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Selective Perception

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I’m not a superstitious person. At least, not usefully superstitious. I only believed in ghosts and demons when it was entertaining to do so. When my mind really came down to it, I believed that there was a logical reason for any problem I did have. I didn’t really know what to do with myself or my, condition, until it was too late.

I’ll try to explain myself, starting from my earliest memory.

When I was about six, the doctor discovered I had numerous sight problems. Nearsightedness, farsightedness, deuternopia, I’m surprised now that I didn’t just develop cataracts with my 80 year-old eyes. Some adjustments and corrective lenses later, and most of my problems were solved. That, except for sometimes I couldn’t see people.

It had happened on the optometrist visit right before they ordered my new eyeglasses. He was explaining what glasses would be like, how they would be perfect for school and to be careful not to break them, when she vanished. I don’t mean that she left the room in a hurry, or that my vision blacked out. She was just there one second, and gone the next. It was like a magic trick, and I almost ran my hand through the air where she was when I heard a snapping sound. It was the doctor, snapping to get my attention. She was right where she was before, sitting at her desk. She chuckled a bit, and said that I must really need those glasses if all I could do was stare right through her. The sensation of bewilderment lasted for a few seconds, before the doctor escorted me out of her office and back to my parents. That was the only time I ever told my parents about my experience. Not surprisingly, they joked about a superstitious force and then never gave it another thought.

For a number of years, the problem never cropped up. School was boring, and up until sixth grade I caused as much mayhem as I could to make the time go by faster. I was an annoying little shit, which is probably why no one believed me when it happened again. I was with a good friend, Stacie. We had snuck off during one of the classes to sit and talk in the soccer field. It didn’t seem like a lot of fun, but I had such a large crush on Stacie that I would have done anything she asked me. We were just talking, and I turned my head away from her. She fell silent, and I turned back to find her gone, just like the doctor. The grass was still flattened from where she sat, so I thought she might have ran off. Looking around, I didn’t see her and panicked. I thought about all the warnings about wandering off and getting abducted and thought the worst. I started to run back to the school when she grabbed my arm. She was suddenly there again, and looked at me like I had grown a third eye. I tried to tell her what had happened. She laughed me off. I guess she thought it was some lame excuse for getting cold feet about skipping. Later in the day, our friends had reacted the same way. I thought about it for a few days before finally dismissing it as just this weird moment that I’d never get a real explanation for.

Last night, just getting out of my eleventh year of high school. I was so damn excited to spend my 90 days doing absolutely nothing, I didn’t even notice it until the third time it happened. I had been listening to a favorite podcast of mine, when I heard it. One of the persons in the discussion had been silent for the last half an hour. Curious, I listened a bit closer. Sure enough, one of them just stopped talking, and switching tabs showed an empty chair where he would have sat. Had he left and I just didn’t realize it? I tried rewinding the video back, and got an error message from Youtube. The feeling of bewilderment formed in my stomach again when I reloaded the video.

No, that wasn’t right. The video forwarded to the point I was at, and he was sitting in that chair. Going back in the video proved that he never left, and was just as involved with the argument going on as everyone else. The comments of the video showed that no one else had experienced the same thing I did. I thought back to those two events, where people had just vanished. I suddenly felt uncomfortable as I contemplated what this could mean. I couldn’t shake the feeling of dread that it all gave me, and later tried to talk about it with my father. He didn’t really understand what I was saying, but did mention that I could try talking to the family doctor again. I called, and was told that I would have to book an appointment for next month, as she was full until mid-July. I hesitated making an appointment, and eventually just told myself that I would call the doctor if I had any more problems with whatever was going on.

So, I guess I should have seen this coming, the logical conclusion to my problem. My father disappeared that day, as soon as I hung up the phone. For whatever reason, I waited until my mother got home instead of calling anyone else. I had to know for myself, had to see what was happening to me. I kept my eyes directly on her as she walked through the kitchen, never once mentioning Dad. That was the first time I felt it. She vanished in front of me alright, but not like the others. I blinked, and felt a strange loneliness. Like I hadn’t been talking to her, but reliving a memory of her. They haven’t come back since then. Using my phone doesn’t help; I either can’t hear anyone on the other line, or they can’t seem to hear me. The internet only works in bits and pieces now, scattered comments on a popular post that doesn’t exist, videos devoid of sound or people trending on a website that looks like it's barely running.

Like I said, I’m not a superstitious person. As much as I’d like to believe that there’s some supernatural phenomenon ruining my life, I can’t bring myself to do it. The only answer I have left is that of psychosis. I mean, that’s the only thing that makes sense. I’m imagining it? There’s no one to tell me otherwise, because everyone’s gone. I don’t know why I’m even bothering to write this anymore. There are sleeping pills that Mom used to take, they never got thrown away. I just need some sleep, just enough for one night.

I’ve stopped seeing my own reflection. Turning on the news just shows me empty seats and stale music, and a blank ticker at the bottom of the screen. All the other channels are the same, except for the Animal Planet. I’ve been leaving it on for sound, looking at the swarms of animals and occasional natural disaster. Eyes are blurring, think I broke my glasses. There’s no more pills. I wish I saw anything out of the corner of my eye, but it’s always empty. I’m so tired, I’m not even sure why I’m still writing this, but I know it has to stop somewhere. So maybe you’ll all see me tomorrow.

Hopefully, I’ll see you too.

No one should have to bury a loved one. He sighed as he rested against his son’s casket, closed. He had seethed and cried too much today, but it was the only thing he could do. The coroners had cleaned him up well, but he still couldn’t look at the permanently pained expression on his son’s face. He regretted how careless he was, how he hadn’t really thought about it at all.

Should have listened, should have been more cautious. The same “should have”s that followed the loss of his own wife all those years ago. Darkly, he wondered how long it would be until he followed them into wherever they went. He didn’t think he’d ever know what they saw.

He moved back, and the casket started to lower. He seethed yet again, at those who showed up to the funeral. He grit his teeth, he could already hear what they were going to say later.

“In a way, it does make sense.”

“It must have really taken a toll on him.”

“It’s not as surprising when you think about it.”

“At least there’s a body this time.”

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