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Clarity

Erica L. Satifka's fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine, Shimmer, Nature, and many other places. This is her sixth appearance in Daily Science Fiction. She lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon with her husband Rob and too many cats. Visit her online at ericasatifka.com.
Today they turned the fog off.
At the office, no work gets done. We walk around holding up paperclips and staplers, rotating them in front of our faces. We smile like Cheshire cats and skip down the halls. In the wake of clarity, we become schoolchildren.
"It's like you're seeing things for the first time," my co-worker Serena says, eyes glazed over with wonder.
"I know," I say, stroking my beard, feeling the fuzz. I return to my cubicle and throw everything in my desk drawer onto the blotter.
This is a Post-It Note, I think. This is a pen almost out of ink. This is a dead fly. I turn the objects over and over until my fingers rub them smooth. The fly disintegrates at my touch, but the other objects stay solid and real.
The boss lets us leave early. As I cross the park on my way to the bus stop, I walk past a circle of six people, all staring directly at the sun.
"We've never seen it before," they say as the paramedics lead them away. The blinded people stumble around like damaged machinery.
"And you'll never see it again," one of the medics replies with a shake of his head. He doesn't appear sad, though. No one does.
Still, life goes on. My wife cooks our usual Tuesday meal of baked chicken and roasted vegetables. The food bursts in my mouth in flavors of bitter and sweet while the clock marks out its endless passage. My wife has dressed herself in the new colors we're all starting to see again, and I don't have the heart to tell her that they clash. She just seems so happy wearing them.
"The kids are asleep in the back yard," she says. That's what we call our dogs.
"I'll go check on them." I rise, pulling the napkin from my collar and tossing it on the table. I pause for a moment, transfixed by the napkin's motion, the slight shush it makes when it hits the plate.
Outside, the rain patters into my beard. I tug at it, feeling the crinkly-soft steel wool, and grin. I nudge the kids awake. Their long pink tongues loll from their mouths and their brown fur is velvet against my palm.
"Come on now," I say, "inside." Do they detect the change in the world, the changes in us?
That night I turn and toss in my sleep, and when I get to the office I can tell that nobody else has slept well either. Bags line everyone's eyes, and when I go to the bathroom I see they shadow mine as well.
"What did you see?" Serena asks.
"Just shapes," I say. But the next night, they show up stronger, and I can see they're not "just" shapes at all.
I skip work that day, because I've been up all night with the kids. They've been howling through the night, muzzles pointed to the Bible-black sky. When I go out to lure them inside, my own violent dreams broken by their wolfish bellowing, I can detect the movement of airplanes through the dark, tracing invisible contrails across the stratosphere.
"What are you yelling about? They're just planes." But they're only animals, and can't respond.
I am not a very good father.
Memories surface throughout the day like the bubbling-up of a contaminated water source. My wife shuts down completely, a wax mannequin lying on the threadbare couch.
Outside, the streets are desolate and disused. A pair of blue eyes looks out from behind a set of warped shutters. When they see me, the shutter closes with a snap.
"What did I do?" I say to the closest kid. It's now fully a dog, has never been anything but a dumb animal, and we were wrong to think otherwise. I shut the door in its face.
In the living room, my wife is sitting up, wrapped in a blanket, a bottle of scotch at her feet. I take a pull myself and lay down beside her, and when I wake up, I feel like something both more and less than human.
I miss the gray sky. I miss the cotton in my head. This is an egg, I think as I whip up a quick breakfast. This is coffee. This is bacon. My wife's little cries of pain echo through the bedroom door.
They're turning the fog back on next Wednesday, and we're all looking forward to it.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, April 6th, 2015


The prompt for this story was the phrase "what's behind the cloud?" I guess this story is kind of a metaphor for the comfort you can find when you deny your emotions, and the pain that can surface when they're finally acknowledged.

- Erica L. Satifka

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