Fiction: The Happiest Thought by Tom Over

TOM OVER

The son had witnessed it through his bedroom window the night it streaked across the sky like a comet. Looking up from his college studies, he spied the tail-end when it passed over and presumed it to be a meteorite. Within minutes he had forgotten he ever saw the thing and went back to daydreaming instead of poring over his textbooks.

Soon afterwards strange things started happening inside the house. The daughter was the first to notice, but it took a while for the others to listen. The daughter was the youngest and prone to mischief. When things started moving around the home it was she who often got the blame. Objects would turn up in places they didn’t belong, or broken on the floor. Furniture moved around rooms and nobody would own up to having moved it.

They had a family meeting but the daughter would not confess to things she hadn’t done. The mother became enraged and stormed upstairs to run a bath. The others sat wordlessly in the kitchen, feeling a strange tug on their insides that was not wholly agitation. It was when the father got up to feed the cat that they heard the mother’s scream. They all rushed up the stairs, loudly declaring their concern. The mother wailed of there being a whirlpool. They stared at one another as they entered the bathroom, for it seemed an ordinary thing for water to drain that way. But the bath was not draining; it was full. The mother had not yet gotten in. The family watched in disbelief the swirling vortex that did not slow and did not stop. When they finally returned downstairs, all the kitchen furniture had moved from one side of the room to the other.

The cat sat in the middle of the empty space, complacently licking its paws as though it had supervised the operation.

The family went to bed afraid. The next day was Saturday, and they were met by something no less bizarre. The staircase in their home had changed. It still contained the same number of steps, but it had somehow grown. The length appeared to stretch and contract with no regard for natural laws. A family member at the top and bottom could seem close one moment and a mile apart the next. This frightened the parents, but the children were fascinated, particularly the son who was a physics student in college. They made a game of timing how long it took each other to traverse the stairs. The daughter’s first go took eight minutes; the son’s was closer to 15. The daughter next appeared after 20 minutes while the son took only half that. The mother pleaded for them to stop, but their enjoyment was too great. By late morning the son was winning with a duration that had lasted almost an hour.

By the time they stopped for lunch the mother had made several calls to the police. The daughter reasoned to take her phone along on the next go, just in case. When the indifference of the authorities became apparent, the staircase game resumed. After the daughter had been gone for more than two hours, the son began to worry. As the phone signal gradually diminished and the stairs contracted again, it became clear there was nobody on them. In a state of panic the family searched the house but could not find the girl anywhere.  They looked in the garden and in the attic. They took to the streets and called her name, but the daughter was gone.

When they returned to the house they were so tired and distraught that they barely noticed the faint glow which hung in the air.

By the morning it was unmistakable; a haze of blue-green light radiated through the downstairs rooms like liquid fire. The family marvelled at the airborne spectacle as if it were some kind of aurora. Despite the strange phenomenon the search for the daughter continued. It went on throughout the day and then into evening. When the mother and son collapsed of exhaustion the father did not stop. He kept hunting within the house, stalking its incalculable dimensions. As the mother wept the son watched her through a smouldering fog of light, within it whorls of colour swam like oil on water. Between them the cat padded across the table, it dropped to the floor and many seconds passed before it landed. They listened to the father move around inside the house, feeling the odd heaviness of their organs and presuming it to be grief.

The father never returned, yet could still be heard searching the interior of the home. He did not answer when called. His movements became like receding echoes the house itself produced. The mother’s health deteriorated. She believed the shimmering colours were the souls of her lost loved ones. The son continued to attend college, tried to pursue a normality he could not discern. The mother stopped going to work, stopped eating entirely. She would wander through rooms, speaking to things she saw inside the light.

The son came home one day to find the place empty. The mother was no longer there but a new event had occurred, one that nearly displaced his memory of her. All of the vivid lights were now in motion, flooding through the rooms like dazzling torrents of magma. The son followed their course to where they pooled and disappeared down into the basement. He gripped the handrail and felt a strange pull as he descended. The scene that greeted him was one his animal brain could not comprehend. The cellar space had grown to impossible proportions. Its walls, if present at all, were obscured by a colossal rotating disc of debris and light. Slabs of masonry and wood churned past the son in a blinding vortex of energy. As he was drawn further down the steps, the thing at the centre of the maelstrom revealed itself. A featureless black orb hung at its core, nested in a halo of plasma. The inert object radiated a malevolence that filled the son with terror.

It was the moment he turned to run that he saw them.

His mother first, or what once may have been her. Suspended in space she appeared hideously elongated, stretched apart and smeared along the orbit’s edge. Her spaghettified limbs and torso blossomed with crimson plumes and ruptures. The son’s sobs produced tears which lifted instantly off his face and whipped away into the chaos. What seemed like miles beyond the mother hung another body, entombed in opalescent flames. The father was frozen in some agonised gesture of reaching out. Reaching for something almost within his grasp and yet on the other side of eternity. If it had been the daughter, it was no longer recognisable as such. The humanoid thing was entirely ash, a cinder bathed in the glow of oblivion.

The son tried to back away but the tidal forces snatched him up, whisking him deep into the luminous swirl. Aloft and helpless, he could not tell whether he was falling through space or caught in some gravitational field. The sensation made him think of his studies; made him ponder Einstein’s happiest thought on the nature of gravity. When the son sailed past the horizon he did not know it, everything felt the same. The future surged ahead of him like a river of time. It carried him toward his loved ones. The four of them together, a portrait that would outlive the cosmos.

Tom Over is a recently published writer living in Manchester, UK. He grew up loving all things horror and has been suckling on the gnarled teat of weird fiction ever since he was knee high to a Mugwump. He generally divides his time between watching transgressive cinema and working on his first collection. To date his work has featured at The Bold Mom and Horror Sleaze Trash

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