Trapped Between Worlds

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This post was originally published through Patreon on March 20, 2018.

It was too much too fast. Another world strobed in and out of view, and Kevin clapped his hands over his ears and closed his eyes.

“Stop.”

For a moment, the flow of otherworldly sensations surged. Then slowly, reluctantly, they petered out, until after a span of minutes or hours—Kevin couldn’t say—light from the world outside greeted his pupils once again.

He let in a lungful of air. Let it out.

In.

Out.

The world, along with the park bench on which Kevin sat, came back into focus.

The sun, warm against his skin, provided some comfort. It made the Earth feel a little more tangible, a little more real. That was a rare feeling now, and he treasured it, held it close like a newborn child.

For the thousandth time, Kevin questioned his sanity. He’d once had a schizophrenic uncle who went off his medication, and he could remember the man sitting in a secluded corner of his grandmother’s house, laughing and whispering at people who weren’t there.

But wasn’t the definition of insanity the inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy? If Kevin was crazy, why did he feel the need to ask himself if he was sane?

A child shouted in the distance as if punctuating the thought, and he turned to see a little girl in the playground tear through the air on a swing.

Kevin remembered when he himself had been a child. Ages ago, it seemed now, a whole other life. The fantasies had taken him hostage then, too. But it hadn’t occurred to him until he was much older that something might be wrong.

Like a ghost, he’d slip back and forth between two worlds, an effortless transition that always seemed so innocent, so normal, so natural. Mom and Dad would send him outside to play, and he would hydroplane across the stars, sliding through an alternate reality that seemed custom built for him.

He was just using his imagination, he assumed, like every other boy and girl his age. Then he turned into a teenager, and things took a turn for the worst.

He would hang out at school, chatting with friends, or trying to talk to the pretty girl who sat across from him in Math, and all of a sudden the visions would return, as lucid and as real as his life at school. Then, when he finally came back to himself, he’d be wandering the halls like a zombie, or sitting on a toilet in one of the bathroom stalls, or even walking home, with no recollection of the intervening hours.

He never talked to anyone about his sudden lapses. For him, they were something to be ashamed of. He was afraid, and so, one by one, he withdrew from his family and his friends, while inside, he quietly went mad.

Incursions of that other world into his own increased, until it was happening all the time, until he could no longer tell up from down or left from right.

Now he was twenty-seven and still lived at home, with no prospects for college or work.

I’m lost, he thought. Lost in the space between two worlds. It was a terrible kind of half-life that he hated bitterly.

Light. It tugged at Kevin’s eyes once more. This light wasn’t from the sun but from someplace elsewhere, a luminescence that was different in both quality and intensity. Blue sky and clouds one moment gave way to star-studded black the next.

“No,” Kevin whispered. It was happening again. “Stop.”

But it didn’t stop. In the end, it never stopped.

The world flickered, and Kevin, whimpering, closed his eyes and waited to be taken again.

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Remembering

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This post was originally published through Patreon on March 27, 2018.

The sun beats down upon my neck, but I do not feel its warmth. The light is wan, sickly, and I hug myself against the cold. The Earth—or the Old World, as it has come to be called by my people—is a graveyard. Ancient rotten buildings line deserted streets like headstones.

And yet, this is where we all began, where we all sprang up from a soil that was once fertile and rich. We are descendants of a celestial seed sown by our forebearers when the Old World was little more than stardust, and we honor our old home with reverence.

Of course, we moved on long ago. We didn’t want to; the Old World had been good to us. But we had no choice. Earth had given all it could, and as the sun dimmed and the oceans cooled and the plants withered and died, we opened the Book of Creation, placed our hands upon its shriveled pages, and let its magic sweep us away to someplace new.

Our world is once more a place of blue skies and clouds, of brightness, fertility, and life. But each of us must return to the Old World at least once, not just to connect with our distant past, but to divine the secrets of our far-off future.

I take one last look at the lifeless sky and shake my head. Nothing left to see here, only monuments by and for the dead. I open the Book of Creation. A warm light envelops me, and after I whisper the sacred words of our ancestors, the Old World once more gives way to the new.

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The Bell

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This post was originally published through Patreon on February 13, 2018.

A bell rings behind me, and I turn. But no one’s there, and a moment later I continue on, boots clip-clopping against the paving stones of an abandoned street, their cyclic echo like a cannonade in the darkness of the night.

The bell rings again. The sound stirs uncomfortable memories, and I whirl, desperate to catch whoever rang it by surprise. But again, I see only a dark and empty street.

Faster. I must walk faster. The continuous rhythm of boots-against-stone rises in tempo to match the accelerating beat of my anxiety-ridden heart.

The bell rings yet again. Like a grenade, it bursts inside my head. The sound is so close now, I can almost feel cold metal pressing against my cheek. Those dark memories swirl, like dust kicked up by a storm, and I begin to remember what I tried so hard to forget.

I hoped I’d escaped, but now, too late, I realize the truth: They were always watching. I can feel them breathing down my neck, their wet, noxious stink rolling over me like poison gas.

The air grows still, pregnant with anticipation.

When the bell rings again, the force and volume drag me down into a restless sleep. But before I lose consciousness, I feel them place something around my neck.

My own bell—polished silver—flashing in the moonlight.

Then I close my eyes and return to my eternal unrest, knowing I am theirs once more.

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