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The Blank Space

Yawning...

By Meredith HarmonPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 8 min read
Top Story - June 2024
Boom!

I woke up screaming, and my pillow was sopping with tears.

It happened again. A horrible, terrifying nightmare, that faded as soon as my eyes opened.

And I couldn't remember even a single second of it.

Craaaaaap.

The ones I don't remember, can't remember, no matter how hard I try to bring them back - those are the ones that come true.

My dreams are full color, with sight and sound and scent just like they are in reality. Only a few things are different – I can't kill anyone, for instance, even if they deserve it. I can be collecting guns and weapons and yet if I pull one on a bad guy, now it's my finger and I'm going all bang bang, no really you're dead, I said bang bang, just lie down you'll be dead in a minute. No, seriously, you're dead.

Ugh. I'm babbling to keep myself from the rising panic.

All I have left is a lingering scent. Sweet-ish, kinda, but ashy, and it sticks in the back of my throat like an impending sense of doom.

I think I know what that is. But I've never smelled it in reality. But I know, I know, what that is. They say the akashic records don't exist, but how do I know? How do I know?

Panic. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, from my own mind.

I need a good, strong cup of tea. With a shot or two or something stronger.

And I can feel my teeth chattering on the rim of the cup.

This is bad, this is real bad.

Normally, I can get over them. A bad dream I can't remember? Something bad will happen in the future, I get it, there's nothing I can do to stop it, just be prepared when things go sideways. I can do that. Usually shocking deaths, I'm the one to pick up the pieces.

But multiple nights in a row? This is beyond anything I've ever had to deal with.

I wondered who. What. Where. Multiples? All questions, no answers.

I stared unseeing at the cereal box. Finally it swam into focus, and my stomach made its usual complaint. Life goes on, and there was a job to do, and food to eat. I sighed and poured a bowl.

But that hole wouldn't go away. It grew, like the scientists tell us real black holes do. And it grew bigger, and bigger, and reached out to pull more into it, expanding its event horizon, drawing my brain matter into it, sucking it into a dark singularity at the edge of reason and madness-

Come on, pull yourself together! This freaking yourself out is not helping!

Yeah, you tell that to my synapses. That tea didn't even take off the edge of the terror.

Nibbling at the edges...

Stop it! Go to work. And calm yourself, you have a two-ton vehicle to operate safely on those death traps that others call “roads.”

Death traps...

Stop it!

I don't remember the morning commute. I don't recall the morning standup meeting. I can't think of anything I said or did during the day, but by lunchtime, everyone was giving me a wide berth.

My boss gently suggested that I take the rest of the day off when he saw five empty coffee cups lined up in front of me like crumpled tired soldiers.

They had tasted like coffee creamer and ash.

Words, blah blah concern about my driving home blah blah maybe take a taxi blah blah.

Wait. It's Friday, right? A random thought swims to the surface, around that yawning crack in the universe that has me squeaking internally in abject horror.

I have an invitation!

I have a way out that will help everyone, including myself.

My vehicle is safe enough in the underground parking lot at the office. I have a colleague who lives about two blocks from the stadium, and can see into it from his high rise. He loves throwing parties, and peering at the spectacle of whatever's going on in there.

I have a standing invite. I pulled his prodigious tushie out of a bad PR and HR situation many moons ago, in a job far far away. I took great pleasure in escorting the harridan that accused him of serious nastiness right to the nice police officers waiting to take over the investigation, with a stack of proof of his innocence. Last I checked, she's still doing time; this wasn't her first false accusation rodeo.

I got that taxi, and texted if I could come early and help set up.

I must say, a deliciously thin wagyu steak was waiting for me when I arrived. No, I was not allowed to “help.” I was installed in a comfy chair, food and drink within easy reach, with a perfect view of the stadium.

Hunh, this view looks familiar...

Don't you even start! I have a steak and two margaritas in me, the charcuterie board's looking real fine, and I've had enough insomnia to last the rest of my life! I'm going to enjoy this afternoon!

Stay away from the melon balls...

Where the bleep did that come from?

The black hole was suspiciously silent, so I went back to enjoying myself. And ignoring it. Nothing like having a part of your own brain being shirty with you, because you're turning a blind eye to it.

Third eye.

It's weird in my head.

I was on my fourth sampler of the exotic cheeses when another facet of my weird dreams finally overshadowed the black hole. Remember how I can't kill anyone in my dreams? I can't die, either! I always wake up before the very last minute, pulse racing, heart pounding, adrenaline shooting through me because I had just put on that burst of speed to get away from the vampire. Or serial killer, or assassin. But I always wake up.

And I woke up.

So what am I afraid of?

The black hole seemed to shrink to nothingness, and I felt limp with relief.

I think I can put it behind me now.

Still, stay away from the melon balls. Just avoid the whole fruit salad, okay?

Whatever.

I settled in to my so-comfy seat to enjoy the show. What are we watching tonight, anyway?

Oh, well, okay, I guess. Reality challenge shows aren't my thing, and these “hosts” are worse than that DonkeyButt crew, you know who I mean. These morons aren't afraid of lawsuits or of contestants getting hurt. The ratings, they claim, and the blood, make for better viewing.

At least other shows pretend to have scruples, you know? Not this one, there had been broken bones and stuff. One person was still in a coma, and the lawsuits were dragging on. They could afford to pay for that poor slob's care for decades out of the residuals. Ugh.

With one more margarita, I focused on the challenge game they were playing. Question and answer was the first part, like a speed round, to see how many minutes ahead you could be from the other challengers. These questions were dead easy, so I was answering them as soon as they were asked. I was surprised that some were stumping the contestants. Oh, my host also had it streaming live on his huge screen TV, so it wasn't a stretch for everyone else to play along. I vaguely heard answers ricochet off the insides of my mind from fellow partiers, shouted into the spaces between beers.

I was deep into the game when one of the guests loudly asked me, “Um, how do you know the answers before the questions are being asked? On a live show?”

Hunh?

Oh, snap!

And the black hole was back, growing, reaching out...

I wasn't dreaming.

And everything was way, waaaay too familiar.

And the dream-film spooled out this time, and I could see it all happening, in real time, in front of me...

I tried bursting out of the chair, but the blanket and comfiness now fought against me. I struggled, and people just stared. I garbled something about running, get out, get away! But they didn't understand, and I wasn't going to wait, couldn't wait, panic, got to get moving!

I ran.

The streets were still filled with people and cars. Gridlock for miles around the stadium, in all directions. A giant tailgate party for a stupid show. I picked a direction that was away from the madness, and took off.

Not sprinting. This was going to be bad soon, very soon, so I paced myself, though my brain was screaming, gibbering, move move move!

I told you not to eat the melon balls! Want a pit stop now, don't you?

Shut. Up.

I ran.

There were radios a-plenty bawling out the show taking place in the arena, and those contestants that were left from the first round moved on to wiring, which if done right, was supposed to unlock something something round three.

A giant flammable liquid bomb, under the whole complex...

I ran.

Round three of hot wiring cars and driving them around, or over, the challengers, while the losers of previous rounds cheered them on from iron cages that trapped them when they lost. Oh, sure, they were always let out at the end, eventually, after a few more humiliating tasks to prove to small-minded people that they were well and truly beaten.

Hot-wiring an explosive detonator...

Brain still screaming, heart pounding, so much adrenaline, vision narrowed to the pavement in front of me, the contest blaring from every audio-visual orifice...

Boom, boom, boom, boom!

Not funny!

I kept running.

Final round...

Use those mad hot wiring skills you just learned to prevent the bomb from going off! Ha ha, yeah, that tanker in the background of every shot with our faces on it? Yeah, that's filled with fuel, you can defuse before it goes off, ha ha, can the losers get out of the cages before time?? Can you get out of the stadium?! Can the packed audience stand the excitement?!?

And the dirigible that actually held the hosts drifted away from the stadium, downriver.

I ran. I ran, I ran, I ran.

Ha... ha?

Panic. Timer beeping. Some people fleeing the stadium, coming up against locked gates.

Winners abandoning the task, leaving the caged losers screaming in terror.

Someone cutting the wrong wire. The timer speeds up.

Beep.

Beep.

Boom!

I felt the ripple of the pavement long before the sudden ground shift caused me to stumble. And I picked myself up, bruised, bleeding, people running, abandoning cars, shrill screaming, alarms, cars honking, and a roar taking over all the sound, blocking out the stadium, consuming the buildings downtown, friends gone, orange billowing, an arcing lash of yellow ripping the dirigible out of the sky, skeleton exposed, cover gone, crumpling, falling into a sea of coruscating fire, a blood-red plasma sheet rushing towards me-

I need to wake up.

Boom! Ha ha! Boom!

I need to wake up.

Whee!!

I need to wake up.

Feet per second...

I need to wake up.

The sweet ashy taste. It was coming, but I wouldn't be here to react to it.

I need to wake up...

fiction

About the Creator

Meredith Harmon

Mix equal parts anthropologist, biologist, geologist, and artisan, stir and heat in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, sprinkle with a heaping pile of odd life experiences. Half-baked.

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Comments (9)

  • Sian N. Clutton9 days ago

    Blimey. I have a horrible feeling that she wasn't dreaming that time... This was a brilliant read. You're an excellent writer and honestly, quite funny.

  • Congratulations on having your story featured as a top story on Vocal! This is a remarkable achievement, and it's clear why your work has received such recognition. Your storytelling is truly exceptional. The narrative was not only compelling but also beautifully crafted, holding my attention from start to finish. The way you developed the characters and plot was masterful, making the story both engaging and thought-provoking. Your unique voice and perspective shine through, setting your work apart. It’s evident that you poured a lot of passion and effort into this piece, and it has certainly paid off. I look forward to reading more of your incredible stories in the future. Keep up the fantastic work! Best regards, Dr. Jay

  • Caroline Janeabout a month ago

    Ooof! This is intense! I need a stiff drink after that read. Really well.done!

  • Ameer Bibiabout a month ago

    Quite interesting story It was a worth read Congratulations on TS

  • Jane Kattabout a month ago

    Awesome!

  • TahimaAniabout a month ago

    good 👍

  • Muhammad Safdarabout a month ago

    Well written.

  • Margaret Brennanabout a month ago

    omg. this sounds so much like ptsd. what a story!! I really hope it isn't true.

  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    You had me at "Stay away from the melon balls..." Ha!

Meredith HarmonWritten by Meredith Harmon

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