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Soul Crusher

Carl had left work that morning at the completion of his graveyard shift. Not feeling particularly tired, he worked his way across town and to the edge of the “just beyond the nuclear power plant” marsh. The crunch of the gravel seemed especially loud as he reached the edge of the parking lot and pulled on his emergency brake. Sitting for a moment in the silence of his car, he finished his cigarette and snuffing out the butt, flicked the now lone filter through his open window.

Just a few short steps across the gravel and he found his way to the single path leading into the marsh. It was a slow walk he took, looking out across the vast emptiness, the occasional bird skirting across the tops of the clumps of grass. Within a few minutes of walking, he came upon his favorite and well-known spot, a slight rise in the marsh that allowed for seating without getting wet. Sitting cross-legged, he gazed across the marsh, enjoying the silence and the peace, so rare in his life it seemed.

He could feel the tension gently drifting away and the gentle breeze that brushed his face reminded him just how glorious and valuable these little visits had become to him. The power plant towers beyond his peripheral vision allowed him to forget his troubles, his struggles and the stress that constantly ate at his soul. At one moment, he wished these visits could last forever but in the next, he wondered if anything would actually bring him any peace. The pain of not knowing what would be best sat in the pit of his stomach, refusing to leave.

Breathing deeply of the fresh morning air, his eyes caught a glimpse of a small jittery movement, far to the south. Watching the shifting, morphing, twisting black cloud, for lack of a better term, his first presumption was of a flock of swallows and their diaphanous movement. The shimmering, shapeless mass appeared to grow larger as it moved toward him, his attention now fully focused on this aerial display. Within what seemed to be seconds, the shape was directly above him and he realized that this darkness was definitely not a flock of birds. It was not a flock of anything. It appeared to be a single entity.

In one sudden moment, the entity formed into a perfect, silvery square, directly above him and possibly one hundred feet on each side. This was certainly alarming, but the most alarming fact was the absolute silence. Prior to its appearance, Carl could hear the occasional bird, the skittering of insects and the rustling of the grass as the breeze passed through. All very delicate for sure, but certainly sound.

Now, lying on his back in the middle of the marsh, Carl stared up into the perfectly square mirror of sorts and heard absolutely nothing. Even the breeze had stopped. Staring into the silvery nothingness, he began to recognize movement within and depth and then he realized, apparent sentience. He felt no fear but only confusion. Nothing made sense, nothing connected, nothing seemed to follow the laws of classical physics, as he understood them.

The images increased in intensity, in depth and in speed. A veritable phantasmagoria, Carl could feel himself swirling, though he lay perfectly motionless in the grass. As if tentacles had penetrated to the deepest parts of his soul, every aspect of his being lay exposed to the shimmering entity. The silence had shifted to an incredible roar and every emotion, every thought, and every memory swirled through him like a whirlpool.

It was the confusion that tore him apart. His first thought was to run, to get away from this aberration of nature. But at the same time, a nagging feeling hung around him, suggesting that this circumstance was to be endured. There was no understanding. None of this made any sense to him and he could not act without some sort of understanding to provide foundation for that action. Simply not knowing nearly destroyed him. The only thought that kept him grounded, that kept him from fleeing, was the reality that nothing dangerous was actually happening. As he could only see from his perspective, he wondered what someone else would see had they happened upon this display.

As he lay staring into the silvery shimmer, he realized that despite the temptation to leap to his feet and run away, he could move nothing of his person. He could hear his pulse in his ears, for the roaring had stopped and the ambient silence had returned. Knowing that he was still alive gave a sliver of hope in this bizarre and twisted circumstance. But the fact of his immobility alarmed him. The idea of the freedom to run, to leave, to get away, was a comforting thought, a sliver of control but the realization of his perfect inability left him feeling helpless.

The distraction of his introspection had blinded him to the change that had taken place. The silvery shimmer, once perfectly square and flat, both two dimensional yet infinite in depth had changed to an all-encompassing dome, surrounding him like a two-man tent. But this tent had no door, no zipper, and no apparent egress of any kind. He lay perfectly motionless and helpless. Feeling infinitely vulnerable but at the same time, no threat of any kind presented itself. He simply was and the shimmer was.

Pondering his simplicity, he suddenly had the strange feeling of being watched. From his peripheral vision, he saw a wavering in the shimmer, a slight distortion and then she was there. A young woman, smiling at him, dark hair thickly lying upon her shoulders and cascading nearly to her waist. At least he somewhat guessed it was about waist length, for her clothing was nondescript and shimmering, like the silver but white instead. She slowly approached him, gently flowing like water, and never taking her eyes off of him. She stopped, just within reach and reached out her hand to him.

“Take my hand,” she said, her voice a liquid smile, flowing into him and caressing his soul.

“I cannot move,” he said, startled at the sound of his own voice.

“Are you sure?” she responded, stretching out a second hand. Lifting his hand and embracing hers, he marveled at the movement. Rising to his feet, the woman embraced him and hugged him, like a friend whose absence had been an open sore for far too long. Carl could feel the tension, always present in his neck, dissipate. He stood, in awe of the embrace and the glory of the moment.

Turning from him, yet still holding his hand, the two effortlessly moved toward the boundary of the cell. “Come with me,” she said, pulling him after her as she passed through the silver. He closed his eyes and exhaled what felt like the pain and stress of a million years. His knuckles rapped the silvery shimmer and he felt her hand slip from his. He now stood alone, his face pressed against the silvery boundary, now an apparent prison and the memory of the glory of the embrace a honey sweet taste on the tip of his tongue, fading.

The emptiness that devoured his soul as he climbed back into his car stood before him, a joyless, dry, and stark hatred that gave nothing but pain. He sat in the driver seat and lit another cigarette, remembering the vacation form he still needed to fill out for the following week.

He drove away.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction

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