Fading. Short Story.

Frank closed his eyes and started to take slow, steady breaths, soon it would be over. He had the headaches as long as he could remember, but they had become more frequent in the last few days. He wasn’t that worried, he had been though all the tests before. He just had to wait it out. A few moments later he sighed in relief as the pain started to recede. He had stopped taking pain killers for them, they were always gone before anything could kick in. He shook his head slightly, then opened his eyes, time to clear out some of the emails that had built up over the weekend. Working from home was great in some ways, but he always felt vaguely guilty he didn’t look at stuff on the weekend. Oh well. It wouldn’t take him too long now anyway. He took a sip of tea, then started to work.
Two hours later he stretched, then yawned, it was probably time to eat. He wasn’t that hungry but he suspected that by the time something was made he would be. He stood from the computer and went into the kitchen, there wasn’t too much in stock, he’d probably have to do a shop if he wanted to make anything more complicated than a cheese sandwich. He had a quick look through the cupboards, then decided that cheese seemed kind of gross at the moment. He checked his watch, he had time to pop out for a little while.

 

He stepped into the hallway and shuddered as a sudden chill enveloped him, he started to walk, hoping it would warm him, by the time he went down the stairs and made it to the lobby he was feeling normal again. He stepped out into the sunlight, glad of the warmth it provided. Around him people milled about on the streets, it wasn’t too busy yet, the lunch time rush wouldn’t start for another hour or so. He blinked once, then he rubbed his eyes. Everything looked slightly hazy, almost like there was a bit of a mist covering everything. Strange. He turned and started to walk, perhaps there had been some fog this morning that was still being burned off, he hadn’t looked out the window when he woke up. The walk to the store was a short one, but he took his time, looking into store windows, enjoying the fresh air.
He wandered through the shop, looking at things but not sure what he wanted to get. He should have made a list, this always happened. Sighing, he scanned the shelves, wondering if he needed any spices. A short while later he shook his head, he wasn’t here for that, he just wanted to pick up something for lunch. He yawned, then rubbed his eyes, where was his head at today? He started to walk down the aisle, then paused, everything looked a little hazy here too, now that he was closer to items he could see it wasn’t like mist at all, it was as though the things themselves were just slowly fading. That was weird. He reached out for the nearest item, a box of instant gravy, as his hand hit it, it flared to life, looking more solid, brighter, until he removed his hand. He looked around at the other things, they still had the same hazy quality. Looking at everything else he reached out and touched the box again, everything but the box remained the same. He took his hand back, it tingled faintly. He rubbed his eyes again, that had to be it, something was wrong with them. He’d book an appointment with the optometrist when he got home, he hadn’t been to one in years. He started to walk, then paused, what if it wasn’t his eyes? What if it was his brain? Something could have happened with the headache, would he feel it if something happened in his brain? He took another breath, he had to remain calm, stress always gave him a headache. He would be fine, no, he was fine. He’d go home, have some lunch then book an appointment with the doctor as well. They’d get to the bottom of it. After all he had no other symptoms to go on, if it was dangerous or severe surely there would be something else too? He felt jittery, agitated. He had to relax. He’d just buy something for lunch then get the hell out of here. Frank went to the fruit aisle, something healthy, that was the exact thing he needed, something fresh. He reached to pick up an apple, then he stopped. Did he have his wallet? The familiar weight wasn’t in his front pocket. He tapped his jeans, then put his hand into his pocket. Empty. He could have sworn he grabbed it off the shelf on the way out, as he always did. He thought back, no, he had definitely grabbed it, he felt the worn leather, heavy and solid, he had felt it as it slid into his pocket. Obviously it was something much worse, if he was forgetting things and having false memories. Forget lunch, he needed to make an appointment now.
Outside he scanned the ground, maybe he had grabbed it after all and it just fell out of his pocket. Maybe he was pick pocketed. He didn’t recall anyone bumping into him, or standing too close, but that didn’t mean much. He started to walk back, scanning the ground. He felt better looking down too, he didn’t have to look at how everything was fading, how everything around him was slowly turning white. It looked as though he could simply turn and walk through the buildings to get back to his apartment. He felt nervous, panicky and vaguely nauseous.

 

He stepped into the lobby of his building, there had been no sign of his wallet, maybe he had dropped it inside? He scanned the floor, knowing that if he had fallen here he would have spotted it immediately. Giving up he turned to the stairs. He didn’t want to take the lift, what if he went blind inside? He’d have no way of figuring out what floor he was on, or what if it wasn’t just in his head? What if he just fell through the lift? Would he survive such a fall? Would he even stop falling, if he fell through the lift floor what would stop him falling through everything else?

He moved up the stairway with a measured pace, he wanted to run but he knew if he did he’d full on panic. As he went upwards he counted off the floors, trying to convince himself that he was just counting them as he was feeling tired and needed the encouragement of “only four more floors to go.”

He opened the door to his apartment and stepped inside, he closed it behind himself and breathed a sigh of relief. Everything in here looked solid. Good. That was good. He looked at the shelf, there was his wallet, right beside his keys.

Keys? They were in his hand. He looked down, his hands were empty. How had he gotten back in? He shook his head, something was definitely wrong, he had opened the door with his keys, he had, of course he had. He was forgetting things. He must have put them down. The smell hit him suddenly. Low and rank, had he left food out overnight or something? How had he missed that earlier? How did he miss the smell? He must have something wrong, a tumour or something. He’d clear the meat or whatever away, then he’d open the windows and make an appointment with the doctor, or would it be best to go to the emergency room. No, he’d ring the doctor first, make an appointment, maybe ask the nurse for advice. She’d know what to do. That was it. He just had to stay calm.

 

Frank went into the kitchen, but there was nothing left out on the counter, no food that could be the source of the terrible smell. The longer he stayed in the apartment the worse it seemed to become. Maybe a rat had died under the floorboards or something. It didn’t matter, he’d ring the doctor first, then get the smell sorted. What if that was another symptom? Trying to remain calm he went into the sitting room and picked up the phone. He started to dial, then held the phone to his ear. Nothing, no dial tone, no ringing. He moved his hand from his ear to look at the phone, but his hand was empty, the phone was still in its cradle. He reached out and picked it up again, but the same thing happened. He was breathing quickly, almost panting. Something was wrong, very, very wrong. He turned to the computer and froze. Someone was sitting, slumped over in his work chair. He slowly moved closer, his heart hammering in his chest. He felt like he was going to throw up. He reached out to touch the person, but they didn’t react. He moved around to get a better look.
It was him. How? How could it be him? It couldn’t be, he had left, he had talked to people, he had done work, hadn’t he? He looked at the computer, it was off. When was the last time he had spoken to someone? The last person he remembered talking to was Janet in the office, on Thursday, just before he turned on the computer to do some work. Over four days ago. No, that couldn’t be right. He couldn’t be dead, he just couldn’t. He wasn’t sick, he was healthy, no, this was just another symptom, that was all, just another strange thing that would be resolved when he got to the doctor. He turned from his body, if he couldn’t call he’d just go there himself. He reached out to open the door when everything turned white, endless white all around him. His breathing slowed, his heart calmed, he felt relaxed. Peaceful.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
This entry was posted in Horror, Short Stories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fading. Short Story.

  1. I’ve sometimes wondered how long it takes for consciousness to cease after death, having once read that the brainstem continues to function after the heart and lungs have stopped. If this is a fact, and bearing in mind that in dreams and certain instance of shock (such as near death experiences) the brain races ahead, and seconds of brain activity can seem like hours, an experience like this would be feasable.

    It’s just a rambling thought.

    I really enjoyed the story. Thank you.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      I remember reading something a few years ago, where people would be guillotined and asked to blink as long as possible (it’s been a while but that was the gist of it)
      the question of how long we’re conscious after death has been around for a while and I think it’s a pretty interesting one.

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