I fell through the fire and burned.

But then I passed through the fire and landed on a treadmill that seemed to stretch out forever behind me. I had to walk very fast just to keep from falling. Every time I tried to slow down, I fell face first onto the gritty belt and was pulled further and further back. Tiredly, I struggled to my feet and kept walking.

Puffing and panting, I noticed there was a TV set off to the right, presumably to distract me from the intense boredom I faced as I walked along, going nowhere.

I also noticed a remote floating nearby, so I grabbed it and flicked the set on.

I walked along and watched the show about a boy named Barney. In the fist episode Barney was born, and I watched as he grew into a young boy, and constantly got into trouble with his best friend, Fred. Your typical comedy-drama, I concluded, when the next episode came on. It was a rerun from the next season, and Barney was having teenage dilemmas.

I watched episode after episode as I walked on, and in each one Barney and his friends were older. I laughed and I cried during the episode about Barney and his son, and cried again in the episode when Barney was old and gray, sharing his wisdom with his grandson.

The credits rolled past and I turned the channel. This time there was a show about a girl named Annie, and I watched as she cooed as a baby, danced as a girl, laughed as a woman and smiled as an old lady. I rubbed the tears on my cheeks as the last episode concluded, and was about to switch the channel again when the treadmill came to an abrupt halt.

I somersaulted forward over the edge of the treadmill and fell through the TV screen with a burst of color and noise.

Familiar faces flashed all around me. They were the faces of the TV characters I had grown to love.

Barney turned to me with a smile.

"Hi Barney," I laughed, and I held out my hand to the young child.

Barney reached up to touch me, and as he stretched out his hand, his face grew older and older and suddenly he was an old man with deep wrinkles, and still he grew older until he crumbled to dust just as I shook his hand.

They greeted me, one by one, the major characters and the minor ones, and each aged before my eyes and withered to dust before I could touch them.

Needless to say, I wanted to get out of there fast. I looked back out through the TV screen and saw my own reflection looking in. I watched as the lines in my reflected face deepened, and the hair grew whiter, and as my own reflection began to crumble, someone turned the TV off and there was only darkness.

I stood there.

There was no sound.

No light.


I couldn't feel my hands.

I couldn't feel my face.

I tried desperately to feel anything.

But I couldn't.

Soon my desperation began to fade, and I no longer felt anything inside anymore.

I was a total and complete blank.



An eternity later, a match lit up the darkness, blinding me with its brilliance. Someone blew smoke in my face. "Need a light?" a gruff voice inquired.

Whoever it was stuck four cigars in my mouth and lit them.

I tried to yank them out, but they were stuck between my teeth. I gasped for breath, inhaled more smoke, and gasped again.

I started to get dizzy as the smoke circled around my head, and I felt numb and puffy, like a circus balloon.

Through the smoke I could see my hands waving aimlessly in the air, and they were puffed up in bulging bubbles; with every breath my hands got larger.

As I looked down, I saw that my whole body was inflated like a Santa Claus float at a Thanksgiving Day parade. And, much to my dismay, I wasn't on the ground anymore. Clouds whipped at my feet, and it occurred to me that I was floating up to Heaven.

Then I noticed there was a string attached around my waist that stretched down to the Earth below. Every once in a while I felt a slight tug.

"Duck season starts in ten minutes," one of two mallards quacked as they flew by.

"And you're going the wrong way," the other pointed out.

I tried to turn myself around, but I got all caught up in the string.

"Help!" I tried to scream, but the cigars, which were now smoldering butts, were still stuck between my teeth.

Suddenly bullets were flying all around me, and one of them whizzed between my teeth, dislodging the cigar butts. They fell one by one, and exploded with thunder as they hit the ground.

"Run for it, boys!" I heard one of the hunters below yell, and then the gunfire stopped, leaving me floating alone up in the sky.

The wind rushed through my hair, and the blue, blue sky was so crisp and clear it calmed my mind, and I started to really enjoy floating up so high. For the first time I really felt free.

Then I felt something tugging on the string around my bloated body, and I started a downward climb to Earth.

Far below I could see a small boy was holding the strings to a dozen kites, and, I realized, the string that was reeling me back to the ground.

We all came sailing in from a dozen and one different directions as the boy pulled on the strings, wrapping them around a tree stump as he reeled them in.

"I'm superman!" The kid smiled, and his tiny muscles bulged.

Giant flapping felt wings fluttered in my face as one of the kites converged with me a couple hundred feet up.

I couldn't see anything through the kite wings until I hit the tree.

The boy tugged and tried to squeeze me through the thick- leaved branches, but I wouldn't fit.

"Eh, that one's not worth it anyway," the kid sneered, and he walked off, dragging his kites on the ground behind him.

A branch had poked its way through my shirt, and I felt the air slowly hissing out, then gushing faster and faster, until I was thin enough to fall through the branches straight to the ground.

I landed in some flowers beneath an apple tree, and two apples fell on my head.

After rubbing the spots where they hit, I reached over to eat one of the injurious culprits; but after a bite or two, I discovered it was plastic.


Fred & Barney
( Chapter 20- MP3 song demo by Lyndon DeRobertis)

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