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My father is a painter. It’s his long-time hobby. I recall him painting for as long as I can remember. His paintings are mostly desert-like landscapes. Sometimes the pieces include dark humanoid creatures, other times they don’t. In one of his paintings, probably my favorite one of his; there’s this huge sea of sand with various oddly shaped stone structures dotting the landscape with this massive red half circle taking up almost the entire background. Like a massive and beautiful sunset. He has a whole gallery set up at his place, to be honest. As a child, I recall asking him why did he keep painting these desert locations, and each type he had answered, telling me it’s the landscape of a place he had once been to. Being a kid mesmerized by his father's painting skills, I didn’t question it too much. As of today, the story’s different.

I have a feeling my father is a painter whose inspiration is otherworldly.

Literally otherworldly, not as a wordplay or an exaggeration. I think my old man has been to another world, or dimension, or a universe or something. I don’t even know how to call that. Or at least he saw some otherworldly place, first hand.

I was recently discharged from the military, and soon after returning to civilian life I’ve realized I needed a break from the stressful life in a bustling city. That’s when I asked my father for the keys to our summer cottage. That’s where I am now. Everything is great here; it’s quiet and scenic. I go fishing or rather napping, by the pond close to the cottage and the best thing about this place is that there’s nobody here to disturb me. I really needed that break from people. I needed that alone.

This morning I opted to go for a bike ride, but when I set foot in the garage a bunch of boxes caught my attention. Letting my attention deficit take control of me, I forgot my original mission in there and dug straight through the boxes. Most of them contained nothing important or interesting; old photo albums; unused and forgotten utensils and tools and even some shoes.

There was one box that contained something interesting; it was a helmet of sorts. I can’t really say it was a motorcycle helmet exactly. It looked like a weirdly painted Red Hood helmet. The comics character, Red Hood. It had this futuristic look with no facial features and two eye holes. Other than a dent for the nose, there was nothing spectacular about this helmet. Well, maybe aside from the way it was colored; black in the back, white in the front and red markings over the eye-holes. Looking at the thing, I realized it had to be opened somehow, otherwise, it’s impossible to wear the thing. So, I poked and prodded at it for a couple of moments before my finger hit a button where an ear should be and a part of the backside opened up, making space for a head to fit in.

It looked cool, so; me being me; I decided to wear the thing, and that’s when things went weird.

The moment I locked the backside of the helmet around the back of my neck, my vision became blurred and the room spun distorting my vision. I blinked a few times, thinking the helmet might’ve been a little too tight making me dizzy but my vision remained distorted.

“What the fuck…” I muttered to myself as I felt a heat wave hit my body front in front of me causing me to close my eyes for a second.

The moment I opened them up again, I wanted to throw up; I felt as if someone had punched me in the gut really hard. I stood there motionless, speechless, with the thoughts distorted in my head.

It was as if I was submerged under water and everything around me seemed fuzzy and sounded diluted.

What I saw in front of me was breathtakingly beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Just like looking at a fire, you know it’s beautiful but you won’t touch it because you know it’ll hurt like a motherfucker. That’s exactly how I’ve felt when I saw that I was standing in the middle of a desert.

I found myself standing in the middle of what I can only describe as an endless sea of sand dunes and geometrically impossible stones.

I swear some of these stones looked as if someone took some sort of liquid, threw it into space and petrified it immediately forming these oddly shaped stones. At least that’s what I think these structures were. I’m not even sure if these were actual stones.

None of it made any sense; one moment I was in my garage and the other I’m in this desert location. Something had to be wrong. Could I be hallucinating? I ran my hands across my body and much to my delight everything was in place. I could even feel the sweat soaking my clothes, even though it was a rather cool morning, I wasn't supposed to be sweating.

I turned around, and a blinking red light met my eyes. It was so bright I felt as if someone shot a flare gun straight at me. The sudden luminescence was so painful I dropped to my knees, gripping my head all over. Not to mention that the head suddenly went from bad to outright unbearable. Running my hands over the helmet, I clicked on the button that opened it up and pushed it off myself.

The dizzying feeling returned, and I found myself back inside the cottage garage, kneeling on the floor as the helmet rolled on the floor.

With thoughts racing through my mind; was I losing my shit, or was this helmet something else, hell, I thought this thing might have some hallucinogenic mold inside or something, some sort of mind-bending paint, I don't even know. There was absolutely no way what I had seen was true. 

It couldn't be. I mean, that's freaking impossible. 

In my confused state, I reached for the thing again and inspected it inside and out. There had to be something about this helmet that made me see what I’d seen. There’s no way I just imagined all of that. I was sweaty and heaving because of the perceived heat of a desert.

I got back to my feet and looked around in the boxes, hoping perhaps to find some clue what this helmet is. Amidst my frantic search I found an older painting of my father’s; that same desert landscape he always painted with a man in it. He was painted to look like he was wearing all black, all but a tri-colored helmet on his head. One that looked exactly like the one next to me.

That’s when it hit me; whatever this thing was, my father drew his inspiration from the things he saw in this thing.

I got a little startled, thinking about my old man possibly doing drugs or inhaling chemicals, but he wasn't that kind of person, he is more of a straight guy, eventually, my curiosity overcame common sense, and I reached for seemingly magical headdress. Placing it over my dome once again, I muttered, “here goes nothing.” As I locked the helmet around my head. Dizziness.

And there I was again, in that desert world, this time, however, the scenery was slightly different. I was in what seemed like the outskirts of a ruined city. I could make out chunks of building sticking out of the sand. Looking around, I realized why the first time I was blasted on my ass by a heat wave.

Wherever whatever this place was; there was a huge sun covering most of its sky. The whole place was a dead sand ball long consumed by the heat of a fiery sphere that was forcing me to find cover. I almost felt bad for the place, it there was anything living on that sand ball, it was probably long dead.

The scorching ball of fire in the sky above me was even hotter this time. I could see the surrounding air heat in a way it appeared to dance all around me in a macabre apocalyptic scene that made me slightly fearful. Not knowing my limitations in this place, I ran towards what seemed to be a more exposed part of the ruins. My steps sounded like I was walking on something gooey. I didn't want to look down and find my shoes melting off so I just kept on running towards what I had assumed to be a cooler location.

When I was close enough to what appeared to be abandoned buildings, I’ve noticed some movement, I could see shadows moving around, humanly shaped shadows. Figuring this place wasn't as devoid of life as I had thought before, I pressed forward and watched people or some sort of humanoid beings walking around. They were in fact, shadow people, or rather, beings made up of a shadowy substance. Trying to figure out whether they were hostile, I approached them ruffled some sand beneath my feet.

They never reacted.

I called out, “Hey!”

No response.

A chill ran down my whole body at that moment, and I turned to my left.

One of them had passed right through me.

I stood there, motionless for a moment, trying to process the whole ordeal, I couldn’t make any sense of what I was experiencing.

It's like a ghost had passed through me, I shuttered at the notion.

I was a spectator specter in their world, or they were ghosts or something, maybe they were even just visions conjured within the helmet. Something was wrong with this whole thing and I’m not sure I wanted to know what but I couldn’t make myself get the damned thing off. It just tapped into something inside of me. It made me want to stick around for longer.

I did.

I walked around, looking around at the sunken buildings, swallowed by merciless desert and these shadowy figures were walking around aimlessly.

I stopped and stared at a few of them for a while; they were walking around, acting like they were conversing and then suddenly they ran. Surprised, I followed their path; they seemed to be screaming at each other as they ran. The oddest part about that was how slow they had moved even though they were running. I didn’t even have to pick up my pace to follow.

Eventually, one of them fell and convulsed on the ground, the others turned around to look at their fallen friend, their body language gave out the fact that the fall of their comrade upset them. Then the rest of them fell one after the other. In a very familiar way. Their bodies twisted and turned on their way to the ground in a way akin to a human being shot.

I knew this kind of thing, obviously, I had left the military once my contract ran out because of what I can sum up as “battle fatigue.”

That’s when I realized that these things must've been a reenactment of something.

Something sinister.

I was about to take off the helmet for good; I didn’t want to stick around to see any more horrors but a cold chill ran through my body again; I felt as if someone had poured cold water all over me. Distracted, I put my hands down to see that another shadowy figure passed straight through me.

He walked a few steps forward before making a stabbing motion to his own neck area and dropping to the ground like a lead weight.

Suicide, I suppose.

Whatever brought these people to their end, it was terrible.

I couldn’t watch any more of that, it was too much to bear, I didn't want to see that kind of crap ever again in my life, I've had enough of that. So, I turned away from the fallen shadowy figure, unwilling to face his actions, I was about to take my helmet off again but I didn’t when I saw a dark hand make its way out of another shadowy figure; it was followed a pitch black and featureless head coming out with a black body to match. It slowly made its way out of the shadowy figure mesmerizing me with its jerking movements as it crawled out of the apparition. I wanted to move, but I couldn't, my brain didn't let me. There was no fear, however, only awe at the sight unfolding before me. Once it was fully materialized, it resembled a black mannequin dressed in black pants and a thick black raincoat.

The thing got up to his feet and marched straight at me, thinking it was another apparition I just stood there, watching it come at me. It swung its clenched fist.

I thought it will pass right through me.

I felt something hard hit the side of my head.

Pain surged through my skull, disorienting me, forcing me a few steps back. Before I even realized it hit me, another punch landed in my solar plexus. Dropping me to my knees.

Out of breath, I was cursing under my breath, battered and confused I tried making sense of what just happened but I felt a rough knee connect with my chest sending me staggering backward again.

The faceless thing was charging at me. I was trying to regain my senses and began swinging almost automatically.

I connected with its body, but my blows did nothing.

It wouldn’t budge, it didn’t feel a bloody thing.

Hitting this thing felt as If I was hitting some sort of plastic.

The thing landed a vicious uppercut on me, sending me on my ass before it grabbed hold of my head.

Visions flooded my mind, visions of a prosperous futuristic society in a beautiful world, it seemed like a perfect place to be in. From this beautiful scenery, my perspective was shifted to a room filled with shining beings screaming at each other in a language my brain couldn’t even comprehend. From there my perspective was shifted to that of a battlefield where shining beings were eradicating one another with some plasma producing machines, they literally turned one another to fucking dust with those. I saw the group from before; they were running; they were different, more human than the shining beings, yet not quite human. They were shot with these plasma machines too, but it only made holes in them. A war that was a war. All too familiar, all too painful to watch.

I screamed at my tormentor to stop showing me these visions as I thrashed my body around, I didn't want to see any of that. I couldn't handle this kind of thing anymore. The thing completely ignored my screaming and its grip was strong enough to keep me pinned down no matter how hard I tried to get free. 

I could feel my blood reaching a boiling point, I could feel the cortisol rushing through my arteries. It's a feeling I can only describe like waves of cold water running through my body and setting me alight internally. 

I had entered full-blown fight moment when my perspective was shifted once more, this time I was in a laboratory watching capsules in which mannequin-like things were contained. Then my perspective shifted once more back to the battlefield, I was this massive spaceship thing shooting some sort of energy blast into the sky. I kept on trying to get free from that thing.

My perspective shifted again. I was staring at the sky from a rooftop in a futuristic city; the sky was growing redder by the second. I could see the sun growing closer and closer. I could feel the heat getting worse and worse. Until I felt myself catch fire. I felt the searing pain of my skin catching fire before my perspective was shifted back to that thing that had assaulted me.

It let go of my head and straightened up, staring down at me. I assume that’s what it was doing anyway, then it turned and pointed at the stellar fire ball behind me. I looked up feeling the light blinding me once again.

That’s when it hit me. This thing showed me the end of this planet; they fucked up; they fucked up badly. They’ve killed themselves in a sort of suicidal war pulling themselves closer to the star that their planetary system orbited.

Sadness became mixed with violent anger and I felt myself shake on the ground. The thing, uncaring, pointed at me and I heard a choir of deep, guttural voices roar inside my head, “m…y… f… a… c… e…”

The sound made me squirm in pain; it felt as if someone had stabbed me in my eardrums. At least I think I knew what this motherfucker wanted; it wanted the helmet. I had smirked under the layers of plastic and metal covering my face at the realization of a simple fact; If I take this thing off, I should be safe away from this mannequin looking asshole, based on my previous experience taking the helmet off.

“You want, there you go!” I said before clicking on the button at the side of the helmet before quickly tossing it away in sheer spite. Before the desert world dissipated into nothing and I found myself laying on the floor of the garage, I saw that thing make a run for it. The Helmet was a few feet away from me and surprisingly my body wasn't hurting anymore.

Fucker will never have it as long as I have this thing off… That’s what I hope at least.

Now I’ve been sitting here for the last couple of hours, worn out by my internal stress induced emotional volcano, contemplating whether I should call my father to tell him I know that he’s a painter with an otherworldly source of inspiration or not. I'm not even sure what should bother me more; the fact that there are living, alien beings out there, the sad fact that they are that are eerily similar to us in their self-destructive ways or that my dad basically owns a gate to their worlds.

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