Bearly awake
October 10th, 2008

Bearly awake

The crowd stood there, smiling softly, watching. She was down to her hands and knees now, hands bloody from pulling, and they just watched. Lovingly, they just watched. Some of them even started to join hands and sing, swaying back and forth and beaming at each other over the wonderfulness of it all. She screamed as she felt herself slipping into the cold, dark ground with a wave of grass sweeping up to close over her head, and the last thing she saw was her husband kissing the top of their daughter’s head as they both calmly watched her die–

“Eeeeyaaaaooouugh!” she yelled, sitting up hard enough to wrench her back. Hy Alistair, mayor of the newly-formed and completely airborne town of Venture, waited a full minute to compose herself and let her heart rate drop back down until it was merely tachycardia. She was in her dark, stark bedroom, full of metal and plastic and shiny fake wood, with no window anywhere and only a single small picture frame displaying a sunny sky on an otherwise featureless wall. The bed itself, with a small table to either side, was the only thing suggesting “bedroom” in the first place; otherwise a casual observer might have guessed “storeroom” or “shipping container” or “closed-off end of an abandoned corridor.” Not what you would expect to see in a picturesque town that had heretofore only appeared in her dreams. She closed her eyes and let herself dwell on that fantasy town. Damn appealing, even with the scary grass monster which probably represented her deeply suppressed fears of leadership or failure or…

At the end of the bed her daughter Arcus was still pulling at her foot and giggling.

—Or her fear of being convicted of a capital crime. Venture had laws against murdering eight-year-olds, right? She was certain she had seen that in the bylaws somewhere.

“Mom?” Arcus said. “Greta’s been calling you.”

“And this was sufficient reason to tear my foot off?”

“It was the only part of you I could see. You were all buried under the covers like a hibernating bear, roawr!” Arcus snarled and lumbered forward like a tiny, blond-haired bear cub. Then she squealed in a very unbearlike manner when Hy grabbed her and pulled her under the blankets, which led to a very undignified tickling encounter between two rolling piles of blankets. “Ack! Mommy!”

A different voice chimed in. “Mayor Alistair?”

One of the piles stopped. “What?” it said, muffled.

“It is 6:30 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, October 10, 2043,” the voice said. “In approximately one hour the first contingent of settlers is due to enter hiatus. It is a historic day for Venture and for humanity.”

Hy heaved a mighty sigh. “And?”

“You said you’d want to shower first.”

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