I am working in some sort of shopping mall, in customer service.
My female co-worker and I sit in the center of a large torus (donut) shaped table, set right by the front entrance of the mall. We are there to address shopper questions and help direct them to the stores they are looking for. We are the information table.
An older, grandma aged customer comes up and compliments my co-worker on her ornate jewelry (garish gold bracelets with huge costume jewels inset and matching oversized earrings). Grandma then turns to me and asks “Is there a Dollar Store nearby, or something similar?”
I direct her to a store that is roughly seven blocks away from our location. Grandma thanks us and leaves.
My supervisor, Eric, who has seen this whole exchange from across the walkway motions that he wants me to come and talk to him in his office.
Maneuvering away from the center of the table proves to be an interesting experience, as it involves going through a trapdoor set in the floor, down a ladder, into the mall basement, past a bomb shelter, and then up a staircase to go through some fire doors which leads out into the mall lobby again.
While I was navigating the underworld, a long line of suitors had developed at the information table; the men and women are all there to make passes at my co-worker. She tells me to ‘hurry back,” followed by a tinkle of laughter.
Eric’s office looks like a rundown hotel room, complete with bed, a magic fingers bed massager that runs on quarters, overflowing ashtrays and water stained, sun bleached striped wallpaper. I have a seat in the threadbare recliner while he lounges on the bed and lights a cigarette.
I ask about the relocation costs. (This seems like a non-sequitur, but Eric understands right away what I am referencing)
Eric says the paperwork has been submitted, and should pay out shortly.
I ask about the insurance.
The papers have been filed and approved. “I have some Xerox copies if you would care to go over the finer points,” he says as he hands me a stack of papers. Without looking at them, I toss them in the wastepaper basket behind me and turn back to Eric.
“I have faith in you,” I say “and the system.”
Eric gives a mischievous grin, which shows off a few too many teeth. “Are you certain?” he asks and nods behind me toward the trashcan.
I turn, and where the trashcan was, is now a circular rag woven rug, roughly three feet in diameter, like something you would see in a kitchen or bathroom. It seems familiar. The trashcan has disappeared.
I look back to Eric and the bed he was resting on has turned into a red leather couch. My eyes widen. “That’s my couch,” I say, without a lot of conviction.
He shrugs, “Go ahead and look around,” and puts out his cigarette.
I smile and get up. I go into the next room and find my wife Cat in the bedroom of our new home wearing an ornamental vintage Dutch dress; blue corduroy with floral and ivy folk designed embroidery.
Cat is exuding happiness. Huge smile and laugh. We are home. She does a little pirouette on her toes and then leaps into my arms for a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
I go through the rest of the house. Eric has disappeared, as, thankfully, have his cigarettes, ashtrays and stained wallpaper. It is a beautiful, fresh, new home. Night comes quickly as I inspect the rooms; the kitchen, the garage. I end up in the guest bedroom by myself.
I notice a twitch and flicker of movement from the bed. There is a large hornet, about four inches long, at the foot of the bed. It is colored red and black, and is odd looking, alien.
I know the hornet is from last season. We presumed that they were all killed off by the frost and winter and freezing, but it turns out this one somehow got in the house and hibernated. Now it was waking up.
I run to the kitchen and grab a fly swatter and head back to the bedroom. The hornet is walking in a wide circle, its wings flickering in the dim light from outside.
I administer a swift flurry of blows to the insect. It takes several attempts, but at last I am victorious. The bug lies dead on the bedsheet.
There comes a soft sound of steady droning, and the bedsheet moves. Just under the surface of the sheet I see the imprints of dozens, hundreds of large hornet bodies. They are legion, and they are waking up.
I wake up. I feel a tingling on the surface of my hands and quickly check that there are no bugs on me.