I awoke in a cold sweat, but don't get me wrong this is actually quite normal for me as of late. My dreams, they've been becoming more and more vivid as time passes. It's not that I don't love the dreams, but it's that they almost seem real, are they real, am I dreaming now? It doesn't matter, point is I'm awake now, but something's not right—there's an itch in the back of my mind that I can't get rid of. It's been there for a few weeks, but steadily growing.
Passively I ignored the itch and slide the thick covers off my body, checking to make sure everything under the covers is intact—yes I've had dreams where certain, undisclosed parts, were missing. Clear, I still have hair on my legs, standing up from the removal of the wool blanket and the static created, my boxers are still on, my chest, hands, fingers, my hair—fresh cut may I add, perfect I'm good to go. And judging by the unusual amount of light trying to glare through the thick bland curtains I duct-taped above the window for perpetual darkness in my room, it was a good day.
I slide out of bed and grudgingly flip a switch on my clock which clearly in red states 6:55, since I'm awake I have no need for the alarm to go off in five minutes. In two large strides I slid over to the curtains and daringly slip one side over, hoping to God the massive amount of duct tape can manage a slight bit of movement. Fire, fire everywhere. Great, it's going to be one of those days. Suddenly as if my ears just now decided to turn on a huge screech slid across my roof, or well, what should have been the apartment above mine, the twenty-fifth floor. Sirens blared from twenty different directions at twenty different volumes and twenty consistencies as a massive headache and sharp ringing filled my head and ears.
I turned away from the window as a blast of heat and wind pushed against me, ripping my precious blinds off their not-so-secure adhesive and pushing me back onto the bed with plenty of glass following. As I roll over the bed, partly involuntarily and partly to avoid the glass and sudden fire outside the twenty-fourth floor, I see a gaping hole in my apartment where what used to be my bathroom was. A loud shriek ripped from the bathroom location as the tub finally broke away from the single pipe holding it up and dropped several hundred feet down. Now it makes sense why I was so intently awake five minutes before my alarm went off, a feat I hadn't accomplished for at least five years. MY HOUSE WAS ON FIRE, and I'm going to fall to an inferno-y death.
Now realizing being on the twenty-fourth floor of a burning building with half of it somehow or another missing isn't one of the best predicaments I've been in, I started searching for ways of escape, both spiritual, and on the likely case that does nothing, physically. Since the bathroom was gone, and therefore the hallway that should have been behind it I had no other choice but to return to my window and the poor, now burning, drapes. After a quick funeral, really only a couple seconds, I peeked out into the devastation.
Burning rocks were hurling down from the sky and everything the eye can see was on fire, burned down, or in the process of catching on fire. Even the damn little pond in the recreation park between my apartment and the one adjacent to it was somehow on fire. A loud crack shattered behind me, probably the propane from what was my kitchen probably finally getting to peak capacity and exploding. I had to jump, there was no other choice, I had a good life, but my choices were to sit here on the twenty-fourth floor and burn to death, or jump and die, hopefully less painfully. There was absolutely nothing I could do except wish I was that pink balloon floating towards the heavens.
Pink balloon? Was Tom the balloon guy here today? I used to love that guy when I was younger! He'd give me his handful of balloons and I'd be able to do space-leaps with them due to the helium! At least until I broke an arm hitting a tree. Another balloon, green, a red one, another pink one. I peeked down the ledge to realize that his entire handful of balloons was coming up, fast. I hope Tom's okay, he even joked once, "Even if the sky starts falling I won't let go of these balloons don't you worry kiddo." I know I'm a lot older than I was when I was a child, and therefore a hell of a lot heavier, but those balloons were my only chance of getting down without instantaneous death.
So, without further ado I took a leap of faith, right out of the twenty-fourth floor and snagged the massive knot of string. I dropped quite a bit faster than expected. During my short twenty-four floor free fall I contemplated that I had a good life, I graduated from college after just four years, not six or eight like most, I had almost paid off my student debts, not that community college had much to start with, and I managed to get my own apartment in a big city with a mediocre job that helps make ends meet. I tried my damn best to survive the end of the world, but failed on account of eating one to many hamburgers and seriously thinking hanging onto balloons and floating away would work.
My startled hands released the balloons to allow them to resume the heavily trip as my legs smashed into the bottom of the six-foot deep pond. Without making sure everything was okay, I instantly used them to push myself up—the pain wasn't astronomical which meant I didn't break them. My head popped up in the burning water and I quickly went under again, preferring to not burn my face off. A few quick strokes I was at the edge of the pond and out of the water.
Chaos presumed, people running in no particular direction like chickens with the heads cut off. Burning, dead, or badly injured people were spread across the pavement I looked across the surprisingly unscathed open lot that was supposed to be for picnics and sporting events and saw Tom bleeding all over the grass.
Not knowing what else to do, and not wanting to be another chicken with its head cut off running INTO the burning city I walked over to him, without even looking into my eyes he said, "Run, the forest, the forest is your only hope. Kill the one that calls himself the Holy Treedom. I know it sounds absurd, but this raining fire isn't natural. It's here to call upon the end of the world, the end of all humanity. The Earth is trying to cleanse itself and the Holy Treedom is the one causing the chaos, claiming himself a God of nature which will grow back and populate the Earth without the human plague. He's a psychopath and a super-genius. You can," he choked on his own blood, "only kill him by entering his dreams, sleep in his bed of bark…" with that Tom stopped breathing.
Having no clue how a lonely balloon man would know such things about the world that governments weren't able to find, I just assumed he knew the Treedom guy as a child or something, Tom knew everyone as a child. So, here I go into the forest behind my apartment building. The hideout really wasn't that hard to find, it was mysterious circle of really big trees with a muscular guard sitting outside. The guard, oddly, was sleeping—which was quite weird for such a dire situation, the sky falling and all, but atlas—not my problem, it just makes my life a bit easier. I slipped easily into the forest, the large trees towered miles into the sky. They were so tall I was unable to see the tops, matter of fact I was unable to see even the leaves of the trees. The leaves must be massive. And looking at the remains, a lot bigger than me, I wouldn't want one of them leaves falling!
Okay. I've moved into the bedchamber, it's a hidden place somewhere in the middle of the forest inside one of the largest of trees. His chamber was actually fairly small, but it still seems reasonable since he is just a psychopath mega-hippy of some sort. Once I was inside I quickly rushed into his bed, a large bark-covered bed of mush and rot, nasty. I only have a few minutes to fall asleep in his tough bed and move into his dreams to kill him before he notices some random person just snuck past his guard, all his security, and into his top-most secret lair. But how the hell was I going to sleep in a bed of bark and just waking up? It seemed impossible.
Then I realized, there is only one way. I had to knock myself out. I had to punch myself in the face till I fainted, and thus I commenced…. The first whack was unbearably painful, but I continued I hit again, and again—I was once told it was impossible to knock yourself out—but I'll prove those bastards otherwise! Mhaha! Whack! Whack! Whack! My darn hand is holding me back, I must keep trying—whack! Whack! I'll get it sooner or later! Whack!
Everything around me got hot, I felt at peace as the heat from above melted down into the tree hideout I was peacefully in. I had no problems with this peace; it was the most enjoyable sleep ever. Then I saw a light, a strange light, it must be the gateway to his dreams, I must have made it—I must have gotten there in time, but there was no way I could tell, I had to move towards it. I had to get to the light, closer, closer, closer I moved—I was almost there I was almost in it, in the light and—BLACKNESS.
Light, it was everywhere, blinding me—I lost where I was. Did I make it? I feel I ran out of time, I couldn't have made it—it was impossible, I never got to kill the Holy Treedom in his dreams like told. I observed my surroundings, everything slowly came into focus. Fire burned in the distance. I ignored the fire, it wasn't hot—I couldn't feel the heat.
Closer to me, I smelled fresh grinded wood, I looked down, bark—then I felt it on my flesh. The wood stuck to my sweaty neck and crispy clothing. Crispy clothing? I noticed chunks of my shirt missing—burned away by the fire now in the distance. I looked at my burned shirt and noticed it wasn't just my shirt that was burned, my skin was too. Black—my flesh was black, why couldn't I feel it? Why could I feel the bark pressed against my face but I couldn't feel the black flesh below it?
What happened? Did the world end? Did I make it to the next world, am I dead? Maybe I was damaged, maybe that's what the black was—damage? I made it part way through. What was burning? My eyes drifted away from my black skin, my fingers were afraid to touch it—incase my skin might suddenly realize its burned and spread pain through my body. The walls. The walls were burning. The walls were made of wood. Walls of wood? Circular walls. There is only one place I know off that has circular walls of wood that extend as large of this one, the Holy Treedom's hideout! I was still in his tree. The fire, it must be the end of the world; the sky must have fallen when I knocked myself out. The massive tree protected me from the inferno of death!
I had to regain my grounds, I had lived, somehow. I looked down at my body once more. Daringly, I moved my fingers towards the black flesh on my stomach and hip. I touch it—like melted wax the hot flesh stuck to my fingers. My fingers burned—the black flesh burned and stuck like napalm on my fingers. I watched as the flesh on my fingers was torn away and dripped down like candle wax. Pain—indescribable pain—a dream. This must be a dream. I had to wake up I had to!
I rushed for one of the burning walls of the tree, into the fire—that ought to wake me up. That ought to stop this nightmare. As I drew closer to the burning tree I felt the heat from the fire. Several large chunks of the interior of the tree fell from far above crashing onto the bark bed I woke up from moments before. I was only a few feet from the burning wall, I could feel the fire, I could see the sparks raging off it—it started to hurt my skin, even the molten black wax that was once my chest—it hurt, hurt from the fire. The very bones of my fingers, I could them feel crack from the heat.
I started having second thoughts. I started to pull away, it was too hot—it would hurt too much, I couldn't throw myself into the fire. But there was no other way. Several more chunks of the internal burning tree fell. It was jump into the wall of fire and die or die as the tree fell in on itself. This was certainly not the situation I planned on being in… again. I thought I was above getting caught in a no way out situation.
The fire wall it is. I closed my eyes. I backed up till I couldn't feel much of the heat radiating out of the burning wall. Three… two… one… I ran. My body was engulfed in the heat, but just for a second—then it was cool again. I was out, outside of the tree. I turned around, the massive tree I was in moments ago was on fire. I spun a circle, the trees around it were on fire—the entire forest was on fire. My abdomen suddenly cramped up. In an instinctive reaction my hand went for the cramp, pushing deep into the molten black flesh on my stomach. My fingers stung, my head burned, the cramp worsened, and my face hit the warm dirt.