Ever wake up trying to remember what day it is? Trying to figure out whether you had just gone down for a quick nap, or had been asleep for 14 hours straight? What about waking up with the vague feeling that you had already been half-awake, and only become fully awake when you realize there is a pressing stimulus? That is what it was like for me when I woke up, wrapped in my blankets, with a vague light coming through the venetian blinds of my room, a light that could be from a cloudy morning or a falling evening. I had the feeling that there was something to do, something I was forgetting. And I also realized there was an intermittent light knocking, which I concluded after a minute of staring at my window, must be coming from my front door.
I pulled the covers off and saw that I was wearing pajamas, so I was in a good state to answer the door. I slipped my feet into my slippers by my bedside, and left my room. My living room looked normal, if a little messy. Whatever was worrying me wasn't a house problem, there wasn't a swimming pool full of beer on my living room floor or a pile of rancid chicken bones on my kitchen counter. There did seem to be a lot of paper all over my coffee table, bills maybe. I hope that I hadn't been forgetting to pay something. I was hoping that the knocking on the door wasn't someone coming to disconnect my water or repossess me house.
I probably should have been worried that I couldn't remember. I also probably should have looked out the peephole in the door to see who my visitors were, but instead I just opened my door, and found myself looking at two very official looking people. The notion that I might have royally messed up recently surged forward in my mind.
There were two of them, a man wearing a black suit and tie, but lacking the sunglasses, earpiece or slicked back hair that I might have expected. The woman was wearing a black skirt and jacket, and had her blonde hair pulled back into a severe bun. I looked in their eyes, my body half flinching, expecting a tackling and handcuffs. Instead, their eyes seemed to show some hesitancy, like they didn't know what was going on either.
“Hello. My name is Christine Candal, and this is Jeremy Black, May we come in?”
Not knowing what was going on, I nodded and gestured them to my couch. The living room looked dark, and the couch had old newspapers covering it. They didn't seem to mind, they just scooped them away and settled in. I realized they were looking right at my bong, on my faux mantelpiece, and was hoping they weren't here to arrest me for that.
The other one, the man, cleared his throat “Do you know why we are here?”
I perhaps should have formulated an answer, but standing there, in my pajamas, I just answered with my first response: “not a clue”.
They looked at each other. This did nothing to lesson my tension.
“Feel free to sit down” Christine said. I did so.
“What do you remember about yesterday?” Jeremy asked.
“I...really don't remember anything.” I looked around the room for empty nitrous cannisters or bottles of Everclear, but except for a 12 ounce bottle of Budweiser that had rolled behind a magazine rack, I couldn't see any signs of debauchery in the room. I also didn't have any poundings in my head or a tacky feeling in my mouth.
“Can you tell us your name?” Christine followed, her eyebrows arched.
“Timothy” I replied. “Timothy... um.”
“How long have you lived here, Timothy?”
“Couple of years, I moved here from my hometown.” the answer came quickly to mind.
“What town was that? And what town is this?”
They asked their question in a rapid back and forth, sounding more like researchers than criminal investigators. They seemed friendly enough, but my unease was getting worse. I looked around and saw beige carpet, cream walls, the muted wood of my coffee table, all under the 40 watt lightbulb of the ceiling light. All of this seemed rather normal to me, but I couldn't remember the past few days, and two people who looked like federal agents were questioning me about it.
“Why are you asking me all these questions?” my voice quavering. “Did I do something wrong? And why...”
“Why can't I remember anything...?” I concluded, my voice dropping off.
“So you can't remember anything?” Jeremy asked, and his voice seemed almost happy.
“Nothing. I just knew I fell asleep last night...or, uh, what time is it?”
“Well,” Christine answered. “That is a complicated question. Jeremy, get the man some tea, please. Lets just say, its around 10 AM on a Saturday morning and you've had a very nice, long sleep. We were kind of hoping you would have been sleeping, because it means that your...behavior hasn't been voluntary. “ Jeremy had gone into the kitchen, and I could hear my kettle burble on the electric range. A cup of tea always makes things make more sense, and that was something I greatly needed. I looked at a magazine on the end table, and the name and face of the movie star looking back at me was unfamiliar.
“Uh have I been sleepwalking. Is this an Ambien thing?” I asked. Drugs might explain it, the consequences of actions that I felt no connection to.
“Sleepwalking, yes, that is a way to put it.”
I blinked. I felt blank, I knew I should be feeling a knot in my gut, but I just felt empty. For thirty seconds, nothing was said, and then a kettle whistled and Jeremy came back with a cup and saucer, both the blandest of Target beige, with a little tag from a Lipton tea bag, also classic Target. It occurred to me that the idea of household items being bought from Target, a mid-level general retailer, was totally familiar to me, despite the fact that I couldn't remember where or when I had bought these things, if there was indeed a Target in my town, or even if I lived in a town. I looked at my apartment and it looked like a totally normal mid-level apartment. Nothing about my life was unfamiliar, except for names and places.
I started at my tea.
“Do you remember what you dreamed about last night?” Jeremy asked.
“Uh...I was dreaming when you woke me, I think. Dreams that meant something, that I felt something about. The type of dreams that fade when you wake up but come to significance when you see something related later that day. You know? But I don't remember specifics.”
“That is because this is actually the first time you've been awake.” Jeremy whispered.
“What?” I barely caught his words, or meaning. I tried to sip my tea, but just as my tongue was touching the still just below scalding tea, Christine said, finishing his thoughts.
“We should probably tell you, you are God.”
I spit out the drops of tea on my tongue, more from the tea being too hot than her seemingly bizarre non-sequitur statement.
“What. What is this. What. Is. This.” a new feeling arose, my temper finally reaching me. The intimidation of what looked to be two federal agents in my apartment early on a Saturday morning was finally fading as I became frustrated with the run around.
The two exchanged another glance, which just made me madder.
“Christine, that wasn't the best way to say that!” Jeremy said, a little loudly. “Excuse us, Timothy, we have some things to tell you, and they are kind of hard to phrase properly...”
Jeremy took a deep breath, and said more or less at once: “You are some type of advanced entity. “God” is going too far, perhaps. Basically a shaper or former of the world around you. We---all of us---aren't your creations, but you control our world, and we have been frightened because you've been doing it in increasingly erratic ways. We are happy that uh...this wasn't intentional. So you don't know who we are, what we are? This was just...bad dreams?”
My jaw was still saggy. I could see their officiousness had evaporated, and both of them were looking at me with expectant, hopeful looks. I tried to sip my tea again.
“I have no idea what you are talking about. I am a normal guy, I work at a normal job, live in this normal apartment” I gestured around me, at the beige carpet and cream walls and folding card table with a bowl full of bruised fruit that I had forgotten to eat, as well as the other parts of my apartment. “I am...”
“Can you tell us what that job is? Where you live? What year it is? Anything about your family?”
And I thought, and I realized I couldn't. I felt totally normal, I felt like I was a normal person who had just woken up on a Saturday with normal plans to enjoy the weekend. But when I tried to think of a single specific event of my life, of what made up this seemingly baseline, average feeling I had about myself...I came up with nothing. And being an average person raised on bad and good movies, I started wondering if this was some type of psychological game. Had I been drugged? Was I being brainwashed? I thought about it, and none of it seemed real or bothered me, because my boring little Saturday morning apartment seemed so real. I took a sip of tea and realized it was cool enough to drink.
“Well...I don't know what to say” It was quite an understatement, but it was all I could think of. “Uh...what problems have been happening?” I asked. I was still only quizzical.
“Want to read the magazines” Jeremy pointed to the pile of magazines on my coffee table. I picked the first one up. It had a smiling starlet on it. The second one, a story of a war. The third one, an environmental disaster. I took more and leafed through them. My eyebrows raised and my stomach fell. “I'm...sorry? But uh, if I've never been awake, how did these things get into my apartment? How am I living such a normal life asleep in my bed, with no signs of the world outside going so wrong, other than a pile of magazines on my coffee table?”
“Well” Christine answered “It could be that your subjective impression of this meeting and your surroundings does not, uh, coincide with what we are experiencing.”
I stood up and walked over to my card table, and picked up a slightly bruised orange, getting soft because my plan to eat more fruit had been sidelined.
“I see this as a slightly overripe orange. Is that at all what it is?”
“That is uh, complicated. But no.” Jeremy answered.
“So...” I said. Despite the quite confusing news, I felt tired. It was a Saturday morning, I should be back in bed. I yawned.
“Were you having nightmares?” Christine asked.
I sat back down on my couch, slouching. “Maybe?” I asked. “I really don't remember.”
I yawned. I could feel my tiredness returning. The sharpness of the morning, the clear feeling of realness despite the confusing story I was hearing, was fading. They noticed it. “He is getting tired”, she whispered to him. I moved back to my couch, took a sip of my tea, tried to wake up again.
“Is there anything we can do for you?” she asked. “Perhaps something to alleviate any nightmares? Because, you see, your nightmares are...leaking, we think.”
I looked to the side and saw the cat dish, in my kitchen, totally empty, probably covered with dust. Just sitting there alone on the yellow linoleum floor. And that, perhaps, finally sold it to me. I had a cat dish, but I knew, I remembered, that I had never had a cat. I had put it there, in some way, because I wanted one. If I were to go back to my room and sleep forever, who better to be there than a cat?
“I want a cat. I want to not be alone” I said.
“If we leave, we might not be able to come back” Jeremy said. “It was only special circumstanes that allowed us to come here today.”
So they had offered me help, but could not deliver it?
“I uh, have something,” I think, Christine said, opening up her purse and looking around for something. “We stopped for coffee on the way over here, and the cafe was called...uh, The Happy Cat Cafe. And they gave me...”
She pulled out a brown paper napkin with a drawing on it. In dark brown ink, on a dark brown napkin, was printed a picture of a reclining cat, stomach turned up, had lolling back, slatted eyes. It was a simple drawing, something people wouldn't think about for more than a few seconds, if they noticed it at all, and yet looking at it conveyed to me the reality of my situation. I picked it up, nodded, and told them thank you.
“Do you have a piece of tape?” I asked. She pulled a roll of scotch tape out of her purse and handed it to me. “Mind if I keep the roll?” I asked. She nodded. He nodded. I could feel my tiredness returning, I wanted to get back to the warm amber darkness of my bedroom, feel the heaviness take over my body again.
“Thank you for...uh, calling in. I know its been a hard day for you. “But I am very tired, I am sure you can find the door? I walked back to my room, barely noticing as they stood up and walked out my door. The minute I heard the door close behind them, I almost forgot them, almost forgot everything, just walked into my room and taped up the little picture of my sleeping cat above my bed. I feel backwards into my bed, the events of the morning blurring together as my mind moved off on other fancies, but with the image of the contented cat being the last thing I saw before sleep returned to me.