By Cyn Bermudez
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do,” George said, his face contorted.
“Have you tried … pulling one out?” I hovered over one of the little creatures whose mangled body had fused to the metal handle of my cupboard; a magnifying glass leaned out of my pocket. I took one last drink, swishing the coffee in my mouth, its bitterness like splintered wood, the cup rattling against my teeth. An unknown horror had invaded my home. Burnt flesh assaulted my nose.
“Of course,” he said. “What … what are they?”
These beings, these creatures—amalgamated pockets of flesh and metal: tiny beasts with large black eyes, grayish skin littered with small pores. Rows of sharpened teeth lined their mouths. They cried out with shrill voices; their bodies melded into handles and hinges, and every scrap of metal found in every corner of my home.
“I don’t know what they are,” I said. “But we can’t leave them like this.”
I had seen strange and unimaginable things when held by the current, as if I had stood outside of time. Three versions of me had walked and talked in unison: me fumbling with my experiment, minutes before my shoulder was struck, another version of me trapped in my machine—in electrical current, and a version of me conversing with George as he took stock of the many creatures that adorned my home, their bodies fused twistedly. Past, present, and future unfolding at once.
“What do you propose?” The lines on George's face creased more deeply when he was worried. His wrinkled skin collapsed into deeper grooves that fell from his face.
“What happened brought them here,” I said. “Maybe we can undo it, send these poor creatures back to where ever they came from.”
“Using the machine never resulted in this.”
“This time it was different. Something new in the mix.”
“No. Absolutely not.”
“Clearly, my presence within the workings of the machine allowed for some kind of portal to open, a doorway between worlds, between universes.
“We’ll repeat the same steps.”
“You could die, Nik.”
“I won’t die. Simply turn off the current at the right time. Like you did before.”
“How can you be sure that it’ll work?”
“I’m not sure, but we must try. We can’t leave these … things like this. Look at them. They’re in agony.”
George contemplated my words in silence, as he always did, and he relented.
We duplicated the experiment, and I was struck on the shoulder once more. I felt my very essence split into three—three versions of me commingled with a disjointed physical reality: George and myself and the creatures, another of me that was held three feet in the air by the current, and yet another in a silent darkness that quieted my home. My mind no longer belonged to the layers of this world. I sat behind a veil of bottled lightning and watched a play of life on the most peculiar stage.
George turned off the current before my heart gave out, and I fell to the ground.
“It worked,” George said.
“I know. I saw it. I saw the future—I saw the creatures were gone.” My voice was soft, my throat parched. My body hurt worse than the first time, but it had worked! We were filled with joy. My home was empty, normal once again.
“Let’s be more careful in the future,” George said.
“Yes, yes. I know."
“Do you think the creatures are safe now? Home, like you said?”
“I truly hope so.”
Later that evening, I sat with my coffee in the dark. That’s when I saw them; I saw their faces. Moonlight through an open window revealed what artificial light could not. The creatures weren’t gone, not really; they had merged completely with various parts of my home—metal and wood! Aberrant faces, flattened and frozen in knobs and walls and floors. Black and tormented eyes stared at me. Portends of my vision of the future became clear. A deep shadow fell over my home and I wept.
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Cyn Bermudez is an author, physics and astronomy nerd, and comic con enthusiast. Her work is published in Vines Literary Journal, Fiction Vortex,The Red Line, The Milo Review, and Hemingway’s Playpen.