“Test Subject” (short story)

Yesterday I was feeling completely listless and dull-witted. Couldn’t work up the energy to do much of anything.

Then I remembered a couple of photos Sherron sent me. Sometimes, in the morning light, our kitchen walls get these really cool shadows and patterns projected onto them; my visually-oriented wife noticed this pair and took some shots with her cell phone.

I called up the photos, placed them side-by-side on my computer screen, stared at them for about thirty seconds.

Then I grabbed my blue Hilroy exercise book…and started scribbling. No thought, no pre-planning, just went for it.

It’s an old trick…worked for the surrealists and, by God, it worked for me.

Here’s the story, accompanied by the images that inspired it:

* * * *

Shadow1

The Test Subject

ALL RIGHT, TERRY, YOU KNOW THE ROUTINE. WE NEED YOU TO TAKE US THROUGH WHAT YOU’RE EXPERIENCING AND DESCRIBE—

It’s hard…I don’t…there aren’t any…

COME ON, YOU HAVE TO DO BETTER THAN THAT. WE NEED SENSATIONS, COLORS. PAINT US A PICTURE.

(Laughter) You don’t…it isn’t like that. God, I wish I could explain, show you…but there’s no (indecipherable), no, ahhhh, common reference points.

ARE YOU DISORIENTED, DO YOU—

What? Did you say ‘distortion’? Everything’s distorted. It’s like…like…

GO ON.

…this kaleidoscope…constant movement…twisting and spiraling…

ARE YOU FEELING NAUSEOUS?

I feel—oh, Jesus! Jesus! Did you see that? It just…wow…this bolt of pure blue light…zipped right past me and it—I swear it smelled like cinnamon.

THAT’S WHAT WE WANT TO HEAR! YOU NEED TO DESCRIBE THE EFFECTS, HOW THIS THING MANIFESTS ITSELF. TERRY? TERRY, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?

I know. I see what you’re…but it’s really got on top of me and…and…it’s just too…and then everything just changes, like that! Did you see it? Like the whole universe suddenly switched polarities and—and flowed in the opposite direction. Whoa, trippy. And there’s something…I see something…

YES?

I dunno…a shape…presence…now it’s up there, by the ceiling, sort of floating…

POINT. SHOW US WHERE YOU MEAN.

There. It keeps shifting, flowing, like I said. I can’t quite…it blends in with these other blob things…they kind of swirl and mesh…yeah…swirl and mesh…mesh into a mess…

WHAT ELSE? DO YOU GET A SENSE OF ANY—

–someone turn up the heat? It’s freezing in here.

THE TEMPERATURE IS KEPT AT A CONSTANT 24 DEGREES CELSIUS.

I’m telling you—fuck! That time it zoomed right past me. This bright-colored blur…I could’ve reached out and—

TELL US WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE. GODDAMNIT, TERRY—

It’s made of light and…uhhh…wow! Oh, wow…there it is. Hovering, just in front of me. Holy shit, I think it’s looking at me—

EASY, TERRY, COME ON NOW. YOU’RE TRIPPING, REMEMBER? IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD. SO GET A GRIP—

It’s staring at me, man. Studying me. I’ve never…I’ve seen little green men before but…this thing knows

KNOWS? WHAT DO YOU—

–knows I’m here and it’s curious too. Wondering who I am, what I’m doing. This is its backyard and I’m trespassing on…

–ONLY AN HALLUCINATION—

Bullshit! Bullshit! There’s something in here and it isn’t just the fucking drug. It sees me. It sees me and I want out. Get me out of this! Somebody! I need to–

TERRY! TERRY!

Gimme the fucking antidote! I want to (indecipherable). This is fucked, this is totally—

AT THE REQUEST OF THE TEST SUBJECT WE ARE DISCONTINUING THE SESSION AND—

What the fuck are you? What do you want from me? Keep away from me—

IT’S OKAY, TERRY, WE’RE COMING IN. BOB AND ANGELA ARE RIGHT OUTSIDE AND THEY’LL—

Oh, Jesus, oh, Jesus– (Heavy breathing, panting)

WHAT’S—

It’s coming, it’s—ahhhhh…Christ, it’s got me…help me…it’s–(indecipherable).

(Shouts of alarm, a woman screams)

BOB? ANGIE? SECURITY! SECURITY! WE HAVE AN EMERGENCY SITUATION UP HERE AND WE NEED A COMPLETE LOCKDOWN, REPEAT—WHAT? WHO’S THAT? WHO’S THERE? IS SOMEONE OUT THERE? HELLO? HELLO?

(End transcript)

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