But Mom, you have two sons! Remember Ian? Your first born? I mean, he just washed your car yester-”
“Dead!” she sobbed once more.
I was beginning to notice a pattern.
Although I was positive that mother would have been very receptive to the fact that I was still alive after a few weeks of hardcore brainwashing, I knew that I had to turn my mind to other, more pressing matters.