Here's my most recent short(ish) story. It's entitled Illusion, and it was inspired by a play I did a few months ago called L'Illusion Comique, By Pierre Corneille (English adaptation The Illusion by Tony Kushner), a late French playwrite. The play was a comedy, exploring the power and the bonds of love, and honestly, that was one of the best plays I've done, especially my sword fight scene. However, Illusion is far from that. Instead, it's a much darker short story confounded with anger and fear and hate. It examines the nature of an illusion and a dream. What is an illusion? Are we an illusion? What is real? Are emotions real? Was that animal that just flew past real for that matter? And what is a dream? Are they real or illusions? Do they derive from thought, and if so, are those real thoughts, or merely illusions in themselves? If so does that make all thoughts illusions? One thing's for sure: If you're looking for answers... You won't find them here.
Oh God, this can’t be happening, thought Jack, panting. His heart was pounding loudly like war drums in his chest as he ran. Desperately he gasped for air as he spared a glance behind him. Every shadow seemed to move, mocking him. The trees arched over him, their colossal roots grabbing for him. Animals made noisy yet eerie squeaks as they scrambled frantically amongst the undergrowth. …Shadows? It was deep into the night, and pitch black. Not even the moon or the stars could be seen through the thick canopy. So how could shadows be cast? Were there even shadows at all? Jack almost stopped in confusion. Then came the crunch of twigs, the crackle of dry leaves, and so he kept running through the dark forest, following the winding dirt road.
Blindly, he ran, moaning, gasping, crying, a river of emotions going down a waterfall, fearfully trying to escape. Adrenaline pumped through his veins as beads of sweat ran down his cheek. No time to wipe them off. No time for anything but running. He put on another fresh burst of speed as the fear madly took over, making him confused and frightened and mad and dizzy all at the same time. Need rest… Jack thought dimly. His legs failing as exhaustion took over, Jack didn’t see the low branch in front of him, hanging over the twisted path.
“Damn it!” Jack swore as he felt the full force of the impact. Scurrying along, he was on the move again, before he had properly gotten his balance, frantic in his mad dash. Pain ebbed through his jaw as blood seeped from his cut, but it was quickly forgotten. Why the hell is it here? Jack thought in a mixture of anger and fear. This thought was quickly regretted as Jack tripped over another branch he didn’t see, this time sticking out of the ground.
Again, he cursed, but quickly restrained himself. He couldn’t afford to have another lapse in concentration. It was coming, and It was catching up. No time even to look back now. Jack could hear it’s presence behind him. He could smell it too. He could feel its cold essence creeping ever closer towards him, mocking him at every turn. Involuntarily, he jumped as an owl hooted into the night, almost hitting another branch.
The momentary panic quickly turned to confusion as the fork in the road seemed to appear from nowhere. Indecisiveness was quashed in his brain by his fear, as he took the right path. Dimly, somewhere inside, he knew that there had never been a fork there in this part of the forest, but in this insanity, he hardly cared. He just knew he had to get away… To where? It was behind him… It would catch him. As he realised this, desperation got the better of him. Unwillingly, while still running, he turned to see where it was. Suddenly he went flying and dizzily registered his back slamming into something hard. He didn’t even feel the pain any more.
Now, he didn’t even bother to turn, for It now approached him, a ghastly sight in front of him, gleefully rejoicing in his fear and his pain. Vainly he half got up once more, and ran backwards… He had to get away… Get away from this… Thing. The world was swirling around Jack. He had no control anymore over what he felt, what he thought, or what he saw. His entire body seemed to go numb as his eyes remained fixated on the spectre. Nothing made sense anymore. What was it doing? What was he doing? Who was he even?
Lost in a whirlpool of senseless emotions, round and round he struggled, not even aware that he was falling backwards… Down he fell, down, down, down, into the deepest depths of his dark oblivion…
Jack’s body made a large splash as he hit the water hard, but he registered none of this, overwhelmed by the tumultuous insanity that had immobilised him.
James woke up suddenly, bolting upright with such vigour he almost fell right out of bed. He felt his forehead. He was perspiring madly. Yet something was amiss… Where was he just then? Logically, it had to have been a dream. But was it? He couldn’t quite remember… Momentarily, he was lost in a swirl of confusion, but quickly got himself together. Damn fever, keeping me up at all hours, he thought bitterly. Looking outside his bedroom window, he lamented that he had nothing much to look at, except the dull, lifeless forest nearby. A paved brick road ran through the forest, he knew, and he’d gone exploring several times, but never had he found anything worthwhile to go back to, so he had soon given up on that pastime.
His bedroom was the same he had fallen asleep in. It was a small room, only sparing room for his bed, a table and a bookshelf. His work desk, doubling as a bedside table, held scattered paper, books and stationary, as well as a lamp. His bookshelf was virtually empty, save for a few scattered books he hadn’t read for ages. Reading just wasn’t his thing. For one, it was always so boring. What fun was reading? He liked excitement. Adventure.
He hadn’t always lived in this remote area – he was born and raised in the city, and unused to the quiet life. He enjoyed technology. Here, nothing ever seemed to happen. It bore him, and his parents knew it, but they chose to live here anyway. How he longed to escape! They’ve always ignored me, like some little kid. Who cares about me, after all? I’m just some child who hasn’t seen the world; never known true emotions – love, happiness, betrayal, bitterness, fear, anger, hate… Is that how adults think? You don’t become an adult until you’ve experienced that? Just because I haven’t doesn’t mean I’m a naïve, sentimental child. I could do anything they could if they gave me the opportunity… But no, they always hold me back, and try to control my life… If only they were taken out of the picture for a day… Or a week, or a month, or a year! I could do so many things, and prove to them-
An ear-piercing shriek filled the night, disrupting the peaceful stillness. Immediately, though still in shock, he recognised that it was his mother’s scream which had broken the tranquillity of the country night. A stab of fear pierced his heart. Forgetting his previous thoughts, he jumped out of bed and flung open his bedroom door in one continuous motion. He rushed through the kitchen, clumsily knocking over a vase in his hurry, but that was the last thing on his mind. Heart in his throat, he turned right out of the kitchen and ran up the stairs to his parents’ bedroom, three steps at a time.
He opened the door with hands which were trembling unaccountably, as if something was controlling them with fear. He couldn’t help but let out a hoarse and pitifully weak scream at what he saw in the room beyond. His mother was slumped, unmoving, against the back wall. Was that blood around her head? James felt dizzy all of a sudden. Couldn’t be. His father was cowering, crumpled against the far corner, sobbing uncontrollably the entire time. Slowly, he looked up, his whole body visibly shaking. “RUN!” he roared, suddenly, agitatedly, coming to life.
He opened his mouth to repeat the call when he froze, transfixed once again. “What is it Dad? What’s happening? WHAT’S HAPPENING?! MUM?!” he roared, louder, scared and confused with panic and fear. His father lifted a finger, a weak movement, pointing towards the door. James still didn’t understand… Until It came out from behind the door. It was the only door he could think of to describe it. It was just so horrifying that he, too, stood in awe and fear. He tried to move, to turn, to hide, to run, but his muscles were frozen in place.
Finally, his father reacted. “Run, run, run, RUN JAMES!” he roared, half sobbing. It broke James out of his trance. Darting one quick look at his father, he turned and bolted back down the stairs as fast as his legs would carry him. He dashed straight for the door. Sweating profusely, his hand slipped for several seconds on the doorknob before he was finally able to grasp and twist it and open the door. A shockingly chilly wind met him and sent shivers down his spine.
He stopped, looking back into his house, and for a wild, wild moment it all seemed like a dream. The sudden, anguished, final scream from his father snapped him out of his trance, forcing him to run. His mind tortured with confusion, he simply ran, ran away from it all. Everything was a blur. Nothing registered to his senses, only that one burning, million dollar question. Why? Why was the thing here? What was it doing? What was it for that matter? Nothing made sense. Dimly, his vision blurred with tears he didn’t realise he had cried, he saw that he had reached the forest. He did not even remember running in this direction. Already however his muscles were complaining. Yet all this was simply blocked out, replaced by adrenaline. Fear overcame all his senses. Panic overtook his thinking.
FEAR! PANIC! RUN! PANIC! FEAR! RUN! RUN! RUN!!!
Madly, he dashed, looking for some place to hide, something with which to protect himself. Yet deep down he knew it was useless. How could he fight such an abomination? He didn’t even realise he was well into the forest, still following the red brick road. All he could think of was It, an intangible plethora of thought and emotion culminating only in a mad frenzy. Still he ran on. Yet, as if by summoning, like a shark fixed on blood, It came.
James didn’t need to turn to know, instinctively, that It was behind him. Yet as he ran, the urge built up inside him, and he turned to have a quick glance. “HOLY ****!” he yelped in a mixture of surprise, shock and fear. He turned and bolted; and that quelled any more desire for him to turn around. Its image fixated on his mind, James just ran, deeper and deeper into the forest. He was tiring, yet fear drove him on. His last memory of his father replayed over and over in his mind. His mother, too – what had become of her?
In his heart, he knew, of course. And it would happen to him, too. Of course this was all incomprehensible to him still. All that mattered was the panic and fear. He put on a fresh burst of speed, trying to outrun what he couldn’t understand.
James barely had the sense to watch where he was running, instead just aimlessly moving his legs. From seemingly out of nowhere, a black crow swept down from some hidden porch and with a startling cry, swept downwards. James uttered a cry of surprise and pain as the crow rakes its talons across his face. Losing his balance as he instinctively turned his face away, James stumbled, and fell face first into the rough dirt track. …Rough dirt track…? But this road was paved!
But James had no time to ponder anything, for even as he began to think the thought, it was already disappearing and fear once again broke through, ending the temporary reprieve. Behind him he heard a blood-curdling, high pitched laughter, almost maniacal in nature. Suddenly shivering as he got up, James brushed off the blood from the crow with one hand and started running again in the other direction. He barely had time to realise that his hand had met with no blood.
Oh God, this can’t be real, thought James, panting. His heart was pounding erratically. Desperately he gasped for air, but could barely take any in as panic took over his every move. Every shadow seemed to mock him. The trees stood tall and straight, gazing and laughing at him, daring him to turn around. Animals seemed to have completely abandoned the forest… The moon and the stars glowed eerily bright, as if under some grand cosmic influence, an audience to this tale. Was it his imagination, of was that a wolf’s cry? There was a full moon tonight… No time! He ran on, following the dirt – no, brick - road.
Blindly, he ran, moaning, gasping, crying, a river of emotions going down a waterfall, fearfully trying to escape. Adrenaline pumped through his veins as beads of sweat ran down his body. No time to wipe them off. No time for anything but running. He put on another fresh burst of speed as the fear madly took over, making him confused and frightened and mad and dizzy all at the same time. Need rest… James thought dimly. His legs failing as exhaustion took over, James didn’t see the root of the tree in front of him, sticking out uglily from the ground.
“Bugger!” James swore as he felt his overworked ankle drive itself into the branch, tripping him over. Frantically he got up, still dazed, panicking in his mad dash. Pain from the ankle made him cry out, but even the pain and exhaustion was being blocked now. Why the hell is it here? He thought in pure fear. This thought was quickly regretted as James tripped over another branch he didn’t see, again sticking out of the ground.
Again, he cursed, not bothering to even conceal his anger born from fear. One thing he knew though… It was coming, and It was catching up. No time even to look back now. James could hear it’s presence behind him. He could hear it too. He could almost feel its cold essence creeping ever closer towards him, mocking him at every turn. But he didn’t… or did he? Involuntarily, he jumped as a tiny leaf hit the ground in front of him, almost hitting his head on another branch.
The momentary lapse disappeared as, for the first time, he saw something he recognised, a fork in the road, the two way fork that went ahead and to his right. Fear for once was overridden as he began to run to the right, knowing that somewhere in the distance it led to town. He didn’t know if he could last that long, but he knew it was his only hope. He knew… He… He took the left path. In this insanity, he hardly cared that it was not the right path. It was behind him! It would catch him! Fear turned into desperation as panic once again engulfed him. He turned to see where It was, a sudden compelling action. Suddenly he went flying and dizzily registered his back slamming into something hard. His head was on fire.
He couldn’t open his eyes, but It now approached him, a ghastly sight in front of him, gleefully rejoicing in his fear and his pain. Vainly he half got up once more, and ran backwards… He had to get away… Get away from this… Thing. The world was swirling around James. He had no control anymore over what he felt, what he thought, or what he saw. His entire body seemed to go numb as his eyes remained fixated on the spectre. Nothing made sense anymore. What was it doing? What was he doing? Who was he even? Nothing made sense… Nothing… Nothing…
Down he fell, down, down, down, into the deepest depths of his dark oblivion, overwhelmed by the tumultuous insanity that had immobilised him. Until there was… nothing.
John woke up groggily, as he usually did, perspiring. This in itself was unusual, He never perspired. Something was amiss… Where was he just then? He had just had a dream, he knew. Only in dreams could he ever get so worked up. Frowning, he had no idea what he had been dreaming – if indeed he had been having a dream. All he knew was that it had felt so darn real. Just what exactly had felt real he didn’t remember, but it did seem real. Looking outside his bedroom window, he saw the forest – his forest - nearby. At this time the forest would be crawling with animals. A paved brick road ran through the forest, he knew, but it wasn’t paved very far. They were his woods though. He knew it like the back of his hand. It had always inspired curiosity within him since he was a child, not one journey into the forest was ever regretted.
He looked around tiredly. His bedroom was a large room, with a double bed, a bookshelf, a desk, a stereo system and even his very own TV. His work desk stood opposite his bedside desk. His bookshelf was packed, every last shelf full of books. He loved reading about everything, but especially mythology. It seemed to be just such a magical subject, one he could not put down. The rest of his room was meticulously clean, just as he liked it. He loved the peace drawn from the tidiness, as though everything which fit was just meant to be there. It was perfect.
He loved his life here. He had grown up here, a farm boy, and he loved it. In the cities, it was always so loud, so dirty, so crazy… Here, everything was calm, tranquil. Nothing ever disturbed the farm. Nothing like the problems of the city. No crime, no drugs, no-one waiting to con you out of your every last cent. His family didn’t have much money, granted, but it was enough. He would never go to the city. People would leave behind all the tension and the hustle of the city life. He had some friends who had done that – left the city. Left it all behind for the tranquil silence of the beautiful country. It was so… gentle, so peaceful. So peaceful…
His father’s ear-piercing shriek filled the night.
So! Random, yes? No? What did you guys make of it?