The Ladder in the Box (a dream)

June 2022 Flash Challenge, Day 2

Photo by Sudan Ouyang on Unsplash

I decide to leave the doctor’s report in the car. If I bring it inside I will not stop reading it. I need some space from it.

Then I’m outside the car. I don’t remember getting out of the car, but here I am.

Then I’m on the stairs to my apartment with no memory of the first step.

My life is jerking me forward.

Something’s changed.

The air feels electric, a looming storm hovers just above the back of my neck.

Pay attention, please.

On the stairs my legs are lead weights, pressing hard into the cement steps.

“It’s a gun,” I say, “In the box.”

What box?

I stop my lumbering ascent of the stairs and check for signs of blurred vision.

My sightline clears the landing, and I see the box outside my apartment.

I got a bad feeling about this.

“Don’t open it,” an inner voice suggests.

“It’s a gun,” another, softer voice adds.

“It’s not a gun,” I say, then glance around, embarrassed by my senior moment.

I blink, and I’m on the landing, staring at the box.

Do not open that thing.

It’s a bit smaller than a large microwave oven box, with no label. The lid flaps are interleaved shut, not taped closed. Weird.

Then I’m standing in a grassy field. There are trees circling me, enveloping the tiny field in a cozy embrace. I don’t know where this is. It might be near the complex, it might be somewhere far from there. I look down. The box is there.

“You’re dreaming,” the narrator in my brain suggests.

Of course, this must be a dream. That explains my memory gaps and why I don’t remember walking to this field, carrying this box.

I glance back down at the box, and my epiphany dissolves as quickly as it arose.

I squat down, insert my fingers into the flaps.

It’s a gun.

“It’s not a gun,” I say without looking around.

I pry open the box.

The electric feeling is back, and I feel nauseated.

Peering inside the box, I see the top end of a ladder.

Do not touch that!

Naturally, I reach in and grab the top rung and lift.

The ladder floats up and out of the box. It continues to emerge by itself, rising so fast that its rungs are a blur.

I close my eyes, instinctively trying to wake myself.

I open my eyes. The ladder extends from the ground upward with no visible means of support.

The cardboard box is gone.

I remember the lab report sitting on the passenger seat in my car, then crane my head upward; I cannot see the top of the ladder. It is the only true vertical I’ve ever known. The ladder is eternal, infinite. It has always been here; it will always be here.

Dream logic is like that. So many clues that this isn’t real, yet we sweep them aside and ride the narrative wherever it will take us.

I look down at my hands. I’m holding the report.

I will surely tire out long before I reach the top, but I drop the lab report, grasp the rungs, and begin to climb.

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