‘What’s in the closet?’ Charles asked.
‘Nothing.’ I replied, quickly.
‘What’s in the closet?’
‘What’s in the closet?’
‘Look, Charles, I told you already. Nothing!’ I stomped over to it and threw open the door. ‘Look! There’s nothing… There…’ I gawped. Charles gawped. I slowly closed the door, carefully pushing it until I heard the latch click tight. I then yanked it back open with a trembling hand, staring back inside.
‘James. Why is there a dismembered human hand holding a baseball bat on top of a collapsing pile of dollar bills in your closet?’
I shook my head, dumbfounded. Last thing I’d seen in my closet was Charles’ birthday present, a copy of Cortex. Now I had a hand, a baseball bat and a random amount of money where I’d left a copy of Raygun’s latest game. ‘James. James. Earth to James!’ I startled back to the real world. ‘The hand. What?’
I shut the shuttered closet door. ‘Charles, I have no idea what’s happened there. All I know is that… Well, I don’t know anything.’
Transport test one. Minor accident. Subject A has lost right forearm. Separation is clean, transport pressure appears to have cauterised the wound. Subject A has been moved to isolation ward six. Transport test two will occur at 1230 tomorrow.
I was freaking out. Charles had gone home, gibbering about the hand. I was convinced that we were just suffering from an ongoing hallucination and that the hand would be gone in the morning. I decided that I would try and sleep on it. Not the hand directly, that would be rather disturbing, but on the idea that the hand would be gone. Hopefully the money too. I can’t keep a secret like a thousand dollars, if it even is that much.
‘It’ll be fine. It’ll be normal. You are suffering a psychotic break. You’ll wake up in your padded cell in the asylum. Everything will be back to normal and you’ve hallucinated the last nineteen years of your life.’ I closed my eyes, willing my limbs to stop trembling. Eventually, in fits and starts, I got to sleep.
I saw flames and smoke, great clouds of broiling fire belching great jets of flame, a stark contrast against the dark, forbidding sky, and all he feels is pain, a thousand needles against his skin, stabbing again and again until there is no part of his body that isn’t pain and yet the agony endures all effort to resist, growing and growing until there is nothing but the white hot fire of the needles that have wormed their way beneath his skin, skin that peels and cracks beneath the relentless onslaught of flame and he remains alive but screaming, screaming, screaming…
I awake with a howl of terror and agony. Something is different, though nothing has physically changed. I get out of bed slowly, carefully shuffling into a pair of slippers as the memory of my dream pain rests like ice below the surface of my body. The tendrils of ill-feeling are reaching to me from my closet.
I reach with a quaking hand towards the handle, my whole body burning hot and freezing cold at the same time. What awaits me inside, this time?
I gingerly, open the door. The hand is gone. The bat is gone. The money is gone. In their place, in a looping, cursive script, is a note.
It has five words written on it.
Tell me what you saw.
And that’s when I threw up.
The Idiot in Tin Foil