Shipwreck in Progress
1100 words long
Details are hard to make out. Turning on the lights won't help. Besides, when would the paint have had time to dry?
Notes from the author:
A zoetrope is a kind of pre-film contraption that creates the illusion of animation via a rapid sequence of progressive images. The original zoetropes were cylindrical. You spun them, and while they were spinning, you looked through slits in the sides at the "moving" pictures printed on the inner walls. Modern zoetropes might create a similar effect with the linear motion of subway cars passing pictures viewed through a slitted wall, or strobe lights carefully timed to illuminate images on a rotating surface.
If you had a picture that changed so slowly that passersby catching sight of it randomly over the years might not even realize it was changing, you might call that a "slow-a-trope."
The day after Rhys helped bury his father, the mural changed again. At least, that was when he noticed. It might have changed weeks before; he couldn't be sure.
He could be sure of this much, however: it had definitely changed. He had his own word on it, in his own handwriting, down in black and white in the pages of his journal. It was an old-fashioned habit, journaling, but he was prey to thoughts that didn't bear publicizing on blogs or Facebook, and it calmed him to write them down. "It's changed. I'm sure of it. I had to stare at it too often, growing up, to be mistaken. The number was always 36. But now it says 35. How can that be possible?"
The mural was simultaneously garish and shadowy: a black-prowed ship pitched low upon lashing waves, its helmsman staring out of the paint with a terror in his eyes that the viewer couldn't help but share. Other eyes glowed beneath the surface of the sea, eyes and the flash of fins on the backs of beasts better left a mystery. The sky above the sail was aswirl with abstract yet oppressive designs. Mostly these spiraled about in charcoal or indigo, but here or there a slash of gray-orange suggested violence done to the heavens. Lightning, perhaps. A divine blow cast as punishment for some incomprehensible sin.
This was a lot to make of a simple mural, admittedly. And it was impossible to stand back and examine the whole thing at once, as you might in an art museum; the hall was too narrow and the mural too huge. But Rhys had had time, and no choice.
"No one believes me, not even Darren, and he's the only other witness left now that Mom's dead and Da's mind's gone wandering. He says he never paid the mural much attention. Why should he? Da never made him sit in the hall and stare at it like he did me. Being the younger brother must be nice.
"Anyway, Darren says what I'm seeing is impossible, and that it's more likely I'm experiencing something he calls the Mandela effect. He sent me a link. It's all about how convincing a false memory can be. But I can't be remembering this wrong, not given how much time I spent staring at that number...."
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for May 22, 2015. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1100 words) from Patreon in PDF or MP3 format depending on their pledge tier.
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