/r/DarkTales

Photograph via snooOG

Because sometimes it's just best to let the demented children inside run free.

Why hello there, children. Do you want some candy? You can find some on our official OOC, but be sure to visit our wiki and read the rules, first!


CHOOSE YOUR POISON

Serif or Sans-Serif


Welcome to a place

Where darkness decrees,

Where angels have fallen,

Where psychopaths flee.

Welcome to a place

Where wild men char,

Where daggers are playtoys,

And intestines, scarves.

Welcome to a place

Where heaven is hell,

This is Dark Tales,

We wish you all well.


Check out our YouTube Narration Channel here!


GUIDELINES


  • This is a sub for stories of the sinful and dark. Humour, romance, anything is allowed so long as you can consider it dark, but your stories MUST be original works created by YOU. X-posts are acceptable as long as the work is still yours. We will not accept copypastas from other sites, if we see this, the story will be removed and the submitter will be notified.

  • No erotic pedophilia please. This is a sub for dark fiction, but even the insane have standards. We don't want this becoming a haven for the 'fun' of a psycho, so please, keep away from those subjects.

  • All posts must already be considered NSFW/L. It is up to the authors if they would like to tag them or not, but please do not complain if you stumble upon one that isn't.

  • All stories must be tagged with the appropriate flair. This means the following:

  1. Slap Fiction - 1 - 25 words

  2. Micro Fiction - 26 - 250 words

  3. Flash Fiction - 251 - 500 words

  4. Short Fiction - 501 - 1500 words

  5. Extended Fiction - 1500+ words

  6. Poetry - Self-explanatory

  7. Series - Multi-part Stories (please read our rules for submitting a series).

Feel free to use this online word counter to make sure you flair your submissions correctly. Simply copy and paste!

  • Play nice. This is a sub which is all for friendly constructive criticism, and it is encouraged greatly so long as it is helpful and just. Saying something 'sucks', is 'not scary' or using obscene language in a disrespectful manner does not help improve the author in anyway, and such behavior will not be allowed.

FORMATTING


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/r/DarkTales

17,121 Subscribers

1

World-Ending Storm

Trapped within the guilt of suppressed memories
Repeatedly tearing open the scar tissue of invisible wounds
I reach into the smoldering depths of pure agony

I'll drown in the lechery of self-sacrifice
To be cleansed of my mortal sins
At the hand of the grotesquely beautiful fallen angel
Armed with the sharpened edge of my innumerable mistakes

Reliving every last moment
Raped by the unrelenting suffering
As her flames strip all semblance of humanity

Reborn from the ashes
Perfected and without form
I'll return from the grave
As the world-ending storm

0 Comments
2024/02/26
01:01 UTC

5

Tea in the Sahara

The sands of the Sahara stirred under the hot noonday sun. To an observer, this would not have seemed unusual, given that sometimes the sands so moved—when the winds blew…

But today the winds were dead, rendering Earth unnaturally still. What propelled each grain of sand was not external but internal, a tiny solar engine whose battery had finally been fully charged.

Each grain of Saharan sand: a barely-perceptible spacecraft, piloted by a member of a race called the Dry People, whose ancestors had arrived on Earth (as on many other planets) a long, long time ago.

Who knows?

Not me.

Their spacecraft had lain dormant and charging for millions of years.

They had, desiccated, existed for ages.

Some say they travelled around the universe on rays of light. Others, by some unknown quirk of quantum mechanics.

Today—as the engines of their spacecraft switched fatefully on—they were each roused from their dehydrated slumber by the release of a single drop of moisture. Into them, water entered.

Their spacecraft rose and flowed.

Murmurated,

like starlings at dusk.

Imagine it: the entirety of the Sahara Desert—every last seemingly insignificant particle of sand—ascending, until the land below lies as uncovered as a table from whose surface the tablecloth has been pulled. Like magic! Except here there is no magician, no devilish sleight of hand, only the self-propelling sands organising themselves into four flocks, one for each cardinal direction.

The North flock blankets the Maghreb, before crossing the Mediterranean and enveloping Europe.

The South flock spreads to the Cape of Good Hope.

The East flock smothers India, incorporates the Gobi and befalls the rest of Asia.

The West flock—what a magnificently apocalyptic sight it is, soaring over the Atlantic toward the Americas, both of which it shall, too, in arid constellations, manifestly destinate.

Doom from above.

Water-based humanity caught by surprise. The last days of our special lives. We are a victim, plastic bag thrust over our heads, breathing what scraps of air remain. Existence struggling without hope. The plastic bag going in, out, in, out…

The lips turning greyish blue.

The Dry People pilot their innumerable spacecraft over our continents, countries, cities; shrouding them, penetrating us—into our ears and down our throats, assaulting our eyes and invading our insides. Some of us they kill. Others they hijack, turning human against human, or forcing us to work toward their ends, cataloguing and collecting dunes and beaches, labouring in the crush-quarries.

I never lost control.

Our decimated species prepares more spacecraft for them. More Dry People arrive, riding starlight or washed upon our Earthen shores by probability waves.

The sands proliferate and conquer.

Earth becomes a planet only of desert and ocean, an environmental yin yang.

It is in one of the crush-quarries, sweat-soaked and burning, exposed under the unforgiving sun, that you see him.

He is drinking tea in a shadow cast by an umbrella.

You're face to face,

(You lift your pick-axe, and let it fall.)

With the man who sold the world.

1 Comment
2024/02/25
16:27 UTC

1

Bitter Keening

Countless shadows claw and crawl across the walls
Slowly dulling the vital senses of the mortal shell
Exposing all the lies hidden in plain sight by flawed perception
And invite me to dance until the return of dawn

Mental wound
Bleeding anti-matter into life
The progeny of my imagination
Are thus reborn

On a moonless night, I ponder my mortality
In the presence of long-forgotten memories
The misanthrope in me is delighted at the prospect
Of escaping the collective to enjoy the fruits of eternity alone

Mental wound
Bleeding anti-matter into life
The progeny of my imagination
Are thus reborn

The bitter keening of a mourning bard morphs into
A pleasant melody while I reminisce about my reunion with the ferryman
Who was promised to take my soul on a voyage to a distant kingdom
Devoid of light whose unending glory I've witnessed in my dreams

Mental wound
Bleeding anti-matter into life
The progeny of my imagination
Are thus reborn

Astral womb
Projecting a prophecy of doom
Through an exile in oblivion
I am reborn

0 Comments
2024/02/24
00:46 UTC

4

The Master of the Moon

John Frederick Drummond had led his men deep into the jungle in search of the legendary Bloodstone, a magnificent gem held by an unnamed tribe of savages whose very existence Drummond had proved three years prior, at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society, and whose location he had hypothesised and confirmed on this very expedition.

Yet here he was, camped.

In the wet and the dark, among the mosquitoes and the malaria, under a black sky, awaiting the end of the New Moon.

“To venture forth without light is absolute folly,” Drummond repeated, night after dreadful night—until, mercifully, the lunar phase of the New Moon ended and the Waxing Crescent began; and under its pallid illumination, he led what remained of his troop into a primitive, native village.

The Stone Age villagers eyed them with cautious disdain.

Their leader, Drummond soon surmised, was a Shaman, half-naked, dark-skinned, with decorative scars etched into his face, stonelike beneath a headdress of black beads and varicoloured feathers.

“I am searching for a red gem,” Drummond communicated through an enslaved interpreter.

But the Shaman shook his head.

He held a long wooden staff, whose polished upper end reflected the moonlight.

Drummond shrugged and whistled, and he and his men pulled out their guns. He repeated his communication. “Give it to me or I shall take it by force.”

Still the Shaman shook his head.

The villagers had by now all stopped what they'd been doing, and stood, staring at the confrontation in the heart of their village. There was a terrible quietness in the air, as that of a victim of a tropical disease whose wheezing agony has been ended finally by death. Drummond pointed his gun at the Shaman. “Give me the gem and I shall let you live.”

“No,” said the Shaman then—

said it in English, much to Drummond's surprise, and Drummond realised that his outstretched arm was trembling.

The villagers had begun lowly to murmur.

The sound filled the village.

Some of Drummond's men dropped their guns and ran back into the jungle. Drummond himself discovered he could not move, caught by the murmuring as if in chains.

Then the Shaman lifted his staff toward the night sky—lifted it until the upper end of the staff obscured the Waxing Crescent moon—and the one fused impossibly with the other! And when the Shaman gripped the staff with both hands, and swung, attached to the top of the staff gleamed a lustrous Moonblade, whose sharp, crescent edge slid through the screaming Englishman’s neck—cleanly— decapitating him.

The village stood in moonless darkness.

The murmuring ceased.

The Shaman returned the Moon to the sky, and began feasting on Drummond’s corpse. The villagers soon joined him.

When nothing but bones remained, the Shaman picked up Drummond's head and cast it deep into the cosmos, past the Waxing Crescent Moon, where to this day it remains, a planet petrified in mid-scream orbiting a distant, blazing star the villagers, in their hideous language, call Thanatopsis.

1 Comment
2024/02/23
21:33 UTC

2

Disappear Into The Tundra

Standing over the desecrated grave of the fallen sun
I piss into the gaping jaws of his simian-shaped corpse
Though his bones might be crossed for me he is nothing
More than a man, slaughtered like a swine and left to rot
like an unclean animal under a mound of unmarked dirt

Their suicidal cult to this contorted idol is spreading like a disease
Propagating the worship of images depicting a ghastly fate
They rape their lives to find freedom in enslavement
And wage an endless war in the name of unity under heaven's gaze
While claiming bloodshed will pave the way to eternal peace

Let their master return from his grave
Half unborn, half stillborn
A wraith feeding on innocent blood
Let his followers celebrate his triumph
Until my spear pierces his heart
Forcing the sheep to mourn once more

Let them all come to seek revenge
I'll watch them disappear into the tundra
And raise a toast while they join their vanquished sire
Once their remains serve to feed the starving wolves

0 Comments
2024/02/23
00:58 UTC

2

A Light in Grandmother's House

don't…

turn on the light…

in the…

basement.

Those were my grandmother's last words to me, said solemnly, with abject terror in her eyes.

I was nine years old.

She seemed like a decrepit monster to me then, a nearly-toothless, broken skeleton wrapped in weathered skin, possessing thickly hideous knuckles that cracked whenever she moved her long, pale fingers…

My dad inherited her house after she died.

There was seemingly nothing special about it, just an old brick house in a once-wealthy neighbourhood.

“You know, she tried burning this place down,” my dad told me one day. “Apparently it just didn't take. She never did try selling it though.”

When we moved in, the door to the basement was boarded up. Odd—but not alarming. We left it alone for a while, busy with other things.

But eventually dad decided he needed to go down and take a look.

After prying away the boards, he opened the door, which whined, letting in a musty smell—and darkness, and carefully descended.

“Grandma said not to turn on the light,” I said.

“Not a problem,” he responded from somewhere unseen below. “There's apparently only one, and the switch doesn't work.”

I heard him flip it:

on…

off…

on…

off…

on…

“What's down there?” I asked.

I saw the cold light of the LED flashlight he'd turned on.

“Nothing, really.”

A few minutes later he came back up, shut the door and ordered pizza. “Not sure why she bothered boarding it up,” he said, chewing on a slice. “No reason for us to go down there though. Maybe if we ever run out of storage space.”

And so we left the basement alone

—again.

As I grew up, I became increasingly aware the world is a shadow-place, full of evil, having nasty hidden corners, in which unexplainable events occur, hinting at the supernatural. For a long time, I considered this a normal part of becoming an adult, something everyone goes through.

When I was seventeen, I started a part-time job at a retirement home.

It was there I met Father Akinyemi.

He had known my grandmother, and I found that I enjoyed talking to him. Despite being almost ninety years old, he kept an open mind, and listened whenever I explained my existential dread to him.

“Your grandmother—she believed in evil,” he said, one fall day. “Physical evil. Monsters.” Here he lowered his voice so none but I could hear: “She confessed, once, that within her house—in the basement, if memory serves—there was a light switch, but rather than turn on-and-off the light, the switch turned on-and-off the demons.”

How I ran home then!

Through a storm, through thunder and through pouring rain—and at home, out-of-breath ripped open the basement door and stumbled, nearly falling, down the stairs, into darkness, and felt half-mad and blindly for the switch:

on…

and turned it:

off.

But in all those years, I wonder, just how much evil—how many demons—did we, in ignorance, let pass into this world…

0 Comments
2024/02/22
02:12 UTC

1

Like A Knife Across Bare Skin

Night after night, I dream of a terrible storm
Befalling this bleak and monochrome place
To devastate this sea of monolith tombstones
Erected to commemorate that human life
Has no worth where the masses languish
Under the shadow of their grotesque monuments

It is my lifelong wish to see this hell
Reduced to ashes in a tempest of heavenly flames

I long for the freezing ancient gusts, the bitter cold winds
Whose softest touch cuts like a knife across bare skin
These northern winds will break the chains
Tying me to the rest of this miserable kind
Before taking me back home to a wondrous far away land
Where King Winter will pull me back into his embrace

I will leave my mortal shell behind to ensure the frozen blood
Flowing in my veins will flood this desert of self-inflicted sorrow

As a shadow, I am undead yet unborn
Grave bound yet also reborn
To plague the face of the earth
As the emissary of a beautiful kingdom
At the edge of the known world
Where the souls of the dead dwell among the living
After leaving their corpses in the care
of the permafrost

0 Comments
2024/02/22
01:05 UTC

3

V.H. & D’œuf, Vampire Hunters

V.H., Esq., Creature Hunter Extraordinaire™, Lord of Killingsworth Manor, Honorary Master of Vampiric Studies, triple-winner of the Royal Beast & Butchery Competition, and all-around black-haired suave guy, led his dim-witted apprentice, D’œuf, through Aarbinger Forest toward Francesylvania, where there were arrogant vampires frankly to be killed.

D’œuf carried both their supplies on his back.

V.H. lectured:

“...and that, my dearest inferior, is why garlic retains its antivampiric properties to this day. Unless it's Chinese garlic. That stuff is awful.”

“Are you sure these woods is safe?” asked D’œuf. They seemed particularly dark, dreary and windless. And they were, by now, deep within them.

“The only beasts you shall find here are werewolves,” said V.H., “and those, despite popular belief, are not attracted by live human flesh. Now, if we were foolish enough to be carrying meat, they would likely sniff us out and tear us limb-from—”

“But, sir,” D’œuf interrupted, remembering suddenly V.H.’s instructions about what items to pack for their adventure. Instructions which he had followed to a tee. Items, some of whose weight he now felt disproportionately upon his normally wide and able back.

“Silence!” said V.H. “You know well I do not suffer interruptions. Now, where was I—ah, yes! If we were fools enough to be carrying raw meat, the werewolves would sniff us out and dismember us as easily as we ourselves shall slaughter les vampires. That, dear D’œuf, is what they call vampires in Gaul.”

“Indeed, Brilliant Master. But about that very meat—”

They had reached a small clearing, and V.H. stopped and stomped his feet. “Again! You interrupt me again! And to ask what: about meat?”

“It is just—perhaps—a danger…”

“Are you, perhaps, a little en retard in your comprehension, D’œuf?”

“No, sir.”

“I have already said we are not in danger. The werewolves shall not ‘get’ us. We need worry solely about the vampires in Francesylvania.”

“Yes, sir,” said D’œuf with a hint of dumb dejection.

“Let us focus on the task before us. This is merely a shortcut through the woods. Now, let us take inventory, to remove your child-like mind from your idiot thoughts and focus instead on what is to be done to vampires.” He paused for dramatic effect: a pause during which he almost certainly heard a distant howl, then continued: “Do we have with us garlic?”

“Yes,” said D’œuf.

(More howls.)

“And water most holy?”

“Yes.”

(Howls—approaching.)

“And roses?”

“Yes. But, sir,” said D’œuf, beginning to tremble and sweat, the pack incredibly heavy on his back. Heavy and wet. Liquid seeping…

“And what about the stakes?” asked V.H., feeling for the first time a bit nervous himself—as, all at once, they emerged from the surrounding forest: snarling snouts and scratching claws and sharp, ripping teeth!

Werewolves!

And it was only as he saw D’œuf fall dead, and his bloody pack spill open, revealing garlic, roses and the fattest, juiciest of cuts, that V.H. realized:

He'd been undone—

by a most-grave misteak!

0 Comments
2024/02/21
03:01 UTC

2

A Glimpse Into Eventuality

With a pained yet satisfied smile on my face
I admire the perfectly flawed reflection in the mirror
Dressed in my finest suit in preparation to meet an old childhood friend
The only one who, for some strange reason,
Had always remained by my side even when
Everyone else had given up and left

A dear friend who once, a lifetime ago took my hand
And served as my guiding light, the one who had led me
Out of the downward spiral in a tunnel of impenetrable darkness
Leading nowhere but an early encounter with the holy Oblivion
I long, how I long to reunite with you in the flesh
Even though for decades you've been shadowing my every movement
Steering me in the direction of enlightenment
Awaiting on the other side of the ashen taste left
In my mouth every time another poor soul finds its tragic end

For nothing else in this life compares
To the intoxicating scent of the heavens weeping
In celebration of those who had finally reunited with the earth

0 Comments
2024/02/21
01:07 UTC

1

Pale Tenebrous Light

Adorned with the blinding light of the sun
On a solemn day overlooked by clear skies
The great queen returns from obscurity to bless
Her misbegotten children with the brilliance
Radiating from the core of her tenebrous gift

Spreading across every nation and across every land

For years we have dreaded your judgement
And celebrated your inconspicuous absence
While secretly thinking ourselves to be orphaned
We earnestly wished for your inevitable return
You fair herald of the inextinguishable fevered passion
Reclaim your domains through your undying love
Finally rendering all of your children moribund

0 Comments
2024/02/20
01:08 UTC

1

When I see myself reflected in your blood, you are no more

When I look in a mirror, I see through myself.

I have no reflection.

I can see and touch my own body, and other people see me without any problems, but for years I was unable to see my own face.

I don’t show up in photos or on video.

Until I was eleven years old, I knew what my face looked like only from how it felt under my fingertips, how other people described it to me, and from the portraits my parents paid people to draw.

But even the portraits were temporary. They faded within minutes. And if you write a sentence about how I look, the nouns and adjectives evaporate.

I have a r and ye .

It’s strange knowing such a unique part of your body—of yourself, your identity—solely through words and pictures, as if you were a character in a comic book.

As if you weren’t real.

And most people aren’t even very good at describing things beyond the most basic and obvious.

The video my parents took of my birth is actually pretty bizarre, because it looks like someone filmed the whole thing, then digitally erased the baby. Something is born. Something is held in its mother’s arms.

Something is loved.

Something goes to school.

Something likes to play with his dog.

It was bad enough everyone knew what I looked like, but worse that I could see what they looked like.

I get that if I was born blind, I wouldn’t know what I looked like either, so I should be thankful for being able to see, but there’s something especially cruel about seeing everything but yourself. It’s like in the Bible, when Adam and Eve could eat everything except the fruit of one fucking tree. I am my own forbidden knowledge. How fucked is that!

Or rather I was my own forbidden knowledge.

Because when something was eleven, something and his friends ignored their parents’ rules and went to play in the abandoned gas station outside of town, where the junkies shoot up, truckers get laid, and God knows what else goes on.

That day there was dying going on.

Some emaciated wreck of a human was babbling his last nonsense words as a stream of bloody fluids that escaped him through where his teeth should have been, ran down his neck and over his sunken, scabby chest before gathering in a pool on the cement beside him.

Something’s friends were all gone by then, rightly freaked the fuck out.

But something was staring—

Spellbound.

Not by the dying but by the blood itself, so deeply, darkly red and so perfectly reflective.

It was in that mirror-blood I first saw myself.

In the filth of that derelict gas station, in the company of that drooling corpse, I realized that I could see myself—in blood!

And what stared back at me was nothing like the portraits.

Or words.

I remember sirens and flashing lights and realizing my friends must have called the police. I don’t know how long I spent crouched there, staring at the blood, but when the cops arrived I knew immediately they couldn’t see the body.

It was right there yet they walked past it.

“Is this some kind of fucking joke?” one of them said to me. But before I could answer, his tone softened and he asked, “Are you OK, son?”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

The cops and my friends loitered like drunks around the gas station for at least a quarter-hour, acting as if they didn’t know why they were there but didn’t want to admit it, then in a mutual but silent embarrassment started leaving.

“It’s boring here. Let’s go to my place,” said one of my friends.

Still the body was right there.

The gaping, toothless mouth, the greenish-yellow stains.

I went with them.

On the way back, I asked my friends whether they had called the police after seeing the dying man.

“Police?”

“Saw somebody dying?”

They had no idea what I was talking about.

A few days later, I got up at night, took a knife from the kitchen and cut myself on purpose, squeezing out enough blood so that it formed a crimson globule on the countertop, then put my face against it so that my eyeball was almost touching the blood. Slowly, I pulled my face away—a slow zooming out—struggling to focus, but I did not see myself. The globule merely reflected in red a distended, empty kitchen.

Animal blood also didn’t work.

Neither did my friend’s blood after I punched him in the nose.

By then it became apparent to me that somehow death must be involved.

I yearned to see myself once more but took solace in the fact no one else could see the real me. They could not see what I saw, what I knew I was. They saw merely a false projection of their own humanity.

My chance finally came several years later, after my mom had dragged me to her brother’s cottage. My uncle was using a chainsaw to cut firewood, when the chainsaw slipped and carved a nasty wound into his leg. He screamed. All of us came running. Despite the pressure he kept applying to the wound, his blood poured out of him, through his fingers and down onto the grass and dirt. Under the pretext of trying to help him slow the bleeding, I pressed my hand against his leg, gathering the hot blood in my palm. When I had enough, I stepped suddenly away—They all stared at me.—and, trembling, held out my hand beneath the dusty evening sunlight and gazed upon my own reflection for the second time.

Time again seemed to flow past me, but I recall vaguely, as through a wall of styrofoam, their screams and panic fading fluently away.

Like a forest stream whose source has been shut off.

Until it was quiet, and although I could see my uncle’s body lying on the ground, they one-by-one seemed to lose all interest in it. Eventually they all went back to whatever trivial thing they’d been doing before, and when I asked my mom what happened to my uncle, she said, “Who?” and laughed and said, “But I’ve never had a brother,” and when I later checked her phone and photo albums, sure enough he was not there, and I realized the power of my gaze.

I am the antonym of being.

More than non-being: dread-form of never-was.

To see myself, I must stare into the blood of the dying or the dead. In doing so, I disengender them.

To catch a glimpse of my own visage I must erase them from time itself.

I am not a human.

I am negation.

Since that evening at the cottage, I have haunted the places all normal people fear. I track death’s cold footsteps to where the threads of life are finest, and wait for them to fray—to snap. Sometimes I aid in their undoing. Because as long as I draw blood, I can kill without earthly consequence. My reflection is the erasure of crime, for how can one kill what has never existed?

Every time I see myself reflected, my desire grows.

I am beginning to love myself.

Perhaps I have become enamoured of my own image, but even so my narcissism is of the most unique kind.

For now, I prey only on the weakest among you, those who would not survive long anyway, and in my actions I become their angel: of death / of mercy / of forgetful self-reflection.

0 Comments
2024/02/19
20:00 UTC

3

Wherein the World Ends, and You Begin

It started with a Mr Parsons in Edinburgh, an elderly lawyer who, placing his customary hat upon his head, discovered the hat was unexplainably too large. Later that same day, he took his customary bathroom break and noticed that a small growth had sprouted from his inner thigh.

He made nothing of it for the time being, and certainly did not connect the odd events.

Over the next few months, many people around the world independently made similar discoveries, a diminution of the head and the emergence of a strange growth, called variously—albeit erroneously—a cyst, a skin tag, a pimple, a tumor, a boil.

My head remained the same size and I developed no growths.

Soon, internet communities sprang up, in which people shared stories of similar observations, and observations they were, for it was all verifiable. You could measure your head and your growth. If you saw your doctor, the doctor could not deny the physical reality, only offer some kind of explanation. It was not the fault of the medical profession that it grasped so lamely at straws and provided wrong diagnoses.

Eventually two conclusions were made: that the increase in the size of each growth was proportional to the decrease in the size of each head, and that as people’s heads shrank, their intelligence diminished.

I became aware of being surrounded by idiots.

By year’s end, the world’s population had heads the size of softballs—grotesque, balding ovoids of cubistically rearranged facial features—and melon-sized flesh sacks emanating from their bodies, making communication and locomotion increasingly difficult. These disturbing creatures babbled, drooled, slumbered and ate.

I was the exception.

The voice spoke to me one night in a deep REM sleep, speaking words I can describe only as smelling of bergamot and vetiver.

Meet us in Atlantis on the mindful ocean, it communicated.

The same sentence began appearing in unexpected places: in emails from no one, repeated on the page of a book, in pop songs, on billboards, and as a tattoo on my forearm.

The meaning remained a mystery—

until that fateful day when Earth experienced its simultaneous noon, the oceans boiled and evaporated, and everyone’s head condensed into nothingness while their growths, now bulbous, wispy-haired and veiny, detached from their bodies and rolled obediently to the floor of what but yesterday was the Atlantic.

There: they popped.

And their oozing, organic fragments trembled, before congealing into a single, throbbing mass of gelatinous consciousness!

I understood the message.

I arrived in New York and from there walked upon the pulsating softness to Atlantis.

He awaited.

We sat cross-legged across from one another and meditated.

My eyes closed, I felt myself gently descending, and when it was done I was seated upon the desiccated ocean floor, and where my head once was there now palpitated a tremendous sphere of the entirety of humanity’s head-matter!

How heavy it was. How delicately balanced.

Imagination itself.

I could think anything and it was.

I close(d) my eyes.

I think you.

0 Comments
2024/02/18
02:11 UTC

2

Sleep Mask Mandate

Content Warning: attempted sexual assault.

“Attention loyal citizen and/or marginalized subject.

“There is presently an exponential rise in reports of sleep paralysis and other parasomnias within the region corresponding to your in-group’s central territory. As such, municipal health departments have logically been granted unimputable authority for so long as they deem necessary. Your innate in-group bias/municipal bylaws thereby compel you to comply with public health measures intended to mitigate the severity of this crisis.

“Do not panic, as this is likely to increase the occurrence of sleep paralysis episodes and is therefore in violation of municipal bylaws.

“Avoid sleep-disrupting activities as much as possible, except in instances when doing so would negatively impact your local or national GDP figures.

“Refrain from discussing this crisis with others, as both the stress of this event and the power of suggestion are believed to increase the frequency and severity of sleep paralysis. Remember, we are all in this alone. Together.

“Our initial mitigation strategy of a total sleep ban was the subject of much criticism and controversy. While these critiques were initially dismissed as anti-scientific and extremist rhetoric, subsequent peer review has determined that they do hold some merit. Concordantly, a sleep mask mandate is now in effect.

“Enclosed within this care package is one (?) Eigengrau Hypnagogic/Hypnopomic Sleep Mask. It is comfortable enough to wear all night and provides one (!) hundred percent blackout and noise cancellation. Please note that this sleep mask only prevents visual and auditory hallucinations during sleep paralysis episodes. Emotional hallucinations may still occur. If at any time you should wake up experiencing a sense of dread, terror, or panic, do not attempt to remove your sleep mask, as your inability to do so will only exacerbate your distress.

“Refusal to wear this mask to bed, or attempting to remove it during a sleeping paralysis episode, is a violation of municipal bylaws. Non-compliance is its own punishment. For more information, simply dial the Dreaming Eye Icon (Eye-con?) on your phone’s keypad. It has always been there. You simply failed to notice it when it was of no use to you.

“Let’s all keep our arbitrarily defined in-group safe. Stay woke by sleeping sound.”

“What the hell?” I muttered to myself as I carefully read over the quixotic letter again.

I’d found it when I checked my mailbox, but there was no address on it. If the postal worker had dropped it off, it must have been a mass-market thing. I was tempted to peek into my neighbour’s mailboxes to see if they had received anything similar, but thought better of it. That was probably the kind of thing you could get evicted for.

The letterhead had a logo of a dreamcatcher with an eye in the center, but there was otherwise no identifying information on it. The font was cursive, which struck me as a very odd choice until I took a closer look and realized that I was looking at live ink. Someone had gone to the trouble of hand-writing this. It couldn’t have been a mass market.

It briefly crossed my mind that this could have been a bioterrorist attack or something like that, but I highly doubted that I would be anyone’s prime target. If I was going to be exposed to anthrax, it would have happened as soon as I opened the letter, so I didn’t see what the point would be in going through the whole charade of a fake public health crisis.

Whatever this was, I quickly decided that it had to be either a prank or a guerilla marketing campaign. Carefully peering into the envelope, I cautiously stuck my fingers in and fished out the complimentary sleep mask contained within.

The first thing I noticed about it was how incredibly black it was. It was almost vanta-black, which I guess was to help it block out the light. The only part of it that wasn’t black was a white logo on the front; the same cyclopic dreamcatcher logo that had been on the letter. It was made from a breathable, satiny material that was cool to the touch, and it was stuffed with a thin layer of foam. The head strap was broad enough to completely cover the ears, and there was additional padding around the eyes that tapered at the temples.

I carefully inspected the mask for several minutes, sniffing and gently prodding it for any sign of anything suspicious or malicious, but found nothing. It honestly seemed like a pretty high-quality sleep mask, one that I would have been happy to receive as a free promotional item had it not been for the odd letter that came with it.

I didn’t see how it could possibly be a prank or an attack, so a stealth marketing campaign was the only thing that made sense. Convinced that neither my safety or dignity were in any real jeopardy, I slipped the mask on the see if it worked as advertised.

The first thing I noticed wasn’t the darkness, but the silence. Everything went dead silent, and I had to pull the mask on and off my ears multiple times just to confirm the effect was real. I tried speaking with it on, and I was only able to hear my own voice through bone conduction. I put a pair of headphones on overtop of it and I still couldn’t hear anything, and when I put a pair of earbuds on underneath it was like the sound of footsteps after a fresh snowfall. Somehow, that thin little layer of foam was absorbing all the ambient noise. I pinched it to see if I could locate any noise-cancelling earbuds embedded inside, but as far as I could tell, it was just foam. It was incredible. The mask’s full blackout was nearly mundane in comparison.

Or at least, it was at first. I left it on for a few minutes just to see how well it blocked the light after my eyes had adjusted, and that’s when things started to get a little strange.

The letter had used the word Eigengrau when describing the mask. Eigengrau is the name for the colour you see when you close your eyes. It’s German, and it’s often translated to Intrinsic Grey or Significant Grey, but I believe the most literal translation is ‘One’s Own Grey’. I don’t know if it was just because that’s how the mask branded itself, but for some reason when I wore it, I became very much aware that what I was seeing wasn’t just darkness or blackness, but Eigengrau; the colour I see when I think I can’t see anything. It was like I was staring into an infinite, fathomless void of My Own Grey.

Within this void, my phosphenes stood out much more prominently as well. Phosphenes are what you see when your retinal cells fire in the absence of any light. Not everyone notices them, but mine are nebulous shapes that form in the faint electric snow of my Eigengrau. When I wore the mask, they were much less nebulous than normal. They were almost three-dimensional, and in the dance of their usual chaotic movement and shapeshifting, I got the uneasy sense that there was in fact some method to their madness.

The effect was disquieting enough that I took the mask off and put it aside as I went about my day. When night came, I briefly considered trying the mask back on to see how comfortable it was to sleep in, but the memory of gazing into the vast Eigengrau abyss of living phosphenes was enough to put me off the idea.

That turned out to be a mistake, because that night I experienced sleep paralysis for the first time in my life.

I woke up and realized that I couldn’t move anything besides my eyes, and panic immediately overtook me. I didn’t initially think that it was sleep paralysis; just regular old paralysis. The letter from that morning didn’t even enter my mind at first. I thought instead that I had either been accidentally or maybe even intentionally poisoned. I tried calling for help, but of course, I couldn’t speak either.

My eyes began darting around the room, desperately looking for any threat that might be lurking in the shadows. On the far right of the room, I spotted the silhouette of a hooded and hunched-back figure looming in the doorway, its pure white eyes locked onto me. I wondered how long it had been there, how long it had been watching me sleep. Did it even realize I was awake yet, or that I could see it? If it did, why wasn’t it reacting?

I don’t think I can properly convey in words the sense of absolute hopeless dread that came over me when I saw a bright white smile spread across its shadowed black face. My every survival instinct demanded that I get up and run or defend myself, but my racing heart and surging adrenaline were all in vain as my body was still completely immobilized. My tormentor, on the other hand, made no sudden movements not because he couldn’t, but because he didn’t need to. Unlike me, he had no dire impetus for action and he was smugly rubbing my face in it.

For the rest of the night, or what felt like it at least, we just stared at each other. I never took my eyes off of him for more than a fraction of a second to make sure there weren’t other creatures lurking in the corners of my vision. He just stood there, staring and smiling, standing so unnaturally still I did at times question whether or not he was really there.

When he did finally move, it was to hold up the sleep mask in his long, tattered fingers. With a wink and a nod, he tossed it over onto my bed before vanishing the instant the dawn’s light began to creep through my curtains.

When I was eventually able to move again, I immediately reached for my phone to call 911. That’s when I noticed the One-Eyed Dreamcatcher logo on my keypad, exactly as the letter had said I would. Since I was desperate to know what the hell was going on, I decided to press that instead.

“Hello, and thank you for calling the Eigengrau Parasomnia Hotline. All of our operators or either unemployed, employed elsewhere, or no longer eligible for employment due to death or other preventable health issues. Please stay on the line as we adjust our economic models to account for this labour shortage.”

“What?” I asked in exasperation as I stared angrily at my phone. The voice on the prerecorded message sounded oddly distorted, like he was actually speaking backwards and the playback had been reversed.

“If you are calling to report noncompliance with the sleep mask mandate, please make a self-righteous, outraged and/or despondent post on social media regarding the issue. If you are calling to report a defect in your Eigengrau Sleep Mask, please note that emergency funding was only sufficient to provide one free mask per individual, but replacements are available for purchase at your personal expense. If you’re calling because you have recently suffered a sleep paralysis episode, please stay on the line and one of our helpful associates will inevitably be with you.”

The pre-recorded message ended with a sharp click as the audio switched to the Muzak version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on an infinite loop. I was listening to it for at least ten minutes before I was put through to someone.

“Hello, and thank you for calling the Eigengrau Parasomnia Hotline. My name is Zephyria; how may I be of assistance today?” a mellifluous female voice greeted me.

“Is this a real person?” I asked irritably, since that was the whole reason I had stayed on the line for as long as I had.

“No!” the young woman replied in a cheery, perhaps somewhat taunting tone. “But I’m not a robot, if that’s what you mean. Are you calling for information regarding the sleep paralysis outbreak?”

“There is no sleep paralysis outbreak!” I screamed. “I’ve already looked online and there’s nothing going on!”

“Sir, I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet,” Zephyria replied. “Communications regarding the outbreak are currently being suppressed by your municipal health department as the contagion is believed to be memetic in nature. Please remain calm and comply with the instructions you received with your sleep mask.”

“I know you’re messing with me!” I shouted into the phone. “I asked around yesterday and no one I spoke to got one of your damn sleep masks! I’ve never had sleep paralysis until last night! How the hell did you do it? Did you put something in the envelope!”

“Sir, I want to help you, but you’re becoming irrational,” Zephryria said calmly. “You claim we’re lying, but admit that you’ve recently suffered an unprecedented episode of sleep paralysis. Did you wear the mask we sent you?”

“No, I didn’t wear the sleep mask last night,” I responded.

“That’s why the mandate is in effect; for your protection,” Zephryria insisted. “There’s an outbreak of sleep paralysis and other parasomnias in your area at the moment, and you’ve been affected by it. We aren’t causing it; we’re responding to it.”

“How is that possible?” I demanded. “How can there be an outbreak of sleep paralysis?”

“Mass psychogenic illnesses are a very real phenomenon, sir,” Zephryria replied. “Medieval Europe famously had several outbreaks of dancing plagues, for example. Unfortunately, the immaterial nature of the vector makes it rather difficult to trace. What we do know is that you’ve been exposed. As I mentioned, this is believed to be a memetic contagion, which is why no one else is willing to talk to you about it. To avoid spreading it to others, please only speak about it with designated Eigengrau personnel like myself. Wear your sleep mask, and you shouldn’t have any more episodes of sleep paralysis.”

“If you guys are legit, then what the hell was with that weird ass letter you sent out, or the recorded greeting I heard when I called for that matter?” I asked.

“Yes sir, I realized those may have been less than optimally worded. Due to the suddenness of the crisis, our public outreach campaign was rather rushed,” Zephyria explained. “Any irregularities in any of our messages you heard or read are a result of our campaign director’s lack of fluency in the English language and our inability to properly vet them before they were sent out. We’re doing our best to avoid a repeat of such issues in the future.”

“I…” I began before trailing off.

I wanted to call her out again, but in my stressed-out and sleep-deprived state, everything she was saying seemed oddly plausible.

“Sir, I realize you’re tired and scared, which is perfectly understandable,” Zephryia consoled me. “Just comply with the guidelines you’ve been given, and we’ll get through this together.”

“But… how does a soundproofed sleep mask help with hallucinations?” I asked hesitantly. “If anything, wouldn’t sensory deprivation make them worse?”

“Sleep paralysis hallucinations are a result of your panicking brain looking for threats in the sensory information that it has,” she claimed. “The mask makes it so that your brain has nothing to work with. You can’t jump at shadows that you can’t see.”

“I… alright. That makes sense. I’ll try the mask on tonight and see if it helps,” I relented. “Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome, sir,” she said. “You have a good night’s sleep tonight.”

***

I wore the sleep mask to bed that night, hopeful that it would work as promised and keep me from having another episode of sleep paralysis. I still saw the same enhanced Eigengrau and phosphenes when I wore it, but there was a simple solution to that; I just closed my eyes. Why ‘My Own Grey’ was stronger inside the mask than my own eyelids, I honestly had no idea. As long as the mask worked, I didn’t care. I couldn’t hear anything, and I couldn’t see anything. It was a bit like being in a sensory deprivation pod. If you let your mind race and start spinning patterns out of the nothingness, hallucinations and panic attacks are likely to follow. But if you embrace the silence, embrace the darkness, and let your mind settle to the ambient sensory vacancy, you can achieve a state of Zen-like calm that you can carry with you well after the experience is over.

That’s what I tried to do, knowing that fixating on my sleep paralysis would only increase the chances of it happening again. I just lay there in the quiet darkness, counting my own breaths and ignoring every other thought and sensation until I drifted off to sleep.

I awoke to the overpowering sensation that I was not alone, that I was being watched again. I started looking around to find the figure from the previous night, but of course, I could see nothing with the sleep mask on.

No, that’s not true. I didn’t see nothing. I saw the Eigengrau void, more vivid and expansive than ever. The phosphenes swirled in a maelstrom of pareidolia, my terrified mind twisting them into forms more menacing than anything I’d seen in the light of day or night.

I wanted to take the mask off. I didn’t want to gaze into the nightmare abyss before me. I wanted to see what the hell was in the room with me. At first, I didn’t even try to take the mask off, since I assumed I was paralyzed again. It took me a minute to realize that I wasn’t actually paralyzed, but had simply seized up in fear. I could move, if I willed myself enough.

Still, I fought the urge. As long as I wore the mask, I knew the visions weren’t real. If I took it off, then I’d have no way to tell the nightmare from reality, and the episode would spiral out of control. Even as the sensation of other people in the room grew stronger, I told myself it wasn’t real. None of this was real. The thing I saw the night before wasn’t real

And that’s when an alarming thought popped into my mind, one I’m embarrassed to say didn’t occur to me sooner; if the figure from the night before hadn’t been real, then how had he thrown the sleep mask onto my bed?

In a mad panic, I tore the sleep mask off of my face.

Perched at the foot of my bed was some form of Succubus. She had the form of a nude, voluptuous woman composed of an ethereal, dark purple mist that glowed a deep pink at her extremities. Her fingers were clawed, her digitigrade feet looked like high heels, and her long, pointed ears stuck through the luscious mane of her hair. She had a tail, wings, and horns like a traditional demon, along with a pair of radiant reptilian eyes that were staring down right at me. She smiled widely, revealing a set of glistening, predatory teeth and a flickering forked tongue.

“Aww. Still can’t sleep?” she asked in a mocking sympathetic tone. Though it was now heavy with a demonic timbre, I still recognized the voice as Zephyria’s. “I was hoping you’d find me a little less unsettling than my brother. Not that he can help it, of course. We were shaped by the thoughts of those who first dreamed us. As an Incubus, he’s either threatening or creepy. But I get to be tempting.”

She rose to her full height, her horns scraping the ceiling since she was still standing on the bed, provocatively posing herself so that I could get a full view of her.

“You’re not real!” I screamed, trying to convince myself more than her.

“Yeah, I told you that already. I’m a tulpa, a thoughtform; an egregore if you want to be a pretentious shit about it,” she replied. “I’m sustained by the thoughts of mortals, which is why I’m going to make sure you never stop thinking about me.”

I started to bolt out of my bed, but she pounced on me like a cat and pinned me against the mattress.

“You can’t run away from your nightmares, honey,” she told me, her face inches away from my own as she glared at me with an equal mix of lust and hunger. “You can only wake up from them. And if they follow you into the waking world, then you’re kind of up a creek, now aren’t you?”

“Incorrect. The Fair – apologies, fine – folk of the Dire Insomnium offer both effective and affordable dreamcatching services for exactly this sort of situation,” a distorted, yet familiar, monotone voice said from behind me.

I turned my head back, expecting to see the figure from the night before, but instead I saw a tall man in a shabby suit with a large bulbous head and a face that was impossible to focus on. He had to have been another thoughtform, but he was clearly no Incubus or kin to Zephyria.

“Has this ever happened to you?” he asked dramatically, theatrically gesturing towards me with one hand. It sounded rhetorical, but when he didn’t follow up with anything else I assumed he was actually asking.

“Yes, yes! It’s happening now!” I shouted back.

“Trying to enjoy a good night’s rest, only to be assaulted by a sexually threatening and/or alluring sleep paralysis demon?” he asked again, his speech stilted like he was a bad actor reading from a script. “The Fair – fine – folks at the Dire Insomnium can help. Using dreamcatching techniques wrongfully appropriated from First Nation’s tribes, the Dire Insomnium can weave an incorporeal Dreamcatcher powered by your own subconscious thoughts which will provide fool-proof ^(asterisk asterisk asterisk asterisk) protection against such unwanted incursions into your mindscape. In exchange, we require a mere tithe of your unused dream energy be siphoned off to power the Insomnium’s machinations and/or acts of philanthropic goodwill.”

“I recognize your voice! You’re the recording from the hotline! You two are working together!” I shouted.

“Busted,” Zephyria sang. “Don’t worry about him, love. He’s just a travelling salesman looking to make a buck. You don’t want to kick me out of here, do you? We could have so much fun together.”

I tried pushing her off me, but she was more than impossibly strong. She was immovable.

“You can really get rid of her, and the other one?” I demanded of the strange man by my bed.

“Indeed. The Dire Insomium knows better than most the value of a good night’s sleep, and is eager to bring the sleep paralysis outbreak to an end,” he said. “If you agree to my terms, I can deploy the Dreamcatcher immediately.”

“Solomon, you are being a real cockblock right now, so why don’t you bugger off and –”

“Yes! Yes! I agree, just get rid of her!” I screamed.

“Seriously? You consent to having your mind pumped dry for a chastity belt rather than spend a night with a Succubus? Unbelievable,” she sighed in frustration as she pushed herself off of me.

I tried to get out of bed again, but this time it was Solomon who caught me. He held my head still with one hand while using the other to strap the mask back on.

“The municipal sleep mask mandate must be observed before I can legally proceed,” he said definitively. “Please count backwards from the number of sheep that ever have or will exist.”

And before I could object, I fell asleep.

I haven’t had an episode of sleep paralysis since, or any more encounters with any tulpas. I still wear the sleep mask though, and I still see the sea of Eigengrau when I do. My phosphenes reveal the outlines of strange scenes I can’t quite make sense of, so I keep my eyes shut as much as I can.

I don’t know exactly what Solomon did, but I know he put something inside my mind that’s taping into my subconscious. I can feel it grinding away in there and I’m not sure what effects it might be having on me. The worst part of all this is that I know I was hustled. I know that Solomon and Zephyria were working together. She only got into my head in the first place so that I would let Solomon do anything to get her out. I don’t think he actually gave me any kind of dreamcatcher; I’m just paying protection now. If Solomon ever wants me to upgrade my subscription, all he has to do is tell Zephyria to pay me another visit.

That’s why I still wear the mask, if you were wondering. I think there was some truth in what Zephryia told me, and that she and her brother can’t manifest strongly enough to do me harm if I can’t see or hear them.

So, if you ever receive one of these sleep masks in the mail, my advice is for you to wear it every night, and don’t take it off no matter what you think might be lurking by your bedside.

And it is a municipal health department mandate, after all.

0 Comments
2024/02/17
21:14 UTC

2

Varangian Antipathy

In this age of the fall
In this time of terminal decline
In this day of long overdue atonement
In this moment of shattered perceptions
The faceless masses have proclaimed
Themselves the prophets of subjective gospel
Offering the one great universal truth
The once and eternal enlightenment through wisdom
Attempting to escape the train of mindless thought
I hide within my own skull
Intoxicated with the piss-flavored elixir of kings
My memories make passionate love to a lifelong regret
Molding a fractured mind into the shape of a womb
Meant to give life to the countless nightmares
Birthed from the void contained in my mouth
To infest and infect every corner of the world
With the might of a softly spoken word
Countless are the mental children I have sired
Innumerable the ones I've already slaughtered
To honor the ruins of a past I will have inevitably reduced to ash
To the dismayed bleating of the self-informed sheep
Whose maddening cries I have drowned out by erecting
The god-killing torture device over a shallow grave I have dug
With the remains of my long-dead dreams
Sacrificed in an act of devotion to the one true god
Whose watchful gaze is piercing through the pale light of the moon
Filled with ecstatic admiration toward the inevitable
And rapidly encroaching demise of his most favored creation
With bewildered eyes, your eyes, eyes deprived of their light
By the oppressive and suffocating melody of doom
You watched as I rejected the phantom existence and willingly fell
Into the loving embrace of my mother earth
Thereby turning the blood flowing from the splintered veins
Into a kaleidoscope of crimson nerve-eating butterflies
An airborne pest infecting those who beheld my funeral pyre
With flashing doses of sudden and violent dread
For three days I have enjoyed the comfort found underneath layers of dirt
Until a deathlike silence resurrected my scarred spirit
Remembering the future I clawed the path to ascension
Only to reach an altar dedicated to my deification
A stone monument to a dog long dead

0 Comments
2024/02/17
00:53 UTC

3

from:filmfreak6969@g—l.com

hey buddy

wassup? wazzzuuupp?

haha

so glad i moved back. san francisco was a real shithole

plus i missed hanging wit you

fucking a

yo but not like in a gay way or anything

haha

i fucked like so many chicks in sanfran

soooo many

anyway, thought we could hang together now that we both living in the same city again

like old times, old times

high school was the best right?

remember when we watched fight club in the basement then fucking went at each other, like our great depression is our lives, bro

fucking a

then all that arthouse trippy shit in college

godard, tarkovksy

that bonkers mexican dude jodoroski

intellectual

2001 man, kubrick, waking life

those were the days, the FUCKING DAZE

haha HAHA

you kinda left me hanging there after graduation though man, not even gonna lie. not cool

i know you got married and got a job and all that

shout out to the missus by the way. maggie

i would HIT that ASS

like wut

smokin smokin

HAHA

jk my man, bro code to the end of fucking days man. tight like lethal weapon, i be your danny gloves

4eva

we should get together though for realz

i hear you got a kid now too. cute. bet she takes up a lot of your time, being a dad and all

yeah, didn't happen for me

you know me though, too wild for that domestic shit ;)

but i get it i get it

i figured maybe you just didn't get my messages

moved out pretty quick. guess the new job started like right fucking away haha. competitive job market. cash is fucking god

was a wild few years for me though

lemme tell ya

lucky i finally found you on social media right?

so we can reconnect

ngl, your not easy to find, it took a fucking while

but i did it

:)

and i gotta say man you did good for yourself. nice house, nice cars

nice new friends

as for me, never did find anyone else into movies as much as you were. was kinda lonely there for awhile

got up to some reeeeeal nasty shit

HA

HAHAHA

nice new laptop too btw

comfortable chair

never pictured you as a home office kinda guy, but i can see it

sexy mags in bra and panties in the kitchen cutting veggies, lil squirt playing with her toys

and daddy making bank remotely

its a wonderful life

now that was a good one

i made a list of all the movies we watched together eh?

kinda crazy

oh and i got a gift for you, somethin real thoughtful to make up for lost time

comes in two boxes

but you know what's one movie we never watched? a classic

we really should watch it

ill give you a hint:

kevin spacey

brad pitt

gwynethfuckingpaltrow

SE7EN!!!

Whats in the box?

haha

WHAT'S IN THE BOX?!?

Hahahaha

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA

see you soon ;)

friendo :)

0 Comments
2024/02/17
00:26 UTC

3

Neighborhood Trash

Neighborhood Trash by Al Bruno III

He woke to the sound of engines and the flashing of lights. Was it the police again? It seemed they got called to this godforsaken neighborhood every night. Rolling out of bed, Gabe walked to the front window and shifted the curtain aside just enough for him to peer outside.

The first thing he saw was the moving van pulled right up onto the sidewalk; its motor coughed and belched, and its hazard lights blinked mindlessly.

New neighbors, he realized. Of course, he didn't remember the previous residents moving out, but that was a pretty common occurrence in this neighborhood, too, along with drunken arguments, drug deals, and missing children. The trash that had lived above Gabe had skipped out on their lease the day before Christmas. The speed and skill they'd employed to empty their belongings into the back of a pickup truck was almost dizzying.

The digital readout on the VCR told him it was a little after five in the morning. Who moves in at this hour on a Sunday? Gabe wondered as he tried to see what the new arrivals looked like. The van's back doors were almost flush with the house across the street, so all he saw were shadows stepping from the back of the truck onto the darkened front porch.

Week Two

Tomorrow was garbage day, so Gabe dutifully dragged his two well-worn aluminum cans out to the curb. He hated those two dented husks of rusted metal, but he knew better than to purchase new ones. They tended to disappear on him. It was just that kind of neighborhood. Gabe looked up and down the block, at the dirty children screaming and running from yard to yard, at the washed-out-looking adults that sat out on their front steps smoking and drinking with their music turned up too loud. At the lawns that were either un-mowed or had half -junked cars parked on them.

It hadn't always been this way; he'd had a house in the suburbs, a wife, and kids, but they were long gone now, and he was trapped here. Trapped here by child support and payments on a house he was no longer allowed to live in. All he could afford for himself now was this, the bottom floor of a run-down two-story tenement.

Gabe shook his head, trying to clear away the unpleasant thoughts; he knew where this would lead, where it always led- to him half-drunk at his kitchen table, glaring at the sheaf of divorce papers and restraining orders. He looked up at the house across the street; his new neighbors were bringing out their trash, including a ratty-looking old couch, a bureau, and a few armfuls of clothes.

They were a good-looking couple with white-blond hair and striking features. They looked like movie stars; Gabe wondered what had landed them here on this dead-end street. Had the Husband's drinking gotten him fired? Was the Wife spending cash as fast as the family made it?

 Maybe, he thought as he watched them maneuver a stained mattress out onto the curb. Maybe they just want to renovate the place. Maybe they think they can turn this neighborhood around. Good luck.

The Husband spied him watching them and offered a genial wave, "Afternoon."

"Afternoon," Gabe called from across the street.

The Wife came out carrying a pair of dripping garbage bags. Her smile was dazzling. "We're remodeling," she said.

"Good for you," Gabe said with a wave. He headed back into the house. They seemed like nice people but a little too chipper for his tastes.

Week Three

It was raining and miserable, and Gabe had left his umbrella back at the office. Shivering and cold, he walked the four blocks from the bus stop to his apartment. The sidewalks here were as run down as everything else. The cracked pavement fostered wide puddles. With every step, his shoes and socks were more and more soaked; with every clammy, he tried to calculate how long it would be before he could afford another car.

 Two years for a junker, longer if I want something nice.

The bags and cans at the end of every walkway reminded him that it was garbage day. He groaned at the thought of dragging the two cans out from the back.

As if I'm not soaked enough.

The pounding noise told him that the morons that were into rap music had cranked up their stereo. Of course, that meant that the half-wit that lived next door to those morons would soon be blasting the screeching speed metal they loved so dearly.

His pace slowed as he approached his house; the couple across the street had their garbage out already. It looked like they were cleaning out their basement; an old washing machine, a love seat, a waist-high pile of books, a few broken chairs, a chest of drawers, and a birdcage were on the curb.

He stood there contemplating the washer for a moment, wondering if it still worked. If it did, it would sure as hell save him his weekly trip to the laundromat.

Why would they throw it away if it wasn't broken? He chided himself and headed inside. The trash could wait till morning.

Week Four

 Another couch. Gabe stood there marveling at it, Another goddamn couch.

But it wasn't just a couch; there was also a cabinet, a lone snow tire, and a box of melted-looking action figures. Gabe glanced at their mailbox; it was still blank except for the dull metal numbers. He wondered what their family name was; it must have been Rockefeller, considering the amount of furniture they went through.

It wasn't that he cared what they did, but still, it was a little odd. So much stuff. Well, at least they picked a good neighborhood for it. He thought. Back in the suburbs, there had only been one or two days a year set aside for heavy trash pickup, but here, the garbage men seemed willing to take away anything at all. Maybe, Gabe thought. Maybe they do it because they know that if they don't, this crummy little town will start looking like the full-fledged junkyard it really is.

The front door swung open, and Gabe quickly pretended to be adjusting his cans. It was the Wife. She was wearing a clingy top and a pair of white shorts. She bounded down the front steps, got into her minivan, and drove away.

Damn, but her husband's a lucky guy. Gabe thought.

"Whatchoo lookinat?" his boozy next-door neighbor called at him.

"N-nothing," Gabe said. Blushing furiously, he retreated back inside. When the door was safely barred and bolted behind him, he allowed himself to whisper, "Nothing, you scumbag."

Week Five

From the first moment, the blind date had been an unmitigated disaster. From Gabe's first look at the woman, he'd known it would go badly. What had Homer been thinking?

Gabe sat in the back of the taxicab, fuming. He was almost mad enough to call Homer right now. When he'd described her as having a wonderful personality, that should have been warning enough, but Gabe decided to try his luck anyway. He'd been away from the dating scene for too long.

The cab slowed before his house. Gabe paid the fare and strolled up the walk. He wanted to kick something. He couldn't believe the bitch turned him down. How could she afford to be discriminating? Of course, she waited until after he'd picked up the tab from dinner before she dropped that little bombshell.

Speaking of bombshells. Gabe thought as he paused on his front porch. His eyes strayed across the street. He wasn't sure what they did, but every light in the house was on till all hours of the night. Whenever Gabe peeked out the curtains, he saw silhouettes flitting across the Venetian blinds. It was almost like they were dancing. Sometimes watching them, he imagined he was up there with the Wife and the Husband living down here in this crappy tenement.

Embarrassed at the thoughts filling his head, he turned to enter his front. His keys fumbling in the lock, he took one last longing glance at the house next door and did a double take.

Was that another couch he saw sitting on the curb?

Gabe couldn't help himself; he crossed the street and gazed at the cigarette-burned Davenport sitting there; one of its cushions was missing; in its place sat a record player that looked to Gabe like an antique. A bureau with wobbly legs rounded out this week's pile.

He paused a moment, thinking to himself, This is nuts. What if someone else sees? But the impulse was too crazy, too strong for him to deny it. He walked up to the bureau and pulled out one of the drawers.

It still had clothes in it, all neatly folded. Panties and socks, were they hers? How could that be? How could he not know she was tossing out all her undergarments? This was too weird. Gabe glanced up at their house, wondering if they had seen him out here. Wondering if they'd care the man from across the street was going through their garbage.

It was just their garbage, after all; if they had really cared, they wouldn't have put it out on the curb, would they?

He pulled out the second drawer, more clothes, sweaters and ties, expensive looking by the feel of them. The kind he used to be able to afford.

Not certain what he was looking for, he pulled the third drawer out. A gagging scream caught in his throat. He shoved the drawer closed again and stumbled back across the street, tripping on the curb. Sobbing with fear, he scrambled to his feet and ran into his house, where he slumped to the floor and tried not to be sick.

"It was just a toy, just a toy…" He whispered to himself, "It was a trick of the light. It didn't move."

There was a knock at the door, and a neighborly voice was calling Gabe's name.

0 Comments
2024/02/16
22:53 UTC

3

King of The Void

The markings of an inevitable decline
Etched a great care and undying love
By the king reigning from the eternal void
onto the surface of my flawed design
To ease a restless mind from the uncertainty
Obscuring the moment of my final breath

0 Comments
2024/02/16
00:58 UTC

3

Bitter Sweet Memories

You take everything from me
And I'll do the same to you
To ensure we're forever bound
In the presence of death
As we spill each other's blood

Immortality is nothing bitter sweet memory

Let us reunite with the old forgotten gods
In a field spanning an eternity to celebrate
The glory of flawed and violent lives
Cut short to feed the crows and starving hounds

Immortality is nothing bitter sweet memory
Slowly fading from their minds
once the starving beasts have feasted on our remains

0 Comments
2024/02/15
01:16 UTC

3

Building Insanity from a Grain of Sand

He'd been here long.

For how long—he did not know.

But his earliest memory was of the question.

If there is a sandbox and in the sandbox is a bucket, if the bucket is filled with sand, is the sand still in the sandbox?

He'd been asked and he did not know the answer.

So he'd sat and pondered.

They had watched.

And waited.

Eventually, he arrived at an analogy. He imagined a city made of buildings. In one building: he sat. Was he—he asked himself—still in the city while being also in the building?

Surely, yes.

He rang the bell and one of them came.

“Yes,” he said, “the sand is still in the sandbox,” and reasoned his answer.

The one who’d come said nothing.

Did nothing.

In the silence, he began to doubt himself. Imagined himself in the building in the city needing to go out (of the building): go into (the city); and if, from the building, he must go into the city, he could not already be in the city while being in the building (or else there would be no into into which to go) and so also with each grain of sand

“No,” he cried. “The answer is no!”

But, still, the one who’d come did not react.

Yes. No. He did not know. Perhaps the analogy itself is faulty, he thought, and said finally, “I am afraid I cannot yet answer. I need more time.”

The one who’d come left.

Leaving him alone again with the question.

He thought about the nature of containers, containers within containers, whether a container could be contained, or whether that would change its nature and it would cease to be a container.

He thought about bodies and souls.

About the word still, a tricky word with many meanings. Was the sand still (adverb: persisting) in the sandbox or was it still (adjective: unmoving) in the sandbox?

Every incorrect answer branched into new questions.

Many times he rang the bell.

Someone came.

He spoke.

Someone listened.

But the answer was never satisfactory.

Not to him. “I need more time,” he would say, and the one who’d come, who'd said nothing, done nothing, would go away until the bell was rung again.

In time, the question became his world.

[...]

Drakar punched out. Olim punched in. They exchanged glances, and Olim took his seat outside the cell. Twelve hour shifts. Ugh. But the pay was good and the work non-existent. Sitting, waiting. Maybe one day you’d hear the bell ring, open the window and stare upon the immortal inside. Maybe.

Yet it was necessary.

How else was the race of mortals to triumph over the immortals than to keep them separated and preoccupied, trapped individually in mental labyrinths of their own willing creations, uninterested in anything but the question. They couldn’t simply be killed, of course, so the thousands of them would always exist—but they could be kept from breeding—and from everything else too: everything but thought...

0 Comments
2024/02/14
01:11 UTC

1

Even The Heartache is Gone

For many decades you've clung to the memory
Of a beautiful world filled with hope and safety
From the earliest recollections of childhood before
All the feelings of joy and warmth eroded slowly
Like the embers of a dying flame disappearing
One by one underneath the downpour of lived misery

The is no more distinction between lucidity and dreams
In a world where everything is so monotonous and cold
As you once again realize you are trapped in this nightmare alone
Staring again into empty space reminiscing about all of your friends
Those who you once thought there was no living without
Now just like them even the heartache characterizing
The solitude seems to be gone

The future is a downward spiral
Into a bleak land where it gets infinitely worse
The perfect steel-clad solution
To endless problems is within grasp

Give into the instincts begging you to disappear
And with a single sharp stroke of the key
Open the crimson door leading to the awakening
From this horrible life-long dream

0 Comments
2024/02/13
00:54 UTC

2

Sirens

A white jewel of a yacht glistened in the calm sea, promising a relaxing, sunny day of research for all those aboard the MV Melanie.

On any other day, Michael would have begrudged his fellow researchers lazily enjoying the rays, but as his one-man exploratory submarine was shoved off into the sea by the lapping waves he couldn’t help but feel excited.

Michael flipped switches and adjusted his instruments, bringing the electronics into sparkling life, a steady thrum spreading through the submersible indicating that he was safe to dive from his current position.

He looked up from his console to the back of the MV Melanie where the Captain stood in his red turtleneck, casually waving him off while sipping from a thermos.

Knowing the Captain more than likely couldn’t see him past the glare on the domed glass, Michael half-heartedly reciprocated the gesture and went back to doing his final checks.

A red light began to flash beside the speaker in front of Michael, “Dive team to Michael. Do you read?” came the slightly irritated voice of the lead diver.

Michael adjusted the valve to flood the ballast tanks with water, lowering the sub into the green abyss, before grabbing the radio’s microphone and squeezing the worn black trigger, “I’m on my way now, boys, just sit tight.”

Water rose and bubbled past the front of the curved glass as Michael took control of the vessel.

Those who knew Michael said he’d always been cool, calm, and collected, however, something about the exploration of the old warships the MV Melanie had been studying had made him uneasy and had kept him from joining the initial dive team.

This unsteadiness was only exacerbated when the dive team went radio silent moments before they’d become trapped in a battle ship they were exploring.

Michael tried to think about the advancements in technology over the past few years as he descended toward the wreckages, a failed attempt to convince himself that everything would be fine, to break down the hard ball in his stomach that seemed to be only tightening as he dove.

The deeper the craft sunk, the darker the sea became, forcing Michael to flick on his brighter, more battery-intensive external lights.

The powerful beams carved through the frozen waters, illuminating the distant vessels and relaxing Michael for a moment.

Then the lights flickered, the controls seized under his grip, and, after a rushed attempt to shut off the lights, the entire sub lost power.

Michael calmly ran his hands over the instruments, searching for the auxiliary power switch in the barely visible cabin while his eyes struggled to adjust.

He’d been in tighter scrapes before and didn’t have nearly the same amount of security in his old tub.

After a few seconds of tracing, Michael’s fingers finally reached the switch only to be stopped just shy of flicking it as power returned to the pod.

No flicker, no steady thrum or reboot noise, the pod was simply active again.

Michael’s first thought was to return to the surface and find out what had caused the electrical malfunction, assuming it had been some kind of glitch in the lights and not much else, but then the red speaker light flashed again.

“Where are you?” an aggravated diver’s voice crackled through the speakers.

He knew he couldn’t leave the divers trapped in the wreckage, the ten minutes it would take to resurface and give the pod a once over potentially being the difference between life and death for them.

‘This was supposed to be your job,’ Michael told himself, ‘and it’s just the lights. Worse comes to worst, you get everyone and ride up in the dark.’

He realized that it’d been silent for a bit too long and hastily grabbed the mic, took a deep breath to ensure that a faltering voice didn’t travel to the already panicked divers, and squeezed, “I’m not far off, I’m just…”

Michael looked up through his glass shroud and saw a webbed handprint on its exterior.

“Weird…” Michael murmured to himself, raising his hand to the bizarre print, smudging part of its palm.

“You’re just what?” the diver asked.

Michael returned his attention to the microphone and almost immediately disregarded the print as something he must have done before the dive, the imminent danger of the divers apparently being enough to distract him from his webless fingers.

“Nothing,” he replied, using the sleeve of his sweater to wipe the handprint off the glass and out of his mind, “sorry, I’m about a minute out. Portside lower access port, yeah?”

“That’s the one.” the diver confirmed, “Check for welding marks where we came in, hard to miss.”

Sand blew into clouds of course mist as the sub cruised less than ten feet from the ocean floor, the wrecked beast that was once a valiant warship laying in a graveyard of ships no more than thirty seconds away.

“We can see your lights.”

---

Michael began surveying the ship’s side, looking for where the small diving team had entered as he slowly approached; the black and gray of the ship’s aged hull blending together in an indecipherable mix of metal making it borderline impossible to pinpoint where they’d gone in.

There was no visible damage to the exterior, no signs of torpedo fire or anything else that could’ve possibly sunk it, and the way it sat made it seem as though the vessel had simply floated down like a children’s toy in a tub.

“There!” the diver exclaimed, “Where you’re shining your lights! That’s us!”

Michael’s eyes darted to where his headlights sat and saw the carved open metal port, a large rock jammed into it and the diving team’s welding kit sitting on the sand a few feet below.

Deciding he’d take a jab at the divers’ mistake after he had them all safely aboard, Michael inched forward, extending the submersible’s welder-equipped arm, and began to carve around the metal near the base of the rock.

Brilliant blue and red sparks filled his vision as the metal melted away, “We still can’t figure out how it sunk,” the diver remarked, seemingly to fill the time, “we didn’t see any damage on the outside. No bodies either, just like the other vessels. The engine room has been absolutely gutted though.”

The rock began to shift slightly while Michael continued to carve, “How do you mean?”

The sub’s second arm reached out slowly and gripped the brittle chunks firmly, pulling away sections of the red hot metal.

“It’s been completely picked apart,” the diver explained, “same story as those Russian subs over there, stripped down to the shell. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say a salvage crew’s been down here.”

Before Michael could question further the final pieces of metal fell away and the rock dropped to the sea floor, kicking more sand up and partially clouding Michael’s view of the hole in the hull of the ship.

“You can come out now,” Michael said after a few seconds of staring into the empty hole, “rock’s gone.”

There was a long wait before the red light flashed again, “What are you talking about?” the diver asked, baffled, “We’re right here.”

---

The diver’s voice echoed in Michael’s ears for a while as he looked curiously into the empty hole, waiting for any of the divers to appear from somewhere just out of his view.

“Just let us in.” the diver said flatly, the red light of the speaker staying off as he did.

Something felt off, like Michael was being watched from all sides.

Knowing better than to ignore his gut, Michael hung up his mic and began to ascend.

He told himself that the worst case scenario if nothing was wrong was that he’d let the divers out and temporarily abandoned them.

“Rescue One to Mela-” the sub losing power again cut Michael off.

There was nothing for a moment as Michael tried to get the auxiliary power to kick over, the ball of panic in his gut returning with a vengeance as the sub lurched upward, but then a piercing shriek cut through the sub.

Doing his best to block out the intense feeling of terror building inside his chest, Michael continued to try the switch, flicking furiously and telling himself the shriek was the supports about to give.

Then, as if to confirm his suspicions, two heavy creaks came from outside and an alarm warning of damage to the ballast tanks went off.

The sub was going down, fast.

The sound of breaking glass was the last moment Michael’s mind processed as he smashed his head into the metal interior of the confined black space.

---

As Michael sat unconscious on the sea bed, memories of dry land tickled his mind, almost teasing him.

His brain was scanning through his mental archive like it was trying to locate something in particular.

His third grade teacher telling him that his library books were overdue.

His mother convincing him that there was no reason to be scared of the dark.

The stress when he failed his marine biology course, and the reassurance that his girlfriend gave him.

He was trying to convince himself that he was okay, to try and re-instill his typical cool, calm, and collected demeanor.

It was no good though.

Even unconscious, some part of him was aware of his situation, and that was fast turning his fractured dreams into a nightmare.

Michael dreamt himself sitting on a chair in a pitch black room, crimson eyes staring at him as creatures scuttled in the corners of his vision.

He tried to close his eyes in an effort to will them away, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop staring at them.

He felt like he was being circled by sharks, as if they were surveying their next meal, but as time tumbled away he came to realize they were circling him out of caution and reverence.

Either through sheer force of will or being in an unconscious limbo, Michael was controlling the scuttling creatures and, as such, his dream.

Focusing on regaining consciousness, Michael began to flood himself with thoughts of his dive training, the discipline to stay calm in the worst of situations.

He found himself staring straight ahead at one individual crimson eye; it was luminescing, almost pulsing.

The longer he stared the more the eye faded in and out, until it became a rhythmic flash.

Michael opened his eyes and he was back in the sub, the red flashing light his oxygen warning light, the scuttling sound the failing glass, the comforting words no more than the moans of the sea.

---

Michael sat in silence for what felt like eternity in his halfway rolled over, red-lit sub, his face unable to convey his emotion in his expression.

Between the concussion he was definitely suffering from and the flood of panicked adrenaline before he’d hit his head, he was short-circuiting.

Instinct eventually caught up with him though, he had to put on the emergency scuba gear and make for the surface, as dangerous as that may have been.

He crawled over to the emergency container which contained the dive gear and tried to open it, awkward angle of the sub and his diminished strength doing him no favors.

After a brief struggle, he cracked it open though, his relief at his success being summarily quashed when he saw what was inside.

“No…” Michael murmured desperately, pawing around the empty container, “No, no, no…”

A tapping on the glass ripped his attention around to the ship outside, his stomach turning as he managed to focus on something floating mere feet from the front of his sub.

The dive mask, wetsuit, and air tank were crudely worn by his right side ballast tank, creating a twisted effigy of a diver illuminated by a diving flashlight buried in the sand.

Shaking off the paralyzing epiphany that he wasn’t alone, Michael scrambled for the radio he knew was useless and clicked in its button with a dull crunch, “Mayday. Mayday. Mayday. This is Rescue One of MV Melanie… Please help me.”

Trying desperately to remember protocol past the blood dripping down past his ears, Michael recited his mayday call through the dead radio, fighting to ignore the creaks and moans of his sub under the pressure of the vast ocean bearing down on him.

---

The radio had sat completely silent for fifteen full minutes before Michael decided to attempt contact again, convincing himself the light had simply failed and that he would eventually get through.

Picking up the radio, he did what he could to shake the quivering from his hand before squeezing down the trigger, “I repeat. This is Michael. MV Melanie. Send help. Mayda-”

MV Melanie to Michael,” a voice crackled through the speakers, bringing the red light to life, “recovery team’s on its way. You find the dive team?”

The red light died again, leaving Michael staring at the speakers, frozen with confusion, relief, and questions.

Why had it taken so long for them to get back to him?

Was he hallucinating?

Where were the divers?

“Michael?”

The unfamiliar voice was impatient, almost angry, but that was what Michael needed to snap back to the conversation.

“Um… Yes, the dive team. I mean… no, I don’t know where they are.” he stammered hoarsely, “Just send help. I can explain everything when I’m topside.”

There was a twenty second pause in the conversation that felt like hours for the shivering Michael who was still half-telling himself that he was imagining things.

Then the light came back, “Sit tight, we’re coming to get you.”

Michael breathed a sigh of relief and settled in to a corner, his head injury helping him to almost completely forget about the effigy and the creature that created it.

He could almost picture the buildings that would greet him as they came into the dock, the windows shimmering gold with the sunset in front of them, the quiet jetties being gently caressed by the waves.

Michael happily let his mind wander for the more than half-an-hour wait before he finally saw lights descending upon his sub and across the sands surrounding it.

His heart raced in anticipation, but his instincts told him to remain calm and bide his time, he wasn’t out of it yet and he had no way of knowing how much air he had left or how long it would take to get him out safely.

Looking up through the glass, he watched the lights slowly glow brighter, a blank form coming into focus behind and around them and bringing an expression of abject horror to Michael’s face.

It was Melanie.

---

MV Melanie’s lights danced and flickered while the sinking vessel slowly died.

It didn’t take long for it to hit the seabed about ten yards away from Michael’s sub, the weight of the ship being enough to make the paralyzed pod tremble and shift.

As the sand settled around the dead yacht, Michael pressed himself up against the glass and did what he could to survey the ship.

Beyond the crack from where it hit the sand, there was no obvious damage, and from what he could see, there weren’t any bodies.

The longer he stared, the more it confused him, and he hid behind that confusion for as long as his mind would allow.

It was no use though, the truth eventually settling in with a chill up Michael’s spine as he sat back down and swallowed hard.

That was it.

That was his help.

No one else was coming.

A tear rolled down his cheek as he fought back the other half of what he knew had to be thought about.

Something had done this.

Something had broken his sub, sunk his ship, and was going to leave him at the bottom of the ocean to die, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

Hours passed by with Michael brokenly staring at the sunk Melanie, the red emergency light of his sub waning and occasionally flickering.

He was running out of power, but it didn’t faze him.

He hoped that when it came for him, and he knew it would, that it would end quickly.

Michael closed his eyes to block out the fading light and enjoy however long he had left in peace, trying desperately to convince himself that the fact that he couldn’t feel his extremities was somehow relaxing.

That’s when something spiked the hair on the back of his neck.

It wasn’t some rogue air being sputtered out by the sub’s dying ventilation system, or some cold chill somehow seeping through the hull.

No, it was slow and measured.

Heavy and hungry.

Something was breathing on him.

Too terrified to open his eyes, his body tensed in anticipation for violent mutilation.

Then, drawing in a deep breath, it leaned in close to Michael’s ear, “Open your eyes…” it whispered in a deeply serene and beautiful voice, “look up…”

Michael was petrified at first, unsure if he should trust this sudden interest in his well-being.

“Worry not,” the voice assured him, “I mean you no harm. Open your eyes.”

Against every fiber of his being, Michael tentatively opened his eyes and, after taking a moment to collect himself, looked up.

The auxiliary warning indicator was flashing.

After a stunned few seconds, Michael scrambled around and flicked on the auxiliary power, bringing his sub to life once again.

The radio and its dashboard of controls danced with red and green lights, the ventilation system kicked back into full gear, and it felt like the sub was somehow tipping back to a level point.

“-Mayday, I repeat, we have received your mayday.” the radio crackled, “A rescue sub is descending on your location now, they have your coordinates, please tune into the open radio signal to establish contact with the rescue team.”

Michael quickly opened his channel and picked up his radio microphone, “Please, help me… I don’t know how long I have been trapped down here,” he said as measuredly as he could, “I’ve managed to get my lights on, so you should be able to see me.”

“How did you know about our expedition?” asked an unfamiliar voice over the open radio channel.

“I didn’t,” Michael stammered, “I just need help!”

“Our company have held the exclusive rights to this site since August 2009,” the voice continued almost robotically, “you’re trespassing has incurred you with a fifty thousand dollar fine following your return to the surface. Acting authorities will hold you in custody until further notice…” the voice continued for well over a minute, apparently reading Michael his rights while he phased out.

“2009?” he murmured to himself, ignoring the droning voice emanating from the speakers as he became lost in thought.

---

Michael couldn’t fathom the idea that he had been in the ocean for over a decade; it had to be a mistake.

“Sorry, it sounded like you said 2009-”

“We are nearly at your coordinates,” another, slightly friendlier voice interjected, “we don’t see your lights.”

Michael looked around his pod for other lights or indicators he could give them, not knowing if the still-illuminated effigy would be hidden by his sub, before finally his eyes came to rest on the Melanie “White yacht,” he said, “starboard side.”

No response came, but eventually lights spewed over from the other side of the Melanie, eliciting a sigh of relief from Michael as an almost sci-fi-looking silver submarine effortlessly glided over the yacht.

Michael watched as the rescuers surveyed the Melanie, the craft turning with ease compared to his own portly yellow sub while using its external lights to bathe the surrounding ocean floor in a soft white.

He was so intrigued by the borderline alien submarine that he had completely forgotten about the creature that had stranded him there.

Then his lights died again.

Before he could so much as attempt to manually reset the power for his futuristic rescuers, his sub once again flashed back to life, revealing dozens of webbed handprints all over the glass.

Frantically wiping them away with his sleeve, Michael did what he could to convince himself he was just in desperate need of medical attention, that the oxygen deprivation and head trauma had made him forget touching the glass, that the breathing on the back of his neck was just the ventilation system.

“We don’t see you,” announced the rescuer as their sub came to stop above Michael, their powerful lights piercing the smudged prints, “turn your lights on.”

“I’ve almost got it!” Michael pleaded, still wiping, “Just wait! I’ve almost got it!”

He already knew it was no use, the smeared handprints being nowhere near thick enough to mask the illuminated interior of his sub.

“I’m right here,” he begged past an anguished sniffle, falling back into a seated position as the rescuers came to hover directly in front of the glass, the two pilots staring right through him, “I’m right here…”  

---

The crew of the recovery vessel sat in silence for a moment, staring confusedly at the twenty-year-old wreckage in front of them.

Its domed glass front had had a massive hole smashed through it at some point in the decades since it had found its final resting place, and it had become an eerily beautiful breeding ground for coral and crustaceans.

Clearly the rescuers were in the wrong place, despite all the evidence to the contrary, and some poor lost soul was somewhere nearby.

Pondering what the voice meant by ‘I’m right here’, Darren looked down at his consoles, the mayday beacon having been silenced and all contact with the mysterious Michael lost.

“He has to be around here somewhere,” Michelle said, scanning the immediate area, “how many su-”

A metallic shriek cut her off as the sub died, followed shortly by the silver coffin dropping to the ocean floor.

“You okay?” Darren asked after a few seconds of waiting for their vessel to tip over.

“Yeah,” Michelle replied, rubbing her neck as the unseen creature slipped inside, “pop the beacon, would you? We’re going to need some help down here.”

1 Comment
2024/02/12
07:35 UTC

1

Nothing But Pure Horror

The cold and merciless kiss of a hammer pounding against my skull. A ruthless expression of love from a malignant force. An act of violence I can’t recall or pinpoint. It left me diseased, broken, and injured.

Wave after wave of red flashes blasted the right side of my head. There was heat, and there was pressure and there was pain. The ache came and went like the waves of the ocean. An ocean of molten lava, that is.

Expanding and retracting.

I was in a void of pure darkness. My brain; the poor rattled thing, it begged me to stay asleep, but the repeated concussive blows traveling from underneath my eye wouldn’t let me stay asleep.

My entire body screamed at me to wake up, screamed at me to open my eyes and face the music. Every organ of mine cried out in pure agony, begging for me to shake off the Sandman’s dust from my eyes. My left arm cried the loudest.

My left arm was on fire, with every fiber of its slowly being reduced to nothing but soot. Necrosis born because of the buildup of a byproduct of flawed human design; lactic acid.

The aching of my form finally pried my eyes open…

Everything seemed so… dark and foreign… alien, almost… Strange features were dancing around my tunneled field of vision. The fabric of reality was melting right before my eyes. Different shades of gray and black flowed into each other.

A mixture of bizarre goo shaping my perception.

Without a warning, another flash of light exploded right behind my eyes. A volcanic eruption inside my head. The pain was unbearable. I could feel an icepick digging into the back of my skull. Everything started spinning to the sound of a million flies buzzing somewhere in the distance.

The digestive track began working backwards, and I felt the esophageal muscles spasming. My heart burned, my brain was falling part inside the cranium and everything else was torn to pieces.

In an attempt to ease the suffering, I shifted my head backwards.

My blood ran cold, the sensations of pins and needles traveling against my skin overtook every other feeling in that moment. The drumming of my heartbeat grew louder by the moment.

I was hanging by one hang from the window bars of a fourth store building…

My left hand was barely holding on anymore. It began shaking from the strain. Fear kept my other muscles locked in place. Fighting through it was harder than I could ever imagine. The mere act of pulling my right arm upward was excruciating. The bones were broken and covered in blood.

I didn’t want to die…

With every ounce of remaining strength, I pushed my mangled arm upward before grabbing onto the window bars. The cold breeze barely grazing my skin felt like smoldering knives were being shoved into my flesh.

Nearly lost my grip.

Swinging to the side, I slammed myself into the wall and thought I was going to die from the pain. Wasn’t much of an impact. Hand slipped from exhaustion.

Fear, mortal fear. Survival instincts took over and forced my abused form to claw at the window ledge with all of its might. I kept falling into those four stores in my head, over and over and over as my body pulled itself into an unfamiliar apartment.

Finding myself lying on steady ground didn’t make the imaginary cycle of demise leave my mind. Only made it worse, more graphic, more detailed. I wasn’t falling to my death anymore.

I was being ripped in half.

Beheaded.

Compressed into a pile of human waste matter.

Obliterated by projectiles.

Electrified into dust.

My throat slit.

My limbs cut off.

My face peeled off.

Bleeding out.

Skull caved in.

Crawling alone in an unfamiliar place. Crawling in a pool of blood. Surrounded by corpses.

Mutilated corpses, unidentifiable human remains, pieces of meat.

Riddled with bullets, cut open, bones exposed, organs harvested, hanging from entrails, splattered on a wall, spine extracted, bones mixed with the wood in the fireplace.

The stench of death was violating me as I crawled through the corridors of hell. It forced its way down my throat, threatening to choke me as I crossed a bodiless head with a heart in its mouth.

I screamed myself hoarse with fear.

A lightning bolt flashed outside.

Darkness…

Everything stood still…

Another lightning bolt flashed, illuminating the room.

A flayed figure was right next to me.

A bloody hand reached for my face.

There was a murmur…

Thunder cracked directly above me…

A muffled cry for help...

Raspy and low...

I could feel it grabbing me, its wet fingers digging into my leg…

A lightning bolt exploded right in front of my eyes… and silence…

Darkness

There was nothing but darkness…

An empty void…

The light came back on as suddenly as it vanished.

I was in a pristine apartment… Dizzy with stress and blood loss. My blood staining some fancy-looking rag. Everything was so slow and unfocused. My ears ringing, my body aching, my right arm barely hanging on by a thread of muscle. A layer of red covering my right eye. Breathing hurt. Everything hurt.

Death was near….

Death came as a high pitched cackling.

My gaze shifted, pushing through volley after volley of stingers coursing through my neck.

It just sat there…

Chewing on a piece of meat…

A Hyena-muzzled naked man…

The unnatural shape of this thing. A grotesque and malignant amalgamation of features. Impure, senseless and leprous design.

Nothing but pure invasive and unrelenting horror.

Every fiber in my body moved while my brain remained fixated on the indescribable picture burned into recollection.

I ran, I don’t know how I far I ran. I have no idea how I got out of there and I don’t know where I ended up collapsing. When I woke up, I was at the hospital.

My injuries were consistent with a bear mauling. I pretended to have lost my memory, not wanting to remember. I wish I couldn’t remember that thing. Unfortunately, that’s the only thing I seem to remember these days…

Every now and again, it invades my mind and everything else becomes blurry and distant.

Every now and again, I can see it standing right across the room from me.

Simply staring, and smiling its blood-stained smile.

Cackling that hideous high-pitched laughter.

Every time I see it, it’s getting closer….

I can already feel its fetid breath on the back of my neck…

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2024/02/10
23:18 UTC

3

My Grandfather Used to Know How to Fly

Here is the story of a man who claimed he was able to fly in his youth and then he forgot how to do it as he grew up.

«Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic. —FROM "THE SAYINGS OF MUAD'DIB" BY THE PRINCESS IRULAN»\

— Frank Herbert, Dune

Trust me: I am a physicist. I would never dwell on the story of a man who claimed he was able to fly in his youth and then he forgot how to do it as he grew up. I would never be preoccupied with such a tale if I had not seen the man levitating, in front of my own eyes, on his deathbed, just before exhaling his last breath. The man was my grandfather, and these are selected pages of his diary as a teenager. He was born on August 5, 1920.

January 23, 1935

You will not believe what happened to me today!

It was a sunny but freezing winter afternoon. The meadows were covered with a good fifty centimeters of snow.

I was walking along the river with Whiskey. The river banks were frozen. The ice was thick enough you could walk on it, but the thick layer only extended for about thirty-forty centimeters from the bank. Beyond that, thirty-forty more centimeters of ice, becoming thinner and thinner, gave way to the tumultuously flowing water. Whiskey was walking behind me, wagging his tail.

All of a sudden, a running pheasant came out of a thicket of reeds about ten meters ahead of us. As soon as Whiskey noticed the bird, he started barking and ran toward it.

Now, I was walking on the thick ice and on my right-hand side there were trunks emerging from the frozen snow. Whiskey projected himself right between me and the trunks, hitting my right side with all his might. The blow made me spin around on my left foot and lose my balance. So, I placed my right foot on the thin ice, which immediately cracked under my weight, and I fell face down toward the freezing water.

My instinct made me extend my arms forward and open my hands as to prevent my face from smashing onto a solid surface (as if I were falling onto a solid surface!). And then my hands hit an invisible surface, and I was suspended in midair.

I was floating, my palms bearing my weight about fifty centimeters from the flowing water.

I remained still in that position for who knows how long.

Then I slowly started to push myself up until my arms were stretched.

That was not enough for my body to regain a standing position, but the rest of the movement came spontaneously: I felt like my palms were exerting a force on the invisible surface on which they were resting, pushing the surface away from them. And soon I was standing, back to safety on the thicker layer of ice.

My first thought, although I was in the middle of nowhere, was if anyone could have seen me, and therefore I furtively took a look around in every direction. No one was around of course, except Whiskey, still barking after the pheasant now flying high above his head.

I called his name, and he obediently returned to me. I ruffled the fur on his head and slowly started to walk back home, unsure about what had really happened.

January 24, 1935

I have been trying all day to understand what prevented me from falling in the river yesterday, but I have no clue. And I have been trying even harder to reproduce the phenomenon, but I keep failing.

When I got home from school, I locked myself in my room and started experimenting: I took off my shoes and jumped on the bed. The experiment consisted of standing at the bottom of the mattress facing the pillow and letting me fall face-down onto the bed, stretched my arms forward and open my hands, in order to try and reproduce what had happened the day before as accurately as possible. However, no matter how hard I tried, I always ended up bouncing on the mattress, my face sunk into the pillow.

By "how hard I tried" I mean I attempted to focus on my palms and see if I could feel any invisible surface or even the faintest resistance in the air. I closed my eyes and tried and visualize a force flowing out of my palms, pushing the air away from me or rather the other way around: pushing me away from the air. All my attempts were fruitless though.

I had an idea: maybe it had to do with the water. I thought I could try with the bathtub, but then I said to myself it might require a large amount of water, or a large amount of flowing water. So, I got back in my shoes, grabbed my jacket, ran downstairs, kissed my mom, woke up Whiskey who was dozing by the fireplace, and we started running toward the river.

I know a place where the riverbed is divided in two branches by a small island covered with thickets, and above the narrower of the two branches there is a simple bridge made of planks hovering just about fifty centimeters above the water. That was our destination.

When we got there, I started simulating the conditions of the previous day by lying on my belly on the planks up to my shoulders, with my arms and head sticking out on the water. I extended my arms toward the current and opened my hands, fingers stretched. I focused on my palms and pushed them down in the hope of finding some resistance at last, but all I could feel was the cold winter air and some splashes of freezing water.

January 28, 1935

I have just checked the clock downstairs: it is something past three in the morning.

I was dreaming of flying, of floating high above the river in a sunny winter afternoon, lying on my belly, my arms wide open like a pair of wings, my legs stretched behind me.

My face and my hands were freezing, but I was so excited I could not care less. My eyes were crying, not sure if because of the air or because of the joy.

I was looking down at the meadows covered with snow, whose bounds are marked by rows of mulberry trees, scattered with poplar fields, whose wood is used to make paper, orderly standing in straight lines, looking like a checkerboard when seen from above.

I reached the bridge connecting my town to the neighbor one and I heard Whiskey barking at me: he was standing on his hind legs with his front paws resting on the rail.

I glided in circles to lower my altitude, and changed my course: I left the river and started following the road from the bridge toward home.

Whiskey started running joyfully below me, barking from time to time.

I was hovering about ten meters above the road.

That is when I woke up. And I felt cold. However, unlike in my dream, my whole body was cold, not only my face and hands. As I slowly emerged from my sleep, I realized that my bedsheets were gone: I was lying on my side, with nothing but my nightgown to protect me from the cold of my bedroom in a winter night.

It took a few more instants for my conscience to wake up enough and realize that my bed was gone too: below me was the void. My head was not resting on my pillow. My body was not lying on the mattress. My nightgown was hanging from my legs into the void. And I still felt something sustaining each and every square centimeter of my skin from below.

I panicked.

I do not think I cried, but I gasped and started moving in an agitated and convulsive manner as if had been thrown into the open water and I could not swim.

The result was instantaneous: whatever was supporting me disappeared at once, and I fell into the void. It felt like falling forever, until my body bounced on the mattress, and my head sank into my pillow.

And I did not awake from a dream in which I had been dreaming a dream. I was already perfectly awake and well aware of what had just happened to me: I had woken up while levitating one good meter above my mattress.

February 25, 1935

Once again, I have just woken up in the middle of the night while dreaming of flying.

And just like the last time, I woke up to find myself suspended in midair.

Unlike the last time, though, tonight I did not panic.

I was lying on my left side, facing the window. I had left the shades open and the night sky was clear. Half a moon was pouring its light into my room. I could see my bed about one meter below me: my pillow, my bedsheets, everything in its place. The view was comforting. I said to myself that in the worst-case scenario I would have fallen onto the mattress. So I managed to remain calm and still.

I focused on the down-facing side of my body, trying to figure out what it was resting on, what was sustaining it. I could actually feel some kind of surface under my head, shoulder, hip, thigh, and any other body part of mine that would have otherwise fallen down. It was as if I could feel a resistance preventing me from being pulled by gravity.

I timidly dared to move an arm running my hand along the invisible surface that I was assuming was supporting my weight. My palm could feel it while running along it.

The surface was not necessarily flat: if I moved my hand as along dunes, I could feel the resistance seconding my movements up and down. That explained how the surface adapted to the shape of my body. It fitted me perfectly.

I gained confidence, and I tried and change my position: I cautiously shifted my weight from my left side to my back, and found myself staring at the ceiling, still feeling the invisible surface, automatically refitted to my back as a mattress, sustaining my weight.

While turning my gaze from the window to the ceiling, I realized that, during the rotation, some of my body parts had been sustained by the surface, but some others had traversed the surface, or, from a different point of view, multiple surfaces had been sustaining various body parts at various points in time.

Based on this reasoning, I came to the conclusion that this surface (or surfaces) responds to my feeling: no matter what I feel like, the surface will fit to my body and support it.

That is when I attempted to let the surface obey to my feeling so I could glide down to my bed. And as I started "feeling" it, it just happened (I will try to explain this better): my body slowly descended until its weight was borne by my bed. I got so excited I cried.

PS It is not thinking, not willing, not wishing; it is just feeling it, and then it happens. It happens as if I were doing it. As if I had always been able to do it, like raising an arm or clenching a fist. These are things no one has ever thought us how to do; and we do not have to think about or will to or wish to do; we just do so when we feel. From now on I will call it "feeling" in inverted commas.

February 28, 1935

My goal today has been to prove my ability to defy gravity.

I know it sounds bold, but, if you think about it, unless I am schizophrenic, what did I do when I woke up a couple of nights ago, and one month ago, and when Whiskey pushed me into the river? I disobeyed the law of gravity.

So, I needed a place where no one would see me experimenting and where, in case I were indeed able to levitate and should accidentally fall, I would not hurt myself.

I thought of the pool created by the dam at the river, where all the irrigation canals depart toward the orchards. The place is surrounded by thick poplar fields. The water in the pool is about a couple of meters deep. I did not have any intention to fall into the water anyway: although one might say springtime is in the air, the temperature of the water must be barely above zero degrees Celsius. And I was not going to try and reach altitudes greater than a few meters maximum either. By the way, the fact that I wished to reach greater altitudes was the reason why I did not experiment in my room in the first place.

It was a sunny afternoon. The temperature was higher than what you would expect from a late winter day. No wind was blowing at all. I rode my bike until I reached the beginning of the bridge connecting my town to the neighbor one, Whiskey trotting on my side. We left the road and crawled down to the river bank. I hid my bike in a thicket of reeds, and we walked upstream until we reached the dam.

I double checked that no one was in sight, and then I lied down with my back on the sandy beach created by the river on this side of the pool. My friends and I in summer often come here to swim: unlike swimming in the river where currents might drag you underwater and make you hit a rock, here it is perfectly safe.

First experiment: I "felt" I levitated and immediately an invisible surface pushed my body up from the sand. My body was soon hovering about twenty-something centimeters above the ground. And again I got so excited, but this time I managed not to cry. I had so much more to do. As I changed my "feeling", I started descending and I softly landed on the sand.

Second experiment: reproducing something similar to what happened when I was about to fall in the river. I "felt" my body being pulled up to a standing position, the invisible surface pivoting around my heels. It worked all right: in a few seconds I was standing on my feet, looking at the lines of poplar trees mirroring in the pool.

Third experiment: succeeding in what I failed to reproduce the day after I almost fell in the river. I "felt" my body slowly falling face-down toward the shore while the invisible surface was pivoting this time around the tips of my feet. When my face was about twenty-something centimeters from the water, so close I could smell its dampness, I held still.

Fourth experiment: raising my feet too. At this point the tips of my feet were still resting on the sand. I "felt" them raising until my body was lying horizontally. Then I "felt" my feet lower down again until they touched the ground, and I finally "felt" my body pivoting around the tips of my feet backward until I was standing again.

The next step was taking experiments three and four to the next level: I was going to repeat the whole sequence (slowly falling face-down, rising my feet from the ground and back) introducing a gain of altitude before getting back to my feet. That is why I needed the pool.

So, I walked on the dam until I reached about its center. I turned to face the pool. The river behind me resumed its flow less than three meters below the surface of the water in front of me. I was scared: If my ability to defy gravity should have abandoned me then, I would have ended up taking the coldest bath I had ever taken.

Oh, come on! I had just succeeded on the beach! I closed my eyes and "felt" the slow fall. I became more and more conscious of the dampness getting closer to my face. Then I "felt" my feet leave the solid ground and the dampness was getting farther and farther away.

I opened my eyes.

The pool was the size of a rabbit hole, the river was just a curvy grayish line traced by the shaky brush of a painter dividing patches of various shades of browns and greens. I could see at least three neighbor towns in addition to mine. How long had I kept my eyes closed? How fast had I traveled?

I panicked.

And I instantly started to fall down.

My limbs instinctively stretched out in the attempt to slow down my free fall. My eyes started crying because of the air and my vision became blurred; however, I could see the dark circle I knew corresponded to the pool becoming larger and larger, which meant closer and closer, and I was well aware that those about two meters of water were far from close to being enough to save me from falling from such a height. Besides, I was not even sure I was going to fall into the pool because my lack of composure was making me move around from the pool's perpendicular.

For an instant I thought of my parents learning of the body of their youngest son found smashed at the bottom of a one-meter-deep hole in the middle of a field of barley.

I had to pull myself together.

I closed my eyes and I focused on my "feeling" in order to summon an invisible surface that would not instantaneously stop me from falling – otherwise it would be like getting acquainted with the field of barley – but it would rather accompany my fall and progressively slow it down until a stop that had to occur before any acquaintance.

I opened my eyes just in time to see the tops of the poplar trees populating a field on the other side of the river, not where the beach, and my bike, and my town were, but that did not matter, as soon as I was still in one piece.

I "felt" to descend to the ground, I retrieved my bike from the thicket where I found Whiskey anxiously waiting for me, and we went home.

I guess for some time I will not attempt to defy gravity anymore.

April 11, 1935

Today I have achieved a major accomplishment: I have not just hovered or levitated above my perpendicular, moving up and down.

I will always remember this day as the day I learned to fly.

The idea sparked while watching my elder brother flying his handmade kite: it was a moderately windy day and the diamond-shaped red wing was zigzagging in the clear sky.

I compared it to the invisible surface that allows me to levitate, with one major difference though: the kite relies on the air as the medium it leverages as means of support, while my surface clearly relies on something else, which lies way beyond my comprehension.

Despite this difference, I thought that maybe my surface as well could exert pressures onto its medium similar (but in the opposed direction) to the forces exerted by the wind onto the kite, and therefore not only move up and down, but virtually in any direction.

All of a sudden, I said bye to my brother, who gave me a startled look, jumped on my bike and left in the direction of the pool, followed as usual by the loyal Whiskey.

I felt confident, I felt I was in control of an invisible kite. I did not even think about the temperature of the water.

I reached the pool and walked across the sand until my last step touched the shore, then I slightly bent forward and my body started rising and, at the same time, advancing over the water, my right leg in the act of taking one more step. My trajectory traced an arch above the pool and I landed on my right foot on the opposite side of the water, as if I had covered the distance across the pool in one giant step.

Whiskey was barking at me from the beach, protesting for having been abandoned, so I got back to him sliding twenty-something centimeters above the water, lying on my belly, my arms wide open like a pair of wings, my legs stretched behind me. When I had almost reached him, I let my trajectory rise perpendicularly to the ground and I soon found myself high above the treetops. I thought: the higher the less likely to be spotted. While climbing I looked in the direction of my home and I could see my brother's kite. Soon it was lower than me. I reached about the same altitude I had reached during my experiments when I freaked out, but today I was in control. Today I was flying.

My descent consisted of circling around the trajectory that had taken me up, progressively losing altitude, one circle at a time, floating like a plane, slightly inclined toward the center of the cylinder along whose wall I was circling down.

April 22, 1935

Today I went flying along the river downstream. I left Whiskey home because I did not know how far and how fast I would go. The weather was ideal for a flight: it was a sunny springtime afternoon and a warm breeze was filling the air with the perfumes of the blooming trees. I had plans to fly low above the water to minimize the risk of being spotted.

I do not want the world to see me because people are not ready. The average human being is ignorant, narrow-minded, and superstitious. I do not want to know what they would say or do if they caught me flying. And even if I were caught by the most advanced and open-minded team of scientists, I would hate to become their subject of study.

So there I was, gently following the bends of the river becoming larger and larger, far past the bridge connecting my town to the neighbor one, and past at least three more bridges, gliding about one meter above the flow of the current becoming less and less impetuous.

And there they were, sitting on the river bank, a couple of friends chatting while holding their fishing rods. As soon as I completed the turn and came in sight, the one looking in my direction dropped his jaw and raised his right index finger. I did not have the time to think. My instinct had me make a U-turn and accelerate as much as I could. I do not want to know if the other guy made it in time to turn his head and see me too. I hope he did not.

Anyway, today I have sworn to myself this has been the last time I have flown in daylight.

May 2, 1935

Alice has invited me to pay her a visit today. And I wished I could be free to fly to her place, because it would be a hard bicycle ride, up pretty steep roads, unless...

I was climbing up a hill, standing on the pedals, thinking about how easy it would be if I could fly, and then the wheels of the bicycle detached from the pavement.

I had immediately figured it out: I could extend the surface (or surfaces) that allowed me to fly to anything I was touching. This was actually a major insight.

So I completed the rest of the trip flying my bike with its wheels skimming the road and I got to Alice's place with my shirt as good as new, not one drop of sweat staining it.

Alice introduced me to her mother and sister, who welcomed me warmly, and appreciated the gift I brought them, a basket full of goods from our farm: eggs, cheese, fruits, and vegetables, all very fresh, and a cake just baked by my mom.

Alice and I had talked about music so often at school. In particular, we knew about our common passion for Chopin's Nocturnes, and we knew we both could play the piano.

I was excited when she asked me if I would play Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 for her – I was especially excited about the "for her" part. So I gladly agreed.

I sat at the piano and she sat on the stool by my side, her body next to mine, the bare skin of her arm touching mine, her thigh lying along mine, doing nothing to prevent our bodies from coming in contact, the other way around I would have said. And I liked that! I mean: I loved that gentle boldness! I could have easily fallen for her, and somehow she looked like she knew it, but she did not want to take advantage of it.

I managed to play the Nocturne without errors, only with a few minor hesitations. As soon as my hands had left the keyboard, she hugged me, kissed my cheek, thanked me very much and started clapping her hands. Her mother and sister joined her applause: they were sitting on the sofa behind us, on the other side of the room. I had not paid attention to that. I wondered what they could have thought about Alice hugging and kissing me, and I told to myself that, based on how much they knew about her compared to how much I knew about her, the episode must have surprised them much less than me. And while applauding Alice stood up and looked at her mother and sister full of pride – I am still not sure I fully grasped the meaning of that gaze.

Alice, her sister, and I spent the rest of the afternoon rotating at the piano, everyone playing their full repertoire.

I was offered a tea with very good homemade biscuits, and I was invited to stay for dinner too, but I kindly declined explaining I had not told my parents I would stay for dinner and I did not want them to worry about me if I had not got back home in time.

Alice's mother commented saying I was a good boy, and very polite.

June 9, 1935

School is over!

Tonight I have celebrated my successful completion of another school year by trying to fly as high as I can.

Here is the outcome: I do not believe there is a limit to my ability per se, but I found out that the higher you go, the colder it gets, and I reached a point where I could not withstand the freezing temperature anymore and I came back down.

July 7, 1935

Yesterday we finished harvesting barley and wheat. It was a hard work that took us almost one whole month. During this time, I did not see either Alice or any of my friends.

So this afternoon I went to see Alice.

She does not live on a farm. Her family runs a convenience store in town and their home is in the same building as the shop, upstairs and behind it.

Alice was not waiting for me. I entered the store, she was behind the counter, and, as soon as she saw me, called my name out loud, ran to me, threw her arms around my neck, and kissed my left cheek.

I returned her hug, but I froze when I saw her mother and sister, who had been attending the shop, interrupting their tasks to stare at us, startled by Alice's reaction.

I guess my face must have turned red as a ripe tomato, although both her mother and her sister were smiling, well aware of Alice's exuberance.

They all welcomed me, her grandmother joined us too, while Alice prepared a tray with lemonade for everyone, which was very refreshing, especially after my bicycle ride under the summer sun, no matter if I had cheated by flying the bike at ground level, the temperature being almost thirty degrees Celsius.

Once again, my mother had provided me with a basket full of our goodies that were very much appreciated.

While we were sipping our lemonades, I was asked a lot of questions about my family, the harvest, and the like, questions rising from sincere interest, not from nosey curiosity. Therefore, I answered them all with pleasure, providing wealth of details.

After the pleasant chat, Alice asked her mother permission to go for a walk with me, which she agreeably allowed.

So we left the shop and the town behind us and we were soon surrounded by vineyards.

That landscape was so different when compared to the one surrounding my town: flatlands versus hills, meadows versus vineyards, ordered poplar fields versus untamed woods, properties delimited by rows of mulberry trees versus properties cornered by fig trees, orchards irrigated by river water transported in canals versus orchards irrigated by rain water collected in tanks.

As we were walking along a row of vines, I noticed how grapes were already developed, although still far from ripe.

Alice was walking ahead of me telling me how she loved those hills and how she felt free when she was walking among the rows of grapevines, when she could set her thoughts roam free or focus on a specific idea and let it grow or shrink.

At once she took my hand in hers and told me she wanted to show me her favorite spot.

So, suddenly, we were walking hand in hand, and I liked it!

Her favorite spot turned out to be a patch of grass in the shade of a huge fig tree on the top of what it seemed to be the tallest among the hills around her town. From there we could see the river valley, my river! My town, my meadows and poplar fields. I could have seen home if I had taken the time to focus, but Alice pulled my hand down in order to let me lie on the grass on her side in the shade.

There was something special about that place: even though it was in the open, it felt like we had our private space no one was supposed to violate.

Everything happened so fast. I let myself fall down on the grass. She was waiting for my eyes to look into hers. She stopped talking. We got closer. My heart missed one beat. Our lips touched. We indulged on the details, caressing the whole surface of each other's mouth, touching every bit of skin, our tongues exploring every possible corner.

That was our first kiss.

When our lips detached, after I would not know how long, my eyes searched for hers and found them returning the look, and we were floating in midair. I did not even have the time to curse in my mind and she was already screaming and holding me as close as she could. I held her back and tried to explain her.

– Alice, please, calm down! It is all right!

– Nothing is right! We are flying!

– Yes, we are indeed. I am sorry it happened like this. I lost control. I can actually fly.

– What?! Are you kidding me?

– As you can see, I am not.

– Are you in control of this or not?

– I am. I mean: it happened against my will, but, yes, I am perfectly in control of this.

– What do you mean: it happened against your will?

– I guess our kiss overwhelmed me, but now I am back in control.

– Show me you are in control.

– Only if you promise me you will not scream again.

– I will not scream.

– Ok, then...

And I made us slowly spin, and rise and fall, and finally soflty land on the grass.

That cost me a lot of explanations, of course. I did not mean it to happen. Not like that at least. I explained the need for secrecy and she fully understood.

She was so excited! She could not wait for me to take her flying "for real", as she called it, and we set the date to my upcoming birthday.

August 5, 1935

Today I am fifteen – happy birthday to me!

It is late night. I have just come back from the best birthday party I have ever had.

The party started at dusk. As soon as it was dark enough for a flying boy to be invisible to any indiscrete eye, I took off from my bedroom window heading toward Alice's home.

A crescent moon casted a veil of pale brilliance on the world below me, and under that light the disordered masses of the woods, alternating with the ordered rows of the vineyards, looked like big waves for me to surf.

I reached Alice's town and, looking at it from above as if I had been looking at a map, thanks to the feeble street illumination, I managed to locate her home.

I cautiously descended feet first in the small courtyard overlooked by her bedroom's window, which was completely open. It was a full height window, without a balcony, only a protective rail. Alice was looking out the window, her elbows resting on the rail.

She stared at me smiling subtly and did not say anything. I returned her gaze and smile in silence. We spent I do not know how long like that.

All at once she climbed over the rail and jumped into the void toward me. I thought she was crazy, and that impulsiveness of hers made me go crazy about her. She threw her arms around my neck and I held her close in my arms. We kissed each other's neck at about exactly the same time.

As we were holding tight, we ascended, spiraling, up high above the town until we were floating higher than any building, including the castle and the bell tower.

She did not show any sign of fear. On the contrary, she was super excited. I briefly explained to her how the invisible surface thing worked and I told her that, as long as she was in contact with me, she would benefit from it, just like me. She seemed to understand the rules of the game easily and soon enough.

She asked me to take her to my favorite place. So I headed for the pool, daring to dream of a night swim with her.

We spent some time flying hand in hand, our arms stretched out like wings; but her favorite position she told me was when I kept my arms wide open and she was hugging me.

We landed on the sandy beach standing on our feet.

The crescent moon's reflection in the pool's water gave a touch of magic to the spot.

I did not have the time to enjoy the view and Alice was walking toward the water setting herself free from her clothes with every step. By the time she reached the shore she was bare naked, her pale skin rendered silvery by the light of the moon.

I was petrified. She yelled at me asking what I was waiting for, she exhorted not to be shy, she ordered to join her at once. I complied.

The water was chilling. We kissed. We hugged. The touch of her naked body next to mine overloaded my senses. A part of me was somehow embarrassed by the fact that my penis reacted with a prompt erection. She must have felt my embarrassment because she pulled me toward her until she could feel me against her belly. She was not afraid of experimenting and I was happy to second her.

She spent the whole flight back home holding me tight as if she had been afraid to lose me.

After she jumped over the rail into her bedroom, she immediately turned around, threw her arms around my neck, and kissed me as if it had been our last kiss in forever. I whispered in her ear that I wished that night could never end and she nodded with tears in her eyes.

Suddenly her expression changed to somewhat alarmed: she had forgotten to give me my birthday present, so she told me. She disappeared from my view. I could hear her fumbling. Soon she was back hiding something from me behind her back. She asked me to close my eyes and open my right hand. I did as I was asked and I found myself holding a leather string from which hung a metal heart on which the initials of our names were engraved. She explained that her uncle, a blacksmith, had handcrafted the heart on her request.

I could not believe the life I was living with Alice was the life I would have dreamt of.

August 14, 1935

Today Alice and her sister went to the seaside where they will spend one week or so at their aunt's. They traveled by bus from their town to mine, and then they left by train from here.

I waited for them at the bus stop at 15:00 and, since they would have to wait more than a couple of hours for their train, I invited them at the farm.

I offered my help with the luggage during the short walk, but they kindly declined. Alice in particular explained that she needed me to have at least one free hand otherwise we could not have walked hand in hand. We all laughed about it, but it was sweet of hers.

My family was very happy to meet the two sisters and so were they.

We drank fresh milk with homemade mint syrup, chatting amiably.

When it was time for them to go, my eldest brother offered his help to carry Alice's sister's luggage. Alice and I exchanged a knowing look and smile.

On the way to the station my brother and Alice's sister walked side by side, followed by the loyal Whiskey; Alice and I closed the line, gossiping about the couple ahead of us.

At the station, waiting for the train, we disappeared behind the corner for the time of a kiss.

Alice promised me she would send me a picture postcard from the seaside.

Then she noticed that I was wearing the necklace she gave me for my birthday; I told her, no matter where we were, she would always be with me; she nodded, tears in her eyes.

September 1, 1935

Today we have started harvesting grapes at my uncle's farm, which is located in the same municipality where Alice lives, although out of town, and whose vineyards are scattered on the hills around it.

My brothers and I are going to spend the next two to three weeks here helping my uncle and cousins, while my aunt will take care of refilling our bellies every day.

I did not tell Alice: I thought it would be a pleasant surprise for both.

We began with a vineyard laying at the bottom of the hill dominated by the huge fig tree where Alice's favorite spot was.

The morning was cool and the vines were damp with dew, but, as soon as the sun reached its place in the sky, it felt like the seasons had turned back in time from fall to summer.

The working day passed fast: basket after basket, we climbed uphill toward the huge fig tree leaving the vineyard behind us stripped of all the grapes.

I heard Alice laughing from the top of the hill.

A summer storm was coming.

I reached the end of the row of vines and halted before stepping onto the patch of grass.

A thunder exploded.

She was lying on the grass with some guy a few years older than us. Their posture was far beyond friendly. She immediately pushed him away from her and stood up, but she could not say anything.

Another thunder roared and rain started pouring down copiously.

I was standing in the rain, my eyes fixed into hers. In an instant I visualized me grabbing them both by an arm, taking them up high in the middle of the raging storm, and then dropping them.

Then I thought he had nothing to do with this.

This was only between me and her, that little slut.

I took off as fast as I had never done before. In a handful of seconds I was above the clouds.

I remained still for who knows how long, hovering above the storm, allowing the sun to dry my clothes and warm up my body. I could feel the thunder infuriating below and inside me.

I cried, flew away, came back, cried again.

I hate her, and I love her, and I hate her, and I love her, but I hate her more. That little slut!

Epilogue

When I was a child, I remember grandpa telling me he used to know how to fly and telling me stories I would later read in his diary, but at that time of course I thought they were not different than other fairy tales.

And I can understand how he could quite easily forget how to do it: World War II started in Europe when he was twenty-one, he fought in it, and he was imprisoned by the Nazis in who-knows-what sick kind of camp of theirs. When the war was over, he came home – and he was one of the lucky ones who came home – weighing less than fifty kilos (being almost one hundred and eighty centimeters tall). It took him almost two years to recover physically and psychologically; he spent most of this time in a hospital, assisted by a lovely nurse who would soon become my grandmother. My mother was born in 1948 and my three aunts in the following years. A survivor, father of four daughters in a Country recovering from World War II: I can imagine his priorities were beyond doubt others than flying.

When he first told me about his diary, he was almost ninety and his physical conditions forced him to spend his days in bed. I visited him as often as possible: as the firstborn of his many grandchildren, I had developed a special relationship with him. He told me where to find the booklet: he had hidden it in a wooden box in his laboratory, among his tools.

On my next visit, as soon as I entered his bedroom, he asked me if I had the diary with me. I gave to him. Despite his body was weak, his mind never lost its sharpness. That day he looked paler than usual and he breathed heavily. In a few minutes he was completely absorbed in his reading to the point that he would gesture you to shut up if you talked to him. So I sat at his bedside and looked at him.

Once he had read through about one half of the diary, I noticed tears running down his cheeks, but he was smiling. Then he was laughing, and crying with joy. And then it happened. His body started levitating, the bedsheets hanging from it. And he continued reading while laughing and crying with joy, producing waves in the bedsheets. I stood, petrified. He was floating at about the height of my line of sight while I was standing. Reading. Laughing. Crying. Flying.

He must have spent ten to fifteen minutes like that, until he completed his reading. Then he slowly descended onto the bed and, as if nothing had occurred, he closed the diary, gave it to me and, looking intensely in my eyes, told me «Thank you. I am tired now».

He closed his eyes never to open them again.

Now, as a physicist, the first theory I can draft is that this man had the ability to move his body within a gravitational field, i.e. he could distort spacetime (within the distortion operated by an existing field) and this distortion could be measured as a force. In such a model his body moved in response to the curvature of spacetime where gravitational force actually existed. I mean: in this model gravity would not be a fictitious force. However, theoretically, this would have required grandpa's body to possess an almost infinite mass.

This is far beyond my comprehension.

Let me just add one paragraph.

After my grandfather's funeral, I went home and started reading his diary lying on my favorite couch. Page after page, it brought to my memory the tales that he used to tell me when I was a child. I do not remember how far I was into the booklet, nor how much time had passed since I had begun reading it, but I clearly remember the panic rushing to my head when I realized that I was floating about one meter above the couch.

2 Comments
2024/02/10
17:35 UTC

1

Dying Tree

Thus reads the epitaph dedicated
To a man who ended his own life
And hung the corpse from a dying
Tree as a grim reminder for everyone
To see what we had sacrificed to feed
The endless appetite of the concrete beast
Until the fog of its poisonous breath
Blanketed land after land after land
Forcing man to forsake one life for the next
Allowing his weary soul to find
Rest

0 Comments
2024/02/09
00:59 UTC

6

Food, Folks And Fun

Food, Folks And Fun by Al Bruno III

No one saw that damn bus coming, not at a quarter to ten. The staff of Burger Clown had already begun cleaning up for the night. Mark Kravis looked up from his mop bucket and blinked at the sight, "You gotta be kidding me."

"Get on the broiler!" Ken squawked from behind the counter, his voice filling the empty restaurant. "Get on the broiler now!" Ken was the assistant manager, and Mark loathed working with him because his only administrative skills were squawking orders and twitching.

Cursing under his breath, Mark let his mop clatter to the floor and got on the broiler. This was just perfect. His band had practice tonight...

They filed off the bus and streamed in, tramping over the freshly cleaned floor. They were all pasty white and wearing their Sunday best, which was odd considering it was a Thursday. The fluorescent lighting made them look like zombies. Mark glanced at the counter, watching Darla take the first order. He could hear her voice over the hiss and the pop of the grill; she was reciting the official Burger Clown customer greeting, but every syllable reeked with loathing. Mark couldn't understand how she could be so hot and so scary all at once. He talked to her when it was slow, but all he'd ever really learned about her was that she had run away from home and dropped out of college. Mark had never really understood what screwed her up more, her parents or her thesis.

Lucy nudged past him on her way to a fresh tray of hamburger buns. Unlike most of the Burger Clown staff, she actually liked this job. She was retired, and this supplemented her fixed income. The way she took pride in her work irritated the Hell out of Mark.

There was a video screen set against the wall nearest the broiler. When it was working right, it would keep a running tally of the number of beef and chicken patties needed. Watching the line filter down the counter from Darla to Lucy, Mark realized that no orders were flashing on the screen.

"Why aren't you doing anything? Why are you just standing there?" Ken screeched, "We're not paying you just to stand there!"

Mark willed himself to think only about rent and car payments, not about the number of ways there were to kill a man with a spatula. "No orders yet," He said evenly, "Maybe they're all here to use the bathroom."

"It must be broken." Ken slapped the amber monitor and twiddled the CONTRAST and TINT controls meaningfully. "Go out there and see what we need to make. That doesn't mean hit on Darla. That means find out what we need to make and get back here."

"Whatever..." Mark said, skirting around the fry vats and walking up behind Darla. "Hey-" he began.

"Come to visit us, hah?" Lucy winked at him from the shake machine, "Too hot back there, or is Ken just getting on your nerves?"

"Yes," Mark answered as he turned back to the girl at the counter.

A bald man in a clip-on tie was placing his order; a sticker on his shirt announced his name in bright, child-like block letters. He grinned at Darla while he rambled, "…so we were on our way back and we figure we may as well stop off and top off. Get it? Stop off and top off."

"May I take your order, please?" Darla asked.

"That thing through your eyebrow there," he pointed to the elaborate ring, "did that hurt?"

"May I please take your order?" Darla said again.

Oblivious to the waves of raw hostility washing over him, he said, "I'll have a vanilla shake."

For some reason that made Darla's composure crack, a tremor crept into her voice, "One dollar nine cents, please."

Ken yelled, "No conversations! Get back here and work! I'll write you up!"

"All right!" Mark shouted back. He heard Darla slam the cash register door closed. The following customer was already poised to place their order. Mark turned to Darla. "Listen, the computer is screwed up. What have they ordered so far?"

She grabbed his arm with bruising force, "They're only ordering vanilla shakes."

"What?"

She shook his arm and squeezed harder, her nails digging into his flesh, "They are all ordering vanilla shakes. And they all have exact change. All of them."

"Oh."

With that, she let go of his arm and turned to her next customer with a sullen resignation. "Welcome to Burger Clown, where smiles are our specialty. May I please take your order?" 

Mark retreated to the fry vats, trying to get a headcount of how many customers were out there. They couldn't all be vegetarians, could they?

There was a sharp pain as Ken grabbed him by the back of the neck, "Don't just stand around! You've got burgers to make!"

"No, I don't. They're just ordering shakes."

"What?"

"I'm gonna go get my mop before someone knocks it over." Mark brushed past him.

Ken stared after him, twitching, "What?"

There was no way he could avoid having to mop the floor again. The shake fanatics were already spreading through the restaurant like a virus. Mark moved through them, nodding blankly at their pleasant smiles. They were all grinning and talking and slurping on shakes. Everywhere around him, empty conversations droned on and on.

"I can't wait until next year."

"… I still can't believe he had the nerve to show up. A real black sheep."

His mop and bucket were where he had left them, near the trashcans. He stared into the gray, bubbly water, trying to talk himself out of quitting. He could imagine the expression on Ken's face if he walked out the door.

"This is an out-of-the-way little joint. I'm surprised they do any business at all."

"… better than last year, but still not as good as the old times. It's all so safe now. In the old days, the recruits would get really hurt. "

He slowly began wheeling his mop and bucket through the crowd; some of them, he noticed, were back in line for seconds. Mark glanced up to the counter; Lucy was dutifully manning the shake dispenser, Darla was looking more and more distressed by the second, and Ken was just glaring at everything.

"You like this tie? You want it? I've got dozens of 'em!"

"…you should see how my little ones are just into everything now. They're really a handful."

Mark rolled his eyes as he moved to the back of the restaurant. These people, he realized, must be coming back from some kind of family function. A reunion or a wedding or something it was only a guess, but it felt right. Besides, they all looked alike, with heads that looked too big and eyes that seemed too small.

"I swear the damn thing is stuck. Maybe there are some tools on the bus."

"Of course the meat tastes different, it's the chemicals."

A short hallway led to the Men's washroom, the Women's washroom, and the utility room. Mark shoved the mop and bucket into the utility room and kicked the door closed. Next, he made his way to the men's room, where there was a handicapped-accessible stall with a toilet, a urinal, and a sink below a cracked mirror. There used to be a trash can, but someone had set that on fire, and Ken refused to buy a new one until Mark confessed to doing it.

Once he was safely locked in the stall, Mark sat down on the toilet seat and ran his fingers through his hair. His pants stayed on, he didn't need to relieve himself- he just needed a break. Mark tried to tell himself that he would look back at all this and laugh when he was a big-time rock star. The problem was that he didn't even believe it anymore. He had been in four bands in five years, and not one of them was able to make back their expenses, much less turn a profit. At moments like this, he wondered if moving back home wasn't such a bad idea after all. He still had college money waiting for him; his parents had refused to let him have it when they realized he was going to try his hand at show business.

Leaning back against the cool porcelain, he propped his feet up on either side of the stall and tried to relax. He had half a mind to take a little catnap; it wouldn't be the first time.

"This is terrible."

"Let me see."

The bathroom door slammed open, and two of the customers shuffled in. One sounded panicky, and the other was cool and rational.

"I'm stuck." Mr. Panicky said he sounded like a kid who had just found out Christmas was canceled.

Mr. Rational's voice was AM radio smooth, "You're not stuck. I just need an entrenching tool."

Always on the lookout for free entertainment, Mark kept his feet propped up and tried to watch them through the slender gap between the bathroom enclosure's door and the wall. He could only see their backs, but it looked like one of them was undoing his shirt.

There was a smashing followed by a chorus of empty clinkings. "Will this do?" Mr. Panicky asked.

Now there were scraping noises; it sounded like someone was sifting through glass. "That just might. Open wide."

Watching through the gap, Mark saw the figures move closer, one shifting and fidgeting, the other holding something gleaming in his hand. What the fuck is this? Mark thought as he held his breath.

When the moist, wet, digging sounds started, Mark reached for the switchblade he kept in his boot. He always carried a blade with him, and considering the neighborhood he lived in, he probably should have carried more. The sounds continued.

Occasionally, they would be complimented by a rasping noise. Streaks of bile-like fluid began to ooze across the tile floor, and a foul, acrid smell filled the air. Mark didn't know how much more he could take before he'd have to make a run for it.

The sounds stopped. Mr. Rational whistled, "Wow. You are stuck."

"Damn." A foot stomped, droplets of orange fluid spattered everywhere.

"Now don't you get upset. This won't have any bearing on your final record."

Mr. Panicky started to sound like Mr. Resignation, "I'm just disappointed."

"You have every right to be, but don't worry, there will be plenty more excursions."

A scream cut through the air. That's Darla! Mark felt his stomach turn cold.

"I need to be out there." Mr. Rational sighed, "Just keep working at it. Maybe it will give."

"Yeah." Mr. Panicky said. One set of footsteps receded. The door swung to a close, and the digging sounds started again. Mark heard more screams and crashing from the bathroom wall bordering the kitchen. It seemed as though the whole late-night crew had gone mad. And then he heard Ken's voice, groveling and sniveling as he offered to open the safe.

Part of him wanted to get the fuck out of dodge. Part of him wanted to rush out there and save the day. No matter what he did, he had to get up and get going. Whoever these people were, they would find him eventually. After a moment to gather his courage, he flicked the switchblade and charged out of the bathroom stall.

The first thing Mark's eyes found was the bathroom mirror. It was shattered, the smaller pieces lying in the bathroom sink; the man before him held one of the longer shards in his hand. His shirt hung open and loose. The nametag he wore was still visible. It said HI! MY NAME IS BOB. It took several moments for Mark to realize that Bob was slowly and methodically carving grooves into the skin of his chest. The fluid that oozed from those long, symmetrical wounds was orange. Thick tatters of skin lay on the floor or hung from his torso like strips of ruined wallpaper. He regarded Mark with an expression of dull surprise. "I didn't know you were here," he said, "you were hiding. You were spying."

Mark tried to act menacing, but all he managed was to stammer, "Well, what if I was?" He waved the switchblade in shaky circles.

"Oooooo." The thing called Bob grabbed at the knife, leaving the piece of mirror jutting from his chest.

Howling with panic, Mark slashed at Bob, cutting his fingertips and palm. More foul-smelling muck oozed out. "Back off," he cautioned, "I don't want any trouble."

"I need this," Bob grabbed the knife away and shoved Mark backward against the wall with surprising force.

Mark hit his head, and everything went dark. 

When he came to, he groaned and reached out for support, grabbing onto the cold porcelain of a sink. He squinted through blurry eyes to find the light switch, wondering how long he had been unconscious.

He flicked it several times before giving up. He made his way to the door. Things squelched and slid underfoot, he winced with every footstep.

All the power in the building was out, but at least the streetlights offered a kind of illumination. Mark moved between the booths, wondering why it was so quiet.

Don't wonder. Mark thought, Just get to your car and get out of here. Move back in with your parents and get a haircut and a real job! Just go!

A thin layer of smoke hung in the air, and with it, a scent he could only equate with meat left too long on the broiler. The exit was just footsteps away.

But so was the bus.

It was still out there in the parking lot. The sickos were just sitting there staring straight ahead. Mark dropped to all fours, praying he hadn't been seen.

What the Frig is going on here?

There was always the back exit. All Mark had to do was make his way out there and run. Oh Lord, would he run.

He crawled into the kitchen and found himself staring at a battlezone; the glass of the office door was shattered, the broiler and the fry vats were smoldering, and there were buns and condiments everywhere. One of the cash registers was open, the bills and change left untouched. A tiny squeal escaped Mark's lips as he saw the skeleton curled at the base of the counter. The bones had been picked clean.

Oh God. Oh God.

Chips of glass bit into his palms as he scrambled over debris. He found two more skeletons near the office, lying side by side like lovers. Frozen in place by the sight, he wondered which of his co-workers he was staring at. The broiler hissed and popped, and the fry vats gurgled. He wondered if they'd been alive when the flaying began.

Whoever did this... He realized, Whoever did this wouldn't have left me alive out of sheer kindness. Whoever did this must still be waiting.

When Mark heard footsteps he wasn't surprised, not really. He stood up and saw Bob walking towards him, naked to the waist and smiling jovially. Bob's skinless chest now revealed a pale gray carapace marked with grooved in circular patterns.

"You saved me for last," Mark was numbed by the sight.

"They saved you for me," Bob explained, "I was too late to join in here. Defective equipment. It happens sometimes. Thank goodness you had a knife."

Bob's chest began to whisper with motion. It dilated outwards.

Mark felt his knees buckling "Aliens. You're aliens."

"I am no more an alien than you are a chimpanzee," Bob laughed as the hole in the center of their torso widened. "We are immigrants. This is the last part of our orientation, our chance to observe you in your natural environment. Your flesh, your thoughts, your nerve endings- they must be understood before we can continue."

"Is this an invasion?"

Bob's chest was splayed wide. Something shifted in the aperture, something black and gleaming that writhed in time with the words coming from Bob's mouth. "Invasion?" He chuckled, "There's no invasion here. This world is occupied territory."

"What are you going to do to me?"

"Sadly, all you have to look forward to now is madness and death. But you can choose which you experience first," a tendril snaked out of the lifeless automaton. At its touch, Mark's flesh bubbled and melted away. Dozens more latched onto him, dragging him closer, burning through him, searing him to the bone, "You can have it your way."

0 Comments
2024/02/08
22:46 UTC

1

Agony Personified

Concealed by the cover of night
Their steps amplified by an eerie silence
The winged shadows returned again
They come indifferent and without remorse
Heralding my torturous pain

Thousands of invisible hands
Embed shards of glass into my skin
Until pins and needles crawl
Across the surface of my consciousness

When I am bound and hopeless
The queen of disease spills her venom
Into my mouth with a loving kiss
To derive her sadistic joy from beholding
The acidic flames lick away at my fragile bones

Crucified I pray for a release
At the temple of my agony personified

0 Comments
2024/02/07
00:51 UTC

5

Boggs And Croad Are Friends

Boggs And Croad Are Friends by Al Bruno III

Now, that was an excellent meal. These guys treat you right. They earn every one of their five stars.

No. No. Don't worry about the check. You are a guest of Boggs International, and we don't spare any expense when taking care of a guest. Would you like a cigar? Some more wine? Food always tastes better when someone else is paying for it.

Am I right, or am I right?

Wait, wait, we can talk business later. We want this much, the stockholders want that much, and maybe you don't want to sell at all. The night is young, and we've barely put a dent in the old expense account. I just hope I can convince you to make your company part of the Boggs family. There is a reason they sent me to you. We are exactly the same, self-made. We both started out at a podunk company in the middle of nowhere and made our way into the Fortune 500. We are innovators and forward-thinkers; we are exactly the kind of people who make this country great.

Besides, you have one up on me, been married what is it? Twenty years?  Congratulations! I'm not the marrying type myself, married to the company, you might say. Soldiers and married folks are the people I admire most, and they say both experience periods of intense fear and intense boredom.

Am I right, or am I right?

And kids! How many? Two? One in the crib and one going to college. My Auntie Kate would have loved you. She was all about the Bible. 'Be fruitful and multiply' and all that. They tell me your oldest boy is starting college, gonna be an Ivy League man. If he wants into a fraternity, let me know. You can't swing a dead cat around the office and not hit an alumni from one of the big ones.

But enough of that, I know what you really want to talk about. The old stump here. You've been stealing glances at it the whole night, wondering to yourself what happened. I bet you thought I didn't notice, did you?

Awww, ain't no big thing. It is what it is, and hey, I'm 50% better off than someone with no hands at all!

How did it happen? Let me tell you a story, but first, let's get the waiter over here and get us some martinis!

It starts in the '80s. Yeah, the crazy '80s back when I was still in diapers. See, there was this guy- Mr. Croad. I still don't know if that was his real name or whatever, but who cares? That's not what this story is about.

Now Mr. Croad works for a company selling bonds. He's not a good-looking guy, short and fat, but he's a hard worker, a family man, an honest man. One day, his bosses start pushing him to sell these high-yield bonds, junk bonds you'd call them. It's the old pump and dump, a little scheme where everyone makes money but the client.

And Mr. Croad, straight dealing, churchgoing man that he is, is having none of it. He warns the three members of senior management- Brown, Ryan, and Mitchell-  that if this company he's devoted ten years to doesn't put a stop to the shenanigans, he's gonna go to the authorities. That was his mistake. Mr. Croad was a little naive, if you get my drift.

It doesn't take long for his bosses to take him down. The company had some bad guys on the payroll, guys with fake names and dangerous reputations. Most companies have at least one of those bad guys somewhere, silently drawing a paycheck until he's needed. Brown, Ryan, and Mitchell don't have those guys kill Mr. Croad- that might raise too many red flags in all the wrong places. Instead, they frame him for possession of child pornography.

Next thing you know, Mr. Croad was going up the river, and if there's one thing you don't want to be in prison for, it's being a pedophile. He was only in for seven years, but those were hard years. How hard? When he finally got out, he had a limp and a dead left eye that stared at nothing. He came out of prison mean, mean, and a little bit crazy. He was alone, too; none of his friends or family wanted anything to do with him.

When a man finds himself in a place like that, there are only two things they can go looking for: redemption or revenge, and let's face it, revenge is always easier to find.

Am I right, or am I right?

Ryan died first. They found him stuffed in a mini-fridge that would have been cramped for a child. Mr. Croad had bent and broken him in all kinds of ways to make him fit. And don't doubt for a second that guy was alive when he went in. He probably lived two or three days before he kicked the bucket. I know it sounds like a bad way to die, but the way I see it, he got off easy.

Mr. Croad hogtied Brown's wife and all four of his kids and made them watch. He warned them if they looked away, he would do terrible things. So, the whole family watched Brown's lips being sewn shut with nylon wire, they watched his eyelids being cut off with a pair of nail clippers, and they watched the saucepan Mr. Croad had placed on the stovetop slowly boil.

How long does it take a block of tin to melt? I don't know, but I do know that when it was good and bubbly, Mr. Croad poured the boiling metal first into one, then the other, of Brown's orbital cavities.

I understgand that the poor bastard's dying scream was loud and long. There was no holding it back; he tore through the thread holding his mouth together turning his lips into flaps of torn ribbon. Mr. Croad knew there was no way the neighbors couldn't have heard, so he needed to get the Hell out of Dodge. But he'd had one last thing to do, you see, in the last moment, Brown's family had looked away, and it seemed like a shame to let all that extra tin go to waste.

Lastly was Mitchell; he had no kids, but he did have a trophy wife. She was a former skin flick actress, you know, the kind I mean. The ones they made for late-night cable for old men and teenage boys to jerk off to. Mr.Croad, never being one to repeat himself, let her be; she was off shopping when he kidnapped her sugar Daddy.

It was hours later when Mitchell woke up; he was buck-ass naked and tied down on the floor of an old train station. I don't knowhow exactly Mr. Croad got ahold of those twelve pigs, but they were huge, at least six hundred pounds each. Now, they were farm-fed, used to the easy life, but Mr. Croad had been starving them for a while, so all pretense of domestication was pretty much gone by the time Mr. Croad ushered them into the room. Mr. Croad stared down at Mitchell and let him beg and snivel. Then he left Mitchell with the pigs, but not before dousing the man's balls in pork gravy.

Gruesome stuff, eh? Makes me want some more martinis. And yes, it is all true. Every word of it.

What? No, Mr. Croad didn't take my hand. I lost this in a car accident when I was twelve. It was too messed up for the doctors to save it.

Then why the story? To kill time, of course. It's 9:30 now, more than enough time for Mr. Croad to get in your house. As I said before, every company has at least one bad man on the payroll, and when you can afford a man like Mr. Croad, who else do you need?

The important thing is that he is in your house and if he gets a call from me, he'll go to work. He's had a long time to refine his technique since those early days and he's always itching to try new things.

You want proof? Do you really want me to call him and say that? Do you really want to know what proof like that would be?

Now to business, at long last business. I bet you're more than willing to sell to us now, and I bet your asking price is gonna be pretty reasonable.

Am I right, or am I right?

0 Comments
2024/02/06
11:27 UTC

2

Starving Flames

Angelic voices pierce the veil between our worlds
Carrying a promise of reunion with the divine

My child, forsake this kingdom of sin
And follow my voice into a place of pure light
Cast your mortal shell into the flames
To reunite with the infinite endlessness

Absolution awaits on the other shore of self-immolation

Ashes to ashes
The effigy burns
Ashes to ashes
To dust - man returns

Salvation awaits 'neath the pyre of self-annihilation

Ashes to ashes
The effigy burns
Ashes to ashes
Into the void
a misguided soul falls

Caged by the infernal darkness
Bound with the entrails of the lost
Tormented by the vengeance of guilt
At the bottom of the abyssal depths

Cursed to languish in agony
As punishment for transgressions
Committed as an expression of worship
Inspired by frenzied devotion

The prodigal son cast down from the heavens
His flesh nailed to the cross of eternal damnation

A choir of unclean spirits
Masquerading as servants of God
Slowly poisoned the mind
With the false promises of ascension
Concealing heretical thought

An effigy of seraphim ascends to meet the sun
Engulfed by starving flames, it was destined to burn

Tortured and paralyzed by the venomous fear
Dripping from the jaws of the underworld
With eyes fixated on the cracks in its seals
You are forced to bear witness
As unspeakable horrors unfold

Ashes to ashes
a misguided soul burns
Ashes to ashes
From the dust - man returns

Shrouded by a smoldering vapor and mist
The shadow of death crawls from out of the grave
Your restless remains have risen
To devour everything you've ever loved

0 Comments
2024/02/06
00:06 UTC

2

Marcie Did You Know

Marcie Did You Know by Al Bruno III

Every night, she waited out in a clearing with her camera and binoculars to catch sight of something from beyond; she didn't care what it was- a UFO, a shimmering wisp of ghost, or even a forest spirit. Just so long as it could prove there was more than her job, her apartment, and her emptiness.

This night was cool with the early days of fall, and the winter stars were beginning to shine; she was wearing her windbreaker and stocking cap, and there was a thermos of soup between her feet should she need it. It had all the makings of a perfect night.

"Marcie, where do you go at night?" her roommate would ask, "You should come out with us, come out and meet someone."

Both women knew the invitation was a lie, Julie would have been humiliated to be seen clubbing with her scrawny, virginal roommate, and Marcie had no interest in wasting a night by going out whoring. After all, even if it wasn't a clear night, she still had things to keep her occupied; there were books of urban and ancient legends to read through, websites to be visited, and notes to be taken. The invisible and the impossible were old friends to her- she knew them all by Bigfoot, Aliens, the Jersey Devil, Chupacabra, the Loch Ness monster, and all the rest.

She would read eyewitness accounts with the same kind of envy Julie expressed when flipping through fashion magazines and bridal catalogs; it was the same kind of longing that Marcie's mother had used when speaking about the bible and the afterlife. Neither of them understood Marcie's obsession, and if they had asked, she would have told them that this was what she believed in, her faith, her religion.

Something flickered at the edge of Marcie's vision. She put the binoculars to her eyes with almost bruising force, but it was nothing more than a meteor, a bit of rock falling from nowhere to the Earth. But just in case, Marcie kept watching that part of the sky for almost ten minutes in case some great mystery had sent the shooting star ahead of itself.

But there was nothing but cold dark sky.

Sighing, she let the binoculars hang down around her neck again and returned to searching the horizon for a while. She had come here to Horne's quarry after almost a year of traipsing around Brown Mountain trying to catch a glimpse of the legendary lights; all she had ever seen were fireflies. A search of her online resources had led her here to this abandoned quarry. The official story was that it would no longer be abandoned once a number of inheritance and tax problems were resolved, but there were other stories as well, stories about strange lights, half-seen shapes, and missing persons.

Marcie shivered a little at the thought of becoming a missing person herself, but it was worth the risk; it was worth anything.

Because once she saw, once she knew, she could rub it in the nose of everyone who had laughed at her. She would go on the news, be interviewed, and praised because She was the girl who knew.

She was the girl that I had always known.

A little while later, Marcie treated herself to a swig from her thermos; the soup was warm but tasted like it had been hastily made from a can. Which, of course, it had.

Once she had closed the lid again, she set the thermos back down and began scanning the sky again.

And suddenly, there it was, a bloated gossamer form swirling down out of the darkness like a skydiver with a damaged chute.

But this was no parachute, no weather balloon or other illusion. Camera and binoculars forgotten, Marcie watched it undulate and twist. Despite the dark, she could see every detail clearly; the translucent flesh, the three clumsy wings that somehow kept the shapeless body aloft, and the cluster of insect-like eyes. She thought it was the most terrible and beautiful thing she had ever seen.

It touched down with a wet smack. Marcie could hear its rasping breaths; it reminded her of her mother's death rattle, only thicker, meatier.

Using the three wings as legs, the creature from the sky began to drag itself across the stony ground. Suddenly, Marcie began to wonder if it was somehow hurt or if the gravity of Earth was too much for it. She drew closer, wondering what she should say and do.

"Hello?" She said. Her voice was almost a whisper, "Are you… are you all right?"

Its head swiveled bonelessly. Its eyes were the color of moonlight, shifting this way and that, studying her.

"Can you speak?" She asked, "I'm Marcie… Mar-cie."

It spoke with a mouth that puffed open and out like a fish yanked from the water, "OiD eC"

"Is that your name?” It drew closer, half dragging, half rolling.

"OiD eC nOrOvAf”

I was right! Tears welled up in her eyes. I knew I was.

“OiD eC nOrOvAf SiVoRt Iv RaC uMiT eN"

And it could talk! What secrets would it have to tell her? It was close enough now for Marcie to see through the lucid flesh to the twisted organs that made up the creature’s insides. The lower half was a mass of tiny squirming spheres.

Marcie was breathless, "I've waited so long for you."

Suddenly, it coiled up and sprung at her. She was so surprised she didn't she didn't even have time to scream, and the next thing she knew, it was morning. Marcie woke shivering on the hard ground of the abandoned quarry. Her clothes were in tatters, and red welts covered her skin as though she had been lashed.

She drew herself up to her knees and was sick, throwing up again and again until nothing was left, and she was clutching her hands over her aching, swollen stomach.

Swollen?

Yes, her belly was swollen, and when she ran her hands over it, she felt things squirm and kick.

But she wasn't afraid; after all, this had been an answer to her prayers.

And what religion didn't have a miraculous birth or two to its name?

3 Comments
2024/02/03
16:24 UTC

2

Diary of a Hospitalization

I wrote Diary of a Hospitalization with an Orwellian-inspired society in mind. It is a story of loneliness and profound grief, of addiction and haunting ghosts.

«An unshared happiness is not happiness»
— Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

Day 1

I have just finished drinking my steaming green tea at the canteen, and my chair has taken me back to the main pavilion of the hospital.

The hall is colossal: it could easily contain my entire small town including its tallest buildings and its surrounding hills covered by woods. Thousands and thousands of chairs like mine are moving feverishly along the kilometers of tracks carved into the floor of the whole building.

Some chairs are enclosed in transparent bubbles with the purpose, I guess, of preserving the asepsis of the environment around the patients.

Some patients are accompanied by a nurse, and especially children are accompanied by a nurse and by someone else I would guess is a parent or some other family member.

All the patients, men and women, children and adults alike, are wearing the same gown: a square of cyan cotton, which has evidently withstood repeated laundering cycles, with a couple of holes for the arms and a double set of twill tape ties to be fastened at the back.

The size of the robe assigned to each patient is barely large enough to cover their groins, which makes me feel quite uncomfortable.

However, this is just me: I have never felt at ease with many aspects of this society, such as the abolition of decency, the death of individualism, the lack of privacy.

We are just like ants: the interests of the colony always come before those of the individual.

This is definitely better than a society founded on consumerism, such as those I read about in my beloved dystopian speculative science-fiction books, where capitalism is in control and society is nothing but hollow hypocrisy.

I admit I spent most of my days so far in self-exile, locked in my self-forged golden cage that, at times, feels more like a rusty cocoon. I am a loner, not a misanthropist. I spent years as a recluse, until I almost died from social starvation. With time, I realized that you need to be a part of society if you want to survive. You must obey its rules to some extent to integrate yourself. You do not have to fully conform, but you have to come to terms with it. After all, any achievement of yours is only real if it is shared.

When I left my apartment this morning, I took a look at the view from the elevator's glass wall: kilometers of tracks carved into the roads' surface predetermine the paths of the electric trams, just like the tracks carved into the hospital's floor predetermine the paths of the electric chairs.

I do not even know on what storey my apartment is located: first, because, in order to reach it, the elevator must simply recognize my face; second, because I practically never leave it, being able to get whatever I need to survive, and more, delivered to my doorstep.

I had to change four trams to get to my destination, but with these new signs that provide custom directions based on face recognition, you cannot be mistaken.

I got to the hospital's reception in about one hour. A nurse was assigned to me for the check-in procedure. She was very accommodating and polite. We entered the immense hall where a chair was waiting for me with a folded gown on it.

The nurse was expecting me to undress and wear the gown as if it were the most natural thing to do under such a circumstance, and, most likely, for the ninety-nine percent of the population it would have been so indeed, but I was part of the remaining one percent.

Nonetheless, I satisfied the nurse's expectations and complied. She helped me fasten the twill tape ties and then helped me fold my clothes and store them in my bag, containing some spare underwear and some toiletry, and she placed my shoes and my bag in a compartment in the back of the chair.

Then she instructed me on how to operate the chair to go to the canteen, to the dormitory, to the toilet, and back to the main pavilion.

She told me I had maybe a couple of hours of free time I could spend at the canteen, but I was not allowed to assume consume* any solid food, which I already knew very well: I had unpleasantly purged my intestines for the previous two days, during which I had also fasted.

[ * Thank you, u/Nanuq83, for correcting my mistake. ]

So, I went to the canteen. You know the rest. Next step: collecting blood samples, urine samples, and, worst of all, internal organs' tissue samples.

By the way, I am here because I was diagnosed with liver cancer and I am supposed to undergo surgery with maximum urgency because the cancer is spreading fast and metastases are attacking other organs.

So, after some kind of tomography, they will decide from which organs they will pick samples with the purpose of performing histological tests.

Day 2

I woke up this morning very early in the dormitory. I had no memories of how I had gotten there. The last thing I remember was a nurse injecting me with anesthesia in preparation for the collection of tissue samples from my kidneys, lungs, stomach, and several sections of my intestines.

I was feeling a compelling need to use the toilet. I fumbled with the chair's controls, which was now reclined in sleeping mode – pretty cozy, I have to admit. I managed to let it switch back to its normal position and let it take me to the toilet.

To my discomfort, I realized that the so-called toilet was in fact a huge open space that could host maybe hundreds of chairs at once, the chairs being the actual toilets: the seat would split in two under your bottom allowing you to empty your bladder or intestines or both. When you were done, a very efficient sterilization mechanism, based on some chemical as well as mechanical technology I did not fully grasp, would leave both your body and the chair as clean and disinfected as possible.

Luckily, thanks to the early time of the day, only a handful of other chairs were scattered through the open space being so large that human shapes were barely recognizable.

I am at the canteen now, writing while sipping another steaming green tea – no solid food allowed of course. My nurse has just informed me that surgery will begin in a matter of hours, and she scared the hell out of me!

At this very moment what I crave most is probably the reason while I am here in the first place, the root source of the problem: alcohol. I have been an alcoholic for most of my adult life. Hopefully I will have the time to dig into my past and discuss the reasons why I started drinking and those why I did not stop (or I was not able to), but, for now, allow me to explain what being an alcoholic means to me.

During my working day, I would never allow myself to lose control. My sense of duty would prevent me from drinking because that would interfere with the product of my work. I have always been a control freak, which in my job is a gift.

During my working day, my mind is fully focused on the subject of my work. There is no room for interferences of any kind: neither extrinsic, such as a phone call from a friend I have not heard from in a while; nor intrinsic, such as an emotion rising from a memory, no matter how strong.

At the end of those twelve hours, sometimes more, I am drained, numb, weak. That is the time of the ghosts. And I have no more power left to contrast them, I am defenseless.

Ha, but I know very well how to get rid of that numbness: one martini, vodka martini, old fashioned, Negroni... you name it, as long as it is a classic. And be aware that it will never be only one! I guess psychiatrists call it craving: there is always one more, and then one more, and more, until that myself, who is never supposed to lose control during my working day, is lost for good.

So, this is how I used to drink, this is my way of being an alcoholic: no partying with friends, no drinks in the morning or in the afternoon; it is just me and my ghosts, at the end of my working day, in the loneliness of my apartment.

And when the nurse announced that surgery would begin in a matter of hours, the first thing I thought about was drinking because I was assailed by the ghost of fear, and I am unarmed against him. There is nothing I can do to contrast him. I feel my esophagus writhe in agony, my throat choking, dry, my increasing pulse throbbing in my temples, my body sweating while I am feeling cold. I know this is anxiety, I know this is a panic attack, and I know I desperately need a drink, right here, right now!

***

This surveillance system does a hell of a job (is it made by devices of some kind, or simply by people?): my nurse has just injected me with a tranquilizer so powerful I would not even care if they cut my belly open without anesthesia. And the wonderful thing is that I am perfectly lucid. I will then continue writing and close the circle I started: from ghosts to alcohol and back to ghosts.

Ghosts are very much real, and they become physical when you embody them. Like the ghost of fear, for instance: when it possesses you, you panic and lose control of your actions. It can be fatal.

This society teaches you to face your ghosts by being part of the collectivity, never left alone, always side by side with your peers: unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.

However, you already know that I spent most of my days in self-exile, literally years as a recluse, refusing to conform to a society whose basic principles I still not completely share.

Therefore, in my darkest and loneliest times, I started drinking, but alcohol did not create the conditions for me to face my fears, it allowed me to elude them, to evade them instead. And the abuse of alcohol, together with the elusions and evasions, year after year, lustrum after lustrum, decade after decade, amassed in my liver where they developed in the form of a cancer.

Day 3

New day, early morning, dormitory, still no surgery. I am so frustrated!

Yesterday I was caught by surprise: my nurse reached me at the canteen to inform me that the Chief Surgeon had decided that more tissue samples had to be collected from my intestines, and then histologically analyzed, before proceeding with the operation. The last thing I remember is my chair taking me away and then me being anesthetized.

Actually, I also have a vague memory of what I thought were the operating rooms. Maybe the anesthesia had not kicked in yet, or maybe I was just dreaming.

I remember transparent bubbles, similar to the ones I had seen in the main pavilion, enclosing some of the patients, but these were much larger. In each bubble there was a chair in sleeping mode, with the patient lying on top of it, and what I could describe as a huge mechanical insect equipped with a number of limbs, some of which were connected to the patient, most likely operating on him or her. My best guess is that the teams of surgeons were supervising the operation of these giant insect-like robots from some remote location.

Anyway, the good news is that a needle inserted into a vein in my left arm is attached to a bag of some kind of saline solution: because green tea would not be enough to keep me alive, not even one more hour.

A quick stop at the so-called toilet, and then I headed for the canteen where I am once more writing while sipping my usual steaming green tea.

My nurse has already greeted me with a copious dose of tranquilizer – this surveillance system really works like a charm because I had not yet had the time to order my tea and she was already there.

Well, I guess now it is time for me to dig into my past and discuss the reasons why I started drinking and those why I did not stop, or I was not able to.

We had just completed the highest level of education and we both had just found the job of our dreams.

We were young, we were in love, and we wanted to be free.

We wanted to have a baby and raise it as a family. We did not want our baby to be taken away from us and raised as part of the collectivity.

We had my parents' support: they were as revolutionary as us, although at their time they could not even dream of secretly raising their children at home.

Times were changing, however, and insurgent movements were gaining strength.

My parents purchased the small apartment in their name, the one where I am still living, and gave it to us. Month after month, piece by piece, we bought the furniture. I cannot put down in words how happy we were!

Both working at home, it was pretty easy to remain unnoticed in a society that expects you to do your job and pay the taxes, and, as long as you do so, does not really care about you, unless you break the rules of course.

Unfortunately, to our liking, the rules were all wrong.

I have never tolerated people – and I do not mean just couples – making sex in public places! Of course, it must not be for procreative purposes: couples have to request a license to procreate from the government. And, by the way, we wanted to avoid that at all costs, because, otherwise, as soon as the baby was born, he or she would have been taken away from us and we could have only visited him or her on a scheduled basis.

I have often wondered if I were ready to sacrifice myself for society. Would I give my life in the attempt to save my Country? I guess it all comes down to love. Do I love my Country to such an extent? And by my Country I mean my people. Would I give my life for my people? I would give it for my parents, who never abandoned me, unlike many parents do with their children; for her, of course, and for our baby; but what about the rest? My answer is: I am not sure. Call me selfish. Call me a misanthropist. At least you cannot call me a hypocrite.

What about privacy? Theoretically, if you have nothing to hide, you should not care about someone listening to all your conversations, reading all your correspondence, knowing where you are, what your habits and tastes are. In my opinion, privacy is my undeniable right of secluding myself or information about myself, and thereby express myself selectively. I realize that the domain of privacy partially overlaps with security: well, if security were at stake, then I would definitely allow appropriate use of my personal information, but still within the limits of information protection principles.

It was late December when the news came. We were twenty-three. She whispered in my ear she would give me a daughter. I got so excited I cried about all day. I had to refrain from calling everyone I knew. We spent the rest of the day hugging each other in bed.

After a few weeks we invited my parents over to share the wonderful news and to ask for their support: we needed to organize periodical visits with a gynecologist, and, in the long term, we had to plan for the day of birth, involving a nurse and an obstetrician too, and everything had to be kept secret.

We had to plan for a lot of supplies too: clothes, diapers, wipes, creams and powders, food (sooner or later), toys... And no purchase could be made through any official channel.

Luckily, we could count on my parents' contacts in the dissidents' network.

I had to move carefully and keep my voice down, meet with several different people in several different locations, exchange bags using the most creative techniques. It may sound exciting, but it was annoying and very, very dangerous.

One summer night like many others, it was the fourth of July – I will never forget that night! – we were washing the dishes dreaming about our baby girl, when the Police broke into our apartment: four heavily armed agents wearing tactical vests and, behind them, her father.

I instinctively took a couple of steps toward them still holding a cloth in my hand when two of the officers pointed their guns at me and shouted in unison Freeze! I complied, and dropped the cloth.

The third officer was moving very slowly, he seemed to be the one in charge. He asked her father Is it her? And he nodded. The fourth officer remained outside, guarding the door. I turned toward her. It took her less than the time it took me to shout No! She slid her throat open from side to side with the cooking knife she was washing. She fell to the floor like a sack of grain suddenly emptied of its content. By the time I reached her, she was soaking in a pool of blood.

Once I realized nothing could be done for her, the ghost of rage and the ghost of vengeance possessed me: I turned against her father and, if the police officers had not held me, I would have let the ghosts wreak havoc on him.

An ambulance was immediately called. It was too late. An attempt was made to save the baby girl at the seventh month of gestation. It did not work.

So here is how I met the first two ghosts: rage and vengeance. Soon they were joined by desperation and need. All four were insatiable and therefore started feeding on me.

With time, the ghosts took the form of my two girls: at the end of my working day, my two missing girls started to haunt my body and mind creating a void I could not even start to fill: it would have been like attempting to refill the ocean one drop at a time.

Then they started to haunt my dreams and I could not sleep anymore.

I did not want to see a doctor because I was too stubborn to accept the principles this society is founded on.

And in my self-imposed confinement, I met my best friend: ladies and gentlemen, the one and only, C2H6O – ethanol among his closest friends, alcohol for the most!

In the beginning it did not matter what kind of liquid it was, as long as it contained alcohol; with time my taste matured and I started to explore the world of bourbons vs scotches vs Japanese blends, then it came the turn of gins, and then vodkas, and eventually I started experimenting with the subtle art of mixing.

Day 4

I am lying on my chair in sleeping mode. I have no idea where I am nor what time it is. I assume it is the day after the surgery. I cannot see farther than the bubble surrounding me and my chair. This bubble is not transparent, unlike any other I have seen before.

I feel numb, but I feel no pain. It must be the residue of the anesthesia.

A number of tubes come out of my bandaged torso and end up into bags hanging from the chair where liquids of different color and thickness are being collected.

A catheter comes out even from my exposed penis, draining a worryingly orange urine into a bag much larger than the others – it could be the color of a whiskey.

Well, by the way, I told how I started drinking, now it is time to explain why I did not or I could not stop.

Has anyone ever told you that alcohol causes physical addiction? Bullshit! I successfully tried being sober for weeks, even for months sometimes, and I have never experienced the slightest cold turkey symptoms.

Psychological addiction? Well, that is a different matter. Alcohol is a drug one can definitely, as well as very easily, become psychologically addicted to. And, on top of it, in my specific case, I guess I additionally developed an addiction to pleasure: I love valued spirits, I love passionately mixed cocktails.

Well, however, after the loss of my girls, I evidently entered a state of depression that got worse and worse every day, and I should have requested medical aid. Alcohol is not an antidepressant and as such it must not be employed. On the contrary, in the long term, it can severely worsen the depressive condition by inducing addiction.

I am forty-six now, and I quit drinking compulsively when I was about thirty-seven. That is when I found some peace with my girls and we began to get along with each other without any more pain caused by the four ghosts: rage, vengeance, desperation, and need. The scars remain, but time healed the wounds.

Maybe my drinking had nothing to do with my cancer, but for some sick reason I need to find cause-effect relationships between facts, and therefore I made up this connection: my abuse of alcohol, together with the four ghosts feeding on me, caused the development of the cancer in my liver, and then its spreading to other organs.

Over the past few years, I have also realized I had almost died from social starvation and I needed to be a part of society if I wanted to survive. I like to believe I had the chance to at least partially redeem myself as a citizen: I never fully conformed, but I progressively obeyed the rules more and more and reintegrated myself.

Writing is an act of sharing that makes me feel part of a whole: any event, even the least meaningful, if you are its only witness, just did not occur.

I suddenly have to pee.

Catheter.

Blood.

Alert.

Nurses.

Hemorrhage.

4 Comments
2024/02/03
13:24 UTC

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