Visitor

There was a KNOCK at the door.

This was a Sign. A Sign that a visitor was at the door. I leapt from my bed, sleep holding fast to my eyes. Visitors were rare on Memory Lane; rare in that I have only ever had one Visitor. His name might have been (Salesman)–oh, well, I don’t know for sure. That’s not a thought for now.

“I’ll be right there!”

I made myself look presentable in front of a dusty mirror. This was a big occasion for me, and therefore it required my most formal and kept-clean attire. It was a nice black suit.

I call it my Visitor Suit.

The last time I wore it was seven years ago. It didn’t used to be called my Visitor Suit back then.

I grabbed my camera and slung it round my neck. It wasn’t exactly new, the camera that is, but it was great because it printed the pictures out the instant you took them. That was perfect, because I didn’t have any electricity here, and because of that, I couldn’t have a printer.

In front of the door, I paused. My heart was beating furiously and my hands were getting the jitters. Visitors are very anxious-making to me. But this time was going to be different from the last time. This time I had a plan.

I opened the door.

“Hello, friend!” I said cheerfully, my face cracking in a big smile.

Perfect execution. I think I nailed it, if I do say so myself. I hope I didn’t come on too strong, though. I made sure I was loud, so as to be heard clearly, while also sounding kind and clearly pleased to see him. Although… in retrospect, perhaps friend was a bit presumptuous…

The visitor looked at me stoically. He was wearing a blue uniform with a tan satchel. I reached my hand out to him for shaking and waited.

“You have mail.” Stated the visitor, without a hint of emotion. At least, not one that I could discern or… Or-NO!-or was there a hint of Disdain?

Oh no,

            please not Disdain.

      Not that. That would be…

      Salesman felt Disdain. At least I think he did. Yes, he did, right before he left.

                                                               …the worst.

      He left.

      Salesman left. NO!

            He couldn’t have,

because he was going to be my friend.

            My (new) friend.

    He would take the place of

No he left, (He did? Right, of course he didn’t because he lives just next-) but that’s okay because there was a new visitor. The Mailman. He would be my friend. He had to be my friend. There was no way that there was Disdain, because friends don’t feel Disdain towards other friends.

I was sweating now. The world was

P

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               N

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              N

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            and I felt sick. (I’m dying. I think I’m dying. Wouldn’t that be (GREAT?) terrible) My teeth were grinding together while I fought to hold my smile together. My jaws were metal saws grating against a metal beam while pipes of metal clanged and clanged and there was a cacophony of noise and all the while there was banging and g r a t i n g and ohmygod was there an end to the NOISE inside my head? My hand was shaking all over the place as it waited for the touch that would never come.

Hello, friend.

You have mail.

Hello, friend.

YOU HAVE MAIL. 

It was a cycle. Every time there was more hate, more venom in his voice. “You have mail” was now a shout and I saw him running down my driveway, into the street, and away from Memory Lane. Then he was a snake, and he coiled around me, hisssssssing all the while, fangs barred and ready to strike. “You have mail” was a hiss, and now the venom in his voice was real venom and it was dripping wet droplets onto my skin. It burned.

“Here you go.” The Mailman placed an envelope in my hand.

I gripped the envelope in my hand. I didn’t even look at it, I just looked at the Mailman and tried to take in every detail. I couldn’t enjoy his presence enough; this was my chance and I was blowing it.

This was my chance.

I was blowing it.

I put the envelope in a pocket inside my jacket and stood there silently with the Mailman. We held each others gazes for a minute. Every one of those seconds was a blessing.

“Well, you have a nice day, sir.” Said the Mailman.

Then he turned and walked away.

I couldn’t move. I felt dread and sorrow unlike anything I’d felt since Salesman left. I felt a tear roll down my cheek.

            “Wait!”

I called out.

The word hung in the air, palpable to my five senses in such a way that I could feel it wander across the space between myself and the Mailman, searching hopelessly for his ears. For a moment,Wait!” hovered in the air. Then the quotations began to quiver. It was a little tremor that soon racked the whole word, before at long last, the exclamation shook itself to pieces and fell in bits to the ground.

The Mailman stopped.

He turned around.

I couldn’t believe it; I felt relief and joy overwhelm me–this was different, so much different from last time.

“Well, you have a nice day, sir.” He turned back around and started walking away.

Sorrow.

I was Sorrow.

I ran up to him and through the tears I begged him for another moment of his time. He turned slowly, and began again.

“Well, you-“ He started.

“I know, I know, (I KNOW!) but just- can I do one thing before you leave?”

The mailman looked at me without saying a word, emotionless as ever. Salesman had been the same way, no matter what I did to elicit a response from him. No matter what.

I held up my camera with shaking hands while he stared blankly at me. My body was racked with a spinning depression that couldn’t be confined to my mind alone. I felt cracks running up my arm and across my hand, reaching up through my finger tips. My porcelain skin was beginning to shatter and fall apart; if something wasn’t done soon to release the tension, I would be lost forever.

*Click*

And r  e  l  e  a  s  e  .

Next Chapter

Hydrogen +

An hour elapsed. My solitude was nearly complete, save for one mysterious ball and chain still securely fastened to my leg. Discerning their origin seemed as unlikely as their removal, but the latter proved more engaging. So, futile though it may have been, work for the sake of work was better than the alternative.

Unfortunately, I had limited resources at my disposal. Moon rocks were neither durable nor sharp enough to cut iron, and any other tool I might’ve used had drifted off across the astral veil. In a matter of minutes, want of other options left me idle, and that idleness chipped away at the thin cables tethering my rational mind. Then, untethered, I turned my eyes to the sky.

I propelled myself into the infinity above. Over and over I jumped, but for every ascent I made, the chain held fast and cast me back down. My first couple jumps were tentative—in all honesty, I didn’t want to go too far for fear of escaping gravity’s weakened hold and getting lost in space, but soon they became powerful bounds, gaining in strength to match my growing frustration. Although, despite my desperation and wrathful leaping, I more often than not landed headfirst amidst a cloud of moon dust.   

Where had the ball come from? Sure, while its existence made about as much sense as my own spontaneous appearance on the Moon, I was far more intrigued by the ball than my new environment. There was something antagonistic about it. It seemed oddly human–owing, perhaps, to this villainous nature. It implied that I wasn’t alone… I mean, somebody must have put it on my ankle? If so, then where did they go? Obsessing over this question kept my mind busy and, acknowledging that, I set to work searching for this fellow cosmic Crusoe.

Learning that I could drag the ball slowly along if I threw the chain over my shoulder and leveraged it with my reduced body weight, I began to explore the surrounding area at a space snail’s pace. In truth, it all looked about the same to me—Crater. Another Crater. Moon hill. Crater. I crawled into a few lunar craters; that was exciting for a couple hours. Once, while scaling the crest of one such moon dimple, the ball escaped me, rolling down the side and dragging me with it. Pulled helplessly behind as it bounced down the crater’s maw, I eventually came to an abrupt stop at the bottom, splayed hopelessly in a heap while exhaling petit puffs of powdery moon rubble and the remnants of my dignity.

I carried on. The chain bore into my shoulder as I trudged along the surface of the Moon. My mind began to wander. I pressed on and my surroundings began to change. The sound of feet clipping along pavement reached my ears—I was walking through the memory of any other given day. I kept my head down and slogged on.

Time doesn’t always work properly. That is, it doesn’t always tick at its usual leisurely pace. There are some times that run, or jump, or do all manner of funky things other than tick. When time ticks, I like to think of it like the Earth’s rotation: it changes, of course, but only slightly and imperceptibly to the earthlings walking along the surface. However, if, for some reason, the Earth were to very suddenly stop rotating, we would all become acutely aware of the change. So it is as with the Earth’s rotation, you only really notice time when something has gone horribly, horribly awry.

I had lost track of time when it stopped. The walking had been going on indefinitely; my mind had drifted so far away that my body was just a blip on my consciousness’ radar. Then time stopped and I careened back into my cockpit.

The experience of that Infinite Moment defied, defies, and will forever defy words. Suffice it to say, there will always be a part of me living out that instant indefinitely.

Still, there was another part of me that persevered past the Infinite Moment. I pushed time forward, entirely by accident, like the first tentative movements of a baby. When this event, or whatever it was, had stolen control of my body from me, it had simultaneously forked over the reigns of time.

For the second I’d budged time forward, a sickness washed over me. I had nudged time and now I was inching it forward at an uncomfortably slow pace. Thoughts were occurring to me unbidden, uncontrollable; they were actions linked to moments linked to external events, all of which I was unfurling at a stupidly slow pace.  My throat swallowed hard, fighting back the sickness as I tried to situate myself on a comfortable derivative of time…

Zero seemed easy enough to maintain.

I maintained time at a derivative of zero, so time ticked along at a constant, slow rate. My thoughts blossomed and bloomed lethargically in my head. My discomfort was developing and reacting to the time change, spreading like molasses through my cortex. I felt really sick. This was time sickness, which felt identical to motion sickness, except I wasn’t going anywhere in space. My body was affected by a sickness that originated in another dimension, one that it wasn’t accustomed to conversing with.

I tried to move again, and I did, but only through time. I was pushing the seconds along faster and faster. The sidewalk moved beneath me like a treadmill. Technically my feet were moving, but I couldn’t control where they went, so it appeared as though I were dictating the movement of the sidewalk instead.

I traveled backwards in time. The time sickness returned, but in reverse order; now matter was re-entering my body. Next I tried crawling forward in slow motion, reliving the horrible sickness as a byproduct. It had already happened, and would continue to happen if I didn’t move past this section of the past. I couldn’t choose where I looked in space, but I was beginning to see further and further in time in either direction; I was a dreamer thrust abruptly into the light and my “eyes” were adjusting slowly to the brightness.

I felt a new discomfort. Not from time sickness, but because I realized something horrifying to a creature who is accustomed to navigating space rather than time:

I had no control over any of the events that had occurred, or that would occur, or that were occurring. I always walked along the same sidewalk. I could sprint through time, but it was a loop, and the sidewalk an infinity treadmill. I was stuck on the timeline of a loop bearer—I could race through the days, but I did the same thing every day.  Thoughts passed through my mind, but I was only a master of time and these thoughts were reactions to my surroundings; I just felt them flower and float on by. They were looping too. It had been hard to see that when time was ticking along normally, but when I sped my timeline up, there were patterns.  I could see loops everywhere. If I could’ve screamed, I would’ve, but my emotions and actions were tied to space, and I was only a passenger in that respect. So I did the only thing I could do: I floored time. The pedal was on the ground, and the hours hurtled by. I felt sick, but I also felt one of the loops bending. It strained, and it stretched, and about 20 hours of walking later, it broke. I slowed time to a crawl as the hour of its break neared, the moment shining on the future’s horizon like a beacon of hope. That was the hour linked to the moment I realized I could control the speed at which the events unfurled, but whatever was going to happen was going to happen and I could only choose to view them or fast-forward over them. Yet somehow, knowing all of that, on that hour I chose to break one of my loops. I chose to step off the sidewalk.

I threw up. I threw up, but I did so on the surface of the Moon, and the best part about all this throwing up was that I didn’t know why I was doing it. I had forgotten the sidewalk. Time was ticking again. I was of master of space and my timeline was hidden once more from me.

I found an American flag planted in the ground near a small moon dimple. Resting my back against the flag, I reclined as best I could and looked at the little ball.

“This isn’t even possible,” I looked around at all the moon rocks and the other moony things, “How can I breathe? That’s not even…”

I sighed. What did it matter anyway? I discarded all the math, physics and everything else I thought I knew about the universe because, in spite of it all, I was here. I was trapped here. On the Moon.

“And then there’s you.”

The ball just sat there, innocently poised, as if it didn’t know what a pain in the ass it was.

“How are you this heavy?”

Silence.

“How could something this small be so heavy… Everything else is light! I’m light! Why are you not light?”

The ball didn’t reply, but someone else did.

“Rarely are the big things in life the ones to break us. I find more often, it’s the little ones that bring us down.”

Funeral

A woman in the front row caught my eye and started to cry.

Seven years ago, I was at a funeral. It was the week before I moved to Memory Lane; I think it was a Tuesday. My suit was black and clean. I didn’t have a beard back then and my hair was well kept. The people around me were clean and kept as well. Some of them wept.

They called me up front, asked me to speak to the clean-kept, well-pressed people. I stepped forward and looked out at the crowd. A lot of them looked very sad. A few of them slept. I knew some of the sad ones—I even had pictures of them hanging from the wall in my house on Memory Lane.

My eyes were crying. I didn’t think that I was, but my eyes certainly were. When I spoke, my voice wasn’t crying though. For a time, my mouth woke up and said some things before falling back to sleep. I stepped down, and returned to my seat.

There was a reception at the end of the ceremony. I left without speaking to anyone.

On my way out, I passed the weeping woman from the front row.

She didn’t see me.

I didn’t see her.

Next Chapter

Dissociation

The clutter from my desk had disappeared. The room itself had disappeared as well—replaced entirely by darkness. An abyss. When my vision returned, I saw my pens and paper drifting away into the void.

They floated on and on, across an unfamiliar black sky.

It had taken the smallest increment of time—immeasurable by any one of my senses. When the books, papers, and pencils had left the table, the whole room had dissipated instantaneously. It had shifted from solid to gas—the walls carried off like cattail seeds on a breeze, and where there should’ve been grass and trees, there was now rock and dust.

Before, a neighborhood had sprawled out in all directions.

Now, craters populated the surrounding view. In place of the usual comforting weight of gravity on my shoulders, I felt next to nothing. So it followed that when the books left the table—a table, mind you, that no longer existed—they soared ever onward.

I did try to retrieve them. It was the first thought I had in this strange new world, and it became imperative that I save those assorted office supplies, despite the futility of my pursuit. As I leapt after them—an idea that doesn’t seem all that bright in retrospect—I was gripped tight by the ankle, stopped cold in my flight like I was the ill-begotten child of Icarus and Achilles. I achieved minimal lift off, making it maybe three or four feet off the ground, before I was accosted by a sharp pain and yanked to the Moon’s surface. After clearing my mouth of debris, spitting rock and dust in white, powdery globs, further investigation revealed the source of the pain to be an iron ball chained to my left ankle.

I was at a loss for emotions. Imagine pulling the tablecloth out from under a stack of plates: the plates themselves are virtually unaffected both physically and geographically, but you can bet those plates are damn confused. It was all floral patterns and soft cloth one moment, then cold, hard wood the next. I was that stack of plates. It wasn’t so much that I wondered where I was, but rather I felt the loss of that knowledge in a way that, up until now, I’d no way of experiencing. To go from the comfort of your home to an alien landscape in the blink of an eye was, and I’m understating here, fucking jarring.

Had I asked myself where I was, which I didn’t, I would’ve been able to answer that question easily; all I’d have had to do is look up. Inevitably I did eventually look up to find my former home hanging a quarter of a million miles above my head. It had a magnificent, radiant beauty to it that stole my breath away. I swear to you, whoever you may be, that I never did an injustice in my life so great as not fully appreciating, not simply bathing in that glorious sight and realizing all its worth the first time I saw it. Had I the ability, I’d travel back in time and bask in the reflected light of that moment for a second longer. Alas, in that single instant I couldn’t be asked, and I now live with the terrible truth that I felt only abject horror as I stared back at Earth.

After that, there was only one mode of recourse: I lay down in the glowing white dust, tucked myself up in fetal position, and breathed. I became aware of a singular truth: I was alone. Very, very alone.

I was a single proton unburdened by the comfort of another particle, positive or negative.

I was Hydrogen +.

Next Chapter

Strain the Bond

It began with the big bang that never came. Before that

only anger and frustration. Together, like flint against steel, they ignited many smaller explosions:

The smashing of a door against its frame,

a frightening sound that harmonized with knuckles cracking against a wall. There were many tiny collisions between particles as sound waves passed through them. Those particles carried

questions and accusations, addressed to a girl who was too far away to hear their message. All the same, they carried cursed words, from pursed lips; words which shook the atoms that held the roof up, those atoms passing along the vibrations, playing a subatomic game of telephone.

Perhaps the vibrations even reached those atoms nearest the accused, but by then, these atoms had long ago forgotten their message. By then, it was nothing but a pitiful wave, lost in a sea of particles.

I knew this. My tirade endured.

I grabbed my phone—I had to reach out to someone, anyone, had to let them know what had happened. I needed help—but from who? I looked back to the door. My friends were downstairs, or would be soon—couldn’t I talk to them? No. I was alone. Time had taught me that lesson well enough, so the phone found a new home, briefly attending a showing against the wall before settling down in pieces upon my bed.

The room spun. My balance tipped like the scales of the dead, my heart so heavy that the scale toppled over and sent feathers flying across my vision. Through this haze, I saw my room in disarray. This compounded my anger: how could my room have the audacity to be dirty in the presence of such a wrathful spirit?

My feet pounded against the floor and, emerging from my fugue state, I confronted my cluttered desk. It was time for a clean slate, both figuratively and literally, so I slammed my hand upon the table and swept it violently across. My eyes were shut and my ears rang with the sound of my own vengeful, punitive voice, so much so that it was almost deafening. Then it happened.

As the objects left my desk, there was a sudden shift. For an instant, my screams actually deafened me. Or so it seemed, although in retrospect it felt more like silence had replaced everything, even the air in my lungs.

That was the beginning. That was the big bang that never came.

Next Chapter

One

I’ve lost a friend, and now I’m stuck on Memory Lane.

I’ve lived here for seven years now. Or at least, it feels like seven years. Time doesn’t always work on Memory Lane, and it’s pretty lonely here, so I have no one to ask for it.

I don’t like it here. I want you to know that. Desperately so. I’ve never liked it here, and yet for seven years I’ve stayed. If there is nothing else that you take away from this chapter, let it be this: Memory Lane is not a happy place for me.

This morning I packed all my things into little boxes and called the movers. I waited all day–only stepping away from the boxes once to rearrange the photos on the wall. Night came and they never (show)ed, so I unpacked everything. Tomorrow I’ll probably do the same thing. I’ll do the same thing on Tuesday as well.

I don’t know what day it is anymore,

but I know I’ll do the same thing on Tuesday as I did today.

Next Chapter

I : A foreboding note.

It began with a poem, that looked like a note, left on my bed by a person unknown:

Heed this warning,
woodland wand’re
While quick to Spring
You’re soon to Fall.
Leaves that change for
Winter’s shadow,
Will sing this song,
My Summer’s son:

Rise not and set
On season’s close
Henry the great
Adventurer

I read the note and turned the piece of parchment over in my palm. This was some true blue, old-fashioned parchment, I kid you not: it was wrinkled, worn, and every bit as weathered as you’d imagine it to be. The backside gave away nothing more about its origins, so I wrote off this mystery and put it away for later. I folded it up and placed it in my pocket.

Perched by the window, I surveyed the yard: green leaves held fast to the dogwood and squirrels chattered; I reflected on words tattered—it would be another week before the leaves changed.


My phone buzzed from across the room. My friends were at the door and in half an hour we would all be in the woods, embarking on yet another adventure. For the others, these afternoon getaways were a respite from artificial light, a break from time spent typing—a way to escape if only for a moment. But for me, this was life. I had the sublime pleasure of the woods, trading fixed units breathing mechanical perspiration for air recycled by botanical respiration.

Before leaving the room, I glanced once more at the note. Where had it come from? It was eerily foreboding, and the more I thought of it, the more a sense of unease crept over me. My stomach churned uncomfortably and I wondered: what was supposed to happen when the leaves fell?

Next Chapter