This story is by MC D’ Alton and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
By day I’m an optician, but after dusk, I hunt for the weird and unknown. It’s my love for all things strange which separate me from the norm. First, it was because I am a half blood. White mother, black father. Then there was the fact that I could see things others couldn’t or didn’t want to. What I refused to see was my mother’s warning, “Avain, the day will come when your insatiable inquisitiveness will bite you in the bum.”
Nan blamed my inquisitive nature on the fact that on the night I was born, all the stars fell from the sky – she saw the meteor shower as an omen.
It’s a crisp Johannesburg autumn morning. I climb in the minibus taxi and zip up my jacket. It’s not an icy cold day, so what’s up with the goosebumps? I scan the people on board looking for anything out of the ordinary.
Another shiver runs the length of my body. Something’s up. I just know it.
Half an hour later, I stroll into my little office.
It’s the first thing I notice. Laying there. A pair of spectacles, really old spectacles, like nineteen – twenties old.
I pick it up – a sharp electric shock jabs my fingertips, “ouch!” The specs fly through the air. Was that? Static? I hope I haven’t broken the damn things. I bend over and retrieve the glasses from the floor and inspect them. The ancient tortoise shell frames are intact.
I turn the frame to look at me and notice something odd. Unlike other lenses they do not distort or improve vision. I look closer. It’s like peering into a pitch black hole which, moves. The longer I stare, the stronger it pulls.
A knock at my door, “Bilksem!” I drop them again, thankfully in my lap, “come.”
“Morning Avain. Here’s your schedule for the day.”
“Hi, thanks. Wilma, who brought these in?” I ask showing her the pair of reading glasses.
The voluptuous brunette frowns, “don’t know. Where’s their order docket?”
“Didn’t have one,” I reply.
She hands them back before leaving.
Mom’s warning whispers in the back of my mind. I push it away. I have to figure this out. Surely I’m dreaming? But then….
With the care one would treat a newborn baby, I unfold the temples and slip the glasses onto my face. It takes my eyes a moment to adjust before I realize what it is I am looking at.
A something … no, a somewhere else. Quick as a flash I pull them off and rub my eyes. A bubble of excitement gurgles in my chest.
“What is this?” I eye the old lenses with wary skepticism.
My common sense screams at me, to ‘by accident on purpose’ misplace the damn thing. But I can’t. I have to know. So, I slip them back on.
It’s like stepping into an unlit room from the bright outdoors. Darkness and a bone-deep chill envelop me.
And then it begins to move — the darkness — it takes shape.
An obsidian human form, dotted with millions of falling stars and eyes like Nebula’s, walks toward me. It’s smile – straight out of a horror fliek.
I try to step away, but can’t move. I glance down at my feet. I am standing on nothing.
“Shit!” my shriek drifts off into the nothingness.
A voice pushes into my head, and the spot between my eyes burns, “thank you.”
“F-for what?” I say out loud.
“For the summons.”
Oh, great Avain! You’ve speed dialed an alien. We all know how that one ends. Blood, gore, guts…painful death.
“Uh, okay. Where am I?”
“Oh, that’s great. Well nice to meet you, guess I’ll be going.”
A large hand grips my arm, “stay awhile. We have waited for you.”
“Uh, waited for me? We? What is this place?”
“It is the other world. An evolved realm to replace that which is dying.”
“Yes, your world is a scourge, a wasteland and no longer needed.”
Oh, sweet heavens and holy Moses.
“Come, let us show you.”
“Us?” I look around and spot no other star creeps. It just smiles as it points to a blue orb, “earth.”
He holds up a hand and folds open his fingers like a blooming flower. The blue planet obeys and peels open to it’s very center.
Sitting, plum in the middle of that red hot, burn me to a crisp outer core – a gaping black hole. From it, several long tentacles reach into the stone and clay and all the geological stuff which makes earth, well…earth.
“What are you doing?” I pull away from him, “we are not dying!”
Another creepy ass smile.
“You have summoned us; you are the Avain, the key. That,” he points to the spectacles, “is the opener, our way to.”
The way to? Crap!
Okay, I’m officially freaked out. Whatever this is, it’s been fun, but I want to go, now!
I tug on the glasses until they let go. Wham! I’m sitting on my backside. It takes me a few moments to gather my shocked thoughts.
I need to call the girls. My friends, believers, and seekers of the odd and eccentric like me. I have never fit in anywhere. Always the outcast, always the weirdo, until I met them. We meet once a month, The Sisters of Strange.
I shove the glasses into a case and shove that case into my handbag.
“What do you mean there’s another world? Where?”
“In the middle of the planet, Julie.” Seriously, how many times do I have to explain!
“Wait, I thought you said they were in the specs?”
“Ugh, Alba… girls,” with fists balancing on my round hips I explain once more, “the glasses act as a kind of a portal, here try them on,” I hand the frames to Alba.
Her eyebrow arches as she reaches with a shaky hand, she takes them and puts them on, “so what now? Do I have to say something?”
“What?” I grab them off her face, “are you telling me,” I point to the lenses, “that you can’t see it?”
“See what, Avi?”
“Uh, no!” Alba exclaims as her head bobs from side to side.
“There is another world out there. A dark, cold, hungry world. It lays just beyond this one or just inside of it. I felt it. I breathed it in.”
All they do is stare at me as though my wacky is too wacky even for theirs.
“I’ll have to show you,” I say, “hold onto me,” and I shove the specs onto my face.
Pop, fizzle snap!
We’re standing in the middle of nothingness looking down at the blue sphere we call home.
Quick as a wink I pull them off. We come to land flat on our bottoms. Three pairs of frightened eyes staring back at me.
“Holy shite! How do we stop this thing?” Mel exclaims.
“I don’t think it’s a case of stopping it, they will only come back. We have to destroy whatever it is.”
“Fine, but how?”
Alba steps forward, “there’s this Sci-Fi author who wrote a short story a while back. In it, he used something called a ‘standing wave’.”
We give her the, ‘what’s that’, look.
“It’s very similar to the screech a microphone makes when held too close to a speaker. But with this, the screech intensifies until, wham!” She slaps her hands together and we all jump.
An hour later we stand in a circle. Around each of our waists a harness. Threaded through the harnesses, a rope. I tie it to the radiator in my sitting room. I will slip on the glasses and enter the other world.
If our plan works, my friends will pass me the speaker. When I give the signal they will flip the switch and the speaker should, in theory, spit out the deafeningly sharp sound which, will rapidly increase in pitch, frequency, and something else.
Hey let’s face it we were winging it here – none of us actually have a clue what we’re doing.
Assumption could be the hole in our plan.
I nod goodbye, take a deep breath and slip on the specs. Poof! I am standing in Akker Dunhia. I turn to tug on the rope linking me to my friends — gone.
I reach up and try to pull off the specs, they’re gone, “what?!”
“It is best I hold on to these,” the voice snakes into my head. I look up to find the star man, standing glasses in hand, a horror fliek smile painted across his obsidian face.
“Come, it is time.”
A scream of terror cuts its way up my throat and out through my mouth as my world crumbles and fades and a silver ball appears in its place. It’s surface squirms like liquid mercury.