Emil Laughner had the same dream every night: he would wake to use the bathroom, and while standing over the toilet he would look out into the back yard through the window. But the back yard would not be there. Confused, he would pull up his shorts, still dribbling, and head to the back door. When he opened it, a cold wind would slap him in the face. Balls good and shrivelled, he would walk out onto the porch and see down below, far below, the fields of his property. His house was in the sky, and not just floating. It was rising. It rose higher and higher and he could see the lights of town and then more and more lights but by then he was scared and he would rush inside and stupidly grab the phone to call for help. But of course there was no dial tone, so he would run back to the bedroom and jump into bed and grab the covers and hide under them like a little kid again, crying and praying.
And then he would wake up staring at the clock. It said 3:23 every time. With not just a little trepidation, he would go to the bathroom and try and piss while peering through the window. Beyond, in the gloom, he could make out the back yard and the fields beyond. After he finally forced his bladder empty, he would go back to bed and lie there until dawn, wishing he could fall asleep but also dreading it.
One, he told Clayton about the dream. It had taken a lot of nerve to work up to it, and when he did — over their daily coffee and eggs, which Clayton always ate sunny side but Emil switched up now and again between scrambled and over easy — when he told Clayton, Clayton laughed until he coughed up brown phlegm. Emil never mentioned the dream again, to anyone.
It went on like that for weeks and Emil was sure he would eventually go crazy, so he decided to take control of matters. That was, after all, what Margaret had always expected of him. “Take control of matters,” she would always say whenever he had some trouble with money or farm hands or the law. Truthfully, more often than not it had been her that had taken control of matters. But she was gone now and he was the only one left to take control of matters.
So one night when he had worked up the nerve, he made a pot of coffee at damn near midnight and drank one cup after another. He sat on the porch, rocking in his chair against the autumn cold with a shotgun across his knees and he checked his watch every few minutes for hours.
At 3:19 he felt it.
The house began to shake. Not bad, not like an earthquake. Just a vibration, like a train going by. It shook like that for a minute or more then stopped. Emil shot up out of his rocker and headed toward the porch stairs but it was too late. The yard was already forty feet down and moving away fast. On the one hand, Emil was terrified, but on the other, he was glad to know he wasn’t mad.
Emil didn’t run to hide under his covers that night. He stood on his porch and watched the world fall away until the air got cold and thin.
His last thought was about Margaret and that maybe he would see her again soon. His next to last thought was about Clayton and how that son of a bitch wouldn’t be laughing tomorrow.