Short Story - The Remote



From the free-write journal archives, here's a flash fic I wrote at the beginning of the year (and edited a bit recently). Enjoy!

The Remote

New Year's.

I spend most New Year's Eves making a final decision about my One resolution for the upcoming year. Then I spend New Year's Day nailing down my plans to keep that resolution. Six months is how long, on average, it takes for one of my resolutions to stick. 

Restarts are always part of the plan. I always restart multiple times.

But 2019 was a hell of a year, so I decided at the last minute to take 2020 off from resolutions. Instead of crawling into bed by ten o'clock and waking up in the new year, I opened up my living room to a few coworkers to ring it in with me. 

You know, the ones who never have plans but always wish they did.

We played a wicked drinking game while watching the local ball drop, then they were gone in their ride shares by one o'clock. In the morning. On New Years.

I can still hear the happy, drunken merriment in their voices calling out, "'Bye Gina!" and "See you Monday!"

Why did I let them come over again? 

It's just now hitting me - I am still completely anal about having a clean home, even when I'm drunk. Because when I walk into the living room, there are no signs of a party having taken place there. It looks almost exactly like I leave it every evening before I go to bed. And in the morning when I go to work. And when I pop out to go to the store on the weekends.

My head is pounding, no doubt because I didn't drink enough water before going to sleep. Since I wasn't planning to be mapping out a year of anything today anyway, plopping on the couch and watching nonsense seems like a solid plan.

After I grab a glass of water and some pain reliever, of course.

Only, when I reach out to the middle of the coffee table to pick up the television remote a few minutes later, my hand comes up empty. Why last night's bout of cleaning skipped over this particular detail, I don't know. 

But when my eyes scan the entertainment center and don't lock onto the remote's familiar shape, I look to the end table. Not there either.

That's when my brain drags out the memory of a coworker having been in control of the remote at one point in the evening. They were sitting on the couch, and I think I remember cringing when they set it on the cushion beside them.

Couch cushions, it is.

I don't want to have to take the cushions off the couch, so I shove my right hand in between. The first thing I feel is the dueling pressure of cushions on my hand. The second? The curves and ridges of a remote.

It doesn't feel quite right, but the ever-throbbing pain underneath my skull overrides the very common sense thought that I don't have the correct remote in-hand. I pull it out, flop onto the couch and prepare myself for the cacophony sound to come from the electronic device in front of me as soon as I tap the power button.

But the television doesn't turn on. 

Instead, everything I thought was around me changes. I jack-knife up into a standing position as the couch dissolves and a new setting solidifies around me. 

I would think it was a dream, except for the headache I still have. Because now I'm in the middle of an open forest with a such a green hue my eyes feel assaulted. Pin pricks of sweat pop out of my pores, joining the rest of the evidence that I'm no longer in my own home.

For a few seconds, I'm paralyzed. What is going on?

Then the sounds of the forest add to the assault on my senses. Louder than the throbbing skull. Louder than a rock concert, even. The sound of stampeding, then the roar-

I look through the hole in the tree canopy overhead to see it. Flying dinosaur.

Dinosaur theme park.

"Shit."

My legs aren't functioning, but my finger does. It hits the button that got us here again. 

Please take me home. Please take me home. Please take me home.

My surroundings dissolve in an acid-trippy way (again). I'm hoping the surroundings will solidify back into my living room so I can tear it apart and find the real television remote. 

It doesn't.

That's what I realize when everything becomes solid again and my brain reorients itself. It's worse than before. It's my worst nightmare.

New Year's Eve celebration. In the middle of the biggest crowd on the planet. Fireworks exploding and people cheering. I suppress a scream as my finger mashes on the remote's buttons now. I keep mashing through ten, twenty, thirty different realities that are not my own. All I want is my apartment, my couch, my television.

When I'm standing in the middle of my living room, though, I don't go with my original plan for the day. The remote slips out of my hand and onto the floor. I race to the bathroom, dump pills into my hand, grab a glass and fill it with water.

Once I've taken the recommended dosage of pain killer, I put the rest back in their bottle. I slowly take in a deep breath, and release it the same way. 

"Worst New Year's ever," I say out loud, looking in the mirror. The face staring back at me would agree.

My new planner, my resolution notes and my pens sit neatly stacked on the corner writing table in the living room. A sign. A beacon.

I look over to the spot where the remote fell. It's still there. 

I'll dispose of it at some point, I'm sure. But for the moment, I do not have it in me to deal with it. I don't know what it's supposed to do, what just happened, or how it got here.  

What I know is that 2020 just got a scary, awful, bad start.

And there is no way I'm going to let it stay that way. So I walk over to the writing table, sit down, and start the arduous task of catching up.

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