Kenni

Project Endlessness: Part 1 of 3

It was the moment that Louise woke up, when she realised that she was not in her own bed. As she rose from her quickly fading dreams she could feel hollow and plastic material beneath her palms as the air in the mattress pressed beneath her fingers. She was absolutely certain that when she had drifted off to sleep last night in her own bed, in her own room. She distinctly remembered wanting to get to sleep early so that she would be ready to go to college on Monday morning. However as the grey peeling wallpaper reflected through the grime-covered window began to haze into view, everything in Louise’s life seemed like it existed on a completely different planet.

Struggling with the mattress, she managed to get herself on her feet. Her bones felt like rotten wood as she navigated around the tiny room. There was no furniture besides the blow-up mattress, a very thin duvet cover and a few shopping bags that seemed to be full of assorted clothes. The rest of the floor was littered with wrinkled sheets of paper. Louise could feel them under her bare feet. She picked one up and tried to read it under the light of the window, but her hands were shaking too much to keep the page still for long enough to get a good enough look at it. And when she turned around and looked back at the mattress she had woken up in, she finally noticed the person who had been sleeping next to her.

He was a massive creature. His arms were large, muscular and covered in dark bruises. His hair was very short and black and his face looked slightly bent and twisted as he continued to sleep soundly. He looked quite a bit older than Louise. While Louise was only 17, he looked a good 10 or so years older. Louise was so overcome with fear and confusion, that all she could do, through her tears, was emit a loud and piercing scream.

The man immediately jumped out of the bed and noticed Louise screaming in his direction. “Kenni. Kenni, what’s the matter,” he said in a whispered tone. Louise instinctively retaliated by trying to push the stranger away, but all she could do was hit his black vest futilely as he tried to grab her by the wrists. “Kenni. Stop screaming please. What’s wrong?” He managed to grab her wrists, but she continued screaming as she tried to pull her arms away. “Don’t worry, it’s only me. Dylan’s here now.”

Louise managed to speak. “Who are you?”
“It’s Dylan. Don’t worry, come and sit down and get your breath.” Dylan gently led Louise by her arms to the mattress and sat down beside her. “Now tell me what’s the matter.” Louise turned her head to see Dylan staring worryingly down at her, his hands now holding onto one of hers for support. Louise could only respond by bursting into tears. “Hey, hey hey. Come on Kenni. Did you have another nightmare?
“Why do you keep calling me Kenni?” She asked between tears.
“What do you mean Katherine?”
“Who’s Katherine!?”
“You are. You’re Katherine.”
“So who’s Kenni?”
“You are. You know we call you Kenni.”

Louise didn’t respond with any more questions. She just looked at the floor and let Dylan put his arm around her for comfort until her sobs died down. “That must have been an awful nightmare. Would you like me to let you get dressed for work? I can drive you there today if you don’t want to take the bus.” Louise nodded silently, not looking up from the grey, wooden floor. It made a long, elongated creaking noise as Dylan walked across it to the door. “I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me. Alright Kenni? Or do you want me to call you -”
“Kenni’s fine. Thanks… Dylan.”
“Love you,” we’re the last two words he said before he closed the door, leaving Louise with only the sunlight from the window to help her find the light switch.

The switch itself, like everything else in the room, was half-covered in grime. The plastic corners had begun to look dull and unevenly rounded. She pressed down on the switch and a small bulb that was hanging from the ceiling; which was almost balancing a torn, white lampshade on its side, flickered on. As the light creeped into the room, Louise could see all four decaying walls very clearly. It was nearly 3 times smaller than her room. But was that room, which was quickly sinking into the depths of her memory, still her room; or did this room belong to her now? Everything around her seemed completely unreal, and the fact that this other life; Kenni’s life, was flowing around her as if nothing was amiss, made the situation all the more daunting.

Louise walked across the room and picked up one of the sheets of paper that were littering the floor. There wasn’t even enough room for her to take two full strides from one direction to the other without hitting one of the walls at the other end. Louise could just about make out the shaky and sporadic handwriting that covered the paper, but the writing itself was impossible to understand. Whatever was written on the paper, it wasn’t written in English.

Next, she went to one of the plastic shopping bags. Both had names written on the front in red marker pen. One ‘DYLAN’ and one ‘KENNI’ respectively. Louise opened the latter of the two bags. Inside were a few sets of plain shirts and trousers. The stitching was slightly loose in some places, but they were all neatly folded nonetheless. The only other items of clothing that were under the shirts, was a set of blue overalls, much cleaner than the other clothes and sticking of detergent. She rooted through one of the pockets and pulled out a plastic card. She examined it in the light. Her face was in the corner, staring back at her, except it wasn’t her face. It looked much more sunken and wrought. Her eyes looked dull and lifeless through her half closed eye-lids. And her hair, which was normally bright, long and waved down to her shoulders, looked thin and lifeless; cut off just before the start of her neck. It was definitely not the face you would expect to see on a 17 year old girl. In the middle of the card, was the name ‘Katherine Blanc’ printed on the front of the card, right underneath the faded portrait that stared lazily back at her.

Louise still felt extremely scared. She had no idea what was happening or where she was. She began to wonder if her parents had found her missing yet. She couldn’t even work out what time it was. There was a small, digital clock in the corner of the room, but it read ‘22:48’. All she could do for now was play along as best she could. If she had been kidnapped, she was sure that her parents would call the police soon. At least she seemed safe for now.

“Are you changed yet. You’ve got to be at work soon. You don’t want Brandon to get worried about you?” Called Dylan from behind the door. Louise quickly responded. She threw the green nightdress that she was wearing (and definitely hadn’t fallen asleep in last night) onto the mattress, and began to pull her body into the overalls that were in her shopping bag. They fitted her quite well although the arms and legs were slightly too long for her limbs. Just before she walked out of the room to join Dylan, she caught sight of a small mirror that hung crookedly on the wall. Staring back at Louise was a sunken figure that was very similar to the one that she had seen in the photograph on the card. Louise lifted her hand and brushed the sleeve of her overalls over her cheek. Her skin felt weak and rotten. As if there was only a thin layer of air between the back of her cheek and her skull.

Wiping away a tear from her face with the back of her hand, Louise turned to the door and walked into a tiny kitchen, which was in just as dire a state as the room she had just left. As soon as she entered, she immediately met Dylan’s gaze once again. He was sitting a very small table which was covered by a ripped, red and white plastic table cloth, and eating a thick slice of burnt toast without a plate. He put it down on the table when he saw Louise.

“Are you sure that you’re all right, Kenni?” He asked. “You look like a ghost visited you last night.”
“Nothing’s wrong. It’s just… It’s just…” Louise sniffed as she tried to fight back crying again. Dylan got up from the table and knelt down to her level. He gently held her hands in his for comfort. “It’s just… I don’t belong here. I’m not supposed to be here.”
“I know,” said Dylan. Louise looked up at him.
“You know?”
“Of course, but for now we’ll just have to make do with what little we have.” Louise silently bowed her head in defeat. “And we have each other. And that’s something that we’ll always have.”

He held her hands tightly as he spoke. Louise could feel that the skin on his fingers felt disturbingly soft and limp. Not completely unlike the skin she had felt on her cheek. “I’ll drive you to work. Come on. Brandon’ll be waiting for you.” Without further query, Louise followed Dylan through a second splintery door, and walked into the grey world that encapsulated them.

Nothing seemed familiar to Louise. Everywhere she looked she was surrounded by pale brick buildings with drawn curtains and cracked windows. Only a singe lane’s worth of dusty road separated one side of the street from the other. The sky was completely covered by thick clouds that looked like they could burst at any second. Seagulls darted around under the clouds, as if they were looking for something that was on the ground. Louise shuffled into the passenger side of Dylan’s car and pulled the seatbelt over her waist and shoulder. She could feel it pressing the overalls into her body as she sank into the seat, almost regressing her head completely inside the blue neck hole. Just like the bedroom, the floor of Dylan’s car was sparsely covered with sheets of paper with rough, unreadable handwriting scrawled onto the surface. Dylan noticed Louise had picked one up off the floor while he was pulling out onto the road.

“What do you think?” He asked with a smile.
“I don’t know,” Louise replied. “I can’t read it.”
“Still no good at reading Welsh then.”
“This is written in Welsh?”
“Of course, Kenni. What other language would it be written in?”
“I… Don’t know.” Louise was too afraid to risk giving away the fact that she had no idea who Kenni was or why she had suddenly started existing in her life. All she felt she could do, was stare at the paper and nod.

Suddenly, Dylan slammed on the brake, pulling Louise forward in her seat. “What’s wrong?” She asked, trying to get her breath back after being strangled by her seatbelt.
“It’s the cliff,” said Dylan, looking ahead. “Some more must’ve broke away last night.” Louise looked through the windscreen of the car and saw that the road suddenly came to an abrupt end in front of them. In the distance, Louise could see the ocean swaying in the distance and eventually merging with the cloud engulfed sky. She could hear the waves below them, steadily pushing against the edge of the coast.

“At this rate, pretty soon there’ll be no island left,” he muttered.
“Island?” Said Louise quietly.

But before she could be heard, a massive rumble of thunder crashed below them and an assault of liquid darts shot up from the cliff edge. They flew gently in the wind and crashed right into the windscreen of Dylan’s car. Louise couldn’t help but flinch in her seat as the assault made a large tapping noise that bounced right through the tiny car; like she was hiding in a tin can.

“Don’t worry,” said Dylan as he turned on the windscreen wipers to get the thick and salty water off the car. “I know another way round.” Dylan pushed the rusty gearshift downwards and the car began to slowly roll backwards until Dylan had passed the first turn. He had to struggle to get it back into first gear, but once he had, he turned right and they continued down the sandy road. At one point, Dylan tuned and grinned comfortingly at Louise. But when Louise looked back at him, she felt bad when all she could give in return was a tiny, wavering smile in return, as she picked at the stitching on one of her sleeves.

After a little while, Dylan stopped the car outside of a small building. It wasn’t connected to any of the other buildings on the road. In fact, there were several feet of grassy field to the sides of and behind the building. Like all of the other buildings they had passed by, the walls and roof were slowly deteriorating and rotting away. Louise opened the door and left the car, before Dylan waved goodbye, started the engine again, and drove off round a corner until the low, distressful rumblings had faded into the distance. Louise was left alone and silent on the edge of the road. The only noises remaining were the seagulls. They surveyed the matrix of buildings below them. Louise slowly walked towards the garage door that hung half open at the side of the building. The gravel moulded around the soles of the cheap, rubbery shoes that Louise had found with the overalls.

As she walked, Louise saw someone leave the garage and walk towards her, and as he got closer, Louise realised that he was very familiar. His name was George Harris, and though his blond hair had clearly began to fall out on the top of his head, he looked almost exactly as Louise remembered him. George had been in her class at school a few years ago. They had even sat next to each other in English at one point. But Louise hadn’t seen George in years. He had left school quite a while ago. He never said goodbye to anyone and he never said where he was going. He simply vanished from existence one day and was never mentioned again. All of this information, obviously, raised the question as to why he was here. But perhaps this could be something she could use to her advantage. Perhaps he would know why she was here.

“George?” Louise called. “George?”
“Who are you calling to Kenni?” He shouted back at her. Louise felt her slim hope for answers sink into her tattered shoes.
“No-one… Brandon. No-one.”
“Are you all right?” He looked around to see if she had been calling to anyone else.
“Yes…” She said in a daze. “You’re Brandon…”
“Yeah… Obviously…”
“And I’m… Kenni.”
“Yes Kenni; you are Kenni.” They both stared at each other; both feeling very confused. “Do you want to get started?” Brandon asked at last. “I’ve got your first car lined up inside for you.”
“Yes, of course. That’s what I do.” She said, grabbing the sleeve of her overalls and pulling them over her hands.
“Well, no point in standing around all day, I’ve got paperwork to fill out.”
“Right, got it. Don’t worry, I’ll get right to -” Louise lifted her hand to pat Brandon on the shoulder but Brandon noticed and immediately moved away. He stood still for a moment and stared at Louise, squinting slightly at her.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” He asked seriously. Louise nodded meekly. “Ok. I’ll see you later.”

Brandon walked back to the building. After he had gone, Louise ran to the side of building and ducked down under the half open garage door. Her starched trousers cut into the backs of her knees and rubbed against the back of her legs as she shuffled forward.

Louise found it difficult to move around the tiny garage. The massive white car that Brandon had left for her to repair took up most of the back wall. The other two walls were almost completely lined with rusty tools and crumpled sheets of printed paper that were covered in numbers that Louise couldn’t understand. The single fluorescent light on the ceiling dropped a layer of stiff light on top of the car. It reflected and bounced off of its smooth, cold bonnet. It looked much more expensive than anything else that Louise had seen since waking up this morning. It was much cleaner as well. The white body shined so much that it felt like Louise could climb through the cloud-like exterior and tunnel her way through to the heavens.

Louise wondered if her family had called the police to find her yet. There was a clock on the wall of the garage, but it obviously wasn’t moving. It was so dusty that it looked like it had ran out of battery months ago and hadn’t been touched since. Louise felt so far away from everything that she knew. From her family. From her friends. Her entire life seemed to have suddenly drifted past the cloudy horizon that she saw from Dylan’s car. But, for now, she was faced with another problem; as Louise had no idea how to even begin to fix the car. She had never showed any sort of interest in fixing cars; in fact she barely knew how to drive.

She slowly circled it; being careful not to bump into any of the tools around her. She couldn’t even work out what was wrong with the car. When she got back to the front of the car, she tried to get the bonnet open. She pushed down on the bonnet and it immediately sprang open, revealing an engine that was simply laying in pieces. A thick layer of oil half swamping the pile. Louise immediately grabbed the bonnet and pulled it back into place. She needed to sit down, so she picked the car key up from a small table in the corner of the room, unlocked the driver’s door and crawled in.

The leather seat felt very warm. It was much more comforting than the blow-up mattress that she had woken up in. When she closed her eyes and leant her head rest gently on the steering wheel; she almost felt disconnected from this horrible world that she suddenly belonged to. And she could almost imagine that she was back in her own bedroom. She could almost feel her long, vibrant hair pressed against her cheek. She could hear her mother calling her from downstairs.

“Kenni!” Louise opened her eyes. Brandon was leaning through the passenger door, knocking on the window. Louise jerked upwards and stared back at him. “Why are you sleeping? You’ve got four more cars to get through today.”
“I’m sorry,” said Louise, completely panicked. “I -”
“This isn’t like you Kenni. Now tell me what’s the matter or -”
“Stop calling me Kenni!” She screamed, slamming her fists into the horn. “My name’s not Kenni! It’s never been Kenni! Can’t you see? I AM NOT KENNI!” Louise stared angrily at Brandon. She didn’t know how else she could possibly convey her message to him. After a few seconds of total silence, Brandon stepped into the car, set next to her in the passenger seat and closed the car door.

“Katherine…” He tried to start, but Louise had already slammed her head into the steering wheel again, quietly sobbing. “Katherine, if something’s wrong you can use the phone in the office to call Dylan. You can sort out whatever it is at home and come back tomorrow. At least you’ve done this one.” Louise spun her head on the steering wheel to face him.
“What do you mean, ‘I’ve done this one?’ I haven’t even touched it.
“Of course you have. You can tell right away that the engine’s fixed.”

He picked up the car key from on top of the dashboard and turned it in the ignition. Immediately, the car’s engine awoke and began to rumble quietly inside the bonnet in front of them. “You see. This thing wouldn’t even start when we pushed it in here.”
“We pushed it in here? As in… The two of us?”
“Of course.”
“When?”
Yesterday evening. Don’t you remember?”

“No,” said Louise firmly. “I don’t remember because I wasn’t here yesterday. I’m not supposed to be here. I’m not Kenni. And you’re not Brandon. Don’t you see? You’re George Harris.” Louise grabbed Brandon by the wrist in desperation. Brandon seemed to become visibly distressed when she did so, but Louise was too angry to notice.
“Please Kenni, get off of me!”
“Don’t you remember George? We used to go to school together a few years ago.”
“No, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” As Brandon struggled more and more, the car engine began to growl louder and louder. The walls began to strain and crack suddenly as black began to trickle out between the bricks.
“We used to sit next to each other in English George. A few years ago. And then you disappeared and everyone just carried on with their lives as if nothing had happened.”
“You’ve gone mad! Get off of me now!” Louise held onto his arm tighter and tighter the more Brandon tried to pull it away. He slammed his back against the door in a bid to escape but he couldn’t escape. Tears were beginning to stream down his face as Louise pulled him back towards her.
“And now you’re here! And I’m here! And I have no idea why!”
“FOR GOD SAKE LOUISE, STOP!”

Louise stopped pulling and let go of Brandon’s arm. Both of them fell silent. Brandon sunk into his seat, breathing heavily, wiping his face with the back of his hand. Louise continued to stare at him for a few seconds before she turned back into her own seat. She looked at the door of the garage. It was completely open now. Louise methodically pulled the handbrake upwards, placed both hands on the steering wheel and slowly pressed her foot down on the pedal. Silently, she let the car roll out of the garage, round the corner of the building and out of the premises. Brandon looked out of his window timidly, trying to stop his hands from shaking.

“I know where you’re going,” he whimpered.
“Good,” said Louise. “Where’s that then?”
“I don’t want to go there. You don’t want to go there”
“Then why don’t you stop me?”
“I can’t stop you.”

Louise didn’t take her eyes off the road. The tall, derelict buildings looked even more destroyed than when she and Dylan had drove the other way. She drove slowly and purposefully until she reached the place that Dylan had stopped the car before. The area where the road had suddenly collapsed into the grey, frothy ocean. Louise and Brandon looked out at the grey horizon. The seagulls in the distance seemed to be the only objects moving.

“You don’t have to do this Brandon. I mean, you don’t have to do this with me,” said Louise.
“You don’t need to remember. You’re Kenni now, not Louise. You know that you can never be Louise again.”
“I know. But I want to remember.”
Brandon shook his head. “You’ll regret saying that. We always regret it.”

Louise used all of the strength she could gather in her leg and slammed down on the pedal. The car white car shot forward towards the cliff. It dived off the edge and plummeted into the black and white froth below. The car’s engine faded away into silence. The car didn’t take long to hit the ocean, except instead of splashing into the waves, the black and white particles parted and drifted around the car as if it were a thin mist. The speckles ran across the windscreen, growing more and more dense as the car fell faster and faster.

Kenni blacked out just after the driver’s window began to crack.

~•~

Kenni wasn’t surprised when she cracked her eyes open and saw the thick grey sky looking back at her, just as she had seen on the horizon of the cliff. But this time it looked heavier. More dense. Like the clouds were being held up by thin threads of string and would crash to the ground if they were cut loose. From the ground, Kenni ran her hand across the ground. It felt unusually warm and soft. When Kenni tried to push against it to try and get herself upright, it depressed itself slightly against her hand as if there was nothing underneath its surface.

As Kenni’s vision began to sharpen, she could see that she had been laying in the middle of the pavement. Except, when she examined the pavement more closely, she noticed that it was sparsely covered with little pink veins. They all seemed to move in the same direction down the road and far into the distance. The road itself was covered in massive cracks and crevices with dirty, pink rubble lining the exposed areas. Once she was on her feet, Kenni surveyed her surroundings. This place was a lot foggier than the strange place that she had woken up in. There were no buildings. Instead, on either side of the road, there were two seemingly endless fields of dry, untended dirt; stretching out into the distance, growing paler and paler as the fog covered it until they formed the facade of a blank canvas.

Behind her ,she saw the remains of the car; which had now fallen completely to pieces. Its paintwork, once pure and immaculate white had been severely damaged until only the harsh tint of the dirty white fog gave it any vague resemblance to the colour it once was. There was something withering on top of the car. Something small and pink, dripping a thin stream of blood onto the torn remains of the car and onto the ground. Kenni approached it and saw that it was a dying seagull. Completely de-feathered and gasping heavily for breath. Kenni could see that its beak and eyes had almost been completely absorbed by its thick, pink skin. Kenni extended one finger and gently stroked the bird’s back, expecting it to struggle even more violently. But instead, it simply acted like nothing was touching it at all.

Behind the car was the bottom of a massive cliff. It cut directly into the end of the road at an almost perfectly vertical angle; leaving no possible way for anyone to journey any further. Kenni nervously looked up at the sky. The top of the cliff, where she had drove off of, was nowhere to be seen. Instead the cliff, just like the fields of dirt, stretched continuously into the distance, until it had been engulfed by the fog.

Kenni sat down next to Brandon, who was resting his back against the angle of the road and the cliff, where the two points met. He must have managed to regain consciousness faster than she had. He had his hands in front of his eyes and he was shaking ever so slightly. It was very obvious that he knew where he was, and he didn’t like being here. Kenni leant the back of her head against the cliff. It felt uncomfortably warm and moist; and Kenni could almost feel it pushing back slightly against her head, as if it had some sort of heartbeat.

“You’re going to have to look sooner or later,” said Kenni.
“I don’t want to,” said Brandon, his voice severely muffled by his hands.
“You didn’t have to come back with me.”
“So you’re telling me that you’re not scared?”
“I’m very scared Brandon,” she said, turning to look at him. “That’s the point.”

Kenni got herself on her feet and brushed the thin layer of dust and moisture that had gathered on the knees of her overalls. She then held out a hand to help Brandon up, but he completely ignored it and, instead, pushed himself away from the wall by himself. Kenni looked out at the thin remains of the perfectly straight road beyond the destroyed car. If she squinted in just the right way, she could make out very thin silhouettes of buildings in the distance.

“I guess that’s the way we have to go,” said Kenni, pointing forwards.
Brandon looked at her. “Of course that’s the way we have to go. There’s no other way to go.”

And so, one step at a time, the pair walked in silence along the road. Little by little, the silhouettes that Kenni had saw began to become more and more opaque as they moved towards them. They grew taller and taller until they towered several storeys above both Kenni and Brandon. But, without losing determination, Kenni continued to walk along the road until she could clearly see the houses that had formed the silhouettes.

Unlike the buildings that she and Dylan had drove past this morning, Kenni did recognise these houses. Even though the walls were devoid of colour and charred black around the edges and the grass that had once populated the front gardens had dissolved into the earth a long time ago, Kenni immediately knew that they were walking down her street. Or, at least, it had been her street. Kenni was beginning to remember now that, at one point, it had been her street. Kenni stopped Brandon right outside her house. Like all the others on the street, it had been charred around the corners, but it stood perfectly upright, with not a single crack or loose brick to be seen. Kenni walked down the path and through the front door. As she pushed it on its hinges; she could almost feel the ground twitch and quiver underneath her feet.

Inside, the house looked almost nothing like Kenni remembered it. The furniture in the hallway (which Kenni immediately recognised nonetheless,) looked like half-melted stone. Kenni tried to move a chair that had been knocked over in the middle of the corridor but it seemed to be completely fixed to the floor. She dug her shoes into the floorboards and pulled harder. The chair resisted but after a few seconds of pulling, Kenni was able to rip the chair from its position. As soon as she did, the ground rippled more violently under her feet. Brandon took a step back and looked angrily at Kenni. But Kenni wasn’t paying attention to him. Instead, she stared at the long, pink scars that stretched across the floors of the corridor where the legs of the chair had once resided. The area around it was pulsating violently as a thin layer of pink liquid spluttered out.

Once the tremors had stopped, Kenni motioned to Brandon to keep moving further into the house. They stepped over the pink fissure that she had created and stepped into the living room. Just like the corridor, all of its original colour had been sucked out long ago, leaving only the scalded remains of the room it once was. The only additional feature in this room, was the presence of two extremely thin, stick-like shadows, imprinted on the wall. One of them had their arm pointed at the face of the other, as if they had been arguing.

“Are we done here yet?” Asked Brandon quietly behind Kenni’s back.
“Yeah,” said Kenni; not taking her eyes off the black mural on the wall. “We can keep moving.”

Brandon turned to the door and let Kenni lead the way out. He followed her in silence; feeling too afraid to question where they were going next.

They continued to move down the road. Every now and then a seagull would fly over them. They all looked like the mutated creature that Kenni had seen on top of the destroyed car. They flew much lower than they had done on the top of the cliff. More confidently. Brandon jumped in the air every time one of the seagulls called out. The seagulls all made the same distorted noise whenever they opened their beaks. It sounded much scratchier and synthetic. Like a gramophone needle being pushed down a record. Kenni tried not to show that she was also flinching slightly every time the noise ambushed her.

After a long walk, they reached the end of the road. There was a single building at the end. A wide building that stood intimidatingly behind a large square of grey Tarmac, surrounded by a metal fence. Kenni looked at Brandon, who was staring silently at the building.

“This is my old school,” he said quietly.
“I know. It was my old school too,” said Kenni. Then, after a short silence, she asked: “Why did you leave all those years ago?”
Brandon stood in place for a few seconds. “What happened to this place?” He asked instead.
“Things changed,” said Kenni simply.
“Yeah… I think I know what you mean.”

Kenni grabbed one of the metal fence posts and started to violently try to pull it out of its place. Like the chair in her house, it was resisting her force. As her hands rubbed against it, the black paint started to wear off the surface, revealing lumps of pink flesh underneath. Kenni rammed her foot into the bottom of the post and it snapped into two pieces. The world around her rippled violently once again. Flocks of seagulls frantically fled to the sky, squawking loudly in panic. Eventually, however, the vibrations died down into silence once again. Brandon and Kenni looked at each other for a second. It was obvious that Brandon didn’t want to go any further.

“Are you sure you want to go in there?” He asked.
“Good lord! You’re like a broken record!”
“I’m sorry, it’s just -”
“I know, I know. You just wait here. I’ll be back in a minute.”

The fence posts around the hole that she had made felt moist and clammy as she crawled through them. As her overalls rubbed against them, the posts left a thin layer of transparent liquid on the blue material. The air around the playground felt much colder than the other side of the fence. The tiny network of cracks in the tarmac seemed to move and squirm under her feet as she walked over it, as if she was physically distressing it. But the most disconcerting feature, was the fact that the entire playground was littered with large black patches of charred ground; all distributed unevenly in groups around the playground. And when Kenni bent down on her knees to put her hand over one of the patches, it emitted an intense smell of hot, rotten food and felt just as boiling as the air around the patch burned her hand when she tried to move it near the patch itself. Kenni leapt up, trying not to scream in pain in case the sight of her wincing in pain worried Brandon even more. She grabbed her hand and shook it in the air to try and cool it down. She could feel her skin bulge as she hopped around the playground, trying hard to avoid stepping on any of the other patches on the ground, until she hit a cold and metal object that caught her off guard and made her slip onto the floor.

The figure felt sharp and extremely painful against the back of her head. Kenni buckled over, clutching her head and wincing at the impact. She sat on the floor for a moment, checking her hands to see if she was drawing blood. She wasn’t, but she could feel a very large bruise forming underneath her hair. After the pain had calmed down, Kenni went to pick herself up, but screamed and fell back on the floor as soon as she saw what she had bumped into in the first place. It towered over her, looking down. Completely still and inanimate; but at the same time, its presence had a very sentient effect on Kenni.

Its blunt, disfigured face, carved into its dark head. The light reflecting the crudely constructed indignations for its eyes and mouth. Its massive pair of bony arms, outstretched and pointing outwards into the vacant playground. Everything about its hideous skeletal form made Kenni’s mind and memories flood and bleed inside her skull as she stared at the figure in front of her. It didn’t move. The way that its thin joints were pointed made it look like it was about to run in the other direction. But even so, it felt like its bare, metallic skull was boring into Kenni’s fears.

And when she looked around the playground, she could see that on top of every single patch of irradiated ground stood another bronze, stick-like figure stuck into the ground. All with large, exposed holes in their faces. Looks of fear and peril etched onto the crevices as they attempt to run away from the looming figure in the middle of the imprisoned playground.

Kenni now realised why she had come back. And just like every other time she had decided to remind herself; she wished that she hadn’t. And just like every other time. She turned from the figure, and ran; trying her best to move between all of the other statues that now littered the area. She leapt through the hole she had made in the fence, where Brandon was nervously waiting for her. When he saw that she was running, he tried to stop her to comfort her, but she was too quick for him. So instead, he ran behind her. Trying his best to keep up with her as she ran down the road.

Kenni could see figures lining the streets. Tall and thin bronze figures looking out vacantly into the road from the street and charred houses. All watching her as she ran away from them in fear as the ground began to shake more and more violently. And the clouds began to grown more and more dense. Kenni tried not to look at them. All she wanted to see in front of her was the horizon. And when the stony cliff face finally pushed through the fog and into view, Kenni leapt straight at it. Clutching desperately at the rocks and rubble as she tried to get back to the top of the cliff. Back to the only place where she was safe. But every time, she would slip and fall back onto the pulsating ground. Eventually, Brandon caught up and, when he saw what she was trying to do, put his hands on the ground to give her a leg up. Using every inch of determination that she had, eventually she started to move up the cliff, with Brandon close behind her. Moving higher and higher, bit by bit, until she was moving through the thick clouds. They felt soft and moist. They made her overalls damp with condensation, but it felt fresh and calming against her face. The cool atmosphere that the clouds emitted seemed to give her the strength to move upwards. With Brandon climbing behind her, she didn’t stop until she could see the misty, grey sky.

And eventually, when she had reached the lip of the cliff, she pulled herself over it and laid flat on her back. Her chest inflating and deflating as she tried to get her breath back. And once she had, she reached out her hand and pulled Brandon up the last little bit of the cliff, until they were both safely on, the closest thing to, solid ground.

“Thanks.” She said breathlessly. “Last time. I promise.”
“No it’s not.” Said Brandon, laughing slightly between breaths of air. Kenni laughed at the joke too. Kenni rolled over to look at the road. She was sure that the cliff had been further back, when she saw it this morning. The sun was starting to set now, and Kenni could see that it had turned the layer of clouds in the sky into a glowing orange colour, which covered the grey landscape in a warm and soothing tint. It put Kenni at ease to such an extent, that she almost fell asleep in the middle of the road.

But before she could close her eyes completely; she saw a glimmering speck of light in the distance. As it moved closer to her, Kenni could see that it was Dylan’s car. He must have gone to the workshop to pick her up, and went looking for her when he found that there was no-one there. He stopped the car in front of her and hurried out to pick her up off the floor. He carefully pushed her back upwards until she was sitting upright. She noticed that Brandon had already managed to sit up by himself, and was working to regulate his breathing again.

“Are you all right, Kenni?”
Kenni looked into his eyes and smiled. “Yes Dylan. I’m fine now.”
“Thank goodness. You know, I was very worried about you.”
“I know. I’m sorry. Can we go home now?”
“Of course. Come on, I’ll help you in the car,” he smiled and turned to Brandon.” Do you need a lift home as well Brandon?”
“Oh. No thanks. I’ll walk back. Don’t worry about me,” he said. “If you still need time to recover Kenni, you don’t have to come in tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll feel a lot better when I wake up tomorrow. Thanks again Brandon.”
“Don’t mention it, Kenni.”

Dylan took Kenni’s hand and politely led her into the passenger seat before getting in the other side and starting the ignition. Kenni picked up one of the pieces of paper that were still on the floor of the car around her feet.

“This poem,” she said, pointing the piece of paper in Dylan’s direction. “I don’t think I recognise this one.”
“How can you tell them apart? They’re all in Welsh.”
“I know, it’s just… I don’t know. I can just tell that this one’s new.”
“I see.”
“Read it to me,” Kenni demanded softly.
“I’ll read it to you tomorrow. For now, let’s get ourselves home.”

The seat felt warm and soft as Kenni let the fabric wrap around her back as the road began to disappear into blackness. But just before she did, a massive noise erupted in the sky. The car swerved and stopped dead in the middle of the road. Kenni looked out the window and saw a massive aeroplane flying very low in the distance. The deafening scream that it created made the whole island shake and rattle violently, until the noise faded away, leaving the car in silence.

Kenni turned to Dylan. He was staring out of the windscreen in silence; sitting rigid and upright in his seat, trying to stop tears from leaving his eyes. Kenni put her hand on his arm and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek comfortingly.

“Don’t worry Dylan, Kenni’s here. Just take a deep breath, and drive slowly.”

Dylan turned to look her in the eye for a split second, before slowly pressing his foot down on the peddle. And, without letting Kenni let go of his arm, he let the car slowly roll them home.

Project Endlessness consists of three short stories:

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