Void and Repair
by A. A. Khayyat
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
There was a heavy darkness settling over her when June opened her eyes. She propped herself up on her elbows and craned her head around. A whispering hiss drew her attention to the window and then the closet. The flickering specks dotted the gloom, and she dropped her head back onto the pillow, whimpering.
The whisper swept around her even louder, and she jolted up. A trickling sound seemed to drip from the ceiling.
She got out of bed and held her gaze at the ceiling. The dripping spiked and dipped as she moved around the room, pressing herself against the walls, the closet, the bedroom door.
A shuffling sound came from the bathroom. The light was on inside, cutting sharply through the bottom of the doorframe.
Stifled sniffing and throat clearing filtered through the door.
June knocked on the door.
“Yeah?” said Stellan, sniffing.
“It’s me,” said June.
“Did I wake you up? Sorry.”
“Are you okay?”
“Felt a little off. It’s fine.”
Water began to run from the faucet.
“I’m okay, Bug,” said Stellan. “Go to bed.”
“I’ll just wait for you, it’s fine.”
The door opened and Stellan stumbled out. He hit the switch quickly, and the bathroom light went out, plunging them to a purplish dimness. Sharp shadows were cut by the streetlight.
June looked closely at his face.
“Yeah, I’m getting a real bad reaction to something,” he said, sniffing again.
“Are you hearing this?” She glanced about the room.
Stellan stopped and listened.
“No,” he said. “What is it?”
“Something’s dripping.” The trickling sound slowed and then stopped.
“Yeah, it was coming from the walls.” She looked up one of the walls to the ceiling. “Up there, too.”
Stellan did not say anything. He checked the walls and frowned, his face contorting a little bit as he seemed to listen.
“I don’t hear anything.”
“I’ll go check, all right?” He opened the bedroom door and hurried out.
The whisper returned, and June was drawn to a thin crack running down the wall beside the bathroom door. She was struck by the blue-green light threading out of it, the turquoise film that enveloped her finger when she reached out to touch.
She wanted to call out for Stellan, but something held her back, a shushing gush of cool, humid air that soothed her to silence.
The trickling sound rose to a distant roar, a kind of crashing she knew to be the ocean. She imagined her feet dipped in the cold water, hugged by thin layers of foam that came and went.
Her patch buzzed and a field of energy sparked through her for a moment. She stumbled backward and sat on the bed, breathing in and out as traces of euphoria left her, leaving her smiling and chuckling.
“I didn’t see anything,” said Stellan, closing the bedroom door behind him.
“Yeah,” she said, “it must’ve been me. I don’t know.”
But Stellan stopped short on his way to bed and stood straight, pressing his hand on his sternum.
Their implant patches buzzed and clicked. They exchanged a look.
Lifting her shirt up and placing a finger on her patch, June felt pulses in rapid succession, like an overworking heart. She stopped and pressed a hand on her sternum, too, as a searing twinge of pain shot up to her throat.
“God, it’s like heartburn,” said Stellan.
“You’re feeling it, too?” said June as they both sat on the bed. The table lamp washed the room with a warm light as June turned the switch.
Beside her, Stellan was massaging his face, breathing in and out slowly.
The patches buzzed and whirred and then pinged, glowing red quickly.
“We’re making progress,” said Stellan.
“Red is good, right?” said June.
“Yeah, it’s filtering some residuals.”
“You’re getting it, too, though.”
He turned and looked at her. “We didn’t do this for me. We did this for you, okay?”
They kissed and lay back in bed.
June kept her fingers poised on the patch and closed her eyes. Not long afterwards, her eyes closed heavily and she drifted away.
A few hours later, she opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. Cascading spots flooded her vision.
The meandering vein-like cracks scintillated blue throughout the flat surface of the ceiling, hugging the stationary ceiling fan.
June found herself staring at the glowing cracks, blinking infrequently as her pulse thumped persistently in her arms and neck. The smell of the ocean wafted through the room, and she arched her body upward, shutting her eyes as she inhaled the cool air. The tingling on her skin shifted to the sensation of lapping water, and she clenched her jaw.
Then the cracks thinned out and disappeared, sending the ceiling back to the familiar blankness. June blinked again and once again for good measure. The blue cracks were gone.
The patch was still and silent. When she peeked under her shirt, there was only a faint blue light blinking every now and then.
Stellan was asleep to her left, snoring softly and hugging his pillow. Half his face was obscured.
She sat up and massaged her eyes, glancing at the window. Pale streetlight sliced through the blinds. The digital clock beside her head read three-forty A.M. and her phone was idly charging.
Her waist began to radiate with warmth, and she climbed out of bed, shaking her head as fleeting afterimages danced about and dissipated as swiftly as they began. She felt her body temperature rise, and traces of sweat seemed to form on her forehead.
The patch buzzed and clicked, shooting pinpricks of heat inward that pushed into her gut. Her abdominal muscles tensed and relaxed with each wave shot.
She turned the bathroom light on, instinctively turning her head away and squinting as the light bombarded her senses. She ran the water, splashed her face and watched herself in the mirror. Her hair fell in soft curls and water was dripping from her nose and chin.
The hissing whisper swept by her, and she stood still, turning the knob until the water stopped and the faucet dripped.
She lifted her shirt up and saw the patch blinking red again. The still air around her began to vibrate as an echo hummed out of her own body, drawing her back toward the bedroom.
Her finger came down on the implant and the echo exploded into a low, silent wave and the bedroom began to breathe, the walls pushing out and pulling in.
“Stell,” she said, her voice trembling. She stepped out of the bathroom and shuffled toward the bed, her footsteps utterly muted.
“Stell,” she said, nudging Stellan on the shoulder.
He stirred. June noticed his body echoing with grating sounds as his body slid over the bed sheets. She stepped back and furrowed her brow.
“Stell.” The solidity of the room was taking on the wavy aspect of water. The streetlight cutting through the window was dancing on the walls.
“What?” said Stellan, turning around, his eyes half-open. “What’s up?”
June stared at him with wide-open eyes. “I don’t know,” she said, her voice low and tremulous, filtering out like sharp whistles. “I don’t know.” She licked her lips. “Are you feeling any of this?”
Her eyes closed just as the glowing sparks returned, falling onto her like some kind of organic confetti, pulsating with their own sparks of life.
Stellan pressed his hand on his patch and sat up. “Crap,” he said. “It’s okay, babe.”
June stepped back and bumped into the wall, her hands running up her neck.
“Lie back down”
June blinked and looked at him. “I feel” — her voice was a thin cadence — “I feel so good right now.”
“Lie down, babe,” said Stellan. “Please.”
“There’s no way you’re not feeling any of this,” said June, her body cradling between a tingling heat and a soothing cold.
“Babe, I’ve got to anchor you in. You’re going to pass out. Just lie down.”
Her head and body radiated with heat. The rest of her was whisked to weightlessness and she felt her feet leaving the ground.
The glowing cracks returned, forking up the walls and through the ceiling again.
“This is so weird,” said Stellan, frowning at his own hand. “What’s happening?”
But June clawed her shirt off and looked with determined eyes at Stellan.
“Nothing’s wrong, babe,” she said, climbing onto the bed and crawling slowly toward Stellan. She clasped his shirt and straddled his body, kissing him on the neck.
“Okay,” said Stellan, giggling. “Babe, we need to—”
But June planted a kiss on his lips and pressed her brow on his, staring down at his lips.
“You need to feel this,” she said and kissed him again, driving him back down onto the pillow.
The patches gleamed a deep red as they made love. The cracks in the ceiling emitted a surge of blue light before shattering and dissolving.
Stellan wrapped his arms around June and surrendered himself to her.
* * *
The coffeemaker gurgled and began to trickle a thin stream of coffee into the pot as June watched the implant patch on her waist. It was giving off a muted red light that faded.
As she removed the pot of coffee and poured some into a mug, she reflected on the previous night. There was nothing like it. The streams of heat, cold and fluctuating emotions, the desire to swim in the ocean. Everything was bubbling inside her to the point of utter ecstasy.
She closed her eyes and strained her mind to remember. She could not recall what the call of the water might be, why the whispers were invading the silence of the night, why the voice of the sea told her to be quiet and not tell Stellan about any of it.
There was a tinge of anxiety that was quickly replaced by a jolt of excitement. She added the creamer to her coffee and dashed to the patio door, sliding it open and stepping outside. As soon as the breeze hit her, she breathed deeply and giggled, watching her hands, curling her fingers up in the air.
An aftereffect of the night shot through her, and she whooped over the rumble of a distant lawnmower and ran back to the kitchen, stopping herself short as she saw Stellan bursting into the kitchen and singing a song at the top of his lungs, gesticulating wildly to the lyrics. June laughed.
He took her in his arms and twirled her around before they both lost balance and bumped into a chair. It grated against the floor.
“Holy crap,” he said. “Sorry.”
“Are you still feeling it?” said June.
“I feel great.” Stellan twirled on his toes and yanked open the fridge, taking out a bottle of milk and a carton of eggs, still singing.
She watched him with a kind of bated anticipation. He was loud and spry, almost pirouetting on his toes as he moved from fridge to cabinet to counter.
“Oh my God,” said June, sipping coffee from her mug. “I’ve never seen you so hyper this early.”
“Middle school.” Stellan grabbed a frying pan and twirled it in his hands. “I had a crush on this girl, Bethany, right? My buddy, Kyle, told me that she liked me, too. I was gone. I was deeply in love with that girl.”
“I mean, not like how I’m in love with you,” he added too quickly. “I love you more than anything—”
“It’s okay, Stell.” June chuckled. “That was middle school.”
“Right. So I woke up the next morning singing.”
“Nice.” She took another sip, eyeing him curiously as he set everything down for breakfast.
“I woke my parents up,” he said. “It was so, so early. Like, four-thirty in the morning. Dad was upset.”
June laughed. Stellan smiled at her, cracking eggs over a bowl.
“So did you tell Bethany?” said June, setting her mug down on the counter beside Stellan’s bowl.
“I did. She called me a loser and said I needed to kill myself.”
“What?” She laughed.
“Yeah.” He added milk to the bowl and began to whisk with a fork.
“Oh my God, that is messed up.”
“Yeah, Kyle was a loon. He’s insane.” Stellan chuckled and grabbed his chest. “My twelve-year old heart. How can kids be so callous?”
He placed a skillet on the stove and lit the burner. June noticed in his motions a kind of hypnotic consistency. As if he was moving in spite of himself.
She took another sip of coffee and kept her eyes on him, pondering what to say next. “Last night was so weird,” she said, finally. “But it was so good, right?”
He shook his head. “I haven’t slept like that in a while.”
“Well, I meant the other thing.” She inched closer to him.
“I woke up with my face all stuffed up.”
She did not say anything.
“Then I remember you telling me there was a drip somewhere.” He squinted his eyes.
June blinked in confusion, struggling to keep herself from reminding him. But just as she was about to say something, her patch emitted a wave through her body. She stepped back, rubbing a hand over her face. A hint of the whisper glided over her, and she lost all train of thought. She kept listening instead.
“I was dreaming all these things,” he said. “I was flying. I was up in the air. It was amazing.”
“Yeah,” said June, “I saw confetti falling all over me and I just wanted to float away.”
“We should really go swimming.”
“You want to go swimming?”
“Sure, let’s go swimming.” He chuckled. “It’s eighty outside. Perfect.”
“It’s like the ocean is calling for me, you know?” she said and waited, furtively gauging a reaction. Her patch kept pulsing a series of warm surges that brought back the scent of air sweeping over open seas.
The feel of the water coursed through her veins, and she pressed her hands firmly on the counter, looking at Stellan intently.
He nodded as he poured the eggs out of the bowl and into the heated skillet, spilling some onto the burner. “Damn.” He wrenched a paper towel from its roll and wiped the stovetop. “Really?”
June felt another surge of warmth and she grabbed his arm, digging her nails into his skin. “Let’s go to the beach.”
“Okay.” He drew his arm away and tossed the crumpled paper towel into the trash. “You want to clip those nails first, though?” He laughed, rubbing his hand over the red mark on his arm.
* * *
Copyright © 2018 by A. A. Khayyat