Brian opened his eyes, jolting himself awake, out of the horrid dream he’d been having. He’d dreamt that he was at the office, filing insurance claims like normal, but a set of file cabinets had suddenly become sentient and inched their way toward him. He ran and hid in a janitorial closet, but he could hear them walking by the door, each step a scrape against the floor. The scraping grew and grew, Brian had only imagined the unstoppable paperwork army they had amassed, when he was finally able to free himself from sleep.
As he woke, he still heard the scraping, but it wasn’t as grating. The unbearable scratching had ebbed down to a pleasant sweep. He glanced out the window to see Dave below, pushing a heap of overnight leaves and dust with a giant push broom.
“Morning Dave,” said Brian.
“Morning, Brian! Say I didn’t wake you up with my sweeping, did I?”
“Don’t worry,” said Brian,”I needed help waking up anyway.”
“Sorry,” said Dave. “I’m just not used to working around any residents. We used to have a family of cats down by the Future-cade, but they’ve since migrated off the grounds.”
“Like I said, it’s no problem at all. I knew what I signed up for.”
“Guess so,” said Dave. “Well I gotta finish up with Grimmworld before opening so I’ll be seeing you later.”
“Sure, sure,” said Brian. “Don’t let me keep you. See you around.”
Brian closed the double windows to his two-story cottage and went about his morning routine. He pulled water from the well in the backyard and set it over the fireplace. He reached in to pull a couple pennies out of the bucket and tossed them in a mason jar on the mantle.
He unlocked his dry goods cabinet and pulled out a canister of oatmeal, setting it on the table.
When the water was hot enough, he disrobed and sat in a wash basin. He alternated between rubbing soap on his skin and ladling the warm water over himself.
He walked to the front door in his robe to empty the basin. As he poured the contents down a storm drain, an official passed by leading a group of four tour-guide trainees. She waved at Brian and Brian returned a wave, sheepishly. It made his skin crawl to imagine the explanation of his presence to the new employees. Brian headed back indoors and finished getting ready. He pressed his suit using the antique stovetop iron and buffed his shoes. After he had gathered his briefcase, he did his final check on the state of the cottage: all personal belongings were locked away in the cabinets, the stove was snuffed out and cooled, all surfaces were wiped down and immaculate. Daily he would eliminate all evidence that a person was living in that space.
He stepped out the door, made sure that it was unlocked and propped open for visitors. He grabbed his briefcase and headed down the cobblestone path.
Around the corner, a troupe of dancers and singers were stretching and running vocal exercises for the welcome parade. He passed by the boarded walls of Dino-world, plastered with handbills announcing the area’s imminent renovation. As he walked along, he heard the whirring of test cars completing safety runs along the coaster tracks overhead. He walked along the Forest Fairy trail and listened to the cheery music piping through the holes of the artificial rocks. As he turned one last corner, he was on Old Town Road. On both sides of the wide road, the store displays were being dressed and primed for the coming influx of customers and souvenir shoppers. Vents along the boulevard pumped out sweet smells to entice the customers into the bakeries for sweet treats. Brian still fell victim to the aroma, even though he knew full well that it was completely artificial.
As Brian approached the front gate, he was met with the usual sea of faces, bodies pushed up against the turnstyles, eager for entry. For many of them, this experience was a dream come true, a well-earned vacation to complete escapism. They fidgeted with anticipation.
Brian could feel their eyes on him as he headed to the exit gate on the far right.
“Off to work?” asked Tony the security guard.
“Yup. Back to the grind,” said Brian.
“You know,” said Tony,” You can probably get an on-site job in Administration or something. It’ll sure cut down on the commute.”
“Nah,” said Brian. “Wouldn’t want to live where I work. And vise versa.”
“Fair enough” said Tony. He looked up and noticed that a couple of guests that may have caught wind of their conversation. “Well, Sir… I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to Sugar Mountain. Please come back soon!”