Emily has been a talented illustrator, designing unique characters her whole life. Her mother has always been amazed by Emily’s original ideas. For Emily, these ideas aren’t as one-of-a-kind as she’s told everyone.
Void Watcher is August’s Flash Fiction that explores beyond our reality. Experience the story in written word, audio, artwork and ambient sounds.
Goodnight, I love you, was a phrase that Emily heard throughout her childhood. Every time she was going to bed, she would get a kiss on the cheek and a tight hug before being dismissed. The ritual was cute as a kid, as an adult, it made her sheepish.
Even through the embarrassed feeling, Emily wanted to make sure her mother happy. Her mom’s life was not easy since her dad passed. She only wanted to be included in her daughter’s life. The least Emily could do was say goodnight to her. Hugs and kisses were a lot cheaper than rent, even if it made her feel like an adolescent.
Emily’s mother was also too forgiving. She let Emily move back home after college. The offer was a blessing and a curse. Mom’s kindness made it too convenient for Emily not to look for a job. Dinner was made every night and laundry was taken care of. Moving back home was like being at a Bed and Breakfast – there were no more ninety-nine cent mac & cheese meals.
“Tomorrow is a brand-new day,” Mom said with a warm smile.
“Thanks Mom,” Emily said.
“Oh! Before you go to bed…” Mom said while leaning down below her office desk. She lifted an old cardboard box up onto the desk with a heavy thud. “…I was looking through the basement earlier and came across these gems.”
“What’s that?” Emily asked, stepping closer.
Mom flipped the box open and pulled out some sheets of paper. “You know these.”
“No way,” Emily folded her arms. “You kept all of this?”
“You were such an artist, even then!” Mom said, flipping a sheet of paper around.
Emily stared at the paper, looking at the crude crayon figure of a ghost with an upside-down triangle for a head.
“I have no idea where you came up with these ideas,” Mom said, handing the drawing to Emily. She began to sift through the box saying, “there was that tiger in here that I liked too.”
Emily swallowed heavily while staring at the triangle-headed drawing. She shook her head and forced a smile, saying, “this stuff is so bad!”
“Nonsense! You’ve always had talent,” Mom said.
“Talent doesn’t seem to help get you employed,” Emily sighed. She handed the paper back to her mother.
“You’ll find a job, dear,” Emily’s mother said while taking the drawing and placing it back into the box. “You are exceptionally gifted.”
Emily rubbed her own arm. “Thanks Mom,” she said. “I’m going to hit the sack.”
“Of course,” Mom said. “Goodnight, I love you.”
A New Ritual
Emily gave her mom a hug and kiss goodnight before leaving the home office and up the stairs to her childhood room. She flicked the light on and closed the door. The room was exactly the way she left it after moving away to college.
Emily wanted to remove the boy-band posters and the stuffed animal toys, but she purposely avoided changing anything in the room. Keeping the childhood items convinced Emily that she was not going to be here very long. That initial thought came to her nine months ago, when she first stepped into her old room.
The girl turned off the lights and undressed. The blue nightlight automatically turned on, projecting enough brightness for her to find her pajamas and slip into them.
She swiped her smartphone screen to unlock it and navigated through the interface to set an alarm for the next day. After months of bad sleep, Emily finally decided to set a time for her to get up early each day. Her unrestful slumbers forced her to sleep in until early afternoon. By early evening, she’d have a heavy nap, ruining her sleep cycle for the night. Her sleep pattern was pure chaos.
Emily noticed a dating app notification appear at the top right of her smartphone’s screen. The icon indicated there was a match.
“Probably another dick pic,” Emily muttered, placing the phone on her dresser. She told herself she would check the notification tomorrow. Emily wasn’t in a rush to meet a man; she could barely get her own life together. No one decent would want anything to do with an unemployed deadbeat like her.
The girl jumped into her bed and got under the covers, lying flat on her back. She took a deep sigh, trying to brush away the daily pressure of being unemployed. Emily knew that her mother was patient with her situation, but she could not help feeling guilty for not finding a job yet. She was not even able landed an interview.
“Tomorrow’s worries,” Emily said through an exhale.
Her mind began to drift as she took deep breaths in through her nostrils and out through her mouth. Emily’s brain always ran a thousand thoughts a second before she was going to go to sleep. The moment just before sleep was the one time she was not doing something. The downtime gave her brain a chance to play catch-up, reflect upon the day and think about the wishes of tomorrow. This is why she practiced deep breathing. The stillness helped calm her system down.
After what seemed like a good three dozen breathing cycles, Emily’s thoughts turned fuzzy and her body began to relax. The worries of today and the uncertainty of tomorrow began to fade. The guilt of staying with her mother and not paying rent began to wash away. The stress of being single and making no use of her college degree had little concern to her now. There was only Emily, the bed and the blue glow.
With another exhale, the walls faded. Her eyes were locked onto the blue-tinted speckles of the ceiling. Her limbs went numb and her breathing pattern went into autopilot.
At some point in the process, the room went dark. Her body lightened as if she had left this reality. Her thoughts faded into the abyss, leaving her to observe the dreamworld. She began to drift through the empty, black, space. She was weightless and free. The physical constraints that bound her during the day ceased to exist.
“Welcome to the other side,” a raspy voice reverbed in her mind.
A loud thud came from the bedroom door.
Emily’s eyes twitched open and she attempted to move them to where the sound was coming from. They didn’t budge from their sockets. She could only see the upper half of the door frame from her peripheral view, due to the angle of her head. Emily tried to move her eyes again with no success. Despite her best efforts, she was unable to adjust the position of her eyes in her skull.
What the…? she thought. The words in her mind were supposed to project out through her mouth, but she could only express caveman groans from her throat. Her jaw and lips did not respond. Some saliva began to ooze out from her lip and onto her chin. Emily attempted to use her tongue to grab the liquid. No luck. Her tongue was as useless as her eyes.
The door to her bedroom creaked open, revealing a pitch-black hallway beyond the frame. The blue glow from her nightlight shined abnormally bright, increasing the contrast of light and dark.
An immense invisible force pushed onto Emily’s chest and limbs, sinking her deeper into the bed. She attempted to scream, only to be met with silence.
I can’t breathe! Emily cried out, feeling a lack of air entering her burning lungs. Her voice was nothing but gurgling gibberish, despite the clarity of thought. The force on her body continued to press into her being, pushing her deeper into the bedframe. The mattress morphed into a tar-like substance, absorbing her slightly into it.
A white shape entered the room from the hallway. Despite being unable to control the movement of her eyes, Emily could see a being glide closer to her. The being appeared humanoid, draped in a white robe. The head, on the other hand, was an upside-down triangle with glowing blue balls resembling eyes that sat at the two higher points of the geometric shape.
Someone help! Emily attempted to talk again, resulting in more gurgles. Her limbs failed to respond as she tried to spring from the mattress. She was stuck in an unresponsive body.
The being glided towards Emily’s bedside. The triangular head floated on top of the being where a neck should be. A jaw appeared from the lower point of the triangle up to the blue eyes. The elongated mouth revealed razor-sharp teeth and a red snake-like tongue.
“We have watched you from the Void since your childhood, Emily,” the being said. The white skin on the being’s face moved like rubber.
Help! Emily cried out again.
The being leaned closer, causing the invisible force to drastically increase. There was no air was entering her lungs as she helplessly stared at the triangular head.
“Your mind remains intact with this world and the next. You are attuned. You are awake. This is why we remain in contact throughout your realm’s years. The Void has waited for you to grow mature.”
An arm-length bulge appeared from underneath the being’s robe followed by three sharp claws. “Your time is up. I have come to take you to the Void,” the being said in a cold tone.
“No!” Emily screamed as the mattress returned to its normal state. Her body went into a hypersensitive state as she sprung from the bed, her eyes closed. She opened her eyes to see that the blue nightlight returned to its normal value. The pressure on her body ceased to exist.
Emily felt all of her body’s motor functions return to her as she kicked the white sheets away. She looked over to her bedside to see that the triangle-headed being was gone. She glanced at the door, no one was there either.
Emily rubbed her forehead, feeling an intense headache pulsate throughout her skull.
Some things never change, she thought while exhaling hard.