Phantom in the Kitchen

I wrote a story a few years back (2015 actually), and for some reason, it felt befitting to post it today.  I don’t know why today precisely…perhaps it has to do with today being October 31st–the day when you remember to buy that metropass…the day when you remember to pay some of those outstanding bills…or perhaps, perhaps, the day when you see costumes getting worn again, and snack stashes getting joyously refilled…Either way, hope you enjoy this one!

 

On Hallows’ eve, from the ground and the heavens, come spirits that have expired and are yet to arrive.  Time unwinds itself from the clutches of reality, and for one night, words like “yesterday”, “tomorrow”, “possibly” or “never” bear no meaning whatsoever.  Eternity exists all at once.  All around us, the planets, stars and galaxies shudder in a cacophony of possibilities: birth, life and death all co-exist as the gigantic and marvellous defy all the laws of Physics.  Incredibly such a reunion of multiple possibilities is exhibited in our lives; unfortunately, our conscious and subconscious minds are programmed to dismiss these anomalies, like the very floaters that swim across our vision and gradually succumb into oblivion.  “Oh, it was but a dream” or “Well, I really need to stop having coffee!”: rationality comes in the way of imagination…

 

Zoom in to the Milky Way, Earth, Canada, Ontario, Toronto, the very intersection of Bay and Elm; dash past the security desk, and fly up to the 21st floor, where such silence reigns as the living can never properly know.  It is October 31st and it is close to midnight, which further makes the silence unbearable.  It is the quiet which characterizes the shadow which moves behind the curtains, the quiet accompanying your late night visit to the kitchen when your hair incoherently stands on end…An ominous silence, deafening to the point of driving anyone out of their mind.  In the stillness is a kitchen, illuminated, with a clean sink and two fridges on opposite sides.  During the day, the kettle would most probably have been on, and at least two PGCRL residents would have been engaged in a most vivid discussion about their gels, raw data or computer simulations.  Well now, the silence was frictionless.  The air itself seemed to be frozen such that if you dared to breathe, your lungs would have given way to the crystals in the air and you would have drowned in snow.  And if you tilted your head just there and dared to look at that thing in the corner of your eye…

 

A figure detached itself from next to the first aid kit, although calling it a figure was perhaps a stretch on the word.  It was a singularity, a distortion in the fabric of space possibly but most certainly of time.  “It” was wearing a lab coat and a pair of goggles…but not quite.  It seemed to exist while not quite existing.  It was extinct and extant at the same time, and was such a contradiction in and out of itself that one’s brain desperately wanted to filter it out.  And oh…“it” wore a colourful ribbon around its neck supporting a badge which was displaying the seemingly stretched face of the person who was “Garnet Evergreen”.

 

“Garnet” appeared to be engrossed in the steaming contents of a grey cup.   Was it coffee, tea or hot water?  Who could tell?  And suddenly, in a movement defying all the laws of Nature, in a swift gesture that somehow left its traces in space like a slowed-down motion picture, she levitated the cup to her mouth and gulped…For an instant, cubes in ten, then twenty, then a hundred dimensions became obvious.  There was electricity in the air.  And, boom!  The atoms around the singularity were forced together into a block that ended up forming Garnet Evergreen.  Or at least someone like her.  She wore a crown of wild brown hair, had fingers that shook with the unmistakable tremor of the helpless insomniac, and eyes that were lined with exhaustion.

 

As things came into focus, the refrigerators decided that they had had a long enough break and resumed their humming chorus.  For an onlooker, it would also have been increasingly obvious that Garnet carried a lab notebook under her arms, a lab notebook the likes of which are rarely seen.  Its cover must have been white with a blue border at some point, but had through inexplicable means acquired not only a parchment-like look but also exchanged its sharp corners for a chewed appearance.  In any case, it looked like such a preference was a taste that someone acquired, for Garnet did not seem to wish to part with her lab notebook.  On the contrary, she appeared to be engaged in a lengthy discussion with herself over what seemed to be a complicated table on the last page of her notebook.  Upon closer inspection, this table seemed to have had its existence faded multiple times through the paper’s absorption of a brown liquid, quite likely the very same that Garnet had just been drinking.  The numbers on the table made no sense to the minds of mere mortals especially due to the paucity of labels—but Garnet, not being a mere mortal, would not have any trouble with that now, would she?  The secret to the encryption of the table belonged to Garnet alone, and its completion rested on the not-at-all-blurry-now shoulders of the student.  Or phantom student—if you want to be closer to the truth.

 

And so, Garnet thought.  Somewhere in the Land of the Living, a clock carried on ticking the seconds, the minutes, then the hours away.  Garnet did not move from her spot.  For her, there was something reassuring about the kitchen area.  In a house, a kitchen typically whispers of life, what with its humming refrigerator, dirty dishes sitting in the sink, dripping tap…so did the kitchen on the 21st floor for her…Perhaps it reminded her of the discussions she would have had with herself and others in another lifetime?  It was close to 4am before her thoughts distilled and Garnet started to write in her lab notebook.  They were careful notes, about things that only Garnet knew.  Which was just as well because her existence, at least for that day, was getting close to its end.  One could say that she was fading, perhaps as the brown bitter liquid she had consumed started to disappear from existence…

 

Morning dawned eventually.  Gradually, life—as we know it—entered the PGCRL.  The atmosphere in the building was now nowhere close to what it had been in the dead of the night.  The roads outside were populous, with cars going north, going south, pedestrians dashing towards their various destinations…Life within the PGCRL itself was one to behold: residents moved into the building like ants towards an overlooked leaf in the rainforest.  The leaf was to be science, knowledge and discoveries waiting to be made.  One of the ants was Garnet Evergreen—of the Land of the Living.  Garnet left the elevator on the 21st floor, making her way to the kitchen, engulfed in calculations that only she could understood.  When she entered the kitchen, she was perplexed to find her lab notebook open on the last page, revealing a calculation she had been struggling with.  Except that someone had scribbled out a minus sign, and explained that…Wait, oh…that…That did it!  Gosh, this solved everything!  All hail Gauss, Darwin and…Newton?  Hurray!  As Garnet burst into laughter, she raised her arms outwards as an athlete would have when arriving first at the finish line.  Hanging by the gigantic panes overlooking Lake Ontario, something singular grinned like the Cheshire cat for the briefest moment.  And then poof!  It was well and truly gone.

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