I’m having that dream again, where I’m standing on a cloud, waiting to be admitted into heaven, just like in all the cartoons, except it’s not St Peter at the gate, it’s Dolly Parton – it’s not always Dolly, last time it was Simon Cowell – and although I’m wearing a white sheet, draped toga-style like you’d imagine, I’ve still got my Nikes and socks on underneath rather than the sandals, which I actually quite like.
Anyway, Dolly says, “Welcome to the gates of heaven. You may now pick a door!” and she gestures her lovely soft hands (I can tell they are soft from here; silky smooth with long pink nails, not talons, just classy) towards two doors. One says INFINITE HAPPINESS and the other says CHOOSE THIS DOOR IF HAPPINESS ISN’T ENOUGH FOR YOU.
Well, of course happiness is enough for me, but I pick the INFINITE HAPPINESS door every time I have this dream, and all that happens is that I wake up back in my own bed at home with Tara snoring softly beside me and shortly afterwards my alarm goes off for work. That’s it. But maybe this is a multi-level dream, like a video game with other adventures beyond this realm? Perhaps I’m being challenged? Perhaps I’m meant to strive for more?
I take a step towards the other door, taking a moment to appreciate that it’s much easier to walk on clouds than you’d imagine, before Dolly stops me with her beautiful hand. “Are you sure, honey? Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer infinite happiness?”
I shrug. “I’ve tried that Dolly, many times, but it doesn’t lead me anywhere except back home to my wife and family.” Dolly furrows her brow at me (as much as she can) so I continue, “I just want to know what heaven is like. Maybe I’m supposed to choose the other door this time?”
Dolly sighs and suddenly she’s no longer Dolly, she’s become Stanley from The Office. “It’s your call,” says Stanley, disappointment in his eyes, and he stands aside to let me enter.
As soon as I cross the threshold, I wake up, disappointment crushing my chest. I didn’t get to see what was behind the door! Feeling cheated, I sit up to check the time, but my alarm clock has gone, along with my phone, in fact the nightstand itself has disappeared. Fully awake now, I turn to check on Tara, but she isn’t there either; in fact, it’s beginning to dawn on me that there’s just me, in a single bed, in an empty room…
Ahhh. “Well played, brain,” I say out loud. “Good message, well received.”
I take a quick look out of the window to check I’ve understood correctly and once I’ve confirmed I was right and that my lovely little garden has been replaced with barren wasteland, I dive back under the covers, hurrying myself back to sleep, hoping to get another chance to make the right choice this time.
Emma Robertson is a dance tutor and writer from London, UK with work in Idle Ink, Fudoki Magazine and 101 Words among others. Recently longlisted by Cranked Anvil and Furious Fiction, she was also runner up in the TL;DR Word Herd and has upcoming stories in Sledgehammer and several anthologies.