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Short Story


Kimberley Martinez sees through the unreality of reality, disastrously.

You know that feeling you sometimes get just before you’re awake? That moment when you’re not quite asleep yet not quite awake, when you suddenly understand every mystery there has ever been, and you think ‘Of course!’ Then as consciousness dawns, the understanding goes as quickly as it came. The fleeting memory fades as you pull yourself out of bed and begin your morning rituals. Perhaps you solemnly regard yourself as you brush your teeth, your reflection staring back at you, urging you to remember.

That feeling happened to Mr Pepperfield all the time. This morning, for example, precisely two minutes before his alarm sounded, he twitched, slowly opened his eyes and thought, “Yes, yes, of course that’s it!”

In the usual course of events, his alarm clock shocked him fully awake and he went unthinking about his day as a very important man in a very important job, driving to work in his very important car and spending the day being very important, before returning again at the end of the day and becoming the least important person in the household. The household consisted of an elderly cat and Mr Pepperfield, and quite clearly the cat had superiority.

Today was different. The feeling did not subside. Mr Pepperfield jumped out of bed, “Of course, of course!” he kept thinking in wonder. He had a sudden urge to cartwheel across the room, and did indeed attempt the feat, rather disgusting the cat in the process. It was in fact a resounding failure, but this did not appear to dampen Mr Pepperfield’s spirits at all. He walked around as if in a daze, occasionally jumping and skipping a little.

Looking out of the window he could see the postman approaching. “Do you know it’s nearly impossible to do a cartwheel when you have a goddamn knee replacement!” he shouted in his excitement as he opened the door.

Umm… Your letters…” the postman mumbled, thrusting them towards him.

“Yes yes, not even remotely important, come in, come in!”

Before the postman could protest, Mr Pepperfield had gripped him firmly around the shoulders and guided him in: “Now a cartwheel, if you will!”

With surprisingly little resistance (it was that kind of day) the postman soon obliged, and was tumbling across the floor with a curious grace. A few streets away, a bus driver, suddenly feeling the loss of a long-dead dog, stopped his bus and wept bitterly. A policeman holding up traffic, realised his hands provided a perfect imitation of God and started to study them, swirling them in front of his face, and causing two minor road accidents. Everywhere people were stopping on the street, or getting out of their cars, or putting down the phone firmly in their offices, suddenly realising the great mysteries and wonder of everything that ever has been, everything that is, and everything that will be.

“Do you realise,” said Mr Pepperfield to the dizzy postman, “that you knocked at my door just because I can conceive of a person such as you?”

“I didn’t actually knock, sir,” said the postman, rubbing his head, which was sore from all the tumbling.

“A minor point, dear man! But now I choose to conceive of a… hmmm…” He cast around the room, his eyes landing on a old photograph of a trip to the zoo – “a hippopotamus!” he shouted triumphantly, rushing to the window, to watch the hippopotamus make its ponderous way past.

The postman felt he should be more surprised. He was vaguely aware that if this had happened yesterday, he would think he was in a dream. But now he understood dreams better than any kind of reality. Keen to be in on the action, he shouted at Mr Pepperfield,”I conceive of the most beautiful woman that ever existed!”

Pah, how boring!” Mr Pepperfield exclaimed as a busty blonde also went by the conveniently large window. “Is that really your idea of beauty? So clichéd!”

But conversations such as this were taking place in every home, shop, business and office in the world. The pavements were full as people rushed out of their houses or left their jobs unattended, in astonishment that they had spent so long doing such pointless things. As they began to realise what they could do, a myriad of strange, wonderful, beautiful things started popping in and out of existence, making the world altogether more interesting, and rather different than it had been the previous evening.

“But they don’t exist, do they, these things?” asked the postman in an effort to voice the understanding that had been placed so clearly in the centre of his head: “They don’t exist, and I don’t exist, and it doesn’t really matter. That’s right, isn’t it?”

“Of course it’s right!” said Mr Pepperfield, attempting another cartwheel, and this time realising his potential, windmilling across the room unhindered by knee replacements. “And because we don’t exist, we can do anything we want!”

“But what if…” mused the postman, effortlessly scaling the walls, “What if…?”

“Don’t say it!” Mr Pepperfield shouted with alarm from his position in the top corner of the room, seeing the direction of the postman’s thoughts.

“What if…” the postman murmured again, “What if the world and us and everything in it just suddenly pops out of existence?”

There was silence then, because it did.

© Kimberley Martinez 2016

Kimberley Martinez is a social worker in Scotland, with a 13-year-old daughter.

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