David Rodeback's Fiction, Free Short Stories - Unpublished

I Dreamed You Died Thursday Night (a very short story)

plant - you died

Last Thursday night, I dreamed that you died.

I don’t know you. You don’t know me – and now you probably don’t want to.

But you’re wondering, how did I know it was you?

I know you died because everybody died. Everybody on earth and the handful of people in orbit too.

Maybe the next thing you’re wondering is, how did we all die? And who, if anyone, caused it to happen? (Maybe the Iranians finally got the bomb, and it was a really big bomb – or they started a really big war. But I think not. It seemed to happen faster than that.)

I’ll answer your questions in reverse order.

The how is, I caused it.

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I was walking across a field that was freshly plowed and planted – with grass, so it wasn’t a rural scene. It was behind my elementary school, just over a broken-down fence from the playground. It was recess, and I was tired of being the last kid picked for whatever, so I took a walk.

None of what they’d planted had sprung up yet, but a weed had. I don’t know what kind.

I bent over to pull it. Kids whose families have gardens at home do that.

It was surprisingly well rooted for being in a freshly-planted field. I had to tug hard. When it finally surrendered its grip on the earth, everything everywhere exploded. Instantly.



Including the International Space Station.

We all died instantly. Every Inuit living in an igloo, if any of them still did. Every remote aborigine in the Amazon jungle. Every worker in the Tokyo subway. (Tokyo had a subway. I looked it up later. In my dream it exploded too.) Every climber on Mt. Everest.

We all died in that instant. And I caused it. Or at least triggered it.

It’s possible that some god, ayatollah, president, or alien civilization caused it, I guess, and that the timing of my weed-pulling was purely coincidental, but in my dream the nexus of cause and effect seemed clear.

Since Thursday night, when you and I died, which was nearly a week ago, I’ve been asking people if they ever had that dream. They all say no, but some of the older ones say it sounds a lot like the “Daisy” ad from the 1964 US presidential campaign.

I found it on YouTube. In it there’s a little girl in a field, plucking petals from a daisy and trying to count them as she does. When she gets to ten, a voice begins counting seconds down from ten. At zero there’s a mushroom cloud.

It was an LBJ campaign ad, obviously suggesting that voting for Barry Goldwater was voting for nuclear holocaust. LBJ says in his tinny tenor that we must either love each other or die. Then a deeper Hollywood voice tells us to vote for President Johnson on November 3, 1964. “The stakes are too high for you to stay home.”

Here’s the thing. It only ran once, on September 7, 1964. I was a fetus then, less than halfway through the third trimester. No way could I see that ad.

Sure, maybe I saw it later – but it couldn’t have been very many years later, or I’d remember seeing it. Somehow they put it in my brain – before my birth or within a few years after it. But I don’t remember them putting it there.

What if they’re programming us in other ways too, in ways that will only reveal themselves, if they ever do, when we age and our programming begins to break down?

Because part of the programming would have to be programming to keep us from noticing the programming.

If we never notice the programming, we never wonder who’s programming us. If we never wonder who, we never discover who – and we never figure out why.

Now that I’m starting to wonder these things, I’m also wondering if the programming is designed to be self-correcting. Will I suddenly stop wondering and forget that I ever wondered? That could happen at any moment. So I’m wondering as fast as I can.

I wonder, do I really like the countryside, or am I programmed to like it, so I won’t make our urban overcrowding problems worse?

Do I really enjoy fishing, or am I programmed to enjoy fishing, so I won’t be bored enough to scrutinize politics?

Do I really love to read science fiction, or am I programmed to explore a fictional future, so I won’t delve into history and learn inconvenient lessons from the past?

Do I really love my wife, or have we both been programmed to stay together and perpetuate the species in the face of falling national birth rates? (Her programming on this point may have slipped a little lately, but I haven’t mentioned that to her.)

Are my children really preparing for (and in two cases working in) the fields they love, or are those just the disciplines they’re programmed to love, for the good of society, the regime, the corporations, or maybe someone else?

What if each unit’s programming is not self-correcting, but the system is? Will units I’ve told about my dream be coming to correct me? Perhaps permanently?

And no, I’m not tempted to wonder if I’m only programmed to think I exist, when I really don’t. Whoever and whatever I am, I exist – or I couldn’t be programmed to think anything.

Bottom line: I wonder who programmed us, and to what end. Are they still programming us? What if there’s been some sort of regime change, and someone different is programming us now, with different aims?

So anyway, last Thursday night, I dreamed you died, because I dreamed we all died. It could have been just a dream, because we haven’t all died yet.

The fact that I dreamed it at all could mean that my programming is failing. If it is, what will I dream next?

Until I know what’s going on, the weeds can have my garden.

Photo credit: Михаил Павленко at Unsplash.

From the Author

David Rodeback

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And if you’re interested in my published fiction, which mostly isn’t about politics, check out my two published collections at 60 East Press.

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