by Scott Lyerly
forum: Fishbowl
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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           Asleep in the overstuffed armchair, Brad dreamed happy dreams of freedom.  He dreamt of days when he could wander freely throughout his town, his state.  He was able to enjoy life outside in the fresh clear air and life with his family filled him with a sense of joy.

          Tongk! Tongk! Tongk!

          The noise interrupted his visions, setting them down a murkier path, happy but with a hint of foreboding, like a shiny coat of paint on a rotting piece of wood.  He shifted slightly in his chair, his eyes still closed.  He tried to dream through the tiny dark spot in the back of his mind.  Before his lidded eyes floated images of his home, his wife, their family.  It was a peaceful picture, tranquil despite the chaos.  It was a picture in his mindís eye of the time ďbeforeĒ.  The children ran from room to room in their big country farmhouse, yelling and chasing.  Shoes and bare feet clattered across the hardwood floors and the dog yelped as it tried to get out of the way.

          Bradís wife gave him a look and he suppressed a smile as he hollered at the kids.  They skidded to a halt in front of their parents and with heads bowed in shame they gloomily agreed to stop running.

          Outside the day darkened early, much earlier than it should have.  Something shadowed the sun and made the day seem as night in the household.  But Brad didnít notice much, nor did he really care.

          Tongk! Tongk! Tongk!

          His dreams swirled and changed, his kids were gone and he lived in the farmhouse with his wife alone.  He had not aged much in the last year, but felt as if his old life were a hundred years removed.  The house was quiet, the twinkle of laughing children no longer filling the rooms.  The deepest corners were now dark with silence.  They tried to carry out a normal life, eating, sleeping, reading.  But the dark of the sky had penetrated Bradís soul and he felt as if his heart would break. 

          His wife looked at him with sadness, her heart as heavy as his.  The absence of the children had taken a toll on them both, but Brad was much worse off than she.  Her every energy was spent in holding him up.  But his dreams made things fuzzy, and though he couldnít remember why, but he knew he had never felt such sadness in his life.

          The refrigerator door swung open slowly, as if trapped in a slow motion movie reel, and Brad looked for something to eat.  There was nothing but the same old cans of overly processed mush, placed there for he and his wife.  The mush never changed taste, no matter what he added to them.  It reminded him of pet food, the same meal day after day.  ďPet food.Ē  The phrase struck something in the back of his dream-soaked mind.  He opened another can out of routine rather than hunger. 

          Tongk! Tongk! Tongk!

          His dreams became nightmares as his rage built.  He began to writhe in his chair as the dreams boiled over into violence.  He smashed things inside of his house, things he loved, things he treasured. The terror of losing the children was still fresh, a raw tender wound Brad could not heal.  The hurt had become a rage and the rage a violence that terrified his wife and she begged him to stop.  But the children were gone, taken away, and he had been powerless to stop it from happening. 

          The dark outside had long since become permanent and any cracks under the doors and in between the windows that may have let the outside in had long since been sealed.  Machinery that Brad did not understand churned in the basement.  Strange equipment that pumped and billowed and gasped geared endlessly and Brad thought that the noise in his ears would eventually drive him mad.  The house had become sealed up like a tank, and he and his wife were like human fish drenched in artificial oxygen.

          Bradís wife cried in the corner and Brad stopped throwing things to comfort her.  He took her in his arms and she sobbed, his heart aching and his body shaking with anger at the misery she felt.  He wanted to break through the windows, crash through the door, abandon caution and venture outside into the damnable darkness.  But he knew that death awaited him out there.  Before they were taken, one of the children had tried to flee, only to die, gasping and withering in the outside air.  His tiny crumpled body could still be seen from the kitchen window.

          Unbreathable outside air had settled into their lives and they would never again be able to leave the farmhouse.  Not on their own.  He led his wife upstairs and together they settled into bed for the night, finding small comfort in each otherís arms, the feeling of prying, burrowing eyes watching them with fascination.

          Tongk! Tongk! Tongk!

          Bradís dreams were now out of his control and he thrashed in his armchair.  Behind his eyes he saw himself sealed into his house, the house he had once shared with his wife, now shared with another woman.  Woman was not even the right word.  Girl was more appropriate, easily not older than seventeen or eighteen.  She had appeared one day, not long after his wife had been taken away, and she had appeared without clothing.  Brad, embarrassed for her, rummaged through his wifeís clothing, pulling out articles too large for the petite girl, but they would have to do. 

          The girl huddled, scared and witless, in a corner of the bedroom, blankets piled high over her.  She tried to construct a fortress of cloth, hiding from the strange man into whose house she had been placed.  Breeding stock, reasoned Brad, though the thought of being the stud in the pasture made him nauseous. 

          Brad tried to speak to her, to offer her food or comfort, but she shrieked whenever he approached, so he stopped trying.  Instead he left her in the bedroom and set up a space to live and sleep downstairs.

          Tongk! Tongk! 


          The sharpness of the last rap jarred Brad from sleep.  He paused, sweaty and nauseous, unsure of who he was or where he was.  His dreams were so troubled lately, he had difficulty telling where the dreams ended and real life began.  Then it came again, the sharp rap on the window.

          Tongk! Tongk! 

          He looked out and saw the strange hideous eyes looking in at him.  The curtains to his house had been removed with the children and he felt like a fish in a fishbowl.  The darkness of the altered atmosphere cast red and lavender hues of sunlight into his living room and silhouetted the gigantic strangely shaped forms that huddled outside.  The hideous eyes, green and black and yellow, milky and running, bloodshot and dilated, blinked as they surveyed the specimen, as though Brad were a fish in a fishbowl.

          Brad settled back into his armchair and began to cry, a prisoner in his own house.  His children were still gone, his wife taken away, the girl was doubtlessly still upstairs.  His life was devastated, part of some strange intergalactic menagerie, a terrible interstellar exhibit, a prisoner on the conquered Earth.



copyright 2005 Scott Lyerly.

Scott Lyerly:
Scott Lyerly is an analyst for a large retail organization.  In his spare time, he writes, publishes "The SiNK", a small-press literary journal (, and chases after his two-year-old daughter.  His previous publications include "Black Petals" and ""