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Couch Cushion by the Side of the Road: A Fever Dream

Short story By: Alan Dale Dalby
Literary fiction



Not so much a story as a fever dream brought on by a cold and cold medications, inspired by listening to Alan Parsons Project's musical take on The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether while staring off into space and going off of the first line that popped into my head. Hope you enjoy it for whatever it is!


Submitted:May 13, 2011    Reads: 60    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


Couch Cushion on the Side of the Road

A Fever Dream

By

Alan Dale Dalby

Finding myself of the mind that I had none at all, I felt it only right for the sake of my wellbeing that I remedy this unfortunate situation as quickly as possible.

This led me to Professor Fauntleroy of the University of Unsanity which is located in his father's basement brine distillery.

Pickling things is a hobby I have never quite understood myself. I could see the merit in performing such a task in order to preserve an egg or two, perhaps morsels of pigs feet, even the odd carnival sideshow attraction (though for my money formaldehyde would seem much more effective in keeping a two-headed naked mole rat from wasting away - not that I would ever want to be an authority on such things).

"I've come to a discovery that has kept me in very good spirits old friend." The Professor spoke this to my ear quite close, not in any form of pleasant whisper but rather a sharp ping of his scratchy voice.

"Please do exuberate." The Professor forgave my language, or misuse of it, for he was well informed long before you yourself were that I indeed had no mind of working order at all.

"Well you see old friend, the process of pickling has evolved by leaps and bounds over the years that I have been in study and practice it and I had a thought the other day that I might delve deeply into an experimental phase in which I use the brine of which is mine own design and recipe for something entirely different than just pickling various things left and right."

"What have you found to use your brine for then?" I asked as he began to demonstrate. The Professor produced a syringe and tore it from its packaging, letting the trash fall to the floor without a care for the state of cleanliness his father was so accustomed to in his brine cellar.

"I take the wonderful liquid you see, like so," said the Professor as he plunged the needle on the end of his syringe into the rubber stopper on the top of a small bottle meant for holding sterile water, but instead held his father's own personal recipe for brine. He filled the syringe to the last milliliter and set the bottle down. "I then inject the generous portion into my bloodstream like so."

"But to what porpoise old friend?" I asked.

"It is quite simple; so simple that I am shocked, unhinged at the seams, and even mildly off-put to think that it has in fact never before been thought of."

I was lost in the haze that was my lack of clairvoyance. I found that watching a man inject himself with brine as he spoke around but not of the reason for doing such a thing did nothing for my present state of mind, which was as I have said before, nonexistent.

"Please Professor Fauntleroy; my conception of your expiration is faltering. Though to be clear, I am not entirely certain that you have expired your reasons to me at all."

"It is simplicity itself old friend. The lost city of El Dorado bound within the confines of the deepest depths of the Bermuda Triangle…and I alone have found it. It is Avalon!"

My lack of mind found itself spinning.

"I inject myself with the brine thrice daily you see, for I have put much thought to it and the answer seems very clear. Preservation is the function of the liquid. The key it seems to holding one thing in place, as it is and will never be again if time has its wicked way with it…but if time cannot touch it then the thing shall never wilt."

"You speak of a thing yet inspect yourself with that needle full of brine. Pray tell me Professor, even if it is not what I wish to hear; are you the thing in question which is now being preserved?"

"He has it ladies and gentlemen!" The Professor announced with jubilance. He clapped and spun around and kissed me on the cheek. "Eternal youth and life are now a thing of the present my old friend, not the future, and what an amazing present they are for me to give to this world."

"I just can't bring myself to think such a thing could be so my dear Professor."

"Well of course you can't my old friend. You haven't half a mind to. In fact you have no mind at all at the present."

"That is why I came to see you if I recall correctly. Though this news of eternal life has piqued my ingest I must say."

"Well had you a mind you could stop slobbering such ill-used words all over the floor of this fine cellar and join me in my celebration with a toast!" With that said the Professor took from a nearby shelf a small jar and handed it my way. "Take back your mind, well preserved in the precise moment of thought that it was in when you gave it to me, and then you will better understand what we are celebrating."

"It is a bit soggy isn't it?" I felt my features scrunch inward upon my face as I pulled forth my mind from the jar, for the stink of the brine had never sat very well with me.

"It has been well flavored as it has sat waiting for your return, though I should not suggest that you put that fact to the test old friend…for a mind is a terrible thing to taste!"

His laughter changed in my ear as I returned my mind to myself and myself to my mind. I think, and still do to this very day as I recall this tale, that this joke made far more sense to my mindless self. As I regained my full senses and processed my thoughts I ceased my echoed chortles.

"I think I should not have come here today dear Professor, nor should I have come tomorrow, or the next day, or ever again at all."

"Ah, yes…the revelation has hit you I see. Did you forget why you left your mind with me in the first place?"

"I had forgotten that I had left it to be pickled at all, let alone why."

"Yes indeed, yours was a case most unfortunate but we can only live and learn."

"Will the memory ever leave me Professor?"

"At this juncture you ask me that?" The Professor snorted. "It is preserved forever exactly where you left it my dear friend. That is the rub."

"It rubs me the wrong way I must admit." I peered into the deep abyss of salty liquid that had frozen my darkest memory in place and frowned at my thoughts as they flooded me.

"But you can now truly understand my great accomplishments can you not?"

"Oh my yes my dear Professor. Eternal life and youth are quite rare indeed. You surely must be congratulated."

"I propose that you propose a toast to my honor dear friend." The Professor winked at me and danced off into another part of the cellar. I took my place by his old silver toaster and waited.

"Will it be pumpkin bread, or marble rye?"

"Potato for God's sake!" The Professor was quite firm on this key point.

"Very well then dear Professor," I stuffed two slices of freshly staled bread into the old appliance and watched as the inner coils began to give off a keen orange glow. The warmth of it touched my salty mind and caused my frozen memories to bubble. "I can't stand it anymore!" I cried suddenly.

"Silence dear friend lest you sour the mood!" The Professor demanded.

Silence did fall between us then, and in that silence I found time to think. My mind was drying out and my own juices fought their way through the thick brine. This all seemed like madness to me. It certainly should have seemed so long before it finally did, but belated sanity was better than eternal mania I said to my well-preserved mind, which luckily agreed.

"What on earth do you think you are doing dear friend?"

But The Professor was too little too late, and that is quite literal, for you see The Professor was indeed a man of only 2 feet and some rather exaggerated inches who just so happened to wear his watch ten seconds too slow at all times. Again it was madness, but not any kind of madness that could deter me from my mission. I had to stop it from spreading, and so I spread the thick salty brine.

I dumped it all. I pushed over the drums and the barrels, smashed the beakers and the bottles, flooding the cellar with brine, forever halting that moment and all of that madness.

Looking back on my actions I think I may have acted too much in haste, but then again I acted only within the confines of that cellar, and that cellar was within the confines of a memory. That memory was in the confines of a mind that had been held within the confines of a small jar, and all of it had simply been within the confines of a place that was not reality at all.

At least I don't think it was, but then again, I just took a bite of stale potato toast and I can tell you this; it certainly was soggy, but extremely well-preserved.





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