Refusal

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Review Chain

This is for the review chain's mental health contest and my attempt at subverting the "medications are useless" troupe, particularly prevalent in sci-fi and fantasy, and instead focusing on how they can help characters in an imaginative scenario (instead of the "meds were blocking your powers" or "your mental illness was secretly your power" that I've seen in the last few years).

When Trevor was five, he saw the monster under his bed. And one in his closet, always lurking inside his shirts. And one in the window, its eyes just piercing the corner.

When he pointed them out to his mother, she laughed and said, “It's just your imagination.”

But then he started seeing them at school. And at the park. And in the bathroom. Foggy silhouettes just out of sight, specters that hid just in the corner of his eyes, never seeing them directly.

One day, after a monster scared him so badly he tried to chase it out himself, chase it right out of his eye with a pencil, he was rushed to the hospital.

“Your son is lucky, ma’am.” The doctor said. “His eye should heal just fine.”

Hugging him tightly, and determined to chase the monsters herself, Trevor’s mother brought him to many more doctors.

Medications were subscribed, and therapists were met. Some worked, some didn’t, but in the end what mattered was progress.

As he got older, these monsters became more realistic. Instead of vaporous tendrils or jagged teeth, he saw pristine clothes and false smiles. The monsters that hid in alleys and in vans. The kinds that wanted to kidnap him, steal his organs, and butcher him like a pig.

It was middle school when he realized he wanted to be a mathematician. Maybe a teacher, or a programmer, or banker, it didn’t matter; he loved numbers. It was around this same time that his prescriptions were becoming more consistent, and he was understanding his therapist much more and making much more progress.

Whether it was all the work until now, or simply that he had gotten older, the one constant was time and how it was moving forward.

He graduated in the top ten percent of his class in high school and was accepted to his top university, but had to accept his second offer for financial reasons.

His mother kissed his cheeks and cried out of pride at that graduation ceremony, screaming to another mother, “That’s my boy, Carol, where’s yours!?”

Today during summer break as he pours himself some cereal, his mother yells, “Tre, come here quick!”

Rushing to the living room, he finds his mother, her hands covering her aghast face, as she stares intently at the news.

Trevor glances at the screen and processes just what he is seeing.

The camera is shaking, the reporter and camera crew running fast away from a screeching sound blaring through the tv’s speakers.

The reporter, tears streaming down his face, continues to speak through sobs. “Th-this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It just took Teddy, took him in one-”

A large talon pierces through the reporter’s shoulder and hooks him in place. As he screams, the featherless flying abomination pulls him to the sky.

The screen flashes bright colorful stripes with an announcement of technical difficulties.

Trevor turns to his mother, but she still stares at the screen, shaking.

A tremor reverberates through the apartment, turning them both to the intrusion, and suddenly they can hear distant crashes and screams.

They both dart to the balcony and see the pandemonium erupting in the city. Cars are abandoned on the road as people run from flaming skulls and flying squids. Bloody gore spatters the street and charred corpses crumble into dust.

As Trevor’s mother vomits over the balcony, Trevor looks to the sky and sees a thing beyond reason. Its teeth sculpted from clouds and its gums wet with starlight, a giant mouth in the sky drools monsters onto the city below.

It was insane. It was hell. It was terrifying.

So Trevor knew exactly what to do.

“Hey, mom, it’s okay.” He says as he reaches out and comforts her.

She accepts it blankly, and shakily, and says, “How? All the- and the- fire and the- that!”

A cloud of scorpions flies past, devouring a flock of nearby pigeons.

“Mom, don’t worry, this can’t be real.”

“But-”

“It's just your imagination. It has to be.”

Before she can respond, a scream rings out louder than all the others. Down in the street, fallen off his bicycle, a young boy cries out in pain as he calls for help. “Momma! Momma!”

Before his own mother can stop him, Trevor rushes out the door and towards the street.

He approaches the boy, pushing through a small stampede of a crowd, and kneels down to the kid’s height.

“Hey, you need some help?”

The boy looks to him, still choking through tears, and nods.

“Where’s your mom?”

“Sh-she got grabbed by a pterodactyl.” The boy cries harder. “It probably ate her!”

“Oh, don’t worry, pterodactyls aren’t real.”

“...What?”

“That’s a made up dinosaur. It's about as real as Santa Claus.”

“Santa isn’t real?”

Before he could explain that Santa was too creepy, and scientifically impossible, to be real, a distorted voice calls out.

“Wayward children of the old world, bow to your nightmares made flesh!”

Floating off the ground in a haze of fiery heat, a horned, blue feathered creature stands above the street. It raises its gnarled hands and lightning curls from its fingertips, disintegrating several lamppost bulbs and microwaving several human heads.

The boy hides behind Trevor, having nowhere else to go, as Trevor stands up and regards this impossibility.

The blue thing laughs. “I see you are brave, mortal, but nothing can stop-”

“You’re not real.” Trevor declares matter-of-factly.

“...What?”

Trevor looks to the boy behind him and says, “It’s alright, it can’t hurt us. It’s just a delusion.”

The demon snarls. “Deny your end, boy, but still it crawls near!”

It flings its arms forward and fires a stream of energy, burning the air with its sheer intensity.

And fades into nothing as soon as it touches Trevor.

The demon cocks its head in confusion and tries again. Same result.

“What… what are you?”

Trevor does not respond, as he was taught giving delusions much focus tended to make them worse. Instead, he merely stares through the creature, seeing the empty space that was supposed to be there above the street.

The demon feels pain course through its body, like it's very molecules were on fire. It screams as its limbs contort and its feathers decay into dust.

All the monsters in the city suddenly become still, as they feel a presence, a force, burn away one of their own.

Something with a resilient mind, something that could peel back the eldritch veil and see them for what they really are...

Trevor is a man that refuses to believe in delusions.

And that makes the delusions very scared.

 


Submitted: October 17, 2021

© Copyright 2022 G.P.Sharp. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:

Comments

CM.N

Very interesting perspective. I mean, really interesting.I was scared a little bit at first, reading the description of the monster (the cover was very apt. The mouth looks scary). I love the contrast when, he alone was having the delusion and when the whole city was having it together. There is a message there somewhere. I just couldn't put it into words. Beautifully written story. I really like how you describe the delusion as an entity that is alive and having their own thoughts. I enjoyed reading it. It is an amazing short story  with wonderful message that we need to ponder and digest.

Mon, October 18th, 2021 7:14am

Author
Reply

Thanks, I've pondering this character for a little bit now, so it was really fun to experiment with him in a short story. That contrast is definitely what I was going for, though I do wish I developed the story a bit more, as there were a couple other elements I didn't have space for (one day I'll write flash fiction that doesn't push the word count).

Mon, October 18th, 2021 5:23pm

shika

Usually, when a reader reads a story there is a line that one maintains between reality and imagining to be a witness of the story as one visualizes it. But in this story, I completely lost that line demarcating reality and fantasy. It was as if I was completely lost in your story. That's how powerful your story was. I loved the apocalyptic-like twist it had when the mother started having delusions as well. (That was unanticipated.) The delusional disorders experienced by the mother and son duo have been very well described with the mother probably developing it in later stages of her life or could have possibly suppressed it before. My favorite lines were the last two "Trevor is a man that refuses to believe in delusions. And that makes the delusions very scared.". Amazing work! My heartfelt best wishes for the contest.

Mon, October 18th, 2021 10:45am

Author
Reply

Thank you, though the mother wasn't developing a disorder later in life, it was more of a sci-fi extradimensional hallucination that the whole city was experiencing (though I now wonder if your interpretation would've been more interesting to develop... oh well). Its always a welcome challenge for me to condense my story ideas in these contests, and in retrospect I should have either shortened the intro or trimmed the details to fit in more context.
Also, I've just gotta say, those were my favorite lines while I was writing too (technically the first lines I wrote for story before developing it). Hope you do well in the contest, too!

Mon, October 18th, 2021 5:39pm

Excly

I want more! i really enjoy this. This was very well-detailed. You can get a sense of the illusion, blurring the line of what is real and what is not. It is possible that there's a deeper world within the illusion that could be explored. With the amount of detail, there could be an even deeper message to mental health. I would continue (world build) with the writing in some way and build upon it.

Tue, October 19th, 2021 10:52pm

Archia

Great story. I liked the how you take on this in subverting the medications are useless troupe. Your descriptions were really good as always, and I enjoyed reading how you described the monsters and the whole scene of it. I did get a little confused at the end about whether it was real or not and I'm still not entirely sure. Either way though I did enjoy Trevor's strength to face the monsters and support others. It was a great way to end your story.

Mon, October 25th, 2021 8:41am

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