I should've known better. I should never have clicked. I fell down the rabbit hole and got lost. I disregarded all the warnings. I know it was stupid. But the click-bait these days is oh-so-clever. How can people resist?
I should definitely have known. I was intrigued though. My interest was piqued. I clicked on one of those articles about race. It was a kind of provocative title, entirely designed to inflame and cause debate, or maybe offence and hatred. It was obvious. The danger signs were flashing at me but I totally ignored them. So, I clicked. And I read. And I let my outrage rise to the surface. How could they say this? I was offended. Damn my stupid offence. But really? I had to go to the comments section.
That was the step too far. Why did I have to go to the comments section? I could already feel the darkness slithering up my limbs like sticky road tar. If it got to my head... No, I wouldn't let it get that far, I said. I would just read a little and then I could take a shower. I would be fine. I would just buy some drain unblocker for afterwards. It would be totally OK.
The smell was beginning to burn in my nostrils. I still had time to read. Oh my god, what the...? These people! I started to formulate a response. I figured if I typed quickly I could get it out and then clean off this muck. I was shivering a little now, the cold ooze starting to get to me. Fast fingers, I thought. But they were sticking to the keys.
Someone added another comment before I could type 'enter' on mine. It made my blood boil. I was starting to see red but then I felt the black liquid pooling in my eye and it was too late.
Shit! I should have been more careful!
I fell down through the dark abyss and landed right in the middle of the war.
Comments were flying left right and centre. I ran to the side to take cover but my slimy feet slipped and I tripped right in front of some sort of white nationalist. He was hurling abuse with ease and, by god, he was lightning quick. Then I looked down and saw that he had brought a box of comments bombs with him. I ducked and narrowly missed being hit right in the face and then I rushed off to get away from the projectiles.
I ran down the road towards a crowd I could see in the distance. They seemed to be gathered around a woman who was standing on a wooden box. I joined them for a moment to see what was happening. The woman was speaking to them but they were prodding her with giant fingers attached to long sticks.
I shouted out, “Hey, what are you doing?” but one of the crowd turned towards me and snarled. He had a green face with huge, misshapen ears and large pointed teeth. I immediately stepped back and narrowly avoided his large green hands grabbing at me.
“Come on, let's get out of here!” I shouted to the woman.
She shook her head. “No, I'm not giving up,” she said. She lifted up a bucket and started throwing fish to the crowd. They fought each other to grab the fish, gobbling them up as soon as they could and then carried on prodding with their long sticks. The stench was vile. I wretched and then decided to leave the woman to her own devices.
A little further down the road I could hear music. It sounded like people were having a better time somewhere else. I followed the music, hopeful that it would lead me to some way home and the chance to get cleaned up.
It was from a nightclub. Yes, I thought. Some normality at last. The people here looked like they were having fun, chatting, taking selfies, looking great. Maybe someone here would know how to get out?
I approached a girl with long blonde hair and a very cute outfit.
“Can you help me get out?” I asked.
She looked at me and laughed. “Why would you want to leave here?” she said. She lifted her phone to take a selfie but her chin fell off just before she could snap the photo.
“Oops,” she said, bending down to lift it up. She placed it back on her face, smiled and took the photo.
I looked around. She wasn't the only one with bits falling off. In the corner a few girls were gluing body parts back together and a guy was trying to replace his teeth into his gum sockets. Another group near the club doorway were helping each other get their asses back together.
This is ridiculous, I thought. I left the nightclub and headed to a nearby park where I could hear someone speaking on a PA system. There was a guy near the gate collecting large sums of money to enter the park. I walked past and on around the park fence until I found a spot where I could sneak in.
On a stage in the middle of the park there were several speakers, all passing the microphone to each other and saying the same things in repeat. Behind them were large neon signs with the words “success”, “abundance”, and “secrets” flashing slowly in bright colours.
“Join my tribe,” one said.
“Join my group,” the next said.
“I'll lead you,” said another.
The people in front were gathering in groups, laughing, patting each other on the back and then handing money up to the speakers on the stage who were smiling from ear to ear.
I walked up to the edge of the main crowd and stood beside a man who was clapping after each speaker said something new.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Can you tell me how to get out of here?”
He turned to look at me, then screwed his face up. “Uh, I think you need a bit of a wash, no offence.”
“OK then, can you tell me where I can find a shower?” I asked.
He pointed to the edge of the park at a small building. “In there, but it might not be very pleasant.” He turned back towards the stage and began clapping again. I spotted some security guards strolling through the crowd and decided it was definitely a bad idea to stick around. Slipping into the shadows I headed towards the flat roofed building at the edge of the park.
I could smell stale urine before I even got to the door of the public toilet. Inside a blue light flickered and I could see some legs sticking out from one of the cubicles.
I stepped inside and pushed open the cubicle door. Jesus, I thought. “Are you alright?” I said.
The woman on the floor murmured slightly but didn't open her eyes.
“Don't mind her,” a voice said from in front of the sinks. “She'll be alright.”
I turned to face the woman. Her face lit up when she saw me and she smiled like the Joker.
“Frances!” she called to the other woman. “You might wanna wake up! Got some goodies!”
Frances murmured and shuffled a bit inside the cubicle.
“I, er... just want to know where the shower is,” I said.
The woman's eyes flashed to the corner of the room but her expression turned to one of concern.
“But why would you want to shower? Frances! Come on!”
The door of the cubicle opened and Frances began to crawl on the floor towards us.
“I guess I'll just go on ahead then,” I said, edging my way towards the cubicle in the corner.
The woman grabbed my arm but I pulled away and she lost her grip but some of the black goop was left on her fingers. She licked her hand desperately and then her eyes widened.
“Frances! This is good stuff! Grade A!”
I backed away as quickly as I could and turned on the shower. The woman rushed after me, grabbing my arm again but I broke free once more before she could pull me away. I placed my head under the shower gasping at the coldness of the water.
Frances was on the ground, suddenly finding a second wind and crawling towards me, her bedraggled hair covering her face. She grabbed at my ankle and pulled, almost dragging me to the ground with her but I kicked and made contact with her forehead. I got back under the shower again and started to scrub. The other woman sank to her knees desperately scrabbling at the dark gunk as it fell off my body and onto the floor.
“No!” the woman was yelling. “Don't wash it all away!”
Frances began to scream and cry. The woman joined her. I stood for a moment, watching two desperate figures try to salvage as much of the dark junk as they could. And then, as if someone had flipped a switch, the room went black.
I woke up in a hospital bed to the sound of the slow, regular beat of a heart monitor.
“Ah, you're awake. I'm Doctor Reed.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“I'm afraid we almost lost you.” The doctor lifted up the chart on the end of my bed and made a quick note. She looked at me and smiled. “Lucky for you that we had that electric cut.” She placed the chart back on the bed rail. “You're going to be OK now, but no more connection.”
“No more connection?” I asked.
“That's right. No phones, no laptops, no social media. No internet. OK?”
She handed me a card.
Connection Rehab Centre
Getting People Back in the Here and Now
“You're one of the lucky ones,” she said. “That stuff will kill you.”
This story was also published on my blog at lisawilton.com as part of the WEP challenge.
The room fell silent. All of Robert’s family were there. He lay on the bed, looking around at their sombre faces. It was difficult for him to move now, and he was beginning to let go. He tried to lift his head a little to speak to his daughter, Ella, but his body felt too weak. Instead, he squeezed her hand a little and lay looking up at the ceiling. He knew it was nearing his time.
He heard Ella speak his name in a distant whisper but his eyes were fixed upon the light he could see above him. He did not feel afraid. Soon he would see Louisa, his beloved wife. She had died too young, at the age of 60 and he had missed her dreadfully since that day. He continued to focus on the brightness and then, as easily as that, he fully let go. A world away he could hear his daughter begin to sob.
Don’t cry for me, he thought. I am doing OK. The pain has gone.
His body felt as light as a feather, drifting up towards the hospital ceiling, towards the whiteness that had engulfed the space above his bed. He glanced below and saw that his body was still there, surrounded by family. I must be dead, he thought, as he turned back towards the light. It made his heart feel warm with happiness.
Louisa, I’m coming home.
A few minutes later, he was completely surrounded by the white light. He felt safe, enveloped in love. And then, as if someone had flipped a switch, the light turned off and he found himself in the dark.
The dark was stuffy and warm. The air was not fresh. He felt as if he was, somehow, underground.
What on earth? He thought.
He scrabbled upwards and out of the dirt towards what he thought was daylight. It was daylight. He breathed a sigh of relief. But where was he?
Ahead he could see a country field, behind, a line of trees and hedgerow.
I’m in the countryside, was all he could think. He heard a noise to the right.
A huge rabbit stood beside him, twitching its whiskers. He froze, staring at the huge, brown beast until the moment it turned to look at him. Then he fell backwards on to the grass behind him.
“Alright, mate?” said the rabbit. “New, eh? You’ll get used to it. Just keep out of the way of the buzzards in the day time. Night time’s a bit of a different story. Just, er, lay low when it gets dark. You’ll soon get the hang of it.”
The rabbit twitched again and turned to eat a dandelion.
“Ooh, lovely,” it said. “Scrumptious!”
Robert slowly lifted his body off the grass and turned to face the giant rabbit. He opened his mouth to speak but found himself compelled to sniff around on the grass for a tasty treat. He spotted another dandelion and promptly munched it.
“Mmm,” he said. “You’re quite right about these.”
The large rabbit looked at him and cocked its head to the side.
“What is it?” Robert asked.
The rabbit stayed silent for a moment longer, standing as still as a statue before twitching its whiskers once again. “Nothing,” it said. “Just thought I heard something for a minute.”
Robert looked around. There were no other animals near them, rabbits or otherwise.
“You said I was new here?” he asked the rabbit.
The creature hopped forwards a little to find a new patch of something to eat and then stood up tall, looking towards the hedgerow. “Yeah,” it said. “I would've thought that would be obvious to you?”
Robert cleared his throat. “Well, you see. I'm looking for someone.”
The rabbit chuckled. “Interesting,” it said. “Doubt you’ll find them.”
Robert hopped closer to the rabbit hoping to get some better eye contact. “She’s very important to me.”
“Oh, that’s what they all say,” the rabbit replied. “They all want to find someone, at first. But they've got their priorities all wrong. See, it’s not about finding anyone. Get the idea out of your head. You want to concentrate on survival. You won’t find anyone if you don’t survive.”
Robert looked down at his cute, furry feet. He felt along his tummy and around to the back of his body, stopping on his little bump of a tail. This couldn't be happening, could it? The giant rabbit was munching again on another flower.
“But Louisa. She must be somewhere nearby?”
The giant rabbit stopped eating and eyed him closely, its large black eyes betraying very little emotion. Robert stared back, wondering if he could detect fear or if rabbits always looked like that.
“What did you just say?” the rabbit asked, its voice a low whisper.
“She must be somewhere nearby, I said.” Robert leaned in closer to the large creature.
“No,” it hissed. “What name did you say?”
“I said Loui-”
A huge gust of air blasted past Robert’s face before he could finish his sentence. With his eyes closed he heard the rabbit squeak but when he opened them the rabbit was gone, replaced by a few tufts of fur, gently falling through the air.
He turned to see the great bird flying off into the sky with her large prize dangling from her feet. He sprinted towards the rabbit hole and did not stop for breath until he was inside. He lay there for a moment, panting, near the entrance, shocked at what he had just witnessed.
A voice from further down in the burrow called out to him.
“Was it Louisa?” it asked.
He took a deep breath. “Yes,” he replied. “It was her.”
In Times Of Apocalypse
Laura had always loved animals. She used to joke that she preferred animals to people. She had remembered grumbling, back when things were normal, that there were never any pets in those zombie TV shows. How could anybody leave Fido or Felix behind? Heartless bastards! All they ever cared about were themselves. We had a duty to care for our pets! Laura's brow furrowed in disgust.
Heartless. How ironic.
She gazed lovingly at her cats and dogs, chomping dutifully at the dark red chunks of meat she had just prepared for them. Too bad the days of shops and currency were in the past.
One of the dogs, a white shepherd, stopped eating for a moment and raised his head, his ears standing to attention.
"What's that Thor? Is somebody outside? What a good boy!"
The dog lowered his head once again and refocused his attention on his meal as Laura picked up an axe from the table and wiped it clean.
"I guess today is our lucky day!" she said, giving the dog a pat on the head as she walked past him on the way to the door.
She opened the door a crack and peered carefully out into the street. Of course Thor was right. Weren't animals just so amazing? Laura smiled at the thought gripping her axe tightly. A lucky day indeed.
The noise of the alarm clock reverberated around the tiny bedroom, bouncing hostile sound waves off the bare, magnolia walls. Trevor Broadbent awoke from another unsettling dream. He sat up in one efficient, swooping movement and switched off the alarm letting his fingers linger for a moment on his trusty time keeper. He shook his head, as if to clear out some of the lingering images.
"Never take your work home with you," he muttered.
Trevor was usually a deep sleeper but he had never been late for work; not once. Yes, another day at the supermarket, bright and early with things to do, work to be done. There was something about today, however, that didn't feel quite right. Perhaps another storm was coming? Trevor glanced at the window. The flimsy green curtain was struggling to contain the bright light behind it. His feet found his slippers in their usual precise location and marched into the bathroom to shave with his head aloft. He efficiently disposed of the dark shadow of stubble which had crept onto his face and combed his dark hair into a neat side parting, placing the tools of his grooming neatly back in their resting places.
Trevor’s apartment was small and uncluttered with a rather outdated collection of seventies furniture. He got dressed and treated himself to breakfast in the kitchenette (his usual – black coffee with one sugar and two pieces of wholemeal toast lightly buttered, right to the edges with three slices of bacon). Trevor then straightened his tie and headed down the stairs and out to his car. It was a sunny day and there were several neighbours outside in the street.
“Hi, Mr Broadbent!” called Mrs Tillman raising her sunhat adorned head from her plants for a moment.
Stupid woman, she doesn't know there's a storm coming, he thought.
Trevor waved his arm stiffly and got into his car. He drove the short distance to the supermarket in 3 minutes and 43 seconds – his personal best. He smiled to himself as he passed through the brightly lit doors of the store.
“There he is! Hey Trev!”
Trevor rolled his eyes and continued walking. “You know my name Douglas, I suggest you use it.”
“Yeah, well, I prefer when people call me Doug but hey.”
Doug skipped in front of Trevor and turned to face him, trotting backwards whilst he spoke.
“As I was saying, Trev, you know what Melissa and I just heard?”
Trevor carried on walking past Doug with a frown. “No, and I don’t particularly care.”
“You will, Trev, you will. Listen, we overheard Bob talking on the phone. The area manager is coming in for a spot check today.”
Trevor stopped in his tracks allowing Doug to catch up. “Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. And they have no idea that we know. We can totally wipe the floor with the other departments this time. We’ll be the meat kings!”
Trevor licked the corner of his mouth fervently. Last time they had done the area spot check the pharmacy department had come out on top and Nasser had been smirking at him ever since. His sly comments made Trevor’s teeth clench and he once squeezed a pack of sausages so hard they shot out the end of the plastic like little porky fingers. An unnecessary mess, indeed.
No. This time he would be ready. Everything would be pristine. He nodded slowly at first but then more excitedly as he relished the thought of the opportunity. He looked up at his young colleague.
“Thank you, Douglas. This is excellent. Good work.”
“Yeah, baby. High five!”
Trevor glared at him. “Don’t you have something important to do? Start with the labels. Everything has to be perfect!”
Doug rolled his eyes. “Yes, Master Trev” he said mocking him with a salute and strutting off towards the fridge section of the store.
Trevor dropped his belongings off into the staff room and walked briskly back out onto the shop floor. He inhaled deeply, prepping himself for what was about to come. This time he would be ready. He’d not be overlooked for promotion again. They were going to notice his work, this time.
As he headed to the pork section to check on the presentation of the aisle he heard a muffled murmur coming from the direction of the fridge. It was a very low sound, its origin quite indefinite. Trevor stopped for a moment, cocking his head to the side and straining his ears to hear. Nothing but the hum of the fridge. He paused, certain that he would hear it again but the sound was gone.
“Are you slacking?”
Trevor jumped at the sound of another voice behind him. “Uh, no Bob. I was thinking.”
“Oh, don’t do that Trevor! You might cause yourself a mischief!” Bob said, still laughing.
Trevor was distracted for a moment by the sight of his manager’s portly middle juddering up and down as he laughed at him. He thought of this greasy, fat little man, stuffing his face, laughing to reveal a mouth full of half chewed burger. The thought of it disgusted Trevor. He gritted his teeth once again and persuaded his mouth into a smile at the corners. He forced a disingenuous chuckle.
Bob stopped laughing immediately. “No time for fooling around Trevor. I want you to help on the tills today.”
Trevor’s mouth fell open. “But, Bob. I haven’t worked the cash register for such a long time.”
“We all have to do it occasionally,” said Bob, slapping Trevor between his shoulder blades. “Anyway, it’s good to get back down to the grass roots every now and again.” Bob grinned at him now, showcasing those slightly oversized teeth of his. “Go and relieve Marjorie, she’s due her break.”
Trevor stood, staring past Bob, stunned into silence. The fat bastard knew he had work to do before the inspection. None of the section managers ever had to work the tills. The idea was preposterous!
“Go on then, man!” Bob motioned with his hand, flapping it around like he was trying to put out a match. “Poor Marjorie’s probably desperate for a ciggie.”
Trevor looked at Bob briefly, and instantaneously imagined his fat, heavy, naked body propped up on top of an eager Marjorie in bed, surrounded by ashtrays full of spent cigarette butts.
Horrified, Trevor blinked hard, eager to erase the image from his mind but it felt like it had been burned into the backs of his eyelids.
He he he.
A low hum of laughter echoed in the back of his brain. He rushed off to the till feeling queasy, leaving a bemused looking Bob at the fridge shaking his head.
Trevor approached Marjorie’s till and waited for her to finish ringing through her current customer. She nodded to him and thanked him in a deep, smoker’s voice and squeezed her square behind out of the cashier’s booth. Trevor forced a smile and sat down on the seat. It was still warm. He shifted on his hips and started to scan items for the next customer – a mother with two whining kids. He looked over her shoulder trying to spot Douglas.
Douglas waved from afar, mouthing. Trevor couldn’t make out what he was saying but it appeared to be a question. He scanned a jar of peanut butter and made a face directed at Douglas who waved frantically in reply. Glancing over to make sure Bob wasn’t looking, Trevor waved Douglas over to the till and breathed with relief when his colleague decided to approach.
“You wanted a price check, Trev?” he said, grinning proudly as if he’d thought of the cleverest ruse.
“Yes, Douglas. Thank you.”
Douglas leaned in whispering. “This is clearly sabotage. You know that, right?”
“Yes, yes Douglas, I don't care what it is,” Trevor said gritting his teeth like a ventriloquist. “Just do something about it!”
“I’ll see what I can do. Be right back with the price.” Marching off with purpose, Douglas left, taking a jar of jam with him. Exasperated, Trevor sat staring at Douglas, wondering what on earth his next move would be. His concentration was interrupted by a low, rumbling voice.
You dirty bastard.
Trevor looked around for the source. The woman in front of him stood impatiently waiting for her jam.
I know what’s in your filthy little ’ead, Trevah.
Again, Trevor looked around but he could not locate the source. He felt uneasy – on edge. Today was, getting to him.
Douglas finally came bouncing back over to the cash register, jam in hand.
“Here you go, Madam. I’ll take over after this, Trev. Anne needs you over at the fish counter.”
Trevor’s shoulders relaxed. He quickly scanned the jam and two packets of bacon to finish the woman’s purchase. When he got back to his section, he was appalled to find that there was still a lot to do. Labels were not straight, some stock was uneven and he found some ham in the turkey section. He got to work straight away.
As he was working, the hum of the fridge seemed, once again, to intensify. He rubbed his temples and carried on. But the hum, to his surprise, continued. It sounded like a low vibration but it was uneven now, almost rising and falling in waves. Trevor stopped and strained to listen. It was not a hum that he could hear. It was more like a multitude of voices, shouting in the distance.
Trevor tried to follow the sound. He put his ear to the fridge moving his head lower and lower until he was crawling along the floor. No matter how hard he strained to hear it, he could not locate the exact position of this infernal noise. As soon as he thought he was heading in the right direction, the sound would seem to move and he would have to start all over again, listening intently for any increase in volume. He crawled along the ground, ear to the floor, and then paused to lift his head. In front of his eye line he could see a row of mince, and next to it, some steak. He eyeballed the nearest packet of meat.
Trevor reached out and grabbed the nearest packet.
You FOUND me, Trevah!
Trevor stared at the steak in his now quivering hands. He dropped it onto the floor and let out a pathetic shriek. At once, he heard a symphony of low humming, growling and laughter. Covering his ears, Trevor stood rooted to the spot, eyes darting from left to right at the meat fridge in front of him.
“Stop! Stop it! Shut up! SHUT UP!”
“And as you know, this is…”
The cacophony died down and Trevor heard the voice behind him. He turned to see the area manager, Dawn Lidman, now staring, side by side with Bob, carrying out her spot check of the store.
Trevor’s mind instantly created an image of Dawn, in lingerie and thigh high leather boots with a hungry expression on her face. She was rubbing butter into the skin of Bob's pale, naked rump and he looked to be enjoying it. Those oversized teeth were all on show now amidst his wide, exaggerated grin.
He closed his eyes tight, breathed deeply and tried to erase the image from his mind.
“Are you alright?”
Dawn Lidman was speaking to Trevor and all he could see in his mind’s eye was this disgusting, repulsive vision. He opened his eyes. The image was gone. He let out a sigh of relief.
“Are you feeling alright?” she asked again.
“Y.. Yes. I’m just fine,” Trevor replied.
No, you aint. Hehehe. You want to see her meat.
Trevor thrust his body forward and threw up the contents of his stomach onto the shop floor. Coffee-coloured jam toast particles peppered the floor in front of him. It looked for a moment like it was covered in writhing, brown maggots. He stared at it momentarily, eyes watering, snot dripping from his nose.
“Jesus Trevor, what the hell is wrong with you?” Bob said, finally after some awkward moments. Dawn Lidman just stood silently beside him, unable to retract her stare from the mess on the floor. “Go on. Go home before we all get sick," Bob continued. "I'll get someone to clean that up."
Trevor drove home bewildered, not even thinking about the journey. The sunny morning had given way to an afternoon of uncertainty in the sky. Grey clouds dominated the horizon and the air felt heavy and close. Trevor let himself into his flat and sat down on the brown sofa, gathering his thoughts. Why did he have to be ill today of all days? He would have to wait even longer for his promotion. He opened his mouth to burp, screwing up his face at the acidic taste now offending his tongue.
What on earth was wrong with him? Perhaps he had a fever. That would explain the hallucinations. He decided to take himself to bed to rest.
Trevor lay in bed, at first staring at the ceiling and then struggling to find a comfortable position. He was hot. The sweat was running down the side of his head, saturating the pillow, but he didn’t have the energy to change it for a dry one. Instead he tossed and turned. He could hear the intermittent buzz of a lone fly. The fly seemed intent on buzzing around his headboard, stopping every now and again to tease him with a moment’s peace. He pulled the covers over his head for a second but couldn’t bear the heat. The fly continued to flit from spot to spot for what seemed like an age, and Trevor eventually sank into sleep.
In his mind’s eye, the confusion of a dream began. First, he was the fly, impatiently moving from place to place, stopping every now and again to take in his surroundings. He buzzed through the supermarket, past Douglas and Melissa gossiping in the corner, out through the stock room and then into what appeared to be a large dining room. He flew past a group of luncheoning ladies and saw Bob, lying on a platter with an apple in his mouth, ready to be devoured. He rested for a moment in the hair of an elderly woman named Maud as she waited for her slice of thigh.
He flew off again and headed through a kitchen and into a freezer room, passing by a row of hanging carcasses. As he prepared to land on one he was hit by a fly swat and found himself hanging by a hook embedded in his back.
“Would you like to be stunned first, sir?”
Trevor raised his head as best he could towards the direction of the voice.
He could feel the cold hook stretching the skin on his back, opposing the weight of his body but he was powerless to alleviate the pain.
“I said, would you like to be stunned first? I hear it’s much better that way.”
The voice was coming from a man dressed in a waiter’s outfit holding a large stun gun. Trevor looked ahead of him and watched as a man wearing a plastic apron proceeded to stun a woman resembling Mrs Tillman from next door. He struggled to free himself from the hook, horrified at what he was about to watch. The man in the apron was holding a very sharp knife and he was humming loudly. He stepped towards Mrs Tillman’s throat…
Trevor gasped for breath, his eyes open. His heart was beating fast in his chest and his head was throbbing. It was just a dream, he thought.
But, he could still hear the humming.
He sat up in bed and wiped the sweat from his brow. Confused, he glanced across at the clock. It was 9:34pm. The loud hum was coming from the hallway. He staggered through the bedroom, still feeling weak and unsteady. When he opened the door he realised it was coming from his kitchen.
“What the… ?”
Trevor turned on the light, squinting at the brightness for a moment. He walked over to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. “It’s the bloody fridge!” he thought, sighing. He gave it a couple of whacks on the side and the hum stopped.
Relieved, Trevor headed to the bathroom to look for some headache tablets.
He stopped for a moment to look at his reflection in the mirror. He didn’t look well at all. His eyes looked sunken and droopy with dark shadows creeping down towards his pale cheeks. He looked exhausted – about as bad as he felt. He shuffled back towards the bedroom, eased himself back into bed, pulled up the covers and closed his eyes.
Impatiently, Trevor sat bolt upright in bed, his head immediately punishing him for his swiftness. He groaned, cradling his temple in one palm as he shuffled back towards the kitchen. He whacked the fridge again but the humming didn’t stop. Frustrated and fed up, he reached around to the back, unplugged the fridge and headed back to bed. He rested his head on the pillow and breathed deeply.
Confused, Trevor sat up once again. “What the fuck?”
Hehehe, that’s more like it Trevah.
Trevor froze, the hair on the back of his neck lifting up. He pinched himself on the arm.
Hehehe. You’re not dreaming, Trevah.
The words sounded like they were coming from the kitchen. Trevor didn’t want to go back there again. He lay back down in bed pulling the covers up above his head.
You think this is all in your ’ead, don’t ya, Trevah. Well, it aint. Hehehe.
“Go away! Shut up!” Trevor pulled the pillow over his head to block out the sound.
You’ll end up just the same, Trevah.
“What do you want?!”
It’s not what I want, Trevah. It’s what you want… You’re just the same as the rest. Hehehe. All just waiting to go back to the herd.
The hum sounded more like a growl now. Trevor stood up in bed and grabbed his bedside lamp, dragging the wire from the wall. He was going to take control of the situation. He staggered towards the door and headed into the kitchen. The growling got louder as he approached.
Hehehe. You can’t escape Trevah, there aint nothing you can do now.
The voice and the growling seemed to be coming from the fridge. Trevor crept ever closer, placing the lamp on the kitchen worktop and reaching instead for a knife. He turned on the light, poised with his knife held high. With a yell, he threw open the fridge door.
Hehehe. Found me…
Trevor looked closer. The fridge was almost empty - he’d been meaning to do some shopping today before he came home – aside for a couple of packets.
“Meat,” he said aloud. “It’s more fucking meat!”
Trevor grabbed the packet of ham and threw it on to the floor. He stomped repeatedly on it, crying out as he did so. The growl, dissipated for a moment then returned. He reached for an open packet of sausages and began stabbing them repeatedly in a frenzy, shouting “fuck you!” and then sliding down the wall into a heap on the floor where he started to cry.
He was blessed with silence.
He picked up the obliterated packets of meat and threw them out of his apartment window onto the street below.
Relieved, Trevor closed the window and headed back inside. He was completely exhausted and his headache was turning into a migraine. He wanted to crawl back to bed and stay there for a week. Head hanging and weary, he headed back towards his bedroom.
Hehehe. You’re almost there, Trevah.
Trevor screamed, grabbing his hair with both hands. When was this going to end?!
You want it to end, Trevah, it’ll be so easy.
Trevor looked down at his arms. The voice was coming from inside his arms, under his skin. It sounded like it was coming from his own flesh.
You’re just a piece of meat, Trevah. Hehehe.
The growling was deafening. The pain in his head, excruciating. Trevor rushed towards the kitchen once again. He picked up the knife and began cutting into his left arm, a mad grimace of determination on his face. He watched as the first beads of blood appeared on his skin, and then as it pooled slowly around the blade. The pain hardly registered and he carried on cutting, desperate to get it out of him, slashing the skin to shreds, searching for all the flesh beneath.
That’s it, Trevah. That’s my boy. Hehehe.
Trevor screamed again, in disbelief. It wasn’t working! Why wasn’t it working?! And then he paused, dropping the knife. He grinned from ear to ear. He knew what to do. Aha! He knew exactly what to do. And then Trevor reached for the blender.
“You might want to save your lunch for after this one, Detective.”
“What? Oh, I just ate a burger. I’m used to this kind of shit anyway. Years on this job numbs the senses a bit.”
“Yea, well, I did warn you.”
“Jesus. You’re not kidding.”
“One of the neighbours called. Said she heard some shouting. Asked somebody to come over to check it out. This was what they found.”
“God. That is one fine mess. Where's the rest of him?”
“I’m guessing on the walls and in this blender, here. What a way to commit suicide.”
“Hey, does he look like he’s smiling to you?”
“He must have been one sick puppy. Glad it’s not contagious.”
“Yea, me too. Poor bastard.”
“Right. Let’s get this over with. I can’t hear myself think with the hum coming from that fridge. It's starting to give me a hell of a headache.”
A Night To Remember
I open my eyes. I feel a throbbing pain at the back of my head. I would reach up to touch it but my hands are bound behind my back. I’m tied to a chair in a very dark room. How did I end up..?
The creature pacing backwards and forwards in front of me is more beautiful than anything I have ever seen. He emanates joy from every cell in his tall, glowing body. He has long, folded wings which seem to separate and rearrange the air around them as he paces. But he doesn’t look happy.
“Ah, you’re awake,” he says, turning towards me. The sound is like a million choirs singing the most beautiful tune ever written. Tears stream down my face and my heart feels as though it’s growing so fast it might burst out of my chest. I sigh. I can do nothing but smile up at this wondrous creature.
In the back of my mind a voice quietly mentions that this creature has obviously knocked me out and tied me to a chair. The rest of my mind ignores the voice.
The angel tuts. It makes my heart sing.
“Ugh. Can you please stop that!” he says.
I sigh again deeply and smile at him.
“I said, STOP!”
This time his voice changes. The word “stop” sounds more like a chorus of angry, ravenous beasts. I freeze and hold my breath. I dare not move a muscle.
The angel is no longer pacing back and forth. Now he stands before me, glorious and terrifying.
“Now,” he says in a much quieter voice. “We need to figure out what you have done and how we can fix it.”
I concentrate hard for a moment, trying to piece together how I ended up here. The last thing I remember is being in the hotel room with Candice. Now I’m being interrogated by a angel. I am trying hard not to piss him off.
“What is the last thing you remember?” the angel asks.
“I was with, erm, a friend,” I try to dress it up a bit nicer.
“She accidentally knocked a few things off the table with her leg.” I smile to myself for a moment remembering flashes of the evening. Candice was a bit of a wild one, no lie.
“Was this amongst them?” The angel is holding up what appears to be a bookmark.
“I don’t remember,” I reply.
“TRY HARDER!” I wince for a second and close my eyes.
“OK, OK. I guess it could have fallen out of the Bible on the table?”
I try hard to remember but all I get are images of cocaine and Candice.
The angel begins pacing again. He stops, suddenly and places his hand on my head.
Images of the night flood my memory. They flash past at light speed but I instantly know each one in depth. I remember everything now. From the lines of coke on Candice’s stomach to the gorgeous, coy brunette in the strange clothing.
“Oh shit.” I can’t think of anything better to say.
Gabriel seems to know exactly what happened now too. He places his hands on his beautiful face and makes the most sorrowful sound I have ever heard.
“I told her that God would be the father of her son. I didn’t tell her that he would appear in a flash in the night looking like a dishevelled drug addict,” he says. “I need to change this.”
He looks up to the sky and reaches out his hands. “Please!”
I sit there for a moment watching the angel Gabriel plead towards the heavens but nothing happens.
Obviously Jesus Christ, son of Dave has a nice kind of ring to it.
I gaze upon the beautiful but dejected face of God’s angel one more time. “Erm, can I go home now?”
It wasn’t a normal evening for Selby, out in the black of night. She had painted the last of her stars, just as usual, taking great pride in how they shone and glittered against the dark curtain of space behind. The night was deadly silent, as it always was, but Selby felt a shifting in the space around her.
She checked that her work was finished and prepared to walk home to sleep until her shift began again the following evening.
Packing away her pots of paint and brushes, she noticed an odd twinkling light a little further along the path home. She paused for a moment, staring into the darkness to see if she could spot it again but nothing was out of place.
She muttered to herself and picked up her tools, ready for the long walk home along the rim of the galaxy.
As she got closer to the spot where she had seen the twinkling light she heard a strange crackling sound. There was something there! She stopped and listened for a moment. The sound had stopped. She took one step forwards and heard another crackle, then a sparkle and then oof! Something fell from above and bumped right into her!
Selby tottered on her feet for a moment, dangerously close to the edge of the rim, found her balance for a moment then lost it again. She cried out as she fell off the edge of the rim of the galaxy and slid down the vast celestial bowl and into its dark centre. Her cries were swallowed up by the vast space around her but there was no-one around to hear them in any case.
Down, down, down she fell through silvery gas clouds, bouncing off stars.
I’m sure I’ll end up in that black hole, she thought as she looked down.
The large, gaping hole looked alive, pulsating in and out as if it were breathing in the vast space around it, growing more with each deep breath.
Selby reached the edge of the black hole and tried desperately to grasp something solid. She managed to dig her fingers into the very bottom of the galaxy’s edge, where the last piece of solid matter met with blackness.
She hung there, her paintbrushes dangling from her belt, looking down into the emptiness below. As she looked down, she spotted a large blob of paint hanging from the bottom of her last used brush. She watched it grow into a smooth, large blob on the end of the brush before finally dropping down through the black hole, sparkling and winking as it fell.
She felt her grip weaken and grasped desperately as tightly as she could, her fingernails tearing into a star as she did so. It popped and crackled as she tried to grip it.
Her fingers started to slip as her grip loosened and the star crackled again and then tumbled into the black hole below.
The black hole sighed and took a deep breath. Selby lost her grip completely, unable to stop herself from falling into the darkness. She tried to yell but it was a futile exercise. There was no longer anything to try to grab so, defeated, she had to give in to the fall.
She could see something below her, getting closer by the second.
It looked like…
Could it be?
Too late, she thought.
She could do nothing but lie flat on her face and watch as another version of herself teetered off the edge of the rim of the galaxy and into the large bowl of glittering, sparkling light beneath her.
Lucky she had landed again on the rim, she thought, dusting herself off as she heard a crackle. She was just about to set off again on her journey home when she heard another strange crackle, spotted a falling sparkle and looked up.
Uh oh, she thought.
What Happened in 2017
It’s hard looking after a toddler. Anyone could tell you that. They’re so quick sometimes. And persistent too. At any given moment in time, there could be a toddler wandering into danger or mischief, unbeknownst to their parent or guardian. It’s ever so common, you know.
On a sunny Tuesday in 2017, one particular toddler was feeling particularly curious. She had just finished chewing a rather large piece of fluff she had found on the floor and was looking for a cupboard to open or a handle to grab. Her mother, exhausted, was having a quick coffee and a sit down.
The toddler looked around the room, scanning for something interesting or bright to investigate but her gaze finally rested on the crack in the slightly open door ahead. She crawled quickly under the table and towards the door with a grin and chirruped gleefully to herself.
She pushed open the adjacent door to a darkened room, lit only by three computer screens resting on top of a table. Crawling quickly forwards she soon reached the chair in front of the computer.
The toddler gazed with interest at each screen, in turn. She could see images of people on each one, going about their daily business. She had no idea where they were of course, but she was interested in watching them nonetheless.
She clapped her hands for a moment and looked around the room for any other items of interest. Nothing caught her gaze so she decided to pull herself up using the chair in front of the computer desk.
Standing at the desk, holding on to the chair she spied a keyboard with large buttons. With a gleeful squeal she began to whack the keys with the palm of her right hand. The monitors in front of her flashed red each time and she continued to bash rhythmically on the large buttons, excited at the lights and the noises.
Suddenly the door to the room burst open, startling the toddler. She turned towards the noise and fell with a bump onto her bottom and began to wail. Her mother quickly scooped her up and cuddled her to her chest.
“It’s OK, Penelope. Shhhhh.”
The little girl’s cries began to subside. Her mother’s eyes widened as she looked over her daughter’s shoulder at the computer screens.
“Shit! What have you done, baby?”
Penelope looked at her mother for a moment with a wrinkled brow and large tears still forming in her blue eyes.
Such an innocent, little face.
Her mother stared wildly at the computer screens in horror. She was powerless now to stop it. Terror attacks, the rise of a few dictators, a couple of natural disasters, wars, diseases, human rights breaches and a couple of ethnic cleansings.
Jesus. Penelope had just tapped out a decade’s worth of the bad stuff in a few minutes.
A phone in the corner of the office started to ring. The woman took a deep breath. She knew it was a call from upstairs. She’d have to explain what had happened. Hopefully they would let her keep the job. She needed the money. The people down there would just have to deal with it. The good stuff would balance it all out in the end. They’d just have to get through a few bad years first.