Fragile

By Ron Smith

He stumbled forward in the tilting world. Spinning. He fell down, and hit his head on the hard tiles. He struggled for his vision, and in the end, everything was blurry. Was someone talking to him? He didn't know....

"Eric!"

There was his goal right ahead of him. He reached out for it, hoping, just hoping, that he might make it. With one violent heave, the chunky liquid burst out, spraying across the floor. He moaned under his breath as his stomach continued flushing itself despite being empty. He gripped at his solar plexus against the numbing pain. The world faded away, and a momentary cold wetness gripped his head.


"I saw it Eric...I really saw it!"

"What? I'm tired, go away!"

"Eric...some day you'll see it too...."

A black speck buzzed across his vision, blotching the plain white ceiling. "Damn flies," he muttered. It continued its seemingly random path, the buzzing of its flight the only noise in the room. The knocking continued. His mom walked in.

"What are you doing, Eric? It's almost noon, you should've been up hours ago!" He knew even without looking at her that she was wearing her apron, most likely the one with strawberry decorations all over it, and her regular accompaniment of faded blue jeans, and an off-white long sleeved shirt. He looked down at her, his guess was correct.

He waited for her to leave, then rolled out of bed, and pulled on the clothes from the day before, which he'd left laying on the floor beside his bed. He wasn't exactly sure which clothes they were, and he didn't care enough to look at them to see. He stood in the middle of the floor, staring at one of his blank walls. If he stared long enough, he thought he could see movement in it. Maybe through it.


"Aren't you going to do something with your friends today?" His mom asked without looking up from the food she was cooking. Scrambled eggs. The same as every other Sunday.

"No," he answered simply. The answer was always the same, yet she continued to ask. His brother had always said yes, even though he didn't have any friend.

He didn't feel like eating breakfast today.


They walked around him, many of them gave him odd looks. He didn't care. In fact, he barely noticed. He held the full can in his left hand, and stared absently forward. The music was loud, yet he didn't hear it. He didn't need to. And they cleared a path around him, as if he was a leper. Maybe he was. He stared straight ahead, and the pattern almost became clear.

"Hey Eric!"

He spun around, but no one was there. Jaric wasn't there. Of course not. Jaric was gone. He turned around. The people were gone. And the blank wall was before him. Enticing him. The pattern was there. The answers were there. Jaric had found them. Where were they?

He sipped from the can, and vision returned, pounding into him. He fell backwards. The ceiling. The ceiling might also contain the answers. The ceiling was blank.

Somewhere, the answers were hidden. It awaited him. Jaric had seen it.

Why couldn't he move? Was that the answer he was looking for?


"What are you doing?"

"I'm building a grand temple."

"With mommy's china plates?"

"Yes, He would want it this way."

"What if mommy finds out?"

"She won't."

"How do you know?"

"Because He said she won't."

"Who?"

"Him."

The sun was burning into his back. In the distance, he could see some old buildings.

tails

"Call it!"

"Tails."

Will flipped the coin into the air, watching its spin and the glint of the sun off the clean metal. It reached its apex, and descended. Will reached out, the coin fell into his cupped palm.

He stared into the distance. The horizon was blank except for a scraggy old tree. It must've been dead for years. The grass around it was dead too.

"Tails it is. Who goes first?"

"You do."

Will sighed. Then ran off.

The ground was retreating from the horizon, leaving an unnatural darkness. The blue sky was also succumbing to the darkness. And in the darkness...something else.

"Your turn!"

"Who are you?"

i am that which is

"What?" Will asked slightly disturbed.

"Why do you hide in the darkness?"

i do not hide

"Are you alright?" Will felt a chill run down his spine. The field was perfect for their game, yet now it felt too empty.

"Whatever happened to that one friend of yours....William, wasn't it?" His mom stopped reading her book momentarily to look up at him.

"...He moved."

"Oh, where to?"

"Far away. I don't know where."

"Well that's a shame, he was a good kid."


He stared into the black pools of her bright green eyes. She was smiling seductively, head tipped foreward ever so slightly. "What are you thinking Eric?"

"Why do you hide from me?" The darkness was before him. The darkness was in her blank gaze.

i do not hide you just do not see

Her eyes lit up. "You think I'm too modest?" She unbuttoned the top of her shirt.

"What don't I see?"

soon you shall see

"Oh you are a naughty boy. I'll show you!" She continued unbuttoning her shirt, one button after the other.

"Show me now!"

The shirt slid from her arms and drifted to the floor. She pressed her body against his. "I am yours."


The yellow stripes sped past the car. He idly watched them ignoring the wheel in his hands. The moon's beams lit the world with a soft glow. The moon's beams, which it borrowed from the wretched sun. He tightened his grip on the wheel until his knuckles were a pale white.

"Slow down, Eric!" Caitlin said from beside him. She was always telling him to slow down. The yellow stripes sped past even faster.


The ceiling moved, twisted around an invisible axis. A dark speck appeared at the axis. It was growing larger. Soon, it would be large enough for a person to pass through it. His mom was knocking at the door. He blinked, and the ceiling was no longer moving, nor was the hole there.

"Why don't you come out of here?" His mom asked, barely stepping in through the door.

"I don't want to."

"You can't stay holed up in here forever, it's not healthy!" His mom sounded worried.

"I have to wait for Jaric."

"Eric, honey! Jaric is dead. That means he can't come back. Ever. That's what death is." She walked into his room and sat down on the bed next to him.

"But he's not dead."

"Oh Eric, I know you want to think that. But you need to face reality. He is dead."

"No, he's-"

"Eric. I don't want you talking about him anymore. He's dead, and you're alive. It's your job to move on. He would want you to. So no more talking about him."

"But-"

"No buts!"

His mom left.


"Eric. Do you understand what I'm telling you?"

"No...."

"I didn't think so...I didn't understand at first either. Just remember it."

"Jaric, mommy says that you can't really-"

"Nevermind what mom says. She's wrong."


"Is that you Jaric?" He asked, but there was no answer. He opened his eyes. His room was shrouded in shadows. Someone was in his room. He could see the dark outline, over in the corner. It was standing there, watching him. So still. He watched it. It wasn't Jaric, he knew that now. It was someone else.

He tried to get up. He couldn't. He was tied down. Rather than struggle against the ropes, he watched the person in the corner. It remained still. Still as a corpse. Will.


He opened his eyes to the familiar ceiling. He groaned. His head was killing him. He tried to stand up, but stumbled. He was able to get up though. He pulled on some clothes that were laying on the floor. Maybe some food would help. He walked to the kitchen, his hand on the wall to help him balance. His mom was sitting on the couch, reading a book. She looked up at him with a frown.

"Were you drinking last night?" She inquired.

"Beh," he waved his free hand at her.

"Dammit Eric! Answer me!" She set her book down and stood up. She wasn't intimidating though. He was taller than she was.

He ignored her and shuffled towards the kitchen. She was saying something. He didn't know what. He was no longer moving. "Jaric!?"

A hit stung his cheek. He ignored it. His mom was walking away. He turned around, but the hallway was empty. The walls were blank. He stared at them, hoping to see the answer.


A wind rose, stirring the tall grasses. The darkness continued its slow consumption of the world. Will was shaking him, saying something. He was standing upon the precipice. The darkness was no longer moving. It was waiting. For him. He stared into it. Was it the answer? He closed his eyes, and was still staring into it. Yes.

He opened his eyes. This was it. He fell forward into it, carrying Will with him. The world was gone. All sensations were gone. He felt a form of bliss, floating in the darkness. This wasn't it though. There was something more.

open your eyes

"My eyes are open."

open your eyes

"How?"

open them

He should've been in bed, but he couldn't sleep, his dreams were troubling him. Jaric wasn't in his room. He needed to find Jaric. He was slowly creeping towards the front door, trying not to make any sounds. He stopped. Why was he sneaking? He went to his parents' room and opened the door. As he thought, they weren't there.

He left the house. Strange vans were parked in front of the house. What was going on? He stared at the sanguine moon. "Do you see it too, Jaric?"


Her silky black hair cascaded onto him from around her face. She caressed his cheek, while murmering his name.

"Caitlin." She stopped at looked up at him inquisitively. "Nevermind." He smiled at her, and she smiled back, then resumed her prior engagement.

take her

He ran his hands along her sides, savoring her smooth flesh. He hesitated near her breasts. So tempting. No. He slid his hands past her arms, to her neck. With one finger, he pushed her chin upwards, and stared into her eyes. His hands slid around her neck, caressing her tender flesh.

"Caitlin...."


Clouds veiled the moon's light, shrouding the world in a deeper darkness. Not the darkness. A vague shadow in the distance betrayed the presence of a person. The person was moving, crossing the road. Slowly. Barely moving. He looked over at Caitlin. Her chest was rising and falling in a steady rhythm. Up and down. Down then up. The same even pace. He reached over and brushed her shoulder.

"Yes, sleep." He whispered.

He faced the road again, racing towards the shadow. Anticipating the collision. The engine was roaring. Caitlin was fast asleep though.


"Do you remember what I told you?"

"Yes."

"Do you finally understand?"

"I think I do...but no, I don't."

"Clear your mind of all biases."

"I am trying. But it's so hard."

"I know it is. I used to be where you are now."

"What do I do?"

"Open your eyes."

The ceiling. Had it changed? It was different. Somehow. The pattern, the answer, was becoming clearer. His mom was pounding on the door.

"Come out of there! It's been a week now, this isn't healthy for you!"

He ignored her. She was a fool, along with all the others. She wanted him to eat food. Food was the last thing he needed, food blinded him to the answer, restricted his mind.

The answer was so close. He merely had to stare at the ceiling, the wall, the blankness, the darkness. The answer was there. Somewhere.


The darkness was gone, and so was Will. Clouds were drifting across the skies. Some people liked to look for shapes in them. He didn't. The shapes were a pretense. The sky had given way to the darkness. Maybe the sky contained the answer. But now the sky had given way to thick, dark grey clouds.

A drip of water hit his forehead. Soon more was pouring from the clouds. Soaking the ground and his clothes. The soils were no longer dry. The answer was not here.

He stood up, using his hand for balance. He stared at his handprint for awhile, then at the footprints across the field.


The moon's light reflected off the vans in a deep crimson. Why were they there? He walked towards the treeline, Jaric was calling him. What was going on out there? He contemplated for a moment, listening to the ruckus. That was not where Jaric was. He walked along side the treeline for 50 feet, then angled into the thicket. The crashing was now moving in the same direction. He had to hurry. He had to beat them to Jaric.

The branches were hard to see, so he crashed through them, ignoring the pain, and hoping he wouldn't hit a thick branch. He could see movement off to his left. They were the source of the noise. And they were ahead of him.

"Jaric!" He wanted to cry out, but couldn't. He was struggling just to breathe.

The clearing! That's where Jaric would be. He and Jaric would go to the clearing almost everyday. He was going the wrong way. He could've stopped then, but he had to go on, Jaric was summoning him.


Where was he? The ceiling was unfamiliar. It's pattern was different. No. It didn't have a pattern. Only his ceiling did. And Jaric's too, but Jaric was gone. That music. He was still at the party. He rolled off the bed, and almost fell. His knees were trembling. Food. He needed food.

He breathed in, filling his lungs. He was sure he could make it to the kitchen. He stumbled to the door, gripping his stomach. Was it rumbling? Yes, he was sure it was. He left the room, and stepped into the crowded hallway. Why were they looking at him like that? He payed them no more mind, and concentrated on getting to the kitchen. Food.

Someone grabbed his shoulder, said something. He continued walking, without hearing a word said to him. Food. The kitchen was equally filled. His legs were getting weaker. Not much longer. The refrigerator. He pushed his way towards the refrigerator.


your god is of glass

broken

the sand i burnt

i have destroyed him

yet you worship him still?

Who are you?

i am that darkness which you seek

No, for my darkness is not yours.

my darkness is your light


Jaric was on the other side of the ditch. "Jaric!" He tried to shout. A flow of air restricted him though, and no sounds came out of his throat. He was drowning. There they were. Jaric....why wasn't Jaric doing anything?

If only the ditch wasn't there...! It was shallow enough that he could easily climb down into it, but then it was so steep that he would be unable to get out. The one time he had gone down there, he was stuck for hours, until Jaric helped him out. He hadn't gone down there again.

He gasped for air. It was too late. They had Jaric. What had they done to him? He was limp as they dragged him out of the clearing. He followed them, not worried about them seeing him. They couldn't, he was protected. By Jaric? They broke into the night air, the sanguine moon still hanging tranquilly in the middle of the sky. He stayed near the trees, half crouching behind a ragged bush.

Jaric's limp dragging feet left an imprinted line to the vans. They slid one of the side doors open, and hefted Jaric into the darkness. He could no longer see Jaric. Even before they slid the door shut, Jaric was gone.

He stared at the golden moon. The phantasmic vans drove past him, leaving him behind.


None of the illumined food looked appetizing to him, though it seldom did. He pulled open the meat drawer. Lunch meat would be fine. He reached into the package of turkey lunch meat and removed a handful of the thin slices, which he promptly devoured. He acquired a second handful, and bit off one mouthful before his stomach was once again protesting. He spat out the meat and dropped what he had in his hand.


The shadow was approaching rapidly, yet it seemed to grow no larger. It's shape remained the same, ignoring the yellow beams below it. Was this what he wanted? Was this the answer? The blood stained lines, dividing the road, blurring into one. He no longer heard the engine. He didn't need to. He laughed resentfully. This was it. The shadow was coming into focus. He pressed forward.

Caitlin shifted in her seat. He looked over at her, just for a second, then looked to the shadow once more. It was little more than a silhouette, yet he was sure it was looking at him, acknowledging him. Waiting for him. He blinked. The darkness was gone, and he saw the identity of the shadow. Jaric.


He remained in the blackened world for a moment, trying to recollect where he was. He decided it didn't matter. He rolled onto his stomach, then placed his hands into the wetness, pushing against the hard floor. The world was spinning, and he was unable to stand. He crawled to the defiled porcelain shrine to add his blessings, though he had none left. The waters swirled with a life of their own, and in the shimmering white backdrop he saw the pattern.

His stomach was still. His heart was still. This was it. He guffawed, breaking the reverential silence. He stood up, empowered by his new knowledge. Where was Caitlin? He didn't need to be here anymore. He burst from the room to go find her. He ignored the crowd.


"I see now, Jaric."

"Then you must be prepared for what is to come."

"I am."

"Are you afraid?"

"Yes."

"As well you should be. For knowledge can be frightening."

"Were you afraid?"

"The pain is but momentary, a fleeting image of a dying world."


He crawled out from the heap of twisted metal, leaving Caitlin to her rest. "I understand now," he spoke into the darkness. "I am of the blood of the Porcelain God. As is Jaric, yet not as Jaric is." He nodded once before forcing his middle and ring fingers into the gap in his left wrist. He pinched down with his thumb and pulled the flesh back. The darkness of the night deepened, though the crimson moon brightened. He glimpsed at the car, and smiled for the last instant before grasping the sides of his mouth, and pulling backwards. His face tightened uncomfortably before his skull ripped through.

"You are now forever mine, Caitlin." He ripped off the final strips of flesh and dropped them onto the soaking pile. He looked at the moon, its dark ray blanketing the world. He covered his eyes with his right hand, and sank his middle finger and thumb into his eyes, then yanked them out. The natural light was gone. He stepped into the blazing fire of eternity, and embraced the grains of sand falling around him.