The Maretian

by Kris Overstreet

Chapter 115: Sol 201

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It was about the time that the car chase began that Fireball realized he was dreaming.

There had been little hints. For one thing, although he and Mark were driving a red and white sports car just like Starsky and Hutch, neither of the two main characters had mustaches (unlike a lot of the minor characters), but Mark and Fireball had gigantic ones. Which was doubly weird, because most dragons didn’t have mustaches.

For another, they had been chasing the General Lee, but it had just changed to the Partridge bus without losing any speed or cornering ability.

And, finally, there were dementors, or at least what Fireball imagined dementors to look like- vaguely human shapes hidden under black blankets. On every streetcorner a dementor. There was one carrying groceries home from the corner store. There was another wheeling a baby stroller along. And there was one with a gigantic flat hat with an immense brim lined with fur or something along the edge- solid black, of course, but with a white gold-tipped cane.

Fireball was pretty sure that, in real life, he’d never be able to notice little details like that while driving the mythical California streets at seventy miles per hour. (He knew California was mythical because Mark had told him, repeatedly, that almost all the stuff in the television shows was made-up, couldn’t happen, never would happen. So obviously California, like Hazzard County and Watts and other places, were mythical lands of fable and myth. It threw him off when occasionally the series talked about Houston and Pasadena and Florida, which were real places because Mark’s bosses talked about them all the time.)

But it was when Steve Austin passed the Ford on foot, doing a lot more than seventy, that Fireball realized he was dreaming. Not because it was Steve Austin, or because humans couldn’t run seventy miles per hour. For all Fireball knew, Mark might be some kind of defective human who got sent to Mars because he couldn’t hack it on Earth. It was a thought he’d had several times before.

No, it was the fact that Steve Austin passed the car three times, each time in slower slow motion, without having been passed again by the car in between those times. Fireball had wanted a closer look at Steve, and so the universe had backtracked and let him look again. And then Fireball wanted to see that happen again, and so it had done it a second time.

So. Dreaming. Fair enough. That would explain why Mark had the steering wheel and clutch pedal on the left side of the car, but Fireball had the gas and brake pedals on the right.

But no time to worry about that now. The fact that this was a dream was an unimportant detail. There was no hurry about waking up, but in the meantime the Partridges with their load of moonshine were getting away, and Captain Hogg would have their badges if another run got through to junk and moonshine dealer Fred Sanford.

Fireball gestured to a turnoff. “Hook a right,” he said. “It’s a shortcut.”

“I can’t do that,” Mark protested, “the road’s closed.”

Sure enough, there was a sign: ROAD CLOSED – BRIDGE OUT. The angle was totally wrong, and the speed too fast, for them to be able to read it in any Euclidan universe, but in dreams geometry is optional.

“Trust me,” Fireball said. “We can make it.” One of the things Fireball liked about dreams, he decided, was that he wasn’t stumbling around a jumble of English and Equestrian words trying to figure out how to say things. He just talked, and Mark understood.

The Ford swerved hard right, bashing through the sign and barrier as if they were kindling, and suddenly the crowded city and sidewalks full of dementors going about their quite non-dementorlike daily lives vanished. They were on a dirt road in a forest, still going seventy, and up ahead was the promised broken bridge, with the inevitable sloping dirt ramp in front of it.

The Ford hit the ramp going seventy and took flight.

The dream world slowed to molasses for a moment, as Fireball’s less-than-lucid dreaming took several leaps of logic in quick succession.

The logic chain went like this:

(1) We are cops.

(2) Therefore the car we are in is a cop car.

(3) Forty-nine times out of fifty, when a cop car attempts to jump a broken bridge while in pursuit of noble sympathetic outlaws (and (3a) who could be more sympathetic than a child folk-rock band?), the cop car would end up splashing down and bobbing in the water.

(4) Therefore there is a 98% chance that we are about to get wet and possibly injured.

Given the postulates laid down by 1970s (and early 1980s) television, the logic was faultless.

The far end of the bridge actively shrank away from them. It had been a sleepy pond; now the water below looked more like Manehattan harbor.

No, Fireball thought. We are not going to crash. We’ve got to get the serum through! Fly, you bucket of bolts, fly!

The engine roared.

And then the engine really roared, because it wasn’t a Ford engine anymore; it was a Cherry Berry Rocket Parts and Odd Jobs Mk. 1 Flea, and Fireball was back in his capsule, on his first ill-fated flight, and there was the mountainside dead ahead, barely visible in the tiny, tiny windows.

And, impossibly, sitting beside him in a second seat was Mark, in his EVA suit. The human looked around himself and shouted, “You went to space in THIS??”

And before Fireball could answer, the mountain did.

Fireball sat up, sweating. Dragons can sweat, being magical creatures, but it takes special circumstances. Dying in a dream is one such.

Food poisoning is another, as Fireball noted a few moments later as he began throwing up in the nearby honey tub, which had been resurrected as part of the crash program to save the cave farm. Its contents managed to smell even worse than usual after Fireball's first stomach spasms subsided.

The noise of the dragon bringing up his midnight snack woke Mark, who leaned up from his bunk and asked, “Fireball? What’s wrong?” In a more suspicious tone he added, “Did you eat my leftover turkey?”

“No,” Fireball lied between spasms.

Author's Notes:

This fluff is all I have, for now. I used up most of today's creativity on this:

You Need Practice

I'd intended today to be Cherry Berry's POV (I'm going through the list, having done Spitfire and Dragonfly so far, with POVs post-Cave Fart). But instead you're getting meaningless crack in a dragon's dreams.

My dreams are often like this. I dream in full color, and in about 2/3s of them I am watching a story more or less like 3-D immersive television. On rare occasions I can even touch and smell things. Also, contrary to a certain Batman: the Animated Series story, I can read in dreams, at least briefly. Dream text doesn't stay put. But the logic is about the same, as is the willingness to roll with it and be entertained/active, even during those periods when I'm dreaming lucidly.

I used to have nightmares, horrible nightmares sometimes, until my late teens. Then one night I began having lucid dreams, and I was able to say, "No. I am not having this dream anymore. Let's do something else." And although I've had a number of anxiety dreams, I've never had dreams of things killing me since. I don't often have the awareness to control a dream, but a lot of that might be because I have no real need or inclination to control them.

None of which has anything to do with getting our heroes off Mars safely. This is a thousand words of pointless comedy. I'll try to get back to melodrama tomorrow before I leave to drive into Houston for a Weird Al concert.

Next Chapter: Sol 202 Estimated time remaining: 17 Hours, 46 Minutes
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