Guys, today marks the 1/4 Mark of the Challenge! Twenty-one of 84 days down! It’s pretty exciting, for me at least. I’m proud of what I have accomplished so far, and look forward to spinning some more interesting tales. For my own enjoyment, I am planning to print and bind the completed challenge, so I am keeping a running Comprehensive document on my computer Thus far, there are 65 pages and over 25,000 words! That’s so much writing since January 1! That means the final product will be around 260 pages and over 100,000 words. Wow.
Well, thank you for allowing me to marvel for a bit. Today’s piece is finished and probably one of my favorites so far. The card was really hard to describe, but I did my best. Please enjoy!
Card Day 21: A man with an ax approaches a tree. The branches of the tree have some tiny leaves on them, but then are covered with clouds and planets. The roots of the tree transition into tentacles and streams of water, a fish swimming along them.
What does it take to destroy a universe?
A cataclysm? Apocalypse? Do those things destroy a universe? No. We assume that the collapse of all we know is sue to the effects of some fated, predicted catastrophe that strips daily life of all its rules, laws, and foundations. But that is our mistake. You see, these things are the effects of a universe in freefall. We mistake effects for cause, and spend all of our life searching for an effect so we can prevent was has already happened.
We can conceive of what a destroyed universe might look like, but the cause is far beyond us. It is terrifying in its utter alienness. Because for the universe to be destroyed, there must be a fatal flaw in the processes we so certainly depend on, or there is something far larger than any of us.
So, what does it take to destroy a universe?
I worked for DelSanto Labs for fifteen years. I had high hopes of reaching some heretofore unknown peak of human intellect and advancement with my tiny projects, plying my hands at the great unknowns. It was all a pipe dream until Dr. Swanson asked me to be her lab assistant for her latest project. In conspiratorial whispers she told me about their goals to model the macro level processes of cosmic organization, tracing the development of the laws that held our planet spinning in place. She showed me the lab, rows of gleaming and pricey equipment meant to provide a safe haven for a universe all their own.
I was a lowly cog in the machine, not privy to the secret underpinnings of how you create a self-sustaining universe. The goal was staggering; we sought to create an environment that would evolve, exist, and balance itself out much like our own universe. Of course, it was trying. How can you create a blank slate and build a working universe of physics and nature? That was the first hurdle. They worked for months to create just the minutest hole in our laws of nature. My job was to keep rigorous notes and monitor the displays for any important changes.
Somehow, they did it. The created a void, suspended through the well calibrated workings of a dozen different machines. It was ultimately artificial, yet ultimately the most real thing that had ever existed. There was nothing to misperceive or misunderstand. It existed as pure nothingness.
This breakthrough alone should have been enough, but Dr. Swanson kept a tight lid on any information leaving the lab. She would not breathe a word of the breakthrough until she finally had what she wanted—a living model of the universe to be picked and pulled and ultimately deconstructed into omniscience. Once the void was maintained, she provided matter.
You’d be amaze at quickly existence begins. The few atoms we spewed into the void hung there, initially lost and confused. There was no set of unbreakable principles that arranged their structure. Yet existence has a way of fighting, and over the course of a week, the matter began to assemble. It began to set itself apart according to rules that were unknown to science up unto that point. It coalesced, drawn together by a strange magnetism that at once resembled our gravity, but then broke it.
On day 16, it exploded. The tiny bits of matter we introduced had reduced down, crushing in n top of itself, fighting to develop a hierarchy of rules and existence. Finally, it ruptured into a brilliant glare on our monitoring equipment. I saw it happen, shielding my eyes from the brilliance. The Little Bang, as we called it, marked a new beginning. Suddenly, the universe we had created had a shape and a purpose.
I typed pages and pages of notes, observing ever minute alteration or fluctuation. We had every sensor you can imagine pointed at it, taking temperature, electrical, ion, weight, size, gravity, radiation, and a dozen other metrics. I studied the recordings, but it was not my job to make interpretation, merely to dutifully record what I saw. I also had the boring task of calibrating the equipment nightly, an endeavor that took up the scant hours of time I had left. Others were engaged with manipulating that data, breaking it open and reading its secrets. I was merely a scribe and technician. Yet I still carry its burden.
Day 43 was another day of relatively little activity. It had been about a three weeks since everything settled into an orbit. We had hoped for galaxies upon galaxies, but the matter we provided generated only a few spinning hunks of dust and pinpoints of impossible light. The energy output was startling, but manageable. I left the camera trained on the tiny plantelets was I went about my night calibrations. There was something soothing about watching a small collection of planet orbit their sun—something omnipotent and existential about it.
Pausing in my task, an odd change caught my eye. One of the quarter-sized blips had changed. It sat there, spinning slowly. Clouds swirled over the surface, obscuring the surface from time to time. And then, there was a sudden sparkle of light beneath the clouds. As I watched, a softly glowing trail rippled across the planet, lighting up the tiny sector of space.
I rushed to the console, zooming in as far as I could see. And then I immediately called Dr. Swanson on the phone.
She did not believe me, of course. But, to her credit, she rushed into the lab and looked down at the screen. There it was before us, a network of lights hovering the dark side of the planet. The closer we got, the clearer the organization became. The more distinct became the arches and solid forms of buildings. The more terrifying became our ultimate creation.
Her face was pale, bloodless, and drawn. She stare at the screen with quivering eyes, and her voice was just above a whisper. “Shut it down.”
“What? We can’t do that—“
“We can’t have done this,” she whispered. Her words were haunted, spoken more to herself than anyone else. I saw true terror as she considered the implications of creating a whole group of people built in a lab. Organisms had never been the goal; they had been a risk, potentially creating something that could destroy everything we knew. And our trial run as God had resulted in impossible outcomes. “Shut it down,” she commanded again, her eyes finally leaving the screen. They were grim and determined.
“I won’t do that,” I said, taking my stand. Ultimately, she did not need me to. She pulled the plug herself, and I watched the laws of the universe fall apart beneath our watching camera. The fields that had carefully cradled our test tube universe disappeared, and its own laws tore it to shreds.
I left DelSanto that day and began the years-long process of ridding myself of the unbearable guilt. So far, I have not been successful. Some nights, I imagine I hear their screams.
So, what does it take to destroy a universe?
Fear, cowardice, and inaction usually do the trick.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Card Day 16: A rat sitting on a rug in front of a snake charmer’s basket, “playing” a cobra like a flute. Through the doorway, a castle is visible.
Prince Ajid rode over the sandy dunes, the thunder of his horse’s hooves whipping up a flurry of sand behind him. He knew the armies were marching north, and he knew that once they reached the stronghold, his men would be instantly overrun. It was desperation that drove him out into the wild dunes, seeking a miracle that would save the men he had failed in leading.
His eyes searched the dunes, looking for any sign of the promised signs. Some part of him knew it was a fool’s errand, a coward’s desire to flee the battle. No one trusted the old tales spun in the market squares. They were fables created by folks tired of the emptiness of the night, mere myths concocted to provide a brief respite of entertainment and hope. And now, it was his only hope.
H remembered his grandmother’s words when he was very young, spinning tales of a man who lived in the oasis found in the deepest parts of the desert. So remote was this place that most who sought him died in the process, their bones bleached signposts declaring their failure. However, should anyone prove himself worthy and pure, the man would use his great powers to provide whatever the seeker most desired.
Ahead he saw the first sign his grandmother had promised, not believing his eyes as the stones grew from the sand. The perilously stacked stones were clearly assembled in the form of a man, the topmost rock bearing a grim resemblance to a haggard face. It could, of course, be but happenstance, but Ajid pressed on, daring to hope. The sun was growing low in the sky, marking the end of the fifth day of his travels. Surely, this would be his last night before smoke billowed on the horizon, signaling the failure of his ill-conceived quest. He spurred the beast beneath him to greater speeds, passing by the stone giant and following its extended arm.
The sands reclaimed the horizon. It seemed as if no other sign would emerge. Ajid felt his sprits waning; was it nothing but a strange mirage, an accidental similarity that momentarily raised his spirits only to dash them? The sun beat down on his back, burning through the layers of thin robes on his body. The sweat dampened his body, beading along his forehead to descend into his eyes. His mouth was dry and parched as the desert stretching around him. The canteens hung full behind him, but he could not stop. So he pressed on, riding the heaving sides of his horse as it worked itself into a fine lather. There would be time to rest later.
In the distance, Ajid imagined he saw a flickering pool of blue. He knew it was a mirage, just as the stone giant was a regrettable coincidence. Nevertheless, he pressed on. He had dedicated so many days to this quest now, so there was no reason to turn back now when he might possibly achieve something.
The mirage solidified into a small pool, just a tiny breach in the dominion of the sand. In the bottom, Ajid saw brilliantly colored fish swim in the pool that, by all logic, should have dried up in a blink of the desert sun. Here, the wind stilled. Could it be?
As promised, the small pool dwindled down to a small stream reaching into the distance. It was so close. His body ached for a break, and the pool promised cool relief. Yet Ajid remained focused, driven by his need. There would be a better oasis awaiting if they only pressed on. And then, the quest would be at an end, their prayers answered.
In the distance, Ajid heard a call for help. He spun, looking for the source of the cry. Far on the horizon, he could see a man standing, waving his arms as he moved towards Ajid. The figure before him was mostly indistinguishable and minute, but he could make out the shade of brilliant green robes against the golden sand, as well as a splotch of brilliantly white hair atop the tiny head. The man was so far away, but certainly in great need. Ajid paused, drawing his mount to a slower pace. Her sides ballooned swiftly, welcoming the momentary relief. His nature drew him towards the silhouette on the horizon, but his mission spurred him on. Perhaps, after he was done, he could seek out the man and provide for him. Ajid marked the spot in his mind, trying to remember the precise directions from the stream to the figure. He would return, he promised himself.
Turning, he gave the horse a sharp, short kick and sped off along the tiny rivulet of water. Ahead, there was an oasis appearing, brilliant and blue in the distance, even as the sun began to grow swollen and red on the horizon. He rode in, sand flying around him as he brought his horse to a sudden stop. There was a man, just as he had hoped, sitting beneath the palms of the water. Ajid dismounted and walked towards him with great reverence.
“Are you the Man of the Desert?”
The white-haired figure turned towards him slowly, and an uneasy feeling of recognition settled over Ajid. The man’s bright green robes were dusty and worn, but the color was unmistakable. “I am he who you seek,” he croaked, his voice dry and cracked as the soil beneath the sand.
“Only those who prove themselves worthy and pure by his tests may receive their reward. All others will find their desires shattered,” echoed the voice of his long past grandmother. Ajid’s folly sank onto his shoulders. He had come so far, and he had lost.
“I have come to seek your help, though I fear none will be given.” The proud prince’s words faltered, uncertain in the rapidly darkening dusk.
“Ask me what you wish. I will grant as has been deserved.”
Ajid knew his folly, and knew that to ask for the fortresses safety would certainly damn those he loved to a painful death; he knew the legends well enough to know his punishment.
However, besides his dedication, his reckless faith, and his hope, Ajid was also brilliantly cunning. He smiled in the growing gloom. “Great one, I have come far and overcome the trial of the desert you set before me. I ask that you may now grant me victory over the fortress of Prince Ajid. May my armies march to victory!”
The man smiled a sly, wicked smile. He laughed, the sound brittle and echoing over the empty dunes. “Seeker, your request has been granted to the degree of your worth. Go and seek your reward.”
With that, the man disappeared. Ajid sank to his knees in the desert, hoping against hope that his ploy had worked. If not, he had done nothing more to doom them than had already been slated.
After a night of rest, Ajid set off under the kindly eye of the morning sun. He, unknowingly, rode to victory on the shoulder of his wits and perseverance, the wise Prince who was ultimately worthy of his reward.
So, this one nearly stymied me. Ultimately, I wanted to pull in some of the desert/royalty setting, as well as give it a bit of a 1001 Arabian Nights vibe. A little magic and creativity, maybe a bit of a moral. But I also wanted a happy ending. So, I decided that, based on the contents of the card, there could be an interesting spin on someone using the power meant to destroy them as something constructive (you know, like a rat using a snake). Not sure how successful it was, but I tried. And it was 150 words longer than allowed, so I had to cut some stuff. It was definitely a challenge day, but a good one. Hope you enjoyed it!
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Here is today’s. Not sure how I feel about it, but part of this exercise is writing things I’m not 100% on, and just going for it anyway. Sometimes it’s all about putting words on the page. The tone of this one is weird, and I’m not sure how I feel about the narrative structure. It;s mostly a character piece, with a little bit of reflection and surprise mixed in (and, ultimately, the surprise may be utterly unnecessary). I think it is interesting, but I’m just not sure if I love it or hate it. Right now, it could go both ways. If you have an opinion, please let me know. May not sort it out for me, but it at least lets me know if I’m way off base! Happy reading!
Card Day 11: A woman standing and pulling aside her apron to reveal a puppet stage in her abdomen. On the stage, she raises an object threateningly towards another, smaller puppet. (Think the old Punch and Judy sketches.)
From all outward appearances, Dave and Cindy were the perfect couple, living the dream of blissful married life for nine loving years. They were the traditional, enviable power couple. She was brilliant, fit, and a terror of a corporate lawyer. She had worked hard for her prestige, though the memory of such long all-nighters through college and law school was distant now, and she continued to build herself into a dynamic machine of ruthlessness and productivity. Up at five am to hit the gym for a vigorous morning workout, it was then into the office by seven. Cindy was the kind of woman who would smile beautifully as she plainly told you precisely how this deal was going to go down, her lashes fluttering in innocence the whole while. I suspect some people fell for her routine and thought they were pulling one over on her, but most folks were smart enough to hear the steel in her voice, waiting to tear them apart.
Dave was a slight man, but most who knew him quickly forgot his underwhelming physical presence in light of his impossibly quick mind. He was an oncologist by trade, able to at once slip into the role of a comforting stranger belaying bad news while also carefully deconstructing every molecule of an interaction. His sympathy was short-lived by necessity, but he often found himself in shock at the maudlin displays put on in his office by a family who, quite obviously, previously cared very little at all for the fate of the poor sod getting the death sentence. He was a card shark, one of those who seemed to see right through the card backs based on a drop of sweat alone. He was popular, well-liked, and avoided for most major arguments. Dave had more wits than he knew what to do with, and sometimes unsheathed his biting comments in the face of another’s misguided ignorance. His was a friendliness put on for the obligation of human interaction, carefully masking an underlying disdain. Of course, his friends were eternally in the dark about that, so well-crafted was the disguise.
Then again, his wife was much the same way. The same in a way that allowed her to see through him, to the despicable being underneath. In turn, he saw past her beauty and charm to the bitter, jaded creature she truly was. They were, as I said, the perfect couple, as long as one did not dig too deep.
They went to the right parties, hosted the right shindigs, and belonged to the right charities. Their benefit dinners were well-known and well-attended, while they both sat on the prestigious boards of all the right organizations. In person, they loved and doted on one another, smiling from across the room. They danced in perfect harmony, and laughed at each other’s jokes. High school sweethearts, they had parted ways in college and only rekindled their love after a chance encounter in line at the local coffee shop. He bought her extravagant gifts, she praised his every accomplishment, and everyone smiled in awe of their wonderful relationship, if inwardly seething for the saccharine nature of it all.
Of course, that was only on the outside. Sure, there were clues if one knew where to look. There was a harsh edge to Cindy’s laughter when Dave told a joke, a mocking bite that he was certain to hear. Dave’s brows knit a little too close together when he smiled at his lovely bride, broadcasting his irritation to her from across the room, even as his eyes danced with a smile. If one were ever close enough to the smile-clad, dancing duo, one might hear the under-the-breath instructions barked by Cindy as Dave giddily disregarded each one. If you hung around late enough after one of their parties, long enough for the guests to go home, the staff to clean up, and the house to return to silence, then you would hear true feelings spill out, harsh words shot across empty hallways from rooms on opposite ends of the house. Bitterness, regret, rage, duplicity, and hopelessness.
To give up, file the papers, and go their separate ways would reveal a terminal weakness for both of them, something to be exploited or, even more distressingly, pitied. Staying together at least provided a ready target to drown with rage and frustration, as well as the occasional bought of angry sex born from isolation and animal need. It also, most importantly, shored up the image of a happy couple, successful in all they set their minds to. And, ultimately, wasn’t that what mattered.
What one might not know was that Cindy had a very dangerous peanut allergy, and that Dave had been routinely making himself a generous plate of fried chicken in sizzling peanut oil about once a week, most of which ended up uneaten in the garbage. Cindy, of course, could not explain the itching, swelling, and redness that occasionally sprung up. Dave, for his part, grumbled that she could use whatever she wanted if she ever took up the initiative to cook.
One likely wouldn’t know that Cindy had a concealed carry permit, ostensibly for the early morning walk from the office parking garage to her well-secured office building. And it was certainly not well known that she kept it under her pillow at night, sometimes lying awake and wondering which head most needed a bullet to end all of this. Dave, snoring peacefully like a freight train, slept on, unaware where his life hung in the ultimate balance.
Some people certainly knew about Dave’s secretive afternoon appointments with Janice Weathers, the lead surgeon at his hospital. She was, of course, there for surgical consults on patients, but the office hour was protected as sacred, with all phone calls on hold, the blinds drawn, and the door locked. For patient confidentiality, of course. They had only just booked their tickets to the latest AMA conference, though the meeting was in Denver while their tickets said Mexico. Someone knew, but likely turned a blind eye to something that was not their business.
And now, of course, everyone knows of the bloody aftermath. The knife wounds and gun shots that opened Cindy and Dave’s hidden inner life to public view. Everyone knows about the corpse in the swimming pool and the other in the garage, bags packed in the trunk already. Everyone knows about the screaming and yelling that woke up their sleepy neighbors, and about the pile of mementos burning on the front lawn.
If only someone could have seen through those two, interceded, and stopped Fate’s cruel hand. If someone could have seen the herald of the stars and somehow intercepted one of them, preventing this grand tragedy. Yes, if someone had intervened, those two would probably still be around, making someone else miserable. But, you see, Fate’s job is sometimes to remove the blemishes, cut the cancer out where it festers. It is a bloody, messy procedure so often, but I must say, I enjoy my job.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
First draft of something new. Another in the vein of “be careful what you wish for.” I keep writing things with young narrator perspectives, and I’m not sure that’s a strong suit for me. Additionally, this one still feels a bit rough around the edges. I definitely think the pacing of the last half is off, but I’m not sure how to fix it without turning this into something just ridiculously long. It’s definitely a rough draft, but one I hope to get spruced up. I think it needs to sit a bit, and maybe revisiting it after I’ve gotten a bit of distance will do me some good. I’m not quite the fan of this one like I was for Pheromones, but not everything will always be your favorite! Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy, and let me know any thoughts or suggestions!
Lena knew her dad had been different. It hadn’t been a sudden shift, but at the same time it was a drastic change—drastic in those subtle ways that only a child would notice in her father. He still took good care of her, made sure she always had a well-balanced breakfast, healthy lunch, and hot dinner. She had nice clothes, fun toys, and a room all her own. But he was different. His eyes looked tired and angry so much of the time, and his skin felt hot to the touch when she climbed into his lap at night. The laughing man who had swung her around their stuffy living room was now quiet. Attentive, but distracted. And he left now every night, just after he tucked her into bed. His goodnight routine had shifted from a lengthy ceremony with stories, prayers, and tickling games to a perfunctory kiss on the forehead and distracted “Sleep tight.” Then the hallway light would switch off—though he knew it made her scared to have only the dim nightlight in her room—the front door would creak open, close, and then she would hear his keys scratch against the lock.
The little girl assumed it was because she was, as he had portentously informed her on her last—her tenth—birthday, a big girl now. Maybe big girls did not get told fanciful stories or fight wars with the tickle monster. Certainly big girls did not need hallway lights on. But Lena couldn’t help but feel that, even as big as she was, she still needed a daddy at home while she slept.
He was always home when she woke up. Sometimes he looked even more tired. Sometimes he came home with cuts and bruises. She saw it, but it did not make sense in her young eyes. Why was her daddy coming home with a bloodied lip and jagged tear through his shirt? Why did he sometimes stuff his clothes into thick black garbage bags and tuck those into his trunk? Why did he not sing or smile when he made her breakfast anymore? And why oh why did she sometimes wake to hear thumping steps and something sliding down the attic stairs?
It all began about a year ago, a few weeks after her birthday. She had been tucked tightly into bed when suddenly the sound of whispered voices snuck beneath her door. She could hear her daddy talking to someone, whispering furiously to some other person. The other laughed, deep and bellowing. Lena hated the way that laugh sounded, all deep and echoing. There was no happiness in it, but something cruel instead. Her father’s voice grew a little louder, speaking more quickly. From beneath the laughter, she heard a sharp thud as her father’s voice stopped. Lena hid beneath her covers, terrified to hear the sound of footsteps approaching her room. There was some more talking, a voice she did not recognize giving sharp, barking statements. It was all almost too quiet to hear, but enough to keep her ears straining. Eventually, her ten year old eyes could not remain awake, especially as no footsteps inched nearer. In the morning, her father was in the kitchen and buttering two pieces of toast, just like always. And so Lena assumed the last night was nothing but a bad dream.
After a year of a new daddy standing in front of her day after day, tonight was the same as all the others. The sullen man pulled a steaming, if somewhat bland, meatloaf from the oven. He heaved a portion onto her plate, joined it with a pile of mushy steamed broccoli, and filled her glass with milk. Silently, he sat and ate while she shared about her day at school, her upcoming tests, and those mean things that Lucy Neal said during recess today. Her father just smiled distractedly, nodding at the right places. After dinner, Lena settled in to watch some TV until 8:45 sharp. Her father leaned into the living room.
“Get ready for bed,” he intoned, a hint of irritation already in his voice. Lena wanted to argue, to put up a fuss, but the memory of the last time she tried still hung heavy in the evening air. Her dad had yelled so much, his face all red. His eyes, for once, did not look tired. But they looked oh so angry and that left her scared. Yes, her daddy had changed quite a lot over the last year.
Once she was tucked into bed, she saw, for an instant, a flash of her dad in those eyes as his face hovered over her forehead. She felt her dad in his lips as he gently kissed her forehead, but then he was gone and the tired man was back. Yet seeing that glimpse of her dad made her feel nostalgic—made her feel brave.
“Will you tell me a story, dad?” The man in the doorway paused, sighing heavily.
“No. Go to sleep. I have things to do.”
“Please?” There was that bravery, that childish desire to curl up with her father and listen to him regale her with some fanciful tale.
“I said no!” There was the angry man, and Lena felt herself shrinking into her covers as she began to sob.
“I’m sorry, daddy. I just—just,” she hiccupped with her tears.
“Let me guess,” he began, mocking her, “you just wanted a story?”
Lena nodded, trying to wipe away her tears before he got any angrier.
“Well, here’s a story for you, so sit back and listen. Once upon a time, there was a man. Now, this man wanted nothing in this world more than to have a family. Unfortunately, this man was an idiot who was completely incapable of finding a woman willing to put up with him long enough to incubate a little spawn, so he began to look for other options.
“Adoption wouldn’t work, as he was mostly broke and a single man. And his poor finances also meant he probably couldn’t buy a baby. Plus, the coward didn’t have the stomach to just go out and get one on his own, like any good desperate kidnapper would. The poor man eventually found some friends who could give him just what he wanted, for a price.”
Lena did not like this story. She was crying even harder, trying not to look in the angry eyes glaring at her from her father’s face. Try as she might, the covers could not hide her from those burning eyes.
“So, this stupid man agreed to pay the price so that he could get his bouncing bundle of joy. Within a month, a baby girl was waiting on his doorstep, paperwork included. And the man began to forget all about his little deal, chalking his good fortune up to a miracle.” The man moved and sat beside Lena on the bed. He softly grabbed her face, brushing the tears from her cheeks and the hair from her face. “Now, Lena, let me tell you something very important. When I—When we make a deal, we make it good. We aren’t about halfassing our work, or any of that tricky wish deal folks are always on about. Hell, we even give folks ten years, interest free, 0% APR. Better than any crook car salesman or furniture dealer. But, when that ten years is up, we do expect our payment. I mean, between you and me, that only seems fair. But our stupid little man in this story, he just never thought about how he’d handle it when time to pay came up.
“So, his free years flew past, and we came to collect. Now, you may have heard about selling your soul to the devil, Lena. Maybe you’re too young for that, but it’s a good time to learn. When you sell your soul, you see, you have to sign it over in blood. Someone else’s, specifically. Because we can’t just take souls all willy-nilly—that would be crazy!” The man wearing her father’s face laughed, madness in his angry eyes. “We need them damned, and so you have to make good on your promise. But your daddy, oh, he refused. He said he had a little girl to take care of. Of course! We gave you to him! He tried to go back on our deal, as if us holding up our end of the bargain somehow meant he shouldn’t keep his. But you can’t get out of our deals.”
Lena was frightened, because she suddenly understood those hushed voices from long ago. She understood why the happy man had disappeared and left her with this tired and angry one. And with understanding came fear.
“So, we took what we needed from him. If we can’t have his soul, we can at least have his life. Only thing, he was smart in the details he laid out. You had to have a healthy childhood. So, lucky me, I get stuck with babysitter duty for a snotty brat who wants me to braid her hair, play catch, and tell her sappy bedtime stories. As you’ve probably noticed, that’s not really my,” he waved his hands in the air, searching for the right word “thing. Instead, Lena dear, how about we make a deal?”
She sniffled, looking at him from over the covers. “Are you going to kill me?” He laughed again, but this time it was the same deep and echoing laugh she remembered from months ago.
“Of course not! That would be against the terms of our agreement. And we always honor our bargains, even if your daddy dearest was not so reasonable. I’m just suggesting a partnership. I give you everything you need to have a happy and healthy childhood, you let me do what I need. And shut up about the stupid stories and monsters under the bed. I’m the only monster to really be scared of.” He smiled, jagged teeth peering from behind her father’s pearly whites. “Think you can do that for me?”
Lena nodded numbly, unsure of what was happening. The man wearing her father tousled her hair affectionately. “See, I knew we could work it out. So, you have a good night’s sleep. I’ll see you in the morning, sunshine,” he singsonged on his way out the door.
For the next few weeks, there were no thundering steps up into the attic. No dragging later in the night. In the mornings, her daddy was standing there, fresh as ever with two slices of buttered toast and a glass of orange juice.
One morning, he was smiling a startlingly wide smile.”Morning, Lena. Breakfast is ready. Oh, and I have some business this afternoon—like we discussed?—so I won’t be here when the bus gets home. I’ll leave some dinner in the fridge.”
After getting off the bus to an empty house, Lena heated up the chunky mush from the tupperware. She watched TV all alone, much like she did most nights, she reasoned. Finally, Lena put herself to bed, far too young to do so. She locked the front door carefully, turned out the lights, and pulled the covers up to her chin. It was hard to fall asleep in the oh-so-empty house, but eventually her eyes drifted closed, and she dreamt of laughing faces and human masks.
It was late when the front door thundered open. Her clock read 2:46 as she listened to thumping steps move towards the attic. Lena was curious to a fault, and struggling against the fear that her daddy was really some sort of monster. Seeing that there was nothing going on would prove that all of this had been some strange nightmare, some misunderstanding and stretch of confusion. She opened her door just a crack, just enough to see her father dragging something heavy behind him. The attic stairs slid down, and he moved to drag his cargo up the stairs. Lena saw an empty-eyed face looking back at her from the long package. Stifling a scream, she dove back towards her bed.
A few hours later, the same heavy footsteps pounded back down the stairs. Through the still open sliver of her doorway, she could see the creature in her father’s skin carrying down more lumpy bags. He stomped out to his car, then back in for another bag. Lena shook, squeezing her eyes tight as her heart thundered even more than those pounding footsteps.
The next day, there were cops on her front porch. While she had felt shaky and scared on the phone, Lena knew what she had to do. There was a twinge of guilt as she gave her home address and her daddy’s name to the calm woman on the other end of the line, but she steeled her resolve to get rid of the monster living in her home. It did not take them long to find the evidence, especially with their eleven year old guide happily opening the door and pointing out the creaky attic. The bloodstains and remains up there were enough to convict him a thousand times over. Lena felt scared as they led the man away, but sure that she had made the right choice.
Only, as he left, he bent down next to her to speak for just a moment. She trembled slightly, and the police officers moved quickly to pull him back, but he had just enough time. “I suppose this means the deal is off, Lena dear.” And then he smiled. With that crooked smile, Lena saw her daddy’s eyes once again, sorrowful and scared, just as the police car door slammed shut. And she was not so sure she had made the right choice after all.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
UPDATE: So, I made some edits here. Mostly little things, but I think they are improvements. I also have a more PG version (i.e., no nudity) because I am considering submission to a site later, and I’m not sure it’s 100% required. This is still the unedited version, in that sense at least. If I do decide to submit that one, I may post the edited version here pending acceptance. Thanks for reading!
So, I’ve had this idea rolling around for a while, and finally got a chance to put it on paper (or, you know, Word Doc). It is, as usual, a preliminary draft, but even after reading over it once or twice, I’m pretty happy with it. There are a few rough patches I’m unhappy with, but I’m not really sure any good way to fix them. And, to be honest, they may not be as irritating to other people. Heck, I probably won’t mind them in a day or two. Enjoy!
Martin looked somberly into the murky gold of his lukewarm scotch. He hated these kinds of functions. Not only was he not particularly good at large crowds, dancing, loud music, and general social interaction, but it only became all the more painful when you combined a room full of people with his same weaknesses and demanded that they play the roles. It was a professional conference, he bemoaned, but he was the only person with the seeming self-awareness to feel abject discomfort at the whole evening’s proceedings. He slumped glumly in the stiff reception chair, his body depending on the unsteady table to keep him upright and appearing engaged. The white table, stained with leftover dinner crumbs and a spilt half glass of red wine, had been empty for what felt like an eternity as his dinner companions—strangers in nice suits and dresses who prattled on as if they were 25 again—had given themselves over to the open bar and dance floor.
He glanced at his watch. Surely after two hours of such nonsense his dues were paid well enough to warrant sneaking back to his room for some sleep and relaxation. Others might jest that he was a stick in the mud for retiring so early, but he would not make a fool of himself as his colleagues were so wont to do.
Gathering his tired dinner jacket and room key, Martin froze. From across the room, he spotted a gorgeous woman slicing through the crowd. There was something predatory in the way she walked. An utter lack of self-consciousness as she strode through the flailing bodies in the crowd. There was a look in her eyes, evident from half a room away, which showed she knew she stood on a level above all those around her. She had the look of a sated wolf prowling amongst unguarded sheep, utterly disinterested in their bleating. She was tall, impossibly slender, with ivory skin wrapped under tight carmine satin. Her hair flowed in sheets of shining black as empty as the moonless sky, waving with disdain as she cut her own path through the writhing masses around her. Almost instinctively, the way parted for her, bringing her directly to Martin’s table.
With indelible grace, she swept a glass of red wine from a passing waiter, holding the delicate glass in her soft fingers. She smiled, pearly white teeth flashing between plump red lips. Her eyes were brilliant green, reflecting Martin’s dumbfounded gaze right back at him.
“Annalise,” she breathed. For a moment, Martin was unsure what to do. All he knew were that those syllables were the most heavenly sounds he had ever heard. He would endure pain, torture, war, strife, poverty, illness, and any worldly ill if only those three sounds would replay again and again. To have those lips speak such beauty!
She smiled again and his mouth snapped shut from its gape. “M-Martin,” he stammered as he collected himself. How dirty those letters sounded on his tongue!
She reached out a slender hand to touch his arm. “So nice to finally meet you.” Martin felt his heart begin to thunder. She knew of him? She wanted to meet him? What crazy fever dream had he slipped into? “I won’t keep you, as it seems you are leaving, but I just couldn’t miss the chance—”
“No, no. Not leaving,” he interjected, eagerly grabbing his chair and planting himself into it. “Just was, uh, getting a better view of things, you know.” She laughed and Martin prayed his ears would ring with that delightful sound for the rest of his life. He would go deaf to the world if only to hear her laugh.
“Then may I join you?” she asked, somewhat hesitantly, betraying the assured confidence Martin had seen so clearly moments ago. He could not imagine having such an effect on a woman, especially not one like her. Martin sat up a little straighter in his seat; keeping his dignity tonight might actually pay off for once, he mused. She must like a serious, intellectual man. Well, by God, she had found her man then.
“Where are you from, Annalise?” He was so smooth, he congratulated himself. Those words flowed like butter.
“Please, I didn’t come all the way over here to talk about me, Martin! Tell me about you,” she purred, her hand falling gently on his forearm as she moved closer. As close as he was, he felt himself absolutely adrift in her marvelous scent. She smelled of sweet flowers opened brightly to the summer sun, and Martin was content to collapse into the field.
So talk he did. Martin regaled her with stories of his groundbreaking work as she eyed him with pure wonder. He shared about his glowing academic career, the awards and showcases that had chosen to honor him and his work in his brief career. He spoke in heartfelt about his calling to the field, the passion and the reward he felt from doing such work. She played her role well, smiling at the right parts, laughing at his clumsy jokes and sighing in awe of his humble victories. Martin felt his chest swell with pride as he prattled on about his meager life, finding his own ego reflected and doubled in her searching green eyes.
Martin likely would have bombasted his way until dawn did the DJ not eventually play the final song while convention center staff ushered out his inebriated coworkers. Martin felt himself fumble in his stride as they were urged to leave. In a final rash of bravery and self-assuredness, he scribbled his room number on the back of the little plastic card, thrusting it into her hands.
“For you,” he smiled. So smooth, such poise he applauded.
“Is this an invitation?” She asked, her eyes flashing with hunger. Martin knew he was good, but he had no idea he was this good.
“Of course it is. Wouldn’t let a specimen like you get too far away, now would I?” He toggled his eyebrows and watched as she blushed, giggled, then hid her eyes. Oh yeah, he certainly had it in him.
Back in his room, Martin suddenly felt exhausted, drained, and worn out. It was almost like the bad hangovers he remembered dimly from his college days. His muscles ached, head felt foggy and bruised, and his face hurt from the ridiculously grand smile he had kept plastered for most of the night.
Light was just seeping through the thin hotel curtains as he collapsed into bed. He needed to be up in a few hours to catch his flight home. He had a wakeup call scheduled since the day he arrived, so surely that would rouse him. But, for now, Martin knew he needed to sleep. So he did, and through his dreams he danced with the beautiful Annalise, first on the dance floor, and then far more passionately in his bed.
As he swam reluctantly towards consciousness, he was initially struck by how dark it had become. A storm must have rolled in, his subconscious suggested, enticing him back towards sleep with slender arms and vivid green eyes. No, he reasoned, it was the wrong kind of dark. And with a start he felt that familiar sinking of waking up well past the alarm. Martin vaulted awake in the bed, snatching at the bedside clock as if he could catch it in time to roll back the hours. No, it was too late, and the numbers dimly stated that it was 6:53pm. Only seven hours too late to catch that plane. Plus he missed checkout, meaning another night’s charge on his already dwindling debit card.
Sighing and tousling his thinning brown hair, Martin stomped towards the bathroom. He never overslept like that. Perhaps he had drunk more than he thought last night. Even now, his recollection of the evening was hazy, and he was beginning to feel quite certain that he had imagined his beautiful woman.
Steam began to fill the cramped bathroom as Martin began a checklist. He needed to call the front desk and apologize, then make sure he was booked for the night. Next, call the airline and see if they could exchange his ticket. He also needed to call David, apologize again for no-showing—
There was a sound from the bedroom. Martin froze, straining his ears to pick up any note beyond the hiss of the showerhead. Yes, there was definitely the sound of someone moving about, subtle yet enough to break the still of the empty room. He reached for the bathrobe hanging on the door and peered out into the entryway. It was dark and shadowed, but he did not immediately see anyone. His hand slipped along the wall, finally catching on the light switch and flooding the room with dingy yellow light. Nothing.
Feeling mostly foolish but still remnants of brave, Martin stepped out of the bathroom and into the main living room, only to have his mouth come unhinged in shock. There, lying across his unmade bed, was Annalise, still wearing that tight red dress. She smiled, holding up the key.
“I was afraid I’d missed you.” The smell of flowers was strong in the room, making Martin feel brave and passionate all over again.
“Not like I’d skip town on a girl like you,” he growled, moving closer to the bed. She smiled at him coyly, sliding off the bed to stand away from him. Slowly, her hand moved to the knot of red at her waist, undoing the ribbon that tied her dress together. Slender fingers pulled apart the thin red strands, then carefully pulled away the dress. Martin was in awe, staring dumbstruck again at the naked ivory body before him.
She was around the bed and kissing him in a heartbeat, so fast Martin felt himself wondering if she had ever been so revealed in the first place. The thought faded swiftly, however, as he swam in the warmth of her limbs around him, the taste of her soft lips, and the scent of her lithe body. In that moment, all he knew was that his lips and hers were dancing together now, their tongues meddling somewhere in between. She pushed him back on the bed, her lips following his steady descent down to the stiff hotel bed. Martin’s heart was a metronome in his chest, trying to keep pace with his flying thoughts. He pulled her close, kissing every inch of that beautifully pearly skin that he could. She laughed and smiled as she playfully pinned his hands down on the bed.
“You know, Martin, there is something delicious about a body excited.” Her tongue snaked its way into his mouth, those brilliant red lips melding with his for a brief moment. “And our bodies tend to act the same for attraction and fear,” she whispered, coming up for breath. Every word she spoke sent waves of excitement across Martin’s body, just to feel the gentle ebb and flow of her breath across his skin.
“Me, personally,” she smiled, leaning to kiss along his neck, “I prefer the taste of attraction.” She ended this with a soft nip at his earlobe. Martin felt a slight stir of discomfort at her choice of phrasing, but brushed it off. Just a turn of phrase, he reminded himself, finding himself again drowning in her green eyes and the soft scent of sunlit flowers.
“And I’m terribly hungry after such a long wait. I hope you don’t mind.” Martin’s face twisted into horror as a new face replaced Annalise in front of him. Where there had been a young, slender, and beautifully pale body that made his heart pound until it threatened to rupture, now there was an old, withered, and gray thing seated atop him. The skin beneath his fingers was dry and brittle, feeling like rough tissue against his hands. Her rich red lips disappeared into a haggard face, her mouth nothing but an ugly scab stretching into a smile. The smile broke, revealing two sets of impossibly sharp fangs seat amongst shattered teeth. Martin no longer smelled the flowers, only rot and decay. She laughed, a horrible wet sound, and then bent her lips to his neck. Martin screamed.
“You’re going to be delicious.” And with that, she unceremoniously ripped into his throat. Blood blossomed on the cheap white sheets as the scent of copper mingled with her own scent of putrescence. Her tongue lapped up the thick, dark blood as she tore into his skin, reveling in the sensation of life flooding her malnourished system. It only took a few moments for him to quit fighting, and then she was able to enjoy her dinner in peace, pausing only briefly to shut his eyes once the struggle had ceased. She never liked it when her dinner watched.
After a brief time, the woman stood from the bed, collecting her dress from the floor. She carefully slipped her arms into it, tying it tightly against what was sure to be a briskly cold night. The sated creature paused to glance in the mirror and then lifted a corner of the sheets to brush away a smear of blood on her ivory cheek. Predatory green eyes smiled at her from the mirror as she left the room, the scent of flowers following in her wake.
PS: Totally my answer to “sparkly” vampires instead of scary. Hope you enjoyed!
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
So, I have decided on a summer project focused on revitalizing and old “Dusty Tome.” By way of introduction, I want to give you history on this piece. The story was originally titled 11:59 and began mostly as a single image inspired by my frequent sleep difficulties: the import of the minute switch between 11:59 and 12:00 in those sleepless hours. I started with a single chapter in July 2003 (when I was 13) and no clear picture of where it was going, but it developed into my first full-fledged story, with chapters, a beginning, middle, and end. In April 2004, I declared it complete.
When I review it today, I see my own immaturity in it, but it still is a story near and dear to my heart. After reflecting on it, I think I would like to revisit some of the concepts and characters, but provide a richer mythos behind the events, as well as a more mature voice to what happens. Currently, I am considering a similar plot, but with a lot more depth and complications. I actually have a plan for it this time! I will likely mimic the chapter splits from the original, but not precisely as my pacing will likely be slower and more deliberate with some things removed altogether, which would result in ridiculously long sections and incredibly brief ones. For example, my revised first chapter will begin well before the original first, and it will take me a couple of scenes to get to the original Prologue ending. So, instead of including the original text here, as I generally do with Dusty Tome rewrites, I will instead provide a link to the full story on Fictionpress. Just, please don’t judge me for the other stuff on there. I was pretty young. Additionally, as always, this is Draft 1, so do consider it all a work in progress.
Cassie learned at a very young age not to tell others about her Mirror Monster. It is surprising how quickly even children realize what is taboo and what will be ignored. She could clearly remember being just past her fourth birthday when she yet again screamed in response to the monster in her room. Her father came in, bleary-eyed and trying to hide his annoyance while she cowered under the covers.
“Cas, what is it? Why’d you scream?” His voice was mumbled, as if his lips and tongue had not yet awoken well enough to speak. It was a fitting complement to the child-speak response.
“The Mirror Monster was here! He was in my room again!”
Like all the nights before, her father walked over and tapped on the glass. He waved his hands around, mocking his reflection. He even did the due diligence of checking behind the frame. Finally, he lifted a white sheet from the floor and covered the mirror. “No one there, sweetie. Just a mirror. Now go to sleep. You’re old enough now to be a big girl and stop all this monster nonsense.” There was no anger in voice, just frustrated resignation. “I’m going back to sleep. No one is here, and no one can come through your mirror. Sleep.” With those final words of comfort, he drifted out of the room, a sleepy specter stumbling down the hall.
Cassie kept the blankets pulled to her chin, just peeking over at the tall mirror standing sentinel in the corner. For a while, there was nothing. It was just an oval of white painted in sharp contrast to the darkness. And then Cassie saw it move, as she knew she would. The sheet drifted to the floor again, pooling there with its protective power abandoned. A pale, clawed hand groped out of the undulating surface. Moments behind the hand was a grotesque face. It was bone pale, with skin that sagged and dropped as if it was melting off the very frame beneath it. The mouth was an ugly scar ripped across the wrinkled face, ringed by row after row of terrifyingly sharp teeth. The thing hissed, stepping fully out of the mirror as if sliding from a pool. Its long legs bent to high as it tried to stand in the room, twisted shoulder slicing along the white ceiling. It smiled, displaying all those many teeth. With its smile, Cassie caught the whiff of rotting food and decay. She covered her nose with her blankets, her large eyes swimming in fear. She somehow felt that it grew more and more fearsome with every visit.
Cassie knew that screaming again would do no good. She had tried before, but eventually all she would get was a yell from down the hallway to go to sleep. While it took her years, she eventually understood that it wasn’t that her parents did not care, but that they did not realize monsters existed. They had forgotten, and saw her cries as a child unwilling to accept reality, even after ample logic and proof had been provided. Continuing to rush to the rescue would only provide attention to fuel the aberrant behavior; they were locked in a pained but resigned contract to ignore her cries. After all, they always stopped after a while.
As she had every night for as long as she could remember, Cassie cowered under the covers, lifting them finally over her head as the creatures inhuman weight pushed down the corner of her bed. She held the sheets tight as ragged claws scraped around her. She hummed to herself, doing all she could to drown out its hissing laugh. She tried to sleep, and finally drifted away as the heavy presence disappeared just as the birds began to chirp outside.
The next day in her preschool class, she learned yet again that no one was allowed to talk about their Monster. She was in the playground, playing in the dirt with an assortment of other children. The night before left her shaken and afraid, wondering how anyone was expected to cope with such a literal monster waiting at the foot of her bed. So, Cassie turned to the only resource she knew, and asked her peers.
“Katie, do you have a monster in your mirror?” The question was innocent, but laced with implicit terror.
Katie’s eyes were wide, reflecting a fear Cassie knew all too well, but was too young to fully recognize. “No,” stated the other emphatically. “My daddy says monsters aren’t real.”
“That’s what mine says, but he’s still there.”
“You’re a liar. I’m going to tell Mrs. Davis,” sung Steven, hopping up from the dirt. AT this age, every infraction was a terrible misstep, and the balance between tattling and concern was blurred by a desperate desire to win the praise from a teacher. When he returned, it was with a stern looking Mrs. Davis in tow. Cassie felt her confidence shrinking under those watchful grey eyes. Maybe everyone was right and there were no monsters; then how could she explain her sleepless night?
“Cassie, can you come with me?”
The tall, skinny woman held out a bony hand, beckoning Cassie forward. Unsure now of the greater feel, Cassie obediently rose and followed her teacher back into the classroom. Mrs. Davis waved to one of the aides, shuffling her outside, and then pulled a chair over to sit across from Cassie at the desk.
“Steven says you were talking about monsters, Cassie?” Cassie nodded, beginning to fear the certain punishment. “Sounds like something must really be scaring you. Do you want to tell me about it?”
Her shock dissipating, Cassie began to hurry through the words, spilling her secret terror. It felt good just to put the words out there, to limit her monster to those words she used to describe it. Her teacher followed along, nodding, a cloud of confusion drifting across her face as she pursed her lips. Mrs. Davis was silent a moment after Cassie finished. Then she gave her an understanding nod.
“That is pretty scary. Just as I thought. Listen, I’ve had lots of students with monster troubles, so I’ve got some advice. I’m going to send a note home with you to your parents, and then I’d like you to draw a picture for your monster. A lot of times, monsters are just friends who aren’t very good at saying hello. So, if you draw a picture, maybe we can get him to play nicer. I can even help you write him a note!”
Mrs. Davis smiled, and collected crayons and paper for the little girl. Kids were always bringing in some new boogeyman, and she had learned years ago that strict denial did nothing but fuel the flames. Instead, she borrowed from her own experience with nightmares and helped them reframe the situations. Even children were capable of writing different endings to their nightmares, and those nasty monster dreams faded away.
Cassie drew a simple picture: two stick figures, one small with brown pigtails and the other larger, hulking, and grey. They stood beside a little house and tree, a bright sun smiling on them with assorted flowers at their feet. She made sure to put smiles on both their faces. Cassie even managed the courage to draw the two of them holding hands. It was terrifying, but suddenly her monster seemed so much smaller. He was just a friend who didn’t know how to say hello.
“Dear Mirror Monster,” she began, Mrs. Davis carefully transcribing her words above the drawing, “You are not being a very good friend. Please stop scaring me. If you stop, we can play with my toys together. Hissing is not nice. We say hello to be nice. Love, Cassie.” The final letters written, Mrs. Davis carefully tucked the note into her backpack, after clipping one of her telltale apple pages to the front with swirly writing for her parents.
Recess ended. Class went on, and Steven kept making mean faces at Cassie during the lesson, but she was beaming. She was going to get rid of her monster and make a new friend.
As soon as school ended, Cassie rushed to her place on the sidewalk and waited for her mom’s big silver car to drive up. She was bursting to give her the note and explain her day. She was barely in the car and buckled in before she was digging through her bag and waving around her drawing with the apple note. While she had always been scared when she brought home a note from the teacher, today she was bursting.
Her mother shushed her, trying to focus on the drive home. After arriving, getting Cassie unloaded and working on a project at the table, her mother glanced over the note. She sighed. This monster thing was incredibly out of hand, something which Mrs. Davis seemed to at least understand. The note also mentioned that such a thing was normal, and the teacher had experience in righting such problems. Jenny sighed, and picked up the phone to her husband. Anything to stop the nightmares. She woke up at least once a month, creaming her head off, and it meant at least one mostly sleepless night for both her and Mark as they tried to calm her down. Despite what parenting books suggested, ignoring it was not working.
That night, as they tucked Cassie into bed, they presented her with a new stuffed toy. It was a simple brown bear (the cheapest he could find, said John), with a toy sword taped to one paw. Jenny had even taken the time to cut out a little chestplate and tie it around the bear’s neck, turning him into a determined little soldier. If the Mirror Monster would not stop being mean, then Chester, the courageous bear as named by Cassie, would keep her safe. The set the note and the bear beside the mirror, and prayed for a sleep filled night.
For a couple of weeks, everything was silent. Of course, Cassie was not surprised. It was always quite for a short time after his visit. Always just long enough that she thought maybe he was gone. But then, one night when the moon was full and bright outside, spilling silver light into her room, the mirror moved. From the shadows stepped her Mirror Monster, looking even scarier than before. His teeth seemed sharper, his eyes deeper and darker. But, this time, he paused at the little bear and stick figure drawing. He lifted the paper delicately in clawed hands, taking a moment for his large eyes to sweep across Mrs. Davis’ clear script. He picked the bear up, cradling it in his too long arms, and walked toward the bed. The Mirror Monster walked straight towards Cassie, though this time without his hissing laugh. His eyes, almost sad, thought Cassie, looked at her, and studied her. Then, with great effort, his mangled lips opened, spilling out its foul odor and astounding Cassie with an endless picture of teeth. She was terrified, certain that those massive jaws would soon swipe down and crush her, but instead, it placed the bear snuggly beside her pillow and spoke.
PS: This week has been relatively productive, so I also have a new Zeru portion in progress. And some other ideas rolling around, so hopefully some of those come to completion this next as well. 🙂
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
So, this is the first actual Attic piece. A rewrite from when I was still in middle school. I have included the original, followed by its conceptual reimagining. The original was simply fluff, with no substance or plot, and I have tried to spice it up a bit, add some coherence to it while maintaining the original circular concept. Still, it works mainly as a fluff piece, not really anything. Just a way to pass the time and keep my typing fingers active on a snowy New Year’s Eve. Speaking of, Happy New Year!
Original now behind “Read More” link, updated version is the one displayed in short form. Thanks for reading!
I am not insane. I swear it. Even as they toss me into this dull room, full of its artificial lights and safe edges, I will proclaim my sanity. Because I am not crazy; I simply have seen the things they cannot—will not. I am no harm to myself or others, I only threaten the safe bubble of denial that has so carefully cradled them all these years.
I know what I have to say sounds insane—but is that not a mark of my own sanity? I do not dare proclaim these things with assurance of their rationality, because I initially doubted. I saw the things I saw and hoped that I was losing my mind. Instead, I have been forced to accept that what I see is in fact the reality shrouded around me. You see, when I closed my eyes, I could see what lies beyond. I could see the horrors of the hidden present, as well as the looming dangers of the coming future. They told me these were hallucinations, complex visual, auditory, and olfactory hallucinations. Rare, yes, but not unheard of. However, these “hallucinations” only appeared when I closed my eyes. Eyes open, I could see the world just like you do. Others told me I was dreaming, some strange form of REM disorder and narcolepsy. But I sleep dreamless at nights; sleep is the only time I can find relief from these images. Though now I grow fearful to let myself drift away, for fear of what may be waiting beyond the veil.
I must admit, I have always gotten jumbled at times. It is hard to tell which vision is the present and which is the future. Even when I had my eyes open, I was never sure how much of what I saw hovered beyond my wide-eyed vision ethereally or temporally.
I’m sure you’re curious. After all of this, what insanity have I seen? I see the world with the stage trappings torn away. There are spirits in this world that work beyond the realm of human perception. There are beautiful beings that bring peace and healing. I have seen them drift into a room, alight with grace, and bring calming with a touch. I watched once while one hovered about my screaming infant cousin, saw as it reached out a single hand and touch her chubby cheek. And she stopped screaming, instead began cooing. Everyone else in the room assumed it was the fickleness of babies, but I could see.
Of course, seeing beauty is not why they have locked me away. I see the darker beings that rip through our world. They are numerous, swift, and deadly. They sow discord, hate, and anger. And they can kill. Being in the places I have, sitting in a prison cell or bound to a psychiatric bed, I have seen how they can latch onto others. They goad us people to action, lift our hands to strike one another. They reach into us, contort our thoughts. In the hospital once, I saw them smother a man. The doctors informed the family he died peacefully in his sleep, but the tormented man I watched was anything but peaceful. Not content to wreak havoc alone, I have also seen what they do in the future. I have seen them rip apart the beautiful beings, leaving our worlds in their hands alone. I have seen a future drenched in blood and violence, a crumbled civilization ruled by animal instincts rather than human reason. I have seen the nations turned over to pure id, and the destruction sowed. The worst of all, I can feel it coming now. They have begun to rip the wings from the others, mar their lovely faces and drag them into the putrid muck of their world. The light is failing now, and I am a helpless observer to what is coming.
I’m sure I startled some with my decision, the one which led me here. But once you’ve seen those things, seen how they creep and sneak and kill, how could you ever open your eyes again? It was easier to remove my eyes; I do not need them to see the world around me any longer. I see our world, a dim image overlaid with the spectral reality that so tortures me. People are always amazed at how I can see, recognize, and move as if my eyes are still resting peacefully in their sockets. I simply see in a new way. And so, because of this, because of my curse and my attempt to save my own life, I have been locked away against my will. I am crazy, mentally ill, a resistant schizophrenic who tongues my pills and refuses to cooperate with therapy. So, here I sit. My mind is no help in tracking my progress here, content as it is to swim erratically through the present and the future. I do not think I have been here long, but perhaps I have drifted from the present to the past. Even now, I lose track of which now I am living in. I lose track of my own thoughts, slipping away and flowing through the streams of time.
But I am not insane. I swear it. Even as they tossed me into this dull room, full of its artificial lights and safe edges, I proclaim my sanity. Because I am not crazy; I simply have seen the things they cannot—have not.
But they will.