Horror logo

Panopticon

In the place where all times and stories converge.

By Vanessa GonzalesPublished 8 months ago 4 min read
Runner-Up in Tales Retold Challenge
6
Panopticon
Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

This didn’t happen once upon a time. Let’s get that out of the way first. All times are now. All moments are this moment.

What do you mean, it doesn’t make sense?

Of course it makes sense. Here’s how it works. You are in your moment, reading these words, but you are also in my moment as I’m writing them. That’s because I don’t know what I’m going to say next, and neither do you. For example, I could say:

FUCK YOU or:

YOUR HAIR LOOKS GREAT TODAY or:

POISON APPLES ARE ON SALE FOR A DOLLAR NINETY-NINE.

Like that.

Anyway, this didn’t happen once upon a time, it happened now. And it didn’t happen in a land far away, it happened here. It is happening here.

It is happening to you.

It is a story about you. How does it end?

Well, I guess we’re going to bloody well find out, aren’t we?

Start now, while you’re strong, while your energy is high, and you’re buoyed up by the certain knowledge that I am insane and raving about nothing. Believe that, but run anyway.

Run into the forest, where there are hiding places in the soft mulch of fallen leaves, in the shattered and carven holes that lightning and worms have made in the mossy tree trunks. Run through clearings iced with sugar snow and bursting with spring flowers at the same time, because all moments are this moment, and so all seasons are also this season.

Now back under the dim canopy of trees. Stop to rest, feel how your breath is coming harder now, how your lungs are beginning to burn, how the stitch in your side is like a hot live wire. And listen, listen for danger, the way the birds and foxes and deer do.

Can you hear him coming? I can. I can see him, too. Oh, I see him, and he is so close, so close that you’ll see him too any minute if you don’t…

RUN!

Run on, past the thatched cottages where enchanted green smoke coils up from the chimneys, and captive children’s hands and faces are pressed to the window panes. Ignore the trails of breadcrumbs that lead to nothing but the false hope of safety. Fight your way through the tangle of briars and emerge on the other side, scratched and bleeding.

Behind you, he catches the scent of the blood on the breeze. Your blood, only a thin trickle, but rich with salt and minerals and life. He is raising his muzzle to sniff it, scraping a heavy paw on the ground.

Run on, run on, near exhaustion, wild of hair and eye.

Who’s insane and raving now? Is it me, writing these words from my vantage point where all times and stories converge? Or is it you, wringing wet with your own sweat, gasping and crying as you stumble over a gnarled root and go sprawling on the forest floor?

Are you me? Am I you?

You haven’t got an answer? Well, that’s all right, I suppose. You always were an ignorant little shit, just like your mother.

Now you call upon your last untapped reserves, as you manage a new burst of speed and put some distance between yourself and him. Night is falling, and the hour is late, and all small creatures should be safe in their beds, but here you are, running and running and running through the forest as the velvet dark thickens from purple to black.

Until up ahead you see it. My aerie, my nest, my panopticon with a hundred glowing windows, a lighthouse standing tall above the ocean of trees.

The door at the base is open.

You scramble toward it, slam it behind you, throw the iron bolt and bar home, but you’re still not safe until you’ve clawed your way up the endless twists and turns of steep spiraling stairs, until you’ve burst through the second, smaller door at the top.

And now we are face to face at last, you and I, and I am standing up from my chair near the windows and turning to you with a smile that has so very many sharp white teeth in it, and you say in surprise and relief:

“Grandmother!”

But am I Grandmother? Am I really? Whose moment are we in? This story is about you, but is it your story, or is it mine?

Am I Grandmother?

Or am I the wolf?

monster
6

About the Creator

Vanessa Gonzales

“Rule one, you have to write. If you don’t write, nothing will happen.” - Neil Gaiman

When I'm not writing, I take photos. You can see them here.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments (2)

Sign in to comment
  • Alison McBain4 months ago

    I love your perspective (or is it MY perspective?). Really fun!

  • Oooo, this was very suspenseful, creepy and mindblowing! I loved this story!

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.