by John Andreula
Is this real?
Dreams have a peculiar means of getting dreamers to ask that very question.
The simple answer is yes.
Although dreams do not have mass, they are indeed experiences, and experiences are tangible.
Dreams can also become memories, and memories are real as well.
Dreams are as real as anything else in the world.
Gigi was right, of course. The traveler was at the exact coordinates the woman had said he would be at. Glitch found the clearing deep in that forest with relative ease. All he had to do was be there and wait.
The traveler nearly spotted Glitch too. Luckily Gigi had warned him about the kid, and his propensity to not be seen by other people. Thanks to her tutelage, his increasing comfort in his ability gave him the confidence to use his skill to hide himself from the young man’s paranoid eyes.
The tall, slender man stood sat not sixty yards from the campfire, and the young traveler. Internally, a great battle ensued between his boredom and thirst. Still, he stood there and stayed silent, just as his mentor had told him to.
It had to be just before sunrise, Gigi had expressed. As usual, he didn’t know why it had to be a certain way or at a certain time, but he had seen more than enough to trust her implicitly.
As he watched from between the trees at a distance, Glitch didn’t see anything impressive about the boy. For some reason Gigi thought this kid was special. He didn’t exhibit any powers though, and that was unusual for her. All Glitch saw was the traveler brood, and grumble at the sunrise.
The campfire was days ago. He would be contacted again soon for his next assignment if he didn’t return to Refuge on his own volition. Right now he would drink. He wasn’t quite sure when he would get around to going back.
Things used to be different. Gigi used to be so passionate about helping people like Glitch learn about themselves and their powers. It didn’t seem like that anymore, not since they found the writer. Everything’s been a mission since then, and that wasn’t what Glitch had signed on for.
Glitch shifted his weight on the cracked vinyl seat of the bar stool. He had spent the last few hours feeling like he needed a drink. He was happier now, having one in his hand. Glitch took another sip of his clear Ron Junio tequila.
The dark brown wood of the bar was sticky. It was grimy where the flat top of the bar met the curved, downward-sloping accents. It probably hadn’t been cleaned in years, but they were serving, so this was Glitch’s kind of place.
The volumes on the TVs above the bar were turned up high. They blared over the boisterous, drunken locals. Having the televisions turned up so much only caused the other patrons to raise their voices even more. Human psychology was certainly funny like that. It surprised Glitch how little of it bartenders understood, considering their ability to milk sizable tips from the many suckers that bought drinks off them each evening.
Until recently, Glitch had just seen his ability as a neat parlor trick. Sometimes it even allowed him to grift a few bucks, or an occasional meal, but now his power was growing into something far greater. The asp had crushed his preconception of what he thought he was capable of. The fire snake was on a whole other level. Gigi seemed right about his potential as well.
Glitch took another pull from his tequila.
The man called Glitch used to be a regular Joe. In fact, his parents had named him the most generic name he had ever heard, Joseph Johnson. He hadn’t used that name since he was discovered by his comrades.
With the very few exceptional moments, Glitch saw himself as he was, a loser. He felt if anyone looked up normal, plain, or undesirable in the dictionary, there would be his picture right next to the definition.
Every now and again Glitch snuck a glance over at the group of belligerent girls further down the bar. They wore very revealing clothing, and he didn’t mind the show. They didn’t pay him any mind though.
Twice now Glitch made eye contact with the barkeep when his drinks got low. This time he ordered his third drink, before losing himself again in the thoughts of the previous evening and his stake-out of the drifter.
The fire snake was all his own doing. He was felt proud of himself for producing such an intricate projection. He now knew that he was capable of accomplishing feats previously only imagined in science fiction.
It was too bad he couldn’t do more than visually bring the fire snake to life. As was expected and inevitable, Glitch’s disappointment in himself pushed out the short-lived celebratory emotions. It was just too easy to slip back into his comfortable state of melancholy.
His job was done for now. Glitch would have to return to Refuge soon. Gigi would want to brief him on the state of the powered peoples’ world, before sending him out on his next super-human mission. He had little interest in orders and plans at the moment though.
For now his drink would suffice. He downed a generous gulp. Keeping the glass up by his mouth, he looked at the last bit of liquid at the bottom of the glass. Then he set it on the sticky bar in front of him.
The bartender wore a dark blue T-shirt that was a size too small for his muscular frame. The shirt featured the image of some ridiculous superhero wearing a cape, and posing with his fists on his hips. Above the picture it read “Who else is EFFECTED?” Slurred curse words and fake laughter came from the group of girls down the bar. Glitch sucked his teeth in contempt.
He kept thinking about the campfire, and of the traveler. Glitch picked up his glass and downed the last few drops. It was time to put on another show.
The soccer match on the television closest to Glitch had just ended. The customary post-match commercials began.
The mega-corporation VIM Inc.’s red, white, and blue logo took over the screen. The logo and music was followed by a clip of billionaire inventor, Seth Stanton, VIM’s controller, holding onto some elaborate tech. He was supposedly teaching some hand-selected under-served youths. They were all smiling. Stanton’s smile seemed curiously hollow somehow.
Glitch didn’t know what any of the devices in the commercial did. He wasn’t even interested in the advert. Yet, something about the billionaire’s presence on the screen kept his attention glued to the monitor.
Glitch stared blankly as the screen. Then Stanton looked directly into the camera, as if back at him behind the bar.
The controller stood there silently for a moment longer. He tapped the side of his head twice, above his ear, before bringing his index finger up to his lips and made the ubiquitous gesture of don’t tell anyone. The feed returned to the post-game pundits’ commentary.
What the fuck? Glitch thought to himself. He must have gotten himself drunker than he realized. That third drink was obviously affecting him.
Glitch made eye-contact with the bartender a final time that evening, and asked “Can I get the check?”
The young man tapped some keys on his POS screen before a white receipt printed noisily appeared from its slot. The man placed the check on a small shiny black tray with one of a credit card company’s logo on it. He slid it across the bar to Glitch with a nod.
Maybe it’s all for the better, Glitch thought to himself. After all, he used to be plain old Joseph Johnson. He was a fucking nobody. He used to pump gas, sell lottery tickets, and clean graffiti and shit off of gas station bathroom walls. He hadn’t used that name in a long time, and now, as Glitch, he wrote his own checks, so-to-speak.
Glitch squeezed his eyes shut tightly. Then he reopened them and stared ahead.
A shrill scream filled the establishment’s dingy interior. The shriek was followed by the sound of a dropped beer bottle braking as it hit the floor. Both came from the drunk girls he had been watching before.
The lushes jumped back from the bar, revealing what had scared them so abruptly. An abnormally large rat ambled on top of the bar. It twitched its whiskers and ate from a spilled bowl of stale bar snacks.
The bartender stood dumbfounded for a moment before jumping into action. He snatched up his small broom from behind the bar, in the corner, and began swatting it at the large rodent on the bar, yelling Shoo! repeatedly.
The rat hissed at him and bared its teeth. The bartender jumped back. The rat then did the same towards the scattering drunk girls.
Glitch squeezed his eyes closed once more, and again reopened them. A fifty dollar bill appeared on the top to the black tray in front of him. Glitch stood up, grabbed his dirty brown coat off the stool next to him, and walked out of the bar.
The heavy black door slammed shut behind him. There were white graffiti tags on the building’s front windows. The place was a dump. He was surely going to miss it.
Glitch headed down the quiet street on foot. The bar’s door flung open behind him. He pressed on, bracing himself for the familiar yell of the confused, yet equally stiffed bartender. No yelling followed. He ignored the hurried footsteps behind him.
“That was a cute trick you pulled in there,” spoke a man’s raspy voice as he tried to keep up with Glitch’s long strides. Glitch just kept on walking.
“Seriously, that’s was cool. You’re going to have to show me how you did that sometime. I’d even pay for your drinks to see that trick again.” The man’s voice trailed off, it was replaced by a cold chuckling. Glitch ignored the man and continued down the road.
The man stopped his attempt to keep up. “Joseph Johnson, I’m talking to you. Damn! Don’t be rude.”
Hearing his old, unused name gave him pause. Glitch ceased walking. He finally turned to face the man.
The man was very short, about half of Glitch’s height. He had tattoos of flames all over his face and hands.
“My name used to be James. Now they call me Swelter.”
Imagery is part of an ongoing fiction epic called The Dreamer.
And if you haven’t read the whole story, it starts here.
Look out for more of The Dreamer coming very soon!
John Andreula is a writer and dreamer residing in the foothills of Colorado.
More of his works of can be found at:
Reach him for commission work or media requests at: