Strangers won’t look at you. Your mother won’t look at you. Not even your dog will look at you. You gaze into the darkness of an alleyway, remembering something Nietzsche said about the abyss, but this abyss has better things to do than to look at you.
There’s a group of people screaming in the middle of campus. It’s the Trans Day of Screaming, they inform you. You demand to know why there’s no Cis Day of Screaming, but this only makes them scream louder.
Are you a girl or a boy? the stranger asks. I’m a goy, you deadpan. Your Jewish sister-in-law howls with laughter.
“I think I’m depressed.”
The man glances at her from over his newspaper. “Have you tried doing something that makes you happy?”
“I don’t know,” the woman replies. “Have you tried reading the paper without any eyes?”
Your friend says cats can change their mass, that they become heavier when you try to pick them up. You tell him that’s ridiculous, that gravity doesn’t play games with the living—but when you wake in the morning, too tired to lift your own body, you start to wonder if he’s right.
There’s a man at the top of the hill on the road leading down to your house.
Except it’s not quite a man in the same way the shadow of a thing is not the thing itself, but it’s not quite a shadow, either; it’s a flat black shape with no depth, standing as if it were solid, and you think suddenly of a video your high school physics teacher showed you about a fictional place called Flatlandia. Everything is two-dimensional in Flatlandia, and when a three-dimensional being enters that two-dimensional world, it casts a bizarre shadow that Flatlandians can’t comprehend. Humans terrify Flatlandians because we posses supernatural powers, powers resulting from our innate understanding of depth, a concept utterly foreign to them. As you look at this man-shaped thing you feel like a two-dimensional being trying to make sense of a three-dimensional object.
You are afraid.
It looks perfectly still in your bedroom window, and yet you can’t shake the feeling it’s moving somehow, slower than your eyes can perceive. There’s a dull hum in the air like your speakers are on with no music. The hum grows louder; you can feel it in your teeth and in the space behind your eyes, more vibration than sound. Infrared sound, you think. A noise just below the range of human perception. Tigers roaring and tidal waves produce infrared sound, so we’ve evolved to sense it, to fear it, even if we can’t quite hear it, and it’s then that you realize you’re too afraid to look away. If you look away you’re certain the thing will move, and after half an hour of staring you’re too afraid to even blink.
When you point a camera at the sun, a flat black circle will form where the image oversaturates. In essence, there’s too much light, too many photons, and the camera overloads. It can’t take it. And that’s what you start to repeat in your head. You can’t take it. Your eyes are burning and the flat black shape has moved imperceptibly closer, you swear it has, and you start to wonder if you’re dreaming. The world has taken on the surreal quality of a nightmare, but you’re too afraid to pinch yourself. If you pinch yourself, you might blink. And if there’s one thing you don’t want to do, it’s—
Oh, now you’ve done it. Oh, but you couldn’t help it. You feel the humming in your body, a bone-deep vibration, and with dawning horror you realize the thing is screaming, and it moved halfway down from the top of the hill in the half-second you spent blinking, dear god it’s almost to the cul-de-sac, screaming so low and so regular that the vibration is one unyielding drone—no pulse, no pauses, just that low mechanical scream.
When the glass on the nightstand shatters behind you, you do the unthinkable. Abject creature clawing deep into your bed, you forfeit your life for the sake of your sanity.
You look away.
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