It was my husband who told me, but it had been our son who noticed first. ‘Mummy smells like a robot,’ he’d whispered, fearfully, in bed one night. ‘Is there metal inside her?’ Once I’d smelt it too, I couldn’t get it out of my nose. Fresh bread, toilet bleach, aftershave: whatever I sniffed, all I got was a dull metallic vapour; the smell of garages and the insides of clocks.
At the time, it was a shock. Less than a second, and it was over. I wouldn’t even say that it was painful; just out of the ordinary, like a knock of your funny bone, or your knee giving way. What was odd was how I felt after: the tingles snaking through my fingertips and up to my shoulder. The energy that shot through me with every footstep, inflaming every cell of me like a bolt of white-hot lightning earthing itself.
After that moment, I was never the same. You wouldn’t be, if your world began to disappear. Each day, I saw less of the things and the people I used to know so well, and in their place, only essence, vibrating. Atoms. Fractals. The bright, quivering hum of the energy that had been behind it all, forever, without a soul ever seeing it.
And the worst thing was, no doctor believed me. They called them delusions, hallucinations, fantasies. For years after that, I pretended I was normal, because I knew how to act. It was easier that way. Until one day, I met a creature who was not made out of fractals at all. I wish I could say she helped me escape, but she just pulled me deeper.