How we got here is unimportant. What matters is we are here. For now, at least.
We deal with the reality like most of us deal with weight gain.
I must have drunk a lot of water today.
That extra weight is because I'm wearing pants on the scale.
It's innocent enough, especially if it helps you live a less worried life.
So when the clouds begin to come together in a beautiful and dark ensemble, the rain will come down, and people will disappear. A single drop of the Earth's new premium beverage gives us a chance to go away. To exist only for ourselves and please no one in the way.
This particular rain started just five years ago, in small pockets across the Pacific Ocean. There were rumors among fishermen that one drop of the rain would lose you the burden of seeing yourself. For a few minutes, but it was still almost magical. Of course, then they all figured it was a drug. Polluted clouds or unsafe ocean water.
It wasn't until the clouds started forming on land. Sacramento was the first to experience it. There was a strange orange thickness in the dark clouds. The water was hot, and some swore they saw a spark when it hit the ground. Just another sign the world is falling apart, we said.
Calvin O'Connor was the teenager who first disappeared. He was outside with his friends in Sacramento when he was dared to open his mouth in the fiery rain.
By this point, the rumors from the boating community floated onto land and into the country. At best, the rain gave you a little buzz. At worst, it was bull shit.
The thought of being invisible excited Calvin, In more ways than one. So he said fuck it, and pointed his face up and opened wide.
Travis Stevenson screamed like a goat. You wouldn't blame him, seeing his friend vanish from thin air. How the hell can his mind do this? It must be his brain screwing around. But the rest of the group stood in shock, mouths open. One passed out, but no one can remember who.
There was video footage posted online. News anchors weren’t quite sure what to make of it. It looked extraordinary, but so does a lot of fake shit online.
A video of a Sacramento teenager' dissapearing into thin air' after drinking what locals call 'magic rain' is going viral. Watch here as a teenager drinks a raindrop and ‘magically’ disappears. The teenagers claim the video is undoctored, but plenty of people on social media doubt it.
The news anchor laughs throughout her report.
If only I could get some of that bottled up for my in-laws.
The weatherman remarks with a dismissive grin.
Johnson gathers himself off the floor. Sweat races down his face and drips onto the toilet bowl. How much more of his insides could he project? He feels like he should check the bowl for an intestine.
He needs to snap out of it. He's required here.
Washing his face with cold water, Johnson attempts to spit out any loose vomit still logged in his mouth. He didn't buy any more Listerine strips. He was trying to speak confidence into existence.
Johnson opens the door and walks out into the secure office. He takes his baton and taser and takes a deep breath.
He looks out the window and views the empty prison cells. It's dark and dull. It looks like an abanded government project that gets broken into by a bunch of nosey Youtubers. But Johnson knows the minute he steps out of the security officer's safe box, there is a high probability he won't come back.
The silence speaks louder than trains. Convicts walk around slowly, waiting to pounce on their prey. Johnson begins his rounds across the prison. On the third floor, he walks by cell after cell, all smelling of sweat and boredom. Half-eaten food litters the floors. Bloodstains sprinkle across the rooms. Once blood leaves the body, it becomes visible to others. Johnson wishes it wouldn't.
The prisoners like to play games with the guards while they do their rounds. Stay quiet while they step forward into the dark halls. Then someone will make a loud bang right behind them. The guards draw their batons and start swinging at the air. There is nothing more humiliating than looking like a paranoid prison guard. Maybe getting murdered by an invisible man. Or, to our eyes, getting murdered by nothing.
Years after the rain discovery, perverts and criminals flocked to Sacramento to try and get the magic. People became paranoid, locking their doors and investing in complex security equipment, setting traps for potential break-ins. People with warrants suddenly went missing. Stores started closing their doors because they couldn't keep up with the theft.
Embracing another recession, the government got involved and wrote The Invisible Americans Act that guaranteed justice against invisible individuals who committed crimes. Thus began construction of something inconceivable- a prison that holds only invisible convicts. The reception was a relief. Yet, it was wishful thinking. You can feel, hit, and punish invisible people, but only if you know where they are.
Controlling the prisoners became impossible when thousands of convicts were shipped within the manner of days. A check-in system worked well for a week, but the government couldn't wait to send as many people as they could. To get rid of the problem. Some of the people hadn't even faced trials. They were shoved into vans and sent away.
Now Johnson stops in the common room. Only one person is let out of their cage at a time. Johnson is the only guard who steps onto the open floor. The only guard who tries to communicate with the empty people. Tonight, it's Marcel's turn to get out of his box.
"Marcel where are you at?"
"On the couch, why?" Marcel questions defensively.
"Cause I was gonna sit there but I figured you don't want my fat ass on top of you," Johnson snickers.
"Hey it'd be the most action I've gotten all year," Marcel rebuts. They both laugh.
Johnson sits on a chair close to the couch. He takes his hands off his belt, lets himself be vulnerable despite his fear.
"How has it been, you know, despite everything?" Johnson asks seriously.
"Despite not getting food? Despite not even being able to clean the bathrooms because they can't trust us with mops?"
"I know, I'm fighting with them on that. They have to be less scared of you all. But you can't blame them, can you? What did you all do to the last three guards?"
"We gave them what they deserved," Marcel raises his voice.
Johnson gets closer and folds his hands in front of his body.
"I'm trying to fix things, Marcel. Give me some time. Go a week without doing something dumb. Put yourself in our shoes."
Marcel looks at Johnson. Johnson stares at an empty couch. Eye contact is essential.
Marcel considers what to say and do next. He replays Johnson's remarks.
Put yourself in our shoes.
"You first," he says quietly.
"What?" Johnson asks, confused. "Do wha-"
Marcel grabs Johnson's neck and slams him to the ground. He's easily a hundred pounds lighter, yet he has all the power. He lays on top of him and grabs a bottle with his right hand from his pants. His left hand is choking Johnson. Johnson's hands try to hold Marcel's face. He claws at him and finds his eyeball, and pokes. Marcel screams, holds him even harder.
"God DAMN it," he screams to Johnson.
Marcel puts the bottle in his teeth to open the cap. The sound of the lid hitting the floor makes Johnson scream.
He's not trying to kill me, he thinks. He wants me to become one of them.
"NO!" he cries, but it's too late. Marcel shoves the bottle down his throat. Johnson gurgles the water desperately, but all he needs is one drop. One drop to become nothing. One drop that turns clothing into nothing once it's on the skin.
Johnson feels it go into his throat. Stored invisible water wasn't as adequate- only a 60 percent chance of taking hold. He stops struggling, knowing Marcel won't try to do anything else.
They wait a long while. Johnson becomes hopeful. He doesn't feel anything happening. He just needs to get up. Needs to get a good angle to take Marcel down.
Before he can think too hard, he starts to see bright orange like a prison outfit. He hasn't seen one of those here in a long while, even though all inmates wear them. Right in front of him, he sees an oversized orange shirt and white tennis shoes below that.
How can that be? Johnson thinks. All clothing on invisible prisoners also becomes invisible.
That's when the face came. A look full of a smirk, of satisfaction, right in front of him.
"Welcome to our side," Marcel says.
Johnson looks around the room and sees dozens of orange outfits and dozens of smirking faces.
He screams, but it’s too late.