Thanks to @Shadowflame1974 & @Tialbrink for the prompt
By Jason Warden
7.6 billion dollars. That was the judgment we were awarded in the biggest class action lawsuit the world had ever seen. When my share came in, I almost had enough for lunch, almost. What it couldn’t buy was comfort, ignorance, or a good night’s rest. What it couldn’t buy any of us was peace.
With my apartment infested, and my workplace a veritable hive of activity, the park was the only place I could even hope to eat in peace. The picnic table I always sat at was faded and peeling beneath a great old willow tree. The sandwich didn’t taste like my share of seven billion dollars, it tasted like processed meat, and fell short of homemade bread, but at least I was alone, and no one was trying to eat my soul.
The lawyers called our victory ‘historic’, “A clear line in the sand,” one said. “No longer will the people of this planet be held hostage by the almighty dollar, “said another. I thought, ‘you can say that again’, and took another bite of something that was supposed to be chicken breast.
Seven dollars and some change, that’s what each of us received, all one billion of us named in the suit. That’s how badly they screwed up their cure for the common cold. I have to admit, I don’t miss the runny nose, the sneezing, or the sinus pressure, but I think I’d trade what I have now for all three. Call me a masochist, but I’d much rather hurt and ache a few times a year than watch the dead feed on my happiness, my anger, or my pain.
IHF of course, claims it didn’t create the phenomenon anymore than Henry Ford created the drunk driver. I admit, it was a good argument, but then again as far as I know, Henry Ford didn’t equip the model- T with a keg spigot either.
We didn’t claim they created the things, only that through their negligence we now have to see those dead rotten shapes floating above us. I can’t help but duck when they dive down to taste me. It’s like when someone tells you not to blink, then pokes you in the eye. They’re not something you get used to. They could have once been men, or women, or maybe this is what they always were. It’s hard to tell.
When it first happened, I was on the train. My first thought was food poisoning. Expiration dates. Then I wondered if Jenny was trying to kill me like on those reality detective shows. Maybe she put arsenic, or cyanide, or some drug I couldn’t pronounce in my food, hoping to kill me. Maybe she was having an affair, maybe I just disgusted her. Anything made more sense than watching as the people on the train slowly began to glow, some only a little, some a lot. The children glowed with the intensity of truck stop neon. The adults varied, Mr. Business across the aisle burned bright red, his neck pinched too tight into his collar. Ms. Hippie in front of me, her shirt may have been a tie-dye disaster but her glow, her aura, was a cool blue.
About the time the glow from each of the passengers reached its peak the transparent but filthy thing came through the wall of the subway train, smiled, and took a large bite out of the man’s red-hot aura just above his right ear. Mr. Business’s eyes flashed to my shocked ones.
“What the hell are you staring at?” he asked.
I try to speak, can’t, and finally just grab the bar and turn away from the man, cinching my eyes tight together, hoping and needing to see only the black.
The same way you can’t not blink when a finger hits your eye, you can’t not look when a scream finds your ear in a confined space.
A young woman was screaming, and slapping a small boy. She wasn’t hitting the kid like he’d done something wrong, but like he had a giant spider crawling over his face . The boys color went from red, to blue, to green, a strobe light of colors as he tried to make sense of what was happening. Her color was a bright orange, the color of panic. The boy was crying, scared, bleeding from his busted lip and swollen eye. I watched as she swung full force, the boy ducked and she just grazed the top of his head. The thing, the awful black and green thing, her hand passed right through it and it laughed silently. Then a man grabbed her. She tried to get to the boy, but the man who had her wrapped tight was big, and his aura was white, the color of love I thought.
Now we all see them. They’re always mouthing things to me, to us, to everyone. There is a lot of talk about developing a drug, another ‘cure’, so we can hear them.
“What if they can tell us about life after death,” my secretary says. “What if they’ve seen God. Can you imagine a life where God is a certainty? Praise Jesus.”
“And what if they don’t? What if there’s nothing,” I say, “What if you die, and there is no hope, what will that world look like?”
Most people have taken to wearing hats to cut down on what they see above their heads. I just try to find the places they aren’t. This one is my favorite. They never come here, maybe it has something to do with the willow tree, maybe not. As far as I can tell from public records, no one has ever died here.