In Armageddon, Bruce Willis helped destroy a giant asteroid. For Charlie King-Hagen, giant asteroids build strange dreams — and possible stories.
By Charlie King-Hagen
A few weeks ago, I dreamt that I was back in my senior year of high school. It was dance time, and supposedly my date was my dream girl; I had been pursuing her for months.
The night seemed headed in a good direction: my dark blue tie perfectly matched the color of her dress, she laughed at all of my “only-would-have-thought-them-up-as-a-senior-in-high-school” jokes, and when she went to pin the boutonniere on my suit jacket, she didn’t puncture my skin. As we were taking pictures with the rest of our group, she whispered that when we left for dinner, she wanted the two of us to ride in our own car so we could have “private time together.” This night couldn’t have gone better. After pictures were over, we waved to our friends and ran out to my car. She was holding her high heels in one hand and my hand in the other. I guided her to the passenger’s seat door, where, just before getting inside, she kissed me on the cheek. I sort of dizzily stumbled my way around to the driver’s side, and then, as I was opening the door, I looked up to the sky and fervently thanked the universe for the inexplicably wonderful stretch of fate.
Then a massive asteroid fell to the Earth and blew up the entire planet and I woke up. True story. Well, true dream.
Now, please don’t expect for me to provide some sort of psychological explanation for my subconscious. I’m just as confused as you are. None of my high school dances ever went this smoothly, and, though I am no “asteroid expert,” I think it would take one hell of a comet to take out the Earth on simple impact.
But awkward, elbowy high school dates and explosive space rocks aren’t necessarily the point. I imagine that some of you, while reading this, are hoping that, immediately after waking up, I 1. made a note to cut way down on caffeine, 2. told my roommate the entire dream, promising to seek out psychiatric treatment ASAP, 3. Googled the exact probability that an asteroid big enough to destroy Earth could actually come burning down through the atmosphere.
I did none of these things.
Instead, I laughed, ruffled my hands through my bed head, made myself a big cup of black coffee and added “comet from the sky” to my ever-expanding list of short story/fiction ideas.
I wrote my first story when I was in fifth grade. It was a sweeping narrative about seven decorated chairs scattered around the world that, when set together, revealed a map to a gigantic treasure. This was just before National Treasure came out, mind you. While other students turned in one or two pages of work, I submitted 12 pages — although if it’s any indication of the realistic plot elements, at one point in the story, a character falls from the roof of the Empire State Building, lands on a guy carrying a mattress above his head on the sidewalk, and survives.
After taking a nine-year hiatus from fiction in pursuit of other forms of creative writing, during which my fans sent countless letters asking about my next magnum opus, I seriously got back into fiction about six months ago.
Anyone who has experimented with writing fiction knows that it is, hands down, one of the most ridiculous things in the world. To say I’m obsessed is an understatement. In six short months, fiction writing has entirely changed how I view my surroundings.
Writing fiction causes you to be oh so observant of what is happening around you: you listen very closely to every conversation you hear, you dissect every word said to you, and you take in all of the details of the surrounding environment, whether that be the sting of the wind in December or the shapes exhaust makes when it tumbles out of the pipe of the car in front of you. If you are out at a mall and you see a guy in a red sweater, you concoct seven different reasons why he decided to wear a red sweater and not a blue one, or a green button-down shirt, or a yellow coat with a broken zipper. Then you come up with four different scenarios in which the guy may lose his sweater after having taken it off in the historical fiction section of a Barnes & Noble, or have his wallet stolen out of his back pocket while waiting in line for a soft pretzel in the food court, or randomly decide to pursue being a pilot after flying a remote-control helicopter in the Brookstone store, or meet his true love (also wearing a red sweater) when they separately decide to take a few moments and sit in the massage chairs outside the Dillard’s on the second floor.
More than anything, writing fiction causes you to become invested in all of these happenings. A story can come from anywhere. A wacky dream, a funny conversation while in line at Burger King or a simple moment on the beach, toes in the sand, watching the tide continually rise and then recede, all can lead to a plot with rich characters, heartfelt dialogue, emotional conflict and imagination-inducing setting and detail. All can lead to something memorable. So, next time you are out with a wonderful girl/guy/dog and an asteroid hurtles to the Earth, and everyone is running around and screaming about how the world is ending and the Mayans were right, don’t panic. Instead, grab a pen and a piece of paper, or a napkin, or the back of your non-writing hand and begin jotting down some ideas.
There’s probably a story to that.
Charlie King-Hagen is a sophomore in English, who almost spilled coffee on his laptop four separate times while writing this post.