Saturday, March 2, 2019



It first happened on my way home from work. The time had just changed, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself driving home in daylight for once.

I live near the airport, so it isn't uncommon to see airplanes flying low, readying themselves to land. I admit, I have a tendency to fiddle with my phone while waiting at red lights. I changed the song I was listening to and looked up to check the car in front of me. Still seeing brake lights, I looked up farther to see if the light had changed, and that's when I noticed a large white flicker “blink” just over the horizon.

I thought it was a plane. But if it had been a plane, I would still have seen it making its way to the airport. Instead the ‘flicker’, or the thing I saw, disappeared behind trees and buildings.

I pondered on what I could have seen on the way home. At the time, I wasn't very bothered by it. It could have been a bright flash of light that played a trick on my eyes. It could have in fact been a plane, and I had only been paying half attention. But my gut told me what I’d seen was something else entirely. 

A few days passed and the same thing happened again. I never could get a good look at the enormous thing that seemed the populate the area just outside of my line of sight. But the idea that it was NOT a plane ate at me. The fact that I kept seeing it gnawed at my subconscious, and from just my being aware, I seemed to see it more.

In the mornings on Saturdays when I watered my lawn, I saw a flicker in the east. Huge, gargantuan, white and it had mass; it wasn't just a flash of bright light. On Tuesday, I was checking the mail and I saw a glimmer of white pass across the sun for a fraction of a second.

I told my wife. It became a joke to her. She walked with me to the mailbox and around the block to see if she could witness a “flicker” too, but she never did. That's when she mentioned my tumor.

I'd had a small mass in the right side of my temporal lobe three years ago. It was benign. It hadn't moved or grown since we'd discovered it, but now, Maria was urging me to make another trip to the doctor. Understandable. I was seeing things after all, and she was worried.

“Homer, it's just a quick visit. You know Dr. Grey well, I don't see why you're giving me such a hard time about this.”

“Maria, please…” I rolled my eyes. A man in his fifties probably shouldn't roll his eyes, but I felt much younger than my birth certificate suggested. 

“We said when this started that we would tackle it head on. That we wouldn't procrastinate or let fear guide us. Now look at you, refusing to even go for a check-up.”

“I'm not refusing. I just feel that...that this is stemming from something else.”

“That's why they call them hallucinations, they seem very real to the hallucinator. So real that they don't know they're hallucinating.”

I sighed. There was no talking her out of it. So I would go. On my next day off, I would let Dr. Grey poke and prod at me, yet again. 

One test was never enough with that man. The drawing of blood and the scanning of my brain matter was unending. Part of me thought that it was just so Dr. Grey could make an extra penny from the insurance company, and another part of me thought that he kept digging at me so he could see Maria a little longer during each visit. I'm not being paranoid. 

Maria thought Dr. Grey was a nice man, and he was, but, he was a whole hell of a lot nicer to her than he was to anyone else.

By Thursday, I'd seen at least ten more 'flickers'. They were varying in color now. Some were black, some were grey, some brown. And they seemed closer to me. I couldn't see them clearly, because they moved so fast, but I could see their shadows. Huge and animal like, and I could only see them for fractions of a second.

I went to the doctor on Friday. Decided to take off of work for it. The company I work for knows about my medical issues and they were more than happy to excuse my time, but I was less than pleased at the thought of only getting a partial paycheck for the week.

After an hour wait in the lobby and two more hours of tests and machines whirring in my ear, Dr. Grey said nothing had changed. Then he proceeded to ask my wife about her garden and listened intently for five minutes as Maria gushed on about her begonias, oblivious to the way the good doctor looked at her. 

I saw a 'flicker' on the way out of the doctor's office and my head snapped towards my wife. There was no way she could have missed the gargantuan shadow that blocked out the sun for a millisecond. But she made no indication that she'd seen anything. 

I stood in the parking lot, dumbfounded for a few moments until she asked me what what wrong. I lied smoothy and handed her the keys. "Just thinking on if we needed anything from the grocery store." I kissed her on the lips, told her I loved her and asked if she wouldn't mind driving. She nodded and got in the car.

The rest of my week was full of flickers, until I finally saw one head on. Sunday morning. It was barely light outside and something told me to step out my front door. 

As soon as I passed through the doorway, a giant, hairy foot moved out of my front yard almost too quickly for my eye to follow. But it was too late, I'd seen it. Tufts of white hair rained down from the sky and I picked one out of the grass just to prove to myself it was real. It was, and the fur was still warm.

On Tuesday afternoon, I collapsed at work. The last thing I remember was doing my machine checks, then, darkness. 

I woke up in a hospital bed, the blinds open, sun shining in through the window. I could tell we were at the very top of the building. Possibly the tenth or eleventh floor. I didn't recognize the city I saw outside.

Maria was at my side, of course, the wonderful woman that she is.

I tried to speak, but found my throat too dry. Maria pressed a drinking straw to my lips and I happily gorged myself on cool, refreshing water until she pulled the drink away. 

"Where are we?"
"Chicago." She rubbed my hands. Her eyes filled with tears.
"What happened? How can we be in Chicago? How long was I out for?" I tried to sit up, but my stomach muscles were jelly.

"Oh, Homer," her voice cracked. "We've been through this so many times." She sobbed.

"What in the Sam hell is going on?"
"You've been here for months. We've been here for months."
"How? I remember just passing out earlier. I've been in a coma for months? Is that what you're telling me?"

She shook her head no.
"Then what happened? What is happening to me?"
A tear rolled down her cheek, "They don't know, you just, you just won't quit...seeing them... and then things happen that we can't explain."

I shook my head. "I don't understand."

"When you're not conscious, nothing happens, but when you're awake..." she dipped her forehead to the back of my hand resting at my side and sobbed. "We have to keep you asleep. You have to go back."

I tried to get up but, again, I found myself too weak. My muscles had atrophied. I'd been stagnant... like Maria had said, for months. I'd wasted away in a hospital bed. I'd been kept asleep. It sounded absurd. It was absurd.

A shadow fell across the window of my hospital room, blocking the sun. I immediately remembered the 'flickers'. Maria didn't move. She just kept crying. 

I swallowed hard. 

"Maria," I nudged her. She looked up at me, slowly. The room got darker. The sunlight blocked by something outside. Something big enough to reach eleven stories up.

"We wake you every month hoping that something has changed. Hoping that you can't see them anymore. Praying you won't bring them here anymore, but it's always the same. They're always outside, waiting for you to wake up."

"The Flickers?" I whispered. I could feel the blood running away from my face to power my adrenaline-fueled heartbeat. She nodded.

"Like the one outside." 

She pointed towards the window. I didn't want to follow her gaze, but I had to. I saw only thick white fur that surrounded a huge eye with a red, veiny iris. They eye was almost as big as the window itself. 

It blinked and the corners of it's eye wrinkled. I couldn't see it smiling, but I knew that's what it was doing. 

It slammed it's head into the window and the glass cracked. Maria screamed. I tried to scramble farther way but it was no use. My body had betrayed me. Maria squeezed my hand. She must've been so afraid, but she didn't run. She just cried and told me she loved me.

"It'll be better this way Homer, with us gone, they won't be able to come back. They can't hurt our planet anymore with us gone."

My eyes widened. 
"Us?" I gargled my words until they finally came out. "No, you have to run. Please leave, don't let it take you too."

The creature slammed it's head against the glass again, shattering it. The urgency in my voice grew. "Maria, please."

"The time has come and I won't leave you." Maria yelled over the wind pouring into the hospital room from eleven stories up. I thought about Dr. Grey, how Maria could probably live her life after I was gone, how she could heal and love again in my absence.

"I don't want this for you." I wailed.

The Flicker roared. The loudness of it's howl made her tremble. I began to cry as well, I tried to squeeze her hand tighter, but my strength was all but gone. 

"We said when this started that we would would tackle it head on. That we wouldn't procrastinate or let fear guide us. Now look at you," she shook her head, tears streamed down her cheeks, but she managed to smile weakly. "going back on your word..."

"Please," I begged. "Save yourself."
"I am..." The creature's long arm reached in through the window, "exactly where I want to be." She whispered. The huge hairy claw crossed the room and grabbed my foot, then pulled. It roared again.

The wind blew her hair against my face. "I love you, my sweet." I said to her as our eyes met for the last time. In a flicker of a second my hand slipped out of hers and I left her behind as I was dragged towards the window. I didn't scream, but my fear was palpable.

It's funny, I'd spent the last part of my life obsessing over just one long glimpse at a 'flicker'; and when I finally got the chance to see one up close, the only thing I truly wanted to see was Maria. 

I'd have to go on this next part of my journey without her, but at least I had the memories we'd made and the lessons we'd learned. I knew, more so than I knew anything else, that I'd see her again. And that surety could not be broken by fear, death, tumors or any beast, no matter its size.

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My novel, Trigram, is in the works, but in the meantime, I'll probably be working on short stories such as the ones on Wicked Shorts. (Wink)

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