• J. M. Aznárez


Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Today is Sunday, so the bookshop is closed. I sent a message over the phone to my colleague last night, after I recovered from the shock of bearing witness to his last anguished, harrowing moments, but I have yet to receive an answer. There are numerous reasons why he might not have replied, of course, many of which don’t necessarily involve him dying a horribly painful and untimely death, but I have so far been unsuccessful in allaying the dark and terrible suspicion that has made of my heart its gruesome lair.

I went to bed early, but my sleep was fitful and my dreams rife with silent shadows full of baleful, glowing eyes. After waking up for the fifth time in the span of an hour, I gave up on the idea of getting any rest at all and took to thinking and writing instead. I was haunted by a dreadful sense of urgency, the logic behind which I failed to comprehend. If my colleague was indeed dead, then he was by all means beyond any further harm, and no longer in need of any sort of assistance. If, on the other hand, he was still alive, then there was nothing to fret about, and I would see him on Monday at the bookshop, and last night’s broadcast was just another sinister - but ultimately harmless - event, with no real-life repercussions. This satisfied me, and I sat down to read for a while, and fell asleep in my couch soon afterwards.

I was awakened some hours later by the sound of static coming from the radio. It pulled me away from an unsettling dream: I had been lying in a shallow mass of water, looking up at a murky purple sky populated by stars I didn’t recognise. My back was resting on what felt like sand - which shifted, nigh imperceptibly, at irregular intervals - and my ears were submerged, but my mouth and nose were above the waterline. All I could hear was the muffled drone of my own bloodstream, and all I could see was that alien violet firmament, its stars shining with a sickly, faded yellow tinge. There were no clouds, no wind, no current in the water - everything was still, save for the sand beneath me. It should have been serene, peaceful even… but it somehow felt wrong. The sky was ancient, old beyond the reckoning of mortal beings, and it looked diseased, just like the pale orbs hanging from it. The movement below me was becoming increasingly insistent, and I had a vision of something buried trying to claw its way out from beneath the sand. Suddenly the water dried up with unnatural, impossible speed, as if the ground had drunk it all up in one titanic gulp, and then I could hear it: the sky was groaning, the way someone who is very ill would groan right before being violently sick. One by one, the stars guttered and flickered and were extinguished - jaundiced eyes on bruised skin, blinking and closing forever.

Then the sky started falling.

I saw the moribund celestial vault plummet down towards me, and I was filled with a monstrous dread. I could not move, so I was reduced to staring in utter horror as the bloated welkin hurtled downward, ever closer. Then the sand beneath me began to boil, and I felt something grasp at my clothes and my limbs and drag me down. That is when I started to scream.

Then I woke up, roused by the radio’s white noise. I sat for a while, shivering, the dream still painfully vivid in my mind. I listened, and heard someone else die.

I do not think I will see my colleague at the bookstore tomorrow.

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