Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Random Chapter from Subliminal Debris (my current writing project)


The Maiden (random chapter from Subliminal Debris)

 

Susan had first noticed them in the parking lot outside of the grocery store earlier that day.  They were just vague shapes at first -- movements barely discernible out of the corner of her eye -- dark shapes flitting away each time she turned toward them.
Maybe she needed new contact lenses.
Dismissing this visual quirk, Susan went about her shopping.
She followed her list, strolling up and down the store's aisles, plucking chosen products from the shelves.
However, when Susan reached for a jug of laundry detergent, shadowy hands seemed to reach for it as well from behind the shelf, tugging at it, trying to wrestle it from her. 
"What the fuck?" she thought, recoiling. 
Maybe she needed to get more sleep.
She reached for the detergent again.  This time, she retrieved it with no problem.
Strolling down a canned goods aisle, it happened again.  Something seemed to really want that can of stewed tomatoes.  She let it have it, backing away.
Maybe this grocery store had some sort of large rodent infestation.  Or raccoons, maybe.
Now on edge, Susan hurriedly gathered her remaining shopping list items, curtailing all nonessentials, and proceeded to the check out.
"Did you find everything OK today?" the cashier inquired with a cursory smile.
"Hmmm?  Oh, yes, I did, thank you." Susan responded distractedly, brushing her shoulder length dark blonde hair away from her eyes.
She breathed an irrational little sigh of relief when she left the grocery store.
Wheeling her cart toward the parking lot, Susan resolved to leave the disturbing events of the day behind her and began to plan out the rest of her day in her mind.  Once she got home and put away the groceries, she would do some laundry and then look through her closet for something to wear to her blind date later that evening.  Susan was recently divorced, and it seemed that every single one of her friends was insisting upon setting her up with a different "perfect guy." 
She was mostly just humoring them.  She did have to admit, though, that the idea of a little bit of attention, and even companionship, was appealing to Susan.  Unfortunately, the "perfect guys" had consistently been duds so far.
Her eerie experience already pushed from her mind, Susan glanced back at the grocery store and then abruptly stopped stock-still.
Shadowy creatures seeped from between the bricks of the store's facade, oozing in and out of the wall as if they were liquid.  There were easily dozens of them.  Possibly there were many more; they moved so quickly that it was hard to tell.  Susan's mouth fell open, hanging agape as she watched the creatures slipping between the bricks and out of large cracks that she had previously failed to notice in the store's wall.  The impish creatures seemed to be entirely composed of some substance that looked like dense, almost gooey, black shadow.
Turning to run toward her car, Susan suddenly became aware of the cracks in the cement under her feet.  Looking out at the parking lot, she saw that it was covered in cracks.  Only ten yards in front of her, an enormous crack was widening, forming a chasm as she watched.
Maybe she had lost her mind.
From the widening gap, shadow creatures were pouring out in droves, climbing to the surface and beginning to hop and skip toward her. 
"Shit." she said.
The rift blocked the way to her car.
Abandoning her shopping cart, Susan turned and began to run toward the street.              
Seeing a damsel in apparent distress, the driver of a dark blue Honda Accord skidded to a stop.  How could Nick help but notice the attractive, curvaceous woman running at full speed toward his car? This modern day maiden approached, her dirty blonde curls creating a soft, bouncing halo around her face as she ran.
"Help!" she screamed.  "Help!  Please help me!  They're coming for me!"
"Get in." Nick shouted, unlocking the car's doors.
She leapt into the passenger seat, slammed the door, and gestured for him to drive. 
He pulled away.
"Did you see them? Those shadow creatures?" she panted.
"No."
"Oh," she said, looking a bit embarrassed.  "You must think I'm insane." she said apologetically, still trying to catch her breath.
"No.  I believe you."
She narrowed her eyes.  "Why the hell would you believe me?  It sounds crazy.  I wouldn't believe me."
Nick's lips broke into a little half smile.  "You wouldn't believe the things I've seen." he said
Susan momentarily found herself hoping that she hadn't just gotten into a car with a crazy person.
"So yes, I really do believe you." Nick reiterated to Susan.
"In the past twenty-four hours, I've been informed that I am sin personified by a folk singer who bore a striking resemblance to David Koresch, chased by cops for no particular reason, and told that all of reality is unraveling and I'm humanity's best chance of salvation by a talkative bird. 
So, maybe there are creepy little shadow people coming out of cracks in walls.  I wouldn't doubt it.  If reality is unraveling, it only stands to reason that things might come in through the resulting tears in its fabric."
They sat in uncomfortable silence for a moment.
"I'm probably the last person you should associate with right now, by the way." Nick said.  "Those creatures you saw, whatever they were -- well, you were probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I, on the other hand, am an outright target for all of this madness."
"Great." Susan said, smiling resignedly.
"Sorry."
"Don't be." she assured Nick.  "You saved my ass."
"Glad to be of service, m'lady." Nick replied, tipping an imaginary hat.
Susan tried to give a mimic curtsey in response, although the confines of the car made it difficult.
Nick smiled warmly.  "Where am I taking you?" he asked.
"Home, I guess, if it's not too much trouble."
"No trouble at all." he assured her.  "I have nowhere to be at the moment.  On a Monday, I'd typically be at work -- I'm a teacher.  But I called in sick.  I seem to be at the epicenter of an impending apocalypse or I have utterly lost my mind.  Either way, I figured that I probably shouldn't involve children."
"Yeah, that's probably a good call." Susan concurred.

*****

Susan let Nick come in with her and fixed him a light make-shift meal, silently cursing the fact that she had been forced to abandon the groceries she had purchased. 
            Over mediocre pasta, Susan asked Nick to elaborate on what was supposedly happening.
            Nick took a deep breath.
            "OK, here it goes: in addition to our individual everyday consciousnesses, there exists a collective, universal unconsciousness which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious is inherited, and it contains ancient, archaic images -- the primitive source of universal symbols found in myths, legends, poetry, and dreams -- what are known as "archetypes."
            "Sure -- or "primordial images" or "archaic remnants."   Susan added, nodding.
            "Huh?"
            "I'm a licensed social worker.  I had to take a lot of psychology courses.  I'm familiar with this stuff, at least theoretically.  But what does it have to do with squat legged malevolent shadows?"
            "Beautiful and smart." he thought.
            "That's good news." Nick said.  "Maybe you can help me wade through and make sense of this bizarre mission I seem to have involuntarily acquired.  The central problem seems to be that the collective unconsciousness is dying."
             
            "Oh, that's bad." Susan gasped, grasping the significance immediately. "If Jung was right, archetypes are responsible for the human quality of human beings. The preconscious psychic disposition enables man to react in a human manner."
            "That's what the bird said."

*****

After a few hours of mutual hypothesizing, interspersed with a healthy quantity of small talk, Susan asked Nick if he would be willing to go back to the shopping center parking lot so that she could try to retrieve her car.  He acquiesced.
The proceeded with caution, but although tell-tale cracks remained, there was no sign of the shadow creatures.  There was no sign of her groceries, of course; if cackling shadow creatures hadn't delightedly torn into them, no doubt some fellow shopper had absconded with them.  More importantly, though, her car was still where she had parked it.  Nick pulled up beside it and Susan hastily jumped in and started it up, eager to flee while she could.
Nick hated to part ways with Susan.  Having a sudden, unexpected ally in this ever-more harsh and crazy world had given him a great sense of relief.  Not to mention, he thought she was incredibly cute.
Hurriedly, he scrawled his cell phone number on a scrap of paper that was sitting in his cup holder.
"In case you run into anything else otherworldly, or need help with anything, keep my number." Nick said, handing it to her.  He was pretty sure that sounded valiant and selfless, not lecherous and desperate.  He hoped that it did, anyway -- but not as much as he hoped that she would call.
"Thanks!  For everything!  I'll call you later just to make sure everything is OK.  No more talking ravens or whatnot."
Nick smiled, deeply pleased with this promise of future contact.
"I just have to get to my date first." Susan said, and then she drove away.
Suddenly Nick didn't feel so pleased.