The Observer Effect

I’ve seen many of the sights you are supposed to see out here in the abyss. You know, the stuff the guide books tell you about. Some of it is spectacular, but a lot was spoiled long before I saw it. That’s the thing about tourism – the simple act of looking changes everything. I guess quantum mechanics was right about that..


After aimlessly wandering around and jumping from system to system, I finally met a humanoid girl I liked, in one of those enormous gravDance clubs on an orbital out in the edge territories. She really stood out. In fact, she was glowing in the dark. At first, I thought it was just body paint or holo-flesh or something, but she could naturally do that. She was pretty cute, in her slippery tentacle-y way. 

She took to me immediately. I figured alien rowdy water was making her talk so much – certain species have trouble with recreational chemicals – but learned later that she was just a natural chatterbox. ‘I think humans is most cutest sentients in this galaxy’ she said. Humans were a rarity out that way so we were seen as ‘exotic’ back then. Except that, according to her, ’The human feets is weird.’ (I made sure to keep my socks on after hearing that).

I fell for her pretty hard, and when I told her that, it made her glow. Like, really glow. Her colour changed with her emotions, and her shape too. She could even make herself look exactly like a human. I’d always wanted a transmorph girlfriend! I know, I know.. it’s creepy to want that, but what can I tell you.. I was even shallower back then than I am now. 

We became ‘an item’, and traveled together. Sometimes staying someplace a while, if we found temp jobs. Suddenly, life was much better being with someone else. It was one of the happiest times of my life.

I’d had girlfriends before who took a while to get dressed & put on their makeup and whatnot but she took it to a whole new level, locked in the bathroom for ages. I knew she was an aquatic, and needed to replenish fluids or whatever, but I admit it drove me nuts. She’d be in there for hours, then come out looking just the same as when she went in..

When I asked about her species, she’d shut me down. I looked up various transmorphs in my guidebook; A Tarsik? No. A Blasstoid? No. A Grommelphung? No! She laughed off all my guesses, and when I suggested we visit her home-world she said ‘No, not a good idea for you’ and changed the subject as easily as she changed colour..

So yeah, she could be stubborn and had quirks, but was a sweetie. Goofy too, but I liked that. I’d been kinda lonely and culture shocked, and tired of traveling around on my own. She was too. Apparently, she was even farther from her home planet than I was from mine. Anyway, I was happy to finally connect with anyone, but especially with her

Until I finally found out what she really looked like when she hadn’t locked the bathroom door.. I only saw a pulsating part of her.. and.. well.. It was just the ghastliest, most disturbing sight. I’d already seen many strange and even repugnant lifeforms on my travels. No problem. But what I saw that day was so revoltingly.. other. The merest glimpse of a tiny bit of her true form, seen in a mirror when attempting to use the gravLav, brought on a shattering tsunami of existential nausea, and a full body PURGE.

My very soul needed to vomit, and rid itself of unclean & putrified reality. A feeling like the worst case of food poisoning combined with extreme suicidal anguish, creating a horror that was palpably physical, and a sickness that was deeply spiritual. The sight of that squamous & abominable creature was so unreal that I was about to claw through my own face and silence my brain.. when, thankfully, I had a heart attack instead..


Years later, I awoke in a mediCentrer as an atrophied mess with grey beard down to my knees. The mediBots explained what had happened. After seeing a multidimensional species – whose very existence violates norms of reality upon which most sentient psyches are built – my mind had recoiled & retreated to a fugue state, where it struggled for years in a vortex of insanity.

Or, put another way, I’d taken time to work through some shit. IE: the sight of my amorphous & eldritch alien girlfriend. The form I fell in love with wasn’t even her real form, which was a shapeless blasphemy of reality. No wonder she’d concealed her true nature. She was only hiding what I was incapable of knowing. 

Apparently, the human mind cannot make ‘sense’ of this species in its true form. Full sight of its abominable multidimensional ghastliness cracks open our sense of what can be real. I only survived because I didn’t see all of my alien girlfriend’s loathsome natural form, and what little I did see was reflected in a mirror.

Some advanced sentients apparently seek out such an ordeal deliberately, as a mind-altering religious experience, but the psyches of most sentient biologicals will be turned inside out upon seeing this species. Even Class-A mechanicals suffer severe logic-chip damage upon perception of this hideous & indescribable entity. 

She’d made sure I got the care I needed but had gone by the time I awoke. Of course she had. Why would you wanna be with someone who foamed at the mouth and got the fear-shivers at the sight of just a part of the real you? We could never be the same after that. Plus, clearly I wasn’t up to it.. The disgust and fear are still crippling. She warped my mind in ways that I didn’t know were possible.

I looked into a memory-wipe to erase the pain & horror of that moment, but it would destroy happy memories of her too. I didn’t want to lose those. So I just gotta live with the messy feelings, and endure the occasional spontaneous memory-puke. Somehow, through it all, I still love her. I don’t even understand it myself.. The human heart is a strange little organ isn’t it? Love is something I’m still learning about, and I am human. I wonder what she made of it..

Sometimes, I replay holos of us both together, in happier times. Though watching makes me violently ill – physically & spiritually – requiring both meditation & molecular deep-cleaning of my capsule afterward. That’s the thing about reality – the simple act of looking changes everything. When you look into the abyss, it looks into you too. I guess philosophy was right about that..

I’ve learned.. to respect boundaries. That it’s best not to ask questions if you don’t have the psychological equipment to handle the answers. Sure, truth might ‘set you free’, but only after kicking your arse first. And always KNOCK whenever entering the bathroom..

10 thoughts on “The Observer Effect”

  1. Super cool piece of creative SF JB that stretches the limits of space and human existentialism. Love it.
    Those ‘gravdance clubs’ on the outer orbitals sound like fun.
    The closest gravdance club here is known as the Hoey Moey in the edge territory of Coffs Harbour! There, interstellar species can get more than a glow.
    More stories like this por favor!

    • Thanks! This was initially planned as a short comics story. I already have notebooks full of such story outlines that I’d always intended to DRAW. But I am a VERY slow artist these days, so I’ve been thinking that I’ll make them into 1,000-1,500 word short stories instead. I do a lot of writing on this here blog, but so far it has been autobiographical stories or essays. I’ve always intended to try FICTION, and why not now?

      And yes! I’ve battled gravity a few times at the Hoey Moey while under the influence of rowdy water (as have many partiers from the Dale, including you!) So I’m sure there’s a little subconscious influence of that venue in the story (though the more conscious influence was mega-clubs in Bangkok & Tokyo).
      Thanks for reading & commenting, JD!

  2. Putting the ‘love’ in ‘Lovecraftian’!

    (coincidentally, just last night i found the word ‘eldritch’ in a J. London short story. having preceded Lovecraft, i looked up the etymology and it turns out the word is 500 yrs old, likely Scottish origins, and has to do with sinister elves!)

    • Oh well done! I do love me a good pun. And thanks for the history of ELDRITCH. It does sound Scottish now that you mention it. Professor Hamish McEldritch..
      Thanks for reading & commenting Charlie!

  3. Totally RAD, Jamie! (Of course I immediately thought of Sephalina the Nauti-girl, but upon further reading realized it was not she.) I loved it. :)

    • You were quite the first time, Aaron! This was initially intended to be a comics story told from the perspective of one of her exes. But I decided to do it as a short story instead (and I may do likewise with a few other stories Ive never gotten around to drawing).
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Good one, Jamie! Those descriptive moments paint a gruesome picture of nightmares I’ve had where the repulsion sticks with you during the waking hours. Dang it, the feeling is coming back! See what you did? Always loved your writing talents Jamie! 😊

  5. more of these, Jamie! I love it! took me right to another place. And i relate to being a multi-dimensional species who kneed a shit ton of time to get ready. cant wait to read more.

    • I think the dirty secret is that we are ALL shape-shifters, and morph ourselves constantly to fit in with others (or is that only ME? tee hee!)

      Great hearing from you, Kate, and thanks for commenting!

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