The Shimmering

When the shimmering began, he took no notice. Half an ear heard of it, a quarter of his brain gave it a few seconds of attention, but that was mostly because he was a dirty old man. He was a dirty old man, couldn’t help himself, though he tried to be woke or whatever the right expression was, so the three young women caught his attention.

They were right beside him, so young, healthy, and energetic, drinking some kind of holiday coffee drink loaded with whip cream and sipped up with straws. He could even smell whatever perfume of shampoo or lotion they wore. Their behavior kindled a universe of remembered thoughts about what being young meant. One, the brunette, a tall person with wide dark eyes, maybe endowed with some Korean heritage, gasped and said more loudly than anything said previously, “Marcus has the shimmering.”

Voices dropping, heads moving toward a center point, the conversation’s tone was a serious counterpart to their previous merriment. Such behavior just sucked him in.

“He does?” said one blonde. As she continued with rising concern, “When,” and “Who told you,” the other blonde said, “Oh my God, when did he get it?”

Their voices dropped lower. Coffee house adult contemporary rock and mild tinnitus kept him from hearing though he pushed his mind to deeper levels of concentration. Nothing came of it.

They left five minutes later, texting on phones, drinks in hand, moving in a line to the exit and out. The shimmering was such an unusual expression, hours later, at home while watching The Kominsky Method again and eating a piece of Marie Callender apple pie which he’d baked, he remembered it and asked his dog if she’d ever heard of it. Although the dog’s intelligent face perked up, she said nothing.

“Fine help you are,” he said, the expression the two shared often, especially when he thought he heard someone creeping around outside at night. The shimmering still gnawed at him like an earworm which wouldn’t let go, so he turned to his ancient laptop and brought up Google. He hated Google almost as much as Twitter and Facebook, but Google unfortunately delivered the best results.

The shimmering, he typed in, figuring that it was probably using a traditional spelling, chuckling to himself at his droll wit. The computer screen went black as soon as he pressed enter.

“What the — .” He stared at the screen. What now? Damn technology. Stupid computer. He pressed enter a few times, hoping that would stir the screen back to life, and the did alt-ctrl-delete. Ah, yes, the old three-fingered salute. Remember the BSOD, he told himself, and laughed.

Grimacing, he acknowledged, he probably needed to do a hard reboot and pray to the tech gods that the stupid machine worked. Well, it was old. He couldn’t remember when he’d bought it. Seemed like it’d been at least ten years. Could that be right?

The screen lit up as he reached for the power button. It was kind of lavender-ish and blue, but also white and almost bright as looking at the full sun on a clear day. Pulling back with a hard wince, he closed his eyes, said, “Damn,” loudly, and leaned back.

Shelby said beside him, “That is bright.”

Eyebrows jumping, he peered at the black and white dog. Did she speak or was he imagining that? “What?” he finally asked.

The dog turned her brown and amber eyes on him. “I said that it’s bright.”

He gawked at her.

“I mean the screen,” Shelby said. “At least it’s bright to me.” The dog pointed her nose at the screen. “Hey, there are words.”

“You can read?” he asked. “You can talk and you read?”

“Look,” the dog answered, backing away. “Your skin.”

“What?” He looked down in almost the same second. A gasp rode out of him. His hands were shimmering like white sequins under hot spotlights.

Then a voice from the computer said, “You have been given the shimmering.”

“What?” he replied, because his neurons had abandoned their posts and nothing made sense to him. He might even be having a stroke. He’d always feared having a stroke.

The computer said, “Initiation beginning.” The light flowed out of the screen and embraced him.

An unexpected life was about to begin.

Car In A Dream

He awoke with a fast start. Pulse still hammering, heart palpitating in his chest, he kept still, eyes wide open, focused on the dark night around him, waiting for his eyesight to catch up.

Common sounds asserted themselves: others snoring throughout the house, including the dog on the floor and his wife beside him in the bed. Wind was kicking around something loose on the house, reminding him that he’d need to hunt the object down before it broke free. Something to do when daylight arrived, after the other winter chores were completed, something to complete while the sun shone and he paced himself until spring.

Sleep was not coming back soon. Lightly he unfurled the heavy blankets and quilts, untangled himself from his wife’s grasp, and slipped free. An icy floor met his soles. Shivers jumped through his body. Eyes finding form in the darkness, he eased out of the bedroom, past the old dog, and out into the kitchen.

A tabby was settled on the kitchen counter, watching him with still eyes. Drifting to the window, he peered out past the curtains and glass while he scratched the cat. It purred happy in response. He’d dreamed of cars again. The car in this dream had been from about 1980, although he thought he was living in 2021 when he dreamed it. Just speculation about that, as those dates felt elusive. He knew the car, though, green and low, was not like anything seen in this century. Cars were still to be invented. He shook his head at that. Cars were still to be invented, but seemed so real… If the car was from 1980, that was still one hundred twenty years away. Scratching his face, he prepared to return to bed.

He awoke with a fast start. Gaping at his familiar bedroom, he settled onto his side with a long sigh. He’d dreamed again that he was living on a farm in eighteen sixty. Breaking free of his wife and the cats huddling against him, he slipped out of bed and moved through the house. Night lights embedded in the walls helped guide him as he made his way to the garage and flipped on its lights. His BMW M1 reflected the scene in its gleaming green surfaces, including himself, staring at the car. For a moment, he saw himself as another person, the old farmer? And then another — the man from 2021?

Shutting the garage lights off, he returned to the house. Cats had followed him and now demanded food, attention, or both. Touching his wrist, he woke his Backhand. “Show me today’s dreams,” he said, amending, “from the last two hours.” The dreams paraded by until the green car arrived. “Freeze.” He drank it in. “Enlarge the driver’s face. Clarify and sharpen.” He squinted as it grew in size, trying to decide if it was him, the man from 1860, or the guy from 2021.

Were they — he — all the same?

He closed the dream. Either something — worlds — were coming together, or something — the divide between worlds? — was coming apart. Maybe something else, like his sanity, was coming apart. Padding down the hall, ambivalence slowed him. He wasn’t certain he wanted to return to bed, wasn’t certain if he wanted to return to sleep. For to sleep meant to dream, and he was becoming worried about where his dreams might next take him.

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