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Net Zero


Net Zero




I think I’m losing my mind this time

This time I’m losing my mind

p<>{color:#000;}. Beastie Boys



A fly twitches and tastes each pock mark as it steps along the surface of an orange. She knows it is happening in her mind, yet she believes that somewhere in the universe it is real, full of larger meaning. She is sure. She stretches out her fingers of thought to touch it, to find it. They brush the idea but they cannot grasp it. Not quite.

“Miss?” The barista holds out her coffee, a Caffe Americano. She blinks and pulls her mind back from the distance. Her name is scrawled in marker across the cup, Kiara. The look on the barista’s face tells her the situation has descended into weirdness so she takes the cup quickly. Kiara. She wonders what he saw in her eyes when she was gone.

“Triple Caffe Americano,” he announces, offering no hint. “Three ninety-five.”

Kiara fumbles for her credit card and pays and when she is safely away from the counter she lets her face falter, her public face. She takes a breath, pops the top off the iced espresso and drinks deep. Caffeine helps. It pushes the visions back for a while. There is another one building already, though, a feather, trapped under a boot heel, trembling in the breeze. She is able to push that one away for now.

The Freak is here and she makes her way to his table to sit down. He is brilliant and handsome and available; a freak of a man and she thanks God for him. Locke – that is his real name. He is reading a newspaper (of all things) and he folds it up to give her his attention.

“You had another?” he asks.

She nods. “You saw?”

“I saw. How bad was it?”

“Not bad.” It is a lie. This one had taken her completely out of reality. If it hadn’t been for her name on the cup -. She wonders if she would have made it back.

“What did you see?”

“A fly.”

“That’s all?”

“. . . walking on an orange. And there was that feeling -”

“What feeling?” he asks.

“Of urgency – like something huge is hanging on this and if I don’t figure out what it is, something terrible will happen.”

She has been calling him for almost a year now, whenever she begins to lose her grip on reality. It can’t last, she knows. He will move on, get his PHD, a girlfriend, a wife but for now, he comes when she calls. She called him last night, late, and rode him with an urgency that made him whisper ‘Holy God’ in the darkness. She heard screaming toward the end and was relieved to find it was her own. The visions faded after that, as they always did and stayed away until this morning.

“And you’ve had this since you were a kid?” he asks. She has confided him in the past. He knows why she needs him.

“They used to come soft as a cloud,” she tells him over her cup. “Now it’s bad. It’s like someone is injecting them into my head with a needle. They’re sudden and they’re real and they scream their importance. It’s a lie. They’re not important. They never connect to anything.” She rubs her face with both hands. “I feel like I’m running out of – ‘me’.”

“Maybe the things you see mean more than you realize,” he offers.

“They don’t.”

He points toward the counter and she sees a fruit basket there; apples, bananas and – an orange. Kiara smiles at his effort. “A fly walking on an orange. Maybe I saw the orange and – who knows.” she shrugs. He is trying and that is sweet but she knows there is nothing he can do. She doesn’t want to talk about it anymore, doesn’t want to think about it.

“Talk to me,” she asks.

“About what?”

“Anything. Just talk. I need to fill my head with something or they’ll come back.”

“I’m presenting my thesis next week.”

“More – ” She rubs her temples.

“Bridge theory; math that holds the universe together. My equations bind others into one; Newtonian Physics, quantum mechanics, relativity, string theory.”

“Big stuff. Keep going.”

“It’s based on receivers, sensitives that make minor corrections along the way.”

“Receivers – what are they?”

“Unique, intelligent, small in number. Maybe only one. It would be a person who is tuned into other systems, other dimensions and times – like a human antenna.” He watches for her reaction. She is his inspiration. He has listened to her, thought about her, obsessed on her. she is his everything but he knows he can’t tell her. She is nearly overloaded and his love would only be a burden.

Her phone chimes. She looks. “Our ride is here,” she tells him and rises. “What would happen if these sensitives stopped – being sensitive? Stopped listening?”

“They have to listen or the whole thing collapses,” he tells her. They walk toward the door. “That’s the math. The equations have to balance; net zero.”

They step outside. The morning is grey. Cars move quickly along the narrow street, drivers rushing to begin their work day. A feather blows along the sidewalk, skipping, tumbling. A boot heel comes down on it, locking it in place; miraculous timing, coincidental timing. It is Kiara’s boot heel, stopping there as she rubs her temple. The visions are coming back, even after last night with Locke.

A man is brought up short behind her, a man with an angry look and a walk that had been full of purpose until now. Cold steel shifts inside his waistband and he stills it with his hand. He considers taking it out now, shooting these people first and then heading into the coffee shop to kill the barista that fucked his wife – and perhaps everyone else. But the couple in front of him have made him stop and he looks. He sees. The woman is in pain and the man she is with leans in with words too soft to hear. They touch. The woman shakes her head and they continue on their way. He considers entering the shop to begin his rampage but the edge is gone now and he continues down the sidewalk instead. The insanity has passed.

Kiara sees the feather in her mind, sees the man, feels his anger. She feels his redemption and suddenly understands that an error has been corrected. Then, as quick as the understanding has come, it is deleted as the multiverse balances the difference to nil. Net zero.

A car horn toots bringing her back to reality. It is the Uber pulling up on the far side of the street.

Kiara steps toward it, still wrestling with the mental skip.

“Kiara – no,” Locke shouts, but it is too late; a Volvo slams into her, tossing her forward against the trunk of a car. Her head cracks against the steel and she slides to the pavement. Locke runs to her.

“Kiara,” he shouts. There is blood but he can’t tell from where. She is breathing but her eyes stare sightlessly. He holds her. “Kiara.” No response. Images flash through his mind; her riding him last night in the dark, her distant stare in the coffee line staring inwardly at a vision, her eyes locked with his as he explains his theory, what would happen if the receiver didn’t receive? She is incoherent. Locke glances unconsciously at the sky but all is well. Of course it is, he tells himself, it’s only a theory. He checks her pulse but it is weak. A crowd has begun to gather. They stare at the two people in the road. What they don’t see are the stars on the far side of the galaxy that begin to wink out, one by one.



All I have to give you is a love that never dies
The symptom of the universe is written in your eyes

p<>{color:#000;}. Black Sabbath





About Net Zero


Net Zero came from the marriage of two ideas; the fly image that I just couldn’t shake (like a visual ear worm) and the concept of bleed-through. If there is zero net effect, just about anything could cross dimensional boundaries, don’t you think? Just the multiverse’s way of balancing the books.

It feels like there is a lot more behind this idea so maybe we’ll see more of these two, or at least more of the concept. Maybe this is why metaphysics is impossible to prove; the important stuff gets deleted. Stay tuned and we’ll figure it out together.

If you liked the story, you might try leaving a review where you downloaded it. Positive reviews help independent authors greatly. If you didn’t like the story, feel free to email me at [email protected] and let me know where the holes are. It’s always good to get feedback. Thanks for being a reader.



p<>{color:#000;}. Rath

Net Zero

A woman struggles to maintain her sanity in the face of bizarre visions. Her lover knows the truth. Horror, short story

  • Author: Rath Dalton
  • Published: 2017-02-12 16:35:09
  • Words: 1505
Net Zero Net Zero