Some nights I wake and everything is just as it was the night before and I’m still okay. Some nights I wake and it’s there. It’s never stopped; not even after all of these years. Decades. I wonder how many people grow up to find that they’re still surrounded by every single one of their same high school friends even twenty years later? It’s probably not a lot.
Then that tall thing in the darkness interlaced its fingers and flexed them until its joints snapped as loud as firecrackers. It proceeded to crack the others in its overly-articulated fingers one by one. Shadows cast by an unknown source of light on the far wall seemed to show those hands like the legs of an impossible boney spider wrapping itself delightfully around a fly caught in its web. My feet were gritty and frozen. That’s how I found out it had taken my shoes.
“How’s she doing?” The concern Jake had for Kyle’s wife was genuine so it was always the first thing he said as Kyle mounted the steps to Jake’s porch in the afternoon. “Catch,” was the next thing he said as he tossed Kyle a beer. He and Jake had developed a sort of tradition these past few weeknights.
I used to think reality was made up of choices. A hundred little choices made every day in a row, strung up like a necklace of pearls. You probably think reality is something like this too, each thing that you do could go a hundred different ways, and the only way it goes is the way that you choose for it to go…but that’s not how it works at all. That’s not how anything works. Reality is manipulative, just like people are and it’s manipulating all of us. It’s even manipulating you. You might not think so. Choices are only binary. Yes or no. True or false. There’s no great big gray areas like they tell you.
CALL LOGS I’m not the first one to say it and I won’t be the last: I don’t think Brighter Futures Suicide Hotline is what they say it is. The past few weeks, I’ve been gathering as much information as I can find and I’m good at finding things. Damn good. It’s literally my job. I’m a Digital Forensics Examiner. I can’t tell you my name and I can’t tell you the name of the company I work for — I’m afraid of retaliation and not just from my company but others. For the purpose of this post, I’m going by Maddox. I’m beginning to see that this goes a lot deeper than a call center and a bunch of strange coincidences. This is massive. Global. From what I can tell, something is attempting to shift the path of humanity itself. They’re doing it unseen. They’re doing it successfully.
Part I “Hello!” I said as I approached the bench. The man’s eyes shot up with a start looking up over the thing he held in his hand. “Are you talking to me?” He asked. He looked tired and agitated despite the placid mask of emotionless empty the rest of his face conveyed. I felt my insides lurch, instantly regretting the interaction. I had to keep going so I kept smiling until he smiled back. There was no way he could be like all the rest. If he was, there was no hope. Finally, he did smile and I felt my stomach fall. His smile was exactly like the ones I’d left behind. Fake. False. I felt my heart racing a bit in my chest.
“Hello, my class is taking a field-trip and I’m selling magazine subs—” I slammed the door in his tiny, stupid face. He might have been eight-years-old, and my reaction might have been cruel, but the kid’s gotta learn the world is a harsh place sometime in his life. Why not now?
This all began when I was a kid — back when I used to think that the Moon followed me. I’d watch it pass through the clouds as my mother drove her aging sedan down the dark highways, always keeping pace with her erratic turns and speed changes … never falling behind. I’d watch it through the rear window, bouncing from treetop to treetop in time with my bounces in the backseat. Tagging along as the car leapt potholes and divots on the midnight country roads where we sent gravel and dust billowing out behind us.
I was in the break room munching my way through a kale and cranberry salad. Several of my coworkers sat at the lunch table. Mostly I keep to myself because I much prefer being left alone than being drawn into the droll of their banal conversation.