I would like to dedicate this book to my friends, both from real life and online. Thank you for letting me be weird, or at least going along with my voluntary craziness. I would also like to dedicate this book to the all dreamers and weirdos out there, as well as the "ordinary" people who are thrown into extraordinary situations, like many of the characters you are bound to meet in this book. You're just as amazing as anyone else.
Secondly, I would like to give credit to all the photographers who captured the (stock-free) images that I used to cobble this cover together; Filip Mroz, Giga Khurtsilava, and Saffu. I edited their photos and spliced them together on a really fantastic website called Canva.
I swear I'm not sponsored, I just genuinely like that site. When you're self-published, you have to do it yourself.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the fact that this book would not exist if it wasn't for me leaving school at fourteen, and starting my writing career. I'll admit, I wrote quite a bit of unreadable trash before this book came along. I used to regret leaving, but honestly I don't anymore. School was never the right path for me, and I'm glad that this book exists.
A trippy story that journeys into the deep subconscious, makes your skin squirm like you've got an earwig trying to burrow through to your heart, and, with any luck, leaves behind a strange aftertaste that you sort of like.
Much like a cult-classic movie from the 80s, with special effects that are so bad they're actually good.
There was a sudden shift of gravity in the atmosphere of my lounge room, and I felt myself floating up into the air effortlessly. My dangling feet didn't even brush against the familiar beige rug that lay on the floor, and all of my logic had flown out of the closed window like a deranged pelican caught in a cloud of broken glass.
"Hey, wait a sec," I began suspiciously, narrowing my eyes, "this isn't supposed to happen!" I exclaimed frantically at my sister, who was sitting on the couch.
I did a double take though, as it now seemed to be Larry from my school who was sitting there. He looked up at me casually with his unnaturally bright green eyes, as if he was allowed to sit on my sofa or something. There was no way that annoying kid would be let inside the house!
And that's when I realised I was dreaming. It seemed to be a lucid dream too, and that meant I could do anything that I wanted.
Anything at all.
"Larry, you're a loser!" I exclaimed at my uninvited, irritating classmate. "LARRY THE LOSER!"
"And you are flying," began Larry in an awkward voice, "and that makes you a chimp-monk-hedge-horse!"
That was incredibly rude. I didn't seem to remember it as being an insult in real life, but somehow I knew it was very offensive - and punishable by death to say in front of anybody who was under the age of six. I gasped angrily, getting ready for revenge...
"Time for school!" shouted the disembodied voice of my mum, from some other room.
"But today's Saturday!" I exclaimed furiously. "I mean, what the hell?! The teachers can't do this to us! We should be free!" I tried to shout, but it came out as a squeaky whisper, and I slowly glided back down, and onto the floor.
Larry shrugged blankly at me, and I was suddenly teleported to the inside of my school.
"CURSE THIS!" I shouted angrily, preparing to dream up a sword and slash everything on site.
Then, I realised that there was knee-deep water on the floor, soaking into the carpets and everything. It sloshed around my lower legs, crashing with uncontrollable miniature waves, which looked as though they could have been taken from the ocean itself. The chilling water splashed up onto my face in large droplets, sending the strong odour of chlorine into my sensitive nostrils. Wasting no more time, I splashed through the water and all the way to the receptionist's desk.
"Rhonda!" I exclaimed hoarsely, throwing my hands in the air. "What the heck's happened in here?"
Rhonda just shrugged at me blankly, and then pointed in the direction of my classroom like it was just a regular Tuesday morning or something. I frowned at her and splashed my way towards the doomed destination.
In the hallway, I came across my old principal from year one. I hadn't seen her in years! I wouldn't have been lying if I said she hadn't changed a bit, because she genuinely hadn't. She still wore the same pair of dangly scarlet earrings, and the same clashing purple cardigan. If that unholy combination of colours wasn't bad enough, you should have seen the glasses she had on. It was as though she couldn't decide between scarlet or yellow, because one half of the frames were a daring shade of scarlet, and the other half was a garish shade of lemon-yellow.
Come to think of it, I didn't remember her looking quite this weird, but that didn't matter now. There were much more important things to attend to. I had some serious questions to ask, and I would not be satisfied until somebody answered them.
"Why the heck is there all this damn water here?" I asked loudly, kicking a reasonable quantity of the rippling, chlorinated liquid in the principal's direction.
"Oh," the principal boomed quickly, glancing down at the water as if everything was normal, "the government has converted this educational facility into a pool school. It's scientifically proven to help-kelp children's productivity!"
That was crazy.
No way was this actually happening! Not on my phone...because I use my phone for a watch? No? I guess my dream has a strange sense of humour...
"B-but," I began.
The principal shushed me, shaking her finger in my face violently. "Uh-uh, class now! Quick sticks!"
And just like that, she began shoving me towards my classroom.
I walked into the open-plan room with my flimsy arms folded, still in a diabolically bad mood. However, I suddenly remembered that I was dreaming, and decided to do what I had always wanted to do at school. I span around once, and did jazz hands!
"IT'S ME!" I shouted at the top of my lungs, in the most comical voice I could physically muster.
My classmates all stared at me, and my home group teacher, Mrs Claude, gave me the evil eye like she was so famous for. "VIOLET!" she yelled menacingly, splashing through the water on the warpath towards me.
I hastily took a step back.
"You are in very big trouble, young lady!" she exclaimed, taking me roughly by my arm.
I suddenly realised I could wake up at any moment, and didn't know what I should do!
"Listen!" I began, "I could wake up any time, and I really want a more fulfilling dream."
I was pretty sure I had said this in a very reasonable tone of voice. Mrs Claude pulled an angrier expression, yet also let go of my arm and stomped towards her messy desk, stuffing a giant block of milk chocolate in her mouth. And I mean a huge block, like nothing you've ever seen before. This is like block of chocolate your favourite auntie would give you if your dog died. Yeah, that. Now imagine it twice as humongous, and being shoved into a rather large sunburned lady's mouth in one go. Yep, that's what I want you to see.
"It is almost time for PE," declared a very stern disembodied voice. Not one that I recognised either.
I ignored it though, and walked over to my friend Chase, still outraged about being here on the weekend, though it was a dream. "This is pretty crazy, right?" I fumed, two small clouds of infuriated steam escaping my nostrils.
She just shrugged.
"SCHOOL ON SATURDAY?!" I yelled, randomly shoving one hand in my ear - even though it was scientifically impossible, physically impossible, and impossibly gross.
"So?" she replied, like this situation wasn't unjust in any way.
In that moment, I decided that dream Chase was definitely not a "dream" to be around, and certainly not my friend. Not tonight anyway. Or today? Who knows with a dream...
Suddenly, I found myself standing outside on the old basketball court. But instead of being "spick and span" like the PE teacher proudly claimed it was, the tarmac was carpeted in overgrown tendrils of ivy which shouldn't have been there, and the basketball hoops were rusted beyond repair. I should have heeded that warning that PE was starting. In case you didn't know, I hate PE with every fibre of my being. Especially at school on a Saturday.
Where the PE shed should have been sat my paranoid uncle Wayne's old house; a rickety tin shack with peeling green paint, and a hazardous rotten veranda. His vintage red convertible was in the driveway too, complete with eggs were frying away on the bonnet - just as he said they could on a hot day.
All around the court stood the awkward young adolescents who were in my class. They wore ugly woollen uniforms, unlike they had ever been forced to before. It was like the uniform the kids had to wear in my favourite novel from my childhood (set at a dingy orphanage in case you wanted to know).
To check if I was also wearing the dismal orphanage uniform, I looked down at my own clothes - and sure enough I was clad in the very same ugly red and grey uniform as the rest of my class. This fueled the anger in me even more.
The class was divided into two teams either side of the court. We stared each other down competitively. The kids on my side were my friends, or people that I got along with okay; and the kids on the other side were all the rivals I'd ever had, all the bullies, all the people I'd ever hated over the years - as well as some random strangers.
Explicit hip-hop music (that might have been normally used for a dance battle) played in the background. Just then, a nasal voice rang out and echoed all over the court. "Diddly-dee! See if you can dodge these balls with me!"
I glanced around to see an ugly little sage-coloured gremlin with a greeny-brown beanie on its head, standing right in the middle of the court. He, or it, wore an actual tattered hessian sack for clothes, and I could catch the faint whiff of something like onions. But worse.
I pulled a face.
I was disgusted.
Whoever, or whatever this warty little gremlin was, I could have gone my whole life without smelling it. My whole damn life.
The hip-hop music then grew louder, and kept on repeating; like it was broken. The tune sounded like a cat dying, only swearing one word as it did so. "Hissshit-hissssshit."
The gremlin stared at me with its disgusting rotten blood-red eyes and grinned. Its teeth were rotten too. So rotten they were brown. It needed to go to the dentist. Big time.
The gremlin pointed a repulsive mouldy green finger directly at my nose. Its nails were overgrown, cracked, and yellowed. Just looking at them made the smell of maggot-y cheese travel up my nostrils and choke me.
"YOU!" shouted the gremlin threateningly. "DODGE BALL!" Its voice was coarse and raspy, like it was disgusted by everything it could see; like it was disgusted by everything it said. And more than anything else, it was like it needed to clear its throat. Like it had needed to clear its throat since the mid 80s.
My eyes widened in shock. "What, me?" I asked in dismay. "Me, dodge ball?"
The gremlin did an oozy armpit fart in response, locking its eyes with mine the whole entire time; as if it wanted to make sure I was watching. I scoffed in disgust, and before I had time to respond, a basketball was thrown from nowhere - at my face.
It reeked of onions.
I shrieked as the ball bounced off my face, and into a puddle of something I could only describe as "bloody mush" that lay before me on the ground. Whatever that mush was, I didn't know - but it sure hadn't been there before. I didn't want to know what it was.
Then, the whole of my team started throwing bowling balls at our rivals.
"TAKE THAT!" shouted Chase, as a her bowling ball turned into an egg-salad sandwich and hit Tatiana in the face.
Tatiana and Chase had never met each other in real life, but Tatiana had been really mean to me in kindergarten. She had tossed my favourite teddy in the bin and then poured her pot of raspberry yoghurt all over it. A genuine bully. I guess they hated each other now.
Then, the rival team suddenly started throwing basketballs at us, glaring into our eyes with a burning hatred which could only be tied with that of the devil itself.
Before reaching us, the basketballs turned into comically fuzzy greenish tennis balls, and then huge metal oil heaters. I could even note the pungent stench of kerosene when a particularly hot oil heater fell right at my feet. But it didn't hurt - even though I could see some of my skin melting off. It dripped in a gloopy puddle, and melted into the bloody mush from before; spiralling into a red and pink swirly mess. I leant down to take a closer look, and saw my reflection looking back at me. Only it was a younger version of myself.
Then Larry (who was on my team) threw a turkey sandwich directly at the gremlin's saggy tummy. There was an indignant farting sound from the impish little creature - and before anyone knew what was happening, it turned into a bomb and exploded. Gruesome bits of dark green gremlin guts flew in the air, and a horrific cloud of oniony gas went all the way up our noses.
After all the farts cleared, the only thing that was left of the gremlin was its tunic; lying in tatters in a pile of its own blood and gory green innards. The hip-hop music changed and turned into a song about toilets, and eating toothpaste spread on toilet cakes.
"Toothpaste, oh boyyy, what a great taste! And don't forget the toilet cakes! Toothpase, oh gee, what a cool taste!" went the song, its volume increasing with every line. "You've gotta eat 'em, ayo! Can't beat 'em, ayo! Give ya'self a treat, yee, and save some for me ba-by, that'd be lovely..."
It sounded almost as if an older version of Larry was singing the song. To be honest, at the time I thought it sounded kind of good. Who'd have thought?
"WHAT A BOP!" I shouted.
Then, I cheered at the repugnant mess of tangled green guts and ripped up fabric in the middle of the court. The gremlin was gone. The gremlin was dead.
All the other kids on our team cheered loudly, clapping our hands and screeching. "BING-BONG, THE GREMLIN'S DEAD!" yelled our team in unison.
All of a sudden, I found myself standing in the school library. The lights were dim, but I could still see just fine. I could still see my whole class, the old sofas, and the bookcases - but for some reason our normal librarian wasn't there. Instead, behind the desk there was seated a very warty old woman, not unlike the gremlin from before. I had a sinking feeling of dread as I walked up to her.
"Who are you?" I asked indignantly.
The librarian smoothed her faded white mohawk and pouted her blotchy purple lips. "What a peculiar question!" she exclaimed, making a non-disclosing gassy snort with her mouth.
I folded my arms in response. "I still don't know who the hell you are," I complained.
The strange librarian scratched one of her greyish cheeks, rubbing off a particularly hairy wart and flicking it off the desk. She stood up - and it was then that I realised she was no longer wearing a tacky and moth-eaten lemon-yellow cardigan. She was now wearing an even tackier lavender-coloured 80's jumpsuit, and it was far too tight for her.
"I, am Molothy the librarian," she replied sternly, leaning over me and glowering menacingly.
Her sour breath was hot on my face.
It was like onions, but worse...
It was the gremlin!
I backed away in fear, bumping into a bookcase that was far too close to the library desk. Just as I was about to edge away from said bookshelf, a ton of remarkably heavy books fell on me. They created painful thuds upon my back, as though I was being punched and pummelled by a thug who was angry about being mugged.
One of the books steered itself into my hands, as if it was hinting for me to open it. I stared down at its cover and read the title, then deciding that the horrid piece of literature would be opened over my cold dead body.
The publication was called, "How to Hide a Dead Body for Dummies." I dropped the book in disgust and shock.
Larry walked up to me.
"Are you okay, Violet?" he asked, picking up the book carelessly. His eyes widened. "Whoa, How to Hide a Dead Body for Dummies?" he asked, more shocked than me.
I shrugged. After all, this was just a dream - though I kept on forgetting it. I didn't even have to answer Larry, because he was just a dream with no feelings or expectations.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I said casually, "even though you're just a dream, and I don't actually have to talk to you."
Larry's jaw dropped. "But...isn't this my dream?" he asked, genuinely shocked.
I lunged forwards and tried to hit him on the arm, but he moved out of the way just in time. He looked almost hurt, but mostly angry. "Uh, you're not meant to hit me, you pony," he sneered, "you're meant to pinch me, see if we're dreaming."
I leaned forward and pinched him on the arm, making him flinch away like a sad caterpillar which looked a lot more like a human.
I jumped in the air when I saw he was still there. He hadn't woken up, or vanished. "You were lying! It is my dream after all!" I exclaimed joyfully, receiving an angry "shh" from Mololthy.
"We'll see about that," he chuckled, pinching my wrist. He looked like a psychopath, how happy his face was to bring me pain - actually it wasn't that, he was just a jerk.
I didn't wake up, and it hurt really badly - just like in real life.
Larry had proved me wrong for once. He had proved that it wasn't my dream. But it wasn't his dream either. In fact, come to think of it, if this was a dream I would have woken up by now, and I had never known a dream to be this vivid.
I gasped comically, just like a character out of a trashy soap opera. "But what does this mean?" I whispered.
Larry shook his head slowly in disbelief. "That this isn't a dream," he answered doomfully.