“I know I’m the only one who can see them. They float through the air, shining and golden or grey and cloudy. The wind doesn’t affect them, they seem to do as they please. The golden ones are the most common, occasionally I would see red ones or ones that were a deep, dark black. They black ones are the scariest. The light doesn’t shine off them, they seem to absorb it all. I always make sure I’m as far away as possible from the black ones. I don’t really know what they are. When I was a child I thought they were dreams, that the colours represented the kinds of dreams that they would provide. I suppose that came from my love of Roald Dahl as a child. Now though, now I think they’re thoughts. I believe that they are aware, that they can think, but I’ve no proof of that. I cannot figure out their patterns, I can never tell where a bubble is going to go, even the mood of the person doesn’t effect the bubble, but it certainly effects them. I’ve seen people go from happy to angry for no reason and vice versa.
I’ve only see the effects of a black bubble once. Usually I spot them floating in the distance, sometimes up close, but I always get away. I never really knew why I had such feelings of worry and revulsion about them, it seemed almost instinctual. The day I saw it in action I was waiting for the train. I had been reading a book and completely absorbed by it. I glanced up at the sound of shouting, some man was yelling at a ticket inspector. I watched for a few seconds, trying to see if it would move closer to me and once satisfied it wouldn’t, I started to go back to my book. The black bubble caught my eye, it was only twenty feet from me. I started to pack away my things under the guise of the impending train. It seemed like it was indecisive, being tugged towards people as they walked by. Eventually it settled on a young girl, perhaps sixteen, she was wearing her school uniform, a bag slung casually over her shoulder and her face focused on her phone as she texted away. The bubble landed on her head and seemed to sit for a moment before slowly sinking in. I felt a faint shiver, a feeling that I should step in, say something, but what? The girl put her phone away and wrapped an arm around herself. She seemed to shrink down a little, as though trying to disappear into her already large school jumper. I could feel the wind of the train as it approached the station. The girl looked down the tracks and started to walk towards the stairs, moving quickly as though she realised she was on the wrong platform. The rattle of the train grew louder, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She turned and took a deep breath, she looked around the station, her eyes caught mine. There was no life there, they were dull, glassy. She didn’t look away from me as she stepped off the platform and onto the tracks. A second later someone started to scream, a second after that the train arrived.
I read about it later, everyone talked about how it was so unexpected, how she seemed so happy. It launched a campaign in my college, begging people to talk if they needed it, to seek help so they didn’t do anything rash. I know that that girl had no intention of jumping in front of the train. She had been relaxed, calm, there was none of the tension I had seen before she stepped off.
I have tried to stop bubbles, tried to pop them, move them, but nothing worked. My hands would slide right through. Testing was a slow, arduous process. I needed to do it in private, but bubbles seemed to congregate with people. They entered homes only rarely and even then they needed an open door or window. It seemed that bubbles had a specific person, a place that they were going to, whether or not they knew it. Sometimes a bubble would land on me, or brush against me and disappear into me, other times they’d slide right through. That was always the scariest part for me, that somewhere there could be a black bubble, floating along, looking for me. I’ve found no way to stop them and I cannot live in isolation.
I watch the bubbles still, make sure that none stray too close. I do not like it when they touch me, even the good ones. I wonder where those feelings come from, are they my own, are my thoughts? Or do they come from these alien things that move unseen through the world?
Sometimes it looks as though children can see them, I’ll spot a young child, their eyes following a bubble for a few seconds before they’re distracted by something else. Perhaps all children can see them, one of those things that is forgotten as you grow and become an adult, dismissed as fantasy or a playful game.
The reason I am writing this is because I am afraid. For the last week I have seen a black bubble always nearby, as though waiting for the perfect moment. Sometimes it drifts closer, sometimes further away, but it is always there. Is it meant for me or someone else? Will I return home tonight or will I find myself stepping in front of a train or jumping into the river. Perhaps I will figure out a way to save myself, but I find it unlikely. I want you to know that I love you and I’m sorry. I cannot stop it, I cannot help it. It isn’t me and it isn’t my choice. Please, forgive me.”
Stacy held Karen’s letter in her hand, wondering what to do. Should she give it to Karen’s parents? Should she throw it away? It didn’t seem right to keep it, nor did it seem right to show them. They should remember Karen as she was, happy and vivacious, not paranoid and delusional. Perhaps they’d be better off not knowing, thinking that she slipped and fell, that the current was just too strong and the water was just too cold for her to escape. Stacy crumpled it up, it was better for them to think it was an accident, no good would come from them reading this. She threw it into the bin wishing she had never seen it, that Karen hadn’t left a note, leaving Stacy with the haunting reality that perhaps she could have done something, that she should have seen the signs, noticed the strange behaviour. They didn’t live together yet, though they planned to once Karen had finished college, but she should have seen that something was wrong. She should have known her well enough to know that something wasn’t right. Stacy felt the anger burning its way through her, she embraced it, the anger that Karen was gone, that she would do something so awful to her family, it burned away the shame with white hot intensity. She grabbed the letter from the trash and started tearing it up, ripping it to pieces until there was nothing left but scraps of words. How dare she do this to her? To everyone? The anger was suddenly gone and Stacy collapsed onto the bed, breathing deeply the scent of Karen’s pillow as tears began to fall, burning as they fell down her cheeks.