Outside Perspective
rating: +19+x

"I don't think I can keep this up."

Around me, there were decorations and lights that weren't here the night before; dancing skeletons, stitched-up steins, and bedsheet ghosts. Little paper cut-outs that I used to love as a child; paper cut-outs that now strike me as a sign that reality isn't the way it's intended to be. No one put them up last night. They just showed up.

Merriment was sounding in the break room; maybe they were cheering in the offices too. Everyone was happy. Oblivious.

Lucky.

The man beside me just shook his head, "It's a lot to take in."

"It isn't terrible." I tried to smile. "They could be suffering. They could be dying. Instead- they're just celebrating some holiday."

"In another world, they are suffering. I think you're forgetting that. This isn't the only world. Dozens of-"

"Yeah. Yeah, I get it." I sighed, walking forward to peer into a random break room. "Dozens of iterations. Maybe hundreds. Can't I just focus on this one?"

"Don't interrupt me again," was all Morrow said.

In the break room, personnel in lab coats and roughed-up work clothes were clamoring over their daily cups of joe. They jeered at silly photos of costumed peers and conversed over just how putrid the Wednesday macaroni was at lunch. I remembered sitting in that room.

If I focused hard enough, I could see myself sitting beside my friend on the hardwood floor. Coffee cups clinked against one another. Lab coats were stained, laughs were had, and normalcy seemed almost attainable.

I missed sitting in this room.

"Answer me, Morrow. For God's sake-"

"No," he interrupted. "You don't. You don't get to stay in one world. You can't just focus on a single moment. They never last that long."

A coffee cup hit the floor, splintering into shards of purple ceramic. Coffee pooled and curses were spewed as a result. It was Remy that cleaned the mess, someone who probably doesn't remember me anymore.

My old friend.

"Then this will all be over soon? Remy will be over soon?"

"That is the reality for us," he explained. "For you."

The coffee was finally cleaned up, just in time for the room to clear out. This round of breaks was over. The workers bottlenecked their way out of the break room, rushing down the halls back to their offices and labs.

I thought that Remy looked back for a moment.

Holy shit did it sting.

"Morrow- why me?" I pleaded. "Why the fuck was it me?"

"What do you mean?"

I stepped up to him, meeting his abnormally cold eyes with a passion born of slowly boiling anger. "I'm not supposed to be here! I'm supposed to be dead. Deleted. Not standing here with you while reality screws itself to put paper ghosts on the walls!"

Fire versus ice, and I wasn't winning. "That isn't the case now, is it Talbot? You're alive. You're here. You'll just have to get used to it."

"Fuck that!" I screamed.

The next round of breaks began. I followed the crowds with Morrow trailing behind me.

They didn't see me.

"What is this going to accomplish, Talbot?"

"Nothing. Abso-fuckin'-lutely nothing," I continued on.

I walked faster, and faster. Even though I stood in the center of the crowd, no one responded. I wasn't real to them. I didn't care. I hadn't walked with my coworkers in months, I just wanted to walk with them.

"Then, why?"

"I miss them, Morrow. I miss my friends. Remy. Haize. I miss my life."

The crowd finally reached the other break room, immediately heading to the coffee machine. Thirty-page reports can tire a man out, you know.

Morrow simply stood in the doorway, watching. I sat on the couch beside an old friend. A friend whose face I couldn't make out. They laughed along with the others; I laughed with them.

I don't know what they were laughing at.

I tried to speak. Morrow had done it; he had willed himself into existence. I tried.

I succeeded.

I joined the conversation. We laughed. We smiled.

I was sitting in the halls with Morrow after that, racking my brain for some sort of answer. I remember leaving the conversation and following him. I don't remember the conversation.

Morrow sat down beside me, fidgeting with his key card.

"Satisfied?"

"No." I breathed.

"I told you this," he looked away. "Life only lasts for as long as you're reading it."

The hallways began to static. Morrow just watched in silence as the moments passed.

"It's over," he said. "Halloween flew by, didn't it. It all flew by and you never said goodbye."

"Not sure what the point is, really."

Was I crying? Something wet was running down my face. My chest hurt. My throat hurt. Oh no, no…

Morrow couldn't be bothered to look at me.

"The iteration is over, Talbot. They're gone."

The cut-outs on the walls had begun to fade. People who had been walking through the halls seemed to freeze in place. Someone may well have hit pause on reality.

I wanted to scream.

Against everything I knew about the man, Morrow set his hand on my head and looked down at me. Tears were streaking down my face. Snot was dripping from my nose. I was an absolute mess. I was a sobbing, sniffling mess.

"Talbot." He lowered his voice. "They're gone. This iteration is over."

"Remy- what about her?" My throat was burning, every breath felt like jagged glass.

"If she was part of any of these stories, she will be gone. I'm sorry. No character survives deletion."

"Except me," I wheezed.

Morrow gave me a brief hug. It was something brisk and out of place, but it was enough. Beggars can't be choosers. Not in this world.

"I'm sorry Talbot."

Reality continued to overwrite itself. As the clock struck 6 am, it was all over. The day may as well never happened. The halls had stopped flickering and fading. All of the cut-outs and lights had disappeared. Twenty-four hours really had gone by in a blink.

Without another word, Morrow disappeared. I don't blame him. The shift in reality must have left some characters out of place. It must have left scrambled events in its wake and someone had to clean it up.

It was really over.

Remy was gone. The world I thought I knew had been broken apart and I was stuck among the cogs that kept it turning.

Just another chapter in the story of the world, wasn't it?

Life only lasts as long as you're reading it.

I just want to know who fucking wrote it.

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