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Wednesday Writing Prompt
See Through Me

by

J
onathon Normal
It was while travelling to work on the train one morning that I discovered that I had become completely invisible. My
suit, for I worked for an organisation that demanded such, my shirt, tie and even my briefcase had become perfectly
translucent. I discovered this strange state soon after the train came to my usual stop. The train had come to a halt
with the expected lurch and hiss of brakes. The doors gasped open. It was time for me to alight.

When I stood up to pass along the carriage to the door I found I could not catch the eye of a pair of young
workmen standing in my way. I said excuse me and, though one looked in my direction for a moment, I was not
acknowledged. It is unusual for me to push or demand attention and so, not wanting to make a fuss I turned about
and made off in the other direction, but before I could get to the other doors the train had started off again.

Never mind, I thought, it had happened before and it was simple to catch a returning train and still be in the office
on time. I decided to remain standing so as not to miss the next stop and carried on toward the doors.

Then I noticed a woman, weighed down with a rucksack and a supermarket bag, marching toward me. She had her
eye on my recently vacated seat and appeared not to be aware that I stood between her and it, as such, she did not
slow her pace. I backed up to avoid her charge and have to remark that she very nearly ran me down.

I was affronted to say the least but resolved not to make the day any worse and quietly made my way back along
the carriage. I held on to the upright bar at the end of the seats and enjoyed the roll and pitch of the floor and the
half-familiar view of the passing town through the window. There had been a light fog veiling the streets this
morning as I walked to the station. Usual vistas had been curtailed, the world had become smaller and slightly out of
focus. At least you could see your hand in front of your face, I thought.

I think it must have been that moment, when I remembered the traditional description of heavy fog; I looked up
toward my hand which was holding the upright bar and discovered my unusual condition. I took my hand off the
bar and did indeed hold it in front of my face for a moment. I flipped my hand around; I waved it back and forth.


The train lurched and I instinctively grabbed at the bar, caught it and pulled myself to it.

Then the train ran into a tunnel. The windows reflected shadows of my fellow travellers. Where I was, should have
been, could see myself in my mind’s eye, where my solid self should have reflected back a shadow form, there was
someone else. I turned to see this other person behind me, another executive, but with a salmon pink tie to match his
complexion.

I had the sudden thought that I might be dreaming. Perhaps if I walked back through the carriage I would spot
myself, briefcase on my lap, dozing to the rhythm of the train. God knows it had happened before. Perhaps I had
been mistaken regarding the vacant seat and the charging woman, perhaps she would have simply passed through me?

I walked along the centre aisle and studied the commuters as they sat and read the paper, or dozed, or nodded to
music, or stared at their reflection in the darkened glass, their shadow selves.

Maybe I would find myself stone cold dead, waiting to be discovered at the end of the line by a railway worker, my
fingers clenched tightly about my briefcase. Perhaps I was doomed to walk up and down this carriage as a ghost,
trapped on the 8.34 into the City forever? I shuddered and squeezed the handle of my invisible briefcase.

I walked up and down the carriage twice. The train stopped again. The two young workmen alighted and some
schoolgirls took their place. To my partial relief I found myself neither asleep nor dead amongst the other commuters.

To my slight amusement I waved my hand unnoticed in front of one or two of their faces. I checked my watch, but
that too had become invisible, so I had to tell the time on someone else’s wrist.

I would be late for work now. Even if I skipped from this eastbound train to the westbound at the next stop and
ran up the escalators, I would not make it. But even if I had made it on time who would have noticed? How could

I have carried out my usual duties? My curious condition could only be disruptive to the normal rhythm of the day.
I thought about calling in sick. What would I say? I don’t look so good? The colour has gone from my cheeks?

What? Sorry Boss but I turned invisible on the way to work this morning? I felt my phone buzzing in my jacket
pocket. I always put it to vibrate on the train, it’s only polite. I was due at a strategy coordination meeting, I think,
there was no way to tell as I couldn’t read the screen. I felt for the numbers and dialled voicemail. There were no
new messages and just the one saved message from Vanessa, telling me not to worry about getting a birthday present
for Tori.

Oh my sweet Vanessa, what would she make of this situation? She would tell me to go to the doctor. If I called her
that is exactly what she would tell me to do, or go and see nice Dr Janice?  She would know what to do. She is a
wise woman.

I resolved to leave the train at the next stop and return home. I would call work and say I had the flu, a bad
tummy, something like that and then call the doctor, but I would wait until I got home to a phone that I could see
too.

As I had these thoughts the train pulled in to a station I had never heard of, even so, it was not the end of the line.
It was, however, a long way out east. I don’t think I had ever travelled this far along the line before. The station was
on an elevated section above a park. Scraps of grey mist remained in patches around a series of ornamental ponds. I
peered over the railing and searched for my shadow. Of course, there was none.

I looked out across the park and suddenly felt hungry. I usually brought a sandwich in to work in my briefcase.
Today it was a chicken sandwich, leftovers from the weekend. I sat on a bench on the platform. There was no one
else waiting here for trains, and so, unobserved I prised open my briefcase and found that the contents were visible.
The mouth of my case gaped like a rip in the air, exposing the workings of the universe to be a stapled report, a
sandwich wrapped in brown paper, a pair of reading glasses and a clip of business cards.

This gave me hope. Perhaps I was only invisible on the outside? I unwrapped the sandwich and ate it very carefully,
looking around all the time to make sure there was no one I could disturb. I know I would be concerned had I
spotted a sandwich floating in mid air before now.

When I finished I dropped the wrapper in the nearest bin. Just in time too for at that moment a group of
schoolchildren arrived on the platform with their teachers. I walked as far along the platform as I could in case one
of them should bump into me. The children all looked about ten or eleven, they had that air of excitement about
them that said today was a red letter day for them. I didn’t want to spoil it.

The train arrived and as soon as I could I shut myself in a toilet. I was worried that I might be sat upon if I
remained in a carriage, or that I might be knocked down and hurt by someone in a hurry. I put down the lid of the
pan and sat. Across from me was a wash basin and its corresponding mirror. I leaned forward and breathed on the
glass. My breath misted but there was no other evidence of my existence.

The opaque window went dark as the train whooshed into the tunnel. I thought of all the schoolchildren sitting with
their teachers pointing at their doppelgangers reflected darkly in the windows, making faces and laughing. I had been
on such trips as a child. I enjoyed those less complicated days when food was made for me and my clothes were
clean and freshly pressed.

I pried open the door to my capsule and found that if I inclined my head by a particular degree I could easily read
the name-plates of the stations as the train pulled in. This gave me some comfort, although I had to be quick in case
there was anyone waiting to use the toilet.

It took some time, longer I think than the usual duration, but at last we arrived at my home station. I flung the door
wide and found the carriage to be almost completely empty. The train doors sighed open and I bounded onto the
platform. I felt in my pocket for my season ticket. There it was and, oh horror, it was visible! I pushed it back into
my pocket and only pulled it out again when I reached the turnstile. Luckily the station was almost empty too. No
one noticed as the turnstile opened and closed on its own.

Out on the street it was also not very busy, that was one reason for moving to this district, a bit of peace and quiet
was good for you. It was a short walk home from the station too; past a park should I want to dally on sunnier
days. There were tennis courts in the park and a band stand and an enclosure where the authorities kept, of all
things, white rabbits.

At last I turned the key to my own front door. As soon as it was closed behind me something went ping inside my
stomach. I felt relief spread through me, though my heart was still racing. I could hear it clattering like the train over
the tracks. In the quiet of my apartment my heartbeat seemed extraordinarily loud. I was afraid that Mrs X from next
door might bang on my door and ask me to keep it down. The hammering grew louder, as loud as a roadworker’s
drill that breaks holes in the pavement.

I put my hand to my chest, half expecting the organ to burst out. I thought I might be able to restrain it. I found that
holding a pillow to myself did reduce the volume a little, enough for me to consider making a telephone call.

I dialled work. Irina, the office manager answered.

“Good morning Irina,” my voice sounded wispy, aerated like I was speaking through a flute, “it’s me, N, I don’t feel
so good today.” I didn’t tell her I had become invisible.

Irina was polite, Irina was always polite. She told me not to worry, but all I could do was worry. What if there was
no cure? What if the Government took me away and experimented on me? They might want to cut me open.

I would have to become a recluse and work from home, get everything delivered to my door, do everything on my
own, see no one, because no one could see me.

I thought then that perhaps I should just kill myself and be done with it as my life was surely over.

Then my telephone rang. The caller display read ‘Vanessa’. Irina must have called her. I felt dizzy, weak with stress. I
reached for the phone, hesitated, and then gingerly lifted it from its cradle. I heard her voice calling my name before I
had the receiver anywhere near my ear. She sounded like she was a thousand million miles away.

“Vanessa,” I whispered into the mouthpiece, she fell silent for a moment, “I’m invisible. What can I do?” Her silence
continued to the echoing drumbeat of my heart, “I’m scared,” I said.

Vanessa told me to meet her at Dr Janice’s house. I said I couldn’t walk there on my own. She said I would
absolutely have to and that she would be there in ten minutes. The line went dead.

I went to the toilet and I brushed my teeth. I did a lot of talking with Dr Janice and it was nice to have fresh breath
for such a meeting. It was funny watching the toothbrush in the bathroom mirror conjuring froth shapes around my
lips.

The light in the bathroom began to flicker in time with my heartbeat. I thought that perhaps I would flicker out of
existence too. Maybe becoming invisible was just the beginning of my end. I turned off the bathroom light, took a
deep breath and made for the front door.

The sun had come out from behind high clouds. It was a hazy light that made distant objects indistinct and near
objects glow. On the way to Dr Janice’s place I had to walk past a row of shops. I looked for my reflection in the
plate glass windows and thought I detected a minor disturbance in the air about where I stood.

There were teenage boys showing off in front of a teenage girl by the curry house. I passed quite close to them;
usually I would give this sort of group a fairly wide birth. As I have said before, I hate a fuss. I was a little wary
of sudden movements but emboldened by my unusual condition I forged ahead and felt a knowing smile creep across
my countenance. Nothing happened. There was no jeering, sneering or sly comment today because, as far as they were
concerned, I wasn’t there!

Ahead, on the corner of the road I spotted Vanessa whizzing along on her mobility scooter. I waved and cried ‘Hello’,
but of course, she couldn’t see me either. Vanessa would be at Dr Janice’s before me. I hoped they would have a
plan to help me out.



© Jonathon Normal

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