Prompt: Whenever the main character wakes up from a dream, they have in their pocket whatever they had in their hands or were using during their dream, thanks to their magical pajamas…
My first memory was of Errol smiling into my crib. He had a smile that could resolve any argument, and a personality to match. Whenever I felt tired, anxious, or just fed up with life, Errol would be there to remind me that it was ok, everything was alright, and I was a stronger person than I gave myself credit for, even if I couldn’t understand it at the time.
As a kid, I remember Erol getting me my first camera as a birthday gift. It was nothing special, just a cheap little point-and-shoot. Back in the days when film had to be developed, I would save my pennies and run down to the store, cradling the old roll like an infant. I had boxes of photos of us diving in the local lake, horsing around in the woods behind the house, and leaping off the old tire swing in the backyard. The world was a canvas waiting to be painted with our whims and actions; each photo was a masterpiece of our time together.
As an adult, I remember having deep conversations with Errol over Facebook and Skype. His life’s mission was to travel the world and donate his time and money to helping the less fortunate. As long as other human beings suffered, he suffered. Whenever he had time and money to come back to the States, we’d meet up for beers or revisit our childhood stomping grounds, reminiscing over younger, more innocent days. Days when the weight of the world hadn’t yet fallen on us. On his last visit, I decided to pay back his gift with a digital camera, but only on the condition that he use it to chronicle his adventures. Within days of him leaving, he treated me to an ever-growing mosaic of foreign faces, places, and snapshots of human kindness that made me deeply question my relatively stale, listless, and self-absorbed suburban lifestyle.
As an old man, I watched Errol wither under the weight of his own generosity. He had given too much of himself and suffered for it in the end. As payment for improving the lives of those around him, he sacrificed his own health, and although he was only two years older than me, it looked as if we were decades apart. He died when I was 70, and I held his hand as he took his last breath. I didn’t take many pictures after that.
When Errol died, the wonder and joy of the world died with him. I realized that my own time in this world was running short, and while I was too frail to create new memories, I could still relive older ones. I climbed up to the attic and found the old boxes where my pictures and video cassettes lay collecting dust. One by one I scanned each image and digitized each cassette, amassing a digital graveyard of Errol’s experiences and memories. I saved this archive to a hard drive, which I carefully wrapped in electrostatic plastic and tucked safely into my pocket. When I was certain I had accomplished my goal, I opened the window in my office and leapt onto the asphalt three stories below.
I felt a palpable sense of relief as I opened my eyes and saw my bedroom. I was once again a young man in my apartment, waking up from another long, hazy dream of Errol. Yet today, there was something different. Something pressed against my thigh. I reached into the pocket of my pajamas and pulled out a small hard drive in an electrostatic bag. Vivid images from my dream rushed into my mind, and I closed my eyes as hot tears welled. I gently set the hard drive on my desk next to the only picture of Errol I owned, a picture of him as a toddler just before he died in that fateful accident over two decades ago.