Rated R for adult themes, disturbing imagery
by Natalia Theodoridou
It always starts the same way.
First, a tiny feeling of unease.
Then, the sweating. Your forehead, your palms, your back. It’s from the heat, you say, I should open a window, but the windows here are not designed to open. You turn on the air-conditioning until it’s blasting polar temperatures in your office. You breathe. You try to imagine you are inhaling fresh air. You’re choking. Your hands are trembling slightly. Then your cheekbones go numb. Your lips too. Your palms. Your field of vision is narrow, it turns into a long, dark tunnel. Through the tunnel you try to find the pills you’ve never admitted you keep in the top right drawer of your desk. You find them. You swallow two. Now the walls are shaking. A flame flares up right in the center of your chest and spreads to your entire body. You enter the tunnel and search for the door. You find it. You are looking for the escape exit. You find that one too–thank you, you say, to no-one in particular. You climb the stairs to the roof. Your breathing is quick, your head light. Like a feather, you think, because that’s the first cliché that comes to your mind and you love your clichés, treasure them. The buzz in your ears is blocking out all other sound. You open the roof door and emerge under the blinding sky. Your jacket feels tight. You take it off. Your tie is flapping around your neck like a noose. You loosen it. You walk to the edge of the roof. You bend your knee, plant it squarely on the cement. The thought crosses your mind–to jump, just so you can escape this panic. But with that thought the buzz recedes. Through the tunnel you look at the city sprawled under your feet, a forest made of concrete. The wind freezes the sweat against your skin. You think you hear the distant roar of a lion.
About the Author
Natalia Theodoridou is a queer immigrant writer and editor, the winner of the 2018 World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction, and a Clarion West graduate (class of 2018). Natalia’s stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Uncanny, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Nightmare, Fireside, and elsewhere. Rent-a-Vice, Natalia’s first interactive novel for Choice of Games, was a finalist for the inaugural Nebula Award for Game Writing.
About the Narrator
Ian Stuart is the golden-voiced father of the equally golden-voiced Alasdair Stuart.