This is my first submission to the MWC 2021, for the 4th theme: “Space”.
This story is also available on Medium.
A gray and sad Monday morning. I breath impenetrable air, each whiff of wind sticks on the lungs a bit more. I cough. Like every morning, I look at the golden dome, in the distance. Sun will rise, it will burn the eyes of the suburbs, even in the small tin-shed shelters of my shanty town. And the eyes will smile for a while because, after all, getting a ray of light is better than getting nothing at all. For a second, I feel alive, and free, and powerful. Then, a cloud. The waves of coal fall back, slowly, and the light is gone. I cough. The weird feeling of chewing an oil spill. In front of me, the Factory devours the workers. A huge beast who eats men, eats hope, and at night, completely full, spits out lonely souls that will crawl home to sleep and dream of the Sun dome. I flow in with the others.
As I arrive at my cubicle, I stop. A package? For me? I tilt my head, worried. I do not like new things. I like calm and monotonous mornings. I reach out for the box and open it. There is a sheet of paper in it, covered in little faces. I look closer. I cough. Not a usual cough, a heavier one. Dust floats out of the package and disappears in the air as if it never existed. A man laughs next to me. It was a joke. They do not like me. But I do not like them, so we are even.
I am spit out around seven. The beast is done digesting. I feel strange. I spent the day dropping my pen, like I do when I am really tired. Usually, it does not happen on Mondays. As I walk in the street, it seems houses are getting bigger and bigger. I walk with caution, until I realize I am half in the ground. My legs have disappear in the asphalt. This is new. I do not like that. I close my eyes and I breath deeply.
I am at home, with a foot in the wall.
I spend the rest of the night walking around the house, sometimes plunged in the dark, later discovering I just went through a door. A strange emotion takes hold of me. I have become someone else, this is a dream, nobody can do that, I will just enjoy the good night sleep until I wake up, and everything will be alright, it has to be, because how else could I be going through walls, and walking on the air, and jumping downside up?
But the longer it lasts, the more frighten I start to feel. If this is not a dream, what is going on? I have never heard of anyone disappearing into the ground. I look at my hands. They do not look any different from yesterday. Yet, when I push on a wall, they just vanish into the concrete. Could it be I finally got my wish? Could it be I am finally getting a way out of here?
At first, I did not believe it. Those colors I could see, floating around people in the streets, twisting around their heads like mosaic serpents, those colors you cannot comprehend if you have not seen them for yourself, those colors are just a manifestation of the phenomenon. I have tried to explain it to the ones I met over the years but it was just impossible to put in words. You see, describing a new dimension would be like explaining the cube to a square. So you can wrap it how you want, and find pretty analogies, but in the end, you’ll be stuck by language.
For this is what I had discovered: a new dimension. A whole new space, beyond our normal world. A universe in which below, or beside, or before, or between do not mean anything. Mathematicians talk about it, they invent rules to discuss the Fourth Dimension; but it is nothing like they say. There, you are so much more…
The first time I jumped across dimensions willingly, I remember very well.
It was a Tuesday, a week and a day after the Day of the Powder. I had been calling in sick for a while, because it’s quite harder to get to the Factory when you’re glued to your couch — literally. And so that Tuesday morning, I got tired of not moving. I wanted to walk again, even if it meant going back to the Factory. So much strength… I had to gather all of my energy just to separate my body from the furniture. I knew I would never be able to get all the way to the Sun dome and the devouring beast. I only wish I could be elsewhere, somewhere pleasant, and happy.
Yes, it was that easy. A tiny thought, in a corner of the brain… ‘I could be anywhere’. And, suddenly, I was. The sun was melting all of me, a scorching and blinding circle in the sky. It was burning me up, I could feel my skin crackling and sizzling, but I would not have moved had there been a tornado. The whole golden dome just for me. A light wind, warm and gentle. Was it a dream? Would I wake up in the gray town now? Had I been eaten up by the cement that had been trying so hard to pull me in for the past week? I recalled the face of the sad workers that did not like me, and that I did not like either; I smiled because they were not here and would never be. As these images crossed my mind, I felt as if a hand was dragging me back to reality. The cry never got out of my throat; gasping for air, I fought as hard as I could; why? why me? why so soon? And it was home. My dark and solitary house, that I hated so much at this moment. It was all fake: the sun, the light, the joy… Sadness took over — a real proper sadness, that wasn’t fake at all.
I slept on the floor, at time even inside it, rolled into a small red ball on the concrete. The next day, I heard those workers I was with in the cubicles had disappeared, without a word to their friends or families. A guilty feeling. My last thought about them had not been not nice. Then, another thought; no, a feeling… could it be my fault?
For an entire month, I refused to go back to the Fourth Dimension. There was this never ending drumming in my ears, beating in sync with my heart, a distant call that was urging me to stay away. ‘Don’t go back. Don’t ever go back. Don’t go back.’ Every day, I would wake up and go to the Factory; I would stomp hard on the ground until I was sure it was really here, and I would run as fast as I could towards the beast, just to cover the noise in my head. I would enter the big belly gasping for air and stay still for long minutes, breathing in the familiar coal and the reassuring darkness. Anything but this light and these sounds!
But then, another package arrived. And when I looked at it, the drumming stopped. Just for a split-second, I could hear again. And I thought: ‘I could leave all my problems in the shanty town. That awful noise doesn’t happen over there — it’s just here’. So I sat in front of the sun, quiet. I let hours slip by and I just enjoyed being there, being alive and well, being happy. I kept on thinking that having enough money to live like this everyday would be the best thing — there would be no more gray and sadness, no more stomping and drumming.
The following morning, I heard on the news that a bank had been robbed, and that two men had been killed; standing at the exact location of my old concrete shelter, there was a huge villa, glowing with golden domes. I did not enter it for a week; I already knew what my head did not want to hear.
Should I detail all the crimes I committed from that time on? Always trying to think there could not be any connection, always convinced there had to be one, I hesitated for a second before diving back to this comfortable new home where there were sunny skies, happy thoughts and where everything could be real. When I hesitated just for long enough, there would be another package, and I would find my hands opening it, and I would be on the calm beach once again. Over the years, I bought a car, I travelled through the world, I spent my money and my wishes without any care — the only thing that ever eluded me was love, perhaps because I’d let go of honesty a long time ago — or was it because the ever growing drumming had filled my head so much that it had replaced my self completely?
It was a sunny Monday morning that it went wrong. I knew as soon as I saw the box in my mail, yet I tried and trick myself. It had to be an ordinary package, like the previous ones. I had been to the sun the day before, why would they be angry?
I did not want to open it, so I put it in the garbage, at the other end of the yard. Surely, it was a misdelivery. I forgot it. The next morning, it was back at my front door. I took a deep breath, grabbed it and threw it in the dumpster down the street. As time passed by, I was more and more nervous. I had the strange feeling they were watching me. Impossible, of course; or was it? For a week, I threw it away everyday, only to see it come back every morning. I decided I would go away to think of something else; but in the plane, in the boat, on a deserted island, on the highest mountain, the thought of the box waiting for me at home grew like a cancer.
I finally gave up. When I opened the package, the sweet aroma reminded me of all these moments spent in my Fourth Dimension. Nostalgia was hard to bear.
The waking up is hard. So many years I was away, I am pulled back down on the ground in a second. All these lines that did not appear on my face, they start to deform it in an instant. What they call the weight of the years crushes me suddenly. It is the Factory that munches me, it is the guilt that eats me away, too many years of being someone — something? — else.
I shrink down to a line, the world collapses on me as I fall. I do not know where I am. When I open my eyes, I am surrounded by little faces. I look up. My arms are glued to me. I cannot move. They are looking at me.
Welcome to the Second Dimension, little man.
We are stuck to a sheet of paper in a box. I shall be a sad little face, then, just like them. And people will see colors around me I cannot see, like I did before when I looked at them. The box closes above our heads and the dust settles around us.
My sun is now covered in coal, forever.