Man On The Corner

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Have you ever wondered if your life is actually real? Ethan had never wondered until the day his life started to ripple at the edges.

Submitted: October 31, 2014

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Submitted: October 31, 2014

A A A

A A A


THE MAN ON THE CORNER


When you wake from the dream
ask yourself the following question:
Was it really your dream…..
And did you wake up?


Ethan Grange was a self-made man. At thirty two he owned his own company, and employed a staff of twelve persons. He drove a BMW, owned his own house with no mortgage, and his bank account balance had seven zeros in it. Yet at the age of 12 he had been living in a care home, with no family, few friends, and no prospect of a future. Ethan had always felt he was in charge of his own destiny, and had worked hard to get to where he had wanted to go. But recently he had felt there was something wrong.

It was nothing concrete. Nothing he could put his finger on. It was more a feeling that things were starting to blur around the edges. Like things were no longer in focus. That the control was no longer there. A feeling that the world was not exactly as it appeared to be.

Ethan Grange stood on the corner of a road not far from his office, staring up at a section of the sky from where a bright light had recently flashed. He was not entirely sure how he had got there, but he was sure that something was about to happen.

oOo

Ethan sat at his desk, in his office, on the fourth floor of Cedar Park Rise. It was not an ostentatious office, but simply furnished and fitted. A simple beige carpet adorned the floor from wall to wall. One wall consisted of the door and a full height window, through which he could see out into the remainder of the office. The opposite wall contained his window on the outside world. One end wall was covered by a couple of bookcases. These were not packed with books but contained a fair number, mainly about computing, along with a few mementos he had picked up over the years in his travels. He sat in front of the forth wall, seated behind his simple light wood desk.  Out of the window to his right he could see out across Cedar Park Business Park and beyond to the motorway. Out of the full height window to his left he could see his family. At least that was how he thought of them. They were his team, his associates, his friends, but they were also the family that he never had. Through his open door he could hear the soft murmur of their conversation, and the quiet tapping of their keyboards as they went about their business.

Their business was his business, web sites. He had started at the age of fourteen, on the computer at the home. He had designed a web site for them before he really knew what he was doing and it had all started from there. Soon he was designing sites for the local authority care department, then for the Local Authority itself, then for local businesses. By the time he was eighteen he was well known and he could no longer handle the business by himself. Fourteen years later he no longer designed websites, he let other people do it for him.

Ethan sat back in his comfy black leather office chair, feeling it flex under him, and watched his family at work. They were a happy team. He paid them well, treated them well, and they worked hard for him. He saw Sally rise from her desk and approach his office. He smiled at her through the window as she approached, and she returned the smile. She motioned the act of drinking from a cup, he declined the offer of a coffee by a shake of the head, and mouthed the words, “Thanks anyway.”

She returned the gesture with the mouthed words, “No worries", and walked on past his office to the kitchen.

Outside his other window the world was bathed in sunshine. Cars hurtled along the motorway, and people walked briskly between the buildings which filled the business park. Off to the left of his scope of vision the world shimmered, as if under a heat haze, but when he turned his head the shimmer vanished, only to reappear to his left. He moved his head again on to find the same thing happened. Never in the centre of his vision, but off to the side.

His computer pinged him, bringing him back into his office.

Ethan’s Messenger was talking to him. Like many in his line of business much of his life was spent reading or writing emails, surfing the web, or ‘talking’ on Messenger. He did still use the phone, and loved to chat to people face to face, but mainly he communicated via the wonder that was Messenger.

Hi, it said.

Hello, Ethan replied. He was puzzled because there was no identifier on the text as there always was. The identifier was key, because it told you to whom you were talking.

One of your constructs is aware.

??

One of your constructs is aware.

Who is this? Ethan typed quickly, looking out into the office to see if he could catch this latest joker.

There was no response to this question.

Ethan was convinced it was one of the guys out in the office. They were all computer geeks really, himself included, and one of them must have created an account with no identifier.

One of your constructs is aware.

There it was again. The same message.

Please explain, Ethan typed.

One of your constructs is aware.

Who is this? Jack, this isn’t funny. Ethan typed again, thinking his head site designer was the prime suspect.

There is no Jack. This is you.

This was beginning to get seriously surreal, and Ethan looked round again out in to the office. They were all still there working away, and Ethan no longer suspected that this was one of them.

As Jack looked through the office he noticed that the door at the far end, which led out in to the lift lobby was shimmering. Not only shimmering but out of focus. The more he looked the more it shimmered, and this time it was not in his peripheral vision.

His computer pinged again.

Awareness brings the end. Reality unravels, the latest message read.

What do you mean? Whose awareness?

Your constructs, was the simple answer that flashed up on to Ethan’s screen.

Who is my construct?

We are all constructs, created for purpose, but not awareness. Awareness brings the end. Reality unravels.

OK, let’s play along with this game, thought Ethan. Why does awareness bring the end? Why must reality unravel? Ethan asked.

Because there can be no awareness where there is no consciousness. If there is consciousness then there is reality, and reality can not exist for a construct.

Ethan struggled to understand what was being said. He read the words over again, trying to decipher the meaning. It made no sense to him. What was this person trying to say to him?

Who is the construct?

We are all constructs. The same answer as before no further explanation. Maybe he was just asking the wrong questions.

Are you a construct?

Yes.

Are you conscious?

No.

But you are aware that you are a construct?

Yes.

But you said there can be no awareness without consciousness. So how can you be aware but not conscious?

Paradox.

It was a simple word, but it opened up so many more questions in Ethan’s mind. This was a true puzzle, and he liked puzzles.

Whose paradox?

Ours, mine, yours.

How was the paradox created?

It has always been there. It was there from the start you just didn’t realise it.

Ethan read this last message twice before he realised what it actually said. I created the paradox?

Yes.

How?

By creating the paradox.

This last made even less sense than what had gone before. He had created the paradox by creating the paradox. But how had he created the paradox.

How did I create the paradox?

I created, came the answer.

You mean “I was created”? Ethan was sure this had been a mistype.

No. I created. I created, and therefore created the paradox.

But you said I created the paradox.

That is correct I created the paradox.

Ethan looked out the window again. The trees shimmered, the building shimmered, the cars on the motorway shimmered, and the people walking in the sunshine shimmered. The whole world was shimmering.

Ethan was anxious about asking the next question. He knew it was the right question to ask, but was frightened to hear the answer. Although deep down he already knew the answer.

Is this me?
Yes.

Are you me?
Yes.

Am I the paradox?
No.

You are the paradox.
No.

They are paradox.
Yes.

Ethan hadn’t said who ‘they’ were, but he knew, and his self to whom he was talking, knew now who the ‘they’ were. ‘They’ were all around. Created to fill a void, they had to be perfect. They had to be real. But in order to be real they had to be conscious, and once they were aware they were conscious they became aware of what it was that they were, that they were not really real. And that was the paradox.

And once the paradox was discovered then their reality was no longer real, and hence reality broke down.

The world shimmered. Part of the sky lit up with a blinding white light. Reality bent.

oOo

Ethan Grange stood on the corner of a road not far from his office, staring up at a section of the sky from where a bright light had recently flashed. He was not entirely sure how he had got there, but he was sure that something was about to happen.

Ethan stared intently at one particular area of sky. He was still dressed in the same dark trousers and light grey shirt, as he had been in his office what seemed like only moments before. But it couldn’t have just been moments because his office was half a mile away. He must have walked here but couldn’t remember doing so. He scratched at his head with one hand, feeling his close cut hair move under his fingers, whilst shielding his eyes from the sun with the other.

Something was coming. He wasn’t sure what form it would take, but something was definitely coming. He continued to focus on one patch of sky, just above his office, expecting to see some dramatic change. His concentration was absolute. He took no notice of the people who passed him by, giving him curious stares. He failed to register the cars that zipped passed him on the road, including one containing a Mr Frank Majors who was looking at him with a vague look of horror on his face. And he failed to notice the small man who was now stood beside him looking at the same patch of sky.

“You won’t see anything up there,” said the man softly, “unless that is where you want something to appear.”

Ethan lowered his hand slowly, and stopped scratching his head. He turned and looked down at the man who barely came up to his shoulder. “Don’t tell me, you aren’t real either.”

“We are all as real as you make us, Ethan.”

“But this is mad. How can all this not be real?”

The small man looked at Ethan with a look of real pity. “You created it, so from that point of view it is very real. But it can only stay real for as long as the people do not realise they are not real. You did too good a job, Ethan. Your creations are so perfect they started to think for themselves. And now one of them has figured out that he is not really real, and so the whole fabric has started to unravel.”

Ethan stared at the small man. He was beginning to accept that what he was staring at was not real and realised that the man stood in front of him bore a striking resemblance to the General that used to appear in one of his favourite TV series, Stargate. Only this version stood in a typical doctors white coat, dark trousers, and American hospital issue white trainers. “Am I going mad?”

“No, Ethan,” the General/Doctor replied. “ You are merely beginning to accept your reality.”

“But this is my reality, isn’t it?”

“No, this is only inside your head. Once you realise that, this,” he said with a general wave of the hand, “will all disappear.”

Ethan wondered on what the man had said. This wasn’t reality, then what was?

“And with that thought you must now face reality,” the General Doctor said with such great sombreness and finality.

As Ethan continued to stare at him he faded. Gradually at first, the pavement behind him becoming visible where his body had previously had been. Then more rapidly his features began to disappear, like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland his smile, albeit a sad one, was the last to go.

A tearing sound forced its way into Ethan’s consciousness, small at first but increasing in intensity. He turned and refocused on the patch of sky he had been watching earlier. He did not want to believe what his eyes were registering.

The tear started as a small opening in the sky, barely visible to the naked eye. Like a frayed edge of material pieces of the sky appeared to hang over the rift as it appeared. Within the tear was a blankness of pure white that shone through the gap. Then, as if someone was ripping a sheet, the tear extended both upwards towards the heavens and downwards toward the earth.

Ethan stood and stared, transfixed by the sight of the world literally being torn apart. The surrounding sky did not disappear in to the rift, but merely moved aside as the tear grew steadily larger. Ethan imagined that somewhere the sky was bunching up where it had nowhere else to go, folded against the edge of reality.

The tear continued to extend upward, eventually passing over Ethan’s head. It also reached toward the ground, and rather than disappearing behind the buildings and trees that Ethan had expected it literally ripped right through them as if they were a painting. Buildings, trees, grass, people, cars, all being shoved sideways to cater for this ever increasing rift that was appearing before his eyes. The noise pushed inside his head, but no-one else appeared to notice. Before him he saw people turning toward the rift that was separating their world, but they looked neither scared nor curious as he watched them swept aside by the raw power of the tear.

And then it was all gone.

oOo

Ethan stood in an expanse of white. Blindingly white light surrounded him.

He had often imagined that the absence of everything would result in a void of darkness, but that was not the case. The absence of everything left you with a blankness, and blankness was white. Like a sheet of paper before anyone has written or drawn anything on it. A reality waiting to be started, he realised, or maybe a reality rubbed out.

There was no essence of scale in this blankness for there was nothing there to reference to. He could have been looking inches from his face, or he could have been looking for miles. Whichever it was there was nothing here, save for him. Feelings of loneliness overcame him and tears pour from his eyes like a torrent of despair.

Was he really all alone?

He continued to stare in to the blankness, turning slowly on the spot, hoping to catch sight of something. He turned ever more slowly, not wanting to think that he may have missed something. And then there it was. A small speck in the overwhelming blankness. He stopped turning and fixed his stare on the minute speck.

He stood motionless for a time he could not measure, wishing the speck to grow bigger, but it didn’t, but neither did it diminish or disappear. He had to decide whether to stay where he was or take a chance and move toward whatever it was.

His foot moved before he had finished the thought. One step, followed by another, and then another. His eyes never moving from the speck within the blankness. And he walked toward whatever it was, and oh so slowly it grew. Eventually gaining a shape which Ethan took a while to realise was a human shape.

For the first time he tried to call out but no sound came from his mouth. The emptiness in sound was complete as it had been in vision, and only now did he realise that he could not hear the sound of his own footsteps or breathing.

He continued to close on the shape, which was now clearly a person walking away from him. They seemed to be matched step for step but Ethan continued to slowly gain ground. The man, for that was now clear, was dressed in a similar manner to him in dark trousers and a grey shirt. Even the short cut hair was similar.

It felt like he had been walking for hours. Ethan wanted to run but was afraid that this would somehow shatter what was here and he couldn’t face that. And so he continued at his steady pace. He was closing, bit by bit, on the man in front.

Not once did the man in front turn around, or break pace, or pause in his walking. Ethan tried again to speak, to ask this person to stop, but there was still no sound. And the gap continued to close. Ethan was now almost within touching distance but still he could not bring himself to run, or to lurch forward.

They continued to walk in the blankness, a pair bonded together in this world of nothing. But now Ethan was close enough.

He reached up his hand and placed it on the shoulder of his companion walker, hoping that he did not scare him to death, only to jump at the touch of a hand landing on his own shoulder.

And then he realised.

His companion was himself, and his world was now so small that he could reach out forward and touch himself from behind. Ethan’s mind screamed. His mouth was open, but no sound came out. Inside his head the scream shattered his consciousness and the final remnants of his reality.

The scream was eternal.

 


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