Written in 2008 and published in the March 2009 issue of Static Movement.
Daine’s Important Mission
by Andi Hagen
First they had tried, probing between the two dimensions, soaking his brain with tides of destructive impulses, to make Willy commit suicide by using suggestion. His spirit was an ocean, absorbing these forces and diluting them. The plan failed. Next they had tried planting seeds in certain storm clouds. The seeds, growing into intelligent brains, gave the clouds life and violent malice. Manipulated with horrific dreams of sadism, they could be controlled to attack and shower Willy with slashes of lightning. But through unconscious means, Willy’s spirit destroyed them first, summoning hurricanes and rending the clouds apart. Other ideas followed: malevolent bacteria—unreliable. Earthquakes, tsunamis, mind controlling an alien armada or a god—inefficient. But something had to be done, Willy had to die.
While exploring the old abandoned house at the end of his street, Daine finds the gun. Reaching down, checking if it really is a gun, he brushes the tips of his fingers against the wood grained plastic grip. Suddenly, in a slideshow of images spilling through his mind, rapidly unraveling to form a movie of the future, he knows everything that is going to happen. He is going to track down Willy and blow his head off. Daine’s fingers bunch around the handle and he lifts it out of the chunks of plaster and curls of shredded carpet on the floor. Oddly warm and soft, gripping it is like shaking a hand. Its heat trickles through his fingers and palm, tingling underneath his nails and across his knuckles. His hand feels…strange, like he was wearing a mitten of jelly. Flesh and plastic grip mold together, his fingers melt and ooze into each other. He cannot let go—or it never occurs to him to try. Into his pocket he gingerly slides the gun, his fist still stuck to it.
On his way out of the house, the gun speaks to him. In a transparent layer across Daine’s vision is a dusky landscape, its features—a desert of cracked mud, a horizon of warty hills—swirling and fracturing as if the image is projected on a churning cloud of grit. Amidst the shifting background, motionless, is a man-shaped void. Its stilt-like multi-jointed legs fold and unfold, threatening to collapse underneath it as it strides across the shadowy waste. It jabs Daine’s mind with a staccato series of pulses, making his brain shudder electrically. The backs of his eyes quiver. The message flickers before him, the words represented by hues of textured light. Tones too—shifting so subtly that the whole melody could fit between the smallest increments of pitch discernible by a human ear.
A message is uncovered and Daine understands everything completely as if he had always known it. Since he hates Willy, he found the gun. When Willy is killed, Willy’s spirit will slip from his body and be captured and resurrected by another race—an extra-dimensional race—represented by the apparition wavering in front of him. This race is from a world existing within the negative space, the shadows, of the matter in Daine’s world. Discovering it is like finding a new story between the lines of an old book. To the world’s inhabitants, Willy is their child—a product of a collective conception involving every member of the race. But, incidentally, he was born into Daine’s world. Daine can kill Willy and help out a whole race out at the same time.
The apparition fades, becoming a smeared spot in Daine’s peripheral vision. He is in the back yard of the old house, up to his knees in weedy grass. Snug in his pocket, the gun spreads its aura of warmth over his thigh and up his wrist. He wonders where Willy is. The answer comes drifting from the edge of his conscious and a searing pressure tickles him from within. He is going to turn inside out and implode unless he shoots the gun. Pulling that trigger will empty him to a skeleton with one burst that will suck out all of his energy, burning it for fuel. Through the grass he swishes, tearing through a hedge, under a fence, and into the muddy field beyond.
The basketball twangs the rim as it bounces off. Willy heads across the court and snatches the ball up. Squinting, the evening light fading fast, he makes out squares of window light through the dark spatters of foliage. Across from the park is his house. He can just barely smell pork chops cooking. It is dinnertime. He is walking from the court, puffing his cheeks out in a tired breath when Daine arrives. Stumbling past a bench, staggering and stomping through the bushes, he gushes “Willy!” as if startled by him. Willy spins, bewildered and gape-eyed. Why is Daine here? What is in his hand? Is he waving a ruler at—
There is a golden spark and a crack and Willy feels like someone is pulling his hair, yanking him backward. His hand jerks to the side of his head, finding a squishy, sticky patch. His mouth tastes sour, like he swallowed smoke, and black tendrils melt across his vision. Asphalt scrapes his back, tears his ear, and slaps his soft skull. Willy does not feel the sloshing thud. He is already twisting away from his body. He is gone.
The pop of the gun, the tiniest sound, still pulses dully in Daine’s ears. A dog barks, a car door thumps, someone is yelling. Willy is dead. Now what? Satisfied, he does not feel like doing anything else. He wants to sit down, look at the gun and think. He is exhausted. Legs and arms feel loose and awkward, as if they have slipped out of joint—where did all this sweat come from? He is slimed with a chilly layer of it. The yelling is closer, accompanied by other bursts of noise: rustling in the bushes, a whining gate, another dog, his own rattling breath. People are coming. They heard. Where can he go?
Daine’s body feels wet and heavy like a full sponge. He spots Willy’s ball while dragging himself across the asphalt. He considers taking it with him, unsure why, when he notices a giant black hole at the edge of the court. Perfectly circular, veiled with opaque shadow, it could be painted on the ground. He trips over to it and stands at its lip. Rocking on his feet he feels the edge dig into the soles of his shoes. He cannot make sense of the thing. Right behind him he hears the shouting again. He drops in.
Plunging over the rim is like passing through a curtain. The mouth of the tunnel disappears behind him. Daine is sinking through darkness with only a blurry gleam on the glassy walls for illumination. He is cold, hot, cold, hot. Maybe he is falling through the seasons. Waves of air buffet him, peeling off layers of atoms as he falls feeling the tunnel expand around him as he grows smaller and smaller.