IN WHICH A LATE NIGHT BECOMES LUDICROUS"We now return control of your television set to you. Until next week at this same time --"Daryn Hewitt, a dark-haired young woman, jerks herself awake for the fifth time. Her dorm room is littered with yarn in an array of colors. The only light illuminating the scene is from the television and her yellow desk lamp. She sits on the edge of her messy bed; a string of black yarn with a yarn needle at one end is hanging out of her nearly completed crochet octopus. It's teal in color, with a small grinning mouth and a tuft of bright blue yarn sticking out of the top of its head. Her other finished crochet stuffed animals sit in a row on her desk: a pink cat, a penguin, a yellow fish, and a peacock."I might have to finish you tomorrow, buddy," she apologizes to the octopus in her lap, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.Gently, she sets the octopus on an advanced calculus textbook on her desk, and reaches for the remote for the TV which is currently set on a channel playing an all-night marathon of the original "Outer Limits" TV show. After sleepily locating the power button on the dimly lit remote, she goes to twist off the power to her desk lamp when her tired eye catches a movement.
She pulls her hand back sharply as her heart momentarily stops in her chest, only to start beating again at a dizzying, rapid pace. She's nearly unconscious and prone to paranoia, especially after staying up this late to finish a project. She blinks a few times, rubs her eyes one more time for good measure, then decides to leave the light on for a bit to get her mind straight before turning in.
With her eyes never leaving the desk, she begins to tidy up the explosion of yarn that stems from the spot on her bed where she had previously been sitting. I told Lucy to be more careful about what she leaves in here, she thinks to herself. I bet that slice of pizza that she left in here those couple of days attracted a bug. If she were here, I'd give her a piece of my mind.Ms. Hewitt is nearly finished heaping her yarn into a neater, smaller pile when she sees another movement from her desk. This time it is unmistakable: the back fin of the yellow fish had twitched. With a racing heart, Daryn grabs the nearest bug-squashing item she can find, a worn out flip flop, and slowly approaches her desk. She takes a nearby crochet hook and lifts the tail of the fish ever so carefully, ready to obliterate whatever monstrosity has found its way underneath it."That tickles!"Daryn's bottom collides with the floor only a split second after a soft voice of unknown origin giggles. The crochet hook flies out of her hand into the darkness of the room."W-who's there?" Daryn squeaks weakly."Now look what you did," a deeper voice chastises from a similar location as the first. "You done gave ourselves away.""I've got a-a-a taser!" Daryn stutters, whipping her head to look ferociously around the room."She's got a taser!" yells yet another voice, this one reminding Daryn of a large man with the mind of a child, like Lenny in Of Mice and Men."It's not a taser, you imbecile," this voice is also male, but with an uptight British accent. "It's simply a thong.""We call them flip-flops here, twinkle-toes," another female voice, with the sass and attitude of the actress/comedian Wanda Sykes. "And don't be so rude. He can't see without any eyes!""Can everyone just please calm down?" says the first voice. "Can't you see you’re scaring her?""No...""Ok, we get it, you don't have eyes.""Guys!"There is a brief moment of silence, and Daryn takes this opportunity to search for a more suitable bludgeon, as there seemed to be many of them and only one of her."Let's just give her a minute to adjust," suggests the first voice.Daryn notices a smaller movement coming from the octopus. As she draws closer, she realizes that the tentacles are moving, little by little, back and forth, in an almost nervous and anticipatory way."It's a dream," Daryn shakes her head slowly. "I've been watching too much of that old TV show.""Well, now that the secret's out," says Wanda Sykes, "I'm just going to get a little more comfortable."What happens next makes all of Daryn's exhaustion vanish. The pink crochet cat, ever so carefully, stretches out its front paws as a shudder of relieved tension is sent through its body, much like a real cat. The other animals seemed to give up on the whole act as well, moving a feather here, a wing there. The octopus continues its nervous motions."This can't be happening. This can't be happening." Daryn takes several deep breaths, desperately wishing that every inhale will get her closer to regaining some of her sanity."That's what I said when you made me pink," whines the pink cat. "And am I a bear or a cat?"Just give in to the dream. Think of it as a creative outlet, Daryn thinks. "You're pink because that's my roommate's sister's favorite color," Daryn explains. "And you're a cat.""Yeah, cain't ya tell yer ears are pointy?" says the peacock with a deep southern accent. "Dem bears got ears that are all round-like.""Do you see a mirror anywhere?" the cat uses her diva tone on the peacock."Obviously not," the snide British accent must have been coming from the penguin, who looks down at himself the best he can. "I'm dressed to the nines and I'm surrounded by you degenerates."Of course the penguin is British. Somehow that makes sense to me...After an awkward silence whose emptiness is only filled with the obviously hurt feelings of the other animals, Daryn completely gives up the idea of treating this like a reality and decides it's time to make something of this dream. Maybe it's a sign, or a way of getting her creativity back on track, like her body's answer to all these long hours working away on seemingly insignificant stuffed toys, even if they're earning her a little extra spending cash."So why have you all gained the magical ability of walking and talking tonight?" Daryn inquires while making her way over to sit at her desk."Allow me," volunteers the sensible first voice, a voice that could easily be found in a mature and determined high school freshman girl; the kind of voice that says "I may not look like much, but I'm going to do my best to prove myself." The yellow fish makes a few grunting noises as it flops into a position to see Daryn with at least one eye."It's not just tonight. We've always been this way," the fish states matter-of-factly. "Well, not before you created us. We're not talking skeins of yarn or anything.""That sounds scary," comments the octopus, bringing his tentacles in closer like a shroud of protectiveness."I bet everything sounds scary when you can't see anything,” Daryn sympathizes. "Do you want me to fix that for you really quick?""Yes, please!" (Daryn swears that his little yarn grin grows a bit bigger.)Daryn gently picks up the little octopus, though she feels a bit silly because she never worried about how softly she handled her creations before. She's cautious with her yarn needle threaded with black yarn, but the little guy doesn't seem to feel any pain when she pushes it through his bottom."As for why we are the way we are..." the fish thinks out loud. "None of us could figure that out. We thought you could tell us."Daryn wants to say, "Because I watch too many weird shows late at night and I've been avoiding human contact recently," but she can't bring herself to do it. Instead she says, "No idea."As soon as she finishes the second eye on the octopus, there is a small, temporary glow of light from inside of the animal."Whoa!" the octopus exclaimed. "Is this seeing?""Indeed it is," remarked the penguin. "Now you must suffer as I do." If it could have rolled its eyes, it would have."Why haven't you revealed yourself to me before?" asked Daryn, placing the octopus back on his book."We didn't want to scare ya'." said the peacock."Good job," Daryn mumbled to herself. "What happens when I give you away?""I wouldn't worry about it," the fish said. "We all move on eventually.""What do you mean by that!? That sounds like you die when I make a sale!" Daryn was starting to feel really bad about this whole dream. Forget about it being a way to help her mind unwind, this is only going to make her never want to crochet another animal again."We don't die, you silly girl." The penguin has a hint of compassion in his voice for once. "We move on, as in, forget we existed, like we never lived at all."Daryn's mind was starting to spin from all of this, so she thought it was high time to turn in, figure it all out in the morning. There's no way any of this is real."Well, if you don't mind, I'm going to try to get some sleep now -- big day tomorrow and all.""Isn't tomorrow when that big sale on yarn is going on at Hobby Lobby?" the cat whispered to the fish."Ahhhhhh so tired," yawns Daryn, a bit forcefully. This is all too strange.She lies down in her bed, and finds that she is sleepier than she first realized. Her last thought before losing consciousness is of the antique crochet hook her grandmother passed down to her...
Daryn wakes to the sound of the hallway door opening and closing. It's always the small noises that seem to jar her from her rest.
"Lucy?" Daryn groggily whispers, probing with blurry eyes into the early morning light bathing the dorm room."Sorry, Daryn, just got in," the upside-down Lucy smiles before launching herself onto her bed with a contented sigh."Someone enjoyed last night, I assume," Daryn guesses, checking her wristwatch. 8:34 a.m."Of course. There's just nothing like the gentle embrace of the one you hold most dear." Lucy snuggles into her covers and proceeds to fall asleep.Gentle embrace... this stirs up a memory from last night. Daryn glances over to her desk, where her crochet projects sit in an inconspicuous line, the newly completed octopus on his calculus book perch. She shakes her head, and falls back to sleep.The penguin shakes his head, and goes back to holding a grudge against his existence for no reason at all.