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I wrote this for a campus humor magazine, and decided to put it up here too.

A grown man with blond hair and a severely undersized, striped, red shirt lay unconscious on a racecar bed several sizes too small for him. His hairy man-legs spilled out of his black shorts and over the edge, nearly touching the ground. His toes traced figure-eights in the air.

Dom Cobb was disgusted by the sight. Being hired to perform inception was one thing, but some people simply seemed beyond help. Calvin certainly did. As he snored, he scratched his bulging stomach and toyed with the hairs around his belly-button. From time to time, he would pull several out with a greasy tug and make horse sounds. “Let’s get this over with. Arthur, prepare to send us in.”

Arthur, Cobb’s right-hand man and the team physician, obediently walked over to the target and opened the heavy silver case he carried carefully in his right hand. Hidden under a comprehensive collection of vintage dream pornography were all manner of odd devices, tubes and crystallized orifices that would put Cobb and his team into a shared dream-state, sending them into Calvin’s now middle-aged mind. Their mission was simple: perform inception on Calvin, and make him put aside his imaginary friend, Hobbes. It was cute when he was six, but at thirty-four, his parents were concerned about his attachment to the adorable stuffed tiger. It had already put a massive strain on their son’s marriage to Susie Derkins, and she’d taken everything he’d owned in the divorce, including his daughter, Spiderman-Winterfell.

The mission seemed cut and dry. Easy. But Cobb knew it wouldn’t be that simple. It never was. Cobb wasn’t team leader for nothing, he’d planned ahead for every contingency. Even in case they needed to sex their way out of trouble, as they were forced to that moist, sticky weekend in Beirut, Cobb had invited Eames, the narcissistic, lecherous sexual dynamo, who was currently admiring his own reflection in a contact lens he’d stolen recently. Arthur snatched it away, rubbed it clean, and slid it back on his eye, muttering, “Damn it, Eaves, I really wish you’d stop doing that.”

The sole woman on their team, Ariadne, named after Prince’s second mistress, leaned against the doorway and swore absentmindedly. Her days working at the local carnival made her a jack-of-all-trades. Whenever the crew needed someone to hot-wire a car or store an uncomfortable amount of clowns, Ariadne was simply the best person to go to. She cracked a rare smile when Arthur said the preparations were complete.

A few button presses later and the crew found themselves asleep and dreaming together of a steamy tropical jungle, beneath a massive tree that upon closer inspection was sprouting fruit filled with…

“Honey Nut Cheerios! Holy shit, that’s awesome.” Arthur was more impressed than last week when he’d found out Cher was still alive. The loud crunching sounds of his meal were cut short by a bone-chilling growl coming from the nearby jungle. A pair of glowing, yellow eyes illuminated a wet, flared nose and two absurdly sharp rows of fangs that were partially obscured by a foul, thick breath which floated up and encased the creature’s black-striped, orange head. Cobb passionately voided his bowels. He wasn’t alone.

“Oh shit! It’s Hobbes! Run!”

Though Arthur and Ariadne had the good sense to follow Cobb’s lead and sprint away, Eames had paused for just a second to admire his reflection in a nearby pool of water. That was a mistake. Hobbes pounced on the poor narcissist and tore his face off, sinew by sinew. Blood splattered the formerly lush, green surroundings, and the screams of the now very ugly, very faceless Eames pierced the air like a burst of flatulence at a humid funeral. All of this Arthur saw over his shoulder as he ran, and he couldn’t help but mutter under his breath, pausing for emphasis, “I guess Eames…lost face.”

Cobb ran screaming by his teammates and slowed briefly to say, “Well, I always thought he was a bit…two-faced.” He passed them feeling better about himself. Ariadne was extremely annoyed by the two of them, but couldn’t resist her own little jab, though she whispered it so they wouldn’t hear, “I guess no one really can read his…poker face.” She chuckled to herself, pleased, and ran harder.

Several minutes of frenzied sprinting came to a halt when the remaining crew realized that Hobbes had long stopped chasing them. Exhausted, the crew stopped to take a breath. Ariadne, experienced from her days as a balloon-inflater at the local carnival, was the first to recover enough to say anything.

“I guess Hobbes went for the easy prey. Poor Eames…”

“Tigers will do anything for human flesh.” An unknown voice. But who? From the bushes nearby, a heavy bout of rustling revealed a hideout in the shrubbery, a small home, with an iPad nailed to the ground playing Despicable Me, and with several wallpapers of ’80s cartoons lining the vine-walls. Seated on a box labeled “Transmogrifier” was a small child, blond, with a red, striped shirt and precocious black shorts. The crew had found Calvin. Cobb stepped forward to greet him.

“Calvin, I presume? I’m Cobb. That there’s Ariadne, and Arthur beside her. Your parents sent us to get you out of here, away from that vicious tiger.”

“Ah! Thank you so much! I’ve been trapped here for ages. If it wasn’t for this Transmogrifier here and the Honey Nut Cheerios trees, I can’t imagine how I would have survived as long.”

“They were delicious.”

“Thank you! Arthur, was it? Thank you. Now that you guys are here, I feel safe enough to make a run for the exit. Quick, before Hobbes comes looking for us.”

The four made a break for it, crashing through the jungle just as a sphincter-loosening roar and the sound of padded paws washed over the hills. Hobbes was coming. As they ran, the dreamy environment changed, as if by magic, from the now all too familiar steamy jungle to a vast, barren tundra and finally to an equally cold, sterile hallway with a large red door barely visible at the end. Calvin looked eerily happy.

“The exit! Almost there!”

Ariadne, the fastest by far, was the first to reach it. The first to push against it. The first to discover that it wouldn’t budge. That it wasn’t even a real door. That it was painted, and not even very well. And as her terrified gaze rose to meet Cobb’s and Arthur’s behind her, and the cruel smile on Calvin’s face behind them, the first to realize it was a trap. She sank to her knees, defeated, as her teammates met their gory end at the jaws of the ferocious tiger. The sterile white hallway was now festooned, horribly, with organs and viscera and soiled pants. Calvin strode over to the tiger and stroked his head lovingly.

“If only you could see Hobbes as I do. He’s rather charming. Like a fuzzy Jude Law. But he gets hungry, you know? And I like to…just let a tiger be a tiger.”

“But your parents…” Ariadne was distraught. “They sent us to help you!”

“Oh, my parents know all about Hobbes. They have for years. They send people like you to feed him, to keep him…happy.”

“Happy?”

“He’s an elder god, you see. An ancient. Older than any of us, and wiser…hungrier. And, from time to time, Hobbes must…feed. It would be very bad for all of humanity were he to feel The Fleshlust. If you’ll recall, Europe was ravaged once by The Black Death. What a silly name they gave you, Hobbes.” The tiger growled and readied itself to strike. “Hobbes only had the munchies then. He’s positively starving now. Fortunately, he reaches his full far sooner in the dreamworld. No hard feelings, ma’am. Die a martyr. Time to pounce, Hobbes.”

Calvin sat down and enjoyed the carnage. The dreamscape shifted slowly, almost in time with each gruesome crunch, to the surface of a alien planet, surrounded by rings, and with the Earth barely visible in the distance. Calvin looked away for a short while, as if he could almost see himself asleep on his racecar bed in his quiet suburbia from all the way there. He smiled to himself.

“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…”

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