Join Date: Apr 2009
The following is from a novel in progress. I intend to spend at least 5 years working on it.
by Mahyuddin Zin / Mayu Zane
= AWAKE =
I wake up. I reach out for my phone and turn off the alarm. A yawn, and then I rise out of bed. I walk towards the window, and open the blinds. That's weird. It's still dark out. What time is it? I look at my phone and it says '9 AM, Sunday'. I look out the window again, and there is nothing but blackness. I walk to my bathroom door and open it.
There is no bathroom. My toilet, sink and shower are gone. Instead, there is a metallic wall with a giant hole in it. I close the toilet door, and open it again, in the hopes that somehow my good old bathroom would be there. No. There is only the wall and hole.
Something is definitely wrong. I walk to the door that should be leading to the hallway. I open it and find a long and winding road, glowing in a sea of darkness. I close the door, and spend what feels like hours trying to figure out what's going on. Is this some kind of prank? Am I still dreaming? I pinch myself just to be sure, and to my disappointment I find myself to be very much awake.
I try to call someone on my phone, but there's no service. No wi-fi either. I shout for my sister, and I get no reply. I'm alone.
I sit down on my bed. Maybe if I fall sleep again I'll be back in my house. I lie down and close my eyes.
I can't sleep. I'm trying to relax as best as I can, but I just can't go to sleep. I get up. What do I do? I suppose I should leave this room, but should I go through the hole in what used to be my bathroom, or follow the glowing road?
Okay, let's think. The hole in my bathroom. There is no way that's not going to lead me to danger. I remember all the horror movies I've seen and the videogames I've played, and one thing I know for sure is that giant holes in walls are never good news.
All right, glowing road in the darkness it is.
I open the drawer next to my bed in search of something useful. I find a box cutter knife and my wallet. Inside the wallet there's my ATM card, 26 dollars and my driver's license. Maybe one of these things will turn out to be useful. I put the wallet in my left pocket and the box cutter in my right pocket.
I take a deep breath and walk out the door. My bare foot touches the glowing road and I follow the path.
I have no idea where I'm going.
= SHRIEK =
I have been walking for an hour. At least, my phone says it's been one hour. There's no sign of life, no light except the glow of this seemingly-endless road. I wonder what would happen if I stepped off the path? Is this road just floating in the middle of nothing?
I crouch down at the edge of the path. I move my left hand beyond the glowing boundary, then lower my fingers. I feel something solid. It feels like a smooth marble floor.
Okay, so this glowing road isn't just floating in the air. Still, I don't see any reason to stray off the path. I look behind me and realize that the path I've walked has disappeared. Looks like there's no turning back. I continue walking.
Minutes later, I see a blinking yellow light to my right. I move off of the glowing road and head towards the blinking light. As I get closer and closer, I hear a low hum. Sounds like some kind of machine. When I reach the blinking light, it stopped blinking then became really bright. In the yellow light I could see a generator of some kind, and a desk along with a chair. The light itself was on top of a really tall pole.
The desk was wooden, with two drawers. It looked like it was made from mahogany. The chair seemed to be made of the same material. I walk towards the desk, then open the top drawer. Inside there is an old notebook with a picture of a pigeon on the cover. I grab the notebook, sit down on the chair, then I open the notebook and skim through. It's written in French, I think. I recognize some of the words as being French, but I'm not able to translate the book into anything meaningful.
On some of the pages there are drawings. One of the drawings looks like an engine of some sort. Another is a drawing of a bird-like creature that has no beak and only one eye in the center of its head. The rest of the drawings are just really weird objects that don't look like anything I've ever seen.
All right, the book is a little interesting. I'll bring it with me. Maybe I'll meet a French person somewhere. What's in the second drawer?
A candy bar of some kind. Written on the black and white packaging there is the word 'Salmiakki'. I can't remember what that means. I know I've seen that word before. Oh well, at least this thing looks like food. I could eat it when I get hungry. I put the 'Salmiakki' into my right pocket.
There's something else in this drawer. It's a pen with a little blue cap on it. I think it's the same pen that was used to write in this notebook. It's only got a little ink left. I decide to keep it. Maybe I'll need to write or draw something.
I get up from the chair and walk to the generator. I don't really know much about generators, and I really can't tell what model this is. I see a black wire connecting the generator to the bottom of the metal pole holding up the yellow light.
Then I notice, just outside the circle of light that I'm standing in, there's something standing there.
It looks humanoid, but has no obvious elbows or knees. Completely white, except for the black holes where a mouth and eyes are supposed to be. It has a bulbous head, with no ears or nose. Hoping that it's friendly, I slowly lift my right arm and wave hello.
It waved back, moving its hand (at least I think it's a hand) at varying speeds as it swings to the left and right.
I try talking to it. I introduce myself “Hello, my name is Arnold Craft. What's yours?”
For a moment, there is only silence, then suddenly the creature's mouth opens wide and a loud, piercing high-pitched shriek fills the air. I put my hands to my ears until the shrieking stops. Is that its name? Just a high-pitched shriek?
I do my best to imitate what it just said. It more or less sounded like me just going “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” but that seemed to be good enough, as the creature's mouth contorted into something that was aiming for a smile and just barely missed. I suppose most folks would be terrified by this strange being, but its behavior was strange, not sinister.
I decide to call it 'Shriek' in my head. Did my best not to think about green ogres.
Shriek then moved, doing something that one could describe as 'walking' but without the involvement of elbows or knees. It moved into the yellow light, then got a lot closer to me. I held up the notebook I just found, and decided to ask Shriek a question.
“Does this book look familiar to you?” I ask. Shriek nods vigorously, then proceeds to speak in a language I do not understand. To my ears, it sounds like this:
OOO EEE AAA KAAAAAEEEEOOO OOOONAAAOOOO KAAAAOOOOEEEEAAA
Okay, Shriek can't speak English, but it seems to understand what I am saying. I tell Shriek about what happened to me, then ask it if it can help me find my way home. It nods again, and makes another misshapen smile. I say “Okay, let's go” and it holds out its right 'hand', which is less of a hand and more like a block of flesh. I realize that it wants to shake hands, so I grabbed its (surprisingly warm and soft) hand and shook it. It seemed pleased, nodding and smiling in its own way. Then it turned around and started to walk away. I follow it into the darkness, unable to see anything but Shriek in front of me for a good long time.
= TOWN =
We reach a town of some sort. The buildings are all two or three stories tall, with pale blue paint and rectangular windows. The streets are yellow with cracks that resembled roots. There are no lamps, no clear light source in the black sky above us and yet all the buildings look lit. It felt like an afternoon, a few hours before sunset.
There's nobody in the streets except for Shriek and myself. Shriek howled, or at least it sounded like howling to me. It turns to me, and makes a very ugly frown. It turns back and then howled again. Is Shriek looking for the town's inhabitants?
With sudden speed, Shriek enters the building closest to us. I run after him.
Inside, everything is red. Every single shade of red is here. In that sea of redness I see Shriek, its back bent forward at 90 degrees. I walk over to it and there on the floor I see three red contorted figures, all of them resembling Shriek. A pair of white tentacles emerged from Shriek's eyeholes and gently rubbed the bodies. Then he walked over to a bucket in the corner and pulled out some little yellow squares. Shriek sprinkled the little squares on the bodies, and they slowly floated through the ceiling and out into the dark sky. I think I've just witnessed a funeral for Shriek's kind.
We walk upstairs. It's red up here too. There are more bodies. Shriek bends again, and rubs the corpses with his eyehole tentacles. He repeats the ritual with the yellow squares, and the corpses float up with the grace of butterflies. Shriek exits the building, with me following behind.
For a long while, neither of us said anything. I have no idea what to say. I just stand there in the street, watching Shriek shaking its head back and forth. When the shaking stopped, Shriek walked into another building. The creatures inside were dead too.
As Shriek performed the ritual for the third time, I asked Shriek “What killed them?” I did not expect a coherent reply, but it tried to answer anyway. It did a whirling motion, and said “BUH BUH BOH BOH CHID CHID BOH BAH BUH.”
Then I remember the book and pen I'm carrying.
“I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're saying... but maybe you can draw and show me what killed them” I said as I handed the pen and book over to Shriek. At first, Shriek seemed confused, but then it grabs the pen and opens to the very last page of the book, an almost completely blank page with some French words at the top.
Shriek carefully and slowly draws the image of what I could only describe as a cylinder with many arms protruding out of it. It had no head, no legs, just a bunch of arms, each with two thumbs at the hands, attached to a long cylinder. Another creature in Shriek's world?
Shriek looked at me and said “Meeraavaaa.” Assuming that Shriek was saying the creature's name, I labelled the object in the drawing as a 'Meerava'. Shriek then gives me the pen and the notebook back. When the third set of bodies floated up into the sky, a pair of creatures that looked similar to Shriek, but smaller, entered and screamed. They were so loud I had to cover my ears.
Then Shriek and the other creatures form a huddle and start to whisper with voices that sounded like cracking glass. Shriek then moves towards me and bows. Its friends leave the building, and Shriek followed them out. As I leave through the door, Shriek and the other two creatures run away from me at the speed of car. Chasing them would be futile.
I'm alone again, in a city full of houses occupied by dead creatures. Perhaps Shriek's bow to me was a way of saying goodbye, or an apology. Either way, not much for me to do but to keep on walking.
= PABLO =
As I walk through the yellow streets, I see a white cat sitting down on the ground. It looks like a Turkish Angora, with a blue eye on its left and a golden one on its right. I walk closer to it. It seems to notice me, but doesn't show any sign of hostility. I squat down and rub its cheek.
Suddenly, a voice comes from the cat's mouth: “Greetings.”
I take a step back. “A talking cat?”
“Quite observant for a Homo Sapien,” said the cat with a mischievous smile. “Inform me, fellow interlocutor, what is your name and station?”
Considering what I've already encountered, a cat speaking in English isn't that strange anymore. I answer “Arnold Craft. I'm a journalist.”
“I am Pablo. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Okay, Pablo, can you tell me what this place is?”
“I confess ignorance, but I can see that you are clearly a foreigner, one who has no place here.”
“You're absolutely right. I'm from the United States.”
“Of America, of planet Earth, I presume?”
“Yes. Are you from the same planet where I'm from, Pablo?”
“Of course. No other world can proudly claim to be the home of the Felis Catus.”
“Then how come you can talk?”
“I have always been able to talk. However, if you are asking me why I am able to use your language, I must admit I have no answer for that query. I woke up in this world and found myself able to understand your tongue. Being able to speak like this has been most enjoyable; every word is like a toy to me.”
“How long have you been stuck here in this world?”
“That, I cannot say. There is neither sun nor moon nor stars in this strange environment.”
“Well, do you remember where you came from? I mean, what does your home look like? Did you have an owner-”
“An owner? I am offended. No one owns me. I am a free agent, each step, every breath a choice.”
The cat looked away from me, and it took a few seconds of silence for me to figure out that he really was insulted. I need as much information as I can get, so I decide to be as polite as I can. “I... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. What I meant was did you know any humans, back on Earth?”
Pablo turns back to look at me. “As a matter of fact, yes. I know quite a few bipedal individuals. They were wearing coats as white as my fur. One of them was particularly kind to me, gave me a few pleasurable scratches here and there. He was quite pale, almost as white as his clothes, but he was not ill, as far as a feline could tell.”
“White coats? Were they scientists?”
“I believe so. However, I could not and still cannot comprehend their words. They were not using English like you and I.”
Maybe they were speaking in French! I pull out the notebook, open it and show it to the cat.
“Good sir, what are you showing me?” asked Pablo.
“It's a book filled with notes written in French. Ummm, okay, did any of the scientists say something French like 'bonjour' or 'au revoir' or-”
“Bon-jour... Au revoir... Yes, I recall them using those words. What do those words mean, by the way?”
“Bonjour means 'good day' or 'hello', I think. Au revoir basically means 'see you later'.”
“Splendid. More playthings for my mental toy box.”
I remember that the notebook's got drawings of strange objects. I decide to first show the engine-like thing to Pablo. Pablo's eyes widen, and tells me that he has seen that object before.
“Yes, I recognize that device. Most strange, it didn't seem to do anything but hum and eat whatever was fed to it,” said the cat. “You see that cylinder on the right? The scientists would insert many objects, nails and bags of flour, dead rats and insects, but the machine ate it all and it never became full.”
“Do you have any idea what the machine is actually for?”
“A theory: Waste disposal.”
Somehow I doubt that was the machine's purpose. I decide to flip to another page, this time showing that strange cyclopean bird-like thing with no beak. Pablo arches his back and the fur on his back rises.
“Please remove that horrid image from my sight. I fear I may regurgitate if you persist in showing me this grotesque drawing.”
Not wanting to see a cat vomit, I put away the book. I ask him “Have you seen anything like that before?”
“Yes, in this world. I have met the putrid bird once, and I do not wish to see it again.”
Sensing that it's not a topic that he would like to continue, I drop the matter for now. I ask another question: “Would you like to The cat asks me a question this time.
“Would you like me to accompany you? You will find me to be a particularly puissant pussy.”
“Puissant, eh? In what way?”
“I am a capable hunter, and I have survived in this world for quite some time. I have knowledge of several premises where one could find food and shelter. You, however, are like a newborn kitten in this strange land, yet you have something that I lack.”
“And what is that?”
“Thumbs, Arnold. You have thumbs. I have discovered several tools and curiosities that would only be useful if I had been blessed with thumbs, and you certainly have them. You also appear to have a capacity to carry many more items than I can, as I am only able to carry things in my mouth and I frankly desire not to soil my tongue with anything foul.”
“So I'm just a tool-operator and a pack mule for you?”
“Oh no, no. Quite more than that, fellow interlocutor. You are the first friendly and familiar creature I have seen since I arrived, the first to be able to communicate with me instead of spouting gibberish. You are a friend, and a cat values his friends.”
Pablo purrs and rubs against my legs, then looks up at me with those beautiful mismatched eyes. I suppose having someone else with me would make my journey to find my way home more pleasant. I put my hand on the cat's head, and with gentleness I say “Sure, Pablo. Let's go together.”
= HUNT =
My phone's battery has died out. Last time I checked it, it was 1.34 PM, and that was a long time ago. I feel tired, hungry too. I wonder if Pablo feels the same. We've both been walking in a field of featureless purple fingers, pointing up to the sky, for quite some time now. Suddenly, I hear my stomach rumble.
“Yearning for meat, partner?” asked Pablo.
“I haven't eaten anything since I woke up. I could definitely go for a burger.”
“Yes. One of the scientists attempted to feed me with a patty once. Never again. Accursed thing tasted like an unholy mix of salt, plastic and onion. Salmon tastes better.”
I decide to focus on actually finding food and not go into a debate about the deliciousness of burgers “You said earlier that you're a hunter and you've been able to find food. What kind of food is there?”
“The kind that walks, the kind that jumps, and the kind that flies.”
“You mean animals?”
“One could label them animals, though they certainly don't look like any creature I've ever seen. Still, I assure you they are quite edible and the taste is satisfactory.”
The prospect of hunting animals didn't appeal to me. While I enjoy meat and have no moral objections against killing an animal for nourishment, I don't know much about preparing a dead animal for a meal. I don't know how to skin, don't know how to cook. Sure, a cat could just eat the meat raw, but I don't want the risk of parasites taking over my digestive system. Especially since we're in a strange world with its own crazy set of rules.
We hear a noise. Pablo immediately becomes very still and crouches lower. I try to drop down on my stomach as slowly and as silently as I could. After a few seconds of silence, we hear more noises. It sounds like radio static, but with a little rhythm to it.
Pablo whispers to me “Prey. Remain motionless. I shall hunt it down.” Then he soundlessly crept forward into the tall purple fingers. For a while, I hear nothing but that strange static-like sound, until suddenly a loud screech permeates the air, one so loud that I had to cover my ears. Soon, Pablo returns with something blue in his mouth. He drops it in front of me, a rabbit-sized carcass shaped like a diamond with a hundred tiny legs and purple blood. It smells like a cheap perfume, and doesn't look appetizing at all.
Pablo bites into it, then asks me “Are you not famished? Go on, eat.”
I am hungry, but not sure if I'm hungry enough to eat raw meat from another world. I ask him “Pablo, are you sure it's not poisonous?”
Munching, he answered “I assure you, this has no venom. I have devoured quite a number of these things, and the taste is not so bad. Reminds me a little bit of pigeon.”
I hesitate. I really don't want to eat this, but I'm so hungry it hurts. I grab one of the creature's little legs and manage to pull it off. I put it in my mouth, hoping to swallow it before I could get a taste.
It's okay. It doesn't taste as bad as I expected, but I sure wish I could cook it. I look down and see Pablo licking his front paws. He turns to me and asks me if I'm going to finish the rest of it. I'm still hungry, and the food doesn't seem to be poisonous, so I grab what's left of the dead animal and chew on it.
When I'm done, Pablo asked me “Are you still hungry, Arnold? I could hunt for some more, if you so desire.”
Strangely enough, I'm not hungry anymore, despite the fact that what I ate was about a quarter of the size of a fist. I tell Pablo I'm done, but I'm tired now and would like to get some rest.
Pablo lies down on the ground, his left side facing up. “All right, I suppose it is time for me to recover some of my strength as well. Let's rest, and hope nothing comes to eat us while we slumber.”
I wish there was some way I could have brought my bed with me. Lying down on the ground just isn't comfortable. I decide to use the notebook as a pillow, though that really didn't do much. I stare at the starless, moonless sky and wonder if my sister Rachel is looking for me.
What am I saying, of course she is. She must have noticed that my room had gone missing, and myself along with it. Knowing her, she would have contacted the police by now and spammed the internet with my picture. Rachel's the type of person who really hates wasting time.
Am I the only human stranded in this strange world? Somehow I get the feeling I'm not, and there might be a lot of missing persons reports back on Earth. Man, imagine all the 'experts' and conspiracy theorists trying to come up with an explanation.
I close my eyes and I fall into a deep sleep, with sweet thoughts of my family and friends.
= DREAM =
There is a gigantic fan, standing in the middle of a white desert. Suddenly, lightning strikes, but there is no thunder. Instead, there is a woman's scream, and I see a crimson scarf fall from the sky. I run to where it landed, and there I see a dark shadow in the shape of a woman. It moves towards me, and whispers into my left ear: “Aaaaaahhhh”. I reach out to touch the shadow, but it vanishes. I turn my head and I see Pablo, only this time there are three of him. I try to speak, but the words won't come out. It feels as if my mouth has disappeared, a seamless patch of skin covering my teeth.
I pull out a box cutter from my pocket and slice open a new mouth. I feel no pain, and not a drop of blood falls. I call out to Pablo, but none of the three cats answer back. I walk closer, and I see that they are not really Pablo after all. Three cats, none of them white. One black, one yellow, one brown.
“Who are you?” I asked.
The black cat was the first to speak “I want to talk to Pablo.”
“I am not Pablo, and he clearly isn't here,” I said.
The brown cat then talked to me “Pablo waits. Pablo schemes.”
“Schemes? What kind of schemes would a talking cat possibly have?” I asked.
The yellow cat spoke “Pablo is not what he seems.”
“Not what he seems,” said the black and brown cats.
Before I could say anything, the three cats transform into pigeons, and they fly away. I run, but there is no way for me to catch them. I hear the sound of glass shattering, and I see a burning spider, one the size of a house, just sitting in front of me. I approach the arachnid, and the flames slowly fade away. I put my hand to its head, and slowly rub it. It feels friendly.
“Beardfather,” said the spider, with a voice that sounded tired yet gentle.
“Who is Beardfather?” I ask.
“Beardfather knows. Beardfather knows.”
“What does Beardfather know?”
“The road home,” said the spider, before fading away into nothingness. I see Shriek waving at me. I wave back, and suddenly a cylinder with many arms comes from behind Shriek and bends it into a painful twisted shape. I rush forward and tear the cylinder off of Shriek, and hold Shriek's body in my arms. As I hold the cold, lifeless form, it swirls into a puddle that then changes into the shape of a six-pointed star.
The cylinder cackles, with a voice that could break glass. I put my hand into the puddle, and pull out a metal disc. I fling the disc, and it slices the awful cylinder into half. The two halves writhe in pain as I spit on them.
I hear a voice. “Arnold,” it cries out. “Arnold.”
I recognize that voice. It's Pablo. I open my eyes and find myself awake once again, remembering only fragments of my dream. As my eyes focus on the white cat, a single sentence rings out in my mind.
'Pablo is not what he seems.'
"The cruelest thing you can do to an artist is telling them their work is perfect when it isn't flawless."