Moving Forwards part 10

There was no point in going further from the dimension machine. He would not be able to make it back in time if he did. Still, it felt like someone was laughing at him when he turned his back on the next island and began the long walk back to the hole in the sky.

He reminded himself to breathe regularly when he had to cross the first island. He crossed it with brisk steps, pausing only to check the pile of stones he had left last time he passed. It seemed untouched. Just like his rucksack had, even though he had seen the trees moving while he had left his rucksack on the island. Just like his ankle had when he had been so sure that someone or something had grabbed it. He kicked the pile and threw one of the stones at a tree.

‘Come on!’ he shouted, ‘move!’

The tree remained motionless.

‘Are you digging on my nerves on purpose or can you only move at night?’ he said, ‘or when it’s misty…’

He turned, motioning with his hand as if he were throwing something away. He walked away shaking his head.

‘Speaking to a tree, that’s one thing I thought I’d never do.’

Hopefully the plan he had for tonight would be more successful.

 

As soon as the light dimmed, he placed himself between two islands as much in the middle of the path as he could. As he took off his jacket, he peered out over the waves. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. He slipped his safety harness out of his rucksack and hid it under his jacket. Then he made himself as comfortable as possible on the stones with his rucksack as a pillow which was not comfortable at all. However, somehow he was glad it was uncomfortable; it would be easier to stay awake.

The wind picked up as the sun set. Rodger crossed his fingers that it would not rain and tried to look relaxed. He clutched the safety harness with one hand, perhaps too tightly. He focused on his breathing to seem relaxed and asleep. He focused on the stone his hip was being squashed against to keep himself awake. He kept his right hand free and ready.

He had to wait for it to come very close, and he might not get a second chance. Even if it touched his leg, it might not be close enough. He would have to seem asleep, until the very moment he grabbed for it.

His hip ached. He felt like he had been lying there for hours. Perhaps he had. He dared not open his eyes to look at his watch.

Something touched his trouser leg. He forced himself to lie still. Keep breathing, he thought, keep breathing. You are sleeping, just sleeping. Something touched his leg again. Was it a bit more insistent? Was it testing to see if he was really asleep? Were his shoulders relaxed enough?

Something poked him in the back. He only shifted slightly, making what he hoped was a convincing sleep-grunt. He took several deep breaths without feeling anything new. Was it still there? Perhaps it noticed he was awake. Perhaps it had gone to fetch more. He felt his heart sinking. Perhaps he should just open his eyes to see if it was there?

A drop fell on his face. He thrust himself up, grabbed it with his right hand, threw the safety harness over its head and held on tight.

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This is part 10 read part 1 here: https://abolg.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/moving-forwards-part-1/

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O, The Intermissionness!

Due to little time this morning, and very loud music from my neighbour now, there will be a short intermission from the story (please don’t get angry).

Hopefully, I will complete part ten tomorrow, otherwise it will be published Wednesday.

For now, please enjoy these small intermission type texts.

 

Red and Stars and Sky

Sky at dusk,

Light disappearing from the world.

Something sweet has just left me.

I am not sure what.

But it lingers on my tongue.

And reminds me of dates.

 

Floating

Floating.

Weightless.

Hair spreading out.

Like lazy snakes circling her head.

She is looking at me with grey eyes.

Should I take her with me?

Is that what she wants?

I take her hand.

She does not resist.

I pull her with me to the bottom.

 

Moving Forwards part 9

The mist was not so thick now. He could see across most of the island. And what he saw there made his knees tremble.

The entire island had come alive. The trees had unfurled. And every blade of grass too. They were writhing, stretching, reaching towards him. He had been sleeping with his head against those trees for two whole nights. His backpack was still somewhere on the island. Unless the trees had done something to it. Would they do something to it? What would they have done to him if he had stayed on the island?

The movements in the mist made sense now. They had been right beside him all the time. Only moving when he turned his back. He whimpered. Fell to his knees. No. He grabbed his hair. It could not be; there had to be some kind of rules in this dimension.

The flute was still playing behind him. But it could not be playing on its own, there had to be someone or something out there in the water. Could it be one of those slimy things? Or was it something else? Either way he did not want to swim out there to look.

Trapped between the water and the reaching arms of the trees. What should he do? He glanced up and down the beach. Perhaps he could hide between the large rocks farther down the beach, until morning. Oh God, he hoped it would all be back to normal in the morning.

He scrambled to his feet and hurried down the beach. Squeezed in between two large rocks. It was cold, but at least they would have a hard time getting him out. He just hoped he would not be stuck when he wanted to move on.

A new sound began behind the flute music. A low buzzing, like from the wings of a bumblebee. It grew in intensity. Rodger swallowed. Something new was coming. He took a deep breath and peered out from his hiding place.

The buzzing grew even louder, but he could not see anything new. It had to be close now; it was so loud. Then something large burst out of the mist and whizzed over his head. As it disappeared into the mist behind him, the music vanished with it.

Rodger’s breath caught in his throat. He had recognized the shape, but it was too large. Much too large. It was a giant praying mantis.

The buzzing of wings receded. Rodger sat as if frozen. When he felt a cramp beginning in his leg, he crept out ever so carefully. His boot squelched as he moved, and he remembered his wet foot. It was completely numb.

The trees were still again, thank God, and the mist had dissipated enough for him to see across the island. Everything seemed back to normal. Or at least, back to how it was before the flute music began.

He crept up to where he had been sleeping. His rucksack was still there, and it seemed unharmed. He snatched it up and ran from the island on to the stones. The trees should not be able to reach him there. But the things in the water… And what would he do if the mantis returned?

He checked his watch. This was no good; he had no time for running. He had to find a way to get back up to the machine. Until now, this dimension had only given him more questions; it was time to get some answers. And he had an idea of how he might get some.

 

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This is part nine, read the first part here: https://abolg.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/moving-forwards-part-1/

Moving Forwards part 8

Rodger is sitting in a beach chair beneath a parasol. The parasol shades his face and torso. Outside the shade the strong sun warms his legs right through. In his hand he has a cold glass of beer. The condensation droplets run down the glass onto his fingers. Somewhere someone is playing a flute.

He takes a sip of the beer. Ice-cold, lovely. The sand below his bare feet is burning. He digs his toes down through the scorching part to where it is cooler. Fine grains shifting between his toes. The music is still there.

He glances up and down the beach. There is no one nearby. The music seems to come from somewhere across the water. Is there a boat out there? He rises to his feet, takes another sip of the beer.

The sand of the beach is so light it is almost white. The colour reminds him of something. White. But the memory eludes him, and as he tries to clutch it, it slips between his fingers like the sand between his toes. Oh, well, it was probably not important.

He walks to the edge of the dry sand and gazes across the blue sparkling water. Now that he is out in direct sunlight, he is even more thankful for his cold beer. He takes another sip. There is not much left. Sweat runs down his back.

He approaches the waves. The music is nice, beautiful even, but he does not recognize the melody. It really does seem to come from somewhere out there, but he cannot see a boat or anything else someone could sit on.

Some of the waves roll quite far up the beach. He jumps away from them, smiling, plays tag with them across the sand. Sees how long he can stand still without his feet getting wet. He laughs. Wipes his damp hair from his forehead.

Perhaps he should just paddle a bit. After all, he has bare feet and he can roll up his trousers. He steps onto the wet sand. Into the water. Stumbles. Arms flailing. Falls.

The cold water slapped him in the face and he got to his feet spluttering. He was knee deep in cold grey water. The flute was still playing somewhere out there. He scrambled onto the beach. Coughing. Shivering. Even now he felt a strange tug from the music. He shook his head. Slapped his cheeks.

‘You’re awake now,’ he told himself, ‘you’re awake.’

Then he looked up at the island.

‘Oh, God, no,’ he said.

 

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This is part 8, read part 1 here: https://abolg.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/moving-forwards-part-1/

Moving Forwards part 7

When the light faded Rodger’s eyelids grew heavy. He forced his eyes open. Just a bit further. Perhaps the mist would disappear during the night? If he could at least see something new on the horizon before he slept.

He shivered. Walked faster. But the chill had settled in his bones. Perhaps he was more tired than he had thought? He sighed. It was no use fighting his own body. On the next island, he chose the tree nearest the middle of the island. That was as far from the water as he could get.

He used his rucksack as a pillow and lay down. Closed his eyes. The mist stirred behind him. Something was coming. Something dark and slimy was crawling out of the mist. He sat up. Turned. Trying to look in all directions at once. There was nothing there. Just mist.

He cursed himself. Of course there was nothing. He had been on the edge of dreams. He flumped back down. Still exhausted, but his eyes no longer wanted to relax and every time he tried to sleep images of slimy things crawled into his brain. Think about something else, he thought. Think about something else. But it did not expel the images.

At least the crawling things would not be able to get to the dimension machine either. Or at least he hoped they had no way of getting to the machine. And Frederick. No, he was scaring himself again. The slimy thing or things seemed to live in the water. It would make no sense for them to be able to fly.

He wondered what Frederick was doing. Alone in the dimension machine. Probably reading a book. Frederick had brought a couple into the machine before their departure.

‘What are those for?’ Rodger had asked, ‘we’re going to a new dimension. There’ll be loads to see.’

‘Just in case I have to wait for something for a long time,’ said Frederick. ‘I’m terrible at waiting, but if I have a good book, well, time just seems to fly.’

‘What have you chosen for your potential waiting then?’ Rodger held out his hand. Frederick gave him the books. Rodger studied the front covers.

Waiting for Godot?’ said Rodger, ‘isn’t this the one where nothing happens?’

‘Pretty much,’ said Frederick.

‘And Neverwhere? what’s that about?’

‘Haven’t begun reading that one.’

‘And Life of Pi. Never heard of it before.’

‘No? It’s really good, you should read it. It’s about a boy who survives two hundred and something days on a lifeboat after a shipwreck. With a tiger as his only company.’

‘A tiger?’

‘Yeah a tiger.’

‘Sounds like rotten luck,’ said Rodger.

When Rodger thought about it now, he would rather sleep beside a tiger than in the middle of this mist.

 

 

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This is part 7, read part 1 here: https://abolg.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/moving-forwards-part-1/

Moving Forwards part 6

As the sun rose the trees turned yellow and a mist rolled in from the sea. At first the mist only swallowed the farthest islands, but it crept closer by the minute. Soon Rodger could see no further than five metres in front of him. As he crossed another island he could hear the waves from the other side of the white blanket, but the water was hidden. The trees were shadows in the mist. How could he be sure they were only trees?

No, that kind of thinking would bring him nowhere. He steeled himself and placed three white stones in the middle of the island. He paused. What would find them? Would the dark slimy thing know what they meant? He picked up the stones and turned to leave.

Then again, if there was any kind of help to find in this world, any at all, he would need them to know he was here. He placed the stones in a pile again and strode on. Trying not to turn his head at every crash of the waves. If something was following him, and it was an animal, he did not want to seem like prey and if it was something intelligent, he did not want it to think he was scared.

The endless crashing of the waves worked like sandpaper on his nerves, even when he was on the narrow strip of stones and could see them. It was as if someone had wiped out the whole world and all that existed was him, the stones and the waves in this small bubble of reality.

He shook himself. He had to find some way to calm himself. A song? No, he could not sing in key to save his life. And he could not whistle. But he did know some poetry.

‘It is an ancient mariner,’ he began, ‘and he stoppeth one of three.’ Remembering the words as he walked, he almost forgot the shadows in the mist.

‘At length did cross an albatross,’ he said as he was crossing the next island, ‘Thorough the fog it came.’ Something stirred at the edge of his vision. He froze. Staring into the fog. There was a shadow there. But now it was completely still. He swallowed a couple of times. It had moved just a little, but it had moved. His jaw clenched, he crept towards the shadow. It was large. Much taller than him. It was a tree. Its branches spiralling innocently on opposite sides of the trunk.

He sighed. Rubbed his forehead. He really was losing it. He turned his back.

‘As if it had been a Christian soul,’ he continued, ‘we hailed’ Something stirred. He spun around. There was only the tree. And the mist. And the shadows. He took a deep breath. Turned slowly and continued on his way, forcing himself to look straight ahead and continue his recitation, no matter how his instincts screamed for him to turn. To run. To fight. To stop the moving at the edge of his vision or at least find out what it was.

The moving did not seem to follow him onto the stones and his heart slowed a little.

‘Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink,’ he gazed at the water and where it disappeared in the fog, ‘water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.’ At least he had plenty of provisions with him. Frederick had made sure of that. ‘The very deep did rot, oh Christ!’ He stopped, studying the crashing waves. ‘That ever this should be. Yea slimy things did crawl with legs,’ his voice turned into a whisper, ‘upon the slimy sea.’ Perhaps the Ancient Mariner had not been the best choice.

 

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This is part 6, read part 1 here: https://abolg.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/moving-forwards-part-1/

Moving Forwards part 5

Rodger is pacing back and forth in his flat. He goes to the bedroom. The living room. Into the kitchen. Opens the fridge. The smell is stale. Something green is growing on the cheese. The lunchmeats still look edible, but his throat ties itself in a knot at the thought of dry bread.

He closes the fridge. Goes to the living room. Back to the kitchen. He opens the fridge. Nothing has changed. He contemplates a lonely carrot in the vegetable drawer, wrinkled and dark. The project leader told him to eat a healthy diet. The carrot does not look healthy anymore.

He closes the fridge. Pulls his fingers through his hair. He really should take a shower. Goes back to the living room. Sits down in front of his computer. Stretches his legs under his desk and rests them on a very strategically placed box.

There is no new mail. Nothing happens on facebook. The posts on reddit are all boring. He votes them all down. His pocket buzzes. He takes up his phone. There is one new message from Frederick.

‘Want to go down to the gym one last time?’

Rodger smiles.

Then there is something dark under his desk. Something slimy. Something cold. It grabs his feet.

Rodger sat up with a yell. Everything was dark. Something was over his head. And something else was out there. He struggled to free himself from his jacket. There was a faint splash just as he stood up. His eyes finally rid of their cover stared at the water.

The moon was strong and almost full. It made the shadows of the trees sharp. And black. As if their spirals had been drawn in coal on blue-green paper. The only sound was the lapping of the waves.

Rodger swallowed. Took one step closer to the water. The thing must have dived. He went a bit closer. There was no sign of anything. Perhaps he had just imagined it? Was the loneliness really getting to him already?

No, it could not be. He had felt those cold slimy hands on his ankle. Or whatever they were. And something had jumped into the water. But what was it?

Was it something intelligent? Why had it fled from him? Of course he had yelled, he might have startled it. But why did it approach him while he slept? Was it looking for easy prey? Rodger shivered. He told himself it was the cold.

He went back to his rucksack and jacket. Studied the ground around where he had been sleeping. There were no signs of any footprints. But the earth was so hard packed that he did not leave any footprints himself either.

Nothing seemed to have been touched. His jacket looked just as it were, his rucksack had a hollow where his head had been. He checked his trouser leg. The end was a bit damp. Or maybe it was just cold. It was hard to tell. He shrugged on his jacket and sat down. What to do now?

There was a small splash and he turned his head. Nothing. Just waves. Could he really be sure that the splash he had heard came from a living creature?

He sighed. Put on his rucksack. There was plenty of light to walk by and trying to get more sleep tonight would be useless.

 

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This is part 5 read part 1 here:

https://abolg.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/moving-forwards-part-1/

 

Moving Forwards part 4

When the sun went down, Rodger had still not reached any islands. He took off his safety harness, a lot of good that had done him, and packed it into his rucksack. As the choice stood between the stones and the water, he lay down to sleep in the middle of the path. With the cold stones digging into his back. He wrapped himself in his coat and the spare clothes.

The next morning he woke shivering. His nails blue as the water. He poured some biscuit dust into his mouth for breakfast and continued down the path at a run. Trying to force his muscles into generating the warmth that had left him. He had to slow to a walk after twenty minutes. Sweat would only make it worse.

Then there was something new on the horizon. A dark silhouette, wider than the path. And something seemed to be growing on it. One of the islands at last. He sped up. It had already been about twenty four hours since he left Frederick.

As he approached the thing, it gained colour. Green. Grass? And something tall as well. Trees? He began to run again. Even if he did not find anything else, at least he would be able to sleep softer tonight.

The green was indeed grass and looked very much like the grass from his own dimension, except it curled after about three inches and grew in spirals. It made the island look like one big curly pillow. The trees spiralled as well. After about three metres they curved back towards the earth.

He stopped right before the border between stones and grass. It was very clearly defined. No grass grew among the stones. No stones lay in the grass. He knelt down. Picked up some of the stones. There did not seem to be any earth underneath them, just stones piled on top of even more stones. But the grass grew in dark soil which began so abruptly that it looked like someone had shaped it.

He dug into the soil with one finger. There was a fine net holding it in place. That settled it. There had to be some kind of intelligent life somewhere. But where were they?

The ground seemed solid enough. In fact, it seemed hard- packed; it did not give at all under his weight. The left and right edges of the island were sandy beaches. But just beside the path large rocks were piled up, each more than a metre in diameter. Perhaps to keep the net in place?

On the opposite side of the island, the white stone path continued to another island, seemingly identical to the first one.

If someone had made these islands then someone had to be maintaining them. But how long until they came? Would they need to cut the grass? He grabbed a handful of grass and pulled. It ripped off in his hand. It even smelled like ordinary grass.

He dug down with his fingers and pulled up a clump of close woven white roots and plenty of earth. Just as the grassroots he was used to. The only difference was the spirals. And because of those spirals the grass stood no taller than about three inches anywhere on the island.

He paced from beach to beach, among the trees. What if they only had to maintain the islands once a month? He could not wait for that. He took three stones from the path and placed them in a little pile in the middle of the island. Hopefully, someone would see that if they came and know he was there.

He strode off to the next island. And the next. And the next. Leaving small piles of stones on each. When it grew dark he rested his rucksack against a tree and used it as a pillow. It was still cold, but at least it was not as lumpy as it had been the previous night.

 

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This is part 4, read parts 1-3 here:

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