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The Underwater Playroom

By stephenhill777 All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Fantasy

The Underwater Playroom

Today was not a productive day. I spent three hours recreating the Simpson family on the Sims just so that I could call them the Sims-sons. I accidentally re-read Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl while cleaning my room. Just when I got settled down to start searching for jobs, Pinterest happened. And now it’s one in the morning.

“Are we still on for the movie tomorrow?”

“It’s at seven, right? I should be able to make it.”
“Pints after?”
“Can’t afford it”

“Dick,” she replied. I retorted with a smiley face.

Lying in bed, I stared at my phone on my bedside table. My eyes travelled to the door, the floor, my phone, the door again, my Amy Poehler biography and back again to the door. I couldn’t sleep. Fuck it, I couldn’t sleep. My alarm was set, I checked my phone. Three o’ clock, five hours to go, fuck it. Look for jobs til 6, movie afterwards. Productivity. Still five hours of sleep left…

My alarm started to go off, what?! It was…I reached for the little vibrating bastard on my bedside table and sure enough, it was 8 o’ mother-fucking clock. I breathed angrily and lazily through my nose. No…another half hour…..or hour…I set my alarm for nine and rolled back over in my fluffy, yet manly, duvet. And that’s when I had this dream.

In the dream, I stood by a vast loch, surrounded by mountains and although I couldn’t feel anything, I knew it was cold. A soft wind ruffled my hair and I dreamt that I felt it. I always had ruffle-worthy hair in my dreams. Without turning my head, I knew my brother and sister were standing behind me, unsurprised or impressed with my presence. As a family, we stared into the heart of the lake without really seeing anything.
I thought we were in Scotland, but looking back, this was just a lake that I’d see before in multiple screen-savers and desktop backgrounds. Needless to say, it was heavenly and beautiful. And then my sister fell face first into the water.

Sinking further, pulling myself down deeper into the lake, I was surprised by how warm the water was. It enveloped me, held me close and rewarded my limbs for swimming deeper into the heart of it, rather than punishing them. Keep going, I whispered to myself. I held the water closer to me, cherishing the warmth.

I don’t know how we ended up in my old playroom, or how we managed to keep the league of water above us out when we entered. These were the sort of questions that could pull you out of a dream. And I knew it was a dream. In much the same way we all know that we are breathing. In…and out. I didn’t dwell on it because it was pointless. But I knew it.
My brother was holding a red plastic action figure that made both us deliriously happy one Christmas. 1995 it was. Mighty Morphing Power Rangers. We had brought it in with our other toys and had made it fight, well, pretty much everything. I don’t know what my parents did on Christmas morning, they never got any toys. No one gets toys anymore.

“Fiona sitting in the bus” my brother said calmly. And sure enough, there she was. Sitting in the red plastic bus that we’d gotten the Christmas before in 1994. It was the same size as her. She looked patiently ridiculous. And behind her…

I marched across the purple and multicoloured carpet that I knew intimately from my childhood. I rolled, wrestled, cried and did handstands on that carpet. I knew that carpet well. It’s strange the items we get attached to. This is the thought I had as I reached the Toy Box.
Every child growing up has a toy box. It might not take the form of a box per se. It might be a shelf, a cabinet, a pile. Ours was a box on wheels and it had one and a half sides of it blasted with stickers. Stickers of shiny aliens. Glow in the dark stickers from Casper the movie. Jurassic Park stickers. Sonic the Hedgehog stickers. Scratch and sniff stickers. These stickers were worthless, I thought, as I looked on them fondly. We’d planned to cover the entire box, all four sides with stickers. This plan never took off because we moved house and, after we grew into adults, our sticker income was drastically cut short.

“Do you remember this?” I said to my brother. He looked at me, but before he could say anything…

I was grimly aware of a sound in the distance. It was a beating sound, like a heart. Or possibly…
My brother looked at me. He was no longer enjoying our childhood. He stood by the door. Expectantly. A tight fear gripped my heart as I clutched at the Toy Box. You know when a child irrationally starts kicking and screaming because he doesn’t want to leave literally anywhere at all? I could feel that sort of tantrum rising in me. I didn’t want to leave, but there was water all around us now…

And it wasn’t a beating. It had a rhythm all right, but it was more of a ringing sound.

The water was coming in. I knew I would be safe if I stayed here. If I stayed in my childhood. The water was warm, so what if we were covered in it? In defiance, I sat down in the water, turning over and pulling the blankets over my head. This was better.

A definite ringing now. And a vibration, very close to my bedside table in fact.

My brother gave me one last look of futility before disappearing and I knew I wouldn’t see him again. Not like this. Not in this space. The entire time he’d been here, the entire time I’d looked up at him in that way younger brothers do, he wasn’t more than seven years old.

I reached over, grabbed my phone and turned off the alarm. My eyes were weighted down with sleep, and I realised I was still somewhere underwater. I pulled the blanket tighter, feeling the warmth all around me and rolled over to face the bedroom door.
“I could go back,” I thought. I’m still in that playroom, I had a foot in there. As I thought this, I stared at the wooden, non-carpeted floor. It looked cold. And boring. That was a floor full of potential splinters, right there. It was nine o’ clock and outside my bedroom window I could hear the rumble of traffic, beating against my window pane. Like lazy waves against a phantom shore.

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