This story is by Zeina Bazarbac and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Five things, and five things only, scare me: losing my parents, failure, my own brain, going to hell, and finally, Anatidaephobia: the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching me.
I think about this list as I head towards the subway station. They’ll announce who got promoted today. The last four years have passed by married to four lame pretexts to justify my rejection. I’m not junior partner at the firm due to an unspoken yet obvious reason. They won’t promote a woman with a past of mental illnesses. You can escape the disorder, but you’ll never escape the label. Even if you’ve been “sane” for years.
With one block left to the station, I feel light headed.
I stop and close my eyes, shake my head and take a deep breath. No matter what happens, I’m still going to live through it. I open my eyes and feel the need to take a double take. What I’m seeing must be some type of stress-induced hallucination. I know what they feel like. And I would believe that it’s the case here, I would, had I been creative enough to imagine something like this. What in the world could this -thing- be? An alien? A laboratory bred creature? I can’t think of a reason why humans would want to create something like that. Then again, humans aren’t known for thinking things through. Most of the time, we think about whether we could, not so much about whether we should. Many horrifying events could have been avoided, had we just asked this simple question before taking the next step. Like the scandal at the firm after my first public episode…
The thing looks like something that would be drawn on an ancient greek vase. It resembles a purple octopus, but it has Medusa’s snakes-hair thingies for tentacles. This OctoMedusa is equipped with a hover-board, one that actually flies. Are they making a new Back to the Future movie? The creature gracefully roams through the city streets, seemingly unseen by anyone.
I haven’t noticed until now, but OctoMedusa has sunglasses on. This is getting crazier by the second.
This thing could not have been drawn on a greek vase, unless made by a psychic with super futuristic skills, as well as a big pile of weed.
Wait I got it! OctoMedusa wears the sunglasses so that people don’t turn into stone when they look at her, him, it?
I’m just going to assume it’s a her. And I’m going to call her Ginny, because she quite possibly could be a jinni. How considerate of Ginny to wear those glasses! It sort of makes me want to hug her… -had she not been utterly nasty-.
Ginny looks at me, or at least her head points towards my direction, before passing by me. I close my eyes, rub them, and open them again to make sure that I’m seeing OctoMedusa. Darn it, I am. I follow Ginny, even though right now I’m not sure I should. I have to go to work.
She notices me behind her, and stops. She waits till I go up to her before extending one of her eight snake-hairs at me. I think she’s offering it to me to… shake it? I reach to touch it, before quickly retrieving my hand. I was about to willingly touch a snake? Ah hell nah! Ginny seems disappointed, but not surprised.
An old man passes by and asks me if I’m okay, and if I would like him to call someone for me, because I look petrified. If he only knew…
I reassure him that I’m alright, surprised he doesn’t mention the octopus.
He could simply not have clearly seen what Ginny was, and just assumed it was a new dog breed. The old man smiles, says ‘have a good one’ and leaves.
I excuse this man, but how is no one else seeing Ginny? Is she actually a hallucination of my sickening brain?
Ginny starts to flop around, almost as if she’s about to get me. I wonder if this is some type of prank. I look around, but I don’t see any possible hiding places for cameras. OctoMedusa starts yelling. There is no way that people around me are not hearing this! Newt Scamander could you come and claim this thing as one of your Fantastic Beasts already? Add it to your newest book edition!
Oh God, Ginny won’t shut up. I’ve taken care of babies in the past, as a summer job. So I decide that this is no different. I pick Ginny up from the hover-board. Frightened, disturbed, and quite disgusted with the slimy feeling, I rock her to sleep. I plan to take her home. If someone finds her, they’ll kill her, experiment on her, or, most probably, sell her.
When I arrive home, my work-from-home sister is angry at me. She lectures me about not being at work, even if I didn’t get promoted. It’s like she doesn’t even see Ginny in my hands. I’m amazed.
“Hey look what I got!” I tell her.
“You got the promotion?” she sounds hopeful but skeptical.
“No, not that! Well I don’t know I didn’t go to work… But look!” I lower my gaze down to Ginny.
“Look at what? your purse? Wait you didn’t go to work?!”
I try again to bring her focus on Ginny. “Can’t you see her?”
“See who?!” she is angry, horrified, and possibly worried.
“Ginny!” I bring my hands closer to her face.
I can’t believe this. Is no one seeing Ginny besides me? What is my mind doing to me? What am I doing to myself? Have I completely lost it again? Again? Oh, I never had it, whatever “it” is.
After describing my day to my sister, she states it might be time to call the therapist.
I can forget about the promotion now, but at least Ginny is not a duck…