By Daniel Vlasaty
You haven’t slept in days. Maybe weeks. You just keep swallowing the pills the creators give you. You aren’t really sure what the pills are supposed to do. They are different sizes and colors. Some are big and bitter. Others are small and sweet. They don’t seem to do anything. They cancel each other out, leaving you with a dry mouth and that’s about it. But you take them anyway. Because that’s what the creators tell you to do.
You’ve never thought to question this. It is just what happens. The creators give you pills and you take them. It is normal. Everyone takes the pills. No one questions the creators.
There is another package of pills waiting for you on your front porch, delivered sometime while you paced your room, waiting for the sun to come up or go down or whatever. Time does not have much meaning to you.
You bring the package inside and peek out through the window next to the door. All of your neighbors are doing the same thing – bringing in their pills and staring out their windows.
Your mother screams from her bedroom in the back of the house. You can’t make out the words but you know she is screaming at the TV. At the reporter reading the news. She hates him, for some reason. She thinks he is spying on her while she changes her clothes or takes a bath or sleeps. She thinks he is trying to have his way with her. Even when she is not near a TV or if it is turned off, she still thinks he is there watching her.
You set the pills down on the kitchen table and move back to your mother’s room. She hasn’t been taking her pills. You have found them under her pillow or mixed in with her dirty dishes. She tries to hide them anywhere she thinks you won’t find them. But you always do.
She is very, very old and sick, and she just wants to die. But the creators will not let her. No one dies anymore.
Your mother is sitting up in her bed when you enter her room. She is holding her blankets up to her face, covering her mouth as if in disgust. “Oh my God,” she says, her voice muffled by the blanket. “What is he doing?” She points at the TV.
You glance at the TV and jump back at what you see. The reporter does not have any skin.
“He’s…he’s trying to steal my skin!” your mother shrieks.
You ignore her. She continues mumbling into the blanket.
You watch the reporter. It is as if he does not know he is missing his skin. There is a group of creators standing behind him. Their faces are hidden behind gas masks. Their red eyes glow through the masks. They are controlling him. You turn the TV off but your mother continues to go on and on about the man trying to steal her skin. You crush some pills up and put them in her morning coffee like powdered cream. She drinks this, yells at you for making shitty coffee and passes out before she can spit in your face for being such a waste of space – as she likes to call you.
She is a terrible person, your mother. But you’ll probably be the same when you’re 113 years old and all you want to do is die but the creators will not let you.
Out in the kitchen, all of your pills are set out in neat little piles in the order in which you’re to take them. The creators have organized them; they have organized every aspect of your life. You live through them. You grab the first handful of pills and shove it in your mouth. Some of them get stuck in the back of your throat as you swallow. They are scratchy and sour. You wince and force them down, and they scrape and slice their way into your gut to dissolve.
Things move forward but nothing changes.
The day has gone by in a haze and your mind is cloudy from all the pills. Your mind is always cloudy. The colors around you have very strong smells and the carpet beneath your feet is worms.
You pace back and forth through the house as if you are waiting for something. Maybe you are, you have no idea. You have been trapped in this house, unable to leave, for so long that you forget there is more of a world out there than the few houses you can see through your window.
There are no pills on the porch the next morning, and you think maybe it’s still too early. By noon you are scratching your arms so hard you draw blood. Maybe there’s still a trace of the pills in my blood, you think. You lick the blood from your arm. It tastes medicinal but you still crave the comfort of the pills. Your blood turns to jelly as it drips from your wounds.
This is a test, it has to be. An experiment. The creators wouldn’t abandon you like this. You look out the window. All of your neighbors are doing the same. All of their porches are also empty.
Your mother laughs. Her voice travels through the house like its being broadcast. You walk into her room. She is sitting up in bed, like always. But she has more life to her. A smile on her face like you haven’t seen in years, since you were a child. She is pointing at the TV screen, at the skinless reporter as he squirms around in pain, finally aware of his skinlessness. The creators that always stand behind him are gone.
Through his pain the reporter says: “Where…where have the…creators…gone?” He stares at the camera for a long second, and passes out.
Your mother laughs at this. “Good,” she chuckles. “I hope the bastard’s dead.” She touches the skin on her arms, making sure it’s still there.
Glass breaks outside. There are sounds of explosions. You step out on to the porch. People are running from their homes, throwing furniture through windows. A few houses are on fire. You step off the porch, further outside than you’ve gone in as long as you could remember. The creators are gone, you tell yourself.
Can it be true? You’ve wanted this for so long that you think it can’t possibly be real. Your stomach knots up at the thought of never taking the pills again. You’ve grown used to the pills. You aren’t sure you’re ready to stop taking them.
You reach the street and look to the left and to the right. The sun burns your skin. It is so big, the world. Are you ready for this? If only they would have given you a few more days to prepare, you’d feel better about it. You start walking, it doesn’t matter where. Anywhere will do.
BIO: Daniel Vlasaty lives in Chicago. He works at a methadone clinic and reads comic books. He has a wife and some cats. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Mustache Factor, Three Minute Plastic, His Cock is Money, Smashed Cat Magazine, and Bizarro Central.