The lone occupant of the room sat hunched over, snoring. His face plastered against the typical, government furnished desk. The light from his laptop adding to the dismal illumination provided by the adjacent light over the bathroom sink.
“Hey…. Buddy” a voice piped up through his groggy, sleep deprived unconsciousness.
“Hmm? What?” the occupant stirred and sat up, smacking his lips. Blinking at the figure in confusion.
“Who?... who the hell are you? He jumped in alarm. “and why are you dressed like Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman?” he rubbed his eyes, certain he was seeing things.
The figure paused and regarded the outfit as if he’d only just realized he was wearing it. “You need to stop listening to musical soundtracks in… this condition.” He gestured.
“What condition?” the figure stood up, looking himself in the mirror. “I’ve been hitting the gym, there’s nothing wrong with my condition…”
“I’m gonna stop you right there…” the voice continued. “I’m not talking physically, I’m talking mentally… up there.” It prodded the occupants head.
“There’s nothing wrong with my head.” He protested.
“Uh huh.” The figure cast an eye at a couple of empty beer bottles nearby.
He followed the figure’s gaze and sheepishly brushed the bottle into the trash can, “What? Nothing wrong with tying a couple off, I’m deployed you know.” The bottles fell into the trash can with a dull clink.
The figure brushed his hands off and sat down in a simple wooden chair, a chair that for all intents and purposes seemed to appear out of nowhere. “and when you get home, you’ll find another reason right?” the figure eyeballed him with a sarcastic gaze and leaned back in the chair, propping his legs up on the desk, his top hat tilting rakishly on his head.
The occupant eyed the figure sourly, certain this was dream. Why was some dick sitting in his room lecturing him?
“No, this is not a dream” the figure sighed, as if reading his mind.
“Then what the, no… who the hell are you?!” the occupant asked, swiveling in his chair to face the stranger. “And how dare you…”
“I’m you, Hill.” The figure interrupted.
“I… what…” Hill flustered, he suddenly felt his reality falling to pieces around him.
He pushed his way further from the figure that sat across from him, the wheels on the bottom of the chair rumbling softly across the tiled floor.
“Mom said dementia runs in the family.” He muttered, rubbing his temples. “I just hoped it’d skip a generation.” He blinked and looked back up.
“You’re not demented…” the figure started but paused “Okay maybe your obsession with birds is a little off-key but, you’re not crazy.” it laughed.
“Okay… so if I’m not losing it, and you’re me…” Hill paused
“Keep going…” the figure gestured, almost impatiently.
“Then what do you want and why are you here?” the more he scrutinized the figure, the more he realized he was looking at a mirror image of himself, if he was wearing a circus ringmaster costume and a black top hat.
“and really… why are you dressed like that?” he finished.
“We’re going to the other side.” The ringmaster clad figure grinned.
“What?” Hill stared at him. His eyes grew wide, “No no no I’m not offing myself, I swear to gods if you came here to tell me to do that, I’ll commit myself faster than…”
The figure held a hand up again and rolled his eyes, “You really think with what you’ve done so far that I’d be here to tell you to kill yourself?” he lifted the hat off his head and scratched his scalp, yawning.
“You’ve seen firsthand, the ramifications a decision like that.” the figure waved a hand dismissively.
“You remember that scene right? In the greatest showman?” the figure paused waiting for a spark of recognition, none came.
“Where the P.T. Barnum played by Hugh Jackman is trying to convince Phillip Carlyle played by Zac Efron to join him on the other side? It was a whole musical number?”
Hill stared at the figure, still confused. “…That doesn’t answer my question?” Hill replied flatly
The seconds ticked by as the figure stared back.
“Oh my god you’re dense.” The figure dropped his feet off the desk, leaned forward and smacked him upside the head, “I answered that question already, get a grip.” He stated impatiently before continuing.
“How many subscribers are you up to?” the figure asked.
“What?” Hill replied, rubbing his head. He was certain he was losing it.
“No, you’re not losing it. The Newsletter. How many subscribers do you have?” the figure asked.
“How the hell do you know about…”
The figure threw his hat on the desk in exasperation. “How many times do I have to tell you, I’m you… everything going on in your head I can hear. We are the same damn person!”
“I guess… six hundred last I checked. Geezus that smarts” He rubbed his head.
“Yeah well we discussed that, stupidity was gonna start hurting you.”
Hill leaned over, both elbows on his knees. Staring at the figure.
“Okay, what other side?” he realized there was no other way to move this conversation forward.
“Finally!” The figure laughed.
“What are you doing with the Newsletter?” it asked.
“I… I don’t know…” Hill stammered “…trying to grow our subscribers? What does that have to do with anything?” he asked quizzically.
“Great… so what are YOU doing to grow that? To get to the other side?” the figure asked, tilting his head.
“I built the damn thing, the website… the concept. Forgive me if I’m not pushing myself that hard.” Hill replied conceitedly.
“By yourself?” the figure continued.
“If you’re me, you know that’s not accurate.” Hill replied icily.
“Then you understand what I’m getting at, yes… you built the website, yes you might’ve had a part in founding the concept but what are you doing now? You’re not big enough to coast on any of the success you’ve had.” The figure leaned back in the chair again, he’d picked up the hat and was spinning it on his finger.
“When was the last time you sacrificed something for success?” The figure continued.
Hill opened his mouth to reply but found no words, he couldn’t argue it. He’d grown stagnant, in both his personal and professional life. Sitting around, griping because success wasn’t coming his way with no effort. Arrogance really, that’s what it was.
“The other side is where you’re going.” The Figure interrupted his inner monologue, pointing out the window.
“It’s the success you know you can find if you’re willing to work for it beyond the fucking bare minimum.”
“I don’t…” Hill stared at the window. “How did you…”
“Really? I’m trying to give you a pep talk and you’re wondering how I made a window appear?” The figure let the chair fall forward and leaned over.
“Focus you idiot.” He smacked him again.
“Gah! You dick!” Hill massaged his head
“Focus on what matters!” the figure stood suddenly and strode across the room to the window that hadn’t existed a few moments before.
“Come here.” He gestured.
Hill stood from his seat and crossed the room, noting the absence of footsteps from the figure. He really needed to wake up, I thought I could control lucid dreaming he grumbled.
Looking out the window he snorted, “Yeah it’s the newsletter…”
Hill sighed, he really wanted this to be over but he listened and watched the blank space around the newsletter.
As he stared, pieces of paper materialized in a wavy haze. “My Work-in-Progress!” he exclaimed.
“Keep watching” the figure grumbled, it was now leaning against the window, picking idly at it’s finger nails.
“My web series!” Hill cried in surprise. As another icon, depicting a trio of jovial characters, ginning roguishly materialized in his vision.
“But they’re… why do they look like that? He watched as their pages ripped slightly and yellowed, as if the passage of time had sped up around them.
“When was the last time you worked on any of them?” the figure asked.
“I guess it’s been awhile…” he looked away.
“You already know what I’m going to say” the figure replied.
“The other side…” They both said in unison.
“A plant doesn’t grow without water, none of these projects will grow if you don’t water them.”
“Including the Newsletter” the figure finished.
With nary a sound the vision vanished, top hat and all; leaving him staring out a rapidly disappearing window. An errant breeze fluttered through as the window shrank to a pinpoint and disappeared completely.
“I guess I should get to work then.” He muttered, sitting back down at the desk.