The sky is turning black. It does this from time to time, only just now it’s more of a concern due to the unprecedented weight it has brought with it. I don’t know what will happen if we get crushed.
I call out to Tommy, but he’s floating in the pool of melancholy wearing nothing but a blue feather boa and a distant smile. The bloody idiot. Indulging in those waters is his favourite thing to do, but it makes him blind to problems like this. Mind you, he’s arguably more use than Nicole, who is running around the garden with a huge mirror pushed against her face. How she sees where she is going is anyone’s guess, but she claims to be ‘opening new worlds’ in her eyes. I roll mine.
Annie and I are more switched on, and we scout the usual neural pathways for an escape route. She heads off in the direction of pharmaceuticals, and I gladly take the way of meditation. Either one should, in theory, bring us back to the square of ordinary consciousness at a time when the sky has returned to a healthy amber. Admittedly there’s a distant hope we will be taken out of this godforsaken labyrinth altogether, but it’s important not to get carried away when the skies are dark.
The way of meditation is usually wide and well-trodden; we’ve been here many times before. Having our host take a few deep breaths and shut out the flow of thoughts is usually a sure way to improve their mental health and the environment in which we live. Today the path is littered with trinkets, overgrown bushes and flashing symbols, making it hard for me to find my way. At least the symbols offer a bit of light, but with things not being the way I’m used to, I’m starting to panic. Annie is growling in frustration, and she sounds like she’s in a tunnel. We both turn back to the square having gotten only a fraction of the way down our known escape routes.
“The pills aren’t working,” Annie yells, her hands held up, shaking and exasperated. I am about to respond that meditation is giving nothing back either, when I realise visibility of the square has actually improved since we left. A glimmer of hope shoots through me, displacing the shards of panic. Maybe the pathways did work just a little bit? Then I notice the light isn’t coming from the sky, but streaming out of Nicole’s eyes. It’s bouncing off the mirror, illuminating the pool area.
“Guys! Over here.” It’s Tommy. He’s waving us into the water. Annie and I exchange a glance and agree we have nothing to lose. We dive right in, and I almost get strangled by Tommy’s soggy, discarded feather boa. It’s dark down here, really dark, and the pressure is mounting upon my chest and head. I sense there’s something beneath us, and I feel for it frantically, desperate to get a hold of whatever might be our saviour. Wet canvas, a metal handle, a clasp … It feels like … a suitcase? There’s another, and another and another. The pool of melancholy is made from baggage? Of course it is.
The air in my ethereal lungs is reaching its limit for usefulness, but I ignore that as best I can while I fiddle with the nearest clasp. I don’t even consider that it might not open under the weight of the water and the sky. It would be a sensible thing to think, but in the moments I could be drowning, I’m instead filling with determination. Just as I’m sure I’m making progress, someone grabs my arm and pulls me further down until we hit what I’m sure must be rock bottom.
It seems somehow less wet here, and as I contemplate how little sense that makes, I come to know that I am also breathing fresh air. I open my eyes to see the four of us are sitting in a house made from luggage. We didn’t need to open it; we just had to arrange it so that there was space for us to exist among it! Annie pulls open the curtains, and a sublime amber light streams in like we haven’t seen in months. We all laugh out our relief, hard. As I open the door that takes us back to the square, I attempt a joke about how unlikely it is for Tommy to be the one forging new neural pathways, but he is already gone. We can only assume he’s earned his way out of here.
This is a sample story from my flash fiction collection Fragments of Perception, which contains 36 bursts of philosophical magic realism with a touch of sci-fi. You can get it from Amazon, order it in at your favourite book store, or get a signed copy here.