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Dream Job, Kellene O'Hara

January passed like a dream – a muddled memory of Mondays and other days. All faint and foggy. I don't know where I was in January.

I was here, but not. I was not in the office. I was not really anywhere in January.

I only had to do my job. My job was to stay awake. Staying awake in a dream is difficult. This is why I am paid money. It is not an easy task to stay awake. It is not easy to stay awake at your desk when it is warm.

And, that January, the office was particularly warm. They wanted to really make me work for my money. To earn it. It was quiet and all I wanted to do was to take a nap, just a little nap.

But my job was not to sleep. My job was not to talk. My job was not to do anything other than stay awake.

And staying awake is so very hard to do when you are in a dream.

I felt like I couldn't move in January. I was lethargic. I was a slug, in my office chair, waiting for nothing and no one.

Everyone else was already asleep. All of them were dreaming. I want to say that they dreamed peacefully in January, but I saw them slumped in streets. I saw them on the train. I saw them in park benches and their shadows in window sills. Their sleep was uneasy. It was fitful.

At times, it was frightful.

It is not easy to work the dream job, even when the job description is simple:

Stay awake.

But everyone else was already asleep, even my boss. No one would notice if I also fell asleep. If I fell asleep, everyone in the world would be sleeping.

I am the last one awake here.

It is not easy, knowing that you are the last to drift off. I know that I cannot stay awake forever.

I am permitted two days of rest each week, according to the union. I must be afford those days of rest. So, I rest. But I do not sleep. I cannot sleep. It is not my job to sleep.

I am exhausted. I am so very tired.

It is Friday, the final Friday before February. I want to sleep.

I knock on the office to my boss' door and say, "I am tired."

I shatter the silence, but not the sleep. My boss remains asleep. My boss is sleeping.

I see everyone around me, all asleep. Everyone is sleeping.

I wonder why I am still working. Why am I still fighting to stay awake? In a world of sleepers, why can't I also be asleep?

I decide that I want to quit. I write a letter. I hand it to my sleeping boss who does not accept it. Nor is the letter rejected. It simply falls to the floor, forgotten. My boss is sleeping.

I cannot quit my job. It is not permitted in this world of sleepers. I could abandon my job.

But where would I go in a sleeping world? Where would I travel?

I cannot think too long. The clock strikes midnight and February first comes and I feel foggy and distant and tired. I am so very tired. I think I don't have a choice. I am not thinking.

I am closing my eyes.

And then...I hear...

"Wake up."

And I am awoken.


I am to report everything that happens to me when I am dreaming. This is my job. I am immediately given a canvas. The paint brush is already in my hand. My brain remembers that this, here, is the real world.

I remember that my job is to dream.

I remember that I am not permitted to use words. I cannot speak words. I cannot write words. Symbols, of all kinds, are forbidden. Any pictorial depiction is not allowed.

I am allowed paint brushes and color and the canvas. The blank canvas before me.

I think about my dream. From my body, the dream comes. In that false world, the dream world, my job was not to fall asleep. My job, here in reality, is quite the opposite.

I think about the days when, long ago, everyone dreamed. They had the chance to fall asleep and imagine a world so very different from our own.

But no one dreams now. Only the few.

From my hands and from the paint, my dream is depicted on the canvas.

I paint for a long time.

I do not let the paint dry. It is wet when my boss examines it, the colors running still.

"It is purple," my boss approves.

There is no purple on the canvas, but I understand instantly what she means.

It is perfect.

This dream that I had. It is perfect. There is no other dream like it.

They hang it on the wall. I am promoted.

They tell me - You can really dream!

But, each night, more of us are taken into blackness, from which none return.


Kellene O’Hara is currently pursuing her MFA in Fiction at The New School. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in Ab Terra Flash Fiction Magazine and The Fourth River.

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