Beneath the Surface

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Featured Review on this writing by SimonClemens

This is about that time you woke up from a lucid dream, but you could have swore it was real.

Beneath the Surface

 

“Tonight on Dateline.  It’s been over six months now and millions of people across the country have been reporting the same thing.  They have been meeting a man in their dreams and in a blind study each person has said that this man has been known to converse with them in great detail.  And, each person we’ve interviewed that encountered this man in their dreams has said that he tries to sell them products.  More on this wild topic when we come back.”

Cooper switched off the television with the dermal chip in his forearm.  He sat back in a worn recliner with a huff.  He stared at the stark, black television screen with a puzzled look.

“Hey, Coop, want to help me with dinner?”  Cooper’s wife, Marlena, asked standing in the doorway of the living room. 

Cooper continued to stare.

“Cooper!”  Marlena shouted.

“What, what?”  He came to attention

“Are you okay?” She asked.

“Yeah”.  He paused. “You know those news headlines about people having dreams about some old guy?”

“Please don’t tell me you are having them, too.”  She giggled.

“Unfortunately, yes.  I had that dream last night.”

She gave him a tired look.  “Coop, if I have to hear any more about these stupid dream stories.  Even my mother is claiming she had one.  And, she’s a compulsive liar.”

“Hey, scout’s honor.”  He held his hand over his heart.

She sat on the couch next to the recliner Cooper was sitting in.  “Go on.” 

Cooper sat back in his chair thankful that she obliged.  “Well, it’s odd.  In my dream I was in the office sitting at my desk.  Everything was precisely as it should be.  Your photo pinned to my cubical.  Some souvenirs from my business trips.  The water cooler a few feet away.  Marilyn staring at me with a thousand hatreds as usual.  All the detail was there.  The only anomaly was the old man.”

Marlena fiddled with her dermal chip poking at the freshly inflamed skin splotch over the top.  “Is that it?”  She said half-interested.

“I wish it was.  But, what happened was the old man comes by my desk pushing a cart.  Kind of like a mail cart, but more like a trolley on an airplane that has all the snacks and stuff.  But, on the cart he had only one item; Outback Chewing Gum.  All flavors.  The cart was extremely organized, too.  As if this was a pitch to sell a Mercedes.  He rolled up to my desk with his cart and said:

Excuse me, sir.  I see you are partaking in some Winterfresh.  But, can I temp you in trying a flavorful stick of Outback’s Wallaby Wintergreen?”

“He held out a stick of gum.  Both his hands were covered with clean, white gloves.  He unwrapped the stick of gum without touching the gum stick itself, and smiled.  Cooper paused.  “He was the most wholesome, inviting type of guy.  He was like a grandpa or an uncle that you loved seeing on the holidays.  And, the funny thing was I didn’t realize I was chewing gum until he pointed it out.”

The old man continued.  “Why don’t you spit that old thing out and give this a try.  Those packs from the vending machine taste rough after only a short time.”

“What did he look like?”  Marlena asked.  She finally quit poking at her dermal chip implant as her interest grew.

“He had a white beard and white hair.  And a crumby pair of gold-rimmed glasses.  He was kind of thin.  Average height.  Wore those khaki-colored Dockers and a red polo that had his name embroidered in gold in the upper left.”  Cooper Paused.  “Well, that’s what I remember after waking up, anyway.”

“What was his name?”  Marlena asked.

“Wendington Shee.”  He paused.  “Or, was it…Wendleton Shep?  The name was incredibly clear until I woke up.”

“Those definitely sound like dream names.”  She laughed.  “They fit the persona, though, oddly enough.”  She said.  “So, what happened next?”  Marlena’s attention was now more focused on Cooper.

“Well, I spit out my Winterfresh and took the stick of Wallaby Wintergreen from his hand.  I put it in my mouth, started chewing, and then I woke up.”

“That was anti-climactic.”  She laughed.

Cooper went silent and stared back at the blank television screen.

“The strangest thing about it is that everything in dreams isn’t real.  But I did a google search on Outback Chewing Gum and I found out that it’s a real product.”  Cooper said.

“You’re kidding?  I’ve never heard of it.”  She said.  “Are you sure you hadn’t seen an ad on TV for it or something?  Maybe that’s why you had the dream?  Like a sort of subconscious thing.”

“Nope.”  Cooper said with certainty.  “And, it’s only available in Australia.  The brand launched in early two-thousand twenty-five.  Only a year ago.”

He continued.

“And, even stranger is that after I woke up I had memories of my childhood come back to me of my dad offering me sticks of Outback gum.  Like it was the only gum I chewed as a kid.  Even traded flavors with friends and bartered two sticks of Juicy Fruit for a stick of Outback’s Marsupial Mint” He said.

“Interesting story, babe.”  She patted Cooper on the leg as she got up to walk to the kitchen.  “Could you give me a hand with dinner, please?”  Marlena said.

“Yeah, sure.”  Cooper snapped out of his stupor.

Marlena stood in the kitchen reaffixing her apron.  “By the way, don’t you have a business trip in Australia next month?”  She asked.

On the way to the kitchen, Cooper stopped in his tracks.

----------------------------------------

Two hours after landing in Sydney, Cooper stopped at the local street vendor outside his company’s high-rise and purchased three packs of Outback’s Wallaby Wintergreen chewing gum and a newspaper.  He wanted to be fresh for the board meeting so he shoved two sticks of gum in his mouth and made his way to the elevator.

After sitting through his first three-hour meeting, Cooper sat at the back of the board room fiddling with his laptop.  Robert Duncan, a board member, approached Cooper with coffee cup in hand. 

“Are you staving off some sort of addiction, Cooper?”  Robert chuckled into his coffee cup.

Cooper looked up at him and stopped chewing.  The wad of gum was packed tightly on the inside of his cheek.  He looked down at a pile of gum wrappers stacked neatly on the board-room table.

 “Uh…no, no.  I just found out about this gum.  It’s just so refreshing.”  He continued to chew.  “Would you like a stick?  I got a few left.”  Cooper extended his hand with a green foil-wrapped stick of gum.

“No, Coop.  Thank you, though.”  Robert’s puzzled look faded as he turned his attention toward Cooper’s arm.  “Well, I see you’ve taken the plunge.”  Robert pointed at the dermal chip embedded in Cooper’s right arm.

Cooper tapped lightly on his forearm.  “Yeah, this thing is really handy.  I use it with my television all the time.”

Robert chuckled.  “Is that all you use it for?”  He rolled his eyes.  “Crazy Wendle Shea.  What an invention that old man hath wrought on this world.”  He took another sip from his coffee cup and stared out the window at the city.

“Who?”  Cooper asked.

“That’s who invented and developed the Arcus chip.”  Robert said.  “Look him up.”  Robert pointed at Cooper’s laptop as he turned to walk away.  “He’s all over the web these days.”  Robert quickly adjourned to the men’s room.

Cooper pulled up a search on his laptop with key words ‘Wendle’ and ‘Shea’.  Search results returned hundreds of hits on an old man with the same name.  An interview began when Cooper clicked on a video link named ‘This is going viral!  Must watch before they take it down!’.

“We are here with Wendle Shea.  The creator of the Arcus chip.  He’s been named ‘Man of the Decade’ by Time Magazine and he’s here to discuss the technology behind his invention with us.”

The camera panned left to an old man in a powered wheel chair.  “Wendle, thank you for being here.  We’re all excited to hear about the origins of your creation”

The old man nodded toward the host and then looked directly at the camera.

The old man spoke calmly at first.  “Everyone watching; please, listen to me.”  He paused.  “Remove the chip.  Do it if you want your lives back.”  The old man then spoke louder at the camera.  “They have no right to be in your head!  No right to be in your dreams!”

Before the old man could finish, several men in suits took him off set.  The video ended shortly after. 

Cooper nearly choked on his wad of gum as he realized the man in the video was the same man he saw in his dreams.  The warm, welcoming, old man from his dream that offered him a stick of Outback Wallaby Wintergreen chewing gum.

-------------------------------

Marlena sat on a bench in Central Park reading a book as a man approached her.  He brandished a small cart that had an assortment of magazines stacked neatly on top along with samples of colorful silk flowers.  Marlena’s eyes met his as she pulled her attention away from her book.  She found it strange that the man was wearing all black.  The only thing striking about him was his gold-rimmed glasses and snowy white hair and beard.  “Hi, Marlena.”  The old man looked sorrowful as he spoke.  “I’m so sorry for your loss.”  He handed her a catalog titled ‘Afterlife Amenities’ On the cover of the catalog were caskets in different styles and stains with assortments of flower arrangements.  He also offered her a small pamphlet on the grieving process provided by ‘Afterlife Amenities’ Before Marlena could say anything, a cell phone rang loudly.  The old man pointed to his pocket, “Excuse me, I have to take this.”

------------------------------

Marlena woke from a lucid dream to her cell phone ringing atop her night stand.  When she answered she was informed by the head of a crisis task force that Cooper’s return flight from Sydney had gone down somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.  Marlena’s breath left her body.  She used her dermal chip to turn on the news as she foraged the apartment for her jacket.


Submitted: January 18, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Ryan K. Mallegni. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:

Comments

AdamCarlton

Would sure be useful fighting any pandemics might be around...

Engrossing read!

Tue, January 19th, 2021 8:32am

Author
Reply

Adam, thanks for taking the time to read! I'm glad you liked this. Oddly enough, this was a dream I had and felt that it needed to be on paper.

Tue, January 19th, 2021 7:33am

SimonClemens

Punchy and tightly focused as all short stories should be.

Thu, January 21st, 2021 4:19pm

Author
Reply

Simon, thanks for reading!

Thu, January 21st, 2021 8:44am

Ruelynn

Teach me, oh great one! This is beautiful. Attention keeping, you get into the characters right away. The plot, even though it's partially something you've seen before, it's done in a fresh way. It reads like a story and TV show. How beautiful. So fun, I'm looking forward to more. I tend to be busy, but I'll make more time to read

Tue, February 2nd, 2021 8:37pm

Author
Reply

Ruelynn, thanks so much for the feedback and kind words! This was a story that was quite different than anything I've written before. It was a fun one.

Tue, February 2nd, 2021 12:47pm

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