Imagine a deep dark void filled with endless screaming.
Time does not exist in this void. It is difficult to say when the screaming started, or if it will ever end; it is as cyclical and ever-present as the fire within stars. There was never a time when the screaming was not present, nor is there a place where one can go to escape it; the sound of suffering is omnipresent.
In this void there is a small apartment building. Perhaps this building is floating within a vast black expanse, or perhaps the void fits snugly around its contours. Regardless, the apartment is surrounded by darkness. When one looks out the window there is no way to tell if they are trapped in a box or lost deep in space.
Of this apartment there are only two inhabitants. They live inside this scream filled void, though they know not why, or even what floor of the building they are in. As far as they know, they had never been outside their apartment. There are no doors where they live; the wall is one smooth unbroken expanse, as endless as the void outside.
Timothy was eating a quiet breakfast in the kitchen. He sat chewing on his cereal, feeling each piece crunch between his teeth, though he could not hear the sound itself; it was drowned out by the noise outside. Hundreds upon hundreds of voices, all screaming in unison. Endless, endless screaming. Pain that went on forever.
Timothy often wondered to himself what the people outside were screaming about. There seemed to be nothing in this world which could cause them to feel such pain; quite literally, as there was nothing but blackness when he looked out beyond the window curtains. He could not see their pain or even those who were in pain. The screams seemed to exist on their own, separate from a human being’s throat or the wound in a person’s heart. Millions of invisible creatures, screaming from the void.
His mother was watching television from the couch. The woman’s bloated face glimmered beneath the illumination of the device. It was the only source of light in the entire apartment; no power ran through the walls of this place. The television was almost blinding to look into as a result. But Timothy’s mother stared intently at the screen, her bloodshot eyes fixated and unblinking. The screen itself was empty; just a blank white square, floating in the darkness.
She opened her mouth, and said something; but Timothy could not make it out, as the woman’s words were smothered by the screaming.
“What was that?” Timothy asked through a mouthful of cereal.
“I said I’m hungry. Bring me something to eat,” his mother repeated. A half wail, half sob from a woman punctuated the request from outside.
Wordlessly, Timothy got up from his seat at the kitchen and went to the fridge. There was no power, and the inside of the refrigerator was dark. But there was always food for some reason; it never went bad either. Timothy retrieved some milk and poured it into a second bowl of cereal, grabbing a spoon and taking it over to his mother.
The woman’s dead eyes followed him carefully as he approached, and one thick hand raised itself a few inches above the couch to receive the food. Timothy’s mother was morbidly obese. She filled the couch she was occupying, seeming almost to envelop the piece of furniture beneath her flesh, as if she herself were the furniture.
Timothy wordlessly handed her the bowl of cereal. The other hand took hold of the spoon. His mother’s movements were incredibly slow and deliberate. Carefully, the woman began to eat, though a good amount of milk inevitably slipped past her lips. Despite her best efforts, a small puddle of milk began to form in the crevice beneath her chin, staining her clothes.
“I feel sick,” Timothy’s mother mumbled.
“You have been sick for a long time,” Timothy pointed out. “When are you going to get better?”
His mother seemed to think about this, but could not come up with an answer. Instead she went back to eating, or failing to eat, he could not tell which one anymore.
The woman went back to staring at the television. Timothy squinted at the thing, and for a moment they watched together. Just an empty white void. Meanwhile, the screaming continued as it always had since the beginning, assuming there was a beginning. Now that he thought about it, Timothy could not remember a time when the television had not been on either. Perhaps that was where the screaming came from. If he turned it off, would the screaming stop?
It was an interesting notion, but the thought of it made him uncomfortable. After all, Timothy could not imagine what it could mean for the screaming to “stop.” There was no stopping, in the same way there was never any starting.
“I am going to sleep,” Timothy said. It felt like it was late, although he had no way of telling. He had never really known. All he could do was guess what was right.
His mother said nothing, her eyes glued to the white void. After watching her disgusting body for a while, Timothy retreated into the only other room in the apartment. There he laid down in the only bed they had and closed his eyes.
Even after he fell asleep, the screaming didn’t stop.
There were many mysteries surrounding Timothy’s presence in this apartment. So many, in fact, that he had given up thinking about them altogether.
There were no doors in this apartment, only windows that showed him nothing. There were no doors, there never had been no doors, nor would there ever be. And Timothy was quite confident that he had never seen a door in his life. How, then, did he have this expectation that this apartment should have a door? And why did he feel so empty when he looked outside and all he saw was darkness?
As for the screaming, he could never guess. The screaming was there from the moment he was born, when he had slithered, cold and wet, out of his mother’s split womb. He had asked her about his origins once, and she had said simply that he was born in the apartment. Was there anyone to help her? No, of course not. How could there be? The only people in this world were himself and his mother. A third presence would be impossible…
And yet, the thought of his mother giving birth on the dirty apartment floor, all alone, made him want to break down and cry.
Timothy often wondered how long they had been inside this apartment with no doors. But he also knew that time did not exist here. There was no time so he should not have known that there was no time. And yet he did. There were so many things that felt wrong about this world, the screaming not the least of them, and yet he had learned to accept it over time. There it was again, that phrase, “over time…” When had he become able to live this way? And when was “when?”
The only notion of time Timothy had in this place was the time when he was alive and the time when he was not. Before he came into being his mother had been alone in this dark void. But if she had given birth to him, he must have had a father. Where was he? Timothy often wondered about this, but for some reason could not work up the courage to ask his mother. If the two of them were to copulate, could they have a child together? Perhaps then things would change…
Another intriguing notion, but Timothy knew he could never see it to fruition. As lonely as he was, he could not bear to force another life into this world.
After he woke he had another bowl of cereal. His mother asked for food and he brought her another bowl of cereal.
“I still feel sick,” she muttered once again.
“You are always sick,” Timothy said. “Aren’t you used to it by now?”
After this he went to the bathroom. He flushed the toilet, the sound of running water echoing in unison with the screaming outside. He turned on the faucet and washed his hands.
After this he dried his hands with a towel. He considered this towel for a moment. Then he brought it up to his head and covered his ears with it, smothering them.
They did not completely mute the screaming, nor he had he expected it to. But there was a discernible decrease in volume. For some reason this terrified Timothy. It felt wrong, like there was less air in the room.
He removed the towel. The screaming rushed back full force. Roars of terror and utter agony filled him up from the inside. It hurt him but he felt his heartbeat slow. Back to normal.
After that he threw the towel into the trashcan. He didn’t want to see it again.
Sometime after this his mother grew angry with him.
She no longer asked him for food. Every time he woke up he went to the kitchen and had his bowl of cereal, watching the back of his mother’s head as he chewed, trying to hear the crunch through the screams. Beyond his mother, the television continued to flicker in its blank whiteness. He chewed and chewed and waited and waited but the mound of flesh never moved, never spoke a word.
I wonder if she’s sick anymore? If she didn’t say she was, did that mean she wasn’t? Perhaps that was the case. His mother was not sick any longer. But now it seemed that the woman had nothing else to say. If she wasn’t sick then maybe she was nothing.
It seemed that she would not be hungry now either. Timothy went back to sleep and rose. After another bowl of cereal, nothing had changed.
After many iterations of this, he began to grow nervous. Had he done something to upset his mother? He thought back to the towel in the bathroom and was struck by a deep fear. He had known something that she did not. He had put something between himself and the screams while his mother stared daily into its heart, the whites of her eyes indistinguishable from the light of the television.
After many more iterations Timothy could not take it anymore. He went to the kitchen and prepared a bowl of cereal for his mother. He grabbed a spoon and took both to the couch sitting before the television.
“Mother,” he asked softly, “Are you not hungry?”
There was no answer. Gripping the bowl in his hand, Timothy circled the couch.
His mother lay there, eyes hanging open and fixed on the white void. She looked the same as always, and yet something was different. There was a glossy look in her eyes that had no been there before. Now there were three notions of time. When he was here, when he was not, and when this glossy look entered his mother’s eyes.
It became very clear to Timothy in that moment that his mother was dead.
Timothy stood there and watched his dead mother for a very long time. He stood there for so long that he should have gone to sleep and had another bowl of cereal in that time. But time didn’t exist so he was unmoved.
There were so many things about this world that should have been and yet were not. No doors and no time. Now there were things he wished could have been but would never be. Never again would his mother tell him that she was hungry. Never again would she complain about being sick. Never would he feel the slick wetness of her flesh from the inside, and never would he feel the terror of the third presence.
After realizing this Timothy knew not what to do. So he threw the cereal away and went to sleep.
When he woke nothing had changed. The kitchen smelled vaguely of rotting cereal, and his mother’s dead body lay sprawled across the couch.
Outside, the screaming continued. It felt louder now that he was all alone. For the first time in his life he began to feel pain. It occurred to him that pain must come when something was lost. The voices outside fed on that pain, and the veins in his head pulsed as the screaming cleaved into his brain.
In desperation, he tried to go to sleep but could not. In the end he sat on the floor against the wall and watched his mother. He wondered if this was how she had felt before giving birth to him. Was being alone with no knowledge of anyone else different from being alone after losing someone?
A deep, deep agony began to crawl inside of him at that moment. A dark bird laid a twisted egg inside his heart. This egg hatched and out slithered a black maggot with a thousand legs. This maggot feasted on his flesh from the inside and grew wet, fleshy wings of its own. It flew up out of his heart and into his throat, and suddenly Timothy felt like he couldn’t breathe anymore.
It hurt him so to see his mother’s dead body. Something had to be done about that.
Reaching over, he grabbed the remote from the edge of the couch.
Pointing it forward, Timothy turned off the television.
The effect was instantaneous. A loud popping noise filled the apartment, and everything including the corpse of his mother was plunged in darkness. He went from being able to see very little to being able to see nothing.
And in that very same moment, the screaming stopped.
It was utterly petrifying. The complete and absolute silence gripped him like a vice. The black maggot roosting in his throat began to thrash about, tearing at him from the inside. Timothy curled around himself, trying to contain it, but felt so wrong, everything felt so wrong. The screaming had stopped and it terrified him more than those wails of agony ever had. Something more terrifying than the most terrifying thing had come.
Timothy’s breaths came in ragged gasps. He clawed at his throat and clutched his ears. He writhed in agony, but at nothing, he was in agony because now there was nothing. Tears streamed from his eyes and he vomited, and he could hear his stomach shrieking at him for the first time in his life.
It hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts…
Timothy couldn’t take it anymore. He leapt to his feet and ran to the window by the now dead television. The windows did not open so he drew his arm back and hurled the remote.
It smashed through the glass, a maelstrom of shards blowing out and disappearing into the darkness. Timothy rushed forward and gripped the windowsill with all his might, jagged glass teeth sinking into his fingers and drawing black blood.
Drawing in a deep breath, Timothy leaned as far out of the apartment as he could and screamed. He screamed and screamed until his throat tore itself open and he could no longer speak, and even then he screamed, because he knew that now he had started he could never stop. Tears continued to stream down his face, but they were tears of joy, because now things were back to the way they had always been. Everything was back to normal.
As long as he kept screaming, and never turned to see the corpse sitting behind him, silence did not exist.
Right. So this is where I’ll be writing a lot of random one-shots and posting them, mostly so I can have everything in one place. I do believe many of my ideas deserve to be explored, but I don’t have the luxury of writing a full story for all of them (nor do I want to).
As for the nature of this particular fragment, those who know me are probably aware that my writing is not generally this abstract, so maybe this isn’t the most representative piece I could have started with. But this will be purely chronological, and each fragment is dated according to when it was written, to keep track of my thoughts evolve over time. So we’ll see where this takes us