Two minutes late. I’m filled with shame. And just in case anyone was wondering what happened on Tuesday, I was out of town last weekend and set Tuesday’s post to update at the right time but on the wrong day. Part four went live Sunday night, if you missed it. Here’s part five! Enjoy!
I ran, charging through the wall of the building, stepping through the indistinct and agitated grey figures, slamming into cars, tripping over parking stops. I panted, gasped, swore, but I didn’t scream. Everyone at my job already thought I was strange. If any of them had seen me running around and screaming in the parking lot, it only would have made an unpleasant environment even worse.
The sound of my feet echoed off the ground, my panicked breathing drowned out anything else. I tried to listen for the plodding sound of the grey figure’s footsteps behind, but I couldn’t hear anything, didn’t even know what I would have been listening for. The office, I thought. I need to get back in the office, close the door, I’ll be safe, I’ll be safe. Can’t follow me through a closed door. Not real in this world. It’ll hit the wall and bounce off.
I burst through the doors of my office’s lobby, collapsing in a heap, skidding along the tile. I flopped over onto my back, trying to see what was behind me, trying to push myself to my feat, trying to crawl away all at once.
The grey figure was standing there, its claws at its side, hands twitching with nervous energy. It turned its head from side to side, its body and its features sharp even through the glass doors of the lobby. I was right, it seemed. The grey figure didn’t know where I had gone, or didn’t know how to interact with solid objects from my world, or something. It didn’t matter. The grey figure was helpless, and I was safe.
And then the grey figure shrieked. It placed its hands on the glass, and it pushed through the door like it was nothing more than cheap plastic wrap. Reality warped around the grey figure, and it gasped and snarled as if in pain, and the glass and steel of the door flowed around it like water.
I couldn’t control myself any longer. I screamed. I screamed for the grey figure to stay back. I screamed for someone, anyone to help me. I screamed for people to stay away before the grey figure could get them. The creature was inside the lobby, was drawing closer and closer. I was dead. My vision began to blur, the grey figure becoming little more than an apparition. I closed my eyes and awaited the inevitable.
It never came.
“Hey, uh,” someone said behind me. “Are you okay, man?”
I opened my eyes. The grey figure was gone, the world around me sharp and clear. There was no other world beyond the glass of the lobby doors, no skies of pink and purple, no beasts swimming through the air, no squat round homes. The Yellows had worn off. I was safe.
Tears began to well up in my eyes. I tried to stop them, tried to control myself, but it was no use. A thousand thoughts ran through my head. The grey figure wasn’t real. I nearly died. Yellows were more dangerous than that damn tainted coke. Rob was insane. I’ve never felt so alone. These people don’t know what nearly happened. Oh God, I miss her.
“Hey. Hey, man. Are you okay?”
The tears came freely. My chest heaved with each choked breath that escaped my lips.
“Who’s the nut?”
“No, this guy works on the fourth floor. I’ve seen him before.”
“Is he always running around screaming like that?”
“He’s got to be on drugs.”
“Hey, look at me. Are you okay?”
There was nothing I could do but shake my head.
No, I was not okay.
* * *
It wasn’t hard convincing my boss to let me go for the day. She took one look at my scratched and bruised face, my agitated demeanor, and she sent me home. I walked to the rear entrance to the building to avoid anyone who might have been in the lobby earlier. As I pushed open the doors and stepped outside, I was overcome by just how unreal everything seemed to be to me. The sky may have been the blue I was used to, the sun the same, but everything felt artificial. I expected to hear the sounds of chittering, of claws scraping on stone at any moment, but it never came. I walked to my car in silence, and I sat there until my hands stopped shaking, and then I drove myself to my apartment.
Danny Boy was waiting for me when I got there, sitting on one of the chairs on my apartment porch. There was an opened twelve-pack and an empty beer can on the ground next to him, a book in one hand and a beer in the other. He waved as he saw me walking towards him, and I half-heartedly waved back. I didn’t know what to do or say about his presence there. On the one hand, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I didn’t want to do anything other than crawl into bed and go to sleep, even if it was only the late afternoon. But still, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I’d just toss and turn, thinking about everything that had happened, or I’d drink myself into a stupor, or something equally senseless. Maybe having Danny Boy around to distract me would be a good thing.
“Hey, man,” I said to him once I was close enough.
“Hey,” Danny Boy said. He looked me up and down, frowned. “What happened to you? You look like you lost a fight with a fucking sidewalk.”
I took a deep breath, exhaled. “Something like that. What are you doing here?”
He shrugged. “Bored. Wanted to hang out. I wasn’t doing anything, so I figured I’d swing by and say, ‘Hey.’”
“I’m supposed to be at work, man. How long have you been here? Were you just going to wait for me to show up?”
He tapped a finger against the book and grinned up at me. “Yep!”
“What if I was doing something else after work? Running errands or going out.”
Danny Boy shrugged again. “You don’t usually run errands after work. And you never go out anymore, man. Not since you and Lori–”
“Yeah, I’m lame, I get it.” I dropped down into the chair next to him, reached into the case of beer and pulled out a can. I cracked it open, took a long pull, and stared off into nothing.
“We going inside.”
“It’s nice out. I want to just relax for a bit.”
“Alright,” Danny Boy said. His attention didn’t return to his book, and I knew he was going to ask me another question. “So, like, what are you doing home so early anyway?”
“I lost a fight with a fucking sidewalk,” I muttered.
Danny Boy frowned. “Dude, come on. What the Hell happened?”
I thought back to the grey figure that had evidently noticed me. That pink slit of a mouth, those fangs, the claws, the voice pounding inside my head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Anything else, man.”
I turned to look at Danny Boy and I could see the concern on his face, but I wasn’t about to tell him I’d seen a creature from another world that wanted to kill me.
Or worse, that I’d hallucinated one.
“Please, just anything else. I don’t even want to think about the fucking day I just had.
Danny Boy didn’t say anything. He just shook his head, turned away, took a sip of his beer. “Alright, man. Whatever you say.”
We just at there in silence for a while, neither of us looking at each other. Danny Boy was the first to speak. “So.”
“I picked up some Yellows the other day.”
I blinked, the meaning of his words taking a moment to truly register with me. “What? Where? Did you run into Rob?”
“No. Got them off Googe.”
“He didn’t want them.”
He didn’t want them? Had he seen what I’d seen? Had some inhuman monster shattered the sense of wonder he had felt at exploring a strange new world? “Huh. How come?”
Danny Boy shrugged. “Didn’t say.”
I frowned. “That didn’t strike you as a little odd? You didn’t ask why?”
Danny Boy shrugged again. I wanted to reach over and punch him. The lack of imagination he could exhibit was astounding sometimes. “Well, how’s Googe doing anyway? How’d he look?”
Danny Boy turned to look at me, one of his eyebrows arched. “Fine. Googe-like.”
“Same as ever?”
“Little tired, maybe. Little pale. Maybe he’s getting sick. I don’t know, man. What’s with the third-degree?”
I shrugged, shook my head. “I don’t know, man. Been a weird day. I’m on edge. Suspicious of everything. I don’t know.”
“You’ve got to mellow out, man. Here.” Danny Boy reached into the case and handed me a beer. I took it from him, turned it over in my hands, finally cracked it open and took a sip.
“So,” I said. “Have you tried them yet?”
“The Yellows? No. I just got them before I came over here. I was thinking I’d try one tonight.”
I stared at my friend, a thousand different ideas flashing through my mind. “Why don’t you try them out here?”
Danny Boy turned to look at me, the expression on his face oscillating between confusion and suspicion. “You sure?”
“Yeah, why not? I mean, we don’t really know what’s going to happen once you pop one of those things in your mouth, right? Might as well have somebody on hand to make sure you don’t… I don’t know. Think you’re in another world, climb up onto the roof, and walk right the fuck off, no?”
Danny Boy turned this information over in his head, considering it. “Yeah, that makes sense. And it’s like you said, who knows what Rob put into this stuff? Wouldn’t do me any good to have a seizure or something alone in my apartment where I can’t call 911.”
I frowned. Was I really about to sacrifice my friend on the altar of my own curiosity? Was confirming the nature of what I’d seen so important to me that I’d risk my friend’s well-being?
The first couple times I tried the Yellows hadn’t been bad.
You don’t know what he would see, even if he just stayed in the apartment.
I’d just seen the circle of five. Nothing unusual about that.
You don’t know how he’d react to them.
“Hey, uh, Danny Boy. You don’t have to take those things, man. Rob… You can’t trust that guy, you know? He just doesn’t see the world the way other people do.
Danny Boy shrugged. “Fuck it, man. One won’t kill me.” He reached into his pocket and produced a battered and dented mint tin. He opened it up, and I felt my hands subconsciously grip the arms of my chair.
It was full. Googe must have tried at least one, maybe more, but the tin was full. The Yellows were all arranged with the white dots up, an army of eyeballs all regarding Danny Boy and me, diseased and malevolent. I said nothing. I just watched helplessly as he reached into the tin, pulled one out, held it before his eyes for a moment, and then popped it into his mouth.