A short story.

Tic. Toc. Tic. Toc. The clock strikes 2… am. I’ve never worked this late before. My chest is pounding. That last scrap of work that I didn’t get to finish is eating away at me on the drive home. What was I even working on? I can’t remember for the life of me. The roads are empty and so I step on the pedal and shift into light speed – streetlights stretching into streaks in the corner of my eye. I come home to my penthouse apartment and fall back onto the couch. That noise is pestering me again – that damn bug that I can’t get rid of. The sharp buzzing is in my ear and I swat at it, hitting myself hard in the face as the bug narrowly escapes its demise. A few seconds of silence and the sound returns. My heart begins to race again. All I want is to sleep, but I can’t. I hear it in the distance and chase after it down the hall. I turn the corner and pass through a doorway. I’m in the rafters of a grand hall with 30-foot ceilings, the buzzing sound echoing off the walls, seemingly coming from all directions. Jumping from the rafters, I glide towards the ground in the centre of the room. Heart still pounding, I continue my search for the bug. Across the room, from behind a large pillar emerges a sentient white bed sheet moving in a slow, snakelike fashion towards me. Now I am the hunted. Though I can easily outrun the sheet, the thought of it inching closer every second that I stop to rest keeps me on edge. I race up the walls of the hall back through the doorway from which I came. The bug is gone, but the sheet is slithering its way up the wall. I sit back down but cannot relax and do not sleep – and yet suddenly I wake up.

You there, yes you. You may have deduced that there was no late work night, no penthouse apartment, no ghostly sheet looking to swallow me whole, and no bug that could not be caught or killed. The images may have been in my head, but the feelings and emotions could not have been more real. Reality is in itself an agreed upon fabrication of our collective consciousness, making the emotions caused by a dream – or a perceived reality – just as real as any other emotion.

Though we all live in the same world, the way I live an experience may not be the same as the way you perceive that experience as it is happening to me. In my reality, registering for another degree after being out of school is terrifying. In your reality, starting that degree I’ve always wanted to pursue is exhilarating. In my reality, one wrong life choice will send me in a downward spiral that will lead to nothing but pain and misery. In your reality, no matter what choices I make, I will eventually be fine. In every case, even the dream, it is not important whether or not the reality I perceive is real because the emotions that are associated with it always are.

I am not anyone specific. I am everyone who is going through anything. If you truly want to help me, you have to try to understand the world as I experience it. You may think my issue is caused by a delusion or misinterpretation – a bad dream – but delusion or not, it is my reality. The emotional response I have to this reality is genuine regardless of whether the cause is real. Leave your logic and reason at the door and simply try to discover what my reality looks like. Then, you can begin to unravel my emotions.

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