The forest glowed a vibrant green, the rich scent of animals and wood, decay and sunshine mingling beautifully. Scott walked beneath the boughs that reached far above, listening to the sounds of the birds. Dappled sunlight broke through the canopy, laying shifting patterns on the leaf litter underfoot. A deer ahead heard Scott approach and darted away, dancing from step to step, a spring uncoiling.
The sound of laughter and merriment gradually rose above the ambient noise of the forest, coming from a small campsite of men in earthy greens and browns. They welcomed Scott warmly, with wide arms and open smiles. He joined them a while, drinking and carousing, before whispering something to their leader and taking his leave. Once out of sight, he found a shadow and slipped into it, into the in-between places. Slipped sideways, into eternity.
Eternity swallowed him as an old friend, its cool embrace familiar and comforting, his step stretching out longer and longer. After a moment, an hour, a minute, Scott stepped out into the light rain, a gentle drizzle that slowly worked its way down the back of his neck and shoes. The city was grey and dismal, dark clouds hanging low and brooding over intermittent spires and flat roof slats.
He stepped under an overhanging eave and covered his nose to block out the smells that ran down the street like rivers, the fetid stench of unwashed bodies pressed too close together and human waste. Lightning crackled in the clustered clouds, forks of light spearing the sky for far too brief a time. This was no place for him.
Scott regretted the deal he had made. He knew something was wrong at the time, but had been too excited to care. The man had been so nice, his too-white coat matching his too-white teeth. The prospect of being able to slip out of time, through time, between time, landing anywhere and anywhen… how could he refuse? But now… now he was tired.
Scott found an open doorway and stepped inside. Stepped sideways, into eternity.
He stumbled as the ground swayed beneath him. The view from the edge of the boat was hindered by a heavy fog that pressed down on all sides. Despite it, there were people mingling on the deck: clearly passengers, not a deckhand in sight. He grimaced. He knew how this one ended.
He just wanted to go home, to find himself before he made the deal and stop it from happening. He’d been slipping for years now, and he feared just what it was that he was slipping towards.
There was a band playing, elevated on a small stage, the music swallowed by the mist. Scott pulled his coat closer around his body, futilely attempting to shield himself from the cold. He stepped backward, into the shadow. Slipped sideways, across the deck.
He frowned. Stepped sideways, into the railing at the edge of the boat, the sliver of eternity slithering infuriatingly away.
Speed, that’s what I need, he thought, gripping the railing.
A shudder rocked the boat and would have knocked him from his feet had he not already been holding on. The sharp keening of shredding metal filled the air, drowning out the cries of the passengers.
Now or never.
He vaulted over the rail, the water looking impossibly far away, only just visible through the fog. As he fell, Scott tried to slip between realities, but something was wrong, very wrong. Eternity was there, just in front of him, just out of reach. He knew that if he could just get a bit more speed he could make it.
The water rapidly approached, but still eternity eluded him. He stretched his hand out, managing to hook a finger through. He pulled hard, trying to heave himself forward but the water was too close now and he struck it hard with only half a hand through. The pain wrapped around him, shielding him from the cold, forcing his breath out in an explosion of bubbles. Weakly, he registered that he still had a hold between time and let himself slip down, sideways, into eternity.
Scott opened his eyes, unsure if he had made it or not. He was lying on a bed in a white-walled room with electronic displays around him and somewhere there was an incessant beep-beep that was gradually speeding up. He knew this place. He did not want to be here.
A woman walked in, wearing a too-white coat and a too-white smile. He tried to move, to roll over, to escape, but his limbs were sluggish and unresponsive. The woman held down his arm and inserted a needle, shooting something into his veins.
Gradually, his panic subsided. The beeping slowed once more and, under the woman’s watchful gaze, he felt himself slipping.
Slipping sideways, into eternity.
Read more by Matthew Wilson at http://parchedment.blogspot.com.au/
Photography: Madura McCormack
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