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24 January 2013 @ 11:18 am
LJ Idol Exhibit A: "Splintered"  
Splintered
LJ Idol Exhibit A | week 1 | 900 words
Am I Crazy?

x-x-x-x-x

There is a face in the plaster ceiling of my bedroom.

I noticed it a year ago, over in the corner above my desk. I don't know why I never saw it before, but it's always there now. There's a rabbit too, right over the bed, but it's turned the other way so I don't worry about it. The face is different. It points right at me.

It’s always watching.

I stay under the covers as much as I can.

=/=

I called in sick to work today.

There was a warning in the crossword puzzle, running on the diagonal: DIE. I knew it was meant for me.

But what if the danger is here, at home? I hear a noise in the garage and I open the door to check, but all I see is the car. It looks different, though. The inside is dark, and the grill and the headlights on the front make it look angry. Threatening. I close the door.

I try to watch TV, but it's too confusing. The voices muttering in the background make it hard to hear the programs, and all the channels are like that. I should take it in to the repair shop this weekend, if there's time.

I read for a while, but don't remember what the storyline is. Finally, I fall asleep on the couch.

I haven't slept in the bedroom for over a month.

=/=

Something died in the walls or under the house, but the landlord won't do anything about it. He says he doesn't smell anything. I think he's cheap and doesn't want to pay an exterminator. The stink is awful. I can hardly eat inside the house.

I've been riding the bus to work since April, but I just… I don't think all of the other riders are people. I'm careful not to look at them, but sometimes I feel their dead eyes boring into me, like they're looking for something down inside me, something they want.

I won't let them in.

=/=

I don't like the front hallway anymore, but coming in through the back means going through the garage. I move as quickly as I can, and avoid looking at the spot above the table next to the door. Sometimes there's a mirror there, but sometimes it's a window or a lake, and there are things inside it that shouldn't be there—dark shapes shifting back and forth across the opening, trying to catch my eye, trying to escape. The only way to be safe is not to look, so they can't see into your eyes.

I never look, never ever look, not even when light flashes out from the wall to grab my attention. They'll never get me that way, because I know their secrets, I know what they do.

Never. Never ever.

=/=

Outside, behind the oak tree, evil comes in the night. It stares in through the windows, so I close the shades now before it gets dark. Always. Always always always.

I think it might (but don't say it, never say it) be the Devil.

He wants to get at me, destroy me, I can feel it. I smell the smoke he pushes through the glass, hear the laughter in the corners of the room. He tries to sneak inside my food (horrible red-tasting food), or come in through the television.

I put the television in the backyard last week, but I hear it turning itself on at night, I know.

The phone rings with the whisper of mind-control, and I don’t answer it. I don't.

In the morning, when it's light outside, I'll be safe again.

Then I'll throw that phone out the window.

=/=

There, in the kitchen cupboard, I—

Jesus, what was that? That—that rolling, like the world heaving up and down? I should—

Oh, no you don't. Not going outside, you can't trick me like that! I'll be here all night, all night, with my pillow-cave and my books. The fridge is full, I’ll be fine, you can't tempt me with the orange music of the stove because I know, I'll always know.

I see your secret shapes in the wallpaper, the cloudy green of coded images you hide in the ficus plant. I never turn my back on the garage or let the voices drip too long from the faucet, never.

Not listening, I won't, and I am always, always watching.

=/=

Spiders—spiders everywhere!

Walls quiver, skin itches from a thousand tiny legs. Make it stop. Stop!

Run to the shower, wash spiders off and down the drain.

Better. Yes, better.

Shivery wet clothes, but no spiders.

Sleep all night in the tub.

=/=

Neighbor dog talks: "Allison." (My name. How? It knows).

"It's time."

No-no-no-no-no! Run, run, inside, lock the door. Mirror? No, no—never look!

Sofa, pillow-cave, hide deep, safe now, quiet, quiet, listen, listen:

Silence.

Breathe. Breathe now.

Yes.

=/=

Never sleep, can't pillow head drown, or—

Words, red words, death words, window window cloud-black buzzing tired. Ghost-mirror portal, sheeted tin foil doubleback wall murmur what? Claw. Arm claw. Demon hand, mutant creeping how, how?

Protect, prevent. Knife-knife-cleaver—yes, cleaver! Hack, hack, eye-sweat, red-red, pain, God—pain pain PAIN!

Run run, outside, red red, paaaain! Skybright pain pain, scream, grass, scream scream, howl, pain, red red PAIN!

Roll grass slipping slipping dizzy airless why? Red wet, gasping, gasping—

Siren.

Blanket.

Black…





If you liked this story, you can vote for it and the many other fine entries here.

 
 
 
lriG rorriM: eclipselrig_rorrim on January 24th, 2013 10:24 pm (UTC)
I like the cadence of this, the way things rapidly start to unwind and form this tapestry of strangeness. It's got a compelling sort of inner logic to it, and reading this feels like being strapped in the passenger seat of a car going very, very fast while someone giggles maniacally behind the wheel. Excellent!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 24th, 2013 10:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

You can sense where things are headed, even if the narrator can't. Writing this, I thought a lot about how impossible it would be to avoid being paranoid if you perceived the world this way. The paranoia would not be random-- it would be seated in your experiences of what was happening, even if it wasn't real.

I actually felt very bad for Allison here. She can't help what's happening, and she didn't choose it. She's almost as much an unwilling passenger as the reader.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
(no subject) - noodledays on January 25th, 2013 10:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on January 26th, 2013 01:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kandigurl on January 25th, 2013 04:51 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on January 26th, 2013 01:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
alien_writings: Kalen!alien_writings on January 25th, 2013 01:00 am (UTC)
Thank you for taking us along on this paranoid ride!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 25th, 2013 01:22 am (UTC)
This poor woman-- if you thought those things were real, you'd be paranoid too.

Thanks for reading!
Maerhys: [stock] band t-shirtmaerhys on January 25th, 2013 01:07 am (UTC)
The creepy factor is amazing, especially the part about the spiders. I really love the narrative structure and the cutting off of thoughts abruptly as it adds to the overall feel really well. Love it!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 25th, 2013 01:49 am (UTC)
Thank you!

Getting that slow shift in language right, as the condition progresses over time, was the biggest challenge here. I didn't want to rush things the change of the person's mental state, but connecting the before and after was tricky.
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 25th, 2013 04:33 am (UTC)
Thank you very much!

I think this would be terrifying, and once you become afraid to sleep and don't sleep, all of it becomes so much worse.

I'm sorry you went through anything remotely like this, and glad you came out the other side of it.
cindytsuki_no_bara on January 25th, 2013 03:40 am (UTC)
i really like how this progresses - it just gets crazier and crazier and more and more paranoid and the narration itself just keeps disintegrating until we get to full-blown violent bugnuts. i didn't need the bit with the spiders, tho.... eeek.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 26th, 2013 01:26 am (UTC)
Writing this, it became really clear to me that if you think these things are actually happening, then what looks like paranoia from the outside makes perfect sense. She does the best she can to protect herself, and stays away from each new area of danger, but she doesn't know that it won't go away on its own.

I hate spiders too, but they really fit into the characterization here. You can at least understand why she'd be so eager to get rid of them! Gah.
Vice Captain of the Universesweeny_todd on January 25th, 2013 03:53 am (UTC)
the pacing is awesome. Definitely feel the build up of stress and fear and tension.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 26th, 2013 01:26 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! Getting the middle part was really the biggest challenge, to make sure I didn't go from the beginning to end too quickly.
Yelеnakehlen_crow on January 25th, 2013 11:17 am (UTC)
Very scary.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 26th, 2013 01:27 am (UTC)
When people talk about being tormented by delusions, they really aren't kidding, are they?
(no subject) - kehlen_crow on January 26th, 2013 07:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
Lose 10 Pounds of Ugly Fat...  Cut Off Your Head.n3m3sis42 on January 25th, 2013 01:09 pm (UTC)
This piece really spoke to me. It kind of reminded me of something I'd write, haha. Your ability to be concise always amazes me, though. How the heck was this only 900 words? You said a lot with so little!

I really liked how Allison's voice changed over the course of her descent into crazy. Really nice job.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 26th, 2013 02:07 am (UTC)
I couldn't believe it was only 900 words either, but I guess the language near the end contributes. There aren't a lot of 'linking' words there!

So glad you liked how this turned out! That narrative progression was everything.
nrrrdy_grrrl on January 25th, 2013 02:44 pm (UTC)
omg you are so brilliant
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 26th, 2013 02:07 am (UTC)
Thank you! ♥
(no subject) - nrrrdy_grrrl on January 26th, 2013 02:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
blahblahblah, whateverkathrynrose on January 25th, 2013 06:55 pm (UTC)
Wow, this was disturbing, and really well done. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 26th, 2013 04:38 am (UTC)
Thank you very much!
phoenixsansfyrphoenixsansfyr on January 26th, 2013 12:01 am (UTC)
Oh wow. Great how everything was logical, pieced together and normal, and just devolved. Very well done!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 26th, 2013 04:40 am (UTC)
I'm especially glad that you felt it was logical, because all of Allison's choices should make sense given what she thinks is true. She's doing the best she can, without realizing that she's working with faulty information.
Sometimes I'm Inspiredoccasionally on January 26th, 2013 12:27 am (UTC)
I think you did a good job of capturing paranoia--and the way that it starts to snowball out of control. The pacing of this was done nicely.

Though I have to say, the ending squicked me out a bit.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 26th, 2013 11:36 pm (UTC)
The ending is really scary, but in my heart of hearts I think the ambulance gets there in time for Allison to survive, and that there is hope for her down the road.
MamaCheshirecheshire23 on January 26th, 2013 01:48 am (UTC)
Brrrrr. Frightening, yet strangely plausible.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 26th, 2013 11:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

Once the delusions creep in, everything the narrator does afterward is what makes sense to her. The scariness is that she really can't do otherwise.
jensi08jensi08 on January 26th, 2013 03:49 am (UTC)
Very intense and deeply felt on my end...wow. You did fabulous!!!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 26th, 2013 11:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
tatdatcmtatdatcm on January 26th, 2013 11:09 pm (UTC)
This made me wonder if this is how my son views his world when his anxiety is particularly bad. He's never descended so far into it (thank God), but it makes sense, in a way, how everything begins to build and build.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 26th, 2013 11:48 pm (UTC)
Oh, I sure hope not.

If I remember correctly, anxiety is either generalized (which is awful-- a kind of low-level panic) or tends to focus on unlikely outcomes of fairly realistic events. Such as that the boat you're on might sink, not that it might drive itself out into the middle of the ocean and never reach shore again.

Once the fear starts, it's hard for it not to build on itself. The adrenaline feedback in a panic state can make you more anxious. All that fuel for running, and if you don't run it out then it builds up like poison.

I hope he's able to find some help for his condition, but it's good that he has you. The love and support of family really helps.