"Glimpses of Flickering Madness"
A short story
Gary Baker, August 2016
We sat in the room on the side of thought, the cushions of the sofa like clouds as we listened to the pair in the other room. They were arguing again; as always.
“...and so you fucking dare to…”
I pulled a pillow to my face and pretended to suffocate myself with it. If I wasn’t so god damned high, it would have been like witnessing a murder in slow motion. Thankfully by then the pints had already begun to work with the smoke and… well things just got interestingly numb.
“...like I give a shit about your…”
The statue beside me, the girl made of stone and crisp linens, grated her cheeks to grace my eyes with her own. Should we leave? She mouthed. Colors swirled as I watched the television that had cut to static, where I swore I could see the pair in the other room glaring back through the fuzzy black and white ants.
“...oh, yeah, like that makes anything better…”
“...if you’d stop being such a bitch about…”
I shook my head and took another swig of the hard stuff, the burn no longer searing as much as it once had, the nausea no longer as fluid at my tonsils. By then I had simply become a pool of atoms and electrons vibrating along to the beat of distant stars. As I watched his eyes contort into a scowl on the static I felt my face begin to burn.
I heard a nasty slap and my eyes went wide. The statue beside me and I suddenly watched the atoms of air between ourselves and the far wall, facing perpendicular to the arguing going on just meters away. I cringed as tears reached out from my eyelids and traversed across the hilly expanses of my cheeks. I shook. My atoms shook. The sofa wilted beneath me and the flat plane of cushion beneath my hand curled into stone fingers overlapping my own as the statue surged with emotion that I could taste.
Now can we leave? She thought into my mind.
I could have wept again, the darkness in the other room tainting my own miasma until I could hardly decipher between the angry reds and the blooming pinks. Yet it was when the ceruleans and azures darkened to charcoals and oblivion that I shuddered and took her stony hand in my own. I nodded. Yes. We would leave soon.
“...how about I do it again, then? How about I give you something to…”
Thunder came again and a squeal came like a kitten whose claw had gotten stuck in the carpet as panic cut deep. A bustle came like the clatter of winds knocking furniture around in a man-size twister and the statue led the way through the door. I barely kept up, stumbling as I went to catch the key on the wall. I missed it and the crackle of steel hitting hardwood floor echoed out to me as though through a turbine engine fan.
“...you fucking like that?! You want some fucking more?!...”
We raced through tall grass with wispy tendrils of Earth’s awe becoming mist-like in our vibrations. Trees reached to hold us, to console us, to hide us from the anger that tore out after us as we ran into the oblivious darkness. I could feel the motherly love of the planet reaching out to help us, her roots shifting to trip the bastard as it’s radiating heat came for us.
Cool air clung to my skin and I swore I felt droplets of rain…
...until I realized that they were coming from the statue’s face ahead as she pulled me deeper into the brush, as we fled deeper and deeper into the hilly expanse of trees and saving wildlife. Brine soaked with incredible washes of sadness and anger and vibrations of hopelessness all imbued within tiny sparkling droplets of saline and water.
But still a torrent of rage came after us.
We rushed headlong into the abyss, just aware enough to keep from being pulled too closely by the friends of bark and sap, just aware enough to avoid being buried by soil that would have loved to embrace us six feet under with loving caresses to our lungs and veins and atomic resonations.
Why us? The wonderful figure of stone and life echoed into my thoughts. Why did they have to live with us?
I slowed and put a hand to my lips so I could think. It made a circuit which then allowed my thoughts to run as they should, as my heaving, thrumming muscles tried to focus on staying alive, as they tried to focus on anything but not simply dying. It was bad enough that I was on the verge of accepting the reality I had never known and letting the vibrations of distant stars wash me into ripples of universal energy again. All it would have taken was a simple accepting thought toward it.
What’s wrong? She asked. Is he still following us?
I blinked. He was following us? I swore it had only been the anger, I swore it had merely been the rage, the abuse, that had sought us out. I swore it had been echoes of reverberating fear which had wanted to sink it’s visceral teeth into our vibrations. I never would have guessed the human form of it all had been the beastial echo that kept our tails.
My throat seemed to shrink back, releasing itself from my control, and pressed my air out with vibrations I seemed to be creating. “I,” there was a moment where I lost myself in the woods overhead, where the dark branches seemed to create the very same appearance as neurons in the brain, and I was drawn to set myself in the soft, moist soil. “I forgot why we were running.”
She looked back the way we had come and seemed to think on things I could only wish to comprehend. Her eyes could have hidden the light of entire galaxies, and I couldn’t so much as pretend to feel her thoughts. So do you think we’re safe?
I rolled my face toward her and let an ant crawl along my forehead. “For now I think we are…” I blinked and tried to focus, my train of thought derailing as fast as it could get going again, “...going to be okay.”
With a nod, she set herself onto her knees beside me, her dress soaking up some of the mud beneath us as we fought to break reality and make things better again.
“...going to be okay…”
Tears welled up in her eyes and I winced. Where was the wonderful work of art that I had gotten to know over the last several years? Here sat the saddest statue of sandstone and stardust that had ever been formed from the clay of cosmic awe, and all I could do was lay on my back in the mud and watch as nausea returned.
God, you're high. Your eyes are bloodshot, she shook her head and sighed, so so bloodshot right now. Her lips moved, but I barely heard them as my head began to throb with renewed vigor. She watched me as I rolled away to finally let out the pent up alcohol, then reached forward to wipe my face with the sleeve of her sweater as I pulled forward onto my knees.
“What… what happened back there? For real?” I choked at last. The girl closed her eyes most of the way and watched me in curiously indecipherable expressions.
“You,” her voice struck my ears with the soft suddenness of a cello in the dark. Sadness threatened to overtake me by the tremors alone. “You mean you…?”
I sighed as the high finally seemed on the verge of ending. “Sort of. I was lucid enough to get the gist… but what caused it?”
Tears welled up in her eyes once more and she leaned forward to hold me as dearly as anyone had ever been held. Her arms were like extensions of the universe itself, as comforting as a mother and as wonderful as life itself usually was. “I wish I knew…” she moaned with new echoes of the chaos lain within, and her face pressed deeper into my shoulder, “they came home while we were already stoned off our asses and…” she shook violently, her stony figure becoming more and more human with every passing second.
I nodded and rest my cheek on the top of her head, “and he hit her...I remember that much.”
Suddenly her eyes sought my own and she held me in the most magnanimous glare that I could imagine possible. Cerulean disks seemed to hold the universe within their center, and somewhere within those lay our future together. “Can we go?” I knew what she meant, but I stammered too long for her to understand, “I want to move. Now. Let’s just take what we can and run. We don’t need much, I promise.”
With a grim sigh I reached out and took her hand in my own. She once was a statue as stoic as the cosmos, and yet just then I felt her form begin to crumble at the edges, her base shattered by what we had just escaped, by the chaos of what she wouldn’t soon forget. All I could say to her was “yes” as the moonlight traced our outlines in the woodland mud and soil. “Of course, dear.”