Sock by Douglas Gwilym (Lucent Dreaming Issue 12)

I woke up this morning and there’s no way to say it that isn’t embarrassing: I am a sock.
Yesterday I was in tenth grade. Guess maybe your day’s not looking so bad now, huh?
To “add insult to injury” as my grandpa says, I am my own sock. Not clean and folded, comfortably mated in the top drawer, but a marathon sock. One I wore running around and around the park, infused with dead skin, sweat, and shoe scum, discarded in a half-assed victory lap and lost behind the dresser. It’s—I’ve—been stiffening and sucking up dust bunnies back here for weeks.
If I’ve got a mate up there—out there—that’s something. Are they pining for me? Maybe they’re clean and folded, sending me warm fuzzies and hoping to see me again?
Of course, there are certain advantages to not being clean-and-folded, in my case. I can expand and contract the stuff I’ve got in me, in the deep down. Don’t ask me why this works, but I can flop myself around like a fish on a dock. If I didn’t have all that nasty, I’d be boneless. Spineless. Splayed and mangled like that slinky I got when I turned ten.
After a little shock and a lot of experimentation this morning, I got it worked out. I contracted and released, contracted and released. Inched my way out of my unintentional hiding place. Somehow, looking up at the towering vault of a room above me was more shocking than the fundamental fact of my new existence. I’m a roll-with-the-punches kinda guy, I guess, but it felt like standing at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
I’m thankful I can see. Helps nothing to question the ability, but the image is “textile-vision.” It’s like the world has been unravelled and re-woven and stitched and hung in place like a big 3D tapestry.
When I “stood” there for the first time, hanging in the air like a cobra, I looked around the canyon of my room, and my heart sunk. I got slammed with the feeling that the world itself had changed on me. I shimmied and shook and got myself together pretty quickly. I settled on “this is just the nature of my new condition”… the new way of seeing.
And it sure wasn’t the only thing that was different. With no hands for self-exploration, with no access to the kind of interactivity with the world I was used to, I had to take some things for granted. Had to say “okay” and move on.
Simply moving from point A to point B felt like the bareknuckle push-ups I used to do for “presidential fitness.” It was slow going, and at that point in my new career path or whatever, I didn’t get it yet that you’ve gotta conserve your energy, pace yourself. I flailed my way around the canyon, recognizing everything but feeling uncomfortable with all of it. I tried for conversation with a LEGO brick. I can’t believe I never noticed that they move. They sorta… hop around a little. Maybe this one had been left alone too long—I found her self-absorbed and brittle.
Where was that pot-smoking caterpillar from Alice when you needed him?
The huddle of jeans and underwear at the foot of the bed seemed like a good possibility for a heart-to-heart (We’d been through a lot together, right?), but I couldn’t edge in on their conversation. All the names were ones I’d never heard before and the talk was the loud kind that might be politics. I kept moving.
What do you do when you’re a sock, on your own?
It hit me then, that while I might not be human anymore—might never be human again—being close to the humans was something. And if I could manage that, maybe it would rub off on me.
I get that the feeling I was having in my gut was “longing.” Can’t say it’s a feeling I like much.
What would my friends say?
Nobody I knew when I was a fifteen-year-old boy would have a need for me now. Solitary socks get thrown away. Stinky ones go twice as fast. And Mom? I had a stab of fear. That woman had a neat streak as wide as the Ohio River, and she’d just been saying—what was it—“If I have to clean your room for you again, don’t expect any allowance.”
Today was going to be different, of course. She’d have more on her mind than matching socks this rotation of the earth. Son missing. Called his cell phone and heard it buzzing on his dresser in his room. None of his friends have seen him. Fear, alarm, abduction!
The house was an echo chamber of silence. None of this was happening yet. There was time.
I thought about it carefully. It all had a certain sense and order in my head—the way you can put a bunched up blanket under a magnifying glass and see all perfect criss-crosses? It was Thursday. As luck would have it, Mom’s one weekday home from the office. It would take her a little while, but she would notice there was no longer anything fitting her son’s description in her son’s bed, and she would freak. Panic. Lose all her shit. She would call friends, neighbors—and the police, just as soon as she dared.
That was the worst feeling yet. My mother would not be sorting socks today. Not with all her shit lost.
I should have been happy that this gave me time (not getting thrown down the laundry chute today), but it just made me feel more lonely. I couldn’t shake the feeling of the big empty place. It was too much like the hole, right down inside me. The damned longing.
I wouldn’t want my friends to hear this in a million years, but I wanted to be in her arms again, and if that wasn’t possible I’d settle for being in her hands. I wanted to be held by something warm and human and complicated. Something woven so tightly you can’t see the spaces between.
I’m a sock. The thought came at me impulsively, began to hammer at me, gently at first. All socks have mates. There is someone out there—maybe as close as up there in a drawer—like me. For me.
I’m not a complete misfit. I have friends. I even sort of had something like a girlfriend for a while. But… it always seemed like she was pulling away just when I was drawing close.
That drawer up there—it was a new sort of hope. It made me feel warm in a way I’d never felt before. I thought of my mate up there—how they were like me, how they were made for me—and I didn’t know, right then, if I could ever feel quite hopeless again.
Bam, bam. CRACK. A series of explosive wooden sounds enveloped the room. It sounded like a pine forest in a high wind. If you were four inches tall.
I did what passes for a gasp when you’re a sock. Then I did what passes for letting all of the air out of your lungs in one defeated burst.
It was the bed. My bed was creaking up there. Just like it does when someone sits up in it. Until now that someone had always been me.
That hit me like lightning. Every stiffness of skin, sweat, spit, the blood from that gash I got in gym class, called my new body to attention. I stood up like a flagpole against the front of the dresser and held my breath.
Above me, a giant boy sat up. He scratched himself in more than one place, squirmed so hard the bed creaked crazily.
He pulled himself over the bed frame, stood up and stretched. The sound that came out of his mouth was like the roar of a drowning Bengal tiger.
It wasn’t fury. It was just a thunderous version of that sound you make when you wake up in a body that’s been still too long. The boy—the tower of boy—steadied himself against the edge of the headboard and looked around the room for a minute, disoriented. He muttered something.
I was pretty sure it was the mutter of someone who wasn’t used to the sound.
Was this an invasion? Had aliens taken over my body? Was this the beginning ploy of a sinister plot?
I hadn’t tested all the limits of my new body, but I didn’t think it was capable of the sort of speech people can hear. Screaming would just be screaming. I hung silent, rippling about as much as a flag with no breeze.
The words—those real words he was muttering—now sounded alien to me. They weren’t thin and tweedy like what a pile of discarded Levi’s and tighty-whities could say. I couldn’t deny their reality, but they had to rattle around in my sock brain for a while before I got what they meant.
“It worked,” the tower of boy was saying. The words were self-congratulatory. “I’m… somebody.”
He went to the window with my clothes half hanging off his wiry frame, eyes wide and a little scared. He looked out there at something I couldn’t see. He took one gigantic step toward the doorway. I thought he was about to disappear, but then he turned. Looked back.
I don’t know if it was pity. I don’t know if it was anything at all. But the boy—the new boy, the boy tower—came back, plucked me from the dark space beneath the dresser where I’d flopped when he’d looked my way, scooped me up with a gesture more ginger than anything most fifteen-year-old boys have ever had in their arsenal, and popped me, unceremoniously, into the top drawer.
His footsteps receded. I took a deep, soundless breath. And then I called out in the new dark of the closed drawer, all tweedy and simple and crosshatched.
“Are you there?” I asked.
“Are you there?” I said again, pouring hope into my new voice.
Silence. And then, a voice like knotted silk. “I’m here.”

Bram Stoker Award finalist Douglas Gwilym has been known to compose a weird-fiction rock opera or two. He edits the speculative anthology series The Midnight Zone. See him read classics of the proto-Weird on YouTube and check out his stories at LampLight, Tales from the Moonlit Path, and Tales to Terrify.
T: @douglasgwilym

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