N̵̖̻͙̓i̴̧̢͐̿͜g̷͚͙̜̓͝h̴͉͈͌t̸̟̱̾s̵̗̯͋ ̸̠͍̈́̕l̴̢̀͊i̸̛̖̳̰̾k̵̜͎̐e̷̡̦̯̔̈́ ̴̖̇̒̅t̵͎̙̞̑̄͘h̴̨̯͙̉̈́̇ě̴̢͇s̵̻̲͜͠ē̸͚,̸̛͚̜ ̵͓̞̳̇̇w̴̹͂̓̍h̶̨̪͂é̶͕͚̖̓̚r̷͇̖̉ͅe̴͈̋̌͋ ̴̨̛̳̇̾Ỉ̶̪̚͘ ̷̱̩̅͜f̴̖̾̂͆e̸͉̻͒ě̵̪̰͂͜ľ̵͖̟͖̋̏ ̸̬̽r̷̭͖̼̈́̋e̴͕̥̍a̵͈͂͆̅l̷͈̗̽̓͌.̶͓͉̽͋̀͜.̵̧̣͈͑͝.̷̻̟̏ͅ
For a moment, the catatonic world seemed like a transparent illusion to him; nothing but faceless ghosts and vague outlines of ruined buildings and veiled horizons that barely existed beyond the twilight skylines. Gossamer, that’s the pretty word for it. Everything was so exquisitely gossamer.
From beside him, he could hear Dylan softly calling out his name, beckoning him out of his efflorescent daydream. But Kyle merely closed his eyes and sighed, leaning back and letting the warm sand slip and sift between his delicate fingers. Dylan knew better than to persist and disturb his reveries further, thankfully.
Everything seemed like miles away from Kyle; the aegan ocean, his bickering friends, the salty breeze in his lungs, all of it seemed to be gradually wandering away from him, in search of a better reality.
Tranquil tidal waves solemnly lapped against the coastline, cool and fragile, barely reaching his toes. From behind him, a warped laugh from Zach, an indignant cry of protest from Jordan, Dylan’s poor exasperated attempts at mollifying the situation—a polaroid snapshot of a fleeting argument, a fleeting memory, in a fleeting lifetime.
In a while, Kyle’s spine began to feel quite sore from sitting upright, so he shifted a bit further to shake off the discomfort and rest against Dylan’s shoulder.
But, in leaning back, he found in surprise that his friend seemed to have disappeared into thin air.
In fact, all of them had.
Kyle panicked as he flailed in an attempt to retain his balance, but it was all too late. He quickly toppled backwards and felt himself crashing fast onto…the ground?
Not this time, still.
There was nothing but empty air beneath him.
Kyle could do nothing but let the volatile wind carry him away, as the horizon tilted from his vision and blurred into a sfumatic landscape—of violent fugacious colours and relapsing imbricated patterns.
From beyond that psychedelic film reel, he swore he could faintly hear Zach’s echoing voice counting down, so dangerously close yet so far away from him. But…to what end?
Five, four, three, two, one…
Kyle finally landed on something with a soft thump. He wasn’t quite expecting a gentle landing, but he was really grateful for it.
For about five seconds.
Until he shifted his gaze to see a messy tangle of translucent plastic wires connected to his chest and snaking past his limbs, a thousand needles painfully embedded in his veins and all over his arms, and all of these damned things tapering off to poisonous IV lines and contraptions stretching far beyond the gurney’s reach.
Creeping panic descended on Kyle and quickly set in once more. His heart began to beat fast, faster, somehow even overtaking the metronomic beeps that were supposed to be in sync with it. The discordant sound raged and roared in his ears, but he couldn’t block it out. He couldn’t scream for help. He couldn’t do anything at all.
Rendered completely powerless, Kyle could only watch in silent horror as metal medicine men disguised with stained scrubs and face masks milled frantically around him, attempting to suppress his rapid tachycardia and to no avail. The anthropomorphic beings wielded sharp scalpels that drew scarlet lines across his flesh and reviving paddles that numbly jolted him, but seemed to be useless in the fight to keep his failing heart still functioning.
Right behind them, Zach stood morosely, shifting from one foot to the other unsurely as he overlooked the grotesque scene. He was wearing a tattered funeral suit and holding a wreath of shriveled black dahlias in one hand, his miserable stare full of pleading remorse.
“Stay with us now!”
That final scream wasn’t a strange android’s monotonous voice. It was familiar, pained—an aching, desperate plea. Whose voice was it?
Kyle, it seemed, didn’t have time to find out.
He felt the life drain out of him as his frail body went limp, his stuttering breaths became elusive, and his vision slowly faded out into darkness. A bored voice announced his time of death as if they were reading it off a newspaper obituary.
A droning flatline. A blinding white light. Another dreadful sensation of recklessly falling away…
He suddenly awoke to find himself floating in the middle of the ocean, frigid waves angrily cresting and swelling around him. He was still wearing his hospital gown, which was heavily soaked but did not weigh him down much, thankfully. His mouth also tasted rather salty from—was it from the ocean water or blood?
Kyle tried to take a deep breath, but his throat immediately constricted and he swallowed back a mouthful of the unknown liquid; lungs burning, coughs overtaking, still struggling to keep himself afloat despite the inevitable void that was pulling him in once again.
Or was it something else?
He felt a steady hand grasp him by the arm and carefully drag him out back onto the shore. Heaving and spluttering, Kyle weakly crawled away from the waters and peered up into the looming face of his saviour.
“Jordan, is that you?”
“Maybe. Maybe not.” His companion simply replied. “Are you okay?”
“No, no I’m fucking not!” Kyle snapped in frustration, his eyes welling up with tears and blurring his vision. Looking up once more, Jordan’s face appeared less of a human being to him and more of an abstract portrait. Spiralling, he was still spiralling…
“I don’t know why I’m being put through this and which one of these memories is reality anymore and just—I don’t wanna live in a world like this!” Kyle continued to seethe as he punched the ground until his knuckles bruised, hoping that the pain would keep him from completely losing grasp again. “Are you even real? Are any of you?! Or is this just another fake fiction? And what about me? Am I also just make-believe? I don’t know and I can’t fucking trust my head anymore. What the hell is going on here?”
Jordan, however, appeared to be mostly unfazed by his furious diatribe. “To tell you the truth, we don’t know either.” He said with an indifferent shrug.
“I figured as much.” Kyle buried his head in his hands in sullen resignation, still shuddering from the hypothermic cold overtaking his skin. “But, I swear, just tell me one thing, please…” He pled, voice barely above a whisper.
“When will this end?”
“You can’t ask too many questions here. Likewise, we can’t reveal too much. Trust me when I say that in this situation, ignorance is bliss.” Jordan’s tone unexpectedly shifted from callous to pitying, which made Kyle’s stomach turn even more in sheer dread.
“I really wish I could help you, Kyle. But I can’t. I just can’t.”
“It’s okay. I guess I’ll just have to figure this one out myself.” Kyle murmured, smiling thinly in defeat. “You’ve done enough already.”
Jordan walked away without saying another word, his solemn shadows moving away from Kyle and stretching out into black labyrinths on the sand. Overhead, a seagull sluggishly flew past and squalled, almost mournfully. A bright ray of afternoon sunlight peeking through silver cumulous clouds shone on Kyle’s face and momentarily blinded him, and he blinked once more.
When he opened his eyes again, he was back with his three closest friends, resting on a checkered picnic blanket by the shore, back in that transparent world with its faceless ghosts and vague outlines of ruined buildings and veiled horizons—catatonic, yet somehow comforting.
“You’ve been kinda quiet for a while now.” Dylan observed thoughtfully. “You alright there? What are you thinking about?”
Behind him, another warped laugh. Another indignant protest following it. Another spell of hellish deja vu, resentfully nostalgic yet drastically different. Dylan’s concerned gaze was piercing through his confused soul, searching for some answers, meaning to understand him. But there was nothing left to be understood anymore, that much he knew. There just wasn’t.
Instead, Kyle simply shook his head in response and sighed wistfully. “No, it’s nothing. Nothing at all.”
He didn’t dare close his eyes now. Instead, he stared up into the calm indigo nothings above him and quietly wished that this time around, those hopeful words would be the only truth, even if it wasn’t going to be pretty at all. Gossamer…why is everything so exquisitely gossamer?
P l e a s e . . .
R̵̗͖̿e̴͕̞̍ą̴̘͔̽̽̉l̵̺̥͌̌ȋ̷̱͆̂t̵̢̐ŷ̴̤̋ ̷̮͌̍s̵͚̮̫͌͑̀ė̵̡̩̻t̴̫̟̔s̶̖͒̈́ ̵̪̗͆͛̊į̷̩̀͊̍n̶͉̬̆̍͠,̷͎̰͘ ̶̙͓̆̀̄a̵̠̐̇̎ṅ̸̢̜d̸̪͚̭͊ ̸̺̩̭̓͝I̶̮̺͇̾͋̕’̴̛̬̝̳̈́̅l̵̟͍̝̍̇l̷̔͗̕ͅ ̸̟̜̿̐b̵̪̑͗̒e̵̱̒̚ ̶̺̩͔͛̽͂g̸̢̘̥̈͊o̵͔͋́n̴͍̅́̈́ẽ̵̢̈́͗ ̴͎̙̍͌̽ä̵̗́͑g̷͇̥̓͌̈́ä̴͕̳̎̌i̵̟̍̌̕n̷̩̋.̶̖̣̰̈