Surreal

Hello?

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This post was originally published through Patreon on August 22, 2018.

Alex woke to his cell phone ringing and answered just before it went to voicemail.

“Hello?”

“It’s been a long time.”

“Who’s this?”

The voice sounded familiar, but Alex couldn’t place it.

“You know who I am. You haven’t forgotten.”

“Kevin?”

Laughter was his only reply.

“Susie?”

Again, that laugh, hollow and dry.

A memory flashed before Alex’s mind like a shard of bright stained glass, a missive from the distant past: a pair of sunken eyes and a toadstool smile. Alex couldn’t remember who it was, but he was certain that face matched the voice on the other end of this call.

“Hello?”

A moment later, a name materialized to go along with the face. Not a normal name, not in the least, but just as familiar as that awful poisonous smile.

“Melthane.”

“You see?” said the voice at last. “I told you you hadn’t forgotten.”

Now, memories were piling one on top of the other. Flashes of another life. Flashes of another world.

“What do you want?”

“A marvelous place, Earth. We had all the magic, but this science and technology—this miraculous ability to build, to organize, to brute-force one’s ideas into existence—that’s its own special kind of magic, wouldn’t you say? Arguably more powerful than the sort you and I once dabbled in.”

It was all coming back to him now. His home, along with the reason he’d left it. But oh, God, he didn’t want to remember. The darkness. The destruction. Until Melthane reminded him of who he was, he’d managed to forget. Now, the peace of ignorance was gone, and it was never coming back.

“What do you want?” Alex said again, locking the bedpost beside him in a white-knuckled grip.

Melthane maintained silence a moment longer, but Alex could sense his deepening smile as if it had made a sound.

“My dear Alex, I only wanted you to remember.”

Click.

“Hello? Menthane, are you there?”

But Alex already knew the line was dead.

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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

Alexandr Belous/Shutterstock.com

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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