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Brutalist Stories #36

A Terrible Witness

Helga Korsets chapel

The memory of a memory of a memory. What am I supposed to be remembering here? This thing they’re trying to get from me, right? I’m here to try to help them? Are they asking me or telling me? There’s something that’s occurred at some point in this time, in this life, but so much has gone on, so much as passed? What part of it do they want, what part of me are they looking for? How will it help them?

“It’s time for you to co-operate,” the deep voice says in the darkness as the panel lighting overhead flickers on and reveals the grey concrete walls.

I’m strapped to a metal chair, my arms on the armrests, my legs to the chairs legs. I can wriggle but there’s no chance I’m breaking free, what would be the point anyway? I’m stuck in this room, this grey room with the panel lighting that’s making me feel nauseous. They’re not letting me go, they need answers, apparently. They need to extract something from me for some reason.

“Are you prepared to answer the question?” the deep voice comes through the speaker again.

“What you want to know, what you need to know? It’s in here, but I’m not sure how to answer,” I say and tilt my head. There’s something they’re not telling me, but what does it matter anyway? Surely, I’m here just to answer the question, if I don’t I might be left to rot; if I do, I might be left anyway. So, I begin as best I can. “There was the time, when I almost got thrown from a balcony of a hotel by a giant Persian, 24 floors down into Acapulco Bay, is it that? Or something fresher, you know, like traveling through China and practicing Tai Chi with masters of the art in the Yangshuo mountains. There’s the Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica and the jaw dropping awe that it induced when I first entered. There’s the great Pyramids of Giza and their grip on time, their eternal majesty that rendered me slightly immobile. There’s the concrete and steel and glass of New York and Manhattan Island. There’s so much. There’s so much.”

“This is not the answer.” The voice penetrates me.

“The people then?” I raise my eyebrows and feel something ball in the back of my throat. “So many of them, so many, where to start? Who to begin with? The sun softly shining through the kitchen of our family’s house as I make a cake with my mother as a small child and she lets me lick the spoon and I have rushes of joy? San Francisco, young and free and making this connection with Natalia, a young Russian girl, and absorbing her energy whilst we walk through the Palace of Fine Arts and I smile and she smiles back, wide and big and I breathe and I’m happy? I’m stood in front of a mirror in a small Japanese apartment, looking at myself and crying and flooded with anger, rich anger, but I don’t let it eat me. I know there’s something or someone out there that can help and so I walk and find a back-alley bar and as I enter, there he is, Wataru Miyamoto, with his humble smile and long thick grey hair and he offers me a drink and I smile and drink with him and leave with hope?”

“You are witness to all of this,” the voice says.

“This isn’t even the start,” I reply.

“It makes you up.” It says. “But it doesn’t make you whole.”

“And you’re looking for what might make us whole?” I answer and lower my head as a tear rolls down my cheek.

“We’re not sure you ever can be. You are a witness, a terrible witness to it all, but left empty. This is our conclusion.”

“But you have to let me find out for myself.” I reply and lift my head as the straps on my arms and legs release themselves.

“Try your best,” the voice says as a section of the wall shifts and an immense light shines in on me and I take a step, and grit my teeth and I know that I will.

Building inspiration: Helga Korsets chapel

Musical inspiration: Philip Glass – Temple of the Golden Pavillion

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