Surreal

Gina’s Tormentor

Paradise studio/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on April 30, 2019

The creature spoke and Gina listened.

She could ignore many things, but not this. Her tormentor was unique, both a part of her and not, and it always knew what to say.

Your life means nothing, her tormentor whispered. Your existence is an accident, your purpose non-existent. Let go, and follow me into the dark.

Every day, her tormentor extended its invitation, and every day, Gina grew one step closer to accepting it.

Gina tossed in her bed, the mattress groaning under her weight, and set the covers aside. She blinked as if lost, then peered up at the clock above her shuttered window.

12:56 p.m.

Is this all your life has become, sleeping through the afternoon and waiting for the sun to set before deciding it’s not worth getting out of bed? Let go, Gina. Let go and be one with me in the dark.

Tears sprang to her eyes, a common occurrence now, and as she lay alone in her dim one-bedroom apartment, her sadness spread, creeping first through her chest, then into her throat, choking her, pulling out of her quaking, trembling body one racking sob after the next.

Life hadn’t always been so dark. Once, she’d been a child. Once, she’d enjoyed the many colors of the world, ignorant of the darkness that dwelled just beyond its borders. Then the storm clouds of adolescence had come rolling in, blotting out the sun, and in the gloom, her tormentor had stirred for the first time: a child of the darkness that would haunt her forever after, cheering for the day that Gina would give up on the light for good.

Gina tried to resist, tried to find a place for herself beyond her tormentor’s corrupting influence. But the creature followed her everywhere she went, sowing seeds of despair and self-loathing until its control over Gina’s mind was absolute.

Now, Gina was on the verge of answering its call, of admitting defeat and allowing it to carry her into the dark. But there was a part of herself that refused to budge, a remnant of the little girl she’d been so long ago.

“No,” Gina heard herself whisper, the first word she remembered uttering in years.

All at once, a change came over her, a crack in those pregnant storm clouds that, for the first time since adolescence, let through a tiny spear of light.

“No,” she said again, and this time her voice was louder, no longer just a whisper but something fiercer. “No, I won’t go with you.”

For a moment the creature said nothing. Gina could feel its shock, its incredulity, and she knew it wouldn’t let her go without a fight.

Come, it said, no longer a question but a command.

It reached into Gina’s heart and plucked the sadness like the strings of an off-tune guitar. Tears poured from Gina’s eyes like rain. But the little girl inside was with her now, and its own influence over her mind was growing, beating back the emotional weeds her tormentor had spent a lifetime nurturing.

“No,” Gina said yet again. “I won’t go with you. Not now, not ever.”

She turned onto her side, forcing muscles atrophied by chronic disuse to move once again, then, at last, pulled herself out of bed.

Her tormentor reeled in protest, but Gina wasn’t going to let it win, not now.

The clouds above her head broke again, letting more light through. Gina continued to cry, but the sound had changed, no longer a reflection of melancholy and despair but of overpowering joy and newfound hope.

You can’t deny me forever, the creature spat.

Gina knew it spoke the truth. She would fight this battle again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after. Such was her tormentor’s nature. Like cancer, the darkness inside of her would go into remission, then return the moment she believed herself healed.

But the little girl inside would remain with her, ready to remind Gina of who she’d once been and of who she could be once again. Together, they would fight, and one day, if Gina remained strong, she would beat her tormentor for the last time, and in so doing secure for herself eternal freedom.

Enter your email address and click "Submit" to subscribe and receive The Sign.

Tick, Tock

FlashMovie/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on April 16, 2019

Tick, tock.

The wall-mounted clock declared the passing of another second. With each stroke, Felicia imagined someone somewhere marking another tally in an invisible ledger, debiting some cosmic account. How much time that account had left, who could say? The thought that Death could visit her at any time terrified her, and she was determined to keep the mysterious figure at arm’s length for as long as possible.

Tick, tock.

The clock spun on, and with it, time. But that was about to change because Felicia had discovered something during one of her restless nights, a quirk of the cosmos that might allow her to pass on this temporal debt to someone else, theoretically providing her own account with an unlimited balance.

But can I really steal time from someone else?

Technically, the answer was yes. Morally, however, Felicia was in murkier waters. The night she’d dreamed up her trick, she’d obsessed over the ethical consequences. How could she steal one person’s life in order to extend her own? The answer, she’d decided, was in numbers.

Steal from just a few people and it’s basically murder, but steal from a large enough group, say, an entire population, and it’s like filching pennies from someone’s coffee table, technically wrong but hardly worth noticing.

Indeed, if her theory was correct, the loss to any one person would just be a second or two here, a minute or two there. Hardly worth noticing. Hardly worth feeling guilty. Only that had never sat quite right with her, and she’d spent many nights since her epiphany debating with herself.

But her fear of death and the unknown was a powerful motivator, and in the end, Felicia decided to go through with it.

Tick, tock.

Now, even though she’d chosen to test her theory, she hesitated. Because, she thought, it was a line that, once crossed, would change her in some terrible, irreversible way.

It’s just a test, a proof of concept. I won’t be taking anything of value.

But all time was valuable. This Felicia understood more than most.

Tick, tock.

Felicia shuddered.

Just do it. What are you afraid of?

At last, Heart pounding, Felicia closed her eyes.

Before the blackness danced a shimmering ocean of blue and silver fibers. These, Felicia had learned, were the threads that connected every human being to the cosmos and whatever lay beyond. Through these fibers, every mortal creature received their individual allotment of time, and once it was used up, their thread would be severed.

Felicia made out her own, vibrating to a unique and familiar beat. She took hold of it with her mind, then hesitated again. All she had to do was brush her thread against any one of a billion others. If she did so just right, the friction generated would divert a few small units of time, forcing them instead to flow into herself. But she was still afraid of how such a theft might taint her soul, and even now, on the cusp of acting, she was afraid.

I can’t, whispered a voice inside her head.

You can, whispered another.

It’s wrong.

It’s just a couple of seconds. They won’t notice a thing.

It was such a convenient lie, and after one last moment of self-doubt, Felicia decided to proceed.

Carefully, calmly, she surveyed the other threads. There, beside her, was one that seemed thick with vitality. She reached, her own thread firmly in hand, and—

A spark, followed by a flash. Startled, Felicia rebounded, almost tumbling out of the couch and onto the floor. She waited for her inner vision to clear, and when she was able to perceive the consequences of her actions, she gasped. Somehow, her thread had entangled with a thousand others. The resulting friction had sucked them all dry, leaving them burned out and severed.

Felicia licked her suddenly parched lips.

Tick, tock.

A thousand threads severed.

Tick, tock.

A thousand lives lost.

No, she thought. No, that can’t be.

But it was. A thousand human beings had died instantly, a sacrifice that imbued her with more time than she knew what to do with.

I’m a murderer.

Dazed and numb, Felicia didn’t realize until much, much later how long she would have to live with that fact.

Enter your email address and click "Submit" to subscribe and receive The Sign.