Tomorrow belongs to those who hear it coming. At least, that was how they’d sold it to me. A journey of self awareness. The reality of getting inside your own head, digging out your weaknesses. Becoming stronger. Smarter. Two days in and I was beginning to wish I had never taken that damned pill. This labyrinth swallowed me whole, and I’ve seen many strange, and not wholly pleasant things.
Today was a beach. Too-white sand shone like stardust, and waves that splintered into thorns and crashed into powder smacked against the shore.
I looked around for the guide, and like always, he appeared almost as soon as I thought of him. Tall, scrawny, gleaming blond hair and mismatched eyes. He loomed over me in a suit that glittered almost as much as the sand.
“What’s with the beach?” I asked, trying not to show that I was startled.
“That’s for you to decide.”
I sighed. I didn’t know why he called himself a guide. He was so damned cryptic. “Well, it’s pretty, at least.” I nudged the sand with a toe and it glittered all over my foot.
“You used to think sand was made of star tears,” the guide said. “And that the ocean would take it back.”
I smiled at the memory of me as a child, building castles in the sand, or being buried up to the neck. “I’m an instant star,” I would announce. “Just add water and stir.”
“Ok,” I said with a nod. “So this is going to be a memory lane thing. I think I’m getting good at sorting this place out.”
“I believe that I often bring out the best in somebody’s talents.”
I snorted, of course, the guide would have to make it about himself.
The guide gave a half smile in response. “I’m always amazed people take what I say seriously. I don’t even take what I am seriously.”
“Should I take you seriously?”
He thought about that for a moment. “You’ve watched your father plough the field with a ram’s horn, Guardians of a loveless isle, and nightmare dreams no mortal mind could hold. You tell me if I should be taken seriously.”
I tried to hold down my frustration, but the sand darkened, and the waves grew thornier, dashing forward in tumbling spikes, like icy spires. Each crash tinkled like glass, then clapped like thunder as the water grew darker.
“I’ve never responded well to entrenched negative thinking,” the guide said, distracting me enough that the sand started to sparkle again.
I raised an eyebrow. “Why do you care if I’m being negative? You’re my subconscious.”
He looked at me as if waiting for an actual question. I blushed in irritation.
“Look, I just want to get out of here. This was fun to start with, but I’m sick of this whole journey business now. Let me go.”
“I’m not keeping you here. You are.” He shrugged. “The truth is of course is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.”
I growled and threw my hands up in frustration. The sky darkened and rain began to fall. I caught a droplet, then jumped in alarm when it was not water, but thick, black oil.
“What the–?” I tried to shake the oil off, but it quickly coated me. The guide remained untouched, as gleaming as ever.
“Ah,” he said. “We’ve reached the death stage.”
I panicked. “What do you mean death? This was supposed to help me learn about myself.”
“Confront a corpse at least once,” he said. “The absolute absence of life is the most disturbing and challenging confrontation you will ever have.” As the guide spoke, I saw a shape further up the beach, washed onto the black sand by the knife-like waves. I didn’t want to approach. I already knew it was a body. I knew it was mine.
“I don’t like this place,” I said, voice barely carrying over the wind. The guide ignored me, continuing towards the body.
I followed him, one small step after another, arms wrapped tight around my middle. The guide waited as I kneeled over the body and looked down at my own face, pale and waxy. As I watched, the corpse’s eyes flew open, and in them I saw everything, my whole life, from beginning to now. I reeled backwards and just caught sight of the guide smiling, before everything went white.
I opened my eyes to my own room and my own house, and everything as it should be. Except it was all different, or I was. Blinked and saw my own future, and I understood.
I arrived at the crossing and stood alone on the tarmac. Wind whipped at my face, stinging my eyes. My shoes stopped just short of the metal tracks that crossed the street. The bell started ringing and the barrier lowered behind me. Soon, I felt vibrations through the soles of my feet. Then I heard the screaming roar of the train. The wind picked up, rain started to fall.
I stepped onto the tracks.
Tomorrow belongs to those who hear it coming. But when I looked into my tomorrow, it was silent.
FlashFictionMonth day 26
Challenge: David Bowie Day
Your story for today must explore themes of death and/or identity. We’ve got both.
Include something beginning and something ending. The narrator sees their life begin, and end.
Incorporate Transhumanism into your story. The mind-bending pills that let you enhance your mental state.
Include at least 10 David Bowie quotes and/or lyrics into your work.
Tomorrow belongs to those who hear it coming
I’m an instant star. Just add water and stir.
I believe that I often bring out the best in somebody’s talents.
I’m always amazed people take what I say seriously. I don’t even take what I am seriously.
You’ve watched your father plough the field with a ram’s horn – Come And Buy My Toys
Guardians of a loveless isle – The Supermen
Nightmare dreams no mortal mind could hold – The Supermen
I’ve never responded well to entrenched negative thinking.
The truth is of course is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.
Confront a corpse at least once. The absolute absence of life is the most disturbing and challenging confrontation you will ever have.
Include a character that is based on David Bowie. The guide.