Death is the ultimate form of complacency. It’s the feeling that you can’t contain that invokes dread. Awareness is pride, a way of saying, “Hey, I’m not afraid of going crazy.” It’s a way of praising yourself.
Gary shoved his hands into the kitchen sink, pivoting his head toward the toaster atop the kitchen counter. The refrigerator door opened. A wave of cold air draped over the room as he glanced over his shoulder. Beside him was Aggie, the cat, who had somehow pried open the refrigerator door. Blinking, Aggie leaned up to watch the fridge. She scaled its shelves, hopping from one to another, making her way into the uppermost shelf. She scurried all the way into the back, jostling around the furthermost ingredients.
Some time passed. Gary slapped his palm against the faucet lever, turned off the sink, and leaned across the counter, gazing into the fridge. There was no sign of Aggie. After a few moments, there was a stir in the back of the fridge. The cat paced out, basking in the light for a moment, standing straight, holding a pistol in her mouth. Gary leaned back against the counter as Aggie jumped onto the hardwood floor and paced around Gary. She brushed up against the wall as she scampered over toward the front door and out of the home, into the pale white void.
Gary exhaled a sigh of relief. He flicked the water off of his hands, turned around to face the living room, and slapped a hand down on the couch, gazing over toward the coat rack in the room's corner. He grinned as he found that his pizza-delivery hat and jacket were still there, as he had expected them. Gary whispered to himself,
“It’s not so bad. At least I get to hold on to something!”
He ambled over toward that coat rack, and he awkwardly threw on his pizza-delivery hat and jacket before wandering back across the living room and out the front door.
He leapt out the front door and landed silently on the plane of white — the void engulfing his home. Gary had forgotten to shed his shoes. He couldn’t see what he was doing. It was too late.
Gary collected himself. He could breathe. The air moved through his lungs. He could feel his heart beating faster than ever before. Gary hobbled up toward the side of his home, leaning against it. Bang! Gary clasped his hands over his ears. A gunshot sounded out from behind the home. He continued around the outside, creeping toward the back of the home. At once, Gary peeked his head around the corner.
Lying on the ground, behind the home, laid a frog with a gunshot wound through the chest. Gary rushed over to his side, scooping the frog up into his arms. In his periphery, a streak of white—Aggie—darted back around the other side of the house. Gary glared back down toward the frog in his arms. For a moment, it laid rigid—lifeless and unmoving. Slowly, the frog tilted its head up toward Gary, while blood seeped from out of its chest. Their eyes met. Minutes passed—Gary’s vision faded into infinity.
At once, Gary awakened. Around him was a sea of green, much more pleasing to the eyes than the blinding white glow to which he had grown accustomed. Gary hopped around for just a moment, wading through the tall grass. He stared down at his webbed fingers.
“You know what? Aggie has done worse. This is fine.”
A while longer, he shimmied through the tall grass, bearing witness to nothing but the night sky draped over a lime-green labyrinth. Minutes passed. Gary found himself just off the edge of a pond. Beside him, from out of the grass, came a rustling—a scorpion wandered out and approached him. The scorpion spoke up.
“Hey—Hey I really need your help.”
“It’s hard to explain. I, uh—I need to see somebody on the other side. Can you help me?”
Gary stared at the scorpion for a moment. The bellowing of the wind and the chirping of cicadas hung incessantly over the air. Gary said,
“Alright, alright. I’ll help you out.”
And Gary hopped onto the surface of the pond, where he floated. The scorpion scurried onto Gary’s frog-back, his many legs tickling Gary’s skin. At once, Gary kicked off against the shore and drifted across the pond. Time passed—the water was unclear and laden with moss. Surrounding the pair was a dome of willow trees and overgrowth; they drifted further toward the center of the pond. The scorpion readjusted himself. Gary felt a tingling sensation on his back. Moments passed. Gary’s back itched. Subtly, Gary readjusted his posture, balancing the scorpion well on his back.
The scorpion stung Gary. A sharp sensation struck the back of Gary’s neck at first, followed by a numb, tingling feeling coursing through his body. At once, he sank to the bottom of the pond. Gary opened his eyes as he slowly sank to the bottom. Darkness encroached on his peripheral vision,—his vision blurred as if he were looking through a straw. As if he were dreaming, Gary identified an empty turtle shell at the bottom of the pond. With the last of his strength, he thrust himself downward, swimming rapidly toward that shell. He shimmied his way inside. The world fell dark for a moment. He stuck his head out the other end.
At once, Gary awakened. Around him was a sea of green, much more pleasing to the eyes than the blinding white glow to which he had grown accustomed. Gary waddled through the tall grass, and he stared down at his stubby legs. He gasped.
“Oh—It’s one of these!”
He made his way out of the brush, finding himself in a small clearing, free of foliage, just beside the pond. Beside him, there was rustling in the grass, out of which appeared a scorpion. The scorpion scurried up to Gary and asked,
“I need to see somebody on the other side. Can you help me?”
A cocktail of memories and expectations flooded into Gary’s mind. He had an idea. He replied,
“Yeah! That—that’s fine by me.”
And so he plopped down into the water, waited a moment for the scorpion to climb onto his back, and he pushed off against the edge of the pond, slowly drifting toward its center. Minutes passed. Gary asked,
“So, who are you going to go see?”
The scorpion responded,
“Oh… Do you know Aggie?”
Gary’s eyes widened.
He pressed his head down into the water. Gary opened his eyes for a moment, and he dove beneath the surface. Above him, the scorpion struggled for a moment against the pond, before eventually succumbing, crumpling up into a little black ball, sinking deeper and deeper.
The pond was gloomy. Gary glanced back behind him. A pale glow grew stronger. It was approaching him. A white ball soared through the water, straight toward Gary. The light was blinding. Gary jerked his head away, but the blinding dazzle overpowered him. Nothing happened. The pond became dim. Gary swiveled his head behind him. There was a white ceramic ball floating in the water. Printed on its surface was the face of a cat, with two pointy ears poking out of the top. Gary thought to himself: Aggie? Is that Aggie? His thoughts responded to him. Yes. I am Aggie.
The two stared at each other for a moment. At once, a crack appeared upon the surface of Aggie’s shell. From there, it spread along her width. The carapace split in two—a viscous, black liquid seeped out as the two halves descended to the pond’s floor. Until he understood what he was staring at, Gary watched Aggie. He watched the black goop descend to the Earth, where it rooted itself. For a moment, Gary understood. He swam forward, plowing himself directly through the substance. Gary’s skin felt dry. The smell of rot penetrated his nose from inside his own body—he could feel the world shrinking beneath him.
At once, Gary awakened. Around him was a sea of green, much more pleasing to the eyes than the blinding white glow to which he had grown accustomed. Gary scurried through the tall grass, excellently using all eight of his legs. After scurrying about the foliage for a moment, Gary came across a clearing beside a pond. Just before him, a frog laid still in the grass.
Promptly, Gary asked the frog for a ride across the pond, hoping to come face to face once more with Aggie. Something had clicked. Gary had decided that he would be the one to stop her—Gary would put Aggie in check every step of the way. The frog jostled along the surface of the pond. Gary escaped from his own train of thought. He scampered up the back of the frog a short way, struggling to regain his balance. The frog shook about more intensely. Gary slipped off of its side. Gary thought to himself for a moment: This is me, isn’t it? I’m the frog, and I’m also me. What a fucking idiot I was. I had it coming. Aggie isn’t here yet. At once, Gary stung the frog, and they both sank beneath the water’s surface as a veil of black overcame the world.
At once, Gary awakened. Around him was a sea of green, much more pleasing to the eyes than the blinding white glow to which he had grown accustomed. Gary scurried through the tall grass, excellently using all eight of his legs. After scurrying about the foliage for a moment, Gary came across a clearing beside a pond. Just before him, a turtle laid still in the grass. Gary paused. He panicked.
“Gary – Please, listen to me. Aggie is the problem. It’s not Godfrey. It’s not you. We can stop her. She was the end of the world. Please, I’m begging you, get me across the pond.”
The turtle glanced back at Gary before waddling into the water. Gary quickly scurried on top of his shell, and the two rode across the pond. Moments passed—minutes passed—nothing happened. On the other side of the pond, the turtle swiftly turned away before diving back into the depths of the pond. Gary turned around, staring deep into the foliage, thinking to himself: Wait, I don’t know why I expected to find anything here. I know the other Gary wanted to get across, but do I really trust that guy?
At once, the darkness Gary had been staring into stared back at him. A shimmering glow shone out from beyond the trees. It approached him rapidly. He stared straight ahead. Before him rested the washed up shell of Aggie: two white ceramic bowls. Gary stepped up toward them, and he nibbled at the shells. He had nothing to gain from this; Gary just felt spiteful. Hours passed. The shell was gone.
At once, Gary awakened. Around him was a blinding sea of white. There was no conflict—there was no pain. He pulled himself up to his feet — and he admired the back of his home. Gary wandered around the backside, about the path Aggie took. Taking a prying eye to the foundations of the structure, he noticed a thin crack split into the side of the home, underneath which a thick, leather-bound book rested, tucked away. Gary sauntered up toward his home and he snatched up the book. He dropped to the floor, crossing his legs swiftly, and he read.