‘There are horrors beyond life’s edge that we do not suspect, and once in a while man’s evil prying calls them just within our range.’ – H. P. Lovecraft
Here’s a brand new piece of flash fiction. It’s an idea I’d been mulling over for a while. Initially I was prompted by a writing workshop to make a list of some of the most scary scenarios I could think of. This was one of them.
I wake to find Mother clutching my hand. With her other hand she’s fiddling with a gold crucifix that’s hanging from a chain around her neck. She hasn’t realised I’m awake yet because she’s looking at a large television screen across the room. A blonde news reporter is talking animatedly into a microphone but her words go unheard, the television is on mute. At the bottom of the screen there’s a band of red with bold white words that declare: RELIGIOUS RIOTS WORLDWIDE.
Fluorescent strip lighting, stark white bedding and bleeping machinery intensifies my headache and tells me I’m in hospital. There’s a nauseous air of disinfectant that’s most likely masking an even worse stink of human illness.
I squeeze Mother’s hand and go to speak, but my throat produces nothing more than a croaking sound.
Mother turns, her damp, puffy eyes surprised. ‘Oh thank goodness you’re awake, love.’ She smiles, but it’s a sad, unreadable smile.
I cough to clear my throat and ask, ‘What’s happening?’
She lets go of my hand and strokes my hairline with her thumb and I watch as more tears build in her eyes. Already I’m not sure I want the answer just yet. My stomach clenches and it feels like there’s molten lead in my skull, blistering my brain. Last I remember I was stuck in traffic on the motorway. Now this.
‘Oh love.’ Her bottom lip is trembling and at first I can’t tell whether she’s crying with relief that I’m awake or because she knows something I don’t. But then I decide she definitely doesn’t look relieved. A sudden thought occurs to me then: have parts of me been amputated?
I try to sit so that I can see my arms and legs, so I can survey the damage. ‘Tell me what happened! How bad is it?’ I’m gripping the sheets and realise the enormity of this small act. I move my fingers, just to be sure. I can feel them. My hands are still there. I wiggle my toes. They move too. I can feel them.
Mother puts her hand on my shoulder and presses me back down against the pillow. ‘Try to rest, love, it’s not good for you to get over-excited.’
‘Why not? What happened?’
‘There was an accident. Nothing major.’
‘Nothing major? Then why are you crying? What’s going on?’
She closes her eyes, as though she can’t bear to make eye contact while she tells me. I feel sick. This must be bad.
‘It’s the scientists,’ she says, unexpectedly.
‘You mean doctors?’
She shakes her head. ‘No. The scientists.’
‘What scientists?’ I’m confused. ‘Am I going to die?’
She opens her eyes and looks at me intensely, as though I’ve just given her something else to consider. ‘Oh I truly hope not, love, that would be too awful.’
‘You hope not?’ She’s not making sense. I feel cold with dread. ‘Well, is there much hope?’
‘Oh God.’ I think I might be sick.
‘That’s just it,’ she says. ‘The scientists have made some big discovery. Something to do with supermassive black holes and dark matter and dark energy.’
‘What’s that got to do with anything?’
‘Everything. It has everything to do with everything, you don’t understand.’
‘No I don’t, what are you trying to say?’
‘That we got it all wrong. We’re all alone.’
‘Look!’ She points to the television and makes a strange mewling noise, which sounds a lot like despair, only worse.
I look to the screen. Violence continues to unfold behind the blonde reporter I can’t hear, and an amalgamation of pieced-together footage from around the world is a blur of fury. Then there it is, scrolling across the bottom of the screen are the words that changed the world while I slept:
BREAKING NEWS: SCIENTISTS CONFIRM THERE IS NO GOD!
And suddenly I can’t feel a thing.
Suddenly I’m numb all over.
Funnily enough, sort of on topic, there was an article about the Large Hadron Collider in the news this week where ‘bumps’ in the machine’s data suggested the possible discovery of a new particle. Unfortunately these ‘bumps’ disappeared and it’s now been dismissed as being nothing but a coincidence. But, hey, maybe one day the LHC will make some mind-blowing discovery that will change our understanding of the universe and everything in it. How cool would that be?
But, of course, it might also be a case of being careful what we wish for!
Till next time,