Tommy wakes up around 5 o’clock to discover he is in a cave. The cave is square, a perfect one, with stalagmites and stalagmites in perfect symmetrical order. He wanders down the hallway entertaining thoughts of mystery and love. He did not remember how he had gotten here. He did not remember the past month of his life. All he felt, was a warm sense of longing, like the feeling of looking at a crush, comforted by the fact that you’ll never actually have to make a commitment. Tommy loves not having to make commitments. He has gone through his short life making almost none. The only agreements he made were being born and eating food. Were he old enough to pay taxes, he would probably sweat at the thought of entering into such a long-term relationship.
As he walks, Tommy marvels at the sharp edges of the cave, the perfect 90 degree walls, the stalagmites coming up in smooth rectangles, with no grain of dirt out of place. He touches one, and feels a heat, like a dying fire that is not there. He puts his hand on it. It burns. Suddenly overcome with anger, Tommy kicks the structure, toppling it, reducing the once perfect block into a billion specks. The cave now looks filthy. It feels filthy. Tommy scoops up the detritus and wonders if it is hurt. He tucks the dust away in his pocket for safe-keeping, and instantly regrets everything he has ever done.
Tommy starts crying. Tommy drops to his knees. The warm feeling is getting heavy and traveling down to his stomach. As his tears hit the ground, they transform the cave into something more. The dust turns to carpet as the cave collapses upward. A loom sprouts up behind him as lights turn florescent. He looks around. The rooms is made of carpets. Oriental, with flashes of tile. Tommy notices the fine grouting as a “shh” comes from behind.
“But I didn’t say anythi-”
Tommy looks behind him, and sees an elderly woman at the loom. She is making a carpet, but not in the way that Tommy thought carpets were made. She appeared to simply be hitting the loom with her finger tips, like a child pretending to play piano. Yet it seemed to work. The loom was producing beautiful carpet.
“That’s amazing.” Tommy says.
“It’s crap,” the woman replies. “Complete and utter crap. I’m never going to amount to anything, I’ll never become something important. Look at all these rags.”
She gestures to the whole of the room.
“No even fit to be wallpaper. Even tried tile, but failed at that too. Nothing right, nothing right, nothing right.”
She stops picking at the loom and holds her head in her hands.
“The landlady will be here soon, I think you should find your own space, and maybe make something of yourself.”
“I’ll never make anything as beautiful as you.”
“HAH!” The lady spits. “Then the world lost nothing.”
Tommy is confused by this.
“Tide comes in, tide comes out,” the old lady continues. “It’s always gonna go out, out, out. Can’t stop it ‘less you shoot the moon. But I was never good at cards. I bet you’ve got a mush mind, you look like the type, well, that’s fine I suppose. She’ll know what to do with you. Should be coming any time now. She gives mush minds like the one-two, know what I mean?”
“THAT’S WHY YOU’RE JUST DIRT AND MUSH, YOU LITTLE PIECE OF INSIGNIFICANT AFTERBIRTH. YOU ARE NOT MISSED, YOU ARE NOT LOVED. THE WORLD IS GOING TO LOOK AT YOUR GRAVE AND SHURG!”
The woman’s loom explodes into flames. She screams.
“That’s enough for today.”
Another has entered the room. She is dressed crisply, with a sharp blazer and stylish glasses. She doesn’t walk so much as change her stance. Her presence is heavy. She waves her hand as the flames dissipate.
“Back to work now.”
The elderly woman does not speak. She returns to her now unburnt loom, and whispers things no one wants to hear.
“Come now, Tommy. I’ve prepared your room.” The sharp woman takes Tommy by the hand and leads him through a door that was not there before. For a little while, they are in darkness. Then there is a bed. Then there is a closet. Then they are back in Tommy’s old room. The one he had when he was five. There are dinosaurs on the wall, and glow-planets on the ceiling. Tommy remembers watching their fake light for hours while sleep evaded him.
“This will be your repository. I have tried to make it comfortable for you, but you may do whatever you like with the place. Spruce it up. Add a spaceship. Do something productive. I don’t care.”
“I can…I can do whatever I want?”
“Yes. You always could, Tommy.”
“Didn’t feel that way.”
“Well, it isn’t. It’s not. But I like to say that to the newcomers. They do seem to love it.”
“Do any of them believe you?”
“No. But it never hurts to try.”
The room didn’t seem too bad. Things would have to change though. Tommy knew that.
“Is this my punishment? Am I gonna be like her?”
“Only if you want it be, Tommy.” She gets up from the bed.
“I did it wrong, didn’t I? I did it all wrong.”
The walls are sweating now. The plants are becoming yarn and unspooling. Everything is a mess.
“I did, right? So I’m bad. I’m mush! I’m dirt! I’m the worst kind of car crash, forgettable. Nothing…NOTHING!”
“Shhhh.” The lady spoke somewhere between comfort and ennui. “You chose to make the tide go out. Your mind was as inevitable as water.”
An empty bottle of vodka sprouts from the Tommy’s bed, which is now growing furry arms and legs like a teddy bear.
“Ah, good. I’ve been waiting for the vessel.” She grabs the bottle and gives it, delicately, to Tommy.
“Here my darling. You have one last thing to send. Only one thing you can send to them. Put it in the bottle, and I’ll take it topside.”
On Earth, five years pass before Tommy touches the bottle. He is using most of his time to try and untangle all the yarn. It is an arduous process, but allows him the pleasure of not seeing the bottle’s permanence. When the yarn is finally neat, there is nothing left to do but stare at the bottle. This takes another two years. Finally, Tommy reaches inside his pocket and takes out the dirt of the shattered stalagmite. With a sudden rush of feeling, he pours it into the vodka bottle. The material begins to bounce and sway, aching for form. Tommy closes his eyes and breathes into the bottle. The dust clings to breath, embracing it like a cocoon. The shape is messy, malformed and needed. Tommy thinks it looks like the burnt end of a rope that ties together the fibers.
He throws it into the darkness where the sharp lady catches it. She observes the structure and nods. As he lies down and sleeps for the first time since his arrival, Tommy knows he will never exhale again.
The planets are glowing, and the bed hugs him goodnight.
About the Author
Michael Trottier’s fiction was been published with Beyond Imagination and Purple Pig Lit. His plays have been developed/performed with Boston Playwright’s Theatre, The New Group (NYC), Buffalo United Artists, The Blank Theatre (LA), Young Playwright’s Inc., and Florida Studio Theatre. He has also written the scripts for several video games, includingThe Greatest Misadventure Ever Told and Infinite Dive. He currently resides in Washington, DC.