Aphelion Issue 252, Volume 24
July 2020
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Forgotten Nightmare

by Charles Moulton

We were lightyears away now, grey skies a reality, government properties guarding us, faceless guards locking us up, music playing though black loudspeakers that was no music at all, created only to cause the listener to deteriorate. Art that consisted of steel constructions spitting paint upon randomly selected canvases. Planet upon planet filled with dictator aliens from the suns of Proxima Centauri using us humans as live bait in their game of eternal hide and seek. Earthlings who chose to escape into their dream machines. Factory upon factory with people just passing the time, making stuff no one needed or used.
They told us the Earth was a dying planet, destroyed by nuclear war, but there were rumors, stories about one safe haven, untouched and far away from Hell. They caressed us colonized workers into dying, whispering, cackling, smiling, nodding ourselves into misery.

“Sunday,” it read in silver letters on the white surface on my kitchen screen. “Mashed potatoes with synthesized meat. Plastic Jell-O with Paper Cream.”

Synthetic meat. Artificial potatoes. Robotic sauce.

My gaze lifted solemnly and granted me a look at my wife, the only person left over from Earth that meant anything to me. The only woman worth living for.

The intercom overhead produced a humorless voice telling a short, unfunny joke followed by a solemn crackle that echoed out between our aluminium walls.

The voice aimed to soothe us, but all it did was threaten us to a slow death.

There was a short pause.

“We are working with your human governments in order to create a New Earth,” the neutralized voice of the alien boss spoke through our apartment loudspeaker. “It is being cleaned up as we speak, the bombs are being dismantled, Mars is being terraformed, you will soon return and will be able to choose from a variety of planets available for colonization.”

I looked down at my steel table, my aluminium floor, my plastic kitchen, my cliché workman’s clothes, living a grey life, wearing clothes the aliens thought we humans should wear. Was this my future? I looked back at my wife, wanting her, needing her. She was in another world. The real world, but reality scared me.

The dreams were safe.

“Turn yourself off,” I told her, looking at her washing the dishes. “Join me in my fake world. We will live in American Suburbia in a clean world, drinking Root Beer and watching the Cubs win World Series. Hogwash reality. All the beer you can drink, all the burgers you can eat. Who cares if it’s fake? We’ll be happy.”

She said nothing. All she did was wash the dishes, dishes that had been washed a million times before, dishes nobody ever used.

"I want to go back to my dream, Kayleigh," I moaned, holding my virtual goggles.

She raised her hands, a tear falling down her cheek.

“Huh?” she sang in a long, druglike moan.

“I want to take a nap in my dream machine,” I crooned with a sad hint of haunted hope

shivering in my spirit. “You want to join me? Let them plant the chip into your brain, so that we can live together again in our dream world. It’s fake, but, damn it, it’s more fun than this.”

Kayleigh blinked, her worried glance pleading for me to wait and not fall asleep just yet. A resigned puppydog plea. Her ladylike graceful clothing, decorated by a useless 50’s style apron never used, the only thing left over in an otherwise lost life living in the underworld. Her sudden confusion seemed absolutely out of tune with her beauty. Like two flutes playing badly composed melodies on weird instruments, emoting impossibly perverse quarter tones. An alien world forced upon a tired soul.

“Stop bugging me with that dream shit,” she hollared, crying even more.

“It’s the only thing we can do,” I screamed back, banging my fist against the steel table. “The dreams are the only thing worth living for, damn it. The only thing that remotely resembles a life at all.”

She grabbed the shoulder-length locks of her conformed alien hairdo, for one moment overcome by the ever recurring jab of guilt, and groaned:

“I should’ve listen to my father. He told me they were coming. He told me there was still time. He told me and I didn’t listen.”

My wife looked out the window, sighed, looking at the uniform landscape.

She was thinking the same thing she always thought, I knew it.

“I want to go back to Earth, Josh,” she moaned, slumping over, with me in body but not really with me in mind. “No more aliens. No more terraforming. No more artificial sunshine, no more artificial dreams. No more identical homes.”

She sat up, suddenly alert, provocative.

“Forget it,” I mumbled. “In my dreams, life is perfect.”

She turned to me and snapped:

“You're spending more time in your dream world than with me. That’s the reason why I never had one of those things planted inside me. I wish they had not planted that chip into your brain. I choose my boredom, Josh. At least it’s safe.”

I looked at her, the wheels in my head turning. I thought of the people I knew in my dreams, people stored into my chip. Kayleigh looked out through the fog onto the high government building beyond the settlement.

“The space folder back in the alien government building,” she whispered.

“What about it?”

“Your ID-card from the plant,” she whispered. “It’s in my pocket.”

“It’s Sunday,” I responded.

“Exactly,” she answered me. “Nobody is there. It’s the perfect oppurtunity to split.”

“Kayleigh, no way ...”

“Baby?” she crooned. “Please.”

I sighed, shivered at the thought of breaking the rules.

“Darling?” she spat, leaning over toward me again. “The trip will only take us ten minutes through the galactic slipstream, but we’ll end up in the Polynesian zone. In reality, Kayleigh. On Earth, on our own planet.”

“We could end up sick,” I answered, “imprisoned or dead. If they catch us, we will spend the rest of eternity in deep freeze. Let’s just dream. That’s safe. Have that chip planted into your brain. Please.”

“That’s what you want, Josh,” she screamed again. “Damn it, you’re in that dream world all the time. You’ve fucking given up. If you’re not trying this, I’m jumping out the window.”

She cried, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“Kayleigh ...”

I reached over and caressed my wife’s face.

“Honey,” I said. “Come on.”

“Josh, please,” she whispered, grabbing my face and crying. “This is not a life.”

I looked up, laughing sadly.

“It isn’t, is it?” she sighed.

She shook her head, squeaking something resembling a negative response.

“That old Rock Hudson and Doris Day-movie of your dream makes me barf.”

I realized how much I loved her and that I might lose her if at least I didn’t try.

One spark of lust is all it took and soon, the kiss became a cuddle. Within a minute, we at it like rabbits, bending the aluminium floor again, sweating and crazy perverts dancing the bone-breaking mambo.

Ten minutes later, the grey factories were still there, sniggering at us, smiling, crap-barfing sardonic wit upon our broken hearts.

Reeking of sex, we stood up, in unison this time, forgetting our safety protocols and our constant surveillance machines planted into our brains.

“I’m scared,” I whispered.

“We have to give it a try,” she pleaded.

One look is all it took. One look, one mutual understanding.

One dream of going back home to reality.

“Okay,” I nodded, “but hold me.”

“I will.”

No guard waited in front of our domestic apartment building and the road to the plant had no speed vehicle whizzing by.

Acid rain fell on us. Even that damn soot that came from the coal factory made us look like chimney sweepers. If we still knew what they looked like, that is.

Half way there, I thought I would fall, my head spinning, my stomach grinding and turning, those mashed potatoes turning my intestines into a battlefield of morphine attacked chemistry.

Kayleigh got me into the space folder. I don't know how, but she did.

Tht machine hummed at us, growled, spat, giving us the benefit of the doubt, wondering why we were trying this again.

How we flew through that galactic slipstream. How we laughed when we landed in Polynesia. How we smiled when we saw the beach, the sun, our sun. Our fellow humans.

This was not the world we remembered.

Pirates, criminals, convicts, thieves, murderers, mutants, zombies, all raging, fighting, screaming, killing each other for food or realizing that they could only survive if they ate each other. Cannibals, we were among cannibals.

The machine stopped humming, its groan-like wheeze dying down and leaving us in the back-room of the plant again.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “We never left.”

“The acid rain, the slipstream, the arrival on Earth. Our homecoming. Our ...”

“No,” I said, reassuringly. “Look.”

And from inside the light beyond the plant, I saw a ten foot alien grab my wife by her right arm and pull her into the dream factory.

I did what I had done a million times by now. I ran.

“Kayleigh,” I bellowed. “Let them plant the dream chip into your brain and we can be together forever in our dreams. We can’t go on like this. The dreams are our only hope.”

“Never,” she shouted. “There has to be a chance that we can escape this planet and go back home.”

Soon enough, I found myself running through the acid rain again, watching them extract her memories and put her back in our kitchen.

So I forced myself to sit down by our kitchen table again, like a million times before.

“I want to go back to my dream, Kayleigh,” I moaned.

“Huh?” she sang in a long, druglike moan.

“You want to join me?”

Kayleigh looked up at me.

The ten foot alien now returned, holding a fresh dream chip in his hand.


© 2019 Charles Moulton

Bio: Charles E.J. Moulton has been a stage performer since age eleven, growing up triligually as the son of opera singer Gun Kronzell and actor, author, singer and playwright Herbert Eyre Moulton. He has 138 productions, 700 concerts, 16 books, 165 published pieces to his credit and is a chorus master, drama- and vocal coach and the editor-in-chief of the theme-based, bimonthly journal “The Creativity Webzine.” He is a steadily working actor, opera-, jazz- and pop-singer and an Elvis-impersonator. He has also worked as a tourguide and as a translator. He is married and has a daughter.

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