We held a Fan fiction contest back on the 2nd of May. We asked our feed subscribers to write a short story based on the photo below. We received so many excellent submissions that it was not easy choosing the winner, so I copped out and decided to pick two stories instead of just one. The following tale is the 1st place winner!
By Patrick Oakley
Martin laid flat on his back, staring at a birds nest that lay under the bridge he sometimes called home. It was one of many homes, for Martin was a drifter, he hated the term “homeless”. A term dubbed by those who were more fortunate than him, or perhaps merely different. Three baby birds awaited their mother, and Martin waited for night. His high was wearing off, and he felt that itchy, nauseous feeling again.
He began thinking again. Martin didn’t like to think too much, it made him remember things he oft try to forget. He scratched at the track marks on his arm. The night brought opportunity, the same opportunity it presents every night in the city. The sun goes down, so the heat wears off. The police become scarce, so the heat wears off.
For a drifter, Martin actually had a pretty steady routine. He’d make the same walk, down the same streets, often bump into many of the same people. People a lot like him. Drifters. Many of them addicts in one way or another. To Martin, EVERYONE was an addict in one way or another. Whether it be drugs, love, possessions, power, all the same to him. He just chose the one that didn’t effect anyone else, he was okay with just hurting himself. He was okay with being a junkie, he was okay with being a drifter.
Martin begged for his money most of the time…”begged”…another term he didn’t like. He saw it as he asked, and they chose to invest in a feeling of their own self-worth. They didn’t give him money because they wanted him to further his habit, they gave him money to feel better about themselves. In his eyes, they were doing wrong, and he was performing the good deed. Any reasonable person could deduce what he would use the money for, he didn’t even feed them lines of how he would try to get clean with their donation, or buy food because he was hungry. No. He merely asked, and they’d often give. Humans are selfish he thought, even in the case of charity. The charity that kept him going every day and every night. The very same charity that fed his veins.
The sun started to go down, and Martin began his routine. He took the day off from giving people their self-worth because his last score was seemingly tainted. It didn’t last long enough, and the come down was one of the worst he had experienced. He had hopes of running into a usual familiar face that would share, or if all else failed, go back to the same shifty bastard that gave him the last batch and complain until he got a front, or maybe a little for free. Something is better than nothing he thought, and he wasn’t afraid to agitate an already burning bridge the way he saw it.
He passed a few blocks and stared at the pavement mostly, only looking up to try to catch a face. He didn’t even look up for the stars anymore, the light pollution tainted them enough, the thoughts that came with them tainted them even more, and merely furthered his want to use. I’m insignificant he thought. We all are. The planet- a giant ant farm. People- the ants. He was thinking too much again. He scratched his arm again. He lay his eyes back on the pavement. Much better.
Martin had been walking for an hour or two now. The sun long gone, and the night heavy with little moonlight. Barely noticeable with all the artificial lights that the city basked in battling the cosmic beauty out of the landscape. Not one familiar face. Martin was puzzled. He felt like there was a party going on that he wasn’t invited to. The streets were fairly quiet though, almost peaceful if it weren’t for the hate of his own inner voice. He began to feel addiction climbing up his spine as if to sit on his shoulder, or was it desperation? At this moment, one in the same.
He visited all his usual stops. No one. He felt desperation grasping his shoulder now, like a set of talons latched on prey. At least he had company he thought, chuckling maddeningly at himself. His sad mockery of laughter was disturbed by a real presence, and from this presence came a stiff, low yet loud enough voice. “You lookin’ to score?”
Martin was startled, and leapt back a little. His eyes shifted to the source- a human figure shrouded by shadows and the night, he leaned against a graffitied wall, which Martin could make out more than the figure. A giant eye, within a star. It seemed to peer into the very essence of his soul. It didn’t look like the usual graffiti he had seen around, there was something different about it. It gave him a very unusual feeling, like the feeling he gets when he looks up at the stars. It made him shudder, almost cold. He was thinking too much again.
“Y-Y-You a cop?” Martin blurted out as if in defense. “No” The figure replied. “Who are you? I don’t think I’ve seen you around.” said Martin, to maybe lure the figure from the darkness. “I’m a soldier” The figure responded, without moving an inch. “You lookin’ to score?”. “As long as you aint no cop, man.” Martin was feeling a heavy, heavy weight upon him. He felt he was in way over his head. Yet, addiction has it’s ways.
“I don’t have any money, but if you give me a sample, and it’s good, I’ll come back with money, man.” “I can bring you more business too.” “It’s just gotta be good, man.” Martin practically “begged”. “This will take you higher than you’ve ever been.” The voice from the darkness stated assuredly without any doubt in his voice, his voice actually lacked any emotion whatsoever.
From the darkness came a motion, startling Martin, and a bag landed at Martin’s feet. Martin’s hesitation eluded him, he saw peace of mind lying on the ground and he was eager to obtain it. He snatched the bag so quickly it was if it never hit the ground. He sat up against a nearby wall, pulled his kit out, and started cooking. He pulled the hot amber liquid through a syringe that looked aged and used many times, and let it out directly to his nervous system.
Martin immediately knew this was not the usual drug he put in his arm, this was something different, something new, something better. Martin felt an immediate high, but the high quickly turned into an experience, an experience more intense than he had ever felt. He shot straight out of his body, through the top of his head. He traveled the world. He saw the woods outside of the city, the lakes that run to rivers, the rivers that run to oceans. He saw different continents that he had only seen in books he read at local libraries, and on TVs he would watch through windows in the city.
He went further still. He went past the moon, past the sun, past the planets we have names for. He went to distant stars, and distant galaxies. He was swimming in nebula. Then the voice came. A sweet, calm, soothing voice. A female voice. “You are home now.”
In the physical realm, Martin’s eyes had rolled to the back of his head, leaving only white in his eye sockets. He was standing with his chin pointed almost straight up, his blank white eyes gazing at the stars, tears rolling down his cheeks. He stood motionless, mesmerized, seemingly hypnotized by some sort of cosmic force that is beyond comprehensive words. The presence from the shadows then gave more motion.
A man once, but seemingly something else now. White tendrils protruded from the top of his head. They seemed organic, yet a classification of plant, animal, or something entirely alien could not be determined. His eyes, blank white, rolled in the back of his head. He walked slowly towards Martin and placed his mouth inches away from Martin’s ear and whispered- “Walk. Climb. Jump. For The Queen.”
Martin, or rather Martin’s body, took to his command. He walked in a direction towards the center of the city. All the while his eyes rolled back, chin up, tears pouring. He walked for nearly an hour until he reached The Colony Tower, the highest building in the city. He walked in, passed security and cameras as if no eyes, even electronic eyes, could see him or hear his presence. He made his way to the stair case, and began climbing.
Up and up he went, the same pace, the same walk, the same expression. He made it to the top floor, the 118th. From the 118th, he made it outside to a fire escape and climbed the rest of the way to the very top of the building. Martin stood on the very edge of the roof, chin up, eyes white, tears rolling. The front and top of his head began to move and pulsate wildly, as if something lay beneath and wanted to get out. White tendrils poked and popped their way from Martin’s head, stemming from his chemically damaged brain.
The real Martin, who now lay in Nebula, still had a vague connection to his body that now stood on the edge of what was left of his life on Earth. For Martin, he understood now what he couldn’t before. His brain couldn’t withstand the integration of The Queen’s serum, his soul was only useful to The Queen now, not his body. He wanted to be a soldier, because that’s what The Queen wanted. “Please let me serve you. Please let me be your soldier.”
“You will be”. The Queen replied. “You will serve me. Here and now, and now is forever.”
Martin’s body went weightless. He hit the pavement moments later.
Word spread the next day. Another suicide in the big city. Another jumper. Identifying the body was impossible. Probably just a homeless beggar who couldn’t get a fix.
- Patrick Oakley
Copyright 2014 Patrick Oakley