A Short Story by Kyle Kepulis
“I just want the story to end.” Omri panted, his breath becoming lighter and shallower.
“The story can’t end before it’s begun.”
Omri woke up. His eyelids fluttered, having to get used to the bright gleam of daylight. A figure stood above him. It was a boy. His golden hair gleamed in the sun, and his eyes glittered with prescience.
“Where am I?”
“You are here.”
Omri sat up, and looked all around him. He was on an empty plain. Sunburnt grass was all he could see for miles.
“And where is here?”
“Where you are.”
“Well, that’s fairly obvious.”
“Don’t forget now.”
“How could I forget where I am?”
The boy started to walk away, without even looking back at Omri.
“Wait!” Omri shouted, getting up and running after him. “Where are you going?”
The boy turned around.
“Everything here is as you wish it to be. There’s nothing here that you don’t already know.”
Then the boy was gone. No explanation, not even any kind of sign that he was going to depart. He just vanished. And Omri was alone.
He headed down the street, mindless of the hour or what was awaiting him. He passed people on the street, looking into their faces for some kind of sign that he knew them, or had the opportunity to know them. They were all the same. Blank and faceless, monotonous bodies marching continuously on their way to unknown destinations.
But the old man was different. His features were rough and strong, had weathered extreme hotness as well as extreme cold. As Omri passed him, the old man looked straight into his eyes. They seemed to burn into Omri’s irises, inflaming the depths of his soul.
Omri didn’t look into anyone else’s face after that.
He soon found himself outside the building with the large sign above the door that proclaimed in bleak white letters: “Toy Shack.”
The palace was magnificent. It loomed above Omri, making him feel small and inferior in comparison. Its towers jettisoned into the clouds, reaching up to unknown heights.
The heavy front doors opened before him, and welcomed him inside.
“So where were you today?” Omri’s father said as Omri walked in carelessly through the front door. What his dad really meant to ask was where had he been after school.
“Everybody’s somewhere.” Was his dad’s retort.
“Not always.” He shut the door to his room, blocking out the brightness.
“So,” He heard her voice call him. “You have finally come. I’ve been expecting you.”
He strolled down the aisle to her throne, taking in her extravagant beauty.
Her auburn tresses cascaded over her shoulders, and fell on to the deep brown robes that adorned her body. She raised a hand in the air as if to usher him further into the room.
“I was wondering when you’d finally arrive. But at last you are here.”
He took her hand, and helped her rise from her throne. Brilliant flashes of color and light emanated from her pointed tiara as she descended from her place of nobility. Omri took them in and held them captive.
“Come, we have much to discuss.” She told him. They exited into a room off the threshold.
The dream entwined him, coiling its deadly tentacles around his mind, rooting and furrowing its poisonous limbs deeper and deeper into the recesses of his brain.
He saw the faces. So many of them, dancing all around him. And he knew them all. They had no eyes, no noses, no mouths, nothing to distinguish one from the other. All expressionless, staring at him through invisible, nonexistent eyes.
And they expected him to know them.
He did know them, and yet he could not decipher who they were. He had memories of them all, yet there was something missing, something important, that made him able to connect them to their rightful names and places.
This is what started making the faces angry. They began to reach out at him, taunting him. And then they started hitting him. Blow after blow, he felt their pain and anger. He wanted to help them. He truly wanted to remember who they were, but he couldn’t. And the faces devoured him, tearing his limbs and scattering them till there was nothing left of him but bountiful blood and pathetic bone.
And then he woke up.
His room was bathed in shadows. The sun just barely peered over the horizon outside his window, winking as if to say good night. Omri threw his backpack down on the floor, and his body landed with a thud on to the warm escape of the blankets of his bed. He breathed in through his nose the scent of home, and isolation. The smell always lingered here. He hoped he wouldn’t have the dream again, the dream he could never remember…
“I’ll excavate the dream for you.” She said simply and matter-of-factly, as if it were something done every day.
“You can do that?”
“Yes. All you need to do is relax.”
He closed his eyes, and tried his best, but nothing happened.
“Here. Let me help you.” She said. She placed a single hand on his forehead, and suddenly there was blackness.
The bell on the door rang noisily as Omri entered the toyshop. The building was large and bright and sterile in its whiteness. He started his way down the endless aisles, each linked to each gratuitously through connecting shelves and corridors. His eyes ran listlessly over the names on the boxes of each of the pre-packaged and slickly marketed entertainments.
He heard music.
It sounded as if it erupted from some demented music box somewhere.
He edged closer and closer to the aisle where the music seemed to be coming from, half afraid of what he’d find.
He turned a corner, and there was the boy.
He was around Omri’s age, maybe a little older, an employee at the toyshop. Dark, curly hair. He was sitting at a toy piano, on the small, child-sized stool, and playing. The tune was loud and abrasive, but it somehow drew Omri closer and closer.
The music swelled and changed, its curves engulfing Omri’s senses.
Omri was now close enough to reach out and touch the dark-haired boy. His hand faltered in mid-air, trying to decide what to do.
Then suddenly the dark-haired boy turned around, and smiled at him over his shoulder.
Omri simply stood and stared back.
“I’m so thirsty.” Omri barely whispered, his voice strained with humidity and dryness.
“I know you are. Merely drink from this, and you will never thirst for anything again.”
“No, no,” Omri said in a daze. “I’m too tired…too tired…”
“Drink.” Was all the woman said. “And you will finally find rest.”
Omri stared at her. She seemed to be lingering in a haze, her form disappearing and then reappearing out of nowhere. He slowly reached out for the black goblet in her hands. He felt his hands fasten around the cold perspiring metal.
“Just one sip, and you’ll never feel anything again.”
His lips brushed against the rim of the cup…
An unknown force suddenly wrenched away his grasp on the goblet, and sent it flying from his hands. Omri heard a shriek as of a thousand birds dying in a single wail of sound, and then his mind drowned in an ocean of darkness.
The faces came back to him. Except now they had adopted a form that was clear to him. Each turned around, as if seeing him for the first time.
Here was the face of the man on the street, gazing up at him with his rough countenance, and there the face of the dark-haired boy in the toyshop, looking over his shoulder and smiling.
Next was the face of a childhood friend, and after it the face of a cousin he hadn’t spoken to in years.
Last came the faces of his father and mother, exactly as he remembered them. They looked as if they had been stolen from a photograph somewhere, that lay lodged only in his memory.
Then all the faces faded away, carried aloft by an unknown wind, like wisps of nothing gently falling to the ground, or dried-up leaves disappearing into the murky sub terrains of some long-forgotten pool.
“Omri!” A voice sliced through the air. “What are you doing?”
Omri snapped back to attention, focusing his sight on the pair of eyes staring straight at him.
“I’m sorry, ma’am.” He apologized. “I was just thinking.”
“Which is exactly what you should be doing in this class. You were daydreaming again, weren’t you?”
Omri looked back down forlornly at his desk, as if in reply.
“Do I have to speak to your father again, Omri?”
“No, Mrs. Langley.” Omri almost whispered.
“Good. Make sure that I don’t.” With this Mrs. Langley went back to teaching the class their lesson in natural biology.
Before he could help it, Omri’s thoughts strayed back to what he was thinking of before Mrs. Langley so rudely interrupted him.
No, Omri, he thought to himself, wake up, wake up…