Then I Wake Up (a short story)

Then I wake up. I’m in a… a bar? a café? Hmm. Yeah, I seem to have fallen asleep curled up in the corner of this café. I’m thirsty. I go to the counter and order a drink.

“What do you want?” asks the woman at the counter.

I stare at her blankly for what seems like a long time. What do I..? …what do I want? This is a tough question. Even if I came up with an answer, how could I know that it was truly what I wanted? The human mind, I know, is good at answering the wrong question. Maybe whenever I think I’ve figured out the answer to “What do I want?” I’m actually answering “What feels good to think about right now?” Or something.

“Tea? Or coffee? We have a nice medium roast…”

Ah! Yes. What do I want to drink?

“Uhh, black tea, I guess?” Might help me stay alert.

I’m pretty sure that the question I’ve answered is more like “what feels like a good idea?” than “what do I want?” but that seems okay. This drink decision isn’t super important.

I see my friend walking by, and go over to say hi.


“Oh, hey!”

“It’s super cool that you’re here in my dream with me,” I blurt out.

He gives me a weird look.

Wait, what? “In my dream”? But then I realize that whatever part of me said that is right. I just woke up a few minutes ago, but I’m still dreaming.

Then I wake up.

This time I’m in a bed—that makes a bit more sense. Okay, bed. Wait, whose bed? The bed feels familiar and yet it’s clearly in some sense not my bed. I hear Sam’s voice in an adjacent room… oh yeah, I slept over here last night.

She hears me getting up, and calls from the kitchen, “Do you want tea?”

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A portrait of Malcolm Ocean

I'm Malcolm Ocean.

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