by Julian Glander
PART I: A NEW FRIEND
The sun warmed Dave’s face through the trees. He was on his back with his arms outstretched. A raccoon was sniffing his hand. He grunted, but the animal paid no mind. He shouted, and it jumped back, baring its teeth. For 15 seconds, the two watched each other, unmoving. Then, the raccoon spoke.
“Are you dead?”
Dave dropped his head back to the ground and held his eyes shut. He strained his lips, pushing his saliva down his throat. The raccoon was still there. He screamed again, and it looked up.
“Can you talk,” it asked, “or just yell?”
“Oh, you can talk. Okay. What’s your name?”
“Um.” He shook his head. “Dave.”
“Dave. Do you want to know my name?”
“You’re not real. This is a dream.”
“Are you sure?”
“It has to be.”
The raccoon sank its teeth into Dave’s hand.
“Can you feel that?”
“No,” he said, “See?”
The raccoon crawled toward his face and bit his ear. Dave cried out.
“You could feel that, then,” it said.
“Yeah, I guess I could.”
“So, my name is Judy.”
“Oh.” He looked at the clouds.
“Are you dead?”
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t feel dead.”
“You’re not moving, though. It’s like you’re dead.”
“I fell out of that tree.” He looked up at the branch that had snapped under his weight. “I can’t move.”
“How did that happen?”
“I was trying to get a picture of the sunrise. I was careless. I landed on my head.”
“Is that why you can’t feel your hand?”
Dave looked down to the spot where Judy had bit him. It was still bleeding.
“That would explain it,” he said.
“Can you feel your feet?”
“I don’t think so.”
Judy scampered down and pawed his boots.
“Judy,” Dave said. “Can you help me?”
“I can help you,” she said, gnawing at his shoelaces. “What do you need?”