Estimated reading time — 28 minutes
A few days ago I got a text message from an unknown number reading “I got your proof.” I stared at the words for a bit, thinking it was a wrong number. Then I remembered the last time I’d spoken to Jeremy.
Jeremy, my younger cousin, was a character, to say the least. He was always an eccentric rebel, the black sheep of the family who’d dabbled in drugs and acquired a criminal record, bouncing from job to job and always teetering on homelessness. He’d been the first to get tattoos and piercings, and was into really into noise and industrial music, and the few friends of his I ever met straight gave me the creeps. He’d introduced me to weed before he moved on to much harder stuff as the years passed. He was also a total conspiracy theorist, convinced of chemtrails and UFO’s etc. You name it, he drank the Kool-Aid. The last time I’d spoken to him was after Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago.
We’d smoked a bowl after dinner at my Uncle’s house about 3 years ago before the argument. He’d been driveling on about alternate planes of existence. He’d tried to convince me that all religions were based on what he believed to be cracks in this plane of reality. Jeremy was the type to try and heal a broken ankle with crystals before snorting a Xanax, mind you, so I was used to tuning him out. He kept pressing on, ignoring my rebuttals of scientific facts and basic physics. He kept pushing my buttons, calling me ‘close-minded’ and ‘shallow’, and I just snapped at him.
“Yeah? Prove it then instead of just ranting on like some delusional, burnout failure!” I’d yelled out. I bit my lower lip and cringed. I’d immediately apologized, but it was out there. He’d looked at me with a dark stare of from under a veil of greasy, black bangs and I saw the twinge in his eyes. With a conviction that rattled me, he said “I will, Mike. I will and you will see just how ignorant you are.” I tried to apologize, but he’d stormed off into his car, slamming the door and driving off. In the following months, I emailed him a few times in an attempt to mend it, but he never responded. Not until this.
“Jeremy?” I typed and soon got a response.
“I got your proof right here,” came the reply a few minutes later. A picture arrived and I opened it while a feeling of unease sat cold in my stomach.
Jeremy faced the camera, his intense eyes staring in at me. He looked jaundiced, gaunt and under-slept, but my concern soon shifted to the crimson bands glazing his forearm. He was holding a razor blade in his other hand, dripping red with blood. It appeared he’d slit his wrist.
“Jeremy, oh fuck, what did you do?” I asked aloud, choked with tears. I dialed him. No answer.
I ran to my coat and slid it on, listening as panic built while each ring went unanswered. I’d found the email from years ago that contained his address, and soon jogged to my Nissan and hopped in, plugging the address in and trying him repeatedly. 28 minutes away. I steered wide out of my driveway and drove dangerously fast towards his house.
I kept texting him and ringing him to no response, following the turns dictated aloud by the GPS as I sped up a hilly incline on the outskirts of his town. I prayed no cop would pull me over, and that it wasn’t too late. I’d lost a friend early in the year from an OD, and my cousin was not leaving me with this guilt trip. After about 20 minutes, I was at the edge of his town. Tall pines gave fractured glimpses of dilapidated homes built in the ’60s and long since neglected. Sagging roofs missing tiles and peeling paint peeked out as if ashamed of their condition, and soon his came into view.
I’d never visited his home before. If I had I might have bit my tongue that Thanksgiving when I’d lashed out. It was a depressing shack of a place, smaller than all the other worn-down homes on the street. I pulled into the short driveway, regarding the dozens of stacked boxes and rusted bicycle parts littering the lawn and ran out the car to the wooden steps.
I pounded on the flimsy screen door and shouted “Jeremy! I’m here, let’s talk!” but received no reply, just the swaying branches of tall pines whispering in the wind. I tried the door. Open.
I ran in and immediately covered my mouth and nose from the stench. It was like an outhouse had been overturned, the sour, ammonia stench of piss and rotting food was overwhelming.
“Jeremy!” I shouted and squeezed past the pillars of water-damaged magazines wafting out spores of mildew and mold from room to filthy room. Old microwave dinners grew fuzzy and green in teetering stacks and I saw cat food cans littering the hovel, but no signs of a cat. Then I heard a wet, sickening slapping sound coming from upstairs. I rounded the corner to see the filthy carpeted stairs, no sign of what the original color had been beneath the tar-like grey buildup that had fused with them.
They creaked loudly as I ran up. I almost expected the bending wood beneath to buckle in and snap, but I made it to the top and followed that aqueous sloshing sound towards the room glowing yellow from a solitary bulb. I ran in and stopped dead in my tracks.
There was Jeremy, soaking red and wet with blood in a black t-shirt in the floor. Not on the floor, inside of it. I first thought him to be sliced in the half, blood spilled out in all directions like a crimson mirror, and he was bisected diagonally from his upper right hip to his left armpit. But he was sinking down, into the floor. I was stunned, too stunned to do anything but weakly mutter his name “Jeremy?” with a shiver as I watched him smile. Lower he sank into the red pool of what was likely his own blood.
Soon only his shoulder and head remained with a solitary arm dripping red. I ran over and grabbed his hand, feeling the warm blood slip from mine as I watched in absolute disbelief as he sank in then vanished completely. I stared in bewilderment and horror, my brain refusing to comprehend what was completely impossible. Then I saw that book.
A worn hardcover book lay near his cellphone, wallet and other personal effects. “A Beginner’s Guide to Blood Portals” was written in a flowing font from the 60’s on a purple, marbled cover that looked stained by blooms of dried blood itself. I was in shock, And I walked with legs drained of strength to the book, picking it up in my shaky hands. I flipped it over to read the synopsis, none, then I opened it up to the print details, none. No author, no date, just an index of the chapters.
I flipped the page and read the first two paragraphs:
There is an imperceptible tissue separating the connecting folds between realms of existence. Our proteins and cells are just one of the millions of locking mechanisms that tether us to our current plane. By manipulating the frequency, and adjusting the vibration of the content of our own bodily content, synchronization can be achieved.
A 3-foot blood pool represents about 1.5 liters shed blood on a non-porous surface should be sufficient in size. Coumarin or dicoumarol should be mixed at 0.5 parts per liter in order to prevent coagulation, which can lead to temporal warping within and the sealing of windows prematurely (See footnote on severed pathways, p.143). The electronic stimulation of a Poynting vector is needed in order to maintain an open vortex via an assisting magnetic field. An oscillating frequency of 800mh needs to be maintained or shifting occurs (See p. 68).
I closed the book with one hand and tugged the hair from my scalp with the other, Trying to convince myself this was all just some strange dream. I stared at the reflective pool of still blood, noticing the two wires insulated with black rubber leading out and into a humming, metal box near an empty plastic blood bag. I scanned the filthy room and spotted an ancient broom and picked it up, holding it over the pool with hesitation. I lowered it down, feeling it connect with the wooden floor beneath the few millimeters of the blood with a dull tap.
My heart pounded as I then lowered to a kneel and splayed my fingers out over the pool, staring into my own wide-eyed reflection. I lowered my palm slowly, half-expecting a painful electric shock. I felt my arm hairs raise as my hand descended one centimeter at a time until it connected with the dark fluid blood. I watched in both absolute amazement and horror as my hand pressed below where the floor should be. Warm blood covered my submerged hand then wrist. I laughed a nervous, terrified laugh, then I pulled my hand out, now a slick with a red coat.
Jeremy was inside of there. He’d chosen to risk death in order to show me there was something beyond explanation, and clearly, there was. I lowered my face to the reflective puddle, staring at my own worried face as it got closer and closer. I felt the hot liquid on my nose and cheeks and I plunged my face into what should have been the floor.
It was impossible, yet I opened my eyelids and I saw it. There was a mirrored red room I stared into the ceiling of down below the puddle. The room was the exact size and shape but made of what appeared to be carved black stone, monolithic and ancient. It was preposterous and impossible, but I plunged my head down further, feeling the wetness against my skin and I watched the room’s walls and ceiling seem to pulse and shift. I shouted out for Jeremy and tasted the tangy copper flood my mouth. My words stopped shallow, muted by the density of the thick, liquid-like air in the impossible place. Then I heard a deep moan, gurgling and inhuman and forged from lungs that had to be at least twice the size of mine. Claustrophobia hit me, and I lifted up my head from the puddle and gasped for air.
I’ve pulled over a chair to skim over this book that casually discusses travel between these strange, alternate planes. It mentions things within that can rend the human mind with madness. Echoing chambers that cause feedback of physical matter, sentient beings that hunt and other anomalies, all outside of our spectrum of tangible reality. I shiver as I stare at that impossible puddle, terrified of what I’ve glimpsed into. I can’t wrap my head around any of it, but options slim as time ticks. At some point, that puddle is going to dry.
* * * * * *
An electromagnetically charged puddle of my cousin Jeremy’s blood sat on the floor before me.
I opened my photo app on my phone, switched it to video mode and lowered it into the pool of blood, twisting it around. My neck hairs stood on end as I stared at my arm, missing illogically just past the elbow in what was only a few millimeters of blood. When I removed my dripping, red phone, it was dead. I cursed then ran to Jeremy’s on the side of the puddle, realizing with a sigh of relief, he had no password on the device he’d left alongside his wallet, a coiled $5 bill dusted with powder and a stained keychain crafted from a dead bird’s skull. “Jesus, Jeremy,” I muttered, then tried to breathe slowly to ease my rapidly-beating heart.
I flipped the strange book open to the next chapter in search of any helpful information.
Anchoring. A rope, wire or chain anchor should be secured in order to connect with, and return to, an adjacent plane. Failure anchor may result in a shifting that can both sever the path and bend the matter within. This means you. Just as neurons, muscle cells, and endocrine cells emit –40 mV to –80 mV, all matter inorganic in nature should carry a 40-80 mV charge or be coated with hemoglobin or other cellular tissue in order to maintain the current.
Breathing. I: Full Inhalation, E: Full Exhalation, S: Slight exhalation. Patterned breathing of I-S-I-E, I-S-I-E (repeat) MUST be practiced and performed in order to prevent suffocation and death. Your blood oxygen level should typically vary between 75 and 100 mm Hg. A significant decrease in your blood oxygen saturation levels will result in rapid suffocation and death.
Circumventing: It is imperative to avert one’s gaze when in the presence of most of the entities within. These pathways and inhabitants exist beyond our logic and understanding. Attempts to comprehend them can and will ravage the minds of those who traverse these planes. Failure of the autonomic nervous system will follow, leading to respiratory failure, suffocation and death. Undocumented hostile beings dwell in the dimensional folds, scavenging for protein in any form. This means you. If any physical contact is made, death will likely ensue.
The alphabetical list went on with dozens of pages of additional hazards and threats; Solidification of the atmosphere leading to an eviscerated body, being caught in a temporal field causing the body to implode, being stuck inside a feedback loop of folding space and crushing the explorer, shifting doors causing the amputation of limbs, coagulating edges of the windows leading to solidification of bodily fluids. The list continued for 12 pages filled with hundreds of horrific scenarios.
I skimmed through, shivering from the combination of anxiety and wonder at the pages of the guide book. Time was short; if I was to attempt a rescue of my cousin, I’d need to read it along the way. In the boxes of filth near the wall of the room and found medical clutter I could only assume Jeremy had stolen. I gathered a few anti-coagulants and blood packs marked “CPDA solution” with shaky hands. The bird’s beak of Jeremy’s morbid key-chain made a quick tool to puncture a blood packet, gushing out the thick, red liquid from within onto the book. I scoured the adjacent rooms of the house and eventually found a coil of twine to anchor myself to the room, squeezing the contents of the blood transfer bag over the rope then slathered its bristly fibers with my bare, bloody hands.
I tied the stained red cord to a door handle, then returned to the dark spill, realizing without care just how utterly insane I must have looked, covered in blood and daubing it over seemingly random objects. I peered into that reflective crimson pool and the humor vanished. That bloodstain-in-the-making would likely be my tomb. As uncomfortable as it was, I b practiced that odd manner of breathing, trying to maintain the peculiar rhythm a few times until it felt natural. I stared into the black spill, deliberating. Then, I jumped in.
My senses fought to understand the comprehend my falling into the mirrored room of air thick and fluid. A vermilion murk gradated into black nooks and shadows, tracing the contours of what looked to be ornately carved coral with strange geometry. Every accent, corner and angle repeated in a fractal pattern that echoed in an artistic beauty that was both mesmerizing and terrifying. My hands flowed through the rippling current of dense, dark air, and I felt pressure from every angle on my skin that was dry from inside the impossible place. I heard a soft hum, the buzzing rumble from the oscillator’s current.
I looked down to the mirrored ceiling and over to the door to the adjacent room. I felt my lungs ache and realized I wasn’t breathing. The twine was gripped firmly in my tight fist, and my heart beat against my chest. I could hear it as if underwater, yet I was neither in liquid or air. I closed my eyes, blocking out the strange chamber that called to memory ruins of an ancient civilization. Then I tried to breathe.
The coppery taste of blood choked me as it filled my mouth when I inhaled the dense air. Panic flared, I was suddenly both lightheaded and terrified as spots formed in my peripheral vision. I was going to drown, suffocate or die, never to be found in there, and the air thickened as if aware of my raising anxiety. FOCUS. I opened my eyes wide, feeling that thick, dark air flowing over my eyeballs, and then I concentrated on my lungs and tried again.
Breath in deep.
Breath in deep.
I soon stopped coughing and regained my composure as I focused on the strange, flanging sound of my breathing. The taste was bitter and I felt the air enter my bronchial tubes within my lungs. It was foreign and violating, painful yet vital. Slowly I relaxed into the rhythm and was able to clear my head. I was inside that impossible place, and I was alive.
I took a few steps on the strange, black rock floor that mirrored the ceiling of the room I’d entered into. That solitary yellow bulb dangling from his room’s ceiling was mimicked in this plane, yet it was formed from rectangular, bismuth-crystals of obsidian stone in a sculpture-esque replica. I marveled at the strange formation for only a moment when I heard a choking scream from through the door in the porous, black wall. I walked as quickly as the pressure would allow through the murky chamber, uncoiling that coarse twine in my trembling hand.
Through the doorway, I saw the limp form of Jeremy in this threadbare t-shirt and jeans. He was clearly unconscious, his eyes rolled back in his head and a grimace fixed on his pale face. It took me a moment to notice the coiling, flaky white hook of flesh around his ankle. I walked into the long corridor, focusing on the patterned breathing that was keeping me alive. Something was dragging him. I smelled it, like a coppery, peaty stench that tickled my nostril hairs and screamed into my reptilian brain to run. Something I wished I hadn’t glimpsed, but I had.
Nothing two or three-dimensional could ever describe that nightmarish form. Teeth sprouted teeth which in turn sprouted teeth. Eyes spiraled outward in every direction, budding other glistening orbs that weaved into infinite patterns. It resonated with both horror and beauty, seemingly facing every angle simultaneously. My mind’s attempt to comprehend it built a sharp, excruciating pain in my temples. I collapsed to my knees as numerous venous tongues twisted out into millions of other smaller branching duplicates that flicked out from a hideous, amorphic mouth. I had to physically turn my head away with my shaking hands. When I did, I could hear a shrill screaming that I only then realized was coming from my own throat.
Breath in deep.
Breath in deep.
I lowered my gaze to the floor, coughing violently as I fought to regain that pattern of irregular breathing. It took a few minutes, and when I looked up only slightly to see where Jeremy was, he was gone, tugged up through a twisting passage of ridged steps in the ceiling that mirrored the stairway down in Jeremy’s home. I uncoiled more of that rough twine in my fist, walking closer to the shadowy square hole in the ceiling where it had taken him. From behind me, I heard a deep, bubbling howl neither animal nor human. I didn’t dare turn my head back to look, my only option was to press on. I moved through towards that strange passage above, building the courage to climb that porous, dark wall and follow Jeremy’s dragged body deeper within.
* * * * * *
Inside the arcane structure mirroring my cousin’s house, something was dragging his unconscious body further inside it.
I waded through the thick air, which seemed to glide over my skin with a cold resistance. Intricately patterned walls and doorways shifted slowly into hypnotic new shapes as if alive. The deep bellow of something behind me sounded and I rushed towards the porous, black surface of the wall ahead leading up. I quickly tucked the hardback guide book into the back of my jeans to free both hands then began my climb into the dark passage above.
I strained to lift myself up the pocked walls that resembled volcanic rock. The sharp surface dug into my fingertips with jagged edges, causing my to hiss in pain as I climbed. The physical exertion caused my breathing to quicken, and I paused to pace myself and regain the pattern of my careful breathing as I continued up into the murky depths of the passage. A constant humming from the oscillating current vibrated the shifting walls; a constant reminder of the high voltage helping stabilize the impossible place. After a few minutes of climbing, I’d reached another chamber.
I breathed in the thick, cold air in that forced pattern and removed the book, flipping it open to try and understand how to proceed. I opened it to the third chapter, skimming over the strange details for insight.
Time is precious when within as the oscillating electric charge will gradually disrupt both cellular balance and function. Ions on the surface of a cell’s plasma membrane may experience irreparable cellular degradation after just 25 minutes time, so keep any surveying short.
I read the words with a slow blink of the thick, dark atmosphere as I understood the need to to hurry. I skimmed through a few paragraphs looking for insight on how to get Jeremy from the thing that nearly cost me my life at just seeing. I spotted something a few pages in.
Entities within will feed on any foreign source of protein without prejudice. As they have become accustomed to paralytic and comatose prey that unfortunately finds itself within their realm, rapid movement can be used advantageously.
I closed the book and tucked it back in my waistband, realizing how critical time was. I raced towards the pale, limp body of Jeremy, barely visible ahead in the shadowy corner of the room. The gurgling moan of whatever had been dragging him deeper within the illogical place made it clear it had no intention of releasing him. I focused my gaze to the moving floor, which grew crystal-like patterns as I watched. By squinting and blurring my vision, I was able to unfocus my eyes as my mind fought to identify that thing dragging him deeper within.
In a moment as heroic as it was stupid, I charged, screaming out into the dense vapor of strange, dark air, and I reached Jeremy. In a swift motion, I grabbed his ankle and yanked forcefully. An aggressive howl that pierced my ears rang out, twisting and echoing in a maddening cry that trembled throughout me, but Jeremy was freed. My heart pounded and I began to choke, and I struggled to continue the strange pattern of breathing as I quickly dragged his body across the shifting floor, which now seemed to grow taller rapidly. My heart sank as I realized what was occurring. The portal was collapsing.
I dragged Jeremy by a sock that seemed to flake and dissolve under my grasp. I looked down to make sure his leg was still intact, and then I felt a powerful tug that jarred my arm at its socket with a sharp pain. That thing was trying to get its protein back. Time was dwindling, the crystalline patterns grew rapidly on the floor, climbing over my dissolving sneakers. I screamed one again, the sound stopped short as I yanked back in a strange tug of war with Jeremy’s unconscious body. With a violent heave that lit up the nerves throughout my arm, I finally freed him. I dragged his back towards the stairwell and my panic multiplied.
The large stairwell mirrored in ancient, black stone was a fraction of its original size. It was now a narrow tunnel, twisting and warped, shifting in texture rapidly as new layers formed over the animated walls. The twine tether I’d stretched throughout was thin as a strand of dry spaghetti, frayed and disintegrating before my panicked eyes. There was no time to think.
I leaned forward, supported by the dragged body of my cousin, who grunted in a pained moan as he came to. “Hang in there, Jeremy,” I called out as I strained to squeeze him through the tunnel of strange, collapsing geometry.
“Say it,” he mumbled weakly, barely pronouncing his words. I scraped my hands on the walls of that tunnel which had thinned to the diameter of a manhole lid as I pulled my slurring cousin through.
“Huh?” I responded, barely able to find the remaining thread of the tether.
“Say I was right,” Jeremy mumbled as if talking in his sleep.
I felt my blood pressure rise at the audacity of the request.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I replied, nearly considering letting go of him. “Oh for fuck’s sake, Jeremy. Yeah, you were right. I can say with absolute certainty that this is not a good thing, but you were right. Happy?” I asked and waited for a reply, but there was none. I looked down at him, only to see he’d passed out again. I did a double take when I got a good look at his face, which was now red and flaky as if severely sunburned. Cellular degradation, the words pounded in my head as I understood the severity of the meaning.
With a heaving yank that screamed with pain in my shoulder I only then realized was dislocated, I’d dragged my cousin into the remainder of the room I’d first entered into. It was smaller, built up in patterned layers of crystal-like growth which closed in on the space. I gently dropped my cousin, who splayed on the floor like a rag doll and I looked up, eager to find the exit above. It wasn’t there. I spun around to search the walls; nothing. The exit to that strange and horrific dimension, collapsing rapidly around us, was gone.
* * * * * *
I was in a room that no longer had an exit, and the thick air was closing in as it ate my cousin and I alive.
“Jeremy!” I shouted, shaking the limp body of my cousin by his shoulders. His face was red and slightly swollen. The proteins in his body were clearly dissolving, and soon I felt a growing itch over my skin. It was faint at first, then the tickle continued to spread into an irritating iitch. I reached around the walls for any sign of the twine I’d pulled into this strange, horrific place, but there was none. I flipped open the book and read with shaking hands as flipped desperately through for answers.
Due to the volatile nature of matter within these folds, openings are likely to close upon the tether and obscure the window, which can lead to a quick demise. It is vital to gauge an approximation of the window created and physically move the matter in order to clear the path. Of course, this solution comes with its own setbacks. The rapid degeneration of a fold is coarse and difficult to manipulate. Be sure to bring a tool, preferably metal as it will degrade at less rapid rate than porous, less dense materials (see Disintegration of foreign matter, p. 254).
I looked to the strange, vibrating surface of the low ceiling, black and animated like a magnetically triggered thero fluid. I rushed over and pushed aside the growing mass, feeling the sharp surface that cut into my hand as I pushed it away like metal filings. My hands were bright red, flaking wisps of thin layers of skin, and the tickle which had become an itch was now a stinging pain. I watched in awe as the blood from my hand clouded in inky red trails of smoke that floated within the illogical, dark air. As horrifying and painful as the experience was, a small part of me was amazed that a world so secretive and hidden, so completely fantastic and impossible existed.
I pushed away at the heavy shale-like growth of the living pattern, foot after foot as if digging into the earth as I searched for the way out. Just as the pain flared into an unbearable burn, I saw a dim, red glow peeking out from the black buildup. I looked down at my hands, which were split open revealing puffy red muscle within the lacerations. I looked closer in horror, seeing the white of bone within one of the slivers. When I checked back at Jeremy to make sure he was okay, I shouted from shock at the sight of him.
The room was now only a fraction of the size. The chamber we’d come from was entirely blocked over. The room we were in was the size of a small bathroom at this point, and the floor had rapidly grown over Jeremy’s unconscious form. His appearance was horrific. His face was deteriorated, stripped raw and red multiple layers as permanent damage to his skin had clearly taken place. The t-shirt and jeans he’d worn were now spiderwebs of thread, revealing his eaten-away skin that emerged from a cluster of black, polygonal noise.
I raced back and hammered away at the buildup, trying my best to chip away the enclosing floor and walls that clung to him like wet asphalt. I screamed from the pain as the sting that spread over my own skin shifted another few degrees on the pain scale into a steady, singing burn.
“Jeremy!” I screamed down to his slack face that sank slightly into the black floor at this point. “Jeremy wake up!” I cried as a knot formed in my stomach. I wasn’t even sure if he was even alive anymore. The portal was closing and swallowing everything within. Every instinct screamed to abandon him, that I’d be sealing my fate in death if I stayed, but I kept clawing away at the living material that closed in until I’d freed him enough to yank him out my a slippery, wet arm. The pain in my own mangled hands distorted the feeling of his arm in mine, but when I looked back down at it, I could see the skin had eroded nearly down to the muscle.
I dragged his slippery hand as I climbed the narrow path upward and then continued to chip away at the rapidly closing exit to that hostile rift. I was soon screaming in pain as I clawed at the speedily closing buildup from the red, oval window in space that puddle of blood had somehow created. I felt a snap, refusing to look and register the even I knew was the loss of one of my fingers, I just dug away until the surface was breached, then I climbed, dragging Jeremy’s body through the exit.
The light nearly blinded me, and I began choking immediately upon crossing back into his room where the air was thinner, warmer and of a different nature entirely. I had to force myself to remember how to breathe.
Breath in deep.
I yanked Jeremy up by the forearm, both he and I were drenched red with blood. He looked terrifying, A hole had eroded in the meat of his cheek, revealing visible molars in a ghastly grin. His eyes were wide orbs, and it took a moment to register the fact his eyelids had deteriorated completely.
I caught a glimpse of my own hands and let out a whimper, two fingers were flayed, split down revealing the muscle and white, bulbous knuckles within. They trembled as I coughed and then I vomited what looked to be a pint of blood onto the floor not far from the puddle we’d emerged from. I tugged Jeremy out as much as I could, but his lower legs were stuck. They remained in that impossible puddle as it dried over completely with a dull glaze, amputating the remainder in that deadly, mysterious realm outside of our own.
I cried tears of joy as I heard Jeremy’s gurgling gaps for air. He was alive. I wiped the tears with the rags remaining of my shirt and I called an ambulance, or “Emergency Response” as they answered. Out of the corner of my eye, I stared in disbelief at the strange, hardcover book on the floor by a bright, yellow wallet and a peculiar looking device where his phone had been near the drying pool of blood. I tried to wrap my brain around how it was back with us in the room. I knew I’d left it in there,and this room was eerily clean.
Curiosity got the better of me, and I walked over to the wallet, wondering who’d put them there as I switched off that humming oscillator, also somehow different. I picked up the wallet, yellow Velcro and emblazoned with some local soccer team. I flipped it open in confusion, finding a Colorado license, insurance card and a few crisp $20 bills within. It was Jeremy’s but he looked clean cut and almost—normal. “Colorado?” I asked aloud in confusion. He’d never even been there. My mind tried to piece things together but refused to cooperate as the reality of the situation became more apparent, and far more terrifying as I noticed other details about the now-clean room.
The cellphone kind in the pile of his belongings simply didn’t exist as far as I knew. I picked up the strange phone, its white plastic shell lined with orange and brown accents, emblazoned with the familiar name “Commodore.” The shivers throughout my blood-soaked spine multiplied as I then saw the green flashing lights approach the house and that siren that sounded in strange, digital bursts.
I walked over to the book and picked it up in my butchered, bloody hands and flipped it open to the fifth chapter. I read as my heart pounded in my chest and my vision blurred from tears.
Little is know about the ability to return to one’s plane of origin. While explorers have been documenting these ruptures in the fold for dozens, in some planes even hundreds of years, there has been nothing to suggest a return is actually possible aside from the fact nothing suggests it is not. Prepare for a one way trip each time you travel.
I looked out the window to the yellow van marked “Emergency Response”, lit by the flickering strobe of green LED lights through the leafless trees below. I stumbled and fell to my aching knees, overwrought with trepidation as I realized:
This was not our world.
* * * * * *
I’d dragged my severely injured cousin from the electromagnetically charged puddle of his own blood. What we came out into was a different version of his home.
It happened so quickly it was hard to even process it. The banging on the door sounded, I know I heard that. I faded in and out of consciousness as I was placed on a stretcher and carefully taken down the stairs by men in fluorescent yellow garb, reminiscent of what a fireman might wear. I tried to ask questions, but even in my fatigued delirium, I knew I wasn’t pronouncing any words, just a faint mumble. Either shock or exhaustion helped separate me from the experience as I was loaded into the back of the Emergency Services van.
The strobing bursts of green lit the flawless facade of the alternate home of my cousin. The workers in their yellow, vinyl garb were professional and coordinated, assuring me they would get me the treatment needed as soon as possible. They placed a rubbery anesthetic mask over my nose, and I looked into the kind face of the man in his mid-thirties who assured me they’d take care of my friend. I tried to correct him by mumbling “cousin” but was out before I had a chance.
I woke up in a room wallpapered with a lavender floral pattern, I appeared to be in a fairly swanky apartment of sorts. My hazy eyes fixed on the smooth overhead light fixture then following the pattern of the wallpaper. It was only when I turned my head to the left fully that I saw the plastic bag with an IV drip. As if on cue, a face I recognized from the ride over walked in, underneath a sweater and slacks; casual attire.
“Mr Stanton, how are you feeling?” he asked with that warm smile as he interlaced his fingers over his stomach. I hadn’t even thought about how I was feeling until he’d asked. My pain was gone.
“I—I feel fine, I guess,” I spoke, then added, “Where am I?”
“You are with Emergency Services Mr. Stanton,” the man stated calmly, “I figured you would recognize it, or at least me after waking up.” The smile had slipped off his face, replaced by a look of worry. My fuzzy brain tried to patch together the events, that impossible, geometrical nightmare that nearly consumed me. My cousin…
“Jeremy, is he,” I couldn’t even say it, I knew he was gone when I’d seen his eroded face, the bared teeth and eaten eyelids from that terrifying dimensional fold that shouldn’t couldn’t exist.
“Jeremy will be fine,” the man added, walking closer to the side of the bed in that room that looked like a metropolitan apartment but a bit too pristine. “We have two prosthetics to replace the lost portion of his legs. I’m more concerned about your mental state.” The look in his eyes flickered with a coldness that send shivers up my spine. “You don’t recognize me?” he asked sincerely. Something told me to play along, and so I did.
“I’m sorry, I am just in shock and a bit exhausted.” I suggested, hoping to buy some time to piece together just what exactly was going on.
“Of course, I’ll check on you after you get some rest,” he said and walked back out the room, looking back one with those concerned eyes that seemed to tell me I’d be better of remembering. I sighed out and then looked to the bureau with a flat screen TV and a cactus resting on it. The nightstand to my left had an call button and a few pamphlets about treatment options and patient rights. I was what appeared to be a hospital, lacking all of the uncomfortable sterility that defined them.
I found a small remote and figured out how to power on the TV, which I only then realized displayed a clean logo reading “Lorimar”, never heard of it. I flipped from channel to channel of countless television shows that simply did not exist. There was nothing remarkable for the most part, they were similar reality TV shows and standard films, bachelor and home improvement programming. I even recognized a few of the actors, and began to think my fears were just that. Then I made stumbled across the news.
I watched the TV and a headache formed as I heard the newscaster discuss the Citizen’s States. I only then hit me as I watched the strangely sectioned off ‘districts’ of the country during the weather. This was another version of my world. My heart thumped loudly, triggering the soothing beep for a nurse, who soon came in to check on me. A man in a crimson vinyl outfit entered, and he lacked the friendliness of the previous man. I watched the group share ideas around a table for a bit before I understood they were the leaders of the nation. It was a panel of four spokespeople for different demographics, two men and two women, discussing tax ballots at a table casually sipping coffee. I barely felt the needle in my arm as the nurse slipped it into the thin skin of the crook of my elbow, I was too busy trying to wrap my head around the next segment the perfectly coiffed reporter discussed a breaking story.
My clenched teeth parted from the calming effect of the drugs entering my vein. Drool slipped from the corner of my mouth as the medication coursed through my blood, dulling the sharp panic into a cloudy afterthought. My face was there on the news, staring back at me from a picture I’d never taken. It was me, listed as Will Stanton, and I looked bedraggled and angry.
I listened to the reporter continue on about the man who’d been missing for months after stealing blood packs from the ES station he worked at. The words scrolling beneath my photo blurred as my heavy eyes closed, and the reporter’s soothing voice spoke the velvety words “unstable fugitive” that finally lulled me to sleep.
* * * * * *
I woke to the voice of my cousin. It took a while to adjust from my foggy dream to the clean interior of the room. I then remembered the strange hospital. I jolted upright, looking into the deformed face of Jeremy in the doorway. A glaze of repairing ointment of some sort was slathered over his exposed skin, catching the overhead lighting with an eerie glow. The hole in his cheek was crater of exposed teeth, he looked like something out of a horror movie. He wheeled himself over in a carbon fiber wheelchair that looked light and slimmer than any I’d seen, the nubs of his amputated legs bandaged.
“I’m sorry, I’m so…so sorry,” he said, staring those lidless, bulging orbs of bloodshot white that framed milky blue irises at me. I propped myself up on my elbows, only then looking to my pink arms, also coated with some gel to facilitate a speedy recovery. My blurry eyes focused on a tall figure of shiny crimson behind him. A sturdy-looking employee stood by in that slick, vinyl uniform. I only then began to wonder if the red was meant to prevent the staining of blood.
“I’m so glad you’re alive,” I spoke to Jeremy, knowing he needed to hear it. “And I was wrong, about everything, especially my arrogant assumptions” I spoke with sincerity. I watched Jeremy’s head fall forward, looking down since he was unable to close his eyes.
“I never meant for anything to happen to you.” Jeremy muttered in a shaky voice as his streamlined wheelchair was wheeled backwards. “I owe you my life.” And he was wheeled out as a large man in a red, vinyl uniform entered to read me the equivalent of Miranda rights. The charges against me would lead to appropriate time in a Recovery Center,this place’s term for jail.
The man held out a slim tablet of sorts, made by the company Commodore with patterned plastic that appeared both decades old and futuristic. He held the device with shiny red gloves, displaying a man who looked identical to myself breaking into Emergency Services building, sifting through records and pilfering blood packs. I had no case, that was clearly me. Still, questions grew as the screen showed further footage and mounting evidence against me that sent shivers down my spine.
The alternate version of me had apparently broken into multiple stations over the course of the year. He—I’d—been apprehended before and taken to a Recovery Services already. The frowning man in red said nothing as he held out that screen. I watched as each of my crimes was displayed to ensure I understood the severity of my punishment. The high definition footage played on, showing my time in the other facility. Sitting there in a red plastic-walled chamber, naked on the floor in the corner. The mirror version of me was crying and screaming about how he didn’t belong there, how he was from another place.
White text overlaying the screen displaying “evidence of mental instability” soon switched yellow to read “evidence of theft of government property” as another feed showed me procuring what appeared to be a piece of metal from my armpit in a plastic cell devoid of anything but a drain. I watched in shock as the me on that screen cut his arm open, spilling blood to the floor before collapsing from blood-loss, reminiscent of watching Jeremy do the same on my phone screen.
The text changed to read “evidence of self-harm and escaping an ESS”, and I watched as my doppelganger’s limp body was lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled into a facility like the one I was in. The man with my face, only then wearing any clothing—a thin hospital gown—managed to work the rubber restraints until freeing himself from the bed. I watched as a number in the lower left climbed, only then realizing it was the sentence date accumulating with each offense. The number shifted from a yellow ‘2’ to a yellow ‘4’. I watched as the alternate version of myself on screen called a worker in, then choked them out from behind and stole their key fob for the door. The text shifted to read “evidence of assaulting a government employee”, and I shivered as I saw the yellow ‘4’ climb to an orange ‘15’.
The timestamp of the footage sped up rapidly in the lower right of the Commodore tablet’s screen to show hours passing as it fast forwarded. The collapsed employee shifted on the ground a bit before waking up, then reached into their pocket, still slumped on the floor. They removed a pill bottled and opened it hastily as the footage returned to normal speed. They dumped the sole pill in the plastic bottle into their hand, then accidentally dropped it. I watched in confusion as to why this particular sequence continued on for so long. The pill rolled under a cabinet. The employee wiggled to try and reach it but it was clearly too far underneath. The man on the floor struggled a bit as he grabbed at his chest and then collapsed, flat and still. The text shifted to read “evidence of causing the death of a government employee.”
No I mouthed as my insides iced over. My gaze shifted to the orange ‘15’ which then vanished from screen. I then felt the world collapse as the number was replaced by red text reading “Euthanize”. I was too weak to even struggle as he bound my wrists with rubber cuffs and lifted me gently to my feet. I tried to speak on my behalf, but the futility of trying was beyond apparent. Everything I’d could even try to say, he’d heard it all before.
* * * * * *
I remember being lifted up and frogmarched through the hall. I realized only death awaited me, likely on some lovely postmodern death house. My throat dried and I was sweating so much. I wondered where the other version of me was who’d came here, realizing he must have somehow opened another window and escaped to some other plane of existence that mostly mirrored our own. I saw the trees and the highways out the window when I heard a loud, meaty banging sound from behind me. I soon fell onto my knees with a jarring pain that pulsed through my bones. I felt the rubber wrist restraints being unfastened.
“Take this and run,” the familiar voice called from behind me.
“Jeremy?!” I called back, and turned enough to see the collapsed body of the man marching me out where Jeremy’s feet would have been in that ultra-modern wheelchair.
“This is all my fault, and there’s no time to argue. There’s a group of them around the corner coming to pick you up, I saw them. I’m sorry, now run.” Jeremy looked down at me from the wheelchair, a mutilated face incapable of any expression but that ghastly grin. In his deteriorated arms was the metallic canister of compressed oxygen he’d used to take down the large worker sprawled out cold on the floor.
I strained as I lifted my aching body to its feet as the sound of marching boots came closer to the corner. A glance down the red carpeted hallway showed an exit, marked by a green LED shaped like trees. Jeremy held out a key fob from the fallen employee, and I took it in my butchered hands and swiped it over the reader, turning back to face him. I gave him a solemn nod, well aware I’d likely never see him again, then I ran outside and into the sunlit unknown.
Check out author Michael Squid’s collection of 50 short scary stories, Where the Light Stops Dead, now available on Amazon.com.