These two short stories have just been made into a short film, thanks to my amazing friend Jarrett. If you have read the stories (or even if you haven’t), you should check out this short film adaptation (and maybe subscribe to Jarrett’s YouTube channel…). I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
The glistening city of Fantasia appeared overnight. Before it, the only reality we knew was darkness. This darkness was not simply the absence of light; it was the absence of anything but ourselves. To the individual, it was the absence of all but self. There was nothing to hold onto. The sudden appearance of Fantasia with all of its light, music, and smiling faces was overwhelming, but in a good way.
For years, the darkness was nowhere to be found. Its disappearance was a gift. All of a sudden the world had light. It had life. It was beaming with love and companionship that for so long had been naught but a distant thought. I, and those like me, breathed a sigh of relief at the blessing that was this new life. Nothing was going to take it away from us.
That is, until the darkness returned once again.
Fantasia was the city of light, the city of dreams, the city of hope. The darkness had been not only a sad reality, but a lack of reality altogether. Fantasia was our first and only look at what reality actually was. Or so we thought.
The darkness came slowly back. It began with an odd dimness around the edges of the city. Storm clouds seemed to lurk on the edges of the horizon. Everyone noticed, but nobody acknowledged. For there was no way that something that isn’t real could penetrate that which is real, right?
But the darkness continued to move in. No matter how much light the city produced, nothing could penetrate the darkness that was coming. Little by little, the outer edges of the city fell into darkness. Though everyone knew what was coming, nobody seemed to notice. As darkness increased, so did pasted smiles. As seeming nonexistence penetrated our reality, people became more and more determined to ignore it. To continue to live in the light of Fantasia as if nothing was wrong. As if the darkness was not getting closer and closer by the minute.
I was no exception.
Even to the last minute, when no smiling faces were left, and the only light left in the world was a small cylinder in which I was standing, surrounded by an ever increasing blackness, I pasted on a smile. I thought to myself that Fantasia would come back. That the darkness was simply a dream.
I was fooling myself.
As the darkness overcame me, and the last light of Fantasia blinked out, I finally admitted to myself the truth. Fantasia was not my reality. The darkness was the only real plane of existence, and Fantasia was nothing more than a construct of my mind, an attempt to escape the permeable darkness. I had lived in a pseudo-reality while silently ignoring the voice in the back of my head that told me it was all fake.
Fantasia was never there. I guess you could say it was only a fantasy.
I remember the damp, unlit street that lead back to my apartment. It’s been a while since I walked that road. The last time was on a particularly terrible night. It’s the night I died.
I remember the words echoing in my head. The feel of the cold steel against my hand, against my head. The words getting louder and louder in my psyche, each repetition forcing my finger to push a little bit harder on the trigger.
“DEAD END. DEAD END. DEAD END. DEAD…”
I remember a split second of searing pain as the bullet pieced through my flesh and skull. I remember flashes of lights- the ambulance that showed up 10 minutes later. I remember the faces gathered around me of people who had lived next to me for years but never thought it necessary to do so much as say hello. Of course, I didn’t either.
There was the guy that lived to my left. Kevin? Kyle? I can never remember his name. There was the elderly woman who lived to my right and always had the TV turned all the way up. Mrs. Freeman? Fremont? It doesn’t matter anymore. She is the one who called when she heard the shot. It’s a miracle she heard it at all over the sound of her Soap Operas that she watched over and over everyday. I remember their concern.
I remember the weeks of recovery. So many doctors. So much pain. Session after grueling session of “Why did you do it?” and “Do you know why you’re here?”
Silence was my response. For months. I was conscious and able to talk. I just didn’t want to. I spent hours staring at the walls without saying a word while doctors and nurses and well-meaning neighbors came by to give me an intoxicating cocktail of medicine and sickly looking flowers.
I remember the day I left. I had nowhere to go but I knew I couldn’t stay at the hospital. I couldn’t go back to the apartment where so much pain had been manifest. I had to go somewhere.
I remember living under a bridge with a guy named Jasper who talked to the shadows as if they were his children.
And people say I’m the crazy one.
I remember seeing a church with a warm light, a welcoming beacon when the world around me was frigid and Jasper wouldn’t let me near the fire. He claimed it was scared and if I came close it would run away.
I remember walking into the church and finding food. Good food. Homemade green bean casserole and honey glazed ham.
I remember the man in the blazer who called himself Reverend Mark. He offered me a cot in the sanctuary with only one request: that I stay for the service the following day.
I remember the music and the preaching and the judgmental stares. People that called themselves Christians but treated me like garbage. Granted, I wasn’t my biggest fan either. I was the one who shot myself, after all. But I remember Mark. He showed me love. Compassion. He gave me a purpose. A Savior. A Home.
I remember the day that I died. A bullet had pierced my skull and yet somehow I lived.
I remember the day that I began to live again. A meal had filled my stomach and love had warmed my heart.
I remember my Savior. My Salvation.
I still have doubts. Fears. Nightmares that wake me up in the middle of the night. But I have love.
I will always remember when I came to life.
As I wondered down the damp, unlit street that led back to my apartment, I began to think. I know, thinking can be dangerous. Especially for someone with a brain like mine. Anyways, as I was walking, I began to let those ever dangerous thoughts into my head. What was I doing with my life? Here I am, 34 years old, with a gut that would make an overdue pregnant woman look thin, living by myself in a tiny apartment with the salary of an entry level McDonalds employee. Which would be okay, since I work at McDonalds, but I have worked here since I was 16 years old, and I have yet to be promoted.
“I am at a dead end.” I loudly pronounced to myself, though it was loud enough that the rats on the edges of the street scurried away.
This realization hit me really hard. I had no real future. I was useless. I walked over to my answering machine (yet another statement on how depressing my life is– I mean, who still has an answering machine?). I noticed there was 1 message. I felt a little glimmer of hope swell in my chest. Was I finally going to get a phone call?
“Congratulations! You have been selected to receive a cash prize! Visit www.cashprizesforyou.com to claim it now!”
A telemarketer. That’s what I had gotten so excited about. A good for nothing telemarketer that thinks I am so pitiful that I will fall for his stupid tricks. Well, I guess this was no different from any other night. No calls, no messages.
That brings me to now. Here I am, sitting in my dimly lit apartment, slowly picking at the remnants of a TV dinner. What a sight I must be. I almost giggle to myself as I think of what the caption would be if a picture of me at this exact moment were to ever appear in a newspaper.
“LONELY MAN MAKING THE REST OF US FEEL AWESOME BECAUSE HE IS SO PITIFUL.”
I know, it’s too long and most likely unrealistic, but I do feel like that lonely man. There is nothing here for me. I now realize how useless I am.
As I flip through the channels on TV, my eyes drift over to the coffee table. Many times I have looked at the drawer in the middle of the coffee table. I know what’s in it, but I haven’t been able to open it in months. I’m afraid of what I would do next. At least, I was. Tonight I begin to think about opening it again. This time, I know I have no other choice. I have to open it. I have to remove what was in it, and I have to use it. Its time.
I take one more bite of the crusty yet runny macaroni and cheese that was left in my TV dinner. I guess this is it. I slowly lumber off the couch and over to the coffee table.
“Dead end. Dead end. Dead. End.”
My words from earlier echoed in my ears like a sick, teasing child. I take out what was laying in the drawer. I feel the cold metal against my hand. After all this time, I finally built up the courage to open that drawer. A little bit of pride passes through me, but I don’t let it last. There is nothing about this that should make me proud.
“Dead end. Dead end.”
There is nothing else to do. It’s not like a band is going to come out of the hall and play a sweet song to serenade me into it. Now is the time. The voices are getting even louder now. I guess there is no escaping them now. Only one thing to do.
“Dead end. Dead…