Thursday, November 23, 2017

11/23/17

Fracture
By Lawrence Buentello


Jeremy Spiegel was minding his own business when a fissure opened in the universe.

At first, he didn’t recognize the event as a cosmic fracture, only that something terribly weird was happening in the living room of his small apartment.

Jeremy was preparing to leave for work—he’d just been promoted to assistant manager at Big Henry’s Burgers—when he noticed something shining in the air in the middle of a room where nothing should have been shining. He ceased buttoning his shirt and stood staring past the sofa at the phenomenon, which appeared as an intense yellow light hovering two feet off the ground. Squinting, he realized the light was wedge-shaped and constant, and that just below it, half-hidden by the glare, lay an anomalous piece of something else on the carpet.

The object on the carpet was also wedge-shaped, and a moment’s consideration created the dynamic in his mind that the object and the light possessed similar dimensions.

Failing to understand what was happening, he stepped closer and slowly bent down to his knees. The light didn’t seem radiant, but static, which even Jeremy knew was physically impossible. He raised his hand to feel if it gave off any heat, but he felt nothing. The object on the carpet glowed faintly, but only on one side, as if he were staring at a large piece of lemon pie with a shimmering crust.

Jeremy was a young man who lived alone, had dropped out of college after a couple of semesters of misused time, but was happy in his own circumstances; this was something for which he wasn’t intellectually prepared, and for which he had no answers.

He stood again, wondering if he should dash out of the apartment to find someone to verify what he was witnessing, but he really didn’t know anyone in the complex and was hesitant to knock on the doors of strangers. What would he ask them? Please come to my apartment to look at something weird?

As an alternative, he ran into the bedroom to retrieve his cell phone to record the event on video, but the device failed to turn on. He stumbled back into the living room futilely jabbing his thumbs at buttons, but the battery was inexplicably dead.

As he glanced up at the light, the thought suddenly occurred to him that he couldn’t possibly be seeing a three dimensional display, so he tossed the phone onto the sofa and carefully circumnavigated the phenomenon. But as he moved around the light it rotated to face him, as if he were staring at a hologram. No matter how quickly he moved, the same perspective remained in his line of sight.

Jeremy wasn’t a scientist, just an ordinary human being. But he was at least as curious as the next ordinary human being, so he got back down on his knees and crawled cautiously toward the light.

When his face was no more than three feet away he realized he was seeing something within the illumination, or beyond it—

He crept forward, uncertain, but still extremely curious, and stared into the radiance.

Beyond the haze, which was thick and gauzy, and bizarrely corporeal, he could see a field of stars as if he were staring down the barrel of a telescope, not as a two-dimensional display, but a vast space of glowing bodies in a three-dimensional reality that seemed to exist infinitely within the general area of the living room of his apartment.

Baffled, he leaned back on his knees and tried to understand what he was seeing, but he had no idea.

He stared again at the wedge-shaped object on the carpet, which seemed harmless enough, and on a whim reached down and picked it up.

The object felt almost weightless, like a light cork or dried sponge, with only one slightly glowing surface; the rest of it seemed indistinct and his eyes refused to focus on it clearly. He sat for a moment, estimating the size of the object as compared to the size of the hovering light, then moved it toward the light to see if his estimation was correct.

It was—the object appeared as if it would fit the light precisely.

That’s when the fingers appeared through the wedge-shaped crack in the universe.

Well, not exactly fingers, more like shimmering green appendages roughly corresponding to fingers; they flexed in the light, seemingly testing the atmosphere on the other side of the fissure.

Jeremy Spiegel screamed. He didn’t care if his scream sounded unmanly or not, his terror was genuine. For a moment, he couldn’t seem to move, and then he watched unbelievingly as his arm reached out and his own hand slapped the fingers, or appendages, or whatever they were, as if slapping at a large spider on his shirt.

A noise with no earthly analogue squealed through the air and the fingers retreated.

Again without thinking, he pushed the wedged-shaped object into the light, as if stuffing wadding into a hole from which an unpleasant species of vermin had just poked its nose—the object slid perfectly into place within the fracture.

And the phenomenon vanished.

His mouth open in surprise, Jeremy rose to his feet studying the living room, which now held no phenomena, except marinara sauce stains on the carpet. Did what he thought he saw actually manifest? Or had he just suffered the king of all delusions?

Jeremy realized he didn’t have time to ponder the implications of what had just transpired; he was overdue for his shift at Big Henry’s Burgers and had to hurry out the door.

Of course, he had a legitimate excuse—

But who would believe he was running late because he had to prevent an invasion of Earth from another universe?


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Lawrence Buentello has published a great many short stories in a variety of genres. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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