White glistens like the surface of the moon as far as I can see in all directions. No hills or valleys delineate space; flatness stretches to infinity. I could walk forever and still never leave.
For a time, I do walk. Am I getting anywhere? Everything’s still the same. Where is this place? Why am I here? And how?
What did I do last? Sleep. After a long, busy day, I put on my comfy-but-ugly pajamas and slipped between my sheets. I assume my head hit the pillow. I was out before it did.
Is this a dream?
It doesn’t feel like a dream. What is a dream supposed to feel like?
I don’t know, but not this. As if I am at the end of a pendulum, both light and heavy, falling and flying. It’s hard to breathe, but the gurgling burn in my lungs seems distant.
How long have I walked? If my asthma’s kicking up, perhaps I should sit. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a chair?
An armchair appears, dense, dark planks set in rigid angles rising from the white as if launched through powdered snow.
Can this place hear my thoughts? Does it exist to fulfill my wishes? How convenient.
I think of a different seat, and the single piece of furniture transforms, growing plush blue cushions and a handle to toggle it to recline.
How suspicious. I’ve read enough dystopia to know that too-perfect things only mask equal amounts of too-harsh oppression. Now that I’ve discovered the good, how long will it take me to find the evil here?
“Hours.” A man appears as if stepping out of mist. He wears green scrubs and a white coat. It’s not the same white as everything else, duller, less sparkly.
I don’t like the idea of him being able to read my mind, too. “It’ll only take me hours to find what’s wrong with this place?”
“You only have hours left. To do anything.”
“You mean”—I meet his gaze. It is like the sky on a day where the sun decided not to be ignored—“I have only hours to live. I’m about to die. How can you know that?”
“Your body knows it. Think of me as your subconscious.”
My subconscious is a doctor. Nothing weird about that. Though I probably would have gotten farther in life being a main-conscious doctor with a subconscious artist.
“Might my body be wrong? Might it be lying?”
“You can’t breathe. Can you hear your heart?”
Yes. Like war drums.
“No matter how hard it pumps, blood without oxygen is worthless. Your organs are shutting down. This space inside your mind will be the last to go, but as I said, you have only hours. This is my last gift to you, all I can give.” His eyes flash in challenge. “So what will you do?”
All my unfinished projects cascade before my eyes, creations that will never see completion now. Not unless—
“Nothing you do here will affect the outside world.”
“That’s not fair!” Hot, sticky tears dribble down my cheeks. How cliché to cry when death is imminent. I don’t want to be cliché.
My tears heed the wish and rise instead of fall. Like a halo of stars, they sparkle around my head.
“Not fair? You can do anything, no consequences. Every dream can come true, everything playing out just as you want it. Is that not a blessing?”
“But if it’s not real, what good’ll it do? It’ll just end!”
“So you’ll waste it just because it won’t last as long as you’d like?”
I glare at him. I have hours. Precious hours. Rather than count them, I should make them count. How, though? What should I do?
What would you do?
If you’re here experiencing this with me, are you any more real than the chair I conjured? Will you die with me when our hours are up?
Then I guess what I should ask is: What will you do?