Crescent Illusions

“Hey! Wait up!” Pal gasped out the request, to no avail. The strange boy turned the edge beyond his view, taking all sight and sound of his movement with his retreating form. Pal leaned over his knees in crouched, deep-breathing pain from the chase. His heavy gasps echoed inside his helmet.

He’d need to keep going, he knew. He only had a few tics until -too late. Before his ground-pointed eyes, everything shifted and morphed. If his headgear were not equipped with anti-vertigo software, Pal would have retched at the twisting, swarming, mixing colors and land forms. He had no idea how the boy he pursued, apparently unencumbered by gear, could continue on through these conditions. How the boy could move so quickly. How the boy even existed, really.

Pal looked up from the sky beneath his feet, noted the re-orientation of his surroundings, and promptly crashed to the surface above him. “Eurgh,” he groaned, feeling the sluggishness and some of the bruising while his suit’s systems kicked in. He rose as it mended; scouted around.

Before this last shift he had been skidding around contoured shapes that rose from sand-like material. The ambient light had been annoyingly bright, yet also a pleasant shade of pink. Now, Pal noted, he seemed to be in a city. This city was unlike any he’d been in before, but not unlike images he’d studied at elementary training. “These are buildings,” his memory heard an artificial instructor note. “Homo sapiens sapiens inhabited and busied itself within these structures.”

Keeping his feet moving forward, Pal tilted his head back. The buildings reached beyond his sight. What a miserable, backwards way to exist. He supposed all species must start somewhere, but could never understand why his ancestors’ timeline progressed from perfection to disaster. Why had his progenitors constantly sought what was worse?

He heard a sound and snapped to attention. A face with large, crescent eyes peered at him from around a building just ahead. The boy.

Pal sprinted without thought toward his quarry. The boy rushed from hiding and pulled ahead, as he had since Pal first materialized and saw him. Both ran down the middle space between the tall, tall structures to either side. The ground felt soft, appeared white. Pal could see his footfalls leaving imprints in the material, though the boy’s odd tread did not. The dark shapes to either side seemed to melt away from them as they passed; no, they were melting away. Pal glanced right and left as he ran, witnessing the anomaly.

He wondered, yet again, what this destination really was. Clearly, it was not merely a physical location. No location they’d researched had behaved as this place did; morphing, moving, and melting like a living optical illusion.

Pal knew he was nearly at the end of his exploratory tic and would dissolve back to Central soon. He set his jaw, determined to gather more information before that happened. Since the ever-changing location proved intangible for collection purposes, Pal sought to catch the one constant he had encountered: the boy.

His suit worked overtime to compensate for energy and nitrogen loss. At his current rate, he would exhaust both and need to rest as he had before. And before that. And, before that. Surely, this time, he could draw near enough to catch the boy. Surely, he could get answers to return with.

The atmosphere darkened. A sound similar to a loud clap came from ahead, from the boy. To Pal’s surprise, the sky in front of them both molded into a dark sphere upon the dark of the air. Totally black at first; an outline of winking light grew to shine from the base and sides of the sphere.

As they drew nearer, Pal felt himself drawn to the new anomaly. Literally. The sensation felt like the projection arm of a spacecraft. He fought a natural panic, but explorer training calmed his initial reactions. “Always act decisively within your means,” another memory of an artificial instructor intoned. Pal ran on.

His wrist beeped a warning: a mere moment till dissolvement.

He strove to move more quickly but his speed was no longer his own. The boy and he were being pulled inexorably toward the eclipsed horizon. The buildings melted faster. Pal’s treads in the groundstuff deepened and blurred. His visuals clouded somewhat at the edges as he tried to keep the boy in sight.

Another beep sounded, then another. It was time.

Just as Pal’s body began to piece to data for dissolving, he saw the most unusual illusion of them all: an inverted flip of boy, buildings, sphere, and sky. Where once he knew the dark outlines of running youth and landscape; Pal saw the whitespace image of a gaping, grinning face. A face that swallowed the boy. A face that looked at him.

 


Written in response to D. Wallace Peach‘s extremely popular prompt. She just might get all 300 daily responses posted before she decides that April would be a good time for a vacation…

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Green and Yellow Fruit Basket

Igor stared at the remains of his shopping trip. His enormous hunch rose and fell in a worried sigh.

He knew he’d gotten what he was sent for. He remembered selecting the shiniest peeler from the grocery shelf and heading to Checkout.

While standing in line behind an old lady with a dog in her purse and in front of a young boy who kept poking his hunch, Igor had noticed the fruit cups.

His stomach had rumbled.

Why not? it had asked. Herr doktor will never know. He’d added them to his peeler, hurriedly paid, and left. Just to be certain, he’d tossed the receipt behind a few scraggly bushes outside the door.

And now, as he stared at the gaping hole his leaking containers had made in the paper bag, he realized a receipt might be a thing to hang onto.

“Ah, Igor,” a deep voice said from the doorway. “Excellent. A minute more and the specimen would be useless.” Dr. Frankenstein held out a hand. “Give me the peeler and let’s get him started.”

Created for Fractured Faith Blog’s Flash Fiction Challenge.

Wilhelmina Winters: Twenty-Eight

Wilhelmina Winters, of Classroom 4, Central Junior High School, was first to say she was hardly unique; who would think that? She was least likely to be part of something unusual or secret, since her peers ignored her and others with sense.

Wil was a student at the school, which attempted to educate young teens. She was a small, slight youth with regular proportions, but rather large hazel eyes. Her father was not a tall man, but his eyes matched his only daughter’s and his build gave others a steady, dependable impression. They shared their family with Wil’s step-brother, Jakob, and mother, Cynthia -whom many thought the kindest woman around.

Wil and her family had the basic necessities, but they also had Goodbye, a time that stalked and shadowed their every move and interaction with others. They had other secrets too; what family doesn’t? Wil’s father’s second-greatest fear was that someone from the past might appear and take away the life he’d scrabbled together over the last fourteen years.

When Wil arrived at school that chill, nondescript day, she’d only had three scraps of paper to tell her that today might be different. Wil tried now to look inconspicuous as she kicked at the ugly carpet carefully under her desk. Dr. L. gestured and lectured as usual, while his class feigned attention.

No one seemed to see the fragment Wil was moving with her foot.

Halfway through the hour, Dr. L. put down his covalent bond model, picked up a stack of worksheets, and attempted to walk around the first row of desks without bumping into them but did, as he was distracted by his attempts to simultaneously pass out their assignment.

“Whoops!” Annoying Carl Hurn said to his neighbors, as they guffawed appreciatively.

When Wil turned an icy look at the immature group, she saw the first odd thing since the lunch area yesterday -another teenager in her class watching her closely. Wil was busy channeling irritation toward Carl and didn’t register the attention -then, her cheeks flushed and she tried to slyly look again. There were rows of disinterested, distracted youths looking bored or passing papers to each other but no one facing her way. Maybe she imagined it? Wil was obviously too tired to function normally. She rubbed at her eyes and yawned. A random student in another area caught her infectious action and stifled his own yawn. She scanned faces again as her own turn to hand papers down the row came. Everyone appeared normal -no, Carl was abnormal; he hadn’t even noticed his rudeness nor her reproach. Wil tried to rid herself of the itchy feeling of being watched. She picked up her chemistry assignment, most of her focus on trying to extract the answers from a brain that had failed to absorb the morning’s lecture.

At the end of class and between periods, science was forgotten and replaced by thoughts of a new secret note. As she wandered with the masses down the hall, Wil was absorbed in reading its contents. The message was a puzzle again. Wil was getting tired of these games -a straightforward attempt at meeting would be better. She guessed the sender found this method preferable. She scanned the paper and recognized its pattern to be a crossword of sorts. There were clues at the bottom. Wil was relieved to read that she knew some of the answers; why, everyone knew the popular song that clue took a line of lyrics from! It had played on the radio yesterday at carpool! Maybe the type of unique this person meant did not refer to seeking really intelligent persons -yes, he or she didn’t want geniuses. Feeling hopefully adequate, Wil looked forward to filling in the spaces as she headed to her next class.

 

Continued from Twenty-Seven.
Keep reading to Twenty-Nine.