I waited in the car while Jen registered her car. The DMV always freaks me out and I end up having to run outside to calm down anyway, so why even go in? Jen didn’t need support from me or anything, she’s great at Doing Things and Being a Person. I was listening to an Iron & Wine CD. They’re kind of like Moby Dick for me, because they’re so lovely and sad but I just can’t stay awake more than a few minutes. So I guess I fell asleep. I wasn’t woken up by Jen, giving me a gentle shake and a fond, slightly patronizing smile. It was dogs barking, lots of them and really close. I’m a little bit scared of dogs, especially when they bark or move or look at me, so first thing I made sure the doors were locked and the windows were only open a little.
I looked out the passenger window and saw them, a whole big pack fighting over some dead animal or something right by the entrance to the DMV. I squeaked- I do that when I’m scared, it’s kind of embarrassing and really pretty stupid because of course the dogs all looked up and trotted over with their tongues hanging out, making those cute dog faces. As if I was gonna get out of the car to pet them, the deceptive little monsters. Now that the dogs weren’t surrounding it I could see what they’d been fighting over. It looked like a bunch of ripped fabric and bones. As the dogs reached my car I slid down in my seat so I wouldn’t be able to see them, but I could hear their claws clicking and squeaking all over the car. Just breathe, I thought. They’re only curious. They’ll leave soon. What was taking Jen so long?
Then a big one hopped up onto the hood. That was when I noticed the sky. It was this incredible luminous violet, like neon lights, except I think argon is the one that makes purple. There were no clouds. It was bright as day but I couldn’t see the sun anywhere. Really looking around now I could see that the DMV was sagging and leaning to one side. Only a few windows still had glass in them. The grocery store across the street was completely gone, the road too. But the traffic light still hung in the air with its one glowing red eye. No wires, it was just floating I guess. I said, “A-ha! I’m dreaming!” I felt so relieved. I looked up at the dog on the hood and said, “Go away! You’re not real!” The dog tilted its head sideways and blinked at me and said, “How do you know you’re not the one who isn’t real?” It sounded like it had been breathing helium. I think helium fluoresces orange.
“Are you gonna eat me?” I asked.
“Only if we catch you,” the dog answered with a goofy dog grin.
Well, I thought, if I’m trapped in a surreal nightmare I may as well look around a bit more.
“It’s not a nightmare. Not literally anyway.” The dog said. Shouldn’t a telepathic talking dog say sweet, reassuring things?
“So if its not a nightmare what’s going on? What happened? Why am I here?” I admit I sounded a bit hysterical.
“You know, hysterical is a totally misogynistic term, you really shouldn’t use it. And I don’t know the answers to any of your questions. I’m just a dog, lady. So, you gettin’ outta the car any time soon?”
I looked around at the jagged outlines of mostly destroyed buildings in the distance, the grey ash that covered the ground in drifts like snow, the unearthly violet sky, the total lack of any sign of any other human anywhere, and the pack of dogs sitting in a circle around my rusty crumbling ‘91 Toyota Crown. I said, “No, I don’t think I am.”