Mind-Benders and Bizarre Worlds
Mind-Benders and Bizarre Worlds
Published by Hayden Mau on Shakespir
Copyright 2016 Hayden Mau
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
“Ooh, look at that one.” Barbara said. She stood on her tiptoes so her head would reach over the fence.
“What’s it got that this one doesn’t?” her husband asked.
“Us,” she said. “It doesn’t have the both of us in it.”
“So you want to move on?” he asked.
Marty sighed and folded up his newspaper, tucked it in his armpit. He lifted his coat off the chair as he rose, clutched it tight so it would press into his side.
His wife scurried around the room, collecting what she could, and he met her at the door. Together, they left the room and stepped out into the hallway. Along the walls there were countless doors, all leading to the same place. The hallway turned into a corner before its indefinite length became unsettling.
“It’s just one over, isn’t it?” Marty asked.
“Sure is,” his wife said. “This one, here.”
They went into the neighboring room. It was much like the last one, but with the articles slightly rearranged. There were two beds, a chair, furniture outside, white walls and blue floors. None of it was surprising.
As soon as they entered, the couple set out to rearrange the room as they saw fit. Barbara moved the chair back to where it was and started to reverse the comforters on the beds so that the pattern matched what she remembered.
Marty walked straight for the glass door that led out to the patio. The glass showed his wife at work as he passed through. Outside, he made everything as it was before. He set a chair so that it would face towards the room and put the table in front of it, his neck bent towards the glass as he worked. He set his coat down to cushion his back from the chair’s iron frame and sat. He flipped open his paper and held it at an angle that made it hard to read.
As his wife did her errands, he counted them down. First, after making the beds, she would turn to the vanity and put it back where it was. Second, she would line up the remains of her makeup kit along the mirror. And third, she would set her purse on the chair. But there was a problem.
Barbara began to search the room and then stopped, smacking her forehead.
“Marty, I forgot my purse back there. I’m going to get it,” she said.
His wife froze. Marty folded up the newspaper and tucked it beneath his arm.
“The formula in that hummingbird feeder is never the same whenever I look at it twice. You lost all of your makeup and that mink coat of yours,” he said.
On the patio, sparrows could be heard chirping. But there weren’t any in sight, only an empty blue sky. There was a birch tree, but Marty didn’t dare search it for bids.
“Don’t leave my sight,” he said. “What will I do if you disappear, Barbie?”
“I’m not gonna vanish, Marty,” she said. She gave him a gentle smile.
Marty picked up his coat and clung to it. Together they went back to where she left her purse. They stood at the doorway of the previous room. It was completely unlike how they left it.
“It’s gone,” Barbara said.
“Yes, it is,” said Marty.
They returned to the next room and went through the routine of rearranging it once again. Marty counted his wife’s chores. When she finished, she leaned on the glass door frame and put her hand on her hip, as she always did.
“When do you think the kids will be back from school?” she asked.
“Y’know, sometimes, I hear them laughing in the halls,” Barbara said. “I always think they’re right down there, coming our way.”
“Barbie,” Marty said.
“I know they’ll be a while darling, but it gives me the heebie-jeebies, you know?”
Barbara went back into the room and started to flip the comforters on the bed over again.
“Barbie, when did we last eat?” Mary asked.
“Oh, you’re so silly. Breakfast, hon. I made you eggs, remember? When it was still cloudy out?” she answered.
“When was breakfast?” he asked.
Barbara froze up again, and then shrugged.
“You were so worried back then,” she said. “Rushing from room to room, looking for an exit. We lost so much of our stuff.”
“I haven’t given up,” Marty said. He eased back into his chair.
For a moment, the clear sky pulsated. A smell wafted through the air and Marty remembered the times he spent in his grandfather’s orange grove. The chirping without the birds, the warm, gentle breeze rustling through the leaves and the smell lured him to another time, and another place.
He snapped back to the patio, eyes blinking. He folded up his newspaper. There was a single orange placed on top of his coat, sitting on the table. He snatched it up and started to peel it, finding another unpeeled orange inside.
He unpeeled that one, and the one after that. He peeled faster each time, tearing into the fruit for its irresistible innards like an animal.
His fingernails stained, reeking of citrus, he broke through one last peel and the golden fruit was exposed.
He found himself sitting in the air. Beneath him was a giant orange, unpeeled, with every segment apart and on display like lotus petals. He sat there with starving eyes. Saliva poured out his mouth and nostrils. Orange peels wrapped his eyes. There was a slimy noise like tongues growing out of his ears.
Within a second, the orange had come and gone. The table before him was empty.
“Ooh, look at that one,” Barbara said. Her head poked over the fence.
“What’s it got that this one doesn’t?” asked Marty.
“It doesn’t have either of us in it,” she said.
Panicked, Marty raised his head. She was already gone.
“Haven’t you noticed? Nothing in this world makes sense.”
Mr. Pensely regretted those words the moment they came out of his mouth. Sharron sat across from him. The endless movement of people and their luggage mirrored in her glasses, like icy apparitions, frozen by her cold blue stare. The transient spirits flowed through the airport in the Montana winter.
“Mr. Pensely, you had your chance to act like a lunatic on national television. I’m not giving you another interview, not even if you climbed out of bed to catch me here,” she told him.
He scrambled to pull his phone out from his checkered pajamas and held it out to her.
“But I keep getting the message,” he said. “Isn’t that news enough, Ms. Jameson?”
She snatched the phone from his rigid hands and waited. The crisp clicking of her heel against the floor was more oppressive than the ever passing crowd. The phone rumbled in her hand.
Sharron read the message. “Trying to make a fool outta me. You sent that message to yourself.” She tossed the phone back at Mr. Pensely. He flailed and caught it, clutching it tightly to his breast.
“But I didn’t. Same as everyone else in the world,” he said.
Sharron turned up her chin and looked to ticking clock above the crowd and then glanced down at her watch. Nine minutes.
“So? Why don’t you think anything in this world makes sense?” she asked.
Mr. Pensely held up his phone, trying to earn back her full attention.
“These days, everyone has one of these. With the right number, I can reach any other human being in the world. With the right words, I can touch them.”
“You said so in your interview. Just before we had to cut you off.”
“I apologize for getting out of hand, but this is a big deal, bigger than anything ever before,” Mr. Pensely said.
“So get to the point. I have to board in eight minutes.”
“If we’re all connected in this way, then why are we all so different?” Mr. Pensely asked.
“That’s not what I meant,” Sharron said. She stamped her foot. “What do you want from me right now, Mr. Pensely?”
He fell silent. His mouth opened several times, but no words came out.
Finally, he said, “I need your number.”
“Oh, is that right?”
“Nobody in this world is connected in the way I want to connect with you. I want to know what you ‘did’ – what it is that you hold so true, so self-evident that it embodies your soul. That way, I’ll show you the true meaning of this world, I know it will.”
“You see, this is why we cut off your interview,” Sharron said. “If all you want is some girl’s number, you might want to leave metaphysics out of your pickup line. I have a flight to catch. I can’t wait to get out of this frozen wasteland.”
As she stood up and left, Mr. Pesnsely watched her go without a word. With each step, her heels cracked against the ground and stabbed at his gut like icepicks.
On the chair she sat in, a card had fallen out of her pocket. Mr. Pensely plucked it off the cold plastic seat. A business card. Her number was on it.
His hands shook as he typed the number into his phone. He typed the same message that he had sent to himself a month ago.
The words that sparked the event, that everyone in the world saw, one by one until he was the last.
“I know what you did.”
He sent it, and every fiber in his body shivered. A single ringtone rang out from the crowd. Sharron, in the midst of it, quickly fished out her phone. The minute she laid her eyes on those words, she and everyone around her stopped where they stood.
The transient flow of people stood like fish trapped in ice. One by one, their phones rang until the entire airport was roaring with a cacophony of ringtones. Mr. Pensely stood in awe as history repeated itself.
With stark faces, they all turned to Mr. Pensely. That was the moment he understood what was wrong with his world. He stood there, frozen by their icy stares.
“It’s not that nobody is connected,” he said to himself. “It’s that I’m the only one who isn’t.”
It was the rare time of day where the Holy Sun still hung alone in the sky, while the shapeless star still burned in the night. On veranda of the Orlov estate, Nikolay lied on his prayer rug, his right side facing up. A peaceful offering to the sun. Frequent practice made him tanner on one side than the other. It wasn’t much more than a sign of sincerity.
From inside, a shrill voice called out.
The matriarch of the Orlov family stepped onto the veranda, clenching a parchment in her bony fist. Her son rose from the ground, his hardened muscles made limp by the heat.
“Mama, what is it?” he asked. “I am in the middle of my prayers.”
His mother shook the parchment at him.
“What are you trying to pull with this?” she asked.
Nikolay blinked. His mother dashed the paper onto the deck. He leaned over on his hands and knees.
“Ah! That’s my letter! It was supposed to reach Naeva!”
His mother scoffed.
“I should hope it never does,” she said. “You fool, she’s out in the blush! She needs to be focused! Why would you bother your dear sister with such things?”
She stomped on the letter with her old boots. Relics, still stained by the Moon’s soil.
“If she will no longer be a knight, then so be it,” she said. Her voice wavered.
Nikolay fetched the letter off the ground.
“The navy’s messenger left three days ago, this will never reach her in time!”
The matriarch marched back into the estate, without looking back.
“If Czar says the Lunar Knights are no longer needed, then we aren’t to disagree,” she said.
“But Mama, you loved being a knight.”
She walked off into the manor before her son could say anymore.
With the letter still in hand, Nikolay collected his prayer rug and tucked it under his arm. With a long sigh, he looked off into the lush Siberian jungle. He drifted back to the letter and ruffled his sweat-soaked hair.
“Sun be with me,” he said. He carried everything back to his room.
He set the letter down on his desk and pulled the lamp on. He pulled open the stationary drawer and looked in with disbelief.
“No more paper? Just my luck.”
Squinting, he checked the legibility of the words beneath the stamp left by his mother’s boot.
I am afraid to say our fears were well-founded. The Lunar Knights are disbanding, finally being left behind in the vast wake of the Orbital Navy. When you return from your assignment, they will likely put you behind a desk, only bringing you out for parades and ceremonies. As your brother, I know you do not want that. You must ask your fleet’s admiral for a position in the advance fleet, or else I fear you may never leave Earth again. I am on leave as I write this, but like you, I lust for the sky. We belong in the Heliosphere.
Sun be with you,
-P.S.: My apologies for the footprint. Mama found this letter and stomped on it. You know how she is.
After appending the letter, he put the it into a new envelope resealed it for delivery.
“Mama! I’m going to town,” he said.
Sun-bleached rows of concrete apartments rolled past him as he drove through the Laverntiya clearing. The roads were still little more than soil, rocks and moss – occasionally cut apart by cement lines that housed underground faculties. Mostly, he had seen it from above where it always thought it looked like a spider’s web. It was a place for the depraved to rot, snared like flies.
The buildings around mostly served as temporary housing for soldiers on leave or otherwise unable to serve. While many good many stayed there, it wasn’t by choice. For every one of them, there were two sorry wretches. Were it not for his family, Nikolay too would live here.
As he pulled up to the warehouse near the coastal airport, many eyes stuck to the army utility truck he was loaned when he took leave. An undue sign of authority.
Nikolay made his way inside, where the warehouse floor had become a happenstance watering hole. Inside, it was crowded by destitute, workless soldiers. Most of them were discharges, deserters or on leave with nowhere else to go.
Over the low murmurs of these sullen men, a swollen, pale man raved profanities at the men around him. From the way he wore his coat, it seemed he was an active officer. An unwelcome sight.
Nikolay safely made his way past them and to the old quartermaster behind the counter who was carefully inspecting a list while leaning on a cane. Nikolay knew this man well.
“Barnaby, I have a favor to ask,” he said. He held up the letter.
The old quartermaster pulled his head up and adjusted his glasses.
“What’s that, Orlov? A letter?”
“Yes. Can you sneak it in with the other goods to the advance fleets?” he asked.
Barnaby took the letter from him and judged its weight. He tore into the envelope.
“Ah! What are you doing?”
Without answering, Barnaby read the letter up and down.
“Pah! Pathetic,” he said. He folded the letter up and stuffed it back in. He set it down on the counter, keeping his hand on it.
“Eight hundred,” he said.
“Eight hundred? Ridiculous! I don’t have that much on me. This letter needs to leave as soon as possible,” Nikolay said.
“The things I smuggle, tobacco, alcohol – not so dangerous,” Barnaby said. “But a letter? That might make the inspectors curious. Could be treasonous. They will search my cargo.”
“Treasonous? It’s a letter to my little sister!”
Barnaby shook his head. Scratching his stubble, he said, “Nobody cares. The Kingdom is on edge. That terrible bomb that sunk the 73rd fleet left clouds in the blush. Those who fly through them get terribly sick. And then there’s incredible news from Mars. They say Deimos blew up.”
“The whole moon? Impossible,” Nikolay said. “No bomb can do that.”
“Maybe. But the Kingdom is still as nervous as an untethered blimp cow. They will search my cargo. Eight hundred.”
A racket from the floor area drew both men’s attention. The fat officer was drunk, kicking over tables and yelling in Russian. Several ex-soldiers rose from their tables and stumbled towards him.
Nikolay turned to Barnaby.
“What is it worth to you if I tell him to get lost?” Nikolay asked.
“Kick him out, four hundred. Talk him out…”
“Maybe. He won’t go easily.”
“He doesn’t have to.”
Nikolay made his way to the eye of the storm. He held up his hands.
“Settle down, friend! Why not take some time outside to cool your head?”
The officer stopped and faced him, cramming all of his rage down, letting it boil.
“Bah, who the hell are you? Another deserter? How you dare wear that uniform!” he said.
“You’re on leave, like me, good sir? Then there’s no need for a ruckus,” Nikolay said.
The officer lashed both arms out, pointing at the rest of the patrons.
“You’re cowards and degenerates, all of you! You should all be arrested!”
“Please, sir, be reson-”
The officer lunged forward and grabbed him by the collar, shaking him.
“Take it off! Take of this jacket – you don’t deserve to wear it!” he said.
Breathless, Nikolay grabbed his wrists and tried to wrest himself free. The ex-soldiers around, rushed in to help him.
“Stop! Don’t touch him!” Nikolay said. The others stopped in their tracks.
Nikolay locked his eyes with the officer’s.
“What is your rank, sir? Your fleet?” he asked.
“I’m the rear admiral for the 91st fleet, you worm!”
“The 91st? My brother is that fleet’s admiral. Admiral Orlov, do you recognize the name?”
The rear admiral’s drunken grasp loosened even more.
“I’ll tell him about your behavior, and the ‘colorful’ company you keep, rear admiral,” Nikolay said.
The officer let go, but said nothing.
“You could be discharged. Then, you’d finally fit in around here,” Nikolay said.
“The admiral’s…brother?” the officer said. He backed away, and made for the entrance.
“I’ll never come back,” he said over his shoulder. “Can’t stand the sight of all of you.”
With the matter settled, Nikolay made his way back to Barnaby.
“Will that do?” he asked.
Barnaby pulled the letter off the counter and held it up.
“Tell me, what ship is this dear little sister of yours on?” he asked.
About the Author
Hayden Mau is working towards a degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment at Full Sail University. Hayden finds unending joy in writing weird and subversive stories, but doesn’t see the point if they aren’t fun and entertaining. He sees video games as the perfect medium to apply his trade and is very eagerly looking for jobs in quality assurance and localization to start a career.
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Follow the strange happening surrounding the lives of three characters in this collection. Marty finds himself in a place where nothing remains the same the second he takes his eyes off of it and endeavors to keep his wife in sight at all times. Mr. Pensely stops a news reporter at the airport to tell her his odd take on the world and discovers that reality is even stranger. On an Earth with two Suns, Nikolay tries to get a letter bearing dire news to his off-world sister out of a town of destitute sky-sailors and deserters. Readers will enjoy seeing characters live out their lives in these wacky worlds!