Want some more weird short fiction for free? Of course you do, you read material on the Internet. Most of what I’ve been working on these days isn’t finished or is being done for other people, which explains the relative silence.
Anyway, I came up with this based off some notes and can’t really do much with it, but it’s in a semblance of linear order and I like how it reads.
Check out my new little short story, just for you guys, “Speaking The Void.”
“Speaking The Void”
I dreamed about it once, and then it never let me go.
A soft and sweet-looking older woman, with a child in tow walking down the street. She’s kind-looking, gazing down at the child as they stop at the curb and wait to cross the street. The boy is still and silent, the way a child might look in an old photo back when kids were expected to be seen but not heard, or the way a more modern child would behave, knowing that he has a treat coming for him if he’s good while out with his grandmother.
In any other setting, something like this would be quaint, beautiful, off a postcard or something, a childhood memory one looks back on with fondness.
But it’s not right. Even in my sleep, in the non-real and difficult-to-navigate space of the dream, I know that this child is not right, that this woman is not right.
The child is stiff, holding himself wrong, not quite human, a simulation, a clockwork and porcelain and flesh simulacrum of a well-behaved little boy in shorts and shoes and a clean white shirt. He turns to look at me…no, it, it turns to look at me in the dream and they eyes are wrong. Wrong, too big, too big for that small smooth face that looks too human to be real. Those eyes and that open mouth are black open, full of void and stars.
That’s when I wake up off the couch, every night now for a month, drenched in sweat and screaming as hard as I can. The bed is too painful to try to sleep in, the remnants of warm nights in soft embrace that ended ugly and screaming, fighting over how I could continue this, this obsession, the obsession scattered across the desk in the living room, pages of manuscript, Sticky notes of comments and corrections all over, the pack of red pens I opened up just for this project and already was a third of the way through, somehow.
That tome. That…that book, the book I was editing, reading, fixing and re-typing for my publisher, jotting down notes. It was terrible, just a badly-written story about a woman and a baby and an odd headache she can’t shake off…no. No, that’s something else I read for work. It’s about a man on a journey through a long desert, with nothing but a sword and a dream to guide him, a typical fantasy novel, right? I groaned on the couch cushions, feeling them clammy under me.
No, the sword and desert thing was a video game, I realized. A child on a tryst through some magical land he reaches through a mirror…no, that’s the kid’s book I liked so much as a child. It’s a tough, gritty detective story with dames and…wait, what? That’s the movie I watched last night. What was it?
I shook my head and got up, peeling my sweat-soaked t-shirt off and padding into the living room to root through the fridge for something, anything, an automatic function my body told me would be for helping my brain re-align, my mind still in the fog of dream, the fog that I’ve been having difficulty shaking off. The fight, the latest in a string of arguments that had started small and grown, and grown, becoming sniping, becoming a stand-off, becoming yelling, becoming her leaving for her mother’s with a bag one night while he was oblivious and passed out on the couch, not hearing a thing.
I slammed the door to the fridge in disgust. I knew what I wanted to do, what I needed to do. I turned back to to go to the desk, sitting down in the dark and clicking on the desk lamp.
Before anything, before writing and before we stopped moving, they were there, appearing to speak in voices familiar to us. They were flesh but not flesh, clicking and shifting with every step. Their voices would sound hollow, from mouths and eyes that seemed to have been crafted either too perfect or not quite human, a void that lacked the subtle nuances that even early man knew made us what we were. We feared those flesh-not-flesh avatars, some kind of remote machine that spoke in a voice that was our voice but also terrifying in its difference, knowing who they spoke for.
They spoke for the void.
The book, the manuscript, it spoke about the void often. I turned page after page, and the void was there, the place where stories came from that became the bricks of civilization in this story, but also, where terror and horrific truths came from. The darkness beyond our vision, beyond our control, a constant reminder. The void spoke one last time, after so many times, in faces full of void and stars from flesh that wasn’t flesh, too wrong, too perfect but somehow impossibly flawed in trying to be human.
I kept going, and going, marking, reading, my mind calming, quieting down as I read about…about the void? About flesh but not flesh, voices that were human but terrifying in some inexplicable way? It became a blur, something I couldn’t grasp, slipping from my memory almost as soon as the word had passed in front of my eyes. The sun was coming up as I finished, the last bits of notes and comments, putting the whole thing down. It…it was beautiful.
The next day, I walked out of the store down the block, feeling better with the air on my face, the light of the sun warming my shoulders. Getting out was a good idea, I’d gotten breakfast and a haircut, shopped for records, and sent a text message to her, apologizing. It wasn’t going to fix anything, but it could be a start, I thought to myself in the diner that morning, eating ham, French toast, slurping hot black coffee and feeling the solid heavy food settle in me, the first real food I’d had in a while I thought. When was the last time I’d actually eaten?
Someone called my name, and I looked across the street at the sound, which in that moment, I realized, was wrong. Too loud but without the volume of shouting, like it was right in my ear and not across the way.
The face, the child in my dreams, it’s the face of the child staring at me now, my own face from a face framed with neat hair, a white buttoned-up shirt, shorts pressed neatly as if for church. My own childhood face from that age, eyes too big and gaping void mouth open, calling my name.
Eyes and mouth full of void and stars.