Featured Story • December 2016
Fade to Glass
I have managed to completely baffle medical science. I don’t know how I managed to get this condition, but I have a few theories. I guess I should tell you what’s wrong. I’m just fading out. Not “fading” like getting tired or losing my color, but fading like becoming transparent.
It started slowly enough. One day on a walk I noticed that my shadow wasn’t as dark as my friend’s shadow. We were just chatting and I glanced down and noticed something was wrong. I said to him, “Hey, why is your shadow darker?” and he looked and went, “Weird, it is.” Then he looked at me with the sun to my back and said, “Why can I see light coming through you?” I held up my own hand to block the light and I could faintly see the sun as a bright disk. Yeah, I went to the doctor the next day. He didn’t believe me at first, but then I showed him what I meant with my laser pointer. You could see the dot on the table through my hand, arm, chest or wherever. He just kind of scratched his head and referred me to a “specialist” at Tech. I would have laughed at the concept of a “specialist” if I wasn’t terrified of what was happening to me.
The weirdest part of this was that my transparency affected whatever I happened to be wearing. When I went to see the specialist he remarked on that. I hadn’t even thought about it. I just picked up a shirt and put it on and it faded. It remained faded until someone else picked it up. The specialist took blood samples and put me through a physical, but I felt fine. He sent samples of my blood off to be analyzed, took samples of my hair, took samples of my clothing (Which became opaque as soon as he was holding them) and took samples of everything I expelled. He scratched his head and said he’d be in touch.
That night I awoke to a knock at the door. It was late so I wondered who would be banging on my door. I peered through the peep hole and saw several people in clean suits with ventilators and all sorts of gadgetry. I opened the door and they identified themselves as the CDC, presented me with identification and then promptly put me in quarantine. It was a long drive back to the quarantine center outside D.C. and I could never sleep in cars, so I was tired when we arrived. They took their own samples and I went through the whole gamut of crap again. Finally, they put me in a sealed room with cameras watching me and told me I could sleep. I lay down and passed out almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.
I awoke the next day at home. It was around three or four in the afternoon when I rolled out of bed. Oddly enough I was still in the hospital gown they’d given me the day before. My cat hopped up and rubbed on me; she was probably hungry. I wondered why the CDC would take me home and put me in my own bed without waking me up. I pondered the reasons while I gave Bootsy some crunchies and looked for my belongings. I picked up the landline and decided I needed to call my buddy John. He was the one that noticed I was fading to begin with.
He wasn’t busy so I told him what had happened last night. He thought it was weird that they would drop me back off at home and offered to find me a number to the CDC so I could contact them and get my keys and cell phone back. He was better at using the Internet than I was so I thanked him and he hung up. John had been a friend since high school. He’d been my best man when I married Deb; been a wonderful friend during my time with her and he’d been there when I had to bury her. He tried to warn me about Jenny when I was dating her; he was my place to crash when things got rough and there the night Jenny had left in a rage. He’d helped me get cleaned up after I went out and got messed up. He never judged me and never faltered.
That was probably what caused my current problems. I went out to get drunk since it seemed like oblivion would be a great alternative to soul-crushing guilt. I don’t know why I felt guilty; I’d done everything that I could to make things work, but she could never replace Deb. After having a few too many shots I ended up trying something that some nervous little schmuck had sold me for cheap. He called it “Eddie”; had some story about how it was an ancient Mayan mind-expanding thing, like peyote is. I’d never heard of it before, but had an amazing trip on it. I vaguely recall something about some unearthly beauty and some cosmic being telling me that my soul was clean. I woke up at home naked in the bathtub, soaking in warm water. After that I was free from the emotional baggage that Jenny had tried to saddle me with. She would still call me up sometimes and try to give me guilt over how our relationship went south, but I would calmly tell her that her problems are her own and hang up. It was true too.
I wanted John to help with the divorce since he’s a lawyer, but he recused himself. I guess it wouldn’t have been appropriate for him to help, but I could tell he really wanted to. He did recommend a good friend of his who really did a bang-up job. Somehow he legally went through all Jenny’s emails and texts and discovered that she had already been sleeping around, sometimes in my home. My old mattress went out to the curb the same day and I finally had a reason to use the guest bedroom. I got tested for STDs the next day. Results came back clean. The doctor said I was cleaner than anyone had a right to be; not a single infectious strain showed up in the tests. More importantly, Jenny got nothing except things she had a receipt for.
John finally called me back and gave me the number to the CDC. I then gave them a call and they came and got me again. I asked them why they were taking me back in quarantine when they’d released me the day prior. Not a single straight answer was given to me, but I did get a lot of “umms” and “errs.” We repeated the whole process where they got me into a quarantine van and drove me back to the same building. I brought a book this time. After another long day of testing and poking and prodding they allowed me to go to take a nap. I asked for my cell phone and keys before I went to sleep this time.
I woke up the next morning in my bed and peeled my keys and cell phone off my side. I got up and fed the cat. There was a note from John. He had used his own key and had fed Bootsy last night for me. I texted him and let him know I was home again. My phone rang and I answered it. A deep voice identified itself as Director Davis and advised me that my behavior was unacceptable. I told Director Davis that I had no idea what he had been talking about. Director Davis explained that I had vanished from the cot in the CDC quarantine room and they have no idea how I’d done it. I told him that was crazy; that I’d been asleep the whole time. Director Davis informed me that he’d call me back later and to stay home and not go out.
The CDC showed up at my door and covered my house with plastic sheeting and duct tape. I was told not to leave for any reason. After two months nobody else had started fading out. They gave me a clean bill of health and left me alone.
It had been three months since my encounter with the CDC. It was now easy to see right through my body. You couldn’t see anything inside me, just my exterior like I was stained glass. I was asked to do talk shows. The talk shows made me feel cheap, but people wanted to pay me a lot to talk about my problem. I couldn’t really go back to my job; my boss was one of the people sleeping with Jenny. Getting some cash to fly across the continent was pretty handy though. I had to do the shows during the day since I’d lost the ability to stay in hotels. Whenever I woke up I was always in my bed, no matter where I’d been staying. John had offered to watch or videotape my return, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to know how it happened.
I found no doctors who were able to help me. They couldn’t find anything wrong with me. I searched endlessly for a similar condition on the Internet. I’d found some weird cult scribbling that the truly blessed had been turned into glass, but I wasn’t sure that was me. I had changed gears and tried to research the drug. I had discovered that the drug “Eddie” was short for “E.D.” or “Ecstatic Dysphoria.” I wasn’t really ecstatic about the whole thing. I posted on dubious Internet message boards asking if anyone had ever heard of something like this. The replies ranged from “Dude you be trippin now” to “Nope! I do know of a guy who tore his eyes out on Eddie and is still in the crazy house.” Wonderful.
Three more months passed without any answers. I looked like a ghost now. I could always see through myself. I’d gotten used to it, but if it kept going like it was, then I’d go completely transparent.
By this time I had attracted a group of weirdos who were camping outside my house, in my backyard, and bringing me offerings to bless them. They had been run off by the cops when they first started, but they were pretty persistent. They didn’t accost John and stuck to the rules I’d laid down for them, like “No singing after 11 p.m.” and “Don’t make a mess.” Since then, they’d been very quiet and respectful; I stopped worrying about them since they weren’t hurting anything. A few of their members showed up asking for me to spread my seed, but I was completely not interested in such things. Sometimes when I was feeling particularly lonely I’d go and walk among them. They wanted to talk about weird things, like this creepy dark figure that punished the unredeemable and the angelic visions of the pure. They smoked a lot of weird things, things that hadn’t yet been made illegal and things that shouldn’t do anything at all.
On one such occasion I stepped out and touched one of them on the head. She had grabbed my hand and placed it there. I saw things; flashes of memory. Some were beautiful, some were horrible. She smiled at me once the visions were over. I could recall all her memories. Her mother’s name, her father’s fist, her first cat, her first romance, everything was in my head. “Carol?” I said, not knowing her name before now, “What just happened?”
“You have blessed me Shulaleeb. Thank you!” They referred to me as that. Meant “Blessed” in some made-up hippy language. “I see your love now.” She began to weep and the others came over to me. I placed my hands on their foreheads and received all their memories. I couldn’t help it; it was fascinating to see what made them tick. Many of them reacted in the same way when I’d finished. I heard John call out that he’d brought some take-out Chinese from my back deck and I retreated from the group.
“What was all that about?” he asked when I got inside and closed the door.
“I can read their minds,” I said in awe.
“I can see their memories. I just touched Carol on the head and bam, all her memories in my head.”
“Are you on drugs?” he asked me seriously.
“No. Let me try it on you.” I reached for him.
He pulled away. “No.”
I pulled my hand back. “Oh, sorry.”
“It’s okay. It’s just with everything that’s been happening, I don’t doubt that maybe there’s something supernatural at work. Here, veggie lo mein.” He pushed a box my direction. We ate in relative silence. I was going through the collective memories of a dozen people while he thought about whatever. I could sort and recall things that had happened to people, but they didn’t really affect me; it was more like watching a story. I gave Bootsy a noodle and she managed to eat it without too much trouble. John leaned back in his chair.
“What happens when you go totally clear?” he asked.
I hadn’t wanted to think of that. “I don’t know.”
“Alright. I don’t want to bring this up, but—”
“I’ve already gotten a will ready to go. I had that friend of yours write it up after the whole mess with Jennifer. “
“Oh, okay. Umm, good.”
The next day I walked out into the backyard and was surprised to see that most of my hippy followers had left. I stopped one and she hugged me. “Where did everyone go?” I asked.
“You cured us all.” She said. “We were all suffering from something and you fixed it. I didn’t have the confidence to live my life. I didn’t want to do anything. You showed me what it was like to be a good person. I’m going to go get a job and straighten out my life like it should be. You repaired whatever was in my head that was wrong.”
I stood there looking at her. “You all had mental issues that were fixed?”
She nodded. “It’s not sane to camp in somebody’s back yard and hope for a glance of the person. It’s not what I wanted. What I wanted was to not be afraid to go out and live. You gave that to me.”
“What about the others?” I asked.
She explained each of the other people’s issues and how I fixed them. Some had severe anxiety. Some were borderline schizophrenic, obsessive compulsive or bipolar. Others were some undefined brand of crazy. They all discussed how it felt like they’d just woken up from a never-ending dream. I looked at my hands and walked back into the house. I called John and explained that the hippies were leaving and why. I got silence from the other end. I told him how I was going to go to the hospital and see who else I could fix. He asked me not to just go over there and start doing things and suggested that I do this in a controlled environment. He was right, I agreed.
A few months later I had healed thousands. I had performed miracles. People came to me and I took their memories and fixed their minds. I asked for nothing in return, but they gave me gifts. My bank account had swelled. Jenny had showed up to demand a slice of it, and with a touch on her forehead she realized that she had wronged me and many others. She left me in silence to go make amends for many infractions.
Science had no way of knowing how I did what I did, but even the most damaged mind could be fixed by my touch. I was also mostly transparent, for which science still did not have an answer. John was used to it and would call out for me when he came over to find me. He had been over every day to look out for me. I felt fine; I just could barely see myself in the mirror.
“Know what tomorrow is?” John asked me one night while we were watching a game with the sound low.
“Hmm?” I didn’t. Bootsy had cuddled up on my chest and was getting attention. I’d gotten her memories months ago and knew she loved ear scratches the best.
“Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of you getting wasted after that fight with Jennifer.”
Bootsy hopped down as I turned on the couch. “Why do you know that?”
“I write down things in a journal. I just wondered if it was significant now that you’re almost transparent.”
I shrugged, which he couldn’t see and reached for the remote. My hand passed through it. I panicked and tried again. I got it the second time. John hadn’t seen it. I kept it to myself; I didn’t want to worry him.
That night I had very intense dream. A beautiful goddess with shimmering silver and gold wings sat with me in a room comprised of the infinite possibilities of existence. I’d remembered now that I’d seen her before. She appeared to me when I’d done that weird drug. She’d asked me what I wanted most. I’d told her. She had nodded and told me that my wishes would take a year to fulfill. I didn’t remember my wishes. Had I been cynical and wished for oblivion or something? I was in a dark place when I last saw her so I didn’t know.
I woke up in my bed with a warm purring lump in my chest. I reached out to turn on the lamp and didn’t feel it. I concentrated on being solid and was able to turn the lamp on. I sat up in bed and Bootsy didn’t move. She was just where I had been laying. I concentrated on being solid and pet her head. I picked up my phone and after a few tries I managed to call John.
“It’s 4 a.m.,” He said. “What’s wrong?”
“I remembered something. I don’t think I’ll be here much longer.” I said.
“What?” he asked. I could hear him sitting up.
I explained what the goddess had said to me as he got dressed. He made me keep talking about things as he drove over and stayed on the phone with me. I realized that my collection of memories were gone. I must have given them over to the goddess. He let himself in with his key and ran up the stairs shucking his coat as he ran. When he burst in my room he looked right at me, but didn’t see me.
“I’m on the bed.” I said.
“You’re not making a depression,” he said as he sat down next to me. I looked down. I wasn’t. I was afraid. I started to shake and hugged myself. I could still feel my own body; that was good.
“Do you think I’m going to die?” I asked.
“I don’t know. You said you made wishes. Do you know what they were?”
I shook my head and then said no when he didn’t respond.
“What would you have wished for?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I was hurting.”
“Would you have wished for death?”
I shook my head again and said, “No. No matter how bad things were I wouldn’t wish for that; maybe oblivion.”
“What else would you wish for? She said ‘wishes’ right?”
“I don’t know; maybe to make the world a better place? Be with Deb again?” I started shaking harder and began bawling. That’s all I wanted; she was my everything. We could not have meshed together more perfectly. Every day with her was a gift. I always missed her.
John tried to give me a hug and passed through me. I could have used the comfort. I opened my eyes. I could see the bed I was sitting on and most of the floor, but beyond that was nothing. “Something is happening. The room is gone,” I said. I looked at John. His face was red and he was on the verge of tears, but he tried to never show his emotions.
“I want you to take my memories with you,” he said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
I put my hand on his forehead and pulled his memories into me. They were brilliant and bright and warm. He loved me like a brother. He loved Deb like a sister. He still loved and missed her as much as I did. I looked around. The bedroom was gone. I was in a field of green. Deborah looked up from her place at the base of a tree and smiled at me. She put down her book and stood up and walked toward me. I vaguely felt John’s forehead still in my hand. I tried something that I didn’t know I could do.
Alone in my bedroom John received my memories in return. The last, most vivid memory he received was Deborah and I embracing. He knew we’d wait for him. We just weren’t complete without him.
Chris Reinhardt lives and works in Roanoke, Va., with his wife, two cats and a dog. He often draws inspiration from his extremely vivid dreams and puts some of those images to paper. Feel free to engage with Chris on Twitter at @ChrisReinhardt_.
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