hanspfall (hanspfall) wrote in the_second_step,
hanspfall
hanspfall
the_second_step

Interested in feedback.

Hello all! I have a short story work in progess - well, actually it is a finished story, but the ending, I believe, needs re-worked. It is short, about 1700 words I think, and I thought maybe I would post it here for feedback. I see other short fiction is posted from time to time - along with the poetry - so I hope posting it is not out of bounds of the community.

An excerpt . . .

A lone hanging bulb in my bathroom flared to life with a low and not unpleasing buzz. The naked bulb cast a dim whiteness to the small unadorned area. The change from dark to light must have affected my strained eyes because, when I glanced into the greasy mirror above the sink, I saw an abhorrent wrongness in my reflection. My right eye was bulging hideously out from its socket – like a painted bullseye stretched across a small over inflated balloon. Red streaks around the pupil, like dripping rivers, pulsated with my suddenly rapid heart beat. . .



1

I'm not mad. It's something else.

I suppose that I have not been sleeping well recently, though I can't exactly remember not sleeping. It's
more a feeling of sleeplessness. A dull ache in my legs, graininess, like fine sand, around my eyes. My
eyes sting whenever I touch them and the dark sockets are tender like a sore.

Comfortable pre-dawn gray greeted me in silent partnership with the ringing of my old fashion alarm clock. A slight sticky breeze trickled in my tiny curtain less window, bringing with it the backwash of yesterday's heat and this morning's rain. The night seemed to pass with the familiar speed of countless rest filled nights, but I felt tired and nervous.

A lone hanging bulb in my bathroom flared to life with a low and not unpleasing buzz. The naked bulb cast a dim whiteness to the small unadorned area. The change from dark to light must have affected my strained eyes because, when I glanced into the greasy mirror above the sink, I saw an abhorrent wrongness in my
reflection. My right eye was bulging hideously out from its socket – like a painted bullseye stretched
across a small over inflated balloon. Red streaks around the pupil, like dripping rivers, pulsated with my suddenly rapid heart beat. With a jolt I screwed my eyes shut and probed around the tender flesh. The dimensions felt normal. I took a deep breath of stale bathroom air and let my eyes reopen. Nothing more
sinister than my normal bloodshot eyes stared back from the mirror.

Perhaps it was that singular experience and its damage to my tired and fragile brain that ruined my breakfast. After an un-invigorating shower I did not feel particularly hungry, but the promise of a mundane routine beckoned me sweetly. The small noisy refrigerator belched cool air when I pulled the open the door. A newly purchased carton of eggs and a crusty orange juice container stood out, as if on display, as the refrigerator's only occupants.

I picked up the orange juice and took a long drink from the container. It tasted sweeter than it should,
but the tangy bite calmed me. I placed an old skillet on the gas stove and opened the egg carton. The ivory white shells glistened with slight condensation. I admired the perfect dozen before gingerly picking up a single egg. My right eye pulsed and a sharp pain lanced through my eye and ricocheted around my cranium. Breathless, I dropped the egg and grabbed my face. The cracking sound of the egg hitting the floor sounded like a massive panel of glass shattering.

The pain dulled, but the memory held me in a wince. Slowly I reached out and found a steadying hold on the counter. My eyes opened and gradually focused on the dropped egg. Bits of white shell formed a mosaic on the dirty linoleum floor. Spread around the shell pieces was a sick looking yellow-red powder – reminiscent of dried puss. Bits of the powder were matted with a gelatinous moistness. A foul dead smell wafted up from the grotesque display.

My stomach heaved as I hacked violently over the kitchen sink – spraying orange juice and bile with
alarming velocity. The gross spray continued for a time beyond reason. I stood for minutes, hugging the
sink, while the thin translucent orange liquid pumped out of my stomach as if being primed out of a well.

Eventually the vomiting stopped. Some time after that I was finally able to release my grip on the sink I
could not bring myself to reexamine the scene, instead I cleaned myself up as best as I could and left.

2

I retreated into the city's early morning rhythm – my eyes to the ground. Vehicles plowed noisily on the
wet city streets, recklessly dodging each other in a mad, violent dance. My eye continued to throb. Every
engine knock and tire squeal and cell phone shrill echoed in my head as a cacophony of endless noise. I
glanced up into a cold tingling mist to get my bearings and noticed the squat building next to me seemed to be leaning outward, towards the street – like it was standing menacingly on gigantic and unseen tip-toes. The entrance to the building seemed somehow deformed – the angles lopsided, not quite right. My eye trembled in it's socket and I had to look away, back to the sidewalk. The nearest bus stop was deserted and I only waited a few minutes for the next bus to come.

I stumbled up the stairs to the bus with my eyes half closed – looking only at my feet. My countenance must have reflected my disposition, for the typical hissing of muted conversation halted as I flung myself down the aisle and sought refuge in the rear most seat. I sat with my eyes closed, breathing in huge chunks – like a half drowned man.

Presently a sense of normalcy returned with the groan of the moving bus and resumed hum of talking passengers. The commonness of the atmosphere lent me courage and I was finally able to open my eyes. The
rain outside had grown harder since I left the street. Through the windows I could see only blurs and colors through a veil of water. Across from me, in the opposing seat, was a man of quite unique appearance.

The man was leering at me – quite unabashed. His mouth was stretched in a wide mirthless grin with teeth like dark green knobs protruding at irregular intervals. His long and matted hair was not only unwashed, but showed such characteristics that one would wonder if it had ever been washed. His clothes, the color of which could only to be said that of dirt, were drained of any previous dignity but for one item. That being a handsomely adorned eye patch over his right eye.

We held each other's gaze for several seconds – each interested in the other. Slowly, as if afraid I would scurry away from a sudden movement, the man raised a hand to his left eye, then over to the eye patch. His grin widened to showed more green knobs and dark gaps. He caressed the patch with his soot encrusted ring finger and stared to laugh. The sound was high pitched, not unlike a dog's whine, and threatened to go on for eternity. He moved the patch up and I saw jagged red scars surrounding the empty socket. Spongy looking boils festered in place of an eye, dripping a foul mucus like substance. Though I wanted to cover my ears and cower, I could only stare as his tittering held me hypnotically still.

The spell finally broke as the bus ground to a stop and the squealing brakes diluted the hypnotic effect. I was then able to vault from my seat and flee from the bus.

3

Panic gripped me in harsh talons as I splashed into the rain drenched street. The pain in my right eye
flared up and I was nearly blinded by the increasing intensity of the slashing shower. I tried keeping my
right eye closed in fear of another seizure, but soon my left was stinging and closing involuntarily. I
closed my left and opened my right eye. My perception was askew. Erect buildings stood leaning like limp
cardboard boxes – trapezoid in shape. I caught glimpses of faces as I stuttered down the crowded sidewalk. The faces seemed elongated, or distorted like a slow motion replay of a speeding object. The faces continued to follow me even after heads were turned away – like a mask rotating on a stationary head beneath an oversized umbrella. Sounds meshed together and became indistinguishable, like a roaring applause. My balance was that of a drunk's. I dove and lurched with my hands on walls to keep me upright. I noticed people were giving me wide birth, but their faces jumped out at me in a strobe like blur. I backed against a wall and covered my eyes. Slowly I slid down the wall.

After a few moments I became aware of the sound of my breathing. Then the pinging of heavy raindrops on a
metallic surface. My right eyed ached and my left was still stinging from rain water. I was under the
awning of a store front. People moved on, interest dissolved with my apparent recovery. A person on my
right attempted to help me up. His fingers looked like engorged worms squirming to escape a decaying corpse like palm. I knocked the hand away to dispel the vision, then stood on my own.

4

Truth is a slippery concept. It largely comes from perception. Truth can be a form of madness. But I'm not mad, it's something else.

My little room is shrouded in shadows. A candle, its flame reflected on a thin shiny blade passing back and forth, creates and destroys the shadows. I remember the poor man on the bus. Was he mad? I believe so. Truth can be traced to choices, and he chose wrong.

He needed the comfort of that of which he, and all, are accustomed - no mattter its whisp like root in reality. He chose safely, and now he is mad.

I'll choose a new truth.

THE END

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