Title of the story is: White Haze. The genre could be considered fantasy/paranormal. Word count is 8,226.
Sweat runs down my cheek and drips from my chin. My shoulders ache and my chest burns. I stab the shovel into the ground and look up. She’s looking at me with sweat glistening on her face from the harsh sunlight. I wipe my brow and tell her to hand me the seed.
From her pocket, she removes a tiny object, round, with hard ridges that are almost like spikes. She hands it to me. Sunlight graces the edge of the hole. I plant the seed and jump out.
She looks at me. “You have anything you want to say?”
I look to the flatlands behind us, the empty field and the house about three miles from ours. The sun bleeds orange light over the land like a severed artery, and though the world has its own set of colors—green, brown, and blue—all has been blanketed in the giant star’s saturation. The wind kicks and dust lifts from the arid terrain and funnels into a twister, rising high into the sky and dissipating. What trees surround us bend and sway with the wind, the pine needles howling as the air wisps through the branches.
I shake my head.
She closes her eyes and kneels before the hole. The shovel is next to her, and the shadow of her and the tool stretch out over the bull grass. She raises her clasped hands to her mouth and whispers. The gusting wind ceases, and I hear her say ‘amen’ before she runs her hands over her thighs, stands, and brushes her knees off.
“Let’s cover this little guy and get it some water,” she says and looks at me. “I hope this works.”
White surrounded me, silence engulfed me, and cold burrowed into my core.
Haze drifted with slow ethereal movement; swelling, then shrinking. Pillars were hidden in the fog, disappearing when the haze thickened. I sat up and noticed people walking about with empty expressions on their faces. Their footsteps were muted. Their legs were hidden in the haze. There was no color.
I rubbed my temple. Pain surrounded the left side of my skull. At the back of my head was an incessant urgency to remember something. Yet the pain stopped me from pursuing that need, planting me in this foreign landscape.
A stranger approached me, bent, and held out a hand. He had white hair and wire rimmed glasses. His smile gave just a hint of color to his otherwise whited-out face. I took his hand and he pulled me up. Cold gripped me from inside and I shivered. My teeth chattered, but there was no sound.
“Good morning,” the old man said, his voice cutting through the white and yet suffocated by it.
“Cold,” I said, then pushed hair from my face. “Why is it so cold?”
“You’ll get used to that.”
The pain in my head increased, pumping. The urge to remember returned, and I wanted to reach into my mind and pull out whatever was causing this great agony, what felt like would explode if I didn’t figure it out.
The old man looked at me. “You doing all right? You look paler than most.”
“Most?” I said, and put the heel of my hand on my head. “What’s going on here? What’s with this place?”
He toyed with his glasses. “I couldn’t explain even if I wanted.”
“Where are we?”
The old man looked around. “Might be able to say it’s a holding station.”
I stared. “You mean a prison?”
He gestured to those appearing and disappearing from the haze. “You see any prison bars?”
Weariness kicked in, and standing became too much. “What’s happened?” I closed my eyes against the throbbing hurt. “Why am I here? What the hell is going on?”
The old man said, “There’s a bench over yonder, we should sit.”
Pain spiked my brain as if someone drove a metal stake into it. I held out my hand and the old man guided me. Out of the white, the bench appeared. He helped me down and I heaved a deep sigh that disturbed the haze. The old man joined my side, swinging an arm over the bench’s back.
People came and went—figures dressed and faded in white, forgotten when the haze took them—some passed glances, but there wasn’t an ounce of vitality on anyone’s face. The silence of their movements made me quiver; this wasn’t the world I knew, this was someplace else.
I looked at the old man.
“You said something.”
I shook my head. “I didn’t.”
“Yes you did. You said something wasn’t right.”
I rubbed my head. “What happened to me?”
“I can’t answer that. I have no idea where you’re from or what you’re supposed to be doing. But you are here, and there’s something you need to know.”
Screeching sounded from afar, and I raised my attention to the shifting haze. People who had been moving about halted and turned. The sound grew louder, and I recognized it as a subway train. The white parted and formed a pathway, revealing tracks and tunnel openings.
“This a train station?” I said.
“You could say that,” the old man said.
“Dear Jesus God!” someone shouted. People turned. The haze shifted. It was a woman, her hair brown with streaks of white around her ears. She wore glasses, the lines on her face copious, tracing around her features like race tracks. Her face was locked in an expression of realization and fear.
“I remember!” she said. “Oh my God, I remember what happened! I remember it all!”
The train entered the station. The doors opened in silence.
Everyone turned to the woman.
She whimpered. “Don’t make me leave.”
Red light beamed from the open train doors, coloring the colorless world, saturating a pathway from the train to her.
“What’s going on?” I said. “What’s she remembered?”
The old man looked at me. “What we are all here to do.”
“Please,” the woman cried. “I want to do so much more. I can’t leave. I can’t! I need another chance!”
The pain in my head grew worse. I closed my eyes and rubbed my temple. The woman’s cries filled my head, echoing within the empty caverns of my memory.
“I’m sorry,” she said, speaking to someone. I tried to look up, but the light created new pain in my head, putting pressure on my haggard brain. She continued to beg. “I’m so sorry! Let me talk to my husband. Let me at least tell him I love him!”
Understanding struck me and the pressure disappeared. I looked at the train, saw the woman enter the red light, pleading as she went, then the doors shut and her cries were silenced. The train began to leave.
I looked at the old man. “I’m dead!”
The man returned his attention to me and gave a single nod. “You got the first step right.”
The last of the train exited the station, and silence resumed its ironclad grasp upon the desaturated world. My eyes grew heavy, and I leaned over and closed my eyes.