Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Hydra Cluster



She turned off the water at the kitchen sink.

"Did you hear me?" she said.

Sitting at the table, he swirled his spoon.

Swirled, swirled, swirled.

"Hon?" she said.

He jolted when her fingers touched the table next to him. "Huh?"

"Did you hear me?" she said.

"No."

"Your cereal is getting soggy."

He glanced down. Slowly.

"Are you okay?" she said. "You haven't seemed yourself since you got up. You don't look so good."

He didn't answer.

He swirled again.

"Are you upset about something?" she said.

He shook his said.

"Did I do something?" she said.

He still shook his head.

Detached.

Very far away.

She swallowed. "Honey?"

But he just stared. Breaths in. And out.

When his mouth finally twitched, the glued skin of his lips popped their sticky seal.

He licked them. "I had a really strange dream," he said.

"Oh?"

She was beginning to worry that something was terribly wrong. Like a stroke. Or really high blood pressure. He didn't seem like her husband.

"You don't have a headache, do you?" she said.

"A bizarre dream."

"Like a nightmare?" she said.

"Yes," he said. "But no. Not a nightmare exactly."

"But it's bothering you."

He nodded.

"Do you want to tell me about it?"

Part of her didn't want him to.

His forehead furrowed.

"I dreamed...," he said, "...about space. Deep, deep space."

"Okay."

He moved his hand forward. Like traveling vast distances. "Way beyond our solar system. Way beyond the Milky Way. Intergalactic space. Where you can see huge pieces of the universe. Galaxies. Clusters of galaxies. So vast."

She eased back from him. Something in his voice prickled cold over her skin.

"I was out there. In the dream," he said. "But something was with me. Something as big as the galaxies. The outline of a shape. Bending. Moving. Feeding."

She cleared her throat. "Did you see this on TV?"

"It was huge. So unbelievably huge. And alive. It was eating huge bites of galaxies. Devouring them. The clouds of stars would burn in its belly."

"Why are you whispering?" she said.

"I saw the colors. I saw the galaxies unraveling. And it would move on. Just move on. And feed again."

Her heel bumped into a chair.

"But you know what bothered me? It knew about me too. Billions of light years and galaxies away, it knew I was here, lying in bed. With lavender sheets and a goose down pillow. It knew I was here. Watching it."

"You spilled your milk," she barely managed to say.

His face tilted down.

And as the white drops pattered, the arm of a distant galaxy winked out, far too dim for any telescope to see.

The colors and the hunger fed. Shivered with hot exhilaration.

It listened.

And knew the way to go.

20 comments:

SzélsőFa said...

I liked this little study on detachment...even felt sorry for him for not having a positive reassurance from his wife, who choses to turn away, rather than help and/or protect him.
Or, at least this is what I read here...
great, Jason.

Catvibe said...

After reading Sfelsofa's comment, I gained a little more insight on this piece. There is something about it that is like his soul is being eaten, perhaps by his unhappy life, perhaps by a wife who expects a certain consistency that he is performing, but that is killing him off inside.

On the literal side of it, I remembered a Star Trek episode from the original series of a cone like vortex in space that was eating up everything in its way. In a way, that is happening via black holes I guess!

Interesting Jason. I like it.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

We frighten others when we expose the true inner workings of our minds. They can be threatened by the truth. Well written, thoroughly enjoyed this slice of life.

Nevine said...

I saw her true character in the part of her that didn't want him to tell her his dream, and that was when I disliked her intensely. "...the arm of a distant galaxy winked out..." Illusory, and hauntingly beautiful.

Terri said...

I read this completely literally - the Clarity of Night goes Sci Fi and Psychic at the same time! - and I loved it. The wife was 'unsupportive' because her husband was behaving completely out of character and it scared her, because he was afraid; normal reaction in a Sci-Fi setting {cue scary music}. The lavender sheets and goose down pillow were a lovely touch to bring in the contrast of normalcy.
Once again your imagery is outstanding, Jason - I can see this scene like it's a movie in my head; nicely done.

Woman in a Window said...

Jason.this.rocked. Really. I fricken loved it.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

I think what struck me the most was the wife's attempt to keep everything on the surface. She simply refused to get into a conversation with him about something so far out - and didn't want him to get "weird" on her. Great imagery about the spilled milk pattering...perhaps extending the galaxy, for him anyway. I loved this, Jason.

Linda S. Socha said...

Incredible Jason....Frightening...engaging...bits sticking to the reader. Well done
Linda

jason evans said...

Szelsofa, I've really enjoyed the comments to this little story! So many fascinating takes. She could have been more supportive, but his very odd behavior frightened her. That's how I saw her. Not prepared.

Catvibe, that Star Trek episode stuck with me too! In fact, it did cross my mind when I wrote this. This story was sparked by the odd photo, though. When I was playing with Photoshop.

Elizabeth, thank you! You're right. Sometimes even people we know deeply reveal places in their minds that we never knew existed. That can be very disconcerting. Frightening.

Nevine, such an interesting point. I can understand her fear. But what you say is true nonetheless. She could have been stronger. She could have seen that he needed her to offer an unflinching hand and pick him back up.

Terri, you got my intent precisely. :) Sci-fi meets psychic is a great description. I found this notion, this vision, very unnerving. I wonder when the creature/god/ghost will arrive at the Milky Way. Also, my new WIP will be reaching out into the universe, and I wanted to get my feet wet.

Erin, thank you! That is very high praise. Especially from someone as talented as you are.

Kaye, not wanting him to get weird on her...that's perfect!! Yes, she wants to rein it back to a normal morning. To be honest, I'm not sure I'd be prepared to deal with uncanny cosmic destruction before ten o'clock myself. ;) (And thanks for recognizing those descriptions!)

Linda, bits sticking to the reader...loved that!! That's it exactly! That's what I want those details to do. To stick. To drag the "reality" of the scene into the front of the reader's mind even after the story is put down.

Aniket said...

While reading a story we tend to judge that the wife should be more supportive. That was my first reaction too. But if faced with a similar situation I'll probably try an steer away from the conversation too.

I saw a play last year that dealt with a husband and wife who begin to have different perceptions of reality and the wife begin to think he is crazy; the husband believes she's ignorant. It was portrayed most beautifully like here. :)

Which again brings me to the famous quote from Einstein "There is one question that drives me hazy, am I or the rest of the world crazy?"

the walking man said...

So The Milky Way is just a candy bar to something bigger? {;-}

Loved this imagery, especially the vast expanse of space.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'm not so sure about "detachment," I'm thinking of a "connection." Very suspenseful. And intriguing. I loved this line: ...the glued skin of his lips popped their sticky seal.

Bee Bee said...

Hi, I have become a regular reader of your blog :) I love your stories. This one gave me goosebumps.

Vesper said...

Jason, together with your fantastic skill with words there stays this fascinating idea...

I must sigh...

Others have seen this metaphorically. I like to see it literally - our relationship with the Universe might not be what it seems; things could be far more alien than we could even imagine...

staceyjwarner said...

Excellent writing, I popped over from Nevine's blog. Interesting how fearful the wife became...like she had almost had the same dream and this would bring it a truth...anyway...pop on over to my blog sometime.

Jean said...

You do have a great knack for detailed word pictures!

I think the wife was originally afraid he was having a stroke then considered the possibility of a mental breakdown. That is less predictable and therefor, scarier.
And it all takes place in a very short bit of time. I see no signs to think she is a bitch.

jason evans said...

Aniket, that play sounds fascinating! I'm intrigued by how our paths diverge. How wedges drive in. And how we can find ourselves having traveled miles apart.

Walking Man, yes, exactly! Those Milky Ways are sure tasty. ;)

JR, it's certainly an odd connection across mind-boggling distances. Kind of like one grain of sand being chosen from all the beaches on Earth. The grain of sand might feel like this.

Bee Bee, thanks so much! I'm honored to have you here. :)

Vesper, that's how I felt too. What would such a connection mean? In a weird way, the universe would be smaller. Inter-twined. And thank you for the kind words. :)

Stacey, welcome! I enjoyed your visit here, and my visit to your blog. I look forward to seeing more of your explorations!

Jean, thank you for that feedback! I do strive for potent word pictures. As for the wife, I tend to feel as you do. I don't fault her too greatly for being unnerved by his behavior.

Chris Eldin said...

This was a fascinating read, and I'm also enjoying the different takes!
Very, very well done. I love sci-fi, and this was a great piece!

Bebo said...

I love that he's connected now to something... bigger... sinister & yet just going about its day devouring the cosmos.
I sense that she's frightened because she needs his steadfastness & fears that their private connection has now been severed. Eaten away by the Thing...
I sense his deer-in-the-headlights reaction to the vision...

way cool by the way!

jason evans said...

Chris, thanks. :) I think the weirdness of this vision and uncomfortable approach gave lots of room for interpretation.

Bebo, I like your take on it. It was a fascinating thought to me that something so colossal could neverless be remote, tiny, and too removed to be much of a threat at all. For now.