The One That Got Away

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Giles has the man right where he wants him. He’s not a man, of course—at least on the inside—but something much worse, something dangerous. As more than a man himself, Giles easily recognizes the creature for what it is. Trailing twenty or thirty feet behind, Giles watches as the man sits down at a bus stop and pulls out the L.A. Times.

He angles around to get a better view, and once the man is clearly within Giles’s sights, he pulls out the leather notebook and pen he always keeps in his right pants pocket, opens to the next blank page, and begins to write.

It’s a binding, something he’s practiced a dozen times before in his own private language. Of course, the language isn’t important, only that the meaning of the words is clear and concise enough to capture the creature’s essence, to draw it out from the fabric of reality and into the pages of his notebook.

He starts with the more superficial details and works his way in, capturing all the nuances of the man’s behavior as he thumbs through the pages of his newspaper. If Giles does his job properly, the man won’t realize what’s happened until the binding is nearly complete, and by then it will be too late.

The man is already starting to fade like the end of a silent film when Giles hears a horn, followed by the sound of two cars colliding, and he turns to gawk at the accident. His concentration is only compromised for a moment, but a moment is all it takes. When he turns back toward the bench, the man is gone.

Giles’s heart stops and his mouth runs dry. It takes him a few moments to process what’s happened, to truly appreciate how badly he’s screwed up.

The man is gone. The man. Gone.

Oh, no.

Giles starts riffling through the notebook, checks to see if perhaps he’s written enough to complete the binding after all. But of course, he hasn’t. He can feel the man, floating between two realities, angry and disoriented.

What have I done?

Giles has, until now, considered himself to be a careful man. And yet, after allowing himself to be distracted, the man got away. Now, all he can do is stand beneath a bright yellow sun, the late afternoon heat rolling off his neck and shoulders, and wonder what he’ll have to do to finish the job before the man can hurt anyone else.

To read the whole story, pick up my short novelette Inkbound  here.

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The World Inside the Rain

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This post was originally published through Patreon on August 15, 2018.

Samantha steps into the rain with her head down. But even with her eyes set upon her feet, it’s impossible to look away. The world is gray and lifeless, the sky overhead smothered by ominous charcoal clouds. Yet there is also light, and it is that first and foremost which catches her eye, though she’d rather look away.

She glimpses her reflection in a nearby puddle, haloed by colors that can’t be be found in her own darkened sky, and jerks away.

But now, the sight is no better, for the rain has started to fall in massive pelting sheets, and the light that emanates from it is the same light from the puddle: blindingly bright and multi-hued, an impossible composition that always leaves her bewildered and disoriented.

Twirling the umbrella in her hands, Samantha hunkers against the storm and breaks into a sprint.

Most people, when they see the rain, see drab smudges of gray. But not Samantha. Samantha sees light, as if the rain is composed not of water but of thick shining shards of glass. And what she sees in the puddles that accumulate beneath her feet are often stranger, not only the reflections of her own world but the reflections of another—the world inside the rain—as if they’re not puddles at all but windows, made up of that same glittering glass.

It used to fascinate her as a child. In those days, the world exuded some mystical property that transformed everything, not only the rain, into something extraordinary, otherworldly. In those days, the rain was just one more mystery, one more miracle stacked atop a mountain of other miracles.

Then she grew up, and she learned that what she saw in the otherwise gloomy weather was not what other people saw. She reached the only possible conclusion she could think of: that there was something wrong with her mind, that if she wasn’t careful, madness would take over.

So now, whenever the weather turns dark, she looks away. She refuses to see what can’t be real, regarding the lies her senses feed her as an affront to her dignity. She stays inside whenever possible, and when she has no choice but to walk the sparkling streets in the midst of a storm, she keeps her head down, squinting whenever her vision strays too near a glowing puddle and focusing instead on the grass or the gravel, the asphalt or the cement, until she’s tucked safely inside a nearby building, away from that which she cannot—dares not—understand.

But today, the weather is rough, more so than ever before. The wind has transformed into the howling whistle of a nightmare made manifest, and the rain that cascades from the sky is like an omnipresent waterfall, with that other glittering world at its center.

Perhaps most disturbing is that it’s no longer just her eyes that register this alien environment but her skin. She feels the heat of a sun that can’t possibly be her own, and no matter how loudly she proclaims that “this can’t be real,” that “this can’t be happening,” both her body and her heart are beginning to suspect otherwise.

Samantha runs faster. To where, she doesn’t know. She only knows she has to get away. She is propelled by a raw and primal fear that pushes her further along unfamiliar streets and avenues, until she finds herself facing a flooded alley, the light so strong, so impossibly brilliant, it fills her vision like an ocean.

“This isn’t right,” she whispers. But, in fact, there’s a blossoming feeling in her chest that tells her it is right, that whatever fate or destiny she’s spent her entire life running away from has come to claim her at last.

Though the air is cold, the heat of the world inside the rain suffuses her skin. And when she strains her ears, she thinks she hears a voice, soft and gentle, calling to her from a distance.

“Come,” it says, tugging at her heart like a soul-magnet.

She steps forward, toward the flood in the alley and the light inside.

Don’t go, she thinks. None of this is real.

Then again, that otherworldly voice: “Come.”

And Samantha, though she’s feared the rain and what it might mean her entire adult life, is now caught in the gravitational pull of something larger than herself, something larger than the entire world. She no longer sees the drab and the gray, but the promise of another life, the fulfillment of a mysterious destiny she can no longer deny.

“Come,” says the voice one last time.

This time, Samantha listens. She backs away on legs like coiled springs, then leaps into the light.

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The World Beyond the World

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This post was originally published through Patreon on August 4, 2018.

August 4, 2018

A voice calls out to me from the dark of night, and I can resist its pull no longer. For years I avoided its insistent plea, but now my time of turning away has reached an end.

Have you ever tried to hold fire in your hands? I have. It was an accident, of course. I was a child, and my dad let me light a firework for the Fourth of July. I didn’t put it down in time and it singed my fingers. Only the fizzling sparks of the fuse burned my hand—I was lucky—but I’ll never forget the sensation, sharp and instant, like a hot knife slicing through my skin.

That’s what it feels like now, hearing this voice and refusing to answer. Only the agony never fades, because every moment I hold myself back is another fresh fuse, another stinging burn, slicing through my soul, cutting me in places that never heal.

So I’ve turned my back on the world I know for the one I don’t—for the World Beyond the World. I have answered its call at last, and I will keep it waiting no longer.

August 5, 2018

One day. Forty-three years of days have preceded it, but I don’t remember a single one. Today, however, is different. Today has imprinted itself on the contours of my heart to form an indelible mark.

Have you ever felt that there was more to the world than what you could see on the surface? That everything your senses taught you to be true was a lie? That all we see and hear and feel is like plastic, a thin, superficial layer beyond which the unspoken mysteries of the cosmos thrum like a smooth well-oiled engine?

I’ve been to the Edge of the World, and I can tell you those feelings are true, that you and I were made for something more, that there is beauty, depth, and meaning surpassing your wildest fantasies.

I have crossed a threshold beyond which there is no going back, and all I can do now is follow that voice further—into either life or oblivion, I know not which.

August 6, 2018

Resplendent. Transcendent. Light, life, and love made flesh. No words exist that could give shape to the World Beyond the World, only crude approximations, monochrome stick figures instead of vibrant color photographs. The cosmos lie bare before me, an eternal, ever-present canvas onto which the greatest work of art in the history of all existence plays out in ever-changing configurations.

The celestial lights dazzle me, so unlike the stars back home, and I know now that I’m ready to move on.

Other voices have joined the first. A thousand. More. An otherworldly chorus that sets my heart on fire.

I stand before the World Beyond the World and submit myself for judgement. Its ardent gaze pierces me with its knowing light, and I can feel that all my deepest evils are exposed. I am ashamed, but the light is love as well as knowledge, and the light tells me not to be afraid.

There is pain as the light turns into a fire. But it is a purging fire, a healing fire, and I grit my teeth, knowing the pain is temporary, that the impurities within my soul will be burned away so that I might be worthy of entering their otherworldly realm.

There is no more pain now. The fire no longer burns, because what’s left inside of me is also fire and is ready to be one with the World Beyond the World at last.

The cosmos open like the gates of Heaven, and I walk forward into the light.

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