John Kenny is a freelance writer, editor and creative writing tutor. His short stories have appeared in The World SF Blog, Jupiter, First Contact, Woman’s Way, Emerald Eye (an anthology of the Best of Irish Imaginative Fiction), Transtories and many other venues. He is currently hawking his novel Down and Out to publishers. John lives in Dublin, Ireland, with his wife, two daughters and neurotic cat.
By John Richard Kenny
The carpet in the hallway is a deep red, the theme continued up the walls and across the ceiling; lights dot the way down its length. There is the hushed elegance of a cinema. No movie posters mar the walls, but barely perceptible doors, flush with the red, hint at access to auditoriums of some kind; this is somehow understood.
We say little as we pad down the hallway, the silence instilling in us a reverence, even in my daughters. We reach a junction and glance left and right. A man at the end of the corridor to our left, dressed in a suit, calmly faces us, arms by his sides.
Julie starts forward, the girls trailing behind her. I reach for her, but she slips away. I struggle to say something, but I’m capable of little more than mumbled half-words.
I’m drawn after Julie and the girls towards the man. As we near him, I note his pale face, black eyes, dark hair. My heart beats in my ears, my vision tunnels. The warm red carpeting offers little comfort now; the slit of a mouth in the man’s face offers even less. Raising his arm, he points down a passageway to his left. My wife walks serenely in that direction, followed by my girls.
I call out, but they don’t look back; their minds are closed to me. Terrified of losing them, I follow.
The man appears by a door, points at it. Julie opens it, steps inside. Light escapes, to be swiftly shut off by the closing door. Further along the corridor the man stops and indicates again. Annie disappears through another door. Shortly after, Jess does the same.
I am alone now with the man, his black eyes sucking at what little light remains in the hallway.
He points to another door. I open it and walk through. I am on an escalator that drops down to a large foyer. But the stairway is ascending from below; I am forced to scramble down a few steps, only to be brought back to the barrier of the door. Again I scramble down a few steps and I suddenly see large screens overhanging the foyer, on them, scenes of my family going about their lives. Cooking dinner, going to school, watching TV. But I am nowhere in these scenes; it’s as if I’ve never been there. Annie and Jess are my daughters, and yet not of me, because I have never existed in their lives.
I lunge down the steps. Two, three steps at a time. But I’m drawn back up again. If I can get down to the foyer maybe I can find an exit. I jump several steps, several more, but I am pulled back to my starting point.
The man appears at the foot of the escalator below the giant screens. He looks at me and my light spirals away from me, down the up escalator and into the pale infinity of his now grinning face.