I'm not titling this... (Part four added 11/29)

I rose to my feet; I should be exhausted, but I was still pumped up on adrenaline. What I had just done was quite taxing, but my new task was before me, and there was no time to rest. I looked down at myself; the pool I had just climbed from had apparently kept my previous attire; leaving me clad in what I was wearing before I entered that strange little realm. The water, if you could call it that, didn’t soak my clothes, nor leave them even the least bit damp; I was dry as a bone. The pain and stress that, mere seconds ago, was overwhelming; was driven away, as if by a breeze.

Pushing the wonder from from my mind, I quickly recalled what I had been through; remembering it clearly was essential to a speedy completion for those who came after me. More-so greatly, because I was now tasked as their guide.


Upon entering the pool, I was stunned to find myself outside, in a grassy field. An impressive aurora snaked its way above me, across the entirety of the sky. Wisps of brilliant color, speckled with clusters of stars, leaped from every distant horizon at once. It was hard to imagine I was previously in a crisp-white control room; and had entered here via a small hatch in the floor.

“No time ta stargaze boyo, ye’ve got work ta do.” A voice from just above my right shoulder jolted me back to reality, or at least, back to whatever this place was.

“Where to first?” I asked, staring straight ahead.

“To yer right, over ta that hill with all the trees.” I took off running before he finished speaking.

This was really like a videogame; a voice from nowhere, guiding me, step by step, to a series of goals. The mystic locale, and my seemingly inhuman speed, only added to the effect. It occurred to me that games may have actually trained me for something useful.

“Don’t get distracted, seriously!” The voice didn’t bark orders, or try to soothe; it remained neutral, like we were just having a conversation.

I imagine the old man, who I knew was the source of the voice, was doing this to help keep me focused on the task at hand.

“I got it.” I confirmed verbally.

“I mean it, everything in there is designed ta distract ye, and waste time.” The voice continued. “That’s the trick ta this thing; it’s not hard, it’s jest distracting; and ye… we, don’t have time for that.”

“I hear you, I completely understand.” I replied solemnly, cresting the first hill.

To my left and right, I saw lights, heard noises; things that resembled people I knew, or things I’d like to have. I honestly couldn’t recall exactly what they were, but the concepts of desire and interest, were being blasted into me like standing front-row at a rock concert. Fortunately, I had a goal, and as long as I had a defined goal, I could ignore a lot of other shit pretty easily. I charged over a second hill.

“At the base of the tree, grab the white thing with the red emblem.”

Zeroing in on the solitary tree, I ran up a slope covered in discolored grass; some strange shade of blue; hard to describe. Nestled among the roots of the tree, I saw a white object, with strange red markings on it. The object was like a small, round pillow; but it was solid in my hand. The emblem looked like a letter from the Korean alphabet.

“Don’t worry about what it is, jest grab it.”

I snatched the object, as instructed. Somehow, without noticing the change, I was in a forest, surrounded by trees.

“Okay, now ye need to activate the switch. There should be a lever somewhere in that forest.”

I looked around, there was a large, green-handled, knife-switch, affixed to a gray, metal box, which was bolted to the side of a tree. It was about five feet to my right, but strangely took me several steps to reach. Once in front of it, I pulled the switch to the ‘on’ position.

I was hit with a rush of pressure against the entire front of my body. I was suddenly aware that I was wearing a very large diaper, and no pants. This barely had time to register before my stomach cramped, and I pushed a massive flood of diarrhea in the crinkly garment.

“Good job, but ye’re not done yet! There’s one more thing ta do!” The voice now yelled in my ear.

I took off running again, this time in the direction of the lake; with each step, I could feel the messy diaper squish against me. I wasn’t distracted in the least, in fact, it was rather comforting. To most people, this was probably the most challenging point in the trial, but since I actually liked wearing diapers, and frequently used them just for fun, the distraction had no effect on me. The convenience of finding the switch in mere seconds was far more perplexing than any change in attire.

After cresting another hill, the forest was just as dense as before. I wasn’t sure if this was the original landscape, just with trees, or an entirely new area altogether. Regardless, I knew my last goal was at the bottom of a lake. Even though I hadn’t heard the voice, I could feel his intention pressing me forward.

My legs were getting tired; or rather, there was a strange pressure against them, making it nearly impossible to take full strides. I was mostly springing along on my toes, leaning forward at what couldn’t be any less than a 45 degree angle.

There were people in the forest now, in clusters or by themselves. I didn’t pay attention to what they were doing, but it seemed like they were having picnics, or looking for berries, and the like. I reached the bottom of the hill, which met the rocky shore of the lake. Without hesitation, I jumped into the crystal-clear water. Even beneath the surface, other people surrounded me; swimming around, seemingly suspended by only the blur of water against my eyes.

I checked my watch, a watch I never had before.

6:37…
6:36…
6:35…

This told me two things; one, that I only had six-and-a-half minutes left, and two, that I definitely wasn’t dreaming. It’s hard enough for me to even focus visually on details in any dream; my poor eyesight usually translates to near-blindness within the fog of slumber. However, I knew that it was impossible to read letters or numbers in a dream; yet here I was, watching a timer count down by the second.

I sunk to the bottom, and kicked my toes rapidly to propel myself toward what appeared to be some power control unit. All kinds of gauges, switches, and lights, dotted the front of the gray, metal box. It hummed continuously, and popped loudly as it occasionally sent blinding arcs of electricity to nearby rocks and coral.

As I got close, I began to feel the tingle of electricity in the water. It rapidly grew to numbing pain, causing me to convulse with each pop. Despite the fact that I should have been killed instantly, I made it to the tall box. Quickly opening a door on the front panel, I jammed the white object inside. It slid easily into an awaiting depression in the strange circuitry. Once secure, it began to glow, and the emblem changed from red to blue.

Immediately, I began to rise to the surface; pulled up by my previously-absent buoyancy.

My head burst above the water, and I found myself gasping for air. Around me, a crowd of people were bustling toward one end of the room; bumping into terminals and control panels in their hurry. I climbed from the water, my fingers struggling to find grip on the smooth, white, edge of the hatch.

Once standing, I looked to see where everyone was headed. At the far end of the room, three strange emblems were embedded into the wall. One was red, and matched the emblem from the white object I found by the tree, the other two were green, and blue; matching the knife-switch handle, and the same shade of the blue that the red emblem had changed to after being inserted into the power-box-thing. All three emblems glowed, and a small, round door in the wall, had opened.

“Ah thank fuck; I thought we’d lost ye there for a minute.” An old man approached me. He was the one who told me to go into the hatch, and the same voice that had guided me through the trial.

“Listen, we have ta go now! There’s little time ta explain; but ye must stay here!”

“What?” I gasped, horrified that I should be left behind after working to save the rest.

“Ye gotta guide the next group through. They’ll need yer help.” He looked at the door, which only had a few people left waiting to enter, then back to me. “They’re the last group, help them unlock the door, and it’ll be paradise for all of ye. Ye’re the last, so ye don’t hafta leave none behind!”

He ran toward the door, as the last person in front of him disappeared inside; he bent to enter, but stopped halfway through, and looked back.

“It’ll be easy, but ye only get one shot at it. Don’t worry about though we’ll see ye on the other side!” He slammed the door behind him.

I heard the sound of a strong wind, the pulsating hum of electronics; and then it all abruptly stopped, as if the sound itself had been sucked from the room.


The three emblems no longer glowed, and the gray door had locked itself upon being closed.

I glanced around quickly, hurrying to get ready for the next group. The room looked like NASA’s mission control; computer terminals filled the room. Most were inactive, but a few scrolled through a meaningless read-out of numbers. Far to the left, I saw one with a colorfully-lit screen. Upon closer inspection, I found that it displayed an aerial view of a forest, very similar to the one I was previously running through. The terminal was rotated 90 degrees from the rest; its screen faced to the right of all the others

There was no keyboard, so I touched the screen itself. It gave way, letting me push my fingers through, like it was a liquid. After a moment of hesitation, I pulled my hand back, and bent to press my face through the screen. With my head ‘inside’ of the display, I could look around easily in all directions. Directly below me, I spotted two white crosses, embedded in the ground. To the right, about ten feet away, was a green-handled knife-switch, bolted the a tree. Mirroring it, was a blue one to my left.

I pulled my head back from the screen, and looked up at the wall behind the terminal. There were two emblems, green and blue. Below them, I saw another small door, this one was polished metal. The emblems pulsated faintly, but the door was shut, and several large ‘latches’ were across it.

Between the console at which I now stood, and the wall with the locked door, there were two open hatches in the floor. Each hatch had a smooth white surface around its edge, like the perimeter of a swimming pool. But the material was shiny, and looked more like porcelain. Inside of each hatch, was clear water. A jumble of colors obscured anything below about two feet down; but above that, it was perfectly clear.

“Gotcha.” I said aloud, fairly confident that I understood the goal.

Turning from all of this, I headed away from both doors, back to the way I had entered this room. This end was walled with glass which overlooked a two subway tracks. The tracks ran parallel to each other, but the tunnel was blocked in both directions with piles of debris. The was a single opening in the wall, no door, which accessed the tracks. On the other side of the tracks was a platform, with similar glass, and another opening in the wall. Rather than a control room, the other side was just a blank platform, with a single door in the back, against a concrete wall.

On the tracks, in between the two openings, was The Bomb. The one that would end this aging world.

A rumbling in the distance signaled the arrival of the next, and last, group of evacuees. I hopped down onto the tracks, ran across, and climbed onto the platform. Just as I reached the door, I heard someone knocking from the other side. I turned the handle and was nearly knocked down by the mob of people that entered.

That mob of people turned out to be about twenty-or-so girls, all of them appeared to be in their late teens, or early twenties. The last one in slammed the door behind her, shutting out solid darkness and sound of howling wind. If this was my group, I was glad to be left behind.

“Quickly, this way!” I gestured for them to follow me across the tracks.

“Alright, I’ll make this quick.” I addressed them once they had gathered around the terminal I had previously inspected. “First, we’re trying to get in that door.” I pointed to the polished metal door in the wall.

“Hey, listen up!” I yelled, seeing that they were still kind of panicky. Most were staring back toward The Bomb. “Yes, this is the end of the world! But don’t worry; you’ve made it this far, this is the last step before we make it to paradise. It’ll be easy, and I’m here to guide you through it.”

I instantly had their attention.

“I need two of you to volunteer to go in there.” I pointed to the hatches in the floor. “It’ll take you to a weird place, that’ll do weird things to you. But don’t worry, you only need to turn on two switches, and then you’ll come back, just the same as you went in.”

The girls all looked at each other and murmured.

“Don’t be afraid, I just did it myself to get help my group get through there.” I pointed to the gray door. “They told me to stay behind and help, since you all are the last group. That’s what I’m going to do, but I can’t go in again, I can only guide you.”

They were staring at me silently.

“Does anyone want to volunteer? Or do I have to pick? Seriously, we don’t have much time. We’re literally all going to die if we wait here. You know that, and I know that.”

One blonde girl stepped forward; she had been comforting several other girls, and appeared to be a group leader.

“Thank you, do I have another?”

No one moved for several seconds.

“What about you?” I pointed to a girl with a fluffy, shoulder-length perm. I noticed that she wasn’t crying like many of the others, but was watching me stoically. “Will you help save all our lives?”

She only nodded, but stepped forward, to join the other girl.

“Good, now listen up. Once you go in there, you’ll be in a different world. It’ll be weird, and I don’t know what things will happen to you. But all you have to do is ignore what happens, and turn on two switches; one green, and one blue. Those switches will activate those emblems on the wall, and that door will open.” I pointed to the emblems, then to the door.

“That’s all you have to do. I’ll be able to talk to you in there, and see what you’re doing, but you two need to turn on the switches. Once you activate those switches, you’ll come back, and we can leave this place. Got it?”

They both nodded.

“Alright you two, get ready. Everyone else, stay put, and wait until we’re done.” I made my way to the terminal. A large red button was marked ‘begin firewall bypass’ so I hit it. I bright red, digital counter appeared in the corner of the monitor.

20:00…
19:59…
19:58…

“Okay ladies, you have twenty minutes, go ahead.” I heard them both splash into the water, I stuck my head into the monitor.

Returning to my previous position ‘inside’ the terminal, saw them both appear on top of the two white crosses. They stopped for a minute to look around.

“Hello there. Forget about looking around; do you see the to switches to the right, and to the left?”

“I see them.” The blonde girl said; the other just nodded.

“Good, just go ahead and pull the switches. Don’t do anything else.”

In the corner of my vision, I could see two lines of text.
‘Green switch activated: no’
‘Blue switch activated: no’

Floating above each switch was more text. ‘Unless activated simultaneously, switches are set to distract. Advise to avoid.’

“It looks like you should pull the switches at the same time. Do you want me do count down?”

Both girls had reached their switch, and each nodded to confirm.

“Alright, on the count of three.”

The girls put their hands on the switches.

“One, two-” I was cut off before I could finish.

The girl to my right, the blonde girl, pulled the green switch, just as I said ‘two.’ Immediately, both of them were wearing nothing but diapers on their lower-halves.

“Don’t worry, just pull the other switch.” I said, keeping my voice steady.

The girl with the perm still had her hand on the switch, but was suddenly hit in the head with some unknown object. The other girl screamed, and ran away, disappearing into the forest. I heard the sound of wood being chopped, and a tree root shot up from the ground, hitting me in the face.

Everything went red after that, so red that I couldn’t see the timer anymore. The text in my vision was still readable.
‘Green switch activated: yes’
‘Blue switch activated: no’

Several minutes passed.

I awoke, slumped against another terminal. The first girl was standing next to her hatch, crying. She was still in a diaper, and it appeared that she had messed herself, a lot. The other girl was also in a diaper, but was standing silently by her hatch.

“Alright girls, don’t worry about it.” I soothed. “Let’s just try this again, and we can get out of here. Just one more switch to throw.”

The first girl was a lost cause, but the second nodded to me.

I turned to the terminal.

00:13
00:12
00:11

I looked at The Bomb; it had a matching timer.

I touched the screen, which was now solid. In horror, I looked over to the hatches in the floor. The water inside was frozen over.

“Fuck! We’re dead! We’re all dead. Run!” I pointed to the far platform.

In a surprisingly short few seconds, we were all on the opposite platform. I yanked on the door as hard as I could, but the handle wouldn’t budge.

The girls huddled together behind the glass. The Bomb began to hum.

I turned to face the end of my life. We had been so close. Eternal happiness was just on the other side of the door. I was even going to lead a group of beautiful young women through that door. Maybe one of them would have been the one for me. Maybe I could have spent the rest of forever with a woman I loved.

Maybe.

But no.

The girl with the perm was standing apart from the others. She was crying as she came over to me. I put my arms around her, and she buried her face in my chest. The Bomb disappeared into a ball of fire. I could only feel the warmth from the girl I was holding.

At least I get to die, I’d always wondered what that’d be like.

The fireball roared, blasting white hot flames down the tunnel, and against the glass. The other side of the tracks was completely obscured by fire. But the glass in front of us still held.

“Come on, you fucker.” I muttered to The Bomb.

As if in response, the flames lashed out, blasting the ceiling of the tunnel away. I could feel searing heat against my whole body. I turned my head to see the group of girls to my right, suddenly engulfed in a wave of fire. It vanished after a second, disintegrating half of them, and melting the others into piles of charred mush; screaming in agony. My eyes tried to tear up at the sight, but the tears were burned away, leaving my eyelids stuck open. Another flash, and the rest of the girls were gone; save for the one in my arms.

She looked up at me; her face begged me to comfort her. But I could say nothing.

I only had time to smile down at her.

Instantly, a flash of fire turned her into a burned husk; arms still wrapped around me, dead eyes staring into mine.

The glass in front of me was gone, the fire roared up even louder and she was gone completely.

Only I remained.

All around me, heat seared every inch of my body. My arms wouldn’t move. My mouth was melted into one blob of nothing. I began to choke as I couldn’t breathe through the melted flesh.

My head throbbed, my eyes burned from the light. Every part of me was in pain. But the only thought I had left was one that cursed The Bomb for not killing me already.

The roar grew to a piercing ring, I felt myself puking, only for it to be stuck in my throat. My mouth was melted shut, and there was no where for it to go. I felt a burning in my neck and it seemed to leak from there.

The roaring fire blast, now a shrieking ring, and blinding light; grew until I felt I couldn’t even comprehend the sensation.

Then all was quiet.

All was black.

But not for fucking long.


My shoulders and knees hurt, overcome by intense pain.

I was laying on the platform, but couldn’t move. The glass was gone, the control room was gone, the entire tunnel was gone. I could see burning rubble outside, once obscured by walls and ceiling; now visible through an unearthly haze.

The air reeked of burning flesh, probably my own. I tried to move. I quickly realized why my shoulders hurt; they were the only thing left of my arms. Likewise, my knees were the longest limbs I had now. I managed to wiggle a little. Contorting my torso to worm my way across the platform; hoping and praying to find a fire to burn myself with, or shrapnel to impale myself on.

I kept wiggling, worming, and inching my way along. It was the longest several minutes of my life, but I finally made it to where the wall with the gray door had once been. Now there were only blackened blocks of stone. I threw myself over the remaining stones; chunks of scorched meat fell off of me as I dragged myself over sharp stone and re-bar.

It made no sense why I was still alive, but if I could still do anything, I’d find a way to die.

I couldn’t even feel the pain of the rough stone cutting me; I was overwhelmed by the searing heat on my what was left of my skin, and the burning in my eyes and lungs. Bending my neck, I caught a glimpse of what should have been my manhood. Never really impressive before, to be honest, but now there was only blood and ash; no evidence that had once been a man, or even human.

I didn’t make it far past the wall. I strained my neck, lifting my head to see a horrifying black figure, stomping its way across the mounds of rubble. Behind it were blackened clouds of ash and wisps of fire. It appeared to be covered in scraps of metal; all melted together, formed into some unwieldy suit of armor. It screeched an echoing roar from behind an indistinguishably mangled face of blackened iron. None of this seemed to slow it down in the least as it stomped it’s way toward me. In both ‘hands’ it gripped some giant beam, with an enormous clump of metal on one end.

I lay my face in the ash.

Finally, I can fucking die.

I heard metal bend and scrape together. Then I felt a numbing blow to the back of my neck. Sharp knives of pain ripped down my spine; I felt pain from nerves I was sure were long-since gone. Again, the scraping of metal and a force against my back. I was pushed into the mound of ash. My mouth tore open on something sharp. I breathed in, hoping to choke myself on the dust.

Again the force slammed me into the ground. I couldn’t even move my mouth to curse. The pain grew so intense that I vomited into the dirt, only for it to burn my nostrils and eyes.

Will this ever end?

With each successive blow, the pain began to lessen. Gradually the sharp rocks became softer, the screeching melded into ringing. The heat became warmth. A firm weight pushed me into the softness.

I guess this is dying; neat!

All was black, soft, and quiet.

Fucking…

Finally.


I lifted myself up. The softness pull away from me. My head ached, my back hurt; but I could feel my limbs again.

I turned my head to the right, a green, blinking light told me that my phone was fully charged.

Fuck.

I contemplated just going to sleep again, but I decided to check how much longer I could rest. I grabbed the phone, and pressed the power button.

I stared at the numbers, trying to bring them into complete focus.

3:29am…

3:30am.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

Time to get up for work.

Dammit.

Re: I’m not titling this…

You have my full and undivided attention. Please make the most of it.

Re: I’m not titling this…

Wow! No other words.

Re: I’m not titling this…

So was this an actual dream you transcribed for us??? Very interesting, regardless.

Re: I’m not titling this…

I inhaled sharply; wincing from the sunlight as we passed between buildings. My eyes were light-sensitive, that was true; but it wasn’t the immediate sensation that stung; it was the memory of a far worse pain; one that plagued me for the last four years.

The warmth of the sun, and the sting from its radiance, were merely shadows compared to that dream. Horror washed over me for a mere second; but the shade from the surrounding towers brought me back to reality. I breathed out. I hated coming in to work this late in the morning.

I massaged my left hand for a second, while waiting for the stoplight to turn green. The dull ache in my finger recalled the day I had broken it; the day after that nightmarish phantasm. It made me feel like an old man; being able to predict weather patterns from aching body parts. But, like a personal barometer; my finger throbbed with the rumblings of each approaching storm.

Regardless, I never once hesitated to display my twisted digit; should the need arise. And in a city like this, it was only a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if.’


“I swear, if this fucking towel-head doesn’t get the fuck out of the way, I’m gonna end up on the news.” I presented my crooked middle finger to a taxi, as I flew past him.“Fucking cab drivers, man. How can you work a job that only requires you to drive, but not actually know how to fucking drive!?”

“I know, right?” Greg, my co-worker, mumbled without opening his eyes.

“Anyway, as I was saying before this sand-nigger cut me off; this’ll either be easy as shit, or a fucking nightmare. Guess which one I’m betting it’s gonna be.”

A grunt of confirmation came from the other side of the truck. I resumed my grumbling.

“Dude said ‘Aw yeah, this’ll be the last time we need to go there. It’s all prepped correctly and everything; just hang it and drag the old shit to the loading dock.’ Right, sure thing faggot; I totally believe you.”

The truck slammed through a pothole; I could hear things crashing around in the tool box behind me. “Dude, pave your fucking roads, guys. You’d think with all that ticket money, they could afford to keep the roads in better condition than some third-world, shit-farming village.”

“It’s not like we haven’t been to this place four fucking times because the shit they kept sending was totally fucking wrong.” I pulled my hand back into the cab, and pressed my knuckles lightly. “On an unrelated note; we’re probably gonna get some rain soon.”

I sighed heavily; the day wasn’t exactly off to a good start; and we hadn’t even gotten to the job yet.


“Dude, twenty minutes to get a damn elevator.” I leaned against the wall and began looking at my phone.

“No lie, bro.” Greg was sitting on my drill case, where he had been for the last fifteen minutes.

Finally the doors opened, and we loaded our tools inside. I kept my opinions to myself as we rode up to the tenth floor; the assistant superintendent didn’t need to know what I thought of him. He probably didn’t like me either.

“Alright!” I said, with fake excitement, as we exited the elevator. “Let’s get this party started!”

I dropped my tools near a desk, and began inspecting the doors we’d been sent to replace. Twelve doors on four closets; no reinforcement, entire door full of particle-wood mush; screws were pulling out, and the doors were about to fall off of their pivots. I wondered why they even accepted the old doors; knowing they would have to be replaced. It didn’t make sense; at least, not to me.

“You got a clear spot over there? Good, we’ll just take the hardware off, and put them in a stack.” I gestured vaguely to a wall, opposite the first two closets.

“Alright, what do we need first?” Greg asked.

“Allen wrenches, pry-bar, and a case of beer.” I replied flatly.

“Damn straight! I had shit to do this weekend, and here goes my fucking Saturday.” Greg approached, holding my case of Allen wrenches; letting the pry-bar swing loosely from his other hand.

One by one, we removed each door from its pivot, removed the hardware, measured it, and set it in a stack. After an hour-and-a-half, all twelve doors lay in two stacks. We called the elevator and rode down to the loading dock to retrieve the new doors.

Naturally, they were all the wrong height.

“Hey, wanna guess what I’m calling about?” I prodded. My boss knew exactly what I was calling about. “Yeah, the ones upstairs range from ninety-six, to ninety-five and three-quarters; these are all ninety-seven and a half!”

I laughed at the response; I didn’t need him to tell me what was wrong.

“Yeah, I’m gonna have to cut more than an inch off of all these fucking things. You know what that means? Mmm hmm, the bottom pocket is gonna have to be completely redone.” I slammed my measuring tape on the stack of doors. “I don’t care if I’m getting paid a-hundred dollars an hour; you know I’d rather piss glass than come back to this stupid job. It’s gotta be cursed or something.”

I looked at Greg, who took a long drag on his cigarette. I wasn’t getting the answer I wanted; it seemed that my boss had no intention of demanding good material. Like it or not, I had my answer; there was nothing more to be said.

“Yeah, bend him over the table. I’ll call you later and we’ll see where we are.” I tapped the ‘end call’ button rapidly, and shoved the phone back into my pocket.

“What’d he say?” Greg dropped the butt, and ground it into the pavement with his boot.

“Oh, the usual; ‘Just get it done man; I’ll pay you extra. Bernie is gonna flip his lid when he gets the bill.’” My exaggerated mockery didn’t get a laugh out of Greg; but, to be honest, it wasn’t meant to. “I don’t fucking care if Bernie comes down here and personally sucks my dick; the weekend is fucked now, thanks to him.”

“Bernie’s a fucking retard. I mean, how hard is it to measure shit and write it down?”

“Apparently too hard for his dumb ass. Let’s just get this shit over with.” I grabbed the skill-saw.

I tried to follow the straight-edge as I ran the saw across the door; but it kept pulling away from my guide. Once I was through, it was easy to see that the cut wasn’t even close to straight.

“Fucking dammit; look at that shit!” I slammed the saw down and pointed to the bottom of the door. “I put my full weight against the thing, but it just curves away from the guide for no fucking reason!”

“Dude…” Greg scratched his head.

“Let me give it another shot.” I picked up the saw, and leaned over the door.

Several passes later, the cut was better, but still far from perfect.

“Alright, that’s good enough I guess.” I set the saw down with a sigh. “Just drill out these marks, and chisel the edges.” I pointed to the markings I had made on the door. “Seven-eighths deep; three-quarters from the edge. I’mma run to Lowe’s and get a new blade.”

“Get some new chisels, Paul; these look like shit.” Greg held up a chisel with several large chunks missing from the blade edge.

“No problem, just work with what you got, until I get back.” I climbed into the truck and started the engine.

A minute later, I had blues-rock on max volume, the playlist resumed where I left off; I sang along poorly.

“Hard rain falling, river flood. Black cat bawling-”

“Dude, get the fuck out of the street!” I interrupted myself to curse at a slow pedestrian. “Fucking nigger!”


Two and a half hours later, I had returned from Lowe’s for the second time. The first trip revealed that a new blade was not the solution to the problem with my saw. I made sure the second trip was my last by purchasing a whole new saw.

“I know, I know, ‘the saw won’t cut straight’ is the dumbest excuse that anyone has ever made; but I’m telling you, it won’t fucking cut straight.” I re-seated my glasses, and waited for the incredulous response.

“Oh you gotta be kidding me.” I blurted out, once I heard the explanation. “Yeah, that’d do it. Anyway, we have a new saw.”

Greg raised an eyebrow; I shrugged.

“Yeah, charge it to Bernie, tell him I shouldn’t have needed a fucking saw to do his job in the first place.” Both sides of the phone conversation ended in sardonic laughter.

Greg looked at me expectantly while I shook my head and readjusted my hat.

“You wanna guess, or should I just tell you?”

Greg shrugged. “Just tell me, I ain’t got shit.”

“This fucking saw,” I held up the old saw, and shook it violently. “Was dropped from the roof of a house. No fucking wonder it won’t fucking cut straight!”

“Are you shitting me?”

The saw crashed to the ground, after colliding with the concrete wall of the loading dock.

“My question is; ‘Why was it still on the fucking shelf?’ Instead of in the fucking garbage, where it belongs.” I pointed to where I had thrown the saw. “If it doesn’t cut straight, it’s fucking worthless. But Hayden, Jew that he is, never gets rid of jack shit.”

After several more streams of profanity, we resumed cutting the doors down to size. I worked at one end of the doors, drilling and chiseling the pockets necessary for the pivots to mount. Greg worked on correcting the pockets at the tops of the doors, which were misaligned, straight from the factory.

By lunch, we only had three doors finished; by five o’clock, we had eight.


“Hey guys, you know you gotta leave at six, right?” Dwayne, the assistant super, stood looking at the first two closets. “How much longer till you’re done?”

“Dude, several more hours at least.” I looked around. “We still have four more to prep; and these ones aren’t even finished. We still have to prep for the pulls and the latches, then drag all the old shit to the loading dock.”

“Well, they’re not gonna let us stay any later today, you’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

“On fucking Sunday!?” I exclaimed, but only got a shrug as a response. “Alright, let me make a phone call.”

Naturally, my boss wanted us to finish the job; and I, being the workaholic that I was, couldn’t say no. We rolled the tools into the first closet and made our way down, wearily climbing into the truck.

There was silence for several minutes, as we made our way out of the heart of the city. In my distraction, I hadn’t even turned on any music. I was brooding on all the ways I wanted to get back at Bernie. As far as I could tell, he didn’t give one single shit about us subs. It wasn’t his weekend that was ruined.

I slid my hand through my greasy, brown, hair; smearing to the back, where it stuck like I had used gel. I picked a scab from the back of my neck; flicking it away, and wishing I could, just as easily, be rid of Bernie and his stupid company.

“I should’ve been drunk hours ago.” I turned the on radio, hoping to drown out my bitterness with classic rock. Instead, a steady stream of commercials reminded me why I usually just played stuff from my own collection.

“Mmm Hmm.”

“Nope, I’m just some fucking contractor. No one gives a shit about me! I guess my time just doesn’t matter to anyone but me.” I spun the dial, switching through radio stations; barely listening for more than a second, before moving on to the next.

“…And now the spokesperson for the retail chain has made a statement; saying that a person’s birth certificate should not dictate which restroom they use.”

I flicked the radio off entirely.

“Oh for fucks sake! Not this shit again!” I pointed angrily at the inanimate display in the center of the dashboard. “They put urinals in the men’s room, because men have dicks; and can piss while standing up. I mean, come on!”

Greg didn’t respond.

“I don’t really care what they ‘identify’ as, if you were born with a penis, just go in the damn men’s room. What? Are they trying to protect trannies who walk around in a skirt with their balls hanging out? Don’t they see how dangerous that is? What’s next? Age identity?”

I swiped my phone several times, and managed to get some music to play, in hopes of distraction. No such luck, I had to finish venting before relegating myself to silent agitation.

“Tell you what, Greg, tomorrow I’m gonna identify as a four year-old, I’ll get you to drop me off at a day care. Then I’ll just wander around all day looking up little girl’s skirts, and secretly touching them when the teachers aren’t looking. Yeah, that’s it; I’m actually four, but I’m trapped in a twenty-five year-old’s body. Now where’s my fucking happy meal?”

“That’s fucking sick, dude.” Greg looked over at me, disgusted.

“Exactly. If some dude can just ‘identify’ as a girl, why can’t I identify as a kid?” The irony of this statement didn’t miss me, but there’s a difference between a simple clothing fetish and dudes wanting to use the women’s restroom.

“Or maybe I’ll identify as an old man, and get my senior citizen discount. I’m much too young to feel this damn old anyway. Hey, maybe I’m actually seventy-two and never knew it.”

Greg chuckled. “And I’m actually a nigger. Where’s my welfare? Where’s my food stamps? Where’s my disability? Them fuckin’ white people gotta pay for ma’ babies!”

My tone went completely serious. “Hey, hey, woah! Racism is no joke, Greg. I think you went too far this time.”

Greg turned his head; a look of confusion on his face. But his surprise vanished when he saw me desperately trying to hide a wide grin.

We both burst into laughter.

“But seriously.” I began; reverting to solemn rumination. “If that’s the case, a legit pedophile could just identify as a woman, go into the girls locker rooms at the pool, or a college. Then he could decide to ‘change’ as an excuse to whip his cock out in front of a bunch of kids.”

Greg shook his head.

“I’m not saying this could happen, I’m saying it will, if it hasn’t already.”

“A college? Why not an elementary school?”

“An adult probably can’t get access to an elementary school, but I could easily get into a lot of colleges. And guess what? A lot of kids’ swimming classes are hosted on college campuses.” I looked over to observe Greg’s reaction. “They had this shit on the news last week, and it took me like five minutes on the internet to find a way to abuse the situation.”

“Fuckin’ ‘A,’ man.”

“Boy, I tell you what…” I took a deep breath. “If I had a daughter, and I saw a dude follow her into the bathroom, I’d remind him what fucking ‘gender’ he was, by stomping him in the balls until I saw a blood stain!”

I let out a long sigh. “Dude, I’m getting too worked up.”

“But you’re fucking right!” Greg pounded the arm rest.

“This is why I drink, dude.”

“And this is why I smoke.”

“And if this kinda shit keeps going, even I’ll be ripping bong hits; trying to calm down, and praying to God that I don’t go on a shooting spree at any given moment.”

“If you wanna smoke-” Greg began, but I cut him off.

“Nah man, I’m fine.” I paused for a second. “Well, I gotta take a mean shit, but otherwise, I’m fine.”

As if trying to completely distract me from my previous tirade, a familiar, husky, voice, poured from the truck’s speakers; carrying with it words that reminded me of someone. Someone I didn’t want to remember at the moment.

“You owe nothing but to care
No sweet deliverance or bow of hair
So come on, treat me mean”

I skipped to the next song.

“Hey, I liked that one.” Greg protested.

“Eh,” I shrugged. “I’ve heard it too much recently.”

I did need to use the bathroom, but I was waiting until I got home.


My lunchbox was empty; I tossed it aside. My phone, wallet, and keys; I tossed them aside. Every stitch of clothing; I tossed it all aside. It was time to chill. Tomorrow was another day in hell, but for the next couple of hours, I didn’t give a damn.

First, a swig of whiskey.

Next, I whipped my closet open; reaching straight for the blank, cardboard box, that held my other clothes. I took a minute to appreciate my little collection.

Actually, it would be a lie to say that I took a whole minute. After no more than a second of appreciation, I snatched the first two items; one large adult diaper, and a bottle of baby powder. I unfolded the diaper on my bed, and shook a generous amount of powder, right down the middle. Seating myself on the soft cushion, I sprinkled more powder; this time, all over my crotch. Setting the bottle aside, I rubbed the powder around until even my hair was white. With the relaxing aroma wafting into my nose, I pulled the front of diaper up, between my legs; making sure to aim myself down.

With ‘Little Paul’ aimed in the proper direction, and the diaper holding ‘him’ snugly in place; I applied the first tape; the bottom tape on the right-hand side, to be exact. Next, making sure the leg cuff were pulled tight between my legs; I attached the next three tapes; laying back with a sigh when I was finished.

Clad only in a diaper, I made my way to the fridge.

Another swig of whiskey.

And back to the closet I went. My bright red, footie pajamas were actually a women’s size, but they fit me snugly, and kept my diaper tight against me. Now fully dressed, I knelt down, and began crawling into the ‘living room’ of my apartment. Halfway there, the pressure in my bowels overcame my resistance. In reality, it did no such thing, but I liked to think that I couldn’t actually hold it any longer.

I stopped, both hands planted on the carpet, and gave a slight push. I was pretty urgent to go, since I had been holding it for two hours; a slight push was all I needed. A massive glob of poop slid out of me, pushing my cheeks aside as it filled the seat of my diaper. The tightness of my red pajamas kept the diaper against my bottom, and caused the mess to press against me.

Pretending not to have noticed, I resumed my crawl. The soft fleece caressed my greasy, pockmarked, skin; while the mess I had just produced, spread comfortably between my legs. Upon reaching my small collection of Legos, I sat down; squishing the mess underneath me, and intensifying the sensation it gave.

My favorite set; the Alpha Centauri Outpost, sat waiting for me to resume the scene that had previously been playing out under my direction. Two Blacktron spacemen had captured a white spaceman, (actually a spacegirl) and were holding her prisoner at their base. They put her in a secure, holding room; leaving her alone while the explored the planet. She, being locked in a cell, had no access to a bathroom; but as I knew, astronauts wore diapers, just in case it was needed.

She never expected this to be such a case.

The poor girl would beg to be released, so that she could use the toilet; but the two Blacktrons wouldn’t let her; only agreeing to change her diaper when it was full. The timid voice she used to plead for freedom was confined to my own imagination. It belonged to a familiar girl that I had neither met, nor heard. That nameless girl of varying description, who’s in the mind of every man; ‘her,’ ‘the one,’ ‘my girl.’

The Blacktrons, however, didn’t hold her voice to as high a level of importance as I did. Where I would be moved to comfort her, they taunted and jeered. Spiting her predicament; they frequently mocked and belittled her, before leaving to investigate the surrounding environment.

Of course, their planetary transportation ended up being a bright red, fire rescue jeep. ‘Budget constraints’ were the official reason for the strange choice of vehicle; however, the decision was actually made by the availability of retro Lego sets, and by my limited number of spare pieces.

After exploring the planet for a couple hours, the two Blacktrons concluded that its description lay in some combination of a tropic jungle, and medieval France. With a golden chalice as a sample of the local mineral deposits, they returned to base; jovially arguing over who’s turn it was to change the prisoner’s diaper.

I picked up a firefighter and turned him over in my fingers. He had a mustache, and wore a gray uniform; but I had given him a knights helmet, and armed him with an axe. He might be able to rescue her; he could capture those two Blacktrons and put them in jail. Then he would be her hero.

She would be so thankful; smothering him in hugs and kisses. Together, they would take over the base, and it would be their new home. A home that they would happily share with each other for the rest of their lives.

He had been watching her, biding his time; waiting for an opportunity to strike. First, he would need to steal their truck, and use it as bait for his trap. Once the Blacktrons were captured, he would need to find supplies; the spacegirl would definitely need her diaper changed. But he wouldn’t mind; he would gladly change her; even if she needed diapers forever.

The current condition of her diaper was like to my own, which reminded me that I needed to change.


With reluctance, I left the scene behind me, and made my way to the bathroom. Reality faded back into focus as the warm water poured over me. I scrubbed myself down; mentally playing out all the things I would need to do to finish the job tomorrow. I would stop at the shop on the way into the city; there were a couple tools there, that might make things go faster. I could leave Greg working on mounting the handles; that was something he could easily take care of while I cut the last four doors.

Once clean and dry, I slipped into a pull-up and dove into bed. Blindly grabbing the covers; I dragged them over me, curling up until they swaddled me tightly.

The idleness of my body was counteracted by my mind. With no other distraction, I was bombarded by all manner of troubles. I needed to change the oil in my car; it was about fifteen-hundred miles overdue. I really should have called that realtor; I prayed that the nice looking property by the river, would still be available by the time I got a chance to schedule a showing. I really needed to stop renting and actually buy a house.

I was sick and tired of this crappy apartment; the landlords were an incredibly nosy couple. Those old folks just wouldn’t leave me alone; always wondering why they hadn’t heard the vacuum run in a while, or bothering me because they hadn’t seen me take the trash out recently. I wondered if they had anything better to do than catalog my every action. But if that was the case, if all they did with their time was watch me, then it made no sense for them to not understand that I worked all the fucking time. It seemed like I couldn’t escape them, no matter what; we even went to the same church. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to make it to church tomorrow; I’d have to set my tithe aside for next week. The old lady would probably ask me about it in a couple days; when I paid rent. She’d likely invite me to some event that I didn’t really give a shit about; I’d need to dream up some quick excuse to respond with, and get her to shut up.

But then my mind decided to replay the monologue from the ride home. Part of me argued that it was total hypocrisy to talk shit about trannies; specifically for someone with my particular fetish. Then again, diapers were just piece of clothing. Wearing, or even using a diaper, wasn’t even comparable to denying what you were born with. If I was given the option, being born as a girl was an enticing possibility; but I wasn’t. I was born a man, and I would always be a man.

I had nearly met with conclusion in my thoughts; but then, the speculation of future laws arose. I wondered if this ‘gender identity’ thing, was just the first step. Perhaps, in the future, ‘age identity’ would actually be a thing. I contemplated what I would do in that situation. While I liked the idea of identifying as a younger person; I knew I wasn’t really the age I often pretended to be. I was a full-grown man; a full-grown man that liked diapers, so what? I didn’t see why other people pretended like things weren’t what they actually were.

People should just keep it to themselves. Whatever ‘it’ was, they had no right to shove in other people’s faces and demand that they accept.

That’s what I had done, mostly. Almost no one even knew about my fetish. It had been a long time since anyone found out; that was before I knew to hide it. They had all probably forgotten.

I climbed out of bed, checking my phone as I got up and left the room;

11:30pm.

I needed to quiet my mind; I only had four hours to sleep.

Better make the most of it.

Another shot of whiskey.

Re: I’m not titling this… (Part three added 8/27)

Enormous, picture windows poured yellow light into the darkness; splashing golden color onto the surrounding environment. Round columns stretched up to the lofty eaves of the cross-gabled structure. Their girth cast long paths of shadow to the farthest shores of illumination. Beyond its reach, a jagged forest was silhouetted against a starless, winter sky. Save for the brilliant glow from the windows; the barren canopy projected only the deepest shade of blue on what was otherwise solid black. I could hear the wind moaning as it bent the trees and compelled me indoors. I would oblige, but only for a few moments.

Approaching the lodge, I could almost feel the anxiety within. Four large families were grouped across the room. Donning coats and hats, each person clutched a bag or tote. Little ones were held by their mothers; even they too could sense the spirit of unease.

I stepped through the door, and just for a moment, felt warmth.

Immediately, the entire scene sprang to action; rapidly closing in around me, eagerly waiting for my command. Turning, I gave the signal, and plunged myself back into the chill air. A crowd of whimpers and sobs followed me, but most could barely be heard over the wind. Stretching into one long line, we proceeded around the corner of the building; out of the reaches of light, and into the dark.

Spaced proportionate to each other along the back wall of the house, several small windows cast their shape on the ground below. These golden squares formed a straight path, following the wall toward the darkness beyond. We slowed as we reached the corner. In the gloom, I gestured ahead; toward a distant shape. Though I could barely make out the nods of confirmation; I saw enough to be satisfied that they knew our goal.

The wind was fully against us now. Away from the building, we had no more protection from its unrelenting force. I looked back, turning my face from the gusts of cold. I could no longer see the lodge; not even the light from the windows. Only the faint sound of crunching gravel reported the presence of the crowd behind me; even that was almost completely drowned out by the howling gale. The sound could very well have been my own footsteps. I began to doubt that anyone was still following; but I continued my journey, hoping I was not alone.

After several minutes, I bumped into a solid object. Working my way along its surface, I felt a door handle. Straining my eyes, I could see a faint light tracing a tall, rectangular, shape in front of me. Suppressing old habits, I chose to ignore the obvious gap around the door. Were the circumstances different, I might have even taken the time to check if it even had weatherstripping. Sighing, I gripped the lever, and began to twist; but before I could complete the action, someone opened it from inside. As a pale glow fell over me; I turned to see dimly lit faces, huddled behind me; waiting for explanation.

I gave a thumbs up to the guard, and he stepped away. I moved aside from the door but the crowd didn’t budge until I motioned them into the room. They stopped again, and even I jumped, at the sound of diesel engines suddenly roaring to life.

Three identical, black vehicles were parked parallel to each other; all doors open. With the engines came the lights; completely overwhelming the previous, solitary bulb. Each vehicle was heavily armored; a sturdy-looking, metal box with six knobby tires. Lights from within each machine welcomed the travelers to take refuge from the encroaching dark. The four families split into three groups, and piled into the vehicles. At the far end of the building, a large door began slowly retracting into the ceiling. The guard, who was standing to one side of the door, closed a small panel box and made his way to a seat in the back of the farthest transport.

With everyone else seated, and the garage door open; the guard banged on the side of his vehicle, its door slowly began to close. I pounded my fist on the transport in the middle; which followed suit. Finally, I took a seat in the back of the last transport, again, pounding my fist to signal the driver. For a minute, we all stared at each other; waiting anxiously while the rumbling sound slowly became muffled; once all doors were shut, we began to move.


Several minutes passed, and our only interruption was a single bump in the road. No sudden, screeching halt, no panicked rush to the woods; nothing. I passed my gaze across the faces in the back of the transport. At first glance, they were all keeping their heads down; but as I watched, I found that each one would periodically look in my direction; flicking their eyes back toward the floor when they noticed that I had seen.

Time dragged on, and I began to wonder if our choice was the right one.

I didn’t even know where we were going; it was unlikely that any of us did. Perhaps we were wrong to assume The New Arrivals had evil intentions. As far as we knew, they could just as easily destroy us all, as they could gift us with the vast technologies that they promised. The payoff was worth the risk for some; a millennium of research, effortlessly acquired in the blink of an eye. However, it was the quiet rumors that swayed us to leave. In dark corners, where prying eyes could not see, and where only few ears came to listen; strangers told of nightmares; the truth behind the lies. Preposterous as it may seem, the rumors had weight to them. While explained away by public declaration, it was easily known that each place visited by The New Arrivals, would suddenly become ‘disconnected.’

The reasoning was that these places were in a cocoon of sorts; that they must be isolated for a time, before they could emerge with astounding beauty. These cocoons could just as easily house endless servitude or torment; and that was the trick; that was the key. The reward for your trust was limitless advancement; and all you needed was faith.

If faith was all it took, it was sadly a faith we did not possess. We chose to leave.

The manner of our exodus was not to evade pursuit from The New Arrivals, but to evade our former kin. In the path of these visitors, brothers and sisters would turn on each other, thinking that blessings would not be rained down if all were not in agreement. It had happened before, it could happen again. We simply chose to leave, without dispute, and hopefully without incident.

For that to work, we had kept our plans very quiet. Between only two people were the plans known; and each only knew a part. I had arranged the meeting, and the first stage of transport; after that, it was anyone’s guess; except the guard, he knew. He was the other. Together, we would lead these people away from an unknown evil.


Since a black APC was the mostly likely vehicle to see driving at this hour, I chose to deflect suspicion by selecting transports to match. Our cover as government troops either worked, or we didn’t encounter anyone. It didn’t matter the reason, only that we reached our destination safely.

I felt the terrain beneath us change; it became rough and bumpy as we turned from the road, instead to follow an old hunting trail. We were rocked and jostled, causing some of the passengers to become anxious. I still knew where we were going, at least; the trail would lead us deep into the woods, where we would find an abandoned barn. There, we would disembark our current transport, and begin the second leg of our journey.

Sure enough, a couple minutes later, the terrain smoothed out, and we came to a halt. Within seconds, the rear doors opened, and everyone hurriedly exited the cramped vehicles; forming once again, into single crowd. Dim light revealed the interior of an old, wooden barn. Save for ourselves and the transports, it was entirely empty. At the end of the building was a single door; and next to the door was the guard, beckoning for us to follow.

Wasting no time, we followed the guard through the door, and down a darkened hallway. With a dirt floor, and nothing more than weathered boards for the walls and roof; the hallway led on into complete darkness. Fortunately the darkness didn’t last. Ahead of us, the guard opened another door, which cast bright, white light into the narrow space. I brought up the rear, closing the door behind us as we entered a large room. Built nearly identical to the barn, this room instead contained what looked like two subway cars; both of which faced a large pair of doors at the far end of the room. The cars were tan, and while there were window frames, it appeared that they had been painted over. The rounded sides of each vehicle came right down to the floor; no wheels were visible, neither were there any tracks leading to the doors.

Nodding to me, the guard took his place by the door to the nearest car. I moved to the other one, and began motioning the crowd to enter. Within only a minute, the crowd had divided itself into two groups, entered the transports, and taken their seats; all with an unusual efficiency. The guard’s transport was filled first; he looked back at me as he entered, nodding before he shut the door. A handful of people were still making their way into my transport, and after the last passenger was seated; I too, entered, and closed the door.

Inside was nothing special, just several rows of tall-backed seats; now filled with still bodies. I sat alone at the very back and waited.

Seconds later, the lighting dimmed to almost nothing. Three small, evenly-spaced, bulbs remained lit; centered above the aisle, their light only served to outline the shapes in front of me. I could feel a faint, high-frequency, vibration begin somewhere behind me. It grew rapidly, shaking my whole body; but soon settled to a low rumble. Loud hissing was accompanied by sudden movement as we were thrown back; pinned to our seats.

An incredible force kept me against the back of the seat, and my lunch against the back of my stomach. No restraints were necessary; I couldn’t move if I wanted to. With no visual indication of what was happening outside; I only knew that we were moving forward, fast. For the next couple of minutes, we were completely immobile; unable to even turn our heads. Eventually, the force began to decrease. Breathing became easier, if only because my lungs weren’t being crushed by the pressure on my rib-cage. There was no more force pushing me back, and the vibrations had all but vanished completely; even still, I felt that we were in motion. The people in front of me began to stir; looking around nervously, once they were released from the force of acceleration.

As our acceleration slowed, I began to gag. I had to swallow several times to keep from vomiting. I didn’t feel drastically ill; but my skin crawled, and my stomach felt like it was floating up, into my throat. Next, I began to feel like I was no longer seated; in a panic I gripped the edges of the bench, pulling myself down. Ahead of me, but out of sight, came the sound retching from multiple sources. Clearly I wasn’t the only one affected by this phenomenon.

Loud hissing began again, and I felt a force pulling me the right. The sound intensified, as did the sensation; I was just grateful to be pulled in any direction. Then, either we rotated, or something did; regardless, the force shifted from sideways, to down, and I began to feel rooted to my seat, once more. The dim lights started pulsating, and our transport began to rumble. The rumble gave way to violent shaking; I began to think that this whole contraption would fly apart at any moment.

I wanted off this ride; I swore to myself that I’d punch that damned guard for not telling me what would happen.

Fortunately we didn’t fly apart, and the shaking decreased; returning to a subtle vibration. After a minute, I felt a sudden jolt, and a metallic clang brought everything to a halt. The lights came on in full, and the door to my right opened slowly.

Outside, I could see the other transport was already unloading its passengers. Stepping through the door, I moved aside to allow ‘my’ passengers to exit. Both vehicles now sat identically to how they were previously positioned in the barn. However, we were now inside a large, industrial-looking structure. The floor was made up of metal grates; below which could be seen an incredible jumble of pipes, ducts, and wires. Woven into themselves like some elaborate pattern, they emitted a rhythmic clattering. As I saw no visible motion, I attributed the sound to distant machinery.

The walls were large, gray panels; it only took a few to reach from the floor, to the lofty ceiling. Separating the panels were large support beams. These wrapped around the room like a rib-cage; passing beneath the floor, rising to meet the ceiling, crossing it, and dropping down again to complete a loop. At first, I thought the beams were rusted, but as I looked around, the slight refraction on the reddish-brown surfaces, indicated that they had been painted a deep burgundy. Strips of lights were placed halfway up the walls, between every other beam.

The clattering of footsteps returned my attention to our charges. The assembled crowd was now following the guard toward the far end of the room. On the right hand side, at the end of the wall, was a brightly lit opening; a few feet taller than an average person. Mirroring it, was an identical opening on the left. Between them, the ceiling was recessed upward, like a floor-less hallway; it too, was brightly lit. Past all of this was a single door, recessed into the end wall; oddly, it had no handle of any kind.

As we approached, I began to see that the two openings were actually hallways, stretching away in opposite directions. Closer still, I learned that only the first several feet were illuminated; nothing else could be seen beyond that point.

Upon reaching the end of the room, the guard began closely examining the door, and the surrounding wall. Satisfied with whatever his findings may have been, he then turned to face us, and leaned against the wall in an exceedingly nonchalant manner. Taking this as a cue, the rest of the group relaxed. It would appear that we were in for a wait. However long it should prove to be, I decided to make good use of the break. Turning to the hallway on my right; I strode cautiously forward. No sooner had I crossed the threshold, then the darkness began receding in chunks. One after another, small groups of overhead lights chased away the murk; leaving only a few random sections in shadow. Though dimmer than where I now stood, the hallway bent slightly; disappearing only after a great distance.

Far more jagged than the previous hanger, the walls of the hallway were gray concrete; stained darkly from use. The floor was dark enough to be called black; tiled with some rough-looking material that I concluded to be of metallic origin. Other than the random unlit sections, and a couple of recesses on the right-hand side, the hall was otherwise barren.

Turning back, I confirmed my suspicion; indeed, the opposite hall matched this one; though it was unlit, save for the entrance. I also checked that the crowd was still waiting by the door, before I began my venture into the lengthy hallway. I didn’t plan to go far, but I didn’t want anything to happen while I was away. Had I not been in need of a restroom, I would have simply stayed put; this just seemed like a convenient time to take a quick ‘break.’

The hallway seemed to be assembled in sections; each one around fifty feet in length. There were six overhead lights per section, and the sections themselves had a frame at each end that separated it from the next. The lighting seemed to be governed by section, as the unlit sections were entirely unlit; no single, burned-out lights to be seen.

Not wanting to take any longer than I needed, I strode quickly toward the first opening. It was several sections away, but I only need a minute or so to cover the distance. I stopped as I reached the opening, looking over my shoulder to make sure that everyone else was still waiting.

At first, the opening seemed to be a dead end, but once in front of it, I could see that it turned sharply to the right, a few feet beyond the wall. Proceeding, I found that it turned again, this time left, away from the hall. The walls of this new corridor were checkered with small tiles of alternating black and tan.

Rounding the second bend, I continued straight for several yards; approaching what I assumed to be another bend. Instead, mere inches around the corner, was a simple wooden door. Its only notable feature was a metal plate, mounted to one side; I placed my hand on it, and used it to push the door open. A grin spread across my face as I realized that my search was over. On one side of the room was series of mirrors and sinks; on the other were several toilet stalls. I headed for the first one, and pulled the door open.

In front of me was an old-looking toilet; complete with cistern, and a seat that circled the entire bowl. I reached to lift the seat, but it wouldn’t budge. Not wanting to make a mess, I dropped my pants, turned and sat. Near instantaneously, I felt relief. Relaxing with a loud sigh, I leaned back; contemplating if there could possibly be a better feeling. The sound of trickling water echoed loudly off of the walls; pricking my ears like a pin, but the act also brought a wave of comfort, warming me to the core.

When the stream slowed, and finally stopped, I began to look for a roll of toilet paper, only to find none, and then question why I had looked for it in the first place. Shrugging, I shook myself back and forth on the seat until I felt that I was done.

Suddenly, an anxiousness began to overcome me, insisting that I got back to the group with all possible haste. I clothed myself, pulled open the stall door, and ran for the exit. Shoving the wooden door, I ran back through the tiled corridor, slowing only as I reached the intersection. The main hallway was dark again, but I stepped forward with confidence. That confidence was immediately shattered as the hallway remained dark. It wasn’t pitch black, but it was so dim that I had little more than a general idea where the walls were. Once again, I found my judgment rudely corrected as I slammed my forehead into something metal.

The world spun quickly, and I too, spun as I fell back. My back hit something hard, so I pushed against it, and slid down to a sitting position. I tried to grip at the walls, the floor, anything; anything which could assure me that I wasn’t actually spinning. But I was spinning, everything was. At this point, I could no longer even feel the wall or floor. At the same time, a roaring noise joined the commotion, drowning out all else; driving me into total disorientation.

Suddenly, again, something hard pressed against my back. Whether it was the floor, the wall, or even the ceiling didn’t matter; I shoved myself against it, throwing my arms out in an attempt to grip its smooth surface. My heart was racing, trying to keep pace with the world around me.

The roaring began to pulsate with a nauseating throb. I rolled onto my side, in preparation to spew my lunch; though I wasn’t honestly sure which direction it would sail. The throbbing slowed slightly, revealing two different sounds within the cacophony. White noise roared in my left ear, while a shrill ringing pierced my right; the two alternated rapidly, as though they were rotating.

Again, I could no longer tell what was actually spinning. The jarring sounds continued to assault me, but their barrage was steadily decreasing in volume. After what seemed like several minutes, I was still; my head throbbed with pain, and my ears were still ringing, but I wasn’t moving, that was good enough.


Once I was confident that I wouldn’t immediately vomit, I began to lift myself from the security of the floor. Weary as I was, there were more pressing issues than my personal comfort. If there had been any light, it likely would only amplify the throbbing in my head. Without it, the pain was still intense, but not cripplingly so. Trying my best to ignore my head, I managed to lift myself to a sitting position. For a moment, I waited to see if nausea or dizziness would afflict me once again. When there weren’t any signs of further illness, I stood up slowly. This was done with the help of a nearby wall, and I remained leaning against it for a few seconds.

Completely unsure of my orientation, there wasn’t much to do except try my best to peer through the dark. The hallway could be discerned, but the direction from which I came was still an unknown. The murk did not allow me to see very far, and thus I couldn’t use the previously observed curvature of the hallway, as a landmark. I concluded that nothing could be gained by standing around idly, so I turned to my right, and started walking. Every footstep on the metallic floor was a hammer on the anvil of my skull. I lightened my steps, but continued walking as fast as I could bear.

As I walked, I felt along the wall; feeling for the opening from which I had just entered. I found none, but instead, touched a small protrusion from the wall. Feeling up and down, I discovered that it was one of the dividing frames; starting at the floor, and extending above my reach. I resumed my search; moving along the wall, touching several more frames as I walked. Seven sections seemed like the correct amount; I should have found the hanger already. I hadn’t counted how far I had come from the hanger, but I was sure that this was too far to be the way back. Just to be safe, I proceeded for another two sections, before turning back.

With the wall on my left, I retraced my journey; nine sections back to the start. I had no reason to stop, instead, quickening my face to nearly a jog. After fifteen more frames, and thus, fifteen sections, I began to panic. I broke into a run, one hand in front, to catch myself against an obstacle; and the other hand lightly dragging the wall. I lost count of the sections, and the noise from my running was almost too much to tolerate. The realization began to overwhelm me; I was lost, the others were gone.

I slowed; I felt like crying…

But I continued walking, keeping my pace slow enough that my footsteps were no longer painful to my ears. However, the bigger issue still remained; ‘what should I do next?’ The question lingered while I walked.

A ringing in my ears, which had been plaguing me since I regained stability, gradually began to increase. With the incessant noise serving as a distraction, I found that keeping count of the sections was nearly impossible. Additionally, my left arm had become tired from holding it out; I moved to the other side of the hallway. Even lacking the pain, my mind was such a jumble that it was still very difficult to keep track of the passing distance. The act, at this point, was nothing more than a reminder that I was indeed, still moving.

My left arm continued to ache; which, in itself was a conundrum. If I had only been holding it out for a few minutes, why was it so worn out? After some thought, I was only able to reach two possible conclusions. One was that the earlier tumult had weakened me, causing me to tire more easily. The other, more frightening possibility, was that I had been walking for much longer than I was even aware.

A shiver crept down my spine. Again, I wanted to cry.


After another immeasurable length of time, one which I hoped wasn’t as long as it felt, I stopped. A sudden difference in the tone of the ringing had caused my head to shoot up instinctively. Barely discernible, but definitely present, was a new, much lower humming. I quickened my pace a little. In the distance, I could see a red glow. Light was shining on the right hand side of the hall, though I couldn’t yet see its source.

Its source turned out to be a display on my left. Floor to ceiling in height, it stretched at least twice that in width. The light seemed to be coming from within the display, rather than its ‘screen.’ Once in front of it, I now saw where the crimson light was coming from. A single, enormous star covered most of the view. I stumbled back against the opposite wall. My headache, and the ringing in my ears, was gone; all that was left was an indistinct humming, one that was soothing to the ears. I slumped down, from this position, the star also reached from floor to ceiling, but was bordered on both sides by solid black.

I was tired. Tired of walking, running, worrying. I wasn’t drowsy, but I just didn’t want to do anything else at the moment. I was completely lost. The guard, the group, our journey, the place we came from, our decision to leave, everything we had ever done before; it didn’t matter. There was no telling if I was going to get out of here. I couldn’t even be sure how much longer I could survive in this place, there was no food or water to be found.

But I didn’t really care, I just wanted to sit down for a bit. And what better place to do that, than a place where I’m not aurally tormented? There was nothing more to do except wait…

…and wait…

…and wait.

I stared out the window; the star stared back.

Re: I’m not titling this… (Part three added 8/27)

Well, this is well written, though I can’t really make sense of it yet, unless this last chapter is nothing but a dream that isn’t made clearly such within the chapter. I’ll keep reading, in any case.

Re: I’m not titling this… (Part four added 11/29)

The glowing red sun was blinding now, I raised my hand to shield my eyes. With the piercing brilliance temporarily eclipsed, I searched for the signal that was previously hidden behind the overwhelming light.

Bingo! Green light.

I moved forward slowly, cautiously trying to avoid others who may also be as blind as I. Cursing under my breath, I nearly missed my mark, but a last-second change in velocity put me right where I wanted to be.

I rounded the building and parked near the door, facing away from the blinding sunset. For a few moments, I just sat and massaged my stinging eyes. I’d have to wait a little while if I didn’t want to blind myself. This seemed like a good time for dinner, anyway. With a sigh, I eased my stiff body out of the car, and walked slowly into the restaurant. After ordering, I took a seat, glanced around, and took a large swig of sweet tea.

Damn, that’s good.

Apart from myself, the place was almost completely empty. Only one other table appeared to be occupied, and even that was only evidenced by leftover food; it probably just hadn’t been cleaned up yet. I did a full sweep of the place, finding that even the cashier was now gone.

I guess I’m alone. I shrugged.

As if to defy me, I heard a series of thumps from my right. I turned to the window and searched for the source of the noise. Outside, built right up to the side of the building, was a play area for kids. Brightly colored posts and platforms rose up above me. Near the ground, they formed steps and low bridges, but the upper levels were enclosed, obviously to prevent kids from falling and hurting themselves. Just above me, spanning the distance between two enclosed platforms, was a clear tube; easily big enough for a child to crawl through. For a time, I couldn’t see any activity; but just before I gave up, something blue moved past a window in one of the upper enclosures. It seemed like a fun game to try and spot whomever was hiding within the colorful structure.

I heard more thumping, then a high-pitch squeal. Soon after, a little girl emerged from the base of a spiraling slide. I couldn’t help but crack a wide grin at her bliss. Hopping down, she bounced across the playground. Brown pigtails trailed after her, and a bright, white diaper could easily be seen beneath the skirt of her denim jumper. She ran right toward me, and slapped both her palms against the window as she came to a stop. At first, I thought she was staring at me, but I could see that her bright eyes were looking lower.

Is she staring at my drink?

I looked down at the solitary cup, centered in front of me. Indeed, by now, it should be accompanied by fries and a chicken sandwich. I poked the cup lightly, causing it to move a little. A loud yelp startled me, and drew my attention back to the girl. She had turned and fled back to the safety of the of jungle gym. Shrugging, I lifted the straw to my lips, and drained another quarter of its contents.

Where is my food at, anyway?

The inrush of new liquid reminded me of the several water bottles I had drained on the way up the road. I’d have to swing by the restroom before getting back on the highway. But just as quickly as it had flared up, my urgency vanished. More thumping and loud giggling turned my attention back to the playground. Again, I smiled, thinking of how much fun that girl was having; it was infectious.

My gaze turned upward as she crawled overhead. Through the clear tube she rumbled, then disappeared around a corner. From below, all I could really see was her diaper; which notably, now had a distinct yellowish tint. In another several seconds she appeared, once again, at the bottom of the slide. With legs spread, I confirmed that her diaper was indeed wet. And as she sprinted across the playground, it sagged heavily beneath her dress. Suddenly aware of myself, I glanced around the room.

Where are her parents? Where is anybody?

Other than unfinished food, nothing else decorated the table across from me. It made sense that her parents might take a purse or diaper bag into the restroom with them; but I was shocked that they would leave her alone. My stomach grumbled, but unlike my mind, it didn’t ask for food. Instead, a sharp pain stabbed me much lower.

I guess this is what I get for sitting in the car so long.

Directly above me, the girl had stopped crawling, midway through the pipe. I massaged my stomach a little, I didn’t want the server to miss me if they came out with my food. At nearly the same time, the girl also put a hand to her belly.

Does she have to go as well? Lucky kid, she gets to keep playing; I’ll probably miss my food, and then have to go find the damn manager.

I reached for my drink; and she put her hand back down to stabilize herself. I raised an eyebrow. Just then, a woman came out from the restrooms. I quickly looked away from the girl, turning my gaze to the woman. She looked in my direction as she approached her table. Just like her daughter, she didn’t look at me directly, but instead, seemed to be inspecting my table. I smiled, she didn’t respond.

What on earth?

I waved at her. Without looking up, she popped an eyebrow, then took her seat. I considered asking her if she had to wait for her food.

You’re either oblivious, or a really snobby bitch.

The woman glanced around the room, her eyes passing over me without making contact with mine. I flipped her the bird. She went back to looking at her food. My eyes widened.

Can you really not even tell I’m here?

I pushed my drink to the edge of the table. This attracted her attention for only a moment, before it was monopolized by her cell phone.

Look at me you twat!

I knocked the cup off of the table. She jumped slightly as it spilled across the floor, but then went right back to her phone. I sighed, and returned my gaze to the little girl, still in the tube. She had apparently also been looking at the woman, likely her mother, because her head was just turning away as I looked back to her. Sadness washed over me; I felt sorry for the girl, who was likely just constantly ignored. I wanted to walk over and smack the woman.

You’re not even gonna pay attention to your daughter? You’re not even bothered that she was alone out here with a complete stranger?

My stomach cramped again, my hand shot to the area, attempting to provide comfort. Again, the girl mimicked me, also massaging her gut. I wasn’t quite ready to go yet, the pressure was still in my gut, not quite low enough to warrant a trip to the restroom. I reached for my drink, which I then remembered was puddled on the floor. With a sigh, I folded my hands on the table in front of me.

The girl seemed to tense. I could feel something inside of me shift drastically downward. I watched the girl’s hands move from from spread palms to clenched fists. I felt more sympathy for the girl. I also felt trapped; nearly as trapped as she must be.

Could she ask her mother to take her to the potty? Would her mother even listen? Would her mother change her right away? If this woman was so rude as to completely ignore the both of us, she’d probably put her daughter back in the car in a messy diaper. I wish this lady would notice her daughter. And I wish these damn servers would bring me my food; I gotta hit the road soon.

I decided that my best chance at food was to hit the restroom right away. If I was quick about it, I might be lucky enough that my food would be ready when I returned. I glanced around the room again; no one. I passed my gaze over the snobby lady, before returning my focus to the girl. Again, the girl must have also been looking at her mother, as her head snapped back to straight forward, and away from me.

I really wanted to get up and walk to the restroom, but I couldn’t pull my gaze away from the girl. Inside me, everything suddenly shifted, I could feel that I was definitely ready to go. A series of clear droplets splattered on the plexiglas between the girl’s hands. Pressure built inside me; and the girl clenched her hands more tightly, droplets fell again. I knew I urgently needed to use the restroom, but still I sat.

Then, as if it never were; my discomfort began to dissipate. The pressure subsided, and within seconds, I didn’t even feel the need to go at all.

Above me, I couldn’t help but stare at the little girl. With tears falling rapidly, I watched as her diaper began to sag heavily. Starting at the leg cuffs, it also began to darken. Behind the white exterior, a brown stain spread; quickly bridging the space between her legs, it crept upward in both directions, nearly reaching the waistband in both the front and back.

I shot a glance at her mother, hoping she would notice her daughter’s plight. She was still enraptured by her phone. The girl began to crawl again, slower this time. I stood up.


I wasn’t standing now, but seated again. Leaning against the metal wall, there was no more restaurant around me, or playground beside me, only darkness.

My ears tuned once again to the indistinct hum that lulled me with a mechanical precision. No longer was the sun setting in piercing brilliance, but hovering, and bathing the vicinity in a tint of blood.

Was I asleep just then? Am I now?

If I had been, no rejuvenescence had been gained, and if I was now, still; I only hoped to wake.

Quickly fading, soon to be lost, was my only present memory; the visitation I was granted in the restaurant. The lady I had cursed, faded, and with her fled the girl. The girl who now seemed so fresh and cheerful. Together they left, and I was helpless even to call after them, even to watch their departure.

I was alone.

I was still alone.

Only I stared at the star.

For a time, I did just that. How long exactly, I didn’t know. Likewise, the importance of accurate timekeeping was lost to me. Its significance ranged from totally irrelevant at one moment; to being the only relevant thing at another. However, each instance could just as easily be called a century as it could a moment.

It only stared back, like it always had.

Like it always had.

I waited for something to happen.

The reward for my patience, was a single tiny speck of light, floating past the window. It appeared from the left, and traveled right, toward the sun. I put my thumb up at arms length, eclipsing the speck entirely. Upon lowering my hand, I suspected that the light had grown brighter. Indeed, it flared up, like a tiny candle, then dissipated.

I never saw its like again.

I guess that’s enough entertainment for now.

I continued to stare at the huge, bloody, sphere. Its dull glow was soothing to the eyes. I shook my head, and freed myself from the lull into which I had begun to fall. I could see clearly again, the patterns that dotted the surface of the star were intricate, but unmoving. Though there was no defined center to be seen, I could tell that it was staring back at me. Its appearance changed not one bit, but something had recently begun to feel different.

Was it not staring before?

Lidless, its gaze bore into me with no hindrance from skin, muscle, or bone.

What can I do?

I sat there, matching its unblinking fixation. It was no more a contest of wills, than it was two mere objects left facing each other on a shelf. Neither of us was willing to give even the slightest of ground; were there any to be given. I, back against the wall, held in place, couldn’t so much as move a finger; even for all my efforts.

I tried to convince myself that I had exerted effort, in an attempt to justify my torpid state.

But what does it even matter? I’m here. I’m gonna be here. I’ll die here.

The star stared back at me.

Can I even die here? Can I not escape?

The star stared back at me.

For the briefest of moments, I was immersed in a wave of my past, and how it led to the now; but like a wave, it washed away, leaving me parched for memory.

If I speak out loud, what will that do? Will it prove anything? Can I even speak? Should I? Why Should I? What possible accomplishment could be achieved by speaking aloud?

Screw it, I like it quiet anyway.

I still didn’t know what to do. I needed something to base the decision on, but I certainly couldn’t just do nothing. The first thing was do decide whether or not I would eventually leave.

Am I just gonna rot here?

The star stared back at me.

Alright, assuming I’m not, what should I do while I wait? What could I possibly do to pass the time? It’s not like there’s anything to actually do. More importantly, when will I get out of here, and how?

But wait! What if one depends on the other?

What if when I can leave, depends entirely on how? What if the deciding factor for when is what I do while waiting?

What if I’m supposed to do something before I can leave? But why would that be? Who decides?

My mind began to race. I was actually surprised at how quickly I put the pieces together. All at once, it began to make sense. I grinned inwardly. It didn’t matter who was doing this to me, or even if it was being done rather than just happening; this place was a prison, and I would only leave after serving my sentence. This could very well be purgatory, and before I could enter heaven, I would have to atone for my sins.

But what are my sins?

The star stared back at me.

I’d be an arrogant fool to think I don’t have any.

The question hovered in front of me.


I jolted as if woken suddenly. Whether relived at full length, or presented in montage, I felt again the oddity of my encounter at the restaurant. The blinding sun, the little girl, the woman. My question was voiced again.

What are my sins?

The comparison to purgatory faded back into mind. Humoring myself, I prepared a mental checklist to see just how damned I was.

Sloth?

Nah, probably not. I work too damn hard for that.

The star stared at me.

But then again, sloth means more than just being lazy. I’m outgoing, I don’t procrastinate. In fact, right now is the only time where I’m not actively pursuing some goal. Let’s move on.

Gluttony?

Nope. I considered my slender frame. I’m not wasteful, I’m not overindulgent. Next.

Wrath?

Alright, shit; you got me.

The star stared back at me.

But is my quick temper, truly the fruit of wrath? I suppose I do harbor resentment and hatred. My prejudices may be deep-rooted, but apart from loud venting, I’ve never taken action based on them. Well, no more than any normal human.

I wondered if my most glaring flaw was actually as big a flaw as I thought it to be. Or maybe this was just an early warning of things to come. I decided that it would be wise to keep my anger in check.

I just gotta chill out, it’s not even healthy to get so worked-up all the time.

Greed?

Wanting to be successful ain’t being greedy. I don’t want any more than what’s fair; and I definitely don’t only seek wealth and power.

Pride?

And once again; nope. The fact that I’m search myself for sin is evidence to that. I feel that I can say, without exaggeration, that I’m not arrogant. Of course, I do joke about being perfect, but I don’t think that counts. Right?

The star stared at me.

I became frustrated.

Am I even doing this right? How am I qualified to do this, anyway?

Another part of me spoke up.

You’re not, dumbass!

Brilliant, I’m talking to myself.

But we’re not even talking.

Alright then, I’m having an argument, with myself, inside my own head. What could be worse than that?

Probably nothing, you’ve lost your damn mind.

Then what’s the point of this?

There isn’t one, you’re just gonna justify your actions. Don’t lie, you know it’s true.

But I’m trying not to. Anyway, let’s not get sidetracked right when I’m about to confront the worst of my sins.

The star stared at me.

I sighed.

Envy.

Am I really envious? Do I want what others have?

The star stared back at me.

I’m dumb as shit, aren’t I?

No, you just aren’t looking close enough.

Parked the car, ordered, sat, waited, watched, wondered, stood. The part of my head that was rudely arguing with me, also decided to play through my only current memory once again.

If that’s supposed to prove anything, it’s too vague. No one has anything that I want.

It’s not about what they have.

Then what the hell’s it about? Also, how the hell do you know where I’m supposed to look, if you’re part of me arguing with myself?

I had actually argued myself to mental silence; truly, there’s no stranger feeling.

This is stupid!

But do you have anything better to do?

Can’t you just friggin’ tell me?

Fine. You, -er, I, -er, screw it. You’re not envious of what others have you’re envious of what they are.

I knew that!

I know.

Heh.

The star stared at me, not amused.

So what about lust?

That one’s easy as shit.

Yeah, I know it.

Of course you do.

Right, so I’m wrathful, envious, and lustful.

Yeah, let’s tackle those for now.

Well how do I fix them?

Again, my internal argument came to a halt. Self-diagnosis didn’t seem to be my strong suit. I needed a different perspective on this nonsense.

Can’t they just make a pill for this?


“C’mon, it doesn’t got cooties on it.” James held out a knife, smeared with both peanut butter and jelly.

It wasn’t the cooties that bothered me, he had just licked it off, but rather, it was the fact that the jelly was getting mixed into the peanut butter jar. I hesitated before taking the knife, wondering if his parents would be mad if I used a second knife for my sandwich. Shrugging, I accepted the utensil and used it to generously spread the two tasty substances across my slice of bread.

With sandwiches made, we each grabbed an apple and a juice box. Placing them in James’ lunch box, we headed out the back door; making a beeline toward the old tree fort at the edge of the woods. I had dropped my bike on the ground near the back door, and only regretted the decision as I tripped over it. James didn’t even look back at me and I struggled to keep up with him as we ran across the yard. I caught him at the base of the tree, and together we scrambled up the ladder.

“Oh hi you guys.” I heard a familiar voice from above me.

My heart sank as I clambered toward the platform. The voice belonged to James’ bigger brother, who was already in the fort. He smiled at me, adjusted his glasses, and took a sip from his soda can. He was sitting with the new kid, Jack, who lived at the rental down the street. I couldn’t understand why. James’ brother was ten, three years older than me; Jack was half-a-year younger than me.

“Heya, Tee.” James replied quietly, looking down. “What’re ya doin’ up here?”

“Just drinking a soda with Jack here.” He jerked his head in the direction of the younger kid.

“A soda? Where’d ya get it?” James set the lunchbox down, signaling that we were in fact, going to eat lunch up here, despite the current occupants.

“I found it!” Tee narrowed his eyes toward James, then grinned widely as he turned to me. “C’mon up Ceecee, you’re just hanging there like you peed your panties or something.”

You’d probably like that, wouldn’t you?

Realizing that I was still on the ladder, I pulled myself into the fort. I didn’t want to, but it would be suspicious if I just left by myself right now.

“We were just gonna have some lunch up here, but we can leave if you want us to.” James said, clearly hoping to be taken up on his offer.

“Nah, it’s cool. Me an’ Jack were just talkin’ about Legos an’ games an’ whatever.” He nudged Jack in the ribs. “Jack’s got a Dreamcast, don’t ya?”

Jack grinned sheepishly and nodded.

We sat down and leaned against the wall opposite Jack and Tee. James opened the lunch box and handed me a sandwich and juice box. Everyone was silent for the next several minutes; James and I ate our lunch, while Jack and Tee drank soda.

“Maybe we could play a game.” James prompted, finishing the last bite of his sandwich.

“What about Uno?” Jack blurted out.

“I was thinking of Go Fish.” James turned to me. “Ceecee, you wanna play Go Fish or Uno?”

“How about we play truth or dare?” Tee looked around at the group with a smirk.

No one responded for a second.

I hoped he wouldn’t, but James just sighed and said, “I guess we could.”

Tee looked at Jack, who shrugged, then to me. “So, you wanna play truth or dare?”

I shrugged as well, I didn’t want to play anything with Tee, but I knew he wouldn’t just let me leave. I wanted to play with James, not Tee, but both of them were here.

“Okay then.” He turned to Jack. “You know how to play, right?”

“Mmm Hmm.” Jack nodded.

Tee set an empty root beer bottle in the middle of the floor, and spun it vigorously. It landed pointing to James.

“Truth or dare?”

“Truth.”

“Okay, have you ever wanted to kiss Ceecee?”

James shot me a worried look. “Uh… yeah.” He mumbled. I smiled, trying to let him know that it was okay. I thought it was kinda cute.

“C’mon, say it louder.” He teased his uncomfortable-looking brother. “She can’t hear you.”

“Yes!” James said, blushing.

I giggled, so did Jack; obviously for different reasons.

James spun the bottle, this time it landed on Tee.

“Dare.” He blurted before James could even ask.

“Alright then, I dare you to let Ceecee slap you.” James looked pleased with himself.

Tee didn’t look to happy.

Much as I really wanted to clobber him with all my might, I knew that somehow it would end badly for me; despite being within the rules. I gave him a light slap to the shoulder. The look that Tee gave me as I took my seat made me certain that I’d somehow end up regretting even what little I’d done.

He spun again, landing on James.

James had to blush heavily again, as he answered that he’d been spanked only two days ago.

The bottle pointed at Jack; who opted for truth.

“Okay Jack, what’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done.” James asked.

“I’m in a pampers right now!” Jack blurted.

Tee cringed.

Somehow, even without his reaction, James and I were immediately certain that he had something to do with it. James and I exchanged glances before returning our collective gaze to the guilty-looking boy.

“It was his idea.” Tee gestured with his thumb, to the youngest of the group.

Jack didn’t seem nearly as embarrassed as Tee. Apparently, he didn’t notice the awkward silence either. Without a word, he spun the bottle.

It stopped closest to Tee, who again chose a dare.

Jack was giggling. “I dare you to punch that wall.”

Silently Tee stood up, and in a flash, had delivered a blow to the wall of the fort.

James and I became statues when we heard the board crack.

Tee smiled at us and took his seat again.

I gulped when the bottle pointed in my direction.

Tee grinned widely. “Well, truth or dare?”

I didn’t respond. How could I? This is why I hated playing this game. Which was worse, having to reveal some horrible secret, or having to do Tee’s unrestricted bidding?

“You want a dare?” He prompted.

I shook my head.

“So does that mean you pick truth?”

I shook my head again.

“If you can’t make up your mind, I’ll just pick for you.”

I realized that was probably the dumbest thing I could do. But which one was he hoping I’d pick? Which one did he have plans for, and could I work my way out of them somehow? I looked over at James for an answer.

“Fine, I’ll give you a dare.” Tee spoke just as his brother was opening his mouth.

None of us argued with him. I was doomed and I knew it.

“Alright Ceecee, I dare you to poop in your pant-”

“HEY KIDS!” We all turned toward the door, and beyond it the sound of the boys’ mom calling for us.

“WE’RE IN THE TREEHOUSE!” James yelled back.

In a few seconds, Mrs. H was poking her head in the door. “What are y’all doing up here?” She spoke cheerily.

I tried to match her smile, only then realizing how fast my heart was beating.

“We were just about to play Go Fish.” James quickly snatched up the deck of cards.

“Jack’s mother just called, it’s time for him to go home.”

Jack got up, said goodbye, and left with Mrs. H.

“So where were we?” Tee tapped his finger on his chin.

“How about we play something else?” James was dealing out cards now.

Tee looked at me with annoyance, then to his brother, and finally back to me. I knew what he was thinking about; and I knew that James was doing everything he could to steer us away from it.

We hadn’t made it very far when their mom reappeared, making us all jump.

“Ms. Mercer says Jack came home wearing a diaper.” She looked at each of us in turn. “Who knows about this?”

James and I both shook our heads.

Tee gulped. “It was his idea,” he offered quietly.

“Come with me and explain that to Ms. Mercer.” Their mom didn’t sound happy at all.

Tee obeyed, and left the fort.

“And you two don’t know anything about this?” She looked longer at James, than at me.

Again, we both denied any knowledge of the fact. Even after their mom left, I kept my smile hidden. James was uncomfortable, but I was ecstatic. Tee was busted, totally busted. I wanted to jump and shout. No longer would I have to worry about him trying to make me wear a diaper. He’d probably be spanked by his dad and then grounded for the rest of his life.

James and I weren’t sure what game we should play next.

I didn’t particularly care, and was just happy not to be around Tee.

James was picking up the cards when we heard someone climbing the ladder.

“Hi guys, why didn’t you wait for me?” Tee asked, noticing the lack of Go Fish pile.

I froze.

How is he back already? How is he back at all?

“What happened, Tee?” James stuttered. "What’d they say?

“Like I told you, it was his idea.”

Bullcrap!

“No, for real, what happened?” Even James didn’t buy it.

“That’s what I told them.” Tee said triumphantly, taking a seat. “Ms. Mercer said it sounded like something Jack would do anyway.”

James and I looked at each other dubiously.

“They told him to ask his parents next time.” Tee shrugged with mock ignorance. “So where were we?”

He looked at me and lowered his brow.

But how? It’s not fair! How can you just talk your way out of something like that?

I knew exactly where I was. I was right where he wanted me. If he could just talk his way out of something like that, he could talk his way out of anything. There was no hope for me. I remembered the dare, but I knew deep down, that was just the start.

Why’d I have to wear my favorite princess panties today of all days?

I probably wouldn’t be wearing them too much longer anyway.


I blinked in the red glow.

Here again?

I had always been here. There wasn’t anywhere else. I couldn’t leave. I was born here, and I would die here.

Something was pounding at the back of my head, as if trying to remind me of something I’d forgotten. Someone was trying to nail signs to the inside of my brain, but I couldn’t read what they said.

BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!

Oh shut up!

BANG! BANG!

I’ll give you one more shot at this.

At what?

BANG! BANG! BANG!

My head jerked instinctively. That wasn’t in my head! That was real, and it was echoing from deep within the dark hallway. I tried to move, but found that my limbs would not obey.

Slowly, the sound grew closer. What had previously been a distant feeling, now seemed to be very close and very real. Staring forward, I also became aware that the star was significantly brighter and larger. It was so large now, that it covered the entire view from my window; no edge could be seen.

“Look!” I heard a male voice call from my left.

Footsteps banged on metal as they approached.

“He’s alive,” the young man said, standing in front of me. He was about my age with short, dark hair.

Two others joined him, both female. One seemed to be his partner, the other seemed different.

“It’s time to get up.” The first girl, his partner, a blonde; said as she looked out the window.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

Something she was holding began sounding an alarm. All at once, I felt the light vanishing. I felt as though I was falling backward into a deep abyss. Quickly becoming engulfed in a dark haze, I panicked and threw myself forward. It was this motion that freed me from my paralysis. I stumbled on my feet and slammed into the glass. Tipping back again, I rubbed my forehead and looked around.

The three were standing around me, waiting. Taking the lead, the young man began running in the direction they came from. I followed, and we soon turned a corner I didn’t remember existing previously.

We all piled into a craft of some sort. I concluded that it was a spacecraft, as the only thing visible beyond the angular windows were thousands of stars. I was barely seated when we launched with a jolt. I turned around to see a dim rock floating behind us, rapidly shrinking.

“That’s an old outpost.” The man said. “Didn’t think we’d find anyone there.”

I didn’t reply.

“It’s a good thing we got you out before the burn.” The first girl said.

I continued to watch as I could now see the rock, my previous prison, silhouetted against the glow of the star. Surrounding it were dozens of other dark shapes which I took to be part of an asteroid field. They were all quickly diminishing, but the star remained at it the same relative size.

For a minute, I was confounded by the illusion, but quickly realized that it was merely a trick of perspective.

Or so I thought.

A murky blue planet passed beneath us. For only a split second, it stretched as far as I could see in all directions except above us. But it slipped past, half-eclipsing the star before shrinking like the asteroids; and ultimately vanishing into the red.

How fast are we going?

“Let’s get out of here, yeah?” The man said.

As he finished, the star almost instantly shrank and vanished. For a couple seconds, white specks all around us streaked toward the location previously occupied by the red star. But as quickly as they began to streak, they all stopped moving. The answer to my question was never voiced, but I had it nonetheless; very.

With all of that far behind us, I turned to see a new planet quickly approaching. Somehow, in nearly a blink, we had descended and landed. How exactly we were able to not disintegrate from entering atmosphere at such a speed, I made a note to ask at the next possible convenience.

My intention was all but forgotten as soon as I stepped out of the craft. We appeared to have landed in a bright and airy plaza. By the amount of other elaborate craft in the area, I figured this was a port of some kind. But instead of fueling stations or other industrial fixtures, each craft had a simple gray pad on which to land. People and their baggage were either waiting in groups, or were departing from a landed craft. Between the pads were rolling expanses of grass. Dotted with patches of flowers and the occasional tree, the hills rolled along lightly; carrying with them, winding sidewalks that meandered over their contours.

Though the terrain varied, all of the pads were at the same elevation, and the hills never peaked high enough that evidence of the next pad was entirely obscured. Mostly just the craft themselves, but sometimes I could see groups of people beyond the dividing green. Best I could tell, there were hundreds of pads stretching close to the width of the largest city I had ever previously seen.

The far edges of this port were encircled by impossibly huge towers. White, sweeping curves stretched up from the ground. Piercing several layers of cloud, they were ringed with golden balconies, and sparkled in the dazzling sunlight.

Thousands of stories in height, they were all curved. Each flowing with the utmost grace, some joined into the next, with arches that even the smallest of which would put all of our previous achievements to shame and mockery. At the edges of the balconies, I could see forests; yes, entire forests were growing atop these already staggeringly impressive buildings.

Between all of this wove an intricate pattern. Nearly out of sight, tiny specks were dancing across the sky from one horizon to the next. Closer to the ground, I saw similar, but more sparsely populated patterns; these wound their way between the towers. For a moment, I mistook them for insects. But upon closer inspection I found that they were actually flying craft. Occasionally, a vessel would swoop down from beyond my sight, and land on one of the nearby pads. The proximity would reveal the crafts to be of monstrous proportions; dwarfing even many of our towns. Yet they would soon ascend, disappearing into the cloud of other vessels; not a one of them made a sound or left a trace of their passing. The sky was clear, save for natural clouds, and was tinted by a deep and welcoming blue.

I was so taken by the awe, that I soon found I had to force my lungs to breathe. My gasping elicited a giggle from the first girl, and a shy grin from the other.

“So where are you from?” The blonde girl asked.

“And what were you doing on that decrepit outpost?” The young man added.

I took in breath. The air was sweet to my tongue, and rich in my lungs. If I was even a slave in this place, I would be happy beyond description.

“We left our home.” I marveled at my own ability to speak; more still at my faintly returning memory. “There were some New Arrivals, and we did not agree, so we left.”

I didn’t know where to start for describing my home. If I called it an ‘Earth’ with a ‘Sun,’ they’d take me for a total fool; every planet must have been called as such before others were discovered. Did they even know the other planets in our system? The dark-haired man did seem to recognize what I said, as his brow furrowed when I mentioned the New Arrivals.

He looked straight up, as if he was reading something in the sky.

“It appears that the threat you fled has long since been wiped out.” He leveled his sight with me. “That installation we found you in was constructed at the advent of their planetary campaign.”

“Yes, but it seems odd that we’d find you there.” The blonde girl spoke. “There’s only one record of its use, and that was a while ago.”

“Well, I got separated from my group, and that’s why I was stuck there.” I shrugged.

“Do you know anyone from the group?” She questioned further.

“Not by name, but there were four families.” I began to recall the distant memory.

She looked wide-eyed at her partner, then back to me.

“Did they make it?” I asked, worried that something horrible had happened.

“Um, yes. But…”

“But what?” I snapped a little quicker than I meant to.

“Well they landed on a nearby planet, colonized it, and populated it to the apex of its capacity.” She said slowly.

“So where is that planet?” This was becoming stranger by the second.

“Eventually, its orbit decayed, and it fell into its sun.” The man said solemnly.

“So wait, they all died?” My body was asking the questions on its own, as my mind was no longer up to the task.

“Yes, I’m afraid.” He hung his head.

“I thought you said they populated the planet to the max!?”

“They did.” The blonde girl continued. “But the planet just didn’t have the resources needed to achieve interplanetary travel.”

“Doesn’t that take a hell of a long time?” I asked, my brain had done a bit of math, and I didn’t like the numbers. “How long were they living there?”

“I think you mean to ask how long you were on that outpost.” The man said perceptively.

“Nail on the head, dude.” It was a little late to worry if sarcasm was appreciated in this place.

“Well, more important than the entire development of a planet is the fact that the star it orbited eventually grew old and died. That’s when we rescued you; just before it enveloped its entire system.”

I was going to ask why they hadn’t rescued the people on the planet; but I reasoned that in this age of whatever fantastic technology they had, it would’ve been mere child’s play. To have the capability and not use it; that said more than a book’s worth of knowledge. I looked at the young man, who seemed to be partially reading my thoughts.

“In time, we will understand this.” He spoke with a strange reverence.

“Do you at least know what kind of time warp I was stuck in?” My hopeful gaze danced between the less than reassuring faces.

“We are aware of none.” The blonde spoke.

I hoped that they had a good supply of whiskey on this planet, but my hopes were ill-founded, given the seemingly bountiful perfection, and thus, lack of need. My questions would remain unanswered.

“Okay, now what?” At the present, I didn’t find it hard to resign myself to living in absolute paradise. Especially if it only meant forgetting people I wasn’t very well acquainted with in the first place.

“Let’s get you paired and dressed.” The man said, beginning to walk in what I imagined to be a relevant direction.

“Dressed I understand…” I looked down at my clothes, which were apparently out of style by several eons, give or take a few. Though, they didn’t look too terribly out of place in this increasingly diverse crowd.

“Ah, you’re not aware of pairing.” The man grinned at me.

We presently entered one of the towers at its base. I marveled once again at the construction. Curved supports arched far above our heads. White like the exterior, they had an organic feel as if this was simply a natural occurrence rather than a deliberate construct of human design. Light poured in from lofty windows that stretched the expanses between the rib-like supports.

At our level and far above us, across spindly bridges, people moved about constantly. Despite the vast multitudes, it wasn’t crowded; instead, everything seemed to flow smoothly. There was no evidence of people bumping or jostling one another. Like the flying craft outside, they followed an intricate pattern that was far beyond my comprehension.

“Come on, let’s get you two something you like.” The man spoke cheerily, taking the lead again as we worked our way through the glistening sea of people.

And glistening they were. Costumes of every description worn by people of matching diversity, spread across the entire space. Long flowing robes, skin tight suits, bulky furs; vibrant primaries, neon glows, rich earthy tones, and even sparkling jewels. It all began to remind me of the conventions we used to have. Except now, instead of being a mish-mash of colliding interests, their apparel seemed perfectly natural. Everything of every description was worn by anyone who chose such. What would appropriate for a specific gender, country, or even time, was now worn by anyone. Any yet, somehow, it didn’t look wrong or weird.

Perhaps that had nothing to do with the clothes at all. Perhaps the harmony was not woven by the threads of their cloth, but by their personal appearance. As we moved through the crowd, I could not for all my searching, find a single frown or scowl. Not a one of them looked upset or even disinterested. Each person smiled, looking forward, intent and focused on their destination; whatever it may be.

Their happiness was contagious it seemed; and as we traveled, I found myself grinning, and moving with an ease that I thought I had long-since lost. It was then that I studied them even closer. Their smiles were only one small part of their appearance. It wasn’t forced or painted, each smile was a natural extension of the manner with which they carried themselves. There was no shuffling of feet, no dawdling, no hobbling; in fact, I couldn’t spot a single person that looked any less physically fit than was needed to run a marathon. Size and build varied as much as their garb, but each seemed to be perfected in their capability. Everyone walked easily, with light feet on strong legs that could likely carry them tirelessly for days.

There was something deep within these people that fueled their perfection. An inner fire that blazed unrestricted, lifting each head, and brightening their eyes. They possessed a joy that burned within, not just an outward appearance of happiness. Again, I found it contagious, and breathed deeply of the rich air as we approached the farthest reach of the vast atrium.

We stopped in front of what seemed to be a costume shop. If it were possible to call anything ‘out of place,’ this would be the closest to that reach. I had to admit that most of what I saw looked very familiar, and amused me inwardly at its comparatively alien nature. The windows of this shop had many outfits from my era, and from the many ages of history in my previous home. Suits of armor, Victorian dresses, Roman Toga, even clothes from the American west. It seemed that the young man had brought me to a place where I would find something that might match where I came from.

“This is okay, right?” The young man asked over his shoulder as we entered.

I mumbled confirmation as I followed.

“You can pick anything you like.” He spoke nonchalantly; but I knew his words to be extensively truthful.

“But,” I began, realizing a glaring flaw. “How will I pay for this?”

The young man chuckled merrily. “We each contribute as we are capable. What is not hoarded in excess, need not be withheld behind a premium.”

I remained silent.

“Take what you like, it’s there for you to have.” He finished with a warming smile.

Surely, I would need to have the economy of this place explained in full. But for now, it I concluded that there was no currency. In fact, I noticed that I saw no one with a purse or wallet chain, on our trip over; and that there had been no counter or register to greet us when we entered. For a second, I had a mental glimpse of this world. No currency, no identification, no clutter of documents or accounts. Each person was simply themselves. Each day, a person might awaken, don whatever suited their fancy, and make their way to a place where contribution was needed. With everyone fit and able, physical labor would hardly be a chore, but rather a practice kept in place to allow people to better themselves in their trade, or simply to exercise.

I couldn’t see this being a society where all tasks were automated by machine. Surely that phase had been conquered long ago, and left behind like our dark ages. No, these people were far too wise to let automation lull them into complacency and laziness. In their vast learning, they had concluded that removing the need for work was not the pinnacle of success. Instead, a willing and capable populous could easily overcome any task.

The young man looked at me knowingly, confirming my speculation to an extent. I found myself eager to settle down in this world, and find a way to make my own contribution to its perfection. I regretted that it would only be minuscule.

“Since you both are not from here, how about you two become a pair?” The blonde girl suggested.

I caught a hint of what she meant, but chose to let them explain further.

“I was thinking the same thing.” The young man agreed, turning to me. “You see, she’s like you.” He motioned to the second girl.

She had been with us the whole time, but had said nothing. Something about her had indeed seemed different, but I was too distracted by the constant stream of wonders to put any thought toward her. Now though, I realized that she had been stealing curious glances in my direction. She had shoulder-length brown hair, a lock of which fell in front of one half of her face, partially obscuring a shy grin. A simple forest green shirt and blue jeans told me that she was probably from a world like mine. She stood a couple inches shorter than the blonde girl, and had her arms crossed in front of her.

“She’s been waiting for one like you; like her.” The man continued. “Her world is gone, like yours, and she’s alone, like you.”

The shy girl blushed at me, giving a quick wave, before crossing her arms once again.

“You should stay with her, you two seem like a great match.” The blonde smiled at me, the short girl mimicked the smile. “She needs someone, and you should not be alone either.”

I felt unworthy. I began to doubt their perception. Surely they wouldn’t just leave me with an innocent creature like this girl. Surely they wouldn’t just assume me to be trustworthy. I began to wonder where we might stay, or how I would provide for her.

“Do not worry.” The blonde spoke softly. “We know you’ll do your best.”

“That’s right,” the young man nodded agreement. “We’ll find you a residence and help you get settled.”

The brown-haired girl stepped toward me. Was it just that easy? I knew nothing about her, and she knew nothing about me. But somehow, I felt that we would make this work.

“But before we do that, why don’t you pick out some new clothes.” The young man gestured across the store. “Whatever makes you comfortable.”

I began to walk down the main aisle, the girl walking beside me, the other two following behind. The girl didn’t say anything, but looked at me expectantly.

“She doesn’t say much.” I heard the young man say. “Maybe you should help her pick something out.”

Yeah, no kidding. She hasn’t said a single word this whole time.

For a few minutes, we wandered the aisles. I was contemplating exactly what to get. If I was right, and everything was acceptable, then it was merely a matter of preference. It occurred to me that we could just as easily pick something different at a later time, but I still wanted to pick out something nice.

Conveniently, thought not surprising, I found a collection of appealing but varied clothing. As if tailored to me alone, I found what looked like an assortment of casual clothing from my time; nothing looked too fancy or too shabby.

I snatched a pair of tan corduroy jeans, and a light-gray hoodie. These matched almost identically the ones I remembered from my home. Much as I wanted to try something new, I just couldn’t pass up the overwhelming nostalgia. Without checking, I trusted them to be sized correctly, and felt confident in my assumption.

Once again, I found a lapse in orderly sorting that instead lent itself to personal convenience. Right next to the rack from which I picked my clothes, were several appealing ladies outfits. The first one on the rack was also the only one I bothered to look at; I liked it right away.

It was a traditional Irish dancing dress. The emerald silk was embroidered with golden thread that wove intricate designs across the chest, and around the hem of the short skirt. I pulled it from the rack, and turned to the girl at my side. She smiled widely and took the dress. For a second, I couldn’t imagine any cuter an outfit on her. But that second was a short one.

Over her shoulder, I spotted something on the next rack; something that would answer my question about acceptance. Even if I had been told to pick anything I liked, I still had my doubts about the extent. This; this would prove it, one way or another.

On the rack hung several familiar looking garments. Once again, I had no doubt about the correct sizing. I picked one and studied it in my hand. It was an adult or youth sized cloth diaper. White all over, it had velcro tabs and an opening at the back for inserting extra padding. I speculated at the necessity of such an opening, as it appeared to already have a significant amount of padding. I guessed that garments like these were probably only for fashion; I couldn’t imagine them being needed in such a perfect and healthy society. Nonetheless, they were adorably cute, and even had ruffled leg cuffs.

I turned back to the girl and hesitated. Would she be okay with this? Was this common on her world, or forbidden? Did she even know what these were used for on mine? I looked at her, then to the other two. No one said a word.

I slowly held out the diaper, anxiously waiting for her response. To my surprise, she accepted it with a smile. Then, to my further confusion, she reached past me and grabbed another one from the rack. For a moment, she eyed both in her hands; the dress draped over her shoulder. Raising her head, she looked at me and held out the one she had grabbed from the rack.

I stood dumbfounded for a second. Did she want me to put it back?

Sensing my confusion, she laid the diaper on my arm, atop the other clothes I had picked for myself. I understood.

I put my hand on hers and smiled; she returned my smile.

“Is this what you want?” The young man asked.

My eyes never left the girl in front of me; neither of us so much as blinked. “Yes,” I answered with complete sincerity. There were no loopholes to the question, no possible way to twist it, that would change my answer. My mind raced, trying to find a flaw. My inner cynic searched frantically for something to feed off of, but came up empty and vanished without a trace.

“Then we’re done here.”


I blinked in the piercing light. Groggy and aching, I rolled over, away from my window, and away from the stabbing morning sun.

I grumbled and reached for my phone.

8:26am.

I had missed my alarm.

I felt clammy and wet, something smelled bad, and I realized that I hadn’t just been sweating.

The dream began to vanish. Not from memory, but from grasp. Like sand between my fingers, it spilled through and scattered across the floor. Sinking into the carpet, it became obscured from sight. I knew it was still there, but I could not so much as pick up a single grain, if only to confirm its existence.

Tears blurred my already poor vision as I stumbled out of bed. I stood in a mental stupor for a moment, trying to select an appropriate emotion with which to react. My bed stunk and so did I.

“FUCKING DAMMIT!”

It took the better part of a minute before I felt the pain. Blood was coagulating on my knuckles by the time I had stripped myself and my bed.

I’d have to patch the hole in the drywall later.

Re: I’m not titling this… (Part four added 11/29)

I’m finding this one a little tricky to follow, but I’m having fun reading it. I think part of my challenge is untangling the dreams from the reality. At the same time, the large portion of dreams and the comparative difficulty of separating them from reality makes the whole story a bit surreal, which has a very interesting effect.

I look forward to seeing where this goes next.

Re: I’m not titling this… (Part four added 11/29)

I appreciate the comment, though I’m hesitant to say much about the story in response.
If done correctly, all that needs to be said by me, will be said in the story itself. If I have to clarify things in a reply, then that part of the story may need revision.

Any and all feedback is welcome, though.
What people get from this will help me gauge whether they’re seeing what I want to show.

Thanks for the interest.
I will try to keep it, by updating a bit more regularly. :slight_smile:
Can’t absolutely promise though. My writing schedule is erratic at best.

Re: I’m not titling this… (Part four added 11/29)

I know just what you mean about replying to comments. I’m sitting on my fingers in just the same way with Curiosity. The comments can, however clarify areas that need a little attention to make it work.

One of the things that makes this one tricky to follow is that I’m reading it in serialized format, not as a complete story.

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