The first time it occurred, he was barely 9 years old. The house was dark, everyone sound asleep in their rooms. The watch showed 01:13 a.m. Silence was universal.
He had awakened, not entirely knowing why and looked towards the window where a strong, golden light seemed to emanate from, piercing the blue curtains and their multi-coloured balloons. He frowned. It was in the middle of the night. Then where did the light come from? It was hot too, like a sun baking him in an oven. He slipped out of bed, scurried across the floor and peeked through the crack between the two curtains.
Outside was a chaotic scene unlike anything he had ever seen before in his life. Headless children playing on a merry-go-round, cars going by on the road in long columns without passengers or drivers; the sky was bright orange and red and in the distance rose a mushroom cloud, a way too realistic cardboard cut-out backdrop over the grassy plains and sprouting trees. Flocks of predatory birds circled groups of dancing people, picking at their eyes and hair and skin and several butterflies smacked against the windowpane and melted like colourful crayons in the sunlight. There was birds chirping but with witty voices, the sound of distorted, mirthless laughter as if through an old radio. He felt a breeze on his forehead as he stood watching the beautiful and bizarre world outside and he backed as he saw the shockwave of the mushroom cloud getting closer. It pressed on his ears when it reached him and he shut his eyes tight, covered his ears and backed away, leaving the crack in the curtain for good.
Suddenly it was all gone. The heat, the light. He realized he sat on the floor where he had stumbled backwards over a box with toys and sat staring up at the window, where only a faint moon beam crept through the curtain crack. He got up on his feet and hurried back to bed where he pulled the blanket up to his chin cautiously keeping an eye on the window until he fell asleep from exhaustion.
It would not be Michael’s last encounter with what lay beyond the windows. As he grew older, he saw the scenery more often, some times in grey dull hues, unsaturated and without any coherent texture of material to it; other times it would be sprawling with light and colours, both fantastical and scaring at the same time. It never revealed what happened before or after the shockwave reached him. It always held the same momentum, but he perceived that there was some kind of time-line, which he was missing out on. It was the same, on and on. On a bus, he could glance out of one window and the scenario would take form right outside. Everyone else around him were oblivious, and he tried talking to his friends and family about it. But little did it help. The fear which the reoccurring vision put into him was spiced with loneliness as people began pushing him away, laughing at his startled eyes whenever they joined him in a room or on a bus or subway.
Reservation forced him into a state of bitterness and anger. Why could no one else see it? Why was he the only one who was afraid of this eminent disaster? Why could no one explain it to him? Why was he so terribly alone with this…
He tried drawing it, but he always gave up half-way through it, realising that there wasn’t enough space for all the details in one sheet of paper. He tried writing it down, but words were simply not absolute in their confinement of letters to describe the vision. They could never be.
When he was 17, his parents took him to the doctor. Something had to be done. Michael suffered severely from insomnia, migraines. He described in perfect detail to the doctor how the world outside the office appeared to him, down to every single colour of the melting butterflies, to the texture of the feathers on the predatory birds, to the softness, roundness and pervasiveness of the mushroom cloud. There had always been something inviting about it, like burying yourself in a thick haze of cotton and just disappear. Whereto was not a concern, just give into destruction and be absorbed with it.
Without further evaluation, the doctor prescribed medicine for the young man. He would get sleeping pills and something to lighten the migraines, but also something to help relieve the visions. Guaranteed effect.
However, on Michael it didn’t work. Quite the contrary. He slept, yes, but now his dreams were also haunted by the vision, and it began repeating itself. It was no longer just a short flash that lasted an eternity and then was gone. It became almost a long painful nightmare, played and replayed. Sometimes backwards as well. And he began seeing further than just the shockwave. He began feeling it hitting him, blasting him into tiny bits of meat and flesh, sizzling from the heat. Other times, he was no longer outside watching the world, but taking part of it, either playing on the merry-go-round or joining the dancing people where his eyes would be picked out one by one – as if he had more – by the black birds circling up above. Butterflies would hit his face and melt his skin. He could look down on his hand, smearing off the molten colours and watch how his palm withered away.
But worst of all was the destruction. He did no longer doubt that the mushroom cloud was evil. There could be no question. And his body would burn and itch as he woke up screaming in the night, sweat hailing from his brow, only to find himself staring at the window where the golden light impaled the fabric of his world, his reality.
Only a few months had to pass before he was finally committed into a psychiatric ward. His room had no windows. One morning he was found dead, and the journal states “sleep depravation” as the cause. However the nurse who found him claim to have seen a man with burnt skin lesions and eyes picked out of their sockets as if by predatory birds. Where the eyes had gone, she couldn’t tell.