Contemporary Sad Fantasy

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

     I see the last bit of cloth disappear around the corner, as the flames grow ever closer to my skin. She’s gone. She left me. My eyes dart around the burning room, panicked. I need to find a way to escape. I could follow her, run out the door and hope I get to the first floor before the fire gets to me, but my legs do not move. They won’t. She didn’t even look back. Maybe she thought I was following her? I feel the heat on my skin, in my lungs, choking. No, she knew. She didn’t look back because she didn’t want to. The flames reach me. I close my eyes. I am consumed.

     “Do you want to live?” The most familiar voice I've ever heard whispers into my ear. “Be honest.”

     “No.” I sigh. “I don’t think I do.”

     “Do you want to rest? To stop?”


     “What do you want?”

     “I don’t know.”

     “Do you want to be me?”

     “Who are you?”

     “Do you want to be me?”


     I take a breath, and then I don't. Ever again. I feel the presence by my side fade into nothingness, and I fade into existence. I am not alive, but I have not departed. I became them, and they took away all those rules. I turn back to the door. My best friend left me to die, so I became death. The flames feel cold now. I don’t move. Firefighters put out the flames. They rush into the building and search for any signs of life, of bodies, of me, but they don't see a thing. I begin to walk out the door and down the stairs, allowing my hand to brush a firefighter’s arm on the way down. His report says he died of smoke inhalation, and I suppose he did.

     I could go to her, let her meet some unworthy end, but I don't think I care anymore. I don’t want revenge. She left me to die, but maybe if i could’ve taken that first step i would've done the same. No. That’s a lie. I wouldn’t have. 

     So I wander. I wander and I visit strangers and I brush my hand to their hands and their faces and their eyes and they stop. They rest. I don’t think I’m a killer, it isn’t on purpose. Days and minutes and years mean nothing to me, and no amount of walking will ever tire me. Everything is arbitrary. I like it this way.

     “You do?” 

     I turn my head to see the concept of a person. They have a face and skin and bones, but I can’t seem to make out any of the features specifically. Odd. I walk to them and place my hand on their blurred face. They do not stop. They do not rest.

     “That was a question,” They say, “do you really like it this way?”

     I try to open my mouth but I can’t bring my lips to part. They laugh.

     “You’re trying too hard. Just think, I’ll know what you intend to say.”

     “What?” I try. It works. “Oh, okay I get it.”

     “You never answered my question. Do you really like it this way?”

     “Yes. It’s calm.”

     “It’s quiet.”

     “I like quiet.”

    “No you don’t.”

     They pull away from my touch, and wander off. I guess I’m not alone. I don’t like that. I prefer the solitude.

     So I continue to wander. I brush by people and they rest. On occasion I pass another one of us, but we never acknowledge each other apart from the occasional nod. Sometimes I think of that first meeting with that one, but what does it matter anyways? We both continue to do our jobs, just like everyone else. All is well. We don’t have to live and we don’t have to rest.

     “Liar.” I hear them say.

     I wander opposite to the voice. I don’t want to see them. I don’t know them.

     “All is not well.” Their voice echoes through the fog that makes my existence.

     “Shut up.”

     “You responded.”

     I stop.

     “You stopped.”

     “I know.”

     “It’s been awhile.”

     “No it hasn’t.”

     “Now you’re starting to get it.”

     “Leave me be.”

     “Do you think the rest of us are like you?”

     “What do you mean?”

     “Sad, guilty… alone?

     “I am content.”

     “No you aren’t. None of us are.”

     This time I’m the one to leave. I disappear into the fog of existence and go back to brushing by the people whose times have come. I let myself forget them, and everything else too. I forget my life, my parents, my friends. I just can’t forget her, and the way she didn’t even look back. I can’t forget the flames. Would I have done the same?

     “Who do you choose to be?” It’s another one of us, but not one I've met before. 

     “What?” I respond.

     “They told me you might be like this.”

     “I’m sorry, I don’t–”

     “Listen man, I don’t have the patience for you to pretend you’re some lost little thing. You’re not some shell of a person, you are death, one of many. We’ve all got shit, but we don’t act all confused in order to avoid facing it.”

     “But you do avoid facing it too.” How did I know that? Why did I say it?

     They move back a step, obviously a bit surprised. “No, I’m not. I just–”

     “But of course you are. It’s just that you avoid your shit with anger instead of something else.” What am I even saying?

     “Well you’re not any better! You just hide behind feigned confusion!”

     They rush off, and I’m alone again. What did they mean? I don’t feign confusion? I just don’t know exactly how I got here. I try to forget about them like I did with all the rest, but I can't. They just won’t fade into the background. Like the fire, like the flames, like her, their words stay. How did I end up like this? How did I end up here? Why is this my job now? I chose this, but maybe I chose wrong. Except I don't want to rest, to stop. Maybe I should've chosen to live? Could I have?

     “You can’t change if you don’t face it.” That death that taught me to speak sits in front of me, gesturing for me to join them on the ground. “You’ve been deflecting this entire time.”

     “Why do you care?”

     “Why wouldn't i?”

     “You don’t know me, we don’t know each other.”

     “Every one of us has more to do than simply wander and let people rest. We each have our own tasks, and when completed we rest. We stop. You know this already.”

     “No, I don't. This is the first I've heard of it.”

     “Why do you do that? Do you think maybe it’s because you aren’t able to face your access to free will? Is it that if you convince yourself you don’t know anything then maybe you think you can pretend that you found yourself here? When really you, just like the rest of us, made choices that lead you here? Continuing on like that, well you’ll never get to rest.”

     “I don’t want to rest.”


     “Stop saying that.”

     “Stop lying. To me, to them, to yourself. This is not some mysterious wasteland. This is the same world you were born in, and the same world you failed to die in. You just don’t follow the rules you used to.”

     The fog begins to fade. No, I choose to let the fog disappear. It isn’t some mysterious other death standing in front of me, it’s her. 


     She sighs. “My task has been learning to stay.”

     “And mine has been learning to accept and move on from the fact that you left.”

     So for the final time, I wander away. I find a man in the remnants of a car wreck. I put my hands behind my back and lean in.

     “Do you want to live?”

October 04, 2022 18:24

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