“The difference between individualism and anti-social behavior is really like the difference between patriotism and nationalism: the former is just a polite way to describe the latter,” he whispered as harshly as a shout.
“Maybe so, but doesn't society need a little anti- sometimes? Thesis, antithesis, synthesis, you know,” the other one replied with a chuckle.
The dirt path in the forest vanished so slowly that they couldn’t see it going away. The moon sank into the landscape just as imperceptibly until the world was stifled by shadow. The other one slipped into the cover of shifting imperceptibility as the first continued to talk into the flickering shadows.
“That's not how it works ever, you know that, right? And anyways, it seems there will be a storm, we should head back…” As the first one walked off his voice became all but indistinguishable from the rustling of leaves in the feeble breeze until even the footsteps of insects drowned it out.
I've got to get away, he thought, away, away, because as manual labor breaks your body, mental labor breaks your mind, anything they make you do breaks you somehow, because before you can be made into something else, you must be broken... He kicked a rock against the hard Earth so hard that it skimmed as if over water, then hit a tree a way away and shattered like glass.
Out the corner of his eye he saw a figure move, a silhouette, only brighter, but he could not make out any details other than its humanoidness and its gait. He tapped the ground as if he were using the thumping for echolocation, then saw a cave-like crevice under the roots of a dead tree and slipped in.
The sound of steady plodding of footsteps swole like a wave rolling across the dirt right over his head.
“Mark, are you sure this is the way back home?” asked a 20-something-year-old woman with a middle-class London accent.
“Yes, now guys, just trust me,” replied a guy of about the same age with a less-than-middle-class London accent.
As they plodded on, a storm rolled gradually, silently in from behind them until it overtook them. Lightning crackled like inhuman laughter that should come from below rather than above them, and raindrops fell lightly like the tears of someone being burnt.
“Your house is not this way! We need to turn around!” she cried.
“Yes, yes, yes…” the group muttered fracturedly amongst themselves.
The other man saw the silhouette from the corner of his eye again. He saw that it had skin-tone, that it wore clothes, that it looked, on the level of the senses, entirely human. On some level above that, it looked not human at all, and as it sprang before him, he saw it had his own guise, but it did not make a sound, did not even breathe.
I always thought that if I saw anyone too much like myself, I should die, he thought, and only now do I realize what exactly that is. It looked him right in the eyes, and there was such an intensity to its gaze that it seemed to penetrate his being all the way through and then come out the other side, yet it also, at the same time, spiraled back into itself, although that was abyssal and could never be penetrated. He tried to avoid looking it right in the eye but his eyes only wandered away to wander back again, then away, then back, until finally he fixated on it as being the most interesting thing he had ever seen and got lost within it. At that moment he had everything about himself revealed to him. Then he realized it was no longer there, as if it had suddenly vanished, although he never noticed when. He began to wonder if he had even seen anything there in the first place.
He heard the cries of people in the distance: “Help! Help!” He felt for his hunting knife in his pocket, then dashed out silently to see what was going on. He saw a group of people scampering about, falling apart then back together again and again like a flock of birds that has been startled then coalesces back together like a blob of water at the bottom of a pool. He recognized that same bright shadow although he saw no details. He then drew his knife in a lunge as he sprang from the shadows and became visible. The flock of people softly gasped, although he could not tell if it was at him or the thing and whether it was a gasp of awe or terror because it was deformed on the whispering wind. He saw the silhouette and darted at it with his blade and stabbed it to oblivion, but it would not die, only moved in a flash, so he sprang after it again and tried to stab it to death, but it only flashed a few feet away again, and this repeated again and again until finally, after he stabbed it enough, it collapsed to the ground, lifeless, if it ever had life in the first place.
Then he looked around at the ground and saw that it was littered with bodies covered in deep stab wounds, and the Earth was drenched with blood as if there had been a shower of blood rather than rain. He looked up face to face with a body and saw it was not the doppelgänger he had seen earlier but a beautiful woman, and despite the stab wounds it looked as if she should be asleep rather than dead. He then examined all the other ones and saw the entire party he caught a glimpse of earlier and then his friend. He got yo the left edge and then, finally, saw a body that looked like himself, with a glance coming softly from its eyes and barely-opened mouth as if to say, “Help me!”
Then he cackled lowly without a sound and shot up like black lightning in the night into the storm overhead as it gently rolled out into oblivion.
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