Colors of Dissonance (pt. 2)
Mark leans his head back, his phone making a dent in his hand as he squeezes it tightly inside his pocket. He could call the cops. Maybe Sean needs help…
But he decides against it, for now.
“Alright. You have my attention.”
Sean nods gratefully and starts playing with the corded bracelets on his wrists. “It started not long after our collab video, actually. I got so many subscribers…” Sean smirks, more to himself than anything. “I thought that things were really looking up fer me.” Something dark passes over his eyes, almost as if for the briefest moment, Sean becomes a different person. “But then the headaches started.”
Mark swallows and turns his eyes towards the floor, hoping Sean doesn’t notice the quiet gasp that he gives. Chica presses against his legs worriedly, and Mark rests his hand on the dog’s head affectionately.
“I never missed an upload. Never. I was always so proud of that stupid schedule…” Sean starts to pace in front of the wall of windows, glancing out them occasionally as if he expects something to be there. “The headaches started out to be not so bad, but then they happened over and over. And after a while I couldn’t…” He’s worked himself up into a fury, and now he tugs at the collar of his shirt and pushes his hands through his hair in frustration. “I couldn’t…”
Mark rushes over to the obviously distressed young man and tries to comfort him, but Sean draws a knife. “Don’t t̮̩̗o̷͉u̳̙̜̤̘̜c͜h̷͉ me!”
Mark jumps back as the man’s voice becomes layered with pops of static and glitches. “Woah, woah! Okay!” He raises his hands to either side of his head and wishes for a moment that he’d called someone to help him.
Sean points the knife in Mark’s face. “I couldn’t tell what was real anymore! When I woke up from the game, it was still going on around me! Over and o̤̺̪͖̯̬͙v͏e͔͖͡r̲̹!” Sean giggles and jerks his head to either side uncontrollably, and Mark backs up into the wall of glass. “Then when I tried to speak up—tell other people—they tried to ḳ̵ͅiļ͉̩̘̤l̫ ̝̞̮͚̫̻m͈͓̘̘͍͇̺e̢̹̺̝͖! So I let them think they’d succeeded…”
“Sean… what about… wh-what about Signe?” Mark watches as Sean’s face crumbles from the nightmarish, giggling creature before him back into the young, Irishman that Mark had met before.
He draws in on himself, dropping the knife and putting his head in hands. “She can’t know that I’m alive.” His electric blue eyes find Mark’s again, and this time, they’re filled with tears. “What if they hurt her?”
Mark furrows his brow, unsure of so many things and certain of only one. He wants to help Sean, if he can. “Who is this ‘they’? And what do you mean that they tried to kill you? You were in an accident…”
Sean shakes his head. “It wasn’t an accident, Mark. It was Corporate.” Mark squints. ‘Corporate’ is the name all YouTubers use for the company’s legal and business side. Mark’s channel, all his videos and those of all other Tubers are merely one side to the coin.
“You’re saying Corporate was afraid you’d start telling people that the Tubes gave you those headaches, that it made you lose your sense of reality, so they staged a car wreck?” Mark drags a hand over his face and tries to process what he’s being told. Corporate certainly wasn’t his favorite part of the job. Sometimes the faceless company could be demanding and legalistic, but would they really try to kill someone?
But if Sean really has lost touch with reality, what’s to keep him from dreaming up this whole story in the first place?
Mark sighs. “Sean, what about I call someone? Maybe if you get some help…” Mark reaches for the younger man’s arm, but he pulls away violently.
“I don’t n̻͇̤̣e̞͠ed̬ ̸ą̭͖͓̪͕̲ny̠͍͚͈͈̭͟ ̫̠̫̤͓̼́ͅh̫̳̮͎͖e̻̝͖̺͉̲l҉̙p͎͎̫̦̳̰͜!̯͓̼͕ͅ”
Sean struggles away from Mark but trips over Chica who runs over at the last moment, and when he falls, he hits his head against a table with a sickening crack! Mark kneels at his side when Sean doesn’t move and sees that he’s knocked himself out.
He reaches for his phone again to call the police. Sean needs attention from
someone who can help his delusions, but if what he said is true… Mark glances
down at the young man’s pale face. He’s gaunt, and there are gray bags beneath
his eyes like he hasn’t slept in ages. And it makes Mark’s heart twist up in a knot.
Will Mark call the police? or keep Sean’s presence a secret?
(By the way, we’re going to try voting exclusively by replying to this post please!)