Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
I hate snow.
I hate the way it silently descends from the sky, I hate how cold it is to the touch, I even hate the puddle it leaves behind when it melts. But, most of all, I hate it because it reminds me of the night my husband was taken from me.
It began with a power outage. I suddenly heard Dan shouting some of his trademark expletives from the adjacent room, muffled only by the thin wall divining us. On the days that he was scheduled to work from home we generally stayed out of each other’s way, so I was still in bed and mindlessly flipping through some catalog when he came stomping down the corridor. For a man in his thirties he sure acted like a toddler whenever something inconvenienced him, though it did make him easy to read, which I found myself appreciating. I begrudgingly abandoned the warm comfort of our bed and rolled onto my bare feet.
”Everything alright, babe?” I called out while scanning the floor for my slippers, only to receive more incoherent ranting in response.
I could hear him pacing outside the door until he eventually joined me in the bedroom. Before I had the chance to ask what was going on, he raised his finger towards me and then used those blue, albeit partially bloodshot, eyes of his to gesture towards the phone still pressed to his ear. His tone switched from raving manchild to professional in an instant:
“Yes, of course… I understand sir… I will… thank you. Have a great weekend, sir”
The distinctive sound of the call ending prompted Dan to breathe easy again. He wiped his face with his palm, released a groan towards the ceiling and then looked down at me:
”Power’s gone.” He said, flicking the nearest light switch on and off as if I wouldn’t have believed him otherwise. ”Boss says that I’ll have to finish my shift at the office if it doesn’t come back in a few hours.”
I frowned and turned towards the frost-glazed window. It was late in the afternoon and the snowstorm from yesterday wasn’t showing any signs of letting off. The backyard was completely buried underneath a pale blanket of snow. Only the heads of a few lawn ornaments still broke the surface. Needless to say, I wasn’t too keen on letting Dan go out there.
We contacted the utility company for our area. Though they acknowledged that there had indeed been an outage, they were unable to give us a time frame as to when it was going to be fixed. It was an expected response given the hazardous weather outside, but still no less discouraging.
”At least we know it’s not the wiring this time.” My husband said while digging through his section of our shared closet. Sweaters, scarves, jackets and various other clothing items were being haphazardly strewn about. Some of them I hadn’t seen him wearing since our college days; back when we he used to take me skiing.
”Isn’t forcing you to go out during a goddamn blizzard a health violation or something?”
”You’re exaggerating. Besides, if I don’t they’ll just wait a week and find an excuse to fire me anyway— can’t afford that, especially now.”
I huffed and glanced down. My swollen belly was poking out from underneath the loose shirt that I had slept in. I was eight months pregnant at the time. Being on maternity leave, I still got a paycheck at the end of each month, but I felt guilty that Dan was the only one actually working, especially since I’ve never been good housewife material.
As he reached back and placed his large hand over my stomach, a familiar sense of ease washed over me. I smiled. I knew it was temporary, but I held onto that feeling for as long as it lasted.
By eight p.m. it became apparent that the power wasn’t going to be coming back. I moved some of my blankets over to the living room and saw that Dan had graciously stoked the fireplace for me. In any other circumstance, him standing in the dim, ambient glow could’ve even been perceived as somewhat enticing. Unfortunately, any such inclinations were offset by the prospect of his approaching departure.
”Should be back after midnight. Call me if you need anything, but try not to waste your battery. Who knows how long the outage is gonna last.” He said as he zipped up his jacket.
”Yeah, yeah. I know. C’mere…”
We exchanged a brief kiss and I waved him off in a display of feigned indifference. In reality, the thought of being left alone in a cold, dark and empty house unnerved me. I couldn’t let him see that; the last thing I wanted was to give Dan even more reasons to worry about me. I threw a blanket over my shoulders and huddled closer to the crackling fire, seeking comfort in its warmth. The jingling of his keys resonated from the cramped entrance hall behind me, followed by the sound of the front door opening and closing.
Having mentally prepared myself for an evening of quiet and solitude, imagine my surprise when Dan came storming back inside. I stood up just in time to witness his shadowy outline slamming the door shut and bracing against it.
”Babe…?” I meekly inquired.
I used my phone as an improvised flashlight and pointed it directly at him, only to be taken back by the expression of horror that was plastered across his face. His eyes were nearly bulging out of their sockets and his mouth was hanging agape, frozen in a mute scream. He was trembling, but it evidently wasn’t from the cold. Whatever stood beyond that door had traumatized him, broken him.
Dan didn’t react even as I rushed by his side— just kept staring onward. He didn’t even blink. Getting him to budge was like trying to move a statue, not helped by the fact that he was about ninety pounds heavier than me.
”Daniel, this isn’t funny!”
I hadn’t called him by his first name in years; it felt wrong even coming out of my mouth, but I needed some way of conveying to him that he was seriously freaking me out. Some part of me held out hope that it was all just a stupid act.
I lightly tapped my palm against his scruffy cheek:
”Just tell me what’s wrong. Please.”
Despite all my efforts, I ultimately failed to coax a single word out of him, so I did what I felt was the next most logical step and decided to call for help. I dialed 911 and made a point of putting the call on speaker, hoping that hearing another voice would’ve somehow snapped my husband out of his trance, or perhaps made him realize how seriously I was taking this.
That was the single biggest mistake of my life.
Instead of the familiar ringing tone, there was a high-pitched electronic shriek. The closest thing I can compare it to would be coil whine, only amplified to an ear-popping squealing that kept increasing in volume. I felt as if my brain was boiling in its own juices, unable to process all the sequences and patterns being force-fed to me by the signal. Worst of all, some of the frequencies began taking shape in my head, forming into strands of alien code. But if they were so foreign, then why did I recognize some of them?
How could I possibly have known that two perpendicular lines and a semicircle are all that it takes to summarize our entire existence?
Our biology, our history, our achievements and purpose; our birth and inevitable extermination.
Me and you.
Only you are not you. Rather, you aren’t meant to be you. Even the concept of ”you” is just a symptom of a greater misconception. I am ‘’you’’ just as much as you are ‘’you’’, which consequently means that you are ‘’me’’.
But if I am you and you are me, then who or what are ‘’we’’?
In a desperate act of preserving what little remained of my sanity, I threw my phone to the floor and proceeded to stomp over it until the signal was no more. Its cracked screen flickered beneath the impact of my heel and its artificial life got snuffed out in an instant. Drenched in near perfect darkness yet again, I cupped both sides of my pulsating skull and slumped against the wall closest to me. A picture frame fell off its perch and shattered against the tiles; a symbolic representation of the fracturing of my own psyche. Warm tears streamed down my cheeks, only they weren’t tears at all. They were viscous, more congealed, and tasted of copper. Blood.
My husband wasn’t by my side anymore. Of course he wasn’t. He was upstairs and looking for the gun his dad had given us before we moved. I always hated that thing. It was probably taking him a while to remember in which cupboard I had stuffed it, then an additional couple of seconds of fumbling with the safety and then…
It was over.
I barely registered the bang over the residual buzzing in my ears. Not that I needed to; the image of him laying face down with a leaking hole in his head was being projected against the back of my eyelids. I was meant to see it— to see him lifelessly sprawled in the middle of our own bedroom, gray matter splattered against the tacky wallpaper and blood seeping between the floorboards; the empty husk of a man that had glimpsed the primordial truth and sought to escape it. Though I wanted to, I couldn’t blame him for it.
I inspected my own hands through red-tinted lenses. They were our hands now, down to the last blemish, line and wrinkle. I placed them over the writhing growth inside my stomach. It settled down. There was a heartbeat: loud, rhythmic and clear. It told me what I needed to do.
There was no running from it anymore. Each step felt more cumbersome than the last, or was it my consciousness weighing me down? The floor no longer felt solid; instead it melted and warped beneath me, as if the house itself was trying to dissuade me from leaving. I yelled for it to let me go and it flinched, but only for a moment before continuing to ensnare me in its muck of willful ignorance.
There was a dark mass crawling down the staircase behind me; a staircase that didn’t belong there to begin with. It was bulbous, black and covered in amorphous growths, some of which it used to pull itself towards me. Among it’s pustules and inky tendrils, however, was a face. It wore a face that I had once loved, now stretched and twisted, contorted into grimaces that expressed an entire spectrum of conflicting emotions. Perhaps it didn’t know what it was meant to feel. Neither did I. But in the midst of the churning abyss there remained one constant:
A pair of blue eyes.
I know none of this makes sense, but you have to understand: we, this version of us, were never meant to peer past the one-way mirror. That is where they live. They thrive between the material and immaterial, fulfilling their role as unbiased observers until the experiment that is ‘’Humanity’’ reaches its final stage. The three of us had inadvertently breached the protocol and were thus deemed compromised, contaminated. Then again, maybe we were meant to go off script, and it was all a test to see how we would react when exposed to the void that our species had once been a part of. Daniel denied it and was of no further use to them, but me and Max, my precious baby boy, faced it head on and survived.
What happened next remains a blur. I remember how cold the doorknob felt in my hand. I remember a blinding, all-encompassing radiance and an alternating number of silhouettes standing in front of it. Whenever I close my eyes and attempt to picture them, they appear to me as both one entity and an entire hive, as if individuality as a concept doesn’t apply to them. Isolating a single one of their features is impossible, as they simultaneously possess every trait in existence and none at all.
Compared to you and me, they are alien in the truest, most literal sense of the word.
Our neighbors found me the following morning while shoveling snow off their porch. I had been sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, muttering nonsense and refusing to acknowledge anyone or anything. Once the remains of my husband were also discovered, it became apparent that I had suffered from a mental breakdown as a result of his spontaneous suicide. Though I had to part with a few of my frostbitten toes, I eventually recovered. I even managed to safely deliver Max just a month later. As expected, nobody believes my recollection of what actually happened, and I’ve spent the last decade of my life trying to forget it myself.
So, why bring it up now?
As of today, it has been exactly ten years since Dan left us. The lights in my new apartment have been flickering for the past few hours and I’m scared to use my phone.
I won’t let them have our son too.
Credit : Morning Owl
Reddit : https://www.reddit.com/user/RedHotOwl
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