Perception: A Short Story

I was at a party when the government agent arrived. She wore a black twinset suit and dark-tinted glasses, with curled, angular chin-length hair which stuck out in red points. The tight crimson pout twisted into an unconvincing smile as she turned to me, “I haven’t seen you for a while.”

“I don’t live here.”  My shoulders lifted in a shrug.

“You can have a free gift anyway.” she purred, passing a bag to me.

Inside the bag were nuts, and huge puffs of honeyed corn and grape-sized green seeds I’d never seen before. I nibbled a few as her interrogation began and she started to rapidfire at the group and question them on their daily movements and where they had been. Had they left the city? Had they used cars or unauthorised technological devices? Uneasy, I slipped away unnoticed and soon found the familiar streets of London, the heat rising from the pavement and a low hum of activity filling my ears.

Feeling free, I released a sigh as I walked down a cobbled alleyway, the sun beating on my face. Life was good.

I walked aimlessly, unsure where I would go today, perhaps I’d take in a few sights. Soon, I began to feel a little out of sorts as my landscape shifted. The colours around me were startlingly vivid, as if someone had turned up the saturation. Everything from the buildings to the trees and the grass looked as if they had been dipped in the brightest paint and the air seemed to buzz and whisper to me in delight. It was a feeling that almost made my heart skip but as I continued along my walk, something didn’t feel right, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

I passed a bright red postbox and it was only when I saw the name engraved on the top I paused, Lilly Roberts, my name! I studied the box for a moment and decided it must be a coincidence. As I moved through the streets, I saw the name everywhere, as if the universe was calling to me. I must have eaten a bad nut, I reasoned. I’d make my way home and get some rest.

Looking at the ground below me, the cracks in the pavement seemed to widen. I thought I was mistaken, but I was soon gazing into gaping chasms that threatened to swallow me up, dark and menacing. They seemed to be alive and full of intent, eager to suck me in.

Ahead I could see a woody area crowded with trees that looked like a safe place to rest, but then a fizzy silver line started to cross the horizon, almost hard to see to start with but it pulsed, growing with each beat and threatening to split the fabric of reality open around me and crack it like an egg.

My gut started to churn like a washing machine on fast spin, an eerie sensation which caused my legs to turn to jelly and shake, and my stomach to bubble with nausea. The silver line was crackling now, a terrible, high-pitched whine. In a split second, I knew I could rip away a layer of reality, but what lay beneath was so grotesque and inhuman, that I wasn’t sure if I could stomach it. My senses were being attacked from every angle as screams of horror rose, a sickening chorus, visions of monstrous limbs, clawing, lashing and feeding gnashing teeth to energise the darkest of souls. Complete anarchy, a visceral feeling that had me frozen to the spot, unsure of how to escape the evil that wished to consume anything and everything.

That’s when I felt them. The other spinning layers. There wasn’t just one, there were many, each with its own Hellscapes and horrors waiting to emerge. The layers of chaos, confusion, terror and wickedness, writhing and waiting to be unwrapped, to spill out into the world and crush its very nature.

The thought of peeling it away made me sick to my stomach and fiery tears rolled down my cheeks at the sadness of it all, scorching my face.

I looked around. Everyone else was carrying on about their day, the general hustle and bustle of London, but there were a few others frozen to the spot, clearly fighting their own battle and dallying in a stormy sea of discontent.

I’d been here before, the details were hazy, blurred beyond comprehension. Yet, I knew the last time I’d chosen to hold the fabric tightly together, to blame it on a temporary madness and dismiss it, carrying on about my day until things felt normal again.

It left me pondering – is it worse to be unaware of evil or to stare it in the eye? Even if that might be perilous.

I needed time to think, but time was running out.

What would you have done?

Kaz B

Writer, podcaster, creator

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