The sign stares at me, its letters black and menacing against the pristine white background. I look around. It’s a perfectly ordinary suburban street, houses displaying tidy lawns and cars parked in driveways. I look back at the sign, then down at the sidewalk. It, too, seems perfectly ordinary. The sky above shows a few clouds, but nothing radical or unheard of.
I proceed at my own risk. One step, two steps, three. Nothing. I step less tentatively. Step. Step. Stepstepstep. Still nothing. Then, out of the corner of my eye, a flash of white. I turn my head. It’s a chicken. White, with yellow legs and a little red floppy bit on top of its head, like any normal chicken. It’s normal sized, normally shaped, and as far as I can tell, behaving in normal chicken fashion. It cocks its head at me.
Warning. Unreality Ahead. Proceed At Your Own Risk.
The words appear in my head without stopping to funnel through my ears. I stop. The warning sounds again, coupled with a cluck. The chicken stares at me, its eyes not leaving my face. Is this normal chicken behavior? The chicken continues staring, and I stare back, searching for the source of the disembodied words now flashing through my head. Warning. Warning. Leave now. Warning. Cluck. The chicken takes a step closer, then another. Step. Step. Stepstepstep. In response, I back up, matching the chicken step for reverse step. Step. Step. Stepstepste-
The ground disappears beneath me. I’m falling backwards, looking up at the fast shrinking chicken head peering over the edge of what appears to be a hole that wasn’t there before. It forlornly waves a wing at me, shaking its head sadly. Or that might have been my imagination. That’s definitely not normal chicken behavior. This is all my imagination. Any second now, I’ll wake up. Please tell me I’ll wake up. I can’t be falling. There was no hole there, and no chicken. There can’t have been. This isn’t happening . This isn’t happening. This isn’t ha-
I hit the ground.
My eyes open. I’m in my own bed. It’s dark. My clock, ever vigilant on the desk at the foot of my bed, reads 11:23. I exhale. Just a dream. Just a dream. Just a-
I look. Nothing. Cluck. There it is again. Cluck. Cluck. Cluckcluckcluckcluckcluck.
Drawers spill out onto the floor, of their own accord. They’re full of chicken feathers. My closet door bursts open, feathers spiraling out in a giant wave of deadly softness. I’m paralyzed. Feathers stream in through the windows, fall from the ceiling, materialize under the bed. I’m being carried on a rising tide of feathers, destination unknown. I can’t breathe. Where are they taking me? Oh god it’s just a dream it has to be a dream PLEASE LET ME WAKE UP I’m so scared I don’t even like chickens where am I going why me why me why why why why why-
I open my eyes. Bright sunshine, coolness. Tidy front lawns, cars parked in driveways. A girl stands in front of me, reading a sign with great concentration. She pauses, then takes a step. Step. Step. Stepstepstep. She doesn’t see me. I take a step forward and she turns, locks eyes with me, pauses. I stare, and she stares back.