He tries to carve out a space of his own in the landscape, but he only succeeds in stretching it. Five fingers pointing out into the air, pushing the very fabric of his surroundings into unnatural shapes, is not enough. He can enter the warped area without a problem, but every time he does, he is bounced swiftly back into reality. He lands hard on his backside for the fifteenth time that day. Perhaps the glove he is wearing isn’t configured correctly: Jamie could easily have made a mistake. He wipes the dew from his trousers and looks across at the van; the computer equipment and flashing LEDs blinking from within. Maybe just a little tweak wouldn’t do any harm?
The neon green tables and numbers separated by asterisks, dots and dashes were familiar to him from watching Jamie, although the programming was really her domain. He was responsible for designing and building the gloves themselves. Connecting the hardware up to the main system is the easy part; now comes the need for concentration. He finds the section of the table relating to environmental plasticity and rebound, makes a few mental calculations and overwrites six of the numerical entries.
Returning to the outdoors with his re-configured glove in position, he wonders where Jamie has got to. Ten minutes, they’d agreed. Of course, she deserves as much alone time as she wants, but this is all still very new. A single moment of concern washes over him; a tugging in his gut. But he pushes the thought away before it’s fully formed and stretches his arm out in front of him. The mountains begin to twist in his vision as he spreads his fingers. The grass at his feet is suddenly much further away, and the stream appears to flow upwards. This has all become a familiar sight over the last couple of hours, so he takes it as a sign that he hasn’t messed anything up too badly.
But then he sees something different. Something unprecedented. Instead of a mere change to the shape of reality, there is now a crack forming between his body and his surroundings. It’s completely black and without quality. Everything he knows – even the air – is on the other side, and he’s struggling to hold on to the breath in his lungs. He retracts the glove back to his side, but it changes nothing. The crack is growing wider.
His first thought is to take a step forward to escape the blackness, which he tries in an ungainly lurch. This, to his horror, only results in him being completely enveloped into the blackness, where he can no longer see reality at all. There is something moving in there, though. Many things. Shrouded in the darkness are hundreds, if not thousands, of eyes, all embedded in a crystal-like substance, and he can see through them. He gasps, and the blackness fills him; sticky and thick like tar. The memory of eternity hits him hard. So many years have passed with this indescribable pain that he’s become old and frail and forgetful…
A gentle throbbing from inside and out disturbs his thought, and a small area between a group of eyes is thinning. Through it, he can just make out a female figure laying on a chaise longue. As it stretches out some more, it becomes clear that it’s Jamie. There’s a large window behind her showing the mountains, the stream and their van. A table beside her is piled high with fruit. He tries to call out but instantly chokes on the blackness.
She can’t hear you. The words vibrate inside his skull. He decodes them in his spleen. Isn’t it wonderful, this trap we’ve built? Want a closer look? He can’t reply. The eyes all around him are at once menacing and fearful, like a bully’s jeering supporters who know it’s gone too far. A force from within pushes him right up to Jamie’s scene, with only the stretchy film between them. A horned beast, moulded from the same tar that binds his limbs, is approaching her. Her eyes are closed: she can’t see. This grotesque form bares its claws and towers above the chaise longue. Hungry, fella? You can’t stay if you don’t eat. He is hungry. Unbearably so. And he knows in his spleen that the only way to rid himself of this crushing abyss is to eat something.
He looks down at Jamie, sound asleep, and he looks at his claws. He remembers her enthusiasm at his idea of creating private spaces. He remembers developing the method together: one last project before they would part ways for good. He’d promised. He remembers driving out to the mountains, and the way the landscape enveloped her when she used the glove, rendering her invisible to the naked eye. And he remembers how he could no longer find his own space using the same technique. That’s the way it was supposed to work. The trap was only built for prey; the monster must use the back door.
As he opens his jaws as wide as they will go, the blackness crystallises into jagged little teeth pushing through his skin. He clamps them down, first on the window, then on the table, and finally on Jamie herself. Every frenzied bite leaves behind nothing but the same old darkness, with more eyes emerging from it all the time. He takes it all. Then, he calmly removes the glove. It’s been a long time coming, but his hunger is finally satisfied. The pain is finally gone.
Emanations is an experiment in automatic fiction writing by C.R. Dudley. These surreal fragments come from states of meditation, excitation, or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing. She considers them to be little windows into the back rooms of the mind. Emanations X is the longest, most complete concept of all attempts so far.
C.R. Dudley is the author of metaphysical sci-fi collections Fragments of Perception and Mind in the Gap. She is an artist, mind explorer, and founder of Orchid’s Lantern press and blog. You can find many of her reviews, articles and flash fiction pieces on this site, or sign up to her newsletter via www.crdudley.com.
If you would like to write for Orchid’s Lantern, please visit our submissions page.
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