Ned didn’t remember what it was like to wake up every morning and not want to bash his head into every sharp corner in his small unimpressive house. He had been feeling this urge much more powerfully recently ever since his boss called him into his office and told him he was on thin ice. Apparently, the management at the Hedgehog Pharmaceuticals Pittsburgh corporate office didn’t appreciate it when people liked to be treated like human beings. It was bad for productivity. All Ned did to earn himself that reprimand was tell his supervisor David to go sit on a fence post because he was hovering too closely while Ned was trying to do his fucking job. This job included trying to phrase the wording of the side effects, that their company printed on their bottles of anti-depressants and other drugs, in order to better conceal and obstruct their true severity.

Transforming possible liver failure to severe organ irritation was the type of black magic that Ned did for them on a daily basis, and he didn’t see a dime of those profits. No, instead he was making a measly 40,000 a year and was expected to shut up about it. He was literally a professional liar that they paid, and they got mad because he gave his boss some lip? Ned sat up late at night all week flipping through shitty television shows, most having to do with people standing up to authority, and he obsessed over the injustice that was his current situation. When it became clear to him that he was never going to fall asleep he went to his bathroom and from the mirrored cabinet above his sink took out his handy bottle of Hedgehog brand sleeping pills. He turned the small white bottle with the picture of a sleeping cartoon hedgehog on the front and looked at the warnings on the side. May cause mild hallucinations, and increased heart rate the warnings said among others. The reality was however, that these little fuckers gave every test hedgehog they tried them on nightmares so vivid and so stressful it caused their little hearts to actually explode.

Ned always found it funny that they tested their shit on actual Hedgehogs it just proved how bat shit crazy his superiors were. Hedgehog Pharmaceuticals was founded by the married couple Earl and Janet Randal. They came into a large amount of capital one year when on blind luck Earl was able to sue a large news publication for libel when they printed a story that claimed he engaged in sexual acts with a hedgehog. He was working as the head of animal control in a small town in Western Pennsylvania at the time.
After prying open the extremely stubborn lid Ned popped two of the small pills into his mouth and swallowed them with water. From experience he knew the nightmares these things caused were real and extremely disturbing. He liked that about them though. Going through a literal hell in his dreams made his dull waking life at work more bearable. At least I’m not back in that dream with that rapist dragon, he would think while he made copies or overheard A.J. from human resources say something completely false about the current state of the Steelers franchise.

Ned did have to concede one thing to the bastards, aside from the terrible side effects those sleeping pills knocked him out every time. Already just seconds after taking them the hallucinations had started and standing just outside his bathroom door was his boss David, only David looked more like a goblin version of himself than his actual self. He had green skin and was hunched over more, which made him almost a foot shorter in stature. Not knowing what else to really do Ned asked the apparition if it had anything to say to him or if it was just there to hang out. Goblin David responded by holding up both of his middle fingers and dancing around the room while singing a demented goblin song that’s only lyric was the word fuck. Ned shook his head at the poor creature. It was caught in a random psychotic loop of its own making and would never know anything else besides his weird goblin routine. The weight of this hallucination made Ned start to think about philosophy. If everything in reality was just a projection of consciousness than what if he himself was just someone else’s goblin? What if this moment happening right now was just another dream within the larger dream that was base reality, and instead of singing a weird song and dancing around, his job was just to rephrase fucked up side effects to make legal drugs more marketable.

Ned slapped himself a couple times, he knew paranoia was part of the experience and that he needed to lock that shit down. He stumbled back to his couch and sat back down in front of the T.V. which now didn’t look like anything to him. The texture of all the pictures had overwhelmed the entirety of the screen and now it just looked like vibrating fabric. Ned covered himself with a white blanket that was balled up on the edge of the couch and laid down still staring deeply into the ever-expanding pixels, and he realized that his heartbeats had started to sync up with Goblin David’s chant. This rhythm was like counting sheep on steroids and Ned’s eyelids became as heavy as a car in a lake.
While he drifted off to sleep Ned wished really hard for a dream that would last forever. It could even be a nightmare, he wasn’t too picky. At this point anything different would be an improvement for him. The last thoughts he had before becoming completely unconscious was about the nature of freedom and what that shit really was. He thought to himself if freedom was a Hedgehog drug how would he phrase the effects. The perfect definition came to him in the milliseconds before he was gone for good. Freedom was the ability to do his work without someone looking over his shoulder, that’s all it ever really was. Ned would sleep through his alarm the next morning missing work entirely. It was the best day of his life.

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