Blood Sweat and Glitter
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"So, what're you working on?"

Cornelius Młynarczyk let out a small yelp, spilling coloured beads across his work-surface and onto the faded lilac tiles. With a pointed glare towards the occupant of the opposite desk, he swept what little he could into a small plastic bag, and placed it to one side. The man who had spoken grinned sheepishly.

"Sorry! It looked interesting, and I haven't really talked to anyone since they moved me up here. Though it'd be good to build up a friendly working relationship, y'know? My name's Tango Matelli." He thrust a hand through the forest of stationery and tools that separated them. "Pleased to meetcha."

Cornelius pinched the bridge of his nose and groaned inwardly. On his desk, a small plastic flower vibrated as its sunny yellow face began to redden with anger. Professionalism, right. He forced the widest smile he could muster, and began the arduous trek through small-talk that would no-doubt eventually leave him stranded and alone in the mires of conversation.

"Oh, it's… nothing, really. Just a little side-project while I wait for my next big pitch to go through."

The conversationalist furrowed his brow and withdrew his unshaken hand. Not one to be deterred, his cheerful demeanour quickly returned, and he tried a different tack. "Well, it certainly looks better than what I've got!"

Cornelius wasn't looking. Perhaps, thought Tango, he didn't quite understand. By way of demonstration, Tango held up a painted wooden boat whose sails rippled softly in the building's windless air.

"It's a ship, you see. I wanted it to make you — that is, the kid — feel like you were actually there. Sailing, I mean. It's, um, not quite working out."

Without waiting for a response, he reached out and placed the boat on Cornelius' desk. Instinctively, Cornelius moved to return it, and in doing so brushed his fingers lightly against the sail. What he saw…


Was water, stretching out in all directions. All directions — there was water above and below him, too; a thousand sea-surface planes arranged in a chaotic, intersecting shimmer. He tried to turn, and felt his body pass simultaneously in and out of a hundred different oceans, the irregular buoyancy pulling him off-balance and sending him spinning into…

Well, there definitely wasn't anything that could have been called a 'sun' before, but now there was even less so. The water was darkening in places, replacing pleasant streams of sunlight with cold, churning depths. Attempts to float up were met with sensations of bubbles rising up (or down, perhaps. Maybe backwards, or starboard? He couldn't tell any more) past him as he descended (or not) through the layers of abyss.

He stayed there, sinking slowly into innumerable depths, for quite some time before he realised he wasn't breathing. And once he noticed it, it became a much more pressing urge. No longer did the icy water filling his lungs feel natural; now it was unfamiliar, alien, and dangerous. He gagged and spluttered, trying to force his body to draw air in from somewhere, anywhere other than this place, this nightmare of a dreamscape, this-

Wait. Nightmare. It wasn't real, of course it wasn't real. He was an idiot for not noticing sooner, but isn't that always the way with dreams? It was clearly an induced hallucination. That bloody boat. But at least it meant that this was his mind, beneath all the poorly rendered saltwater. He was in control. With no small amount of effort Cornelius relaxed his chest, closing his eyes and letting his body drift into warmer, tropical pools. The fractures in the water were aligning now, blending together into a single solid body, through which he could ascend, and ascend, and-

Dunnn-dun.

Cornelius blinked. Excuse me, he thought to himself, whose mind is this? Did I say a thought like this could happen? A pause. No, I bloody well didn't.

Dunnn-dun.

Listen, thought, I don't know who you are or what you're doing in my head, but you're nasty and intrusive and you need to leave. Besides, those statistics are all wildly exaggerated. There's nothing you can do that'll make me scared of-

Dunnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun-

Oh bollocks.

Dunnnn dunnnn!

And then he was eaten by a shark.


After a depressingly long while of watching Cornelius make vague swimming motions at his desk, Tango fetched a nearby patrolling Totem, which (after a lot of trial and error) managed to reverse the effect enough for Cornelius to regain the majority of his mental faculties. After the poor man had finished vomiting saltwater, and Tango had finished apologising profusely to anybody who happened to be passing, the two were docked a shift's pay and returned to their stations.

Fifteen minutes passed without a sound. The rest of the workshop was locked in a kind of rigid second-hand tension, and Tango felt an extreme disinclination to tamper with his project. Cornelius set about painstakingly replacing the three-hundred and twelve beads that had been dislodged earlier. All was silent, saving maybe an occasional cough, or the soft whirr of a belt sander.

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