Message in a Bottle

By Andrew Looney

I woke up and found myself lying in the sand on a beach, in some exotic far away place like Hawaii or Tahiti or Bora Bora. The air was warm and breezy, and I could hear the sound of waves crashing against the sand. It was night, and the full moon was reflected in the ocean just like you might see on a poster in a travel agency's office. In the distance behind me were palm trees and jungle undergrowth, and right near me, a tiki torch on a long pole protruded from the sand, its flickering light illuminating the sand around me for several yards. Everything was perfect. In fact, it was just a little too perfect... it made me wonder if it weren't all just a fake, somehow, as if I were on the set for an episode of "Gilligan's Island."

I walked down towards the ocean, wondering how I'd gotten here. My feet were bare, and the warm sand squished between my toes.

As I approached the edge of the water, I noticed something glint in the moonlight, and went over to pick it up. It was a bottle. I peered through the green glass and could see something inside: a message in a bottle. I tore at the cork and reached inside with my index finger to pull it out.

The note said, in big block letters, "This is just a dream." I involuntarily dropped the bottle in the sand, and stood there, starring at the note, shaking my head back and forth. Then I started arguing with the note.

"If this is a dream," I said, "then why didn't I wake up when confronted by the knowledge that I'm dreaming?"

I gazed around at the beach, at the waves rolling in over the sand, thinking perhaps that another bottle would arrive to answer my question. But nothing happened.

"OK," I shouted at the note, "If I'm asleep, then maybe some water splashed in my face will make me wake up!" And I threw the note on the ground and went running down to the water. I waded in up to my knees, and splashed water all over myself. The water tasted salty. But I didn't wake up. After a bit, and gave up and got out of the water.

As I started walking back towards the spot where I'd left the message, and I noticed someone stooping to pick up the curled sheet of paper. As I drew nearer, I saw that it was an attractive young woman, with long black hair, wearing a robe-like dress with a tropical flowered print.

"The note says this is all just a dream," I said when I was close enough for her to hear me.

"Yes, I see."

"But if it's just a dream, why can't I wake up?"

The woman smiled mysteriously at me. "Who says it's YOUR dream? Maybe you don't exist at all, and someone is just dreaming you."

I tried to think of something to say in response to this, but couldn't. I just stood there with my mouth open.

The woman broke the silence. "Come on, let's go swimming." She untied the belt around her waist, tossed her dress into the sand, and went running off, naked, down to the water's edge. Following her lead, I undressed and went after her. When I caught up to her, she was swimming about in the waves, and I had a difficult time continuing the conversation.

"If it's not my dream," I shouted above the roar of the waves, "Then whose dream is it?"

"It's my dream, OK?"

"Then why haven't YOU woken up and made me disappear?"

"Because I don't want to! Look, I have to get up and go to work in about 10 minutes, and I'm trying to enjoy the limited time I have left! So shut up with your stupid questions and let me enjoy the ocean!"

At this, she went swimming away from me, and away from the shore. I tried to follow her, but she swam faster than me and I had a hard time keeping up. Then a wave crashed over my face, and I got seawater in my lungs, and when I came back up I couldn't see her anymore. So I gave up and swam back to shore.

I sat in the sand watching the ocean until the sun came up. The woman never came back. Eventually I gave up searching for her and went off to climb a palm tree to get coconuts for breakfast, wondering all the while who I was.

Copyright © 1996 by Andrew Looney.

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