The bell over the door tinged his arrival at the corner grocer. The shop was empty, but he knew that it was. All the shops were empty. At least when he looked directly at them. Sometimes, out of the corner of his eye, he’d catch a glimpse of a person walking or stooping over to pick up a coin or even waving, but when he turned to face them, they’d transformed into a tree or street sign or fire hydrant. Everyone did that when he was looking. Even the grocer.
Percy picked out the food he would need for the coming week, estimated the cost, left a fair amount on the counter next to the register, and as he exited, the bell over the door tinged again. There were more trees and signs and such on the street today, much more than normal, if this condition could be described as normal. Percy did not think it normal, but he did wonder: if everyone turned into inanimate objects when he looked at them, what did the people see when they looked at him?
When the dream eater sat down for his meal, he imagined a crunching sound as if the dream were crispy, deep-fat fried perhaps. In truth, no one heard a thing, and were glad of it. If the treatment were to work, the tiny girl must not be awakened while he plied his trade. To remove the recurring dream from her, she must not only sleep, but she must experience the terror one more time.
I first noticed something was amiss when I could not type in a particular sequence of number in a program I was writing on my computer. At first I thought I might be getting tired and was just having difficulty fingering the keyboard. The sequence, which I cannot duplicate here, involves the speed of light and certain physical constants. Any more specificity proves impossible for me to write. I even took to producing portions of the sequence in separate documents where the numbers arrayed themselves in correct order, but when copied and pasted into the program were rendered useless. It was as if the computer itself worked to prevent me from completing the algorithm. I turned to paper and pencil, and after diligently hand-writing out the proper sequence, I noticed that the result was the same: utter gibberish.
Well aware that there could be no connection between the computer and the paper other than myself, I concluded that either I was sabotaging my own work, or something else was imposing itself on me. I put the work aside for a few days and spent the time in reflection. Could it be possible that I was working at odds against myself? I had only the one instance to assure me of that; at no other time was my work anything less than correct in every way. The data at hand suggested that I was not the problem. So I concluded that the conspiracy to prevent me from completing my work had to originate outside of myself. That’s when the world around me turned, quite literally, and became my adversary.
This message, you may call it a warning if you like, a missive from Babel perhaps, serves as my only outlet to you and anyone else seeking the unified field theory. The universe itself will prevent you from ever reaching that logical conclusion. For what purpose, I do not know. But if you wish to avoid becoming an enemy to the very reality in which you exist, I beg of you to reconsider and devote yourself to something more obtainable. Anything would be better than this.
As he walked along the crowded pedestrian zone, a place that smelled and felt like the omnipresence of people, the city clanked and whirred as it always did, but with a sinister undertone, a separate sound, subtle, steady, a beating heart or thump-thump of footfalls. He gulped and set aside the paranoia. No one was following him. Why would they? Everyone had access to whereabouts and goings-on of everyone else if you had access to their frequency. The whole world watched and tracked everyone. When we are all watchers, we are all watched and hold each other accountable.
then how did it happen that he could come into possession of a secret? It shouldn’t even be possible: to know something unknown by everyone else, a terrible burden to shoulder in isolation. The thought gave him shivers and the undertone came closer, whispering to him, brushing against his shoulders, pressing into his back.
“No!” The word escaped his lips of its own volition. People turned to look at him and his face became hot. He tugged at the brim of his hat, turned up the collar of his overcoat, shoved his fists into his pockets, and stormed off. Embarrassed? The emotion confused him. Is that what a secret does? Breeds shame? The hotness spread throughout his body and he feared that he might burst into flames, a torch proclaiming his secrecy to the world, exposing him and leaving his consumed corpse for onlookers to point at, to speculate on his fate.
I’ve neglected the backyard again. Some new species of foliage moved in and set up a defensive perimeter around the gate in the privet hedge along the back row. Invasive is putting it lightly. This thing grows a couple meters a day, spines and thorns along the entire length, and it has the nasty habit of killing every other plant it touches. Nasty burn from touching it too. Not at all a nice plant. I swear it’s watching me anytime I’m out back. Now if I can just get around it to the shed where I foolishly left the trimmers.