Burnt Lasagna Dreams (Flash Fiction)

The house was on fire again.

It wasn’t my fault. Really.

I work in dreams. Daydreams, nightmares, wet dreams, if you can dream it, chances are I—or one of my coworkers—had a hand in it. The longer your fantasy, the longer I’m pulled away from whatever it is I’m working on. The pay is great. It has to be. You can’t hold down another job when working this one, well, maybe if you’re a writer, but even then some months there’s barely enough time to sleep, let alone work freelance.

I can’t help when I’m called away. I don’t have business hours. I can sometimes squeeze in a day off—usually on a Friday or Saturday night when the world is too inebriated to miss dreams. If I’m needed, I’m yanked away from whatever I’m doing without so much as a by-your-leave. A minute’s notice would be nice—just enough time to pull my pants up or turn off the stove. I’d rather throw out a half-congealed mess that went cold than have to move for the eighth time because my kitchen caught on fire or the apartment flooded.

I was in the middle of cooking dinner when I was pulled into the dream realm. The noodles for the lasagna I was making from scratch were just about done boiling. I’d been planning this dinner for months—had haggled with my boss and my coworkers until I got the evening off (two months of handling pubescent wet dreams—something nobody ever enjoyed). It was going to be perfect.

Until Sallie quit that morning without any warning. She’d only been with the company for three years but had shown some promise. Sure, we all knew she wanted to settle down and start a family, but we all assumed she’d use the maternity plan the company provided—only handling the pleasant dreams and with limited hours until the child was old enough to be shipped off to school.

She hadn’t.

I didn’t find out until after I came back to my lasagna noodles charred ash in the bottom of the pot and the whole kitchen ablaze. The wooden stir spoon had burst into flames and when the end had burnt off it had fallen onto the hot pad. Those flames jumped to the towels which lit the cabinets on fire which… well, it was all conjecture really, but it happening like that made sense. I inhaled more than my fair share of smoke as I ran to the sliding glass door and out onto my balcony.

As I precariously swung my legs over the balcony railings, the company Raven arrived with a scroll in its beak. I accepted the paper, expecting it to fly off immediately. It didn’t. Straddling the balcony railing—not at all comfortable, I assure you—I read the scroll. That’s when I found out about Sallie quitting suddenly and that all dream weavers would be expected to work overtime starting immediately. Following instructions, I rolled up the scroll, sealed it, and handed it back to the Raven. The bird would deliver the message to the next dream weaver.

We have professional courtesy, of course. None of my coworkers have access to my dreams unless I specifically invite them. That courtesy ends the moment you quit—unless you’ve legitimately retired after a lengthy service—and we give back pay with a vengeance. Especially if you just ruined my lasagna dinner.

Sallie would be seeing me tonight. And the next night. And the night after that. And as many nights as it took for me to forgive and forget—and I never forget and even more rarely forgive.

You don’t quit the dream business—not even when it ruins your life.

I swung over the balcony and before I could rethink my plan, jumped. Next apartment would definitely be on the first floor.

I could hear the screaming approach of sirens as the firemen responded to the alarm. But that all faded away as I was pulled into another dream.

At the age of six, Eliza was certain of two things. The first was that she had stories to tell. The second was that she had no talent for illustrating them herself. Talent or no, she still wrote and illustrated her first book, one that should be located and locked away if only to prevent her parents from embarrassing her terribly by showing it off alongside baby pictures. Now she spends her days writing stories that she isn't embarrassed to show off after a little bit of polishing.


  • This feels like a teaser from a much bigger story. You’ve created a whole world here: I want to hear more about these people and their job!

  • Amanda Jaquays says:

    Thanks! I’m currently loathing my Camp NaNo story (not even 1000 words into it yet) so maybe I’ll expand on this one.

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