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Erasure

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

This short story was written in 2022 as part of a fundraiser for EndometriosisUK's 1in10 Challenge.



I have a secret. Well, I have several secrets. But this secret is so alien that it terrifies me. I don’t talk about it; I don’t even think about it. I wish I could erase it from existence. But the thing with secrets is that they always catch up with you somehow. It’s only a matter of time.

So, here I am, perched on the edge of my swivel chair, feeling grossly nauseous as my friend shrugs on his coat. It’s a Wednesday afternoon, and the sunlight is shimmering into my apartment and practically burning the place down.

“You can’t leave!” I splutter, “Come on, I need this project finished by Friday!”

“Then do it yourself.” He shoots me a glare from behind his glasses. “I’m done helping you.”

I swing my hair behind my shoulders and hop off the chair. Maybe the begging eyes will do the trick. I pout and try to inflate my eyes as much as possible, willing tears into existence. He doesn’t even blink as he turns towards the door.

“Oh come on, Lee!” I say, stamping my foot. “Don’t be such a baby!” I flinch as he whips back around.

“I’m the baby?!” he shouts. He gestures at me and my pigsty of an apartment (don't judge me, I never have time to clean). “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately?”

I roll my eyes. This spiel again. “Ugh, you know how hard it is for me to keep on top of things. I’ve got so much on my plate and I’ve been so busy!” I flutter my eyelashes and pout again, but he’s not buying it.

“You’ve gotta get your act together, Tammy,” he replies, “I was willing to help you out with some projects, but this has gone too far now. You’ve got to start pulling your weight or your business will never take off.”

“Well, I can’t do everything myself.” I check my nails and notice one is missing. Great. As if this day couldn’t get any worse. Irritated, I crouch down and scan the floor while Lee drones on.

“If you want your business to be a success, you need to do everything yourself first. That’s what it means to run a business, not larking about all day getting your pals to do your work for free. Are you even listening?!”

“What?” I ask from the floor. Where is that nail? I see him wipe his hands down his face.

“You are such a lazy, arrogant, ungrateful little bitch!”

I feel a flush of anger and my cheeks burn. Oh hell no. I rise to my full height (granted, the top of my head barely makes it above his nose).

“What did you just call me?” I say through gritted teeth.

“A lazy, arrogant, and ungrateful little bitch.” He enunciates each syllable, drawing each sound out with measured precision. “You don’t give a shit about anyone but yourself. I could be at home right now spending time with my daughter! You do remember that I have a daughter, right?”

“Yeah, I know all about Emma,” I say. Why does he never shut up about his kid? She can't even talk yet.

“It’s Analise, Tammy! God, how many times do I have to say it!” He runs his hands through his hair and yanks at it. He looks deranged. “This is exactly what I mean! You know what, I’m done. I’m done with you. I’m out of here.” He turns to leave again, and that well of anger balloons in my chest. I feel myself start to shake.

“You’re seriously going to leave me here in the dirt?” I blurt out as he wrenches open the door. He doesn’t turn back. His feet cross the threshold. “Get back here!” I scream as he strides out into the hallway. I lean on the door frame and watch his retreating figure, rage pulsing through me so hard my vision blurs at the edges.

“Fine, screw you! I guess I won’t help you if you ever need it! You are dead to me Lee!” Then I pull back and slam the door, screaming at the top of my lungs.

My apartment explodes.

I don’t see it, but I feel it. A tidal rush of energy erupts around me, shocking me into silence. The floor beneath me shudders, and my feet leave the ground. I hear wood splintering, and something slashes my right thigh. I open my eyes, but I can see nothing but rippling red heat all around me. Glass shatters. I think someone screams, but I can’t tell if it was me. I squeeze my eyes shut and wait for death.

It stops as quickly as it started. My feet touch solid ground, and my knees buckle. Shaking, I open my eyes.

My apartment is unrecognisable. My furniture has been ripped to pieces. The charred remains of my laptop smoulder amongst the ruins of my desk. My TV lies crumpled on the floor. Some of the floorboards have been ripped clean from their fittings and I can see into the apartment below. An elderly couple lie huddled together, not moving. Blinking dust from my eyes, I look up to my window — at least, where my window used to be. Now it’s a gaping hole in the wall, bricks and concrete crumbling away as fresh air sweeps in.

I stagger over to the hole and cling to what remains of the wall. Paper flutters past me. Down on the ground, people point and stare up at me. The world tilts, and I sit, exhausted. I guess I don’t have to worry about that project, I think as I spin away into sleep.


 

“You’re Tamsin Forster, 29, living at this address, correct?” The woman sitting across from me slides a sheet of paper towards me. She looks like a stereotypical strict high school teacher: glasses, lips pursed so thinly they vanish into her mouth, and her hair slicked back into a tiny bun atop her head.

I sigh and give the sheet of paper a cursory glance.

“Yes,” I reply. Seemingly satisfied, she scribbles something on the piece of paper and whips it towards the guard standing at the door. He takes it wordlessly and slides out of the room.

“Can I go now?” I ask. I bounce my thigh against the table and grunt in pain. It’s been a few days since my apartment was blown apart by ... something. I’d woken up in a strange room with wires and tubes all over me and my right thigh stitched up from whatever had sliced it open. The questions started the moment I opened my eyes. What happened? What did you see? Tell us what you know. There were tests too; lights shining in my face, blood drawn, scans, people prodding and poking at me, questionnaires to fill in, drawings to stare at.

I’m exhausted. But I can't let them know my secret.

Mrs Prim and Proper across from me stares at me, unblinking.

“Look, aren’t you gonna find the nutter who bombed my apartment?” I demand. “I had valuable stuff in there!”

“Your apartment wasn’t bombed,” she says.

“Oh,” is all I can reply. “Then whatever happened, I just want to go home.” I wince at the thought. What home is there to go to?

“I’m afraid that’s not going to be possible, Miss Forster,” Prim n’ Proper replies. “You are being detained here.”

I feel the colour drain from my face. “Why? I didn’t do anything! You can’t do this, I demand a lawyer. I know my rights!”

Prim n’ Proper says nothing. Instead, she swivels around and hits a switch. The wall opens up to reveal a screen that is playing some footage. I realise with a jolt that it’s my apartment.

“CCTV from the building across from yours shows exactly what happened,” Prim n’ Proper says. As she says this, I see a section of the second floor of my building explode. I gasp as the camera zooms in on the hole in the wall and hones in on a figure floating in the air, dark hair splayed out. Me.

I’m horrified. Well, I guess I've been outed. No more secrets to hide. I want to sink into the floor, but all I can do is shrink into my chair.

Prim n’ Proper pauses the footage.

“I don’t understand,” I whisper, trying to claw back some semblance of control. If I feign ignorance, perhaps I can get out of this.

“There’s nothing to understand, Miss Forster,” Prim n’ Proper says, pursing her lips even more. “You are responsible for this tragedy. Ten people have died; their blood is on your hands. We did get the name of one of the victims. Someone called Lee …”

She continues to babble on, but I stop listening. I’m lost for words. I have no idea what is happening. The world shrinks to the size of a peanut. Lee. Dead. Because of me.

You will always be alone.

This isn't my fault! A bubble of anger forms in the pit of my stomach.

“You will be formally charged for this,” Prim n’ Proper continues, scribbling notes onto her pad and oblivious to my shaking hands. “Have you got anything to say for yourself?”

I grit my teeth at her smug face. “I didn’t do this,” I say quietly.

Prim n’ Proper snorts and sneers at me. “We've been monitoring you for years. Did you think you'd get away with something like this?" She tuts. "You stupid girl.”

I see red. The bubble bursts. My chair crashes to the floor and I’m on my feet. Prim n’ Proper has the decency to wipe her smirk from her face.

“I’m NOT a girl!” I yell, and I slam my hands onto the table.

It happens again. A rush of white-hot energy explodes around me. The ground shakes, and the table shatters into pieces. Prim n’ Proper screams, reeling back in her chair.

Then it’s over. A pair of arms restrain me and slam me against the wall. I can hear shouting as I struggle to free myself.

“Stop it! Let her go! You’re making it worse!” The force pressing me against the wall is lifted, and I struggle to get my breathing under control. Slowly, I spin on the spot. The room is now full of people, some staring at me in shock, others fussing over Prim n’ Proper, who lies unconscious on the floor. I feel myself sway slightly. A man steps in front of me and holds out his hand. He has the strangest pair of blue eyes I’ve ever seen. Unsure of what I’m doing, I automatically take it.

“It’s alright,” he says, “the test is over now.”

“The test?” I ask. He grips my shoulder and his eyes grow concerned. The last thing I think is how beautiful they are.


 

“We had to piss you off to see how strong you are.” Blue Eyes is sitting next to my bed, his legs casually crossed and hands folded over his knee. I’m back in a hospital of some sort, the day after the incident with Prim n’ Proper. Apparently, she survived. I don’t really care. A torn and soggy tissue is crumpled in my hand.

Blue Eyes continues. “I’m sorry it had to be like this. The power you have responds to strong emotions.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I say, twisting the tissue some more. Blue Eyes sighs and hands me a fresh tissue. He pats my arm gently.

“If it’s any consolation,” he says, “I’ve hurt people too.”

“That doesn’t help at all,” I say, glaring at him. “My friend is dead because of me, and that’s all you have to say?”

He frowns. “You’re right, that was a bit insensitive.” He pauses. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I’ve never met someone else like me before.”

“What do you mean like you?” I ask. He raises his hand in answer, palm up. A spark kindles into life in his hand, curling into a ball of red energy. My eyes widen.

“In time,” he says as he shifts the energy across his hand, “you’ll be able to control it too. I hope.” He snaps his hand shut and the energy sputters out of existence. “People like us are rare,” he continues. “That’s why the Government set up this branch of MI5—”

“Wait, I’m in MI5??” I blurt out.

“No one told you?” he asks, tilting his head and frowning again.

“No?”

He chuckles. “We’re in the base of operations for the Paranormal Intelligence Service, part of MI5. Don’t ask where exactly we are in the country because I have no idea. I’ve been here for ten years and I’m not allowed outside.”

“P I S,” I mutter. “Wait, it's called PIS?” I start laughing.

Blue Eyes laughs too. “We’re not exactly at the top of the priority list for MI5. Anyway, as I was saying, MI5 set up this branch after people like me started showing up. They keep tabs on us, and have us on standby for special missions.”

“There’s more like you? Like us, I mean?”

He hesitates. “At the moment it’s just me,” he says. “Well, you and me now.” He smiles an infectious smile. I can’t help but smile back.

“I wanted to keep this a secret," I say. "I guess I kinda blew it."

"Yeah, you kinda did."

"So this power,” I continue, staring at my hands again, “you said it responds to strong emotions. Is that why things blow up when I get angry?”

“Yes. At first, it does, but with practice and training I’m sure things will—”

“Aaron!” a voice barks. We both jump and look towards the woman striding towards us. She shoves a tablet into Blue Eyes’ hands. Aaron’s hands I correct myself. I mentally kick myself for not asking his name earlier.

“You need to take a look at this,” the woman says. Aaron frowns at her before studying the tablet. Then his eyes widen.

“That’s not good,” he mutters.

“What is it?” I ask. I bite my lip. He shows me the tablet and scrolls back on the video. It’s footage of me with Prim n’ Proper.

“Here,” he says, pointing to a spot on the wall behind Prim n’ Proper. “Look there.” I watch as Prim n’ Proper is reeled back by my blast of energy. For a moment, the wall disappears from view as the footage becomes fuzzy. When it reappears, I see a great dark crack expanding across the wall.

“What is that?” I ask. Aaron looks at me, his face white.

“That is a crack in the fabric of space-time,” he says. “The dark space is the void, the gap between universes.” He hesitates, and I try to process what he’s saying.

“So, what does that mean?” I feel so slow.

“Your power is breaking down reality.”


 

“I still don’t understand why this is happening,” I protest. I’m in another machine, a chamber made of reinforced glass and titanium. Technicians are busy fiddling with the controls and scanning my body. Aaron stands outside, his hands in his pockets.

“Our power is fueled by the energy within the universe,” he explains. “Think of it like a dam, and the energy is water. A little trickle of energy won’t do much. A steady flow can generate power. But if the flow becomes too strong, the dam breaks. The water cascades out and rips up everything in its path. That’s what’s happening to our reality.”

“I always thought the void and reality was sci-fi stuff.”

Aaron shrugs. “It was a theory until you came along.”

“So what is the void?”

“The void is the gap between universes. It’s nothingness. No time, no space. If anything were to fall into it, it would be erased from existence.”

“Can I throw secrets in there?”

“What?”

“Never mind. So, if the crack gets much bigger, what will happen?”

“Reality could collapse into the void. Our universe would, essentially, be deleted.”

I feel sick. “Well, this puts my project into perspective.”

“What project?”

“I’m a graphic designer.”

“Oh cool! I always wanted to do arty stuff, but I never got the chance.”

“Trust me, it’s super dull. I usually end up working on the most boring projects. Lee usually helps me, but he—” I trail off as my throat constricts. Aaron’s smile fades.

“He had a kid,” I say, breaking the silence. “He had a daughter. And I killed him.” I haven't felt so guilty in a long, long time.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Aaron says. He steps closer to the glass. His eyes are so blue. I look away and bite my lip.

“You don’t understand how I feel right now,” I say.

“Believe me, I do,” he replies. “When I was a teenager, I hurt my brother. We were playing a stupid game, and I got too excited. My power ruptured his spine. He’s permanently paralysed and in a vegetative state, and my parents refuse to take him off life support. To me, that’s worse than death.”

“I’m so sorry,” I say. He shakes his head.

“My parents disowned me. They’re strict Christians so they probably believe I’m the devil’s spawn. After that, I was picked up by MI5 and PIS. Never had much of a taste for religion after that.”

I choke back a snicker. “I haven’t spoken to my parents in a long time either,” I confess.

“Did they disown you?”

“No.” I shuffle my feet. The truth was that I hadn’t thought about them for a long while. “I just … haven’t had the time.”

Aaron’s face turns dark. “You should make time,” he says. More guilt. Great. The machine buzzes and the lock on the door clunks open. I step out.

“Do you have a phone?” I ask him quietly.

“Sure.” He hands me an old Nokia brick phone. I stare at the keypad. “Do you need their phone number?” he asks. I nod.

He returns sometime later to my quarters and hands me a slip of paper with a familiar number scrawled onto it.

“Thanks,” I say. I feel like crying, and his hand brushes my shoulder before he leaves. Gulping down tears, I dial the number. A familiar voice answers.

“Hey, mom,” I say.


 

“I’m so, so sorry,” I babble. My room looks like a bomb exploded. The bed has been ripped to shreds. Shards of the shattered mirror cover the floor. A chest of drawers was blown apart by the force of my power. They did have clothes in them, but I can’t remember what they looked like because they had been sucked into the void crack that was now expanding in the middle of the room.

Aaron clutches my hand in his. “It’s not your fault,” he says again and again, but I’m beyond reason.

“It’s all my fault,” I cry. “It was a stupid fight and I just couldn’t control it. I should have controlled it.”

I feel another wave of energy pulse from my body, and the crack grows in response. Aaron pulls me away from the door and looks at me.

“Tamsin, you need to stay calm,” he says. “Take some deep breaths with me. One, two, three and four. One, two, three and four.”

I breathe in and out, forcing myself to calm down. My worst fears are confirmed. My parents despise me. I bite my lip so hard that blood fills my mouth.

“Chief,” Aaron suddenly says. I look up to see Chief, a burly military man, pushing his way through the crowd of onlookers. He holds up a tablet.

“This is getting out of hand,” Chief says, pointing at the screen. It shows the compound outside, and another giant void crack growing. “We have to get this under control.”

“We’re trying,” Aaron says, his face pale. “We need more time to help Tamsin.”

“There is no time, Aaron!” Chief snaps. “I’ve had reports from the main office that these cracks are appearing all over the place. People are dying, from what I can tell at least. There's no trace of them left. No insurance numbers, no medical records, no paperwork of any kind. All gone. It's like they were never here.”

I look back at the crack in my room.

“Is that what happens if someone goes into the void?” I ask.

“They've been erased,” Aaron answers. “By going into the void, you leave the space-time of this reality and perish outside it. Effectively, you never existed.”

I stare at the crack, aware of Aaron’s eyes on me. I already knew the answer before he said it. He seems to read my mind.

“Tamsin, no,” he says quietly. I look at him, brown eyes meeting blue.

“I can’t control this,” I say. I grasp his shaking hand with mine. “I can’t stop it. Lee always said I was too hot-headed for my own good.”

“No, you can’t do this. There has to be another way.”

“There isn’t another way. What have I got left to lose? I killed my best friend. My family hates me. And I’m a walking nuclear disaster waiting to happen.”

“Tamsin—”

“I don’t understand,” Chief says, breaking us out of our reverie. I suck in a breath and turn to him.

“Anyone who enters the void is erased from existence,” I say to him. “So if I enter that crack, none of this would ever have happened. I can undo all of this and stop reality from being destroyed.”

“And you would be willing to do that? To sacrifice yourself to save our world?” Chief asks. I nod. He stands to attention.

“No,” Aaron says firmly. He puts himself between me and Chief. Chief eyeballs him.

“Stand aside, Aaron.”

“This can’t be the only way surely?” I can sense his panic, and the realisation hits me: he doesn’t want to be alone again. I pull at his arm and he looks at me again.

“Aaron,” I say, “please let me do this. I’ve been awful to people all my life. Let me do something good for once. Please.” I can feel the tears again, and I struggle to control my emotions. Aaron’s eyes shine too.

“I can fix this,” I continue. “If I never existed, then my power never existed and these cracks never appeared. And Lee would never have died. He’d be with his daughter. Analise.” I close my eyes and think of him, sitting at his kitchen table and laughing with his new family. My heart aches at the thought. Aaron squeezes my hand.

“Then I’m coming with you,” he says. My eyes nearly bulge out of my skull and my breath hitches in my chest.

“No way,” I say at the same time as Chief barks, “NO!”

“You said it yourself. Lee would never have died. If I do this, my brother will come back too.”

“But he wouldn’t get to play with his older brother,” I reply. “He wouldn’t know you.” Aaron shakes his head.

“I wasn’t much of a brother anyway. Besides, who knows what will happen. And like you said, I’ve got nothing else to lose.” He squeezes my hand and cups my face with his other hand. "I've only just found you. I'm not letting you go that easily." My heart swells with mixed emotions, and I sense the crack expanding.

Aaron looks at Chief, his hand still in mine. “There isn’t much time left. We’re going.” We push our way into the room. The crack greets us like a hungry animal. The darkness of the void beyond sends a chill down my spine.

“Are you sure about this?” I ask Aaron. Once we enter the void, there’s no turning back.

“Positive. Are you?”

“Yes.” There are no more words to be said. What else can you say when you are about to be erased from reality?

I grip his hand and we start walking forward. For such a short distance, it feels like an eternity. The crack yawns wider into a great chasm of inky darkness. I can feel everyone’s eyes on us, and at the threshold of the void, I chance a glance backwards. Chief is in the doorway, as is Prim n’ Proper with a bandage around her head, and a few others I hardly know. Their expressions are unreadable.

I wrench my eyes my eyes away and look up at Aaron. He’s staring at me with those blue eyes.

“You’re beautiful,” I blurt out. He smiles.

“So are you, Tamsin.”

“Tammy,” I correct him. “Please.”

“Tammy,” Aaron says. I smile and he takes my other hand. "Shall we?"

Three. Two. One.

We sidestep into the void.


 

All is still and perfectly quiet. There’s no sound to be heard, no breeze of wind or smell of disinfectant, which I had gotten so used to. When? I do not know.

I open my eyes. I see him there, the man with the beautiful blue eyes, and I remember him and he remembers me. He smiles and I mirror him.

Somewhere, a newborn is crying. The sound pulls me away from the man, and before me stands a vertical pool of rippling water. There’s a woman on the other side, cradling a baby in her arms. I recognise her, though I do not know where from. I marvel at how much she looks like me. A man enters and embraces her. The father.

“It’s a boy,” she whispers to him. I feel myself floating away, and a hand slips into mine. Blue eyes. Aaron.

“I’ve always wanted a son,” the father says. “What shall we name him?”

The mother smiles. “I was thinking Thomas,” she says. “If we’d had a girl I would have liked to name her Tamsin, but Thomas works for me.”

“Thomas it is.”

The pool ripples, the world beyond fades away, and I’m alone with Aaron. His lips press against mine. Together, at last, with no more secrets to be erased.


 

© Lucinda Elizabeth | 2022


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