By Kala Séraphin
Grace stood in front of the fruit stand, studying the apples. They were very red and shiny. They all looked perfect under the neon lights of the grocery store. Looking down the aisle, she noticed that all the fruits were perfect to her eyes. Not a single bruise or misshapen fruit could be found. She felt a brief shiver go down her spine. There was something about perfection that Grace didn’t trust. Food, like people, that looked flawless on the outside always had something to hide on the inside. The woman pictured herself taking a bite from one of these perfect apples and finding half of a worm, still wriggling. She imagined the white flesh gone soft and black with some kind of chemical. It was enough to make her pass on and go to the checkout counter.
Standing in line, Grace drifted off, still thinking about the deceptive apples and shuddering.
“It’s all an illusion.” The cashier’s sweet face was very serious and dark. Her eyes were bottomless pools of darkness. Grace was taken aback by the statement.
“Excuse me?” She blinked a couple times as the cashier smiled politely and repeated:
“Would you like paper or plastic?” Her face was clear, even innocent looking.
Grace, smiling yet feeling very confused, took out her own bag, confident in her part to save the environment. She packed her small grocery, paid and by the time she walked out of the store, the incident was out of her mind.
Outside, the sun was shining on a crisp autumn afternoon. Grace noticed a young pregnant woman with her arms full of heavy groceries. She thought of walking over to help her but a car drove up to the pregnant lady. After a short conversation with a person in the backseat, the pregnant lady got in the luxury car and they drove off.
Grace watched the scene and sighed. She looked around, wondering if a car would magically appear to pick her up. Many cars drove by, yet none stopped for her.
“Where’s the magic when you need it?” She mumbled, walking to the nearest bus stop.
As she arrived at the stop, the bus opened its doors as if their timing were synchronized. Graced hoped on. It was mildly crowded yet she found a free seat at the back. It was seldom she ever sat down on the bus and so the eager commuter took advantage of the event.
Getting off the bus, Grace smoothly weaved her way through the crowd. It was like the people knew to move out of the way at the perfect time, right when she was behind them. As she went to cross a busy intersection, the lights changed instantly for the pedestrians to cross.
Enjoying her luck, Grace stopped to get a coffee. She quietly hummed to herself as she waited in line. Someone gently touched her elbow and she turned around.
“The power to change is yours.” The man’s face was covered in scales, his eyes bloodshot. He held Grace’s scarf, trying to hand it back to her as he repeated:
“Is this yours?” The scales were gone and his eyes looked healthy and inquisitive.
Grace smiled, once more to cover up the confusion she felt.
“Yes, thank you.” Taking the scarf she had dropped, Grace turned back to order her coffee.
Walking to her apartment building, Grace pondered the days’ events. It was really odd how she heard such strange statements. The vision of the man covered in scales made it all the more unnerving.
“It must be stress.” She concluded, stepping into her modest apartment. Her dog, Chance, greeted her at the door, jumping excitedly and barking.
“Finally Friday! You know what that means, Chance?” She asked her little mutt as she scooped him up in her arms and covered him with kisses.
“Tonight is game show night, tomorrow is cleaning time then a walk in the park. Sunday will be read a book in bed day!” Grace exclaimed.
She put her dog back on the ground and started to make dinner. At thirty six, Grace had decided to give up on a great love story. She lived alone with her dog, enjoying a quiet, introverted lifestyle. Her weekends were all the same, spent with Chance. She worked for a tea company in the trading department. It kept her busy all day and Grace was thankful for it. She didn’t want to have time to think about life and its meaning. It confused her too much to even consider religion. She kept herself occupied with work, television, crossword puzzles and reading history books.
“Tonight, we’re having Alfredo sauce pasta with wine.” Grace declared, eagerly busying herself with the preparations.
She sat down in the living room with her dinner. Chance jumped up on the sofa and found a comfortable place to sit next to his mistress. Grace let out a sigh as she turned on the television. She took a slow, luxurious sip of wine, watching a commercial for plastic surgery. The actress started fat and miserable, looking drab and worn out. After visiting a team of dedicated doctors, she magically turned into a beauty queen. The final scene has the actress, in a skimpy bikini, walking on the beach with a bright smile, gawked at by men.
Grace snorted with contempt and started wolfing down her pasta. She stopped mid-slurp when she noticed that the actress was looking directly at her, with snakes interwoven in her hair and two extra arms growing from her sides.
“What are you waiting for?” She asked in a perky voice.
Grace looked around, wondering if this was some kind of trick from the company that created the commercial.
“Are you talking to me?” She asked hesitantly. She felt a bit odd talking to her television.
“Obviously I’m not talking to the dog! He’s got it together. You need to wake up from this illusion!” The actress declared, crossing all four of her arms over her ridiculously perky chest.
“I’m sorry, um… I’ll try my best tomorrow.” Grace didn’t know what else to say. Her television had never shown any concern for her wellbeing before.
This weak answer seemed to infuriate the actress. She rolled her eyes and shook her head, angering the snakes.
“Would you let go of this submissive persona? It’s really unbecoming. You need to get your fat ass out of this illusion! You’re buying into all the lies they feed you.”
Grace threw her wine glass at the TV. It shattered in pieces, wine dripping over the set. However, the actress was still there, watching her.
“You’re too human for your own good,” she sighed then disappeared. There was now the familiar theme song of the game show.
Grace quickly turned off the television. She was too upset by the strange occurrence. Chance came up to her face, licking her chin and whimpering quietly. Grace smiled down at her dog, scratching behind his left ear.
“It’s Ok, boy. It was just a glitch. Everything is fine.” She was convincing herself more than the mutt.
She spent the remainder of the night cuddling Chance in the dark. The insults said by the actress swirled in her mind along with the other incidents of the day. Something about it made her feel strange and light inside, like there were feathers floating in her gut.
Her logical brain couldn’t catch up with the feeling. Grace spent the night thinking that she had lost her mind. There was no one for her to confide in. She had no family left, no friends and her relationship with her coworkers was always awkward at best. Chance was the only company in her life.
“What am I going to do?” She whispered, starting to cry. Chance nuzzled at her neck, as if to reassure his mistress.
Grace fell asleep on the sofa with Chance in her arms. Her mind was filled with dreams of rabbit people, women with snakes in their hair, zombies in lab coats, men with tentacles and her dog, Chance, following her around. They were all disjointed images without any clear narrative.
When the first ray of the sun tickled her eyelids, Grace woke up feeling very exhausted. It took every ounce of her willpower to dress herself and leave the apartment with Chance, jumping around, eager for his walk in the park.
It was a windy late morning and Grace kept her head down. It was partially to avoid the wind but mostly out of fear. She was apprehensive about getting another strange message from a mutant person.
By the time she reached the park, Grace was feeling a little more confident. She looked up, drinking in the sun. Since she worked in an office, she seldom had the chance to enjoy nature’s beauty. Chance jumped at her feet, excited to be outdoors. After a brisk walk through a path bordered by trees, Grace unleashed Chance and started a game of fetch. It lasted an hour before her arm grew tired. Grace sat on a bench, feeling soar yet happy.
She scanned the park, keeping an eye on her dog, when a man stepped into her field of vision. He was tall and muscular. His skin was a light shade of blue and his eyes were bright red. He smiled, revealing steel, razor sharp fangs. It was enough to get Grace to her feet.
“You need to wake up now.” He said with a voice as sharp as his fangs, yet with a soft, nurturing tone.
She ran, leaving behind Chance. Every person she encountered whispered messages as creepy as the man in the park.
“This is just a dream.”
“Come back to reality.”
They all had strange mutations like tails, wings, fur and other strange endowments.
She closed and locked the door to her apartment, determined never to open it again. She screamed and cried mindlessly as she huddled in a corner, covering her face as if it could protect her from the world.
Her hysteria settled along with the sun. Grace was too weak to continue. She leaned back, still huddled in the corner of her bedroom. A sound caught her attention. It was the sound of barking. Chance had made it back to his home and wanted to come inside. Grace rushed to the door she had just vowed never to open again. He sat patiently, looking up with big brown eyes.
Crying, Grace scooped up her best friend, kissing him endlessly, feeling guilty.
“I’m so sorry Chance,” she wailed. “Mommy is so, so sorry. I love you, you know that right? I’d never abandon you.”
Grace decided that a hot shower would solve all her troubles. With Chance happily trotting after her, she went to the bathroom and undressed. As the steam raised around her, Grace felt much of the tension in her body dissipate. She let out a moan of pleasure.
“You know Humanfriend, this isn’t really fun for me anymore. I think it would be best if we went back.” To hear Chance talking with such a sophisticated accent was enough to knock Grace off her feet. She slipped and knocked her head on the side of the bathtub, killing her instantly.
Allamara opened her eyes, looking around, feeling unsettled by the end of her experience. Slowly, she opened the lid of the pod she was in and felt reassured to be surrounded by the familiar machines. She looked down at her body and knew the world was right again when she saw that her skin was an array of tiny mirrors. She touched her head and sighed gratefully when she felt her long floppy ears, also covered with mirrors. She twitched them a couple times to reassure herself that she was really back in her own body.
A man walked in the room. He had four tentacles coming out of his back, holding a clipboard, a coffee mug and a doughnut. He smiled, seeing Allamara awake.
“How was it?” He asked.
“Horrible! I had no recollection of who I really was. I spent my whole life quietly staying out of people’s way, always doing what others told me to do. I was unhappy but chose not to do anything about it.” Allamara complained as she stepped out of the pod, grateful to be stretching her legs.
“On top of that, I died in the shower. I broke my neck or something. I’m never going back again!” She added.
The pod next to Allamara opened and a man sat up, rubbing his neck. He was covered in colorful feathers and had a long reptilian tail that slithered out.
“Wow, what a trip that was!” He exclaimed with enthusiasm.
“What happened to you?” Allamara asked, wondering why he was so happy from the experience.
“Oh, some big guys terminated my life after you left. By the way, thanks for leaving me in the park! You couldn’t take a minute to pick me up before you had your meltdown?” He asked, jumping out of the pod. His tone was only slightly annoyed.
Allamara crossed her arms and huffed.
“Sorry Baltazan, but I had my own troubles to deal with. You looked like you knew what you were doing.” She curtly replied.
“You two can argue later. Now, headquarters need both of your reports. Go write them up.” Ordered the man with the tentacles.
“Fine, I’m going. These humans were so weak. I wonder how they got to be so powerful.” Mumbled Allamara.
Baltazan patted her strongly on the back and said:
“Who knows? Maybe we’ll find out next time we go.”
The comment was enough to anger Allamara. Her eyes grew wide as she scowled.
“Never,” was her answer.
“The Future holds endless possibilities Allamara.”
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