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Thomas Hall was not a boy of tradition, and neither was he a man of lax composure. Thomas Hall never sought the inevitable self-destruction all mortal minds were magnetically drawn to, and neither was he ever enticed by the enrapturing aura of incorporeal enlightenment. And yet, here he found himself upon the eternal plane of the ethereal imagination, standing upon the iridescent concrete of physical law. The vast wasteland before him was a simple formality, and he knew it. There was no recollection here. No memory wove its way into his mind, and his thoughts remained blank and without sentience. Thomas Hall was not easily surprised by the arbitrary mannerisms of space itself within the confines of the simple dimensions that bound him to his thoughts, but neither was he presently within the jurisdiction of those dimensions. No, simply to say, Thomas Hall used to exist in time, space, and beyond, but now he does not.
He blinked, scouring the indefinite landscape, eyes widened in what some may call fear, and others would call incredulity. The sky was emblazoned with the same white glow that stained the hard flat surface of the Earth upon which he stood. Yet this was not Earth, this wouldn’t be Earth. Thomas Hall found himself in another dimension entirely severed from the comprehension of mortal man. He blinked again. The strangeness of this alien dimension was equated by its fuzziness. In the condition of his faltering sight he could not parse the situation he had been thrust into unwittingly. Thomas reached up and touched his face. His glasses were absent. He furrowed his brow for no particular audience. Had they not been sitting upon the bridge of his nose moments ago? Had they? He had no clue as to why they would not have been. Then again, at the same time he could not perceive why such a reality could be possible. His memory failed him.
Here was Thomas Hall, clinging to an artificial perception of ephemerality, blinded by an accidental ignorance. He kneeled, splaying his hands on the cold hard ground, his fingers stumbling around him as he searched frantically for his spectacles. Perhaps finding them would allay his mind towards his predicament. His palm brushed over something thin and sleek, and he daintily pricked the glasses from the ground, heaving a sigh of relief as he slid the arms over his ears. Thomas Hall blinked flagrantly for a third time, reveling in the universe thrown before him in crystal cognition. Here was a world untouched by culture, as blank a metaphorical easel as it was a literal garden. Here was soil fertile for the fruits of tenacity, and attractive for the poison of arrogance. Despite what Thomas Hall may or may not have known, here was where he would die, and here was where his blood would stain the unknown horizon with a grim inspiration for the perseverance of uncontrollable life.
He picked a direction, and began walking.
Eliza Pinter sat in her seat at the ring of the bell. In the very least of her presence, she was not late. As the other students whispered and conversed enthusiastically about her, she remained alone, perched in the center of the sea of inquisitive competition. She pressed her thumb and a finger to her temples, setting herself dormant until class were to begin. Her eyes flickered between the two books that sat on her desk, their corners lazily intertwined. The sound around her drained through the floor as she separated the topmost book, her finger smoothly slipping underneath the front cover. The laughter around her ceased as the book opened under her force, The ink swerved about the page, forging limitless understandings of her thoughts. She gazed upon her representations of her thoughts and songs, and for one ephemeral moment appreciation gleamed in her work. She pulled at the corner of the page as her eyes drifted further down it, and began to turn the paper with the same elegant motion.
The point on a long wooden rod slammed against the page, and Eliza’s hand jolted in surprise. Her mouth hung agape as her eyes fell upon the large tear in the fragile paper. She looked at the thin rod that had caused the damage, and only then realized the teacher was speaking to her. The woman bearing upon Eliza spoke again, repeating the same demand that had eluded Eliza’s attention a moment ago. Tears welled in Eliza’s eyes. The ocean of competition became ever more inquisitive, the eyes of the other students morphing into their own independent beings, glaring at Eliza with an intention absent from their appearance. They had no motive in that they had every motive available. They frightened her, and she was taken aback by further attack from the teacher. The words bore into her, becoming knives as they slid into her skin effortlessly, lacerating her vital organs. Bile filled her lungs as the torture proceeded, and she screamed, trying to block out the silence around her, until there was not even silence at all.
A page flickered, and then two more. Eliza Pinter opened her eyes to complete darkness. She squinted, trying to visualize the void in front of her nose. Slowly the surrounding cavern spread before her, making itself known to her frail form in the desolate silence. A light cascaded from the roof above her, and the floor ascended at an uneven ramp to the breached ceiling. It was an exit. With a newfound drive, she grasped the rocky incline, prying her way to the small hole punched into the cavern roof. She thrust her arm into the open, and her sleeve fluttered in the nonexistent wind. She pulled herself up effortlessly, lacking of all fatigue as she looked out upon the stone world from which she had spawned moments before. The thickly uneven surface raced in every direction, the ground shooting up to strange heights, forming geometries impossible to the justification of the word “belief”. Eliza twisted her body as she stood resolute, a festering paranoia fermenting into a pulsing curiosity. Tears were streaming down her face, and she had no idea as to why. She flicked the tears away, and, as if by a sort of studious instinct, began to walk forward, out into the adventure constructed before her.
Her fingers twitched, sensing their interaction with every event each impossible mountain held for her discovery.
The stairwell exploded in an effusion of light as she struck the match. She lit the lamp tentatively, as though some devastating power was threatening to expunge what little light she held in her hands, and her body. She breathed, unintentionally releasing a frightened sob. She huddled closer to the grimy corner of the black stairwell scrubbing her arms to generate warmth. She was a trapped girl, stranded in a nightmare of flight. An inhuman moan emanated from far below her. She quaked, her ankle faltering against the concrete floor as she slowly moved toward the railing. Her pupils dilated in the eternal darkness that fell further down the well, and vision was impossible past the edge. Another queer moan roared from the vertical distance, sending her body lurching back in piercing fright.
She heard water drip from a few flights up. The walls around her constricted her thinking, and space was made smaller as the darkness absorbed the light past the first step down. She breathed heavily, wiping sweat and tears from her face. It seemed that minutes ago marked several years of being down here. How far down was she? Ascending did nothing to progress her escape, yet descending did not seem to impede it either. She looked down at her palm, dimly visible in the flickering glow of the flame. She only had three matches available to use. Another gust of wind swept by, and the hem of her dress flittered slightly, causing her to shiver and jump.
“There is something to be said for the pervasiveness of plague. It engulfs all who encounter it, whether it be by misfortune or a self-negligence. Some inhale it deeply, freely, mistaking the follies of man for his greatest masteries. The rot of the world becomes her greatest treasure, and they tear one another limb from limb to have what already lurks inside them, and to crawl towards what they can’t obtain. No, in this world of age and nothing more, every physical anomaly is a blight upon human life, and seeks nothing more than to desecrate what sanctity he holds in his heart, whether by temptation or the bile it spews upon all within range. A propensity to wallow within ones own effrontery exists in us all, a failed antibiotic that fissures our strength, and allows what devices present, unaffiliated with the machinations of Heaven or Hell, to eradicate every atom that within us irradiates light.”
Alice watched from afar. A smile graced her darkened lips as she gazed upon the boy she had just moments ago been speaking to. But that was a different time, and more than likely the last time. Her lip curled upwards slightly, then twitched. Whatever powers brought her to these axes, it would not hesitate to pull her back into the void from which she emerged. She was brought her upon a whim and an order, and although the energy that placed her at this moment in time and space was definitive, her time allotted here was not. The boy stopped, and she took the opportunity to approach. He was facing away from her, and seemed to have been walking for some time. It was now, not never, and that much she knew.
Thomas stopped walking. The landscape before him did not cease in any direction. No variable of human instinct was present within this plane of unworn vastness: Not time nor depth. He realized at his ever-lengthening period of spontaneous entrapment that no panic rushed through his veins; no urgency sounded as an alarm in his mind that he was in an unfamiliar situation with little to no chance of any survival. His feelings were as much a stranger to his thought and flow as his scenario, which, as far as equilibrium went, was worst-case. He inhaled deeply. The air around him held no scent, but instantaneously memories flooded back to him of his childhood. Warm afternoons were spent in the yard of his suburban home, sprawled upon the bright green grass incandescent in the gentle shower of the garden hose. Fluffy white cumulus clouds raced by, pushed strenuously by the gale flowing from the south.
He was zapped from his reminiscent stupor by a firm grip upon his shoulder. He stepped forward as he turned, wrenching the unknown grasp from the loose fit of his shirt. Thomas gasped as his eyes widened, pierced by the image of a beautiful lost friend. And in fact, Alice Rivers was a lost friend, though certainly not forgotten in the amnesic exaltation of Thomas Hall. Time stood between the two, separating them both in moment and pace, and Thomas seized the opportunity to revel in simple gladness and pure thought as he gazed upon the one mirage that affected him in this barren wasteland of potential tragedy. Alice’s long, exotic coat flapped in the absent wind, and her carefully braided hair swayed ever so slightly as she smiled, her violet lips swelling in the glow. Her gloves and pantaloons sparked the production of a few questions in Thomas, and they joined the myriad of questions already there.
“Tom.” Alice spoke, the sound of Thomas’ name forming into her gentle smile.
“Alice? What are you doing here? What is this place?” He said, his eyes motioning to the atmosphere around them. He could feel the firm arrival of uncertainty in the back of his mind. Better late than never.
Alice waved, “There’s not much time. We should begin walking about now.” She started in the direction perpendicular to the path Thomas was walking. He hurried to catch up, extremely perplexed. He grabbed her wrist in an effort to dull her quick stride.
“Wait a minute, you can’t just appear out of thin air and not say anything!” he said, grimacing in an apprehension of genuine concern. She grabbed his hand in return, leading him as she picked up her step, her smile hardening as they went.
“There’s only so much I can tell you, especially considering what you might do with the information I give.” she began, facing forward, as though trekking the expanse of worldly canvas before them was her primary concern.
“What are you saying? This can’t be real. I mean, it isn’t real, right? What is this place?” Thomas repeated, taking another long look at the air around them, analyzing every focused layer of atmosphere as it dangled in space, frozen in time and restricted only by thought.
“Not real at all. You, of all of us, would find that out.”
He stopped, “What, there are more people here??” Thomas blinked. It was strange, and yet, too ethereal for him to be phased by it. He had been ensnared by an alternate cosmos to find he was not alone. Thomas assumed he was too hung up about the actuality of the alternate cosmos to be rattled by the intriguing revelation that he was not walking completely unfamiliar fields. Alice certainly seemed to demonstrate a knowledge of this place, a knowledge that weirdly hadn’t shown a bit of relevance since Thomas opened his eyes what seemed like mere seconds ago. However, something inside him began preparing him for an unspoken, instinctual inevitable. He hopped slightly as he walked, the friction in his tennis shoes singeing his feet.
“Yes. They are all trapped here, like you. Unfortunately for them, they won’t have me to tell them what ‘here’ is.” She stopped abruptly, causing Thomas to shorten his hop with incredible force, kicking him back. He corrected himself with the support of Alice’s grasp, and turned to catch up with her body as she began walking in a completely different direction. “In here, nothing is consistent, it just appears to be. Time and Space aren’t laws anymore, because ‘here’ lives outside of Time and Space. ‘Here’ lives outside of the dimensions that govern our ultimate universe entirely. ‘Here’ is completely and utterly unstable; ephemeral, even. The physics that facilitate how we walk upon what are determined by what our consciousness conceptualizes based on our own understanding of the interaction of multiple dimensions...” Alice continued as Thomas hopped, his eyes and ears set upon the flowing hair in front of him. “...when we found this to be true. Then it was only a matter of recognizing how to exploit this law-of-no-laws.” Thomas’s eyes narrowed as his brain calculated every sentence, breaking down the synopsis as well as the universe summarized in Alice’s words.
“But there was a Problem.” she said, and Thomas’s mind whirred in a click of panic.
“What? Wait, what–what problem?” he asked, urgency cracking his voice as he spoke. His hopping manner became slightly more erratic, and an ominous feeling bloomed within him, exciting a paranoia kept dormant within. Alice slowed, until suddenly she stopped and turned. Her sigh carried on a breeze that wasn’t present, and echoed throughout what Thomas now realized was Time itself.
Alice Rivers sat on what seemed to be the only rock for miles. The sky glowed bright with the reverence Alice showed towards it in her admiration. How lucky be she to be cast in such a beautiful stage of wonderment and surprise, a landscape of endless sand, gold against a white ceiling over the fragile desert flowing in each and every direction. She knew she had been sitting there breathing for days, but it seemed like such little time had passed since... she couldn’t recall since when. Her smile faded as she looked down. Memory swayed in the air, taunting her senses with nondescript treasures: nuggets of laughter and sorrow she knew were present in the recess of her recollection.
She stood, stepping away from the rock and shifting the sand with the soles of her shoes. She knew there came a point where she would need to start her voyage across this plane of interminable oblivion, and that point began here. In the far distance she spied a mountain range, curving out of her peripheral vision and off the ends of an endless world into an endless void. A strange heat seemed to emanate from the sand beneath Alice’s feet, and she further noticed how it rose upon her sole focus of it, producing an anomaly and illusion of a summery heat. She paid no attention to the arbitrary terrain weaving betwixt her feet as she walked, feeling instead the aura of soothing radiation that was affixed in the very air she breathed. There was no danger here, only sanctuary.
Alice felt the skew of time, the random pacing of a ghostly clock stowed beneath the physical surface of the open labyrinth upon which she tread. She had been walking for hours, and minutes, as well as weeks and years. She could sense the resonating vibrations of fabric around her, governing laws that were not allowed there, and for a dull moment she reached out before her, as though attempting to push through. Her hand waved through the air. The heat started to return, and her face flushed as she stood, perplexed and enraptured. She pressed on, the only motivation now being the ever-looming landmark growing on the horizon. Alice searched for a smile of optimistic cheer.
Her face remained expressionless.
The girl held back a sob of relief. Her eyes shimmered in the near pitch-blackness of the stairwell. Her matches had vanished with her light long ago, leaving her in vorpal void in which she wallowed, caging her head in her arms and hoping for relief from the cries of the Ones deep within the pit below. Tears drenched the thin sleeves of her dress, soaking the grime already inlaid in the fabric. Her bony body sat crooked, nearly broken merely from the strain the stem of her mind placed upon it. Distant piano chords sounded from below, sad attempts at music that simply shoved the girl further into the pits of hell within her imagination of defiled innocence.
Now she was looking up into the high shaft of the well, the dim light catching her eyes and lighting up her tears with a dull reflection. An iron crashed rang out from below, and she gasped. Heavy footfalls echoed off the walls, picking up pace and gaining volume. Something was ascending the steps. The girl swung her arm down, her hand clamping down on the neck of the lamp as she threw her body forward. Her toes slammed painfully into the edge of the fourth step as she raced up the stairwell, two stairs at a time. She yelled in pain as her nose cracked against a wall. She had reached the next landing up without seeing. Her ears picked up the increasing intensity of the footsteps, and she left her nose to bleed as she ran up the next flight.
The light was brightening as she soared further upwards, and every minor bruise she withstood at every bump in each step went utterly ignored by her. Her entirety was immovable as she transfixed herself on the ear-ringing footsteps behind her. Her breathing picked up with the light and the creature, or what she assumed to be a creature, behind her. Beads of sweat mixed with the blood on her lip as she made out the details of the stairwell now with ease. She glanced up, catching sight of the ceiling. By the time she ascended the next set of steps the door was in sight. Her mind listened below her, and she jerked forward in panic as the footsteps distorted and warped, their distance from her shortening with increased speed. The source of the sound was only a flight below her.
The door was only a flight above her.
It was a guillotine. Thomas felt his heart jerk as it beat, awestruck and concerned by the possible significance of the landmark standing in the middle of the vast stone expanse. Alice looked upon it with an air of indifference, her eyes dull with the experience of time repeated again and again. The blade of the device was at the peak of the structure, razor-sharp and poised for murder. There was no lever nearby, and no other apparent means by which the machine would be operated. With its loneliness and mechanical defiance towards manipulation, Thomas couldn’t help but feel as though the guillotine was automated. No, not automated, sentient. There, oppressing the very air around him, this grand tower sat, waiting for a fool to slip any vulnerable appendage through the worn wooden hole in the base. Even as he thought of how outlandish the situation may be in presentation, Thomas couldn’t help but feel an outside acclimation towards the thought. He raised his arm in front of him, biting his lip as he stared at it, twisting it in the air in persistent contemplation.
Alice was crushing his arm. Thomas exclaimed in fright, trying to tear himself away out of instinct, when he realized how dangerously close he was to the guillotine: his arm was merely inches away from the round slot in the wood. Alice’s eyes were twitching with fear, and her expression hid no worry. She wrenched Thomas away from the device, and his foot caught on the friction between him and the ground, causing him to fall back. He ignored the sting of pain in his hands and knee, and righted himself, looking with enmity at the small streak of blood that stained the radiant floor before him. His face contorted as he turned towards Alice.
“What is this place, Alice? What’s wrong with it??” he questioned, finding himself growing ever more frantic as his gaze shot form Alice to the guillotine, and back again. He approached cautiously, as though the guillotine would once more enrapture him with a silent eloquence, and pull him into a fatal laceration.
“The Problem can’t be stopped. The Problem develops as time passes and your conceptions of this extra dimension solidify. You have to escape, Thomas. Nowhere is safe in this place. No matter where you are, The Problem is there too, and it will kill you.” she said, absolute monotony encompassing her tone and posture. No, this was a dream, Thomas was certain of it. He winced, his knee stinging with pain as he fell to his knees. He looked around, panicked and unsure of what action to take. He swerved his head back around, his eyes locking with hers, trying to identify any hope within her faded pupils.
“How long will...whatever it is take?” Thomas asked, his voice cracking, though slight of notice.
“In a place where time is virtually nonexistent outside of what we can conceive, not long at all.” Alice said. Thomas opened his mouth in silent horror as Alice disappeared in front of him, swallowed by a fractured axis within a temporal plane. Her form shimmered slightly before being engulfed by a fluctuating static, and she was gone, the guillotine rising up from the absence she once filled. A sharp crack sounded in the far distance, the fourth harbinger of Thomas’s demise in a land of void and potential sorrow, where no light shone but the light of omnipotent fate.
And the spikes rose high towards the light, hailing their omnivorous master.
It was yet another cave. No, Eliza reconsidered. It was a tunnel, extending far beyond Eliza’s sight. The oddity being that, despite Eliza’s staunch prediction, the vast space into which she emerged proved not to be utterly interminable. The mountain range extended along a single set of points, diverging in two opposing directions from the sight of the tunnel’s conception. No light escaped from beyond the barrier of darkness that marked the tunnel’s entrance. Eliza stared down it intently, trying mustering all imagination to recognize the destination of the road placed before her. The mountains around her sat, unfathomable to maneuver and impossible to scale. Here sat the cave, the mouth of which eventually forming into both an entrance and an exit. Eliza narrowed her eyes as the glared through the passageway, grading the invention of fate, the driving force of which held no apparent benevolence.
The first step showed no harm contained within the elongated gateway, and Eliza progressed undeterred by the growing simulations reacting with every shadow envisioned in the back of her mind. She slowed pace as a mystic wind picked up, being pulled through the tunnel by an invisible influence. The entrance was now well behind her, and the moonlit darkness engulfed her entirely as she furthered her form through the tunnel of arbitrary physicality that contained her like a prison, the only escape being uncertain trust in an uncertain form. The overwhelming dimness did not last long, however, as a bright crack shone towards the end of the tunnel as Eliza neared it, reaching out towards her and tempting her with each ray of faux sunlight.
Eliza picked up her pace, unaware of the small stepping stone in front of her. It fell into the ground abruptly, causing her step to falter and her body to fall forward onto the ground. With panic rising inside her, she pushed off the ground with all her might, sending her flying back as several iron bolts shot from the ceiling above, piercing the concrete floor with such resounding force that Eliza’s ears rang for many moments after the spikes raised once more into the ceiling. The only sound she could hear past the screaming panic of what would have been in her ears was the slamming vibration of her heart against her soul. Each spike seemed to have been several centimeters in width, and acted with such strength and speed that the event proved to have passed before Eliza could even comprehend its motion.
She was trapped from the moment she opened her eyes.
Lorgren slumped down into the high wingback chair that stood alone in the corner of the study. A single window looked out into the foggy darkness beyond the rain across from where Lorgren sat. His attitude of contempt for everyone and everything showed in his demeanor, and he wore it as a grant of aristocracy wherever he ventured. The book in his hands fell to the floor, the crack of the thick leather on hardwood echoing through the vast library. Lightning flashed outside, and the roar of thunder resonated within the halls of the manor. He sighed with boredom, pulling himself out of the chair with fluidity, his eyes transfixed upon the window at the far end of the room. He walked towards it, his gaze moving slowly between the bookshelves that lined the walls. Lorgren stopped.
Something bright and round caught his attention, and he broke his lazy stride to examine the artifact closer. It was a snow globe, no doubt one of his father’s, sitting on the only empty shelf apparent in the study. Lorgren pulled it down, his eyebrows raised in a sort of pleasant curiosity. His father kept a multitude of these strange knickknacks scattered about, referring to them as a form of abstract art. Lorgren had never been convinced, even in his understanding of his father’s strange mind set, and always revered the objects with harsh skepticism. They never bothered him, at least to a point where he was frightened of them. He always found himself drawn to finding what depiction lay set within each globe, as though he was collecting each unique captured frame in his memory.
Thunder crashed outside, the catalyst for Lorgren’s abrupt lurch of attention. He glared at the small figurines placed in time caught by the snow globe, suddenly hating them with all his want and worth. The moment before him dangled precariously from an edge of psychological disarray, and Lorgren often considered these hypothetical anomalies to consist of a more philosophical undertone. He frowned, a surge of lightning reflecting sharply off the miniature ax held by the first man, held high above the other figure’s neck. The snow globe depicted the beginning of a beheading; a snow globe of only his father’s possession. Lorgren could feel the rage burn his tongue as the globe glazed over with an icy sheen, the glass cracking as it froze. The figures became clouded in the solidified water, lost to the history of a young boy’s subconscious darkness. Lorgren’s eyes narrowed as the snow globe crackled from the increasing pressure placed upon it.
The ice encroached further, causing the ax-man’s head to split.
“Sometimes I feel as though sound and movement themselves come alive when I’m alone, like toys, brought back from an unreal dead to torment me with a discreet method. Every time I look away from a simple corner these surreal beings of mystery manifest themselves, tying their feet to the shadows that form in this three-dimensional world and explore my private sanctuary. They wait to whisk me away to my doom, but they play with their food. It’s all in their gait that I see their design. I’m the test subject for their trap, and mouse placed in a room where the only exit is the mousetrap, primed at the end of the long narrow hall before me. Is it my loneliness that brings about the terminal perceptions of my own demise? And at the hands of what? Nothing.”
The shack before her was tall and tenuous, seeming to be composed of large aluminum sheets lazily welded and affixed to one another. Wooden boards showed through the substantial cracks between the metal slats, greatly rotted and coated in a thick layer of grime. There were no formal windows present on the shack, only the holes that dotted the slanted roof haphazardly placed on top of the teetering structure. The door faced what Alice presumed to be south, an angrily nailed together collection of wooden boards hinged to the rusting and crippled frame of the aluminum. The doorhandle was polished golden brass, immaculately preserved as though it was its own separate entity from the house itself. Alice reached out, twisting the knob without a hint of hesitance in her purpose. It was the only manifestation of progress for eons.
The interior surprised her in as grand a way possible. The interior was not a house, but a home, dark in the preserved light of what seemed to be late afternoon or early morning. Alice was not standing in the middle of the shack she walked into, but an extra dimension entirely, gliding perpendicularly against the physical shack door through which she stumbled. The hardwood floor glimmered in the dim light emanating from the windows curtained in a delicate lace. The rug, void of wear and tear, spread across the floor in front of a glorious brick fireplace, the mantle of which held not a spot of soot, and the indistinct furniture stood comfortably around a short wooden table. An invisible clock ticked away. Alice had not noticed the door shut behind her, and she looked around uncomfortably, strangely robbed of any hope of escape. Of course, escape was a word only provided to the avoidance of a peril.
She carefully stepped about the petrified dollhouse, her curiosity piqued by the lack of decoration. A large staircase ascended at the other end of the room, and it’s presence sent a bolt of uneasiness through Alice’s spine. Another room was connected to the living area by an arch. It was a dining room, and a simple mounted the center of the floor, surrounded by wooden chairs, which seemed lacking in the quality of the furniture the first room possessed. There were no visible light fixtures, mounted either to the walls or ceiling, and the only other object in the room was a large cabinet, filled extensively with simple snow globes, all of uniform size and design. She peered into the case, enraptured by the snow globes. A thump sounded from up the stairs, and Alice let out a gasp, her attention drawn away from the cabinet. She quickly made her way back to the front door, destroying the panel of silence that drove through the house. The shadows watched her in annoyance, wrought from their slumber by her movement. Her hand neared the doorknob anxiously.
“Catherine? Catherine, is that you??” a voice called from beyond the staircase. Alice froze in fright, her back now towards the door as she stared at the railing in the corner of the room. Darkness shone from the second floor like light, glowing with the essence of what drifted above, poised to strike.
“Catherine?” The voice sounded once more, a force inside it that made Alice wince. The pitch echoed through the room, and Alice realized then that the voice came from the fireplace.
Suddenly, loud bangs shot from the flue, and although the volume rang in Alice’s mind, pulling forth the knowledge of a gunshot, she quickly reevaluated them as footsteps, descending the chimney and getting ever closer. She wrenched the door open, throwing herself through the frame.
Her weight pulled on the door, causing it to slam shut.
The trees certainly seemed real. The entire grove popped out at Eliza, drowning her in blackened dirt and rotted wood. Dead trees lurched and stabbed at her in the thick gale, and skeletal leaves swept about her menacingly. She breathed, dizzy from her brush in the cave. She sat down, blood smeared down the side of her shin. The shard of metal had been large, but not hindering, as Eliza thought it would be. She had pulled it from her leg upon her emergence form the cave into the windswept land before her. She looked back at the cave entrance, up the mountain range through which it drove. These winds would surely be able to reach the other side. So how could she feel no breeze when she first awoke?
The breeze picked up, and died again, arbitrary in rhyme and rhythm. Eliza searched the path ahead of her. Strange be the circumstance that a path seemed to lay before her, cut through the woods to an undeterminable location. She set off, a slight limp showing in her gait, slowing her down by no more than a second’s pace. It seemed to be that her horizontal ascension through these plains and planes opened a sort of caustic pot of realization in her. She began to see epiphanies etched in the bark of the trees around her, but Eliza could not read the formulas scattered about in time. Only now was she beginning to think of her predicament. Was she stuck? Was she stranded in a spiritual limbo? Was she being punished for some wrong?
No, surely there were people here. The thought of Eliza being truly alone was an impossibility. But no, the past and future have both proven that assumption to be false, despite how little jurisdiction memories hold over this forsaken realm. But then something else surprised Eliza. The path broke into a clearing, and as her foot stepped over an invisible barrier, the wind quieted and died. There, a mere thirty feet before her, sat an old decrepit tower, as though God Himself ripped a lighthouse from the shores of a ocean side carnival, lost in time, and jammed the crushed structure into the extra dimensional earth. She proceeded with an overwhelming feeling of unease, and part of her knew that her qualms of loneliness had been answered. The door of the tower was bare wood, the green paint having long been and obviously faded.
She opened the gate impeding the truth that sought her, and her answer swept forth to meet her.
Thomas was out of breath. He had been running for a millennium and all of five minutes, beckoning an escape that eluded his feet. The ground behind him split open, jagged spikes plowing through the stone and rocketing towards the sky. They gained on him gradually, and he could clearly see his impending demise draw closer and closer. The land in front of him spread for miles. He would be unable to keep up the endless effort away from this penultimate peril. The terminal capriciousness of the arbitrary dimension in which he dwelled took hole of him, however, and the ground far ahead of him began to crack, and split. The fissure extended through the width of the land in an instant, sealing his fate. But an air of determination swept over Thomas, and his eyes narrowed in deep focus as his wind picked up, setting his speed parallel to the pursuing trap. Thomas’s feet neared the growing trench, and he launched his entire body forward, his visible window of safety sealing itself as time slowed. He watched in horror as the ledge under his feet pulled back from under him, and his body slammed into the jagged wall of the cliff.
He went limp as the wall pulled away, and his body fell into the chasm below.