Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 66
His reactions were shock, followed by horror, then disgust – all in rapid succession.
It wasn’t an enormous rat, nor was it small – if the man had to venture a guess, he would say the rat was average-sized.
However, the thing that was not average was the human face the rat had.
I’m dreaming, the man thinks.
“Hello. Name’s Reynaldo,” the rat says in a cheery, British accent.
The man jumps from the bed and says, “Yep, I’m dreaming.”
A talking rat with a human face is pretty cool, but the thing the man always longed to do when he noticed he was dreaming was to fly. Nothing could ever come close to competing with the thrill of defying gravity and soaring through the air.
The man walks to the sliding glass door to his patio. His apartment is on the fourth floor. He can hardly wait to get airborne. He needs to do it before the lucid dream state dissolves. It’s never a stable configuration. Once the mind realizes it is dreaming, the dream sort of implodes, and he wants to be high in the sky before that happens.
He tugs on the patio door. It catches in a way he finds vaguely disquieting.
Ah, he sees he forgot the security latch. A little locking mechanism sits on the bottom edge of the door above the metal track in which it slides.
He sees the thought stirring before it rises into his consciousness
A security lock is a strange detail for my unconscious to include in a dream.
A tickle comes from his ankle as the rat’s whiskers brush against his bare skin.
“Where are you going?” Reynaldo says.
The man startles.
A tickle sensation? Can he remember ever experiencing a tickle in a dream before?
“You aren’t real,” the man says to the rat. He pulls back his foot as if to kick the animal, but something stops him.
Maybe it was the defensive hiss the rat made.
Maybe, more probably, it was the doubts.
What if this wasn’t a dream?
He lives on the fourth floor. To dive off his patio and not be able to fly would put a significant damper on his day.
“I’m dreaming,” the man says to himself. He desperately wanted to fly this morning, and he’s trying to convince himself that despite the strangeness of the dream details such as the lock, the opposing mounting evidence, namely the talking rat with the human head, he must be dreaming. Right?
He slides the door open, steps out on the patio.
Walking erect on its two rear feet, the rat follows him out.
The man grips the metal railing; he had wanted to fly.
“I wouldn’t advise you to do what you’re thinking of doing,” the rat says.
“Oh, really now? And what, pray tell, am I thinking of doing?” he says to the rat.
“You’re thinking of jumping. You saw me and figured you must be dreaming. And you want the flying dream, but what if you’re mistaken; what if you aren’t dreaming?”
The man looks at the rat, then looks over the edge of his patio.
“It’s a long way down,” Reynaldo says casually.
The man draws back his foot again, this time fully intending to kick this miserable rat bastard off his patio.
The man looks down, hears the rat hiss again, sees the rat double in size.
The rat is no longer average-sized. The rat is now substantial.
“Every time you threaten me, I will double in size. Do you understand?”
“What are you?” he says at last to the rat.
“Isn’t it obvious? I’m a rat.”
“Fuck this,” the man sighs impatiently. He kicks at the rat. The rat doesn’t double in size; it quadruples in size. The rat flings the man off the balcony. The man doesn’t fly as he’d desperately wanted to do earlier. Instead, the man crashes flat on his back in the parking lot below. The man writhes in pain for hours. He is sure he is dying. What he cannot understand is the people. The residents of his apartment building exiting and entering the building from the parking lot walk right past him. None of them so much as look at his twisted, suffering body or answer his pleas for help.
“Please, help me,” the man says to one woman who steps over his body on his way into the building.
The woman glances down at him. She has the face of that damn rat. What did he say his name was? Raymond? No, it was Reynaldo.
The rat-faced woman walks away.
The man sees it then. When he cranes his neck around to see the people, he can hear things crunching in his neck, but he can see his fellow tenants. They all have Reynaldo’s face.
What the hell, the man thinks.
“Precisely,” Reynaldo says. It startled the man to see Reynaldo, returned to his original size, standing on top of his chest.
“What?” the man says weakly. Speaking the word exhausts him.
“You just thought ‘what the hell?’ and then I said ‘precisely.’ By which I mean you aren’t dreaming, but you are in hell.”
Well, that explains a lot.
“We get to relive this scenario every day!” Reynaldo says to the man as if they were the best of pals.
“But you’ve got a long night ahead of you. My cousins will be back from the city soon. Ugh, they can be so unpleasant and cruel with such wickedly sharp teeth. And they are insatiably hungry. Well, anyway, goodnight,” Reynaldo says before scampering off to whatever corner of hell it is where he spends his nights.