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Electric Dreams

by philerupnicely 

Posted: 27 June 2005
Word Count: 1774

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Electric Dreams

I’m falling. Fast. Far above the ground. There is the sound of screeching and commotion all around me. There are images dancing in front of my eyes that I can’t make sense of. Then there are just me, the clouds, a boy and his blob. I look at the boy, and he looks at me. He smiles.
‘Doesn’t look good for you, does it?’ he says cheerfully.
‘What do you mean?’ I ask. In answer he points to the floor, then grabs the blob, which promptly turns into an umbrella, slowing both of their falls into a gentle descent. Mine does not slow. I look to the ground and realise that it is no longer far away.

I awake to the tinny sound of cheerful music all around me. Sitting up I find myself to be in the middle of a field of some sort, looking around at a panorama quite unlike any I’ve seen. In the distance are perfectly round hills and here and there large maintenance pipes jut inexplicably through the terrain.

A plumber in red dungarees and a matching cap bounces out of the nearest pipes and trundles over to me. Seconds later a similarly attired but rather leaner plumber dressed in green follows suit. The two stand either side of me and for a moment seem content to watch me, watching them. Then one of them speaks:
‘I’m Mario,’ says, ‘and this is my brother Luigi. Who are you?’
‘I… don’t know,’ I respond hesitantly. ‘Do you know who I am?’
‘Only you can know who you are,’ Mario says, and with that he turns and, with his brother following half a step behind, bounds up and into the pipe again.

I shake my head and rub my eyes, trying to get the world to come into focus and, mysteriously, it does a little. I look around now at greener fields giving way in the middle distance to woodland and, beyond that, mountains. There are pine trees nearby, with neatly bunched coconuts in their eaves. A small monkey watches me from one, malice glinting in his narrowed eyes.

A blue figure becomes visible in the distance, approaching me at quite a rate. It is seconds before he is stood right before me, and I am amused by the familiar absurdity of him. It is a six foot tall hedgehog, covered in blue fur from head to foot apart from across his belly and mouth, which are bare. The fur stands out in long, fused spines on his back from the base of his spine to the top of his head.
‘You’re Sonic, aren’t you,’ I say.
‘That’s right, friend, but the question isn’t who I am, it’s who are you?’
‘I don’t know,’ I reply.
‘Well come with me if you want to find out!’ the hedgehog says, turning. ‘But you’ll have to keep up!’ he adds, and with that tears away as quickly as he approached.

I try to keep up but there’s no way I can match his speed. He is a blur in the distance when I break from my sprint into a steady jog, then gradually relax to a walk. A young boy is resting against a strangely round bush, dressed all in green.
‘Who are you?’ I ask.
‘I’m Link,’ the boy replies. ‘But you already knew that. What you want to know is who you are.’
‘That’s right. Who am I?’
‘I have the answer,’ he says, ‘but not to that question.’
‘What do you mean?’ I ask.
‘You’ll find out,’ the boy replies.
‘When?’ I ask, as he begins to walk around the bush.
‘When the time is right,’ he says, and is gone.

My travels for the next three days were with a Bandicoot called Crash. He and I talked of beginnings and ends but neither of us got any closer to finding my name as we wandered through the jungle. At last he turned to me and said:
‘I’m leaving you now, and you must make your own way out of the jungle. Do not fear it, but do not stay too long.’ And he went, and I wandered the jungle, as lost as a lost boy indeed, for hours, until again the sound of distant music lured me into the trees.

Deeper and deeper into the forest, I went, for that is what the jungle had become, its tropical humidity and angular landscape replaced by a temperate forest of soothing green. Each time I thought I had found the source of the music it became distant again, until after some time I realised I was being led on a merry march.

‘You forgot what the Bandicoot told you, didn’t you?’ says a familiar yet somehow different voice from behind me. I turn to see the young boy, looking slightly older now and sounding so, leaning once again against a tree.
‘I’m out of the jungle aren’t I?’ I reply.
‘You’re not out of the woods yet,’ he answers, then jumps onto his horse and gallops past me through a darkened archway I hadn’t seen in the trees.

Immediately it is lighter, and I know that I have left this part of the forest. Around me is a wide grove, with a small stream flowing through it. People are here, perhaps a dozen of them, perhaps more, all children, all wandering carefree through the grove.
‘You’re Phil, aren’t you?’ says the nearest, a young girl with a big smile.
‘Am I?’ I ask.
‘You silly,’ she replies, ‘don’t you even know who you are?’
‘I’m Phil,’ I reply.
‘I told you that,’ she says teasingly, but the revelation is still a welcome one. With my name in my mind my thoughts begin to focus slightly.
‘Where am I?’ I ask the girl.
‘Ah, but that’s the next question,’ she answers.
‘Well,’ I demand, ‘where is this?’
‘This is the Kokiri forest!’ she replies.
‘Why didn’t you just say that?’ I ask.
‘Because you didn’t ask!’ she says brightly, before skipping off. I follow her a short way, but then she rounds a corner and disappears.

I look up into the sky and try to think, and one thought keeps popping back into my mind. These are all games, I think, all games I used to play.
‘I think I must be having a dream,’ I say to no one in particular.
‘Not quite a dream,’ replies a man’s voice behind me. I turn to see the youth from before, and as I do I realise I’m outside the forest now, in a wide open field again. ‘Almost a dream,’ the man continues, ‘but not quite.’

It is the boy from before, but he is a man now. Only his eyes betray his identity.
‘I know who I am now,’ I say.
‘Yes,’ he replies.
‘And I know where I am.’
‘No,’ he replies.
‘The Kokiri forest,’ I say.
‘No,’ he replies again.
‘Okay, Hyrule field,’ I challenge.
‘No. This is Hyrule field,’ he continues, ‘but Hyrule field is not where you are.’ With that he turns on his horse and gallops off again.

I walk down a shallow bank until I reach water. At first I think I am by a lake of some sort but I see two men fighting up ahead of me, ten yards out but still only knee deep.
‘Hello?’ I call, but they are too intent on each other to notice me. There is a flurry of movement and one of them swings a firm punch into the other’s jaw, knocking him off his feet and into the water where he struggles to get up, but then falls, still.

The man walks towards me. As he nears I realise with a moment of panic that he has a tiger’s head instead of his own. Before I can react, he speaks:
‘Phil,’ he says.
‘Yes?’ I reply.
‘Good,’ he says, ‘then I’m in the right place.’
He turns and, with a devastating mix of grace and power, brings his forearm forward into my face. My vision explodes into dancing red diamonds and I fall to the floor.

I wake in a jungle. There is no sign of the Bandicoot anywhere, but his words ring in my ears.
‘You must make your own way out of the jungle. Do not fear it, but do not stay too long.’ I realise the sense of it now. Part of me feels a pervasive sense of panic, like I must escape the jungle at all costs, but a part of me feels quite content simply to stay where I am.

The sound of music lulls me from a stupor I realise with a start I have occupied for what may be hours. I follow it dumbly, like a rat after a piper, but again it seems to get no nearer. I come to a stop in a small copse. Behind me is the jungle, hot and intense. In front of me I see the forest once more, cool and inviting. None of it, somehow, seems quite real. It is as though I have built a patchwork of reality made up of squares of how things should look but not quite managed to capture how they do.

Sitting on a stump in the centre of the clearing is the boy in green, Link, the many time saviour of Hyrule. He is playing a tune on a small ocarina that I recognise with an odd foreboding.

‘Where am I?’ I ask.
‘You think you know,’ he says, ‘but you’re only close.’
‘Not quite a dream,’ I say.
‘Like it, but not quite.’
‘Like a dream.’
‘Something bad has happened, Phil.’
‘Do I need to go on a quest?’
‘Do you think you do?’ the boy asks.
‘It’s worse than that, isn’t it?’ I say.
‘It’s worse than anything,’ the boy replies.
‘Everything’s games here. Games that I’ve played.’
‘That’s right. You’re nearly there.’
‘Am I in a coma?’
‘Nearly a coma?’
‘It’s like a coma, but… longer,’ he says.
‘Longer?’ I say. ‘What’s longer than a coma?’
‘I’m sorry,’ he says. He plays a short tune on the ocarina, then disappears in a ball of white, leaving me alone in the clearing with the stump and the ocarina and my thoughts.
‘It’s all games,’ I say unhappily to the air in general, watching the space where he was sitting. ‘Nothing here is real.’

I sit on the stump, and I play on the ocarina, for a long time. I realise that my whole life has just flashed before my eyes, and I lament at how mournfully I have wasted it.

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 17:06 on 30 June 2005  Report this post
Hi Phillip,

Welcome to WriteWords and Fiction 11. No time now, but I'll read and comment soon.


Nell at 07:28 on 01 July 2005  Report this post
Phil, back again.

A strange and intriguing piece, and one that doesn't fall easily into any category or genre (not that it should!). The ending was a total surprise, and explained the odd journey of your narrator beautifully. It's well-written and easy to read but there's a lot of exposition here, and the very straightforward sequence of events - that very linear quest - as well as the characters he meets, gives the piece the feel of non-adult fiction until the rather dark ending overturns everything. I'd be inclined to rewrite to show rather than tell for the main part of the story - make the story positively adult - your readers will appreciate working a little harder. A couple of small points below.

...Then there are just me, the clouds, a boy and his blob... The 'just' in this sentence makes the verb/subject agreement feel wrong - maybe some adjustment needed - see what you think.

Somewhere in the text there's a word missing - I've lost it now.

...The sound of music lulls me from a stupor ... Can one be lulled from a stupor?

Phil, this has great potential to be very surreal and mysterious - love your imagination - I think it just needs that extra dimension.


Myrtle at 07:45 on 01 July 2005  Report this post
Hi Phil,

I'm confused...is this a short story about wasting your life playing Super Mario Brothers??! Please forgive me if I've missed the point. I couldn't tell whether it was the start of something - a first chapter - or a short story. I think the tense makes the narrator seem removed from the action, which you may not want him to be until the very end. It's certainly an intriguing piece - if there's more I'd love to read it.


philerupnicely at 19:10 on 01 July 2005  Report this post
Thank you for both for the thoughtful comments. I found the missing word but until I can stump up the joining fee I can't do anything about it yet! And yes, I don't think I could have used a worse word than lull in the context in which I used it. The "just" in the first paragraph does make it feel clunky. Will have to think more about that if I rewrite. Thanks for the heads up.

Myrtle, you're spot on with your overall interpretation of the piece. The passive voice was an intentional device as I wanted the piece to feel dreamlike, and with the exception of lucid dreams nobody ever feels very in control of their dreams, do they? (Maybe it's just me...!)

And yes, the non-adult feel of the piece was my (probably rather crude) attempt to suffuse non-threatening characters with a little mysterious menace. Perhaps you could clarify what you mean when you say show rather than tell? I'm not terribly au fait with creative writing terminology - I churn the ideas out but I'm very shaky with the redrafting process... Hopefully this will change!

Finally, I can't decide whether the piece is dark or actually darkly comic?! Any opinions?

Heckyspice at 11:19 on 02 July 2005  Report this post
Hi Phil

Welcome to the group.

It can be difficult to determine how to show and not tell but I am sure you will soon get to grips with this.

I enjoyed the concept of the piece as a slow revelation that the narrator had wasted his life. The video game metaphors could have been more menacing. As it is they gently tease the narrator rather than bewilder him.

Nell's suggestion about finding short stories that fit the style to learn about the framework is a good one. I recommend that if you can find some novels by Johnathon Carroll (classed as horror in some bookshops) particularly "Bones of the moon" or "Sleeping in flame", well there are sequences that show dreams and fantastic dreamscapes that you may find useful.

Best Wishes,

lang-lad at 11:41 on 03 July 2005  Report this post
Hi, Phil,
It flows, I get the images, and the surreal yet perfectly explicable landscape. All that's working fine as the others have said. I want to make as constructive a comment as I can here ... but I'm having trouble making a constructive comment ... even about why I'm not making a constructive comment. Hmm.
The piece feels emotionally non-committal maybe - but then it would, wouldn't it, given what it's about? There's not a lot at stake? Is that it? I know, I'll stop making statements and try questions. (the answers to which don't need to be in the actual piece but, somehow, by being in the writer's mind, affect the way it goes if you see what I mean) like: Who is he? What's his name, where's he from, how old is he? What colour of hair has he got? Is he fat or skinny or what? Has he got anything peculiar about him? OR What moves you to write this? Where's it coming from? Who is it aimed at - i.e who are you (or is the character) talking to? Actually that's a point ... (forgive me, I sometimes work out what I'm thinking about something while I'm writing it) is this a direct line from writer to reader here? If so, why? If not, who is he ... and we're back to the list of questions again, none of which need to be specifically answered in the piece itself but some of them might be made implicit, do you agree?

I do hope that was of some use.

Let me finish by extending my welcome too and saying I'd be very, very interested to see how you develop this piece.
Cheers, very good wishes,


PS Yes he is himself trying to answer some of these very questions - that's clear - I just wondered if you, as his creator, had a picture of him - in other words is he somebody, nobody, yourself ... ?

E_M_P at 15:13 on 08 February 2008  Report this post
Hi Phil,

I found your piece easy to read and intriguing. Have you ever read Piers Anthony? Your style is very similar to that he uses in his Xanth books.

Thanks for posting


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