Aphelion Issue 229, Volume 22
June 2018
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
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by Jake Zawlacki

This morning, a boy sat at the edge of my bed and stared at me. All of his skin was patches sewn together of different shades. I didn't move because I didn't want him to move. They say they are not what I see. I don't believe them.

After I ate lunch I went outside. Lunch was green bean casserole. I love how it tastes. Images of my father. He took care of me when my mother left. His green bean casserole was better. He drank when he cooked dinner. When he ate dinner. When he was finished. This is what I thought when I looked at the gate. It's wrought iron. I like those words. I think of rot iron. I know it's fantasy but I imagine the iron finally rotting and being able to walk into the countryside. Away from here.

I sat outside a long time. I always do. It helps staying still. They don't look at me as much. I did see a few. One was a man with no eyes and tar black skin. It looked slick. It had eye sockets but no eyelids. It sat next to a tree. I think it was saying something but I try not to listen. They tell me I shouldn't listen. I don't anymore.

The other was a small child with no skin. They tell me these things are impossible to imagine because I've never seen them. They don't believe in nightmares. The child sat and cried. It sounded like it was in pain. I tried to look away but it can be difficult. They tell me they are people too. People don't look like that.

I stood up. They looked at me. At least I think they did. It's hard to tell when they don't have eyelids. It must be hard for monsters to sleep. The sun lowered behind the pickled green hills. I walked inside. My room is very bare. They tell me I shouldn't have a lot of things. There is only a bleached white bed. Everything is white. It's exactly as I expected it to be when I first came. When I lay on my bed I always think. It takes a long time because I have a very good memory. They tell me to stop thinking. I tell them it would be difficult.

Five years ago, I lived with my father. I was fourteen years old. My name was Gregory Tumults. I lived with him for fourteen years. My mother was not home that night. She hadn't been home in fourteen years. My father always said "This would be the night." He was always wrong. He said, "The other option would be too difficult."

I told him he was wrong. I told him my mother and his wife would never return. I told him this after dinner. After many pours and sips and pours. He picked up his glass and broke it in his hand. The blood was very red against his flesh. He told me he didn't want me to be asleep when she came home. He told me he didn't want me to miss the second she arrived. He grabbed glass from the shards on the table. He put his knee on my chest. He grabbed my face. He cut the skin covering my eyes.

It's hard to sleep at night. They tell me to wear a mask but it is uncomfortable. I don't mind seeing. They wanted to put the skin back but I wanted to see. I still do. They say if I get it done I can go to sleep. The monsters I don't see with my eyes are worse.

Tomorrow my father is coming. It will be the first time I've seen him in five years. There is a large dark creature in the corner of my ceiling. They like to sit and watch. Tonight its only one. I look at it. I think it might be protecting me. The real monsters are much worse.

I put my clothes on and go to breakfast. I see a lot more of them today. There is a human with no arms and charred skin with no eyes sitting next to me at the table. Across from me is an old woman hunched over so far she looks like a turtle. Her mouth is toothless and black. There are more standing against the wall. They are skinny and their collarbones stick out of their bodies. Ten look at me. Their skin is tight and thin. They have no eyelids. I walk to the visitor room. They follow. The two from yesterday follow. The skinless baby crawls.

After I sign in, I sit down. The monsters stand behind me. The room is very crowded. The door across opens. My father walks and then sits. There are two humans in bleached white that stand behind the monsters. There are two humans in bleached white that stand behind the monster.

"For God's sake, Greg, why won't you just do the surgery?"

I looked behind me and the monsters were gone.

I want to see.

"I want to see."

"It's disgusting. I can't look at you."

His eyes gathered moisture. His face reddening.

"You took everything."

"I fucked you up. I cut your face. I want you to be normal again."

"You are blind."

I looked behind me at only two large men in bleached white. The others were gone.

"To what?"

"The monsters."

"There are no fucking monsters, Greg. Everyone is not a monster."

I looked at the faded silver wedding ring. I looked into his eyes.

He looked at the table.

"You know she might come," he said.

"She's gone. You haven't changed. I have."

"I have changed! Five years in prison thinking about this. I'm another man. I want to fix what I did to you."

"I can see everything now."

I stood up. I walked out of the room.

"Come back here, Greg! I'm not done."

I closed the door to his scream. I stood. I looked down the hall. There was only white floors and white walls and white ceiling and white light. Bleached. I walked down a flight of stairs to the medical office. I looked in the lobby. There was a nurse at the desk.

"Excuse me."

"Yes, Mr. Tumults?"

"I'd like to close my eyes."


2017 Jake Zawlacki

Bio: Jake Zawlacki lives in the Altai mountains of Mongolia where he works as a social worker, coaches basketball, teaches English, reads a lot and writes a little. He has been published in RomanceMagazine, 101words, zeroflash, and litro.

E-mail: Jake Zawlacki

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