“We lie awake, but once asleep the missing fragments of truth find us.”

He shudders. A single epileptic spasm ushers him into a dream. Reason now sleeps and a monster emerges from the shadows. The street the victim walks down is dark, the pavement wet from a recent storm. The sky, what part can be seen beyond the high-rise buildings, is black and overcast. The only light shines from an old streetlight that flickers every few seconds. Water drips off drain pipes and streams down gutters.

The victim has unexplainable, incredible abilities that surface from his imagination: strength, flight, mind reading, mastery of languages… but they’re not enough to escape the fate this dream has set aside for him. The order he tried so hard to maintain in his waking world has been abandoned. Nothing makes sense here.

Before it was trapped by his logic, but in the blink of an eye, insanity is unleashed to consume what lies in its path. A violent ambition that was hidden can now realize its potential… The monster has been lurking where we left it years ago, tucked away in an undisturbed fold of time. Now, it pursues its prey.

The monster walks behind him, humming an unknown tune. The sound is distorted, as if he and his ears were adjusting from a dormant to fully conscious state. But he’s caught in between. The unsung song is accompanied by a hawk that screeches above him. The hawk’s nightmarish scream is impatient.

The monster sighs, and the victim stops. The time has come to face the danger that has found him. His eyes shift to the side and he turns around. A woman is there, dressed in blue. She looks at him with a blank stare. He smiles. She doesn’t. She is untouched by the encounter and passes by him as if she does not see him. He glances up towards the sky.

“Cold night.”

He shivers as a cold wind grasps the back of his neck. The few stars that pierce through the clouds strike his eyes like a snakebite. He is dizzy from the venom coursing through his veins. The victim realizes each star is an evil thought he has had. Every sinister scheme he has devised but never carried out.

The woman has walked far ahead of him. He continues on his way, picking up the pace. A flashback from his past reminds him that he knows who she is. Once within earshot he makes a second attempt for conversation.

“Excuse me…”

There’s no indication she hears him. He moves around and in front of her, and she walks right into him.

“I beg your pardon, but we’ve met before.”

She steps back and attacks him with a phrase. Her voice is carried by the night breeze, kept alive in an echo. What she says is lost, but how she says it holds the weight of a long life. Many voices resound quietly in his mind, coming at him from all directions. He watches her lips move as the last words are pronounced. Her face is expressionless. He himself feels no surge of feeling, no desire to ask what she means.

His mind is in a trance, and his heart has been sacrificed. He looks down and sees his heart has been removed. His body is limp and he falls into his own blood. He is still alive.

The woman kneels down and touches his shoulder. They both look at each other, and the lie begins.

Selfless Void

Your body aches having pushed yourself into sleep deprivation. Walking home from work the sky is lit with fading light and darkness pools like squid’s ink. You need to focus on paying attention to your movement, attempting to become extra aware of your surroundings as drowsiness pulls at you. You shake your head, blink your eyes, slap your hand, pinch your upper thigh — anything to keep you awake enough not to need to stop and rest. You realize it’s a losing battle, and that you must take a quick nap so you don’t fall prey to how accident prone you are. You see a cement halfwall next to a staircase up ahead. Shrubs and a decorative tree create a place where you won’t be noticed. You sit down, lean and rest your head against the staircase wall. In a couple minutes sounds blend, your body relaxes and you slip right into a deep sleep.

The hushed neighborhood murmurings do not disturb you. The strain from lack of sleep is being repaired, your body at rest working overtime moreso than during a normal night’s sleep. As it stitches you back together rather than be anesthetized, your mind becomes overactive to distract you from what’s going on with your unconscious therapy, creating up wild scenarios in dreams to redirect and make you feel out of place–forcing you to search for where you need to go, who you need to meet, what you need to do… and never quite reaching your destination–delaying, prolonging your stay enough for your body to heal.

A loud bang startles you and you awaken with a start, nearly falling backwards off the wall where you’ve propped yourself, the bushes enough of a backrest but not secure enough for you to break through if you press hard enough. Disoriented, you’ve forgotten where you are, having just arrived from somewhere completely different, the time of day seems off, but as your eyes and mind sync up and you feel your worn-out body, you’re reminded of your power nap on your way home. You stand up, a little wobbly, sleep drunk, steady yourself with one hand on the half wall, one upraised on the railing of the staircase. You start walking and immediately know something isn’t quite right. Your steps should make a noise, but they are silent. Your breathing should be visible in the chilled air, but your exhales are not there. Your inhales should expand your chest, but they do not. You are breathing, but you cannot feel the air being drawn in. Just a senseless, formless emptiness. You stop, touch your forearms, and your sense of touch is gone. At your arm your reach stops, but no contact. It’s as if you hit a hologram. You pull out your water bottle from your backpack, unscrew the top, tip it, the water pours out and down your throat like liquid passing through a hose without touching the sides. No change of temperature, no switch from dry to wet, no tartness on your tongue from the lemon slices that float amongst the ice.

What is going on?

You need to go home. You start to walk, and as you pass by a streetlight–no shadow. You pick up the pace, keeping your gaze forward, looking down the street, as far as you can make out all the way to where the sidewalk ends.
You speed walk on autopilot. Your thoughts whirring through all the possibilities…

body snatcher?
alien abduction?
split personality?
waking coma?

As you veer to the right around a tree and the broken sidewalk above its roots, your sight strays to a large picture window where your reflection should be. The tree is there, its shadow flickering with the pulsing streetlight. Parked cars, surrounding doorways and windows… but not you.

Where are you?

You run home, press the code to let you inside, up the stairwell, key turns in the lock, door shut, backpack dropped.
In a daze you switch on a few lights and head to your bedroom. The mirror-you has left, your fear is all-consuming with no heartbeat to accelerate, no hyperventilating, not able to pass out. You just are caught in some selfless void.

The picture frames of friends and family are perched like monuments of your life, your memories, but you are not in them. Faces stare out at you. Smiles that should take you back to those moments are empty. You don’t know where you’ve been, what you’ve done, nor with whom you shared your life. You slump down on the end of the bed, not knowing if someone else should be here.

As you glance down at the palms of your hands, you see nothing. You are invisible without form.
Do you exist?
How do you think?
Why do you see everything here and there but not you?
You look back at your dresser and one frame holds your gaze.
Someone is looking right at you, smiling.
You feel their presence touch you from within.

You know you are not alone.