Empty Inside

Dan used to be a happy chap. He always had a nice thing to say about someone, always had a smile, or a joke. And it was genuine. It was never a front. He wasn’t hiding his real feelings, or masking the depths of his emotions.

But lately, he just felt empty inside.

The verve for life was gone.

At first, he put it down to middle age. Maybe his vigour had waned as the reality of the world chipped away at him, day in, day out, knocking off little chunks at a time, without him realising until he could no longer look at a sunset and smile.

The more he thought about it though, the more he realised he could pinpoint it to an exact moment.

Four years ago, he’d gone to sleep happy, and awoken the next morning with a deep void within.

The thought gnawed at him for days. Every time he considered it, he realised something else. He hadn’t cut himself in four years. He hadn’t needed a haircut for four years. His nails had stopped growing.

He hadn’t eaten.

For four whole years.

This realisation was too much, and as mad as it sounded, he had to voice it to other people. And everyone he told reacted in the same way. They sat back, thought for a moment, and said ‘huh’. Then they admitted that they too hadn’t eaten for four years.

They’d all sat down at meal times, having prepared something to eat, and each and every one of them had thrown the full plates away ten minutes later. They’d been to restaurants, ordered, and left without eating.

But that was it.

A ‘huh’, and they all carried on as normal. Sans food. Not really thinking about it.

Not Dan though.

Dan couldn’t let it go, and people got sick and tired of hearing about it.

Then one day, it was all too much for Dan anymore. The truth of it was too much to bear. And for some reason, Dan found himself in the basement with a sharp saw, cutting into his own torso, without so much as a twinge or a drop of blood.

His legs and hips fell away to the floor, leaving his upper body on the chair.

He reached down and lifted his lower half up, seeing down into the emptiness of his two hollow legs. He felt around under his upper half, feeling the same void. That feeling of emptiness, it was real, and literal.

He was hollow inside.

An empty shell of his former self.

And he never found out why.

Empty Inside

 

Bottled Anger

I never understood the phrase ‘don’t bottle it up’.

But the day I took it literally was the day that changed my life.

It was also the day that changed the world.

Anger is an odd thing, I realised, and noticed that when I was angry, I got hot, bothered, fidgety, my mind raced. Basically, there was a lot of energy there. So, what if, I surmised, I actually found a way to bottle that.

And I did.

I made a machine that bottled up my anger. Literally. After a few months, I was more content, and I had two cupboards full of bottled anger. I half feared that those jars of anger would explode, but they never did. So the cupboards kept getting more and more full, and it got to the point where I was running out of space, and something had to be done.

I took a few jars out to the drain in the street. When I opened one up, I stopped myself pouring it away. Another thought occurred to me. I emptied the jar into the tank of my car.

It started.

And ran for twice as long as it did on a tank of petrol.

I bought and installed a generator in my house, and powered it with my own bottled up anger. Soon the supplies in the cupboards started to dwindle. I couldn’t supply my own demand. And artificial rage had no potency whatsoever.

I built an adaptor.

And I plugged my anger harvesting machine into the internet.

Within days, I was powering my whole street. Within a week, I was powering the whole town. By month’s end, the online rage was powering the country. And it seemed to be never ending. An infinite supply of anger, supplying everything we needed.

But like my own cupboards, the more anger we harvested, the less there was.

Luckily, we seemed to hit a sweet spot.

There was just enough of it in the world, at any one moment, to power the grid.

Rage kept the lights on.

Just.

We all got just content enough.

There was no festering spite. Only then did we realise the power of that spite. I’ve done it, we’ve all done it. Doing something out of spite, fuelled by anger to produce something better, something brilliant.

Art stopped.

We all just sat there, smiling softly. Until we remembered something someone had said, and the lights stayed lit for another night.

But no one used that anger to create.

It’s all very boring now.

Bottled Anger

Up A Tree D-Y-I-N-G

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

For some reason, the zombie horde couldn’t climb trees. But now they were circling the base of the trunk, moaning and stretching out their arms at the last remaining brain container on the planet.

Deborah looked down at them, then let her eyes wander, examining the crowd of undead, so many of them, disappearing in all directions over the surrounding horizon. There were millions of them, and she could see the whites of their eyes.

Well, their whole eyes were white.

And that groaning. It was annoying enough when a dozen of them were doing it, but when several million of them were doing it, it was deafening, and dizzying, and it made her want to throw up.

Deb didn’t know where this was going, or how it was going to end.

Either she was going to die, alone, up a tree, or she was going to become one of them.

Neither option was appealing, but she couldn’t think of a third.

It was a mystery how it had come to this. Deborah had seen the comet burning up in the atmosphere. The whole planet had. It didn’t survive, and never crashed, but something that burned had got into the air, and well, now she was up a tree surrounded by a billion or more dead people, hell bent on snacking on her hypothalamus.

And they stank.

Maybe it was the smell of rotting flesh, and bad dental hygiene that was making her bilious, and not that cacophony of moaning.

They’d long since shaken all the leaves from the tree.

At least they hadn’t thought to throw rocks up at her. Unlikely they ever would either. For people who fed solely on brains, they were distinctly lacking in thought. Turns out, you aren’t what you eat after all.

And now the bark was chafing at her bottom.

Truth be told, it had been chafing at her bottom for a few days now, keeping her wide awake, even through the waking dreams (none of which were more disturbing than the billions of zombies wanting to eat her and tear her limb from limb). It’s just that she’d managed to ignore the chafing until now.

A thought occurred to her.

She snapped out her arms and pointed, bellowing at the top of her voice.

“Look. Over there.”

None of them looked.

If anything, it just seemed to make them more hungry. It was like they could smell cerebral activity or something.

Deborah gave up, and let herself fall from the tree and into their outstretched arms. It was such sweet relief. What had she been running from? Their warm (well, cold) embrace? They hugged her, passing her from one to the other.

Then ate her.

Up A Tree, D-Y-I-N-G

The Causality Switch

Commander Pike clambered from her bunk. Weary and blurry eyed, she felt the cold metal grate against her naked feet. As she stood up, she could already feel that the artificial gravity was on the blink again. At least ten percent weaker than it should be.

She reached for the water hose and took a long sup from it, feeling the dryness of her sleep being washed away with each deep glug. It was only when she rubbed her eyes that she felt the coarse, crisp build up in her lashes.

A quick shower, then some coffee.

Neither thing happened.

The shower refused to start, and the coffee pot was clogged up again.

Pike slumped into the command chair and let out a long sigh. Her jumpsuit was itching already, and she knew she was going to be in a foul mood all morning. So she punched up the camera feeds on the view screen, and had a look out at the empty vacuum of space.

It would be two more years before she saw anything.

Even just a glimpse of a distant star.

She tried not to look at it.

Instead, she just stared at the blank dark of nothingness that enveloped the ship. It wasn’t that there was nothing to see out there, it’s that the resolution of the cameras was too low to see anything. If she got really bored, she could slip into a spacesuit and go for a walk. Then she might catch a view or two. But putting on the suit just to see a single pixel of light in a canvas of void seemed too much effort.

Inevitably, her gaze wandered, and the turn of her head made the chair swivel round with it, leaving her facing it full on.

A giant red button.

Everything else was touchscreens, but this was a massive mushroom shaped button, with a sign above it that shouted in bright letters ‘do not press’.

And no-one, not once, not ever, had explained the button to her.

Months of training, months of simulations in orbit, and not a single mention of the giant red button that said do not press.

She was terrified that she’d been distracted when it had been explained to her, and that it was so obvious that to ask for a second explanation would cost her the mission.

And why on Earth would there even be a need for a button on the console that forcefully told you not to use it?

It was stupid.

She was angry.

She held her breath, hovering her hand above the button, palm flat out.

“Fuck it,” she said.

And pressed the button.

Commander Pike clambered from her bunk. Weary and blurry eyed, she felt the cold metal grate against her naked feet. As she stood up, she could already feel that the artificial gravity was on the blink again. At least ten percent weaker than it should be.

She reached for the water hose and took a long sup from it, feeling the dryness of her sleep being washed away with each deep glug. It was only when she rubbed her eyes that she felt the coarse, crisp build up in her lashes.

A quick shower, then some coffee.

Neither thing happened.

The shower refused to start, and the coffee pot was clogged up again.

Pike slumped into the command chair and let out a long sigh. Her jumpsuit was itching already, and she knew she was going to be in a foul mood all morning. So she punched up the camera feeds on the view screen, and had a look out at the empty vacuum of space.

It would be two more years before she saw anything.

Even just a glimpse of a distant star.

She tried not to look at it.

Instead, she just stared at the blank dark of nothingness that enveloped the ship. It wasn’t that there was nothing to see out there, it’s that the resolution of the cameras was too low to see anything. If she got really bored, she could slip into a spacesuit and go for a walk. Then she might catch a view or two. But putting on the suit just to see a single pixel of light in a canvas of void seemed too much effort.

Inevitably, her gaze wandered, and the turn of her head made the chair swivel round with it, leaving her facing it full on.

A giant red button.

Everything else was touchscreens, but this was a massive mushroom shaped button, with a sign above it that shouted in bright letters ‘do not press’.

And no-one, not once, not ever, had explained the button to her.

Months of training, months of simulations in orbit, and not a single mention of the giant red button that said do not press.

She was terrified that she’d been distracted when it had been explained to her, and that it was so obvious that to ask for a second explanation would cost her the mission.

And why on Earth would there even be a need for a button on the console that forcefully told you not to use it?

It was stupid.

She was angry.

She held her breath, hovering her hand above the button, palm flat out.

“Fuck it,” she said.

And pressed the button.

The Causality Switch

It’s Not Brain Surgery

Harry finally made his mind up. The heat was too much, and there wasn’t a single waft of a draught coming through the wide open window. And all he’d done for the past two hours was toss and turn and tell his brain to shut up.

It was heckling him with imaginary arguments with friends, with perceived slights he’d let go, and simply reminding him how much of an idiot and a waste of space he really was.

Harry’s brain hated him.

It had hated him for years, and it hadn’t been afraid to let him know this.

Constantly.

Over and over again.

Day in, day out.

All through the night, causing sleeplessness.

And so Harry had resolved to do something about it.

Next morning, he set to work.

Complex machinery began to take shape in the basement. Odd packages arrived. Drilling and hammering were heard late into the night. Strange lights oozed under the gap at the bottom of the door. Smoke wafted gently from the window.

Days later, Harry strapped himself to the chair, and kicked out at the button on the floor.

A cacophony of noise accompanied a ballet of robotic limbs, all moving in precise, well-timed unison. Harry didn’t feel a thing, even as a spinning bone saw made delicate in roads to his skull. Even as a well-engineered hand peeled back his scalp. Even as the slurping noise let him know part of his head had been lifted away.

He sat there, with a smile on his face, ignoring the heckling of his mind, as his contraption did its job, and swung around to present him with his own brain.

The motors and cooling fans powered down, the noise replaced by a still silence that made him smile more broadly.

The restraints snapped open, right on cue, and he stood up from the chair and circled his own brain. The sheer science involved should have blown his mind, as it sat there, being studied, but it didn’t.

It was time.

Harry raised his fists and started to punch the stupid thing, over and over again.

And it felt amazing.

It's Not Brain Surgery