Note: Updating either CT or Haunted weekly is rough. For now, please enjoy this short story inspired by last week’s Haunted and a certain old-school sci-fi show!
It’s also part of the Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge. You’ll be able to submit your own stories until April 30th and vote on the entries from May 1st–May 7th. If you somehow found this from outside SimLit, go there for the tiny and very supportive community; I don’t particularly care about winning and am content to roll around in the dirt in this corner of the internet.
There are length restrictions—at most 800 words and 15 screenshots—so if it seems tight in places, it’s because it’s hitting both maxes exactly. That’s my excuse for not writing in my normal bonkers prose style anyway.
You’re approaching another dimension.
A dimension not only of reticulated splines but of ideas; a fantastical region whose boundaries are that of imagination.
You’ve now entered…
The Plumbob Zone.
“Mickey, are you coming to bed?”
With a dreamy sigh, Chloe’s boyfriend closed his novelty cooking-skill book, To Serve Man. Since moving into their first apartment, he’d been determined to cook like a real adult.
“Always at the bookshelf,” she teased. “A grown man who reads doggerel.”
That earned an eyeroll. “You think it’s a waste of time?”
“Nothing that has me doing less chores is a waste of time.” She patted his pillow. “But interrupting my sleep is. C’mon.”
“If you insist.”
Subject: a one Mr. Mickey Blake.
A mediocre man, a prisoner in his own body. A despicable ball content to being knocked around in the pachinko machine of the universe.
What Mr. Blake does not yet know, and what you soon will, is that he is about to cross a barrier few Sims venture to believe exists. When his dream ends, he will find himself in that class of nightmare that only occurs in…
The Plumbob Zone.
Daylight washed over Mickey, who awoke to a full bladder. He rolled over to greet Chloe.
Involuntarily, he shrieked, sending Chloe into a panic. “Mickey! What? What’s wrong?!”
One shaky finger indicated the source of his bemusement. What information the balloon conveyed was not new, but its existence was what worried him. “What’s that above your head?”
“What’s what?” She looked around, finding nothing. The way she reached for his arm felt more animatronic than comforting.
“I should go,” he said, stumbling backwards out of bed.
He reached the bathroom. Against his better judgement, he looked in the mirror and let out his second shriek of the morning.
His hands passed right through it. Then he sensed something new: he was being watched by a second pair of eyes.
The Watcher is real.
Remembering what had initially roused him, and what the morning’s startle had not relieved, Mickey glanced behind at the toilet. Not now; not under this entity’s gaze. Needing to confirm his suspicion, he ran outside.
Everyone had boxes. Not just the men, but the women and the children too.
And Mickey found he could hold it in no longer.
“Look at what you made me do,” he told the sky, “are you happy?! Are you?!”
Children laughed as their parents shooed them away from the screaming man in the puddle.
Prophet Mickey had lost track of how long ago the boxes appeared.
It consumed him day and night, but he learned to live with the invasion. Tents and bushes felt safer from gazing eyes than real beds and toilets.
At first, he’d tried to warn as many others as possible. But popping out of a tent did nothing for his credibility, and few took self-declared prophets seriously—least of all Chloe, she’d—
Then it absorbed him. The sublime glow the ancient texts fell short of describing. A beacon. And as it caught his third eye, he understood why he’d been granted this power.
He grabbed the stranger who carried the most sacred icon.
“You bear the mark. You’ve been Chosen.”
The man wrenched himself from Mickey’s unwashed hands. “Get off of me.”
“Wait! Wait!” He gestured at the spinning mark. “The Watcher put me here to warn you. You’ve been chosen, and you’re blessed—“
“—I don’t believe in—“
“—or cursed. But! Either way, they control your mind from the inside.”
“So you’re the only one who understands the Watcher’s intentions. Alright.” He lunged left.
But Mickey blocked his path. “I can prove it! We’ve never met, and I know you’re Xiyuan Liu! It’s in that box over your head!”
“And? I’m a public figure.”
This didn’t deter Mickey. “But there’s other things that don’t make sense, like—like the pause when you enter a new location. Isn’t that weird?”
Xiyuan shrugged. “Is it?”
“Stop.” Xiyuan raised his voice. “What, exactly, do you hope to achieve by telling me this?”
“I was put here to warn you. I knew it the minute I saw you.”
“This is nonsense. What recourse would I have against being controlled? What good has this knowledge done you?”
“But you have—“
“And if the watcher is controlling us, is this conversation predetermined? Have you been created only to fail?”
At this, Xiyuan pushed past him and ran off.
“You—you fool!” Mickey yelled after him. “You learn the secrets of your universe, only to reject them!”
The glow faded into the background.
And so, who is more foolish?
The pawn in his own story, or the king in someone else’s?
These questions one would only think to ask in the library board game rental that is…
The Plumbob Zone.