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There was nothing but a thick, inky greyness all around me.
I don’t really remember how I got there, or where ‘there’ even was, but I was here, and I couldn’t really back out, could I? I didn’t have a choice but to keep on going, even if I didn’t know how long I had been going.
I reached my hand out to the fog in front of me, trying to see if I could feel anything. Unfortunately, my hands felt nothing, desperately grasping at the air like a newborn infant. I couldn’t see a damned thing in front of my face. Couldn’t even see my own feet below me, trudging through this solemn, dead wasteland. How was I here? Why was I here?
I must have been in that haze for hours. It didn’t feel like hours, though; it was odd. It felt like only minutes, but then when I tried to remember it, it seemed more like I had been in that fog for years, wandering aimlessly around. It felt wrong, like how you would feel after reading a men’s magazine when you were only 14. It didn’t feel right. This whole thing generated a strong sense of unease in my gut… but, then again, I guess it isn’t normal to be stuck in this ethereal haze forever, right?
I tried to search my mind for answers, longing to find a solid answer as to what in the hell was going on. Nothing came up. My mind was a blank. Literally. I couldn’t remember anything, I couldn’t even remember my own damn gender. I couldn’t even remember a few words, either. I was feeling a flurry of emotions, and I didn’t even know what to call them anymore. I was hopelessly, desperately lost.
Then I noticed I wasn’t even walking. My footsteps were gone. I couldn’t hear them, so I must’ve weighed as much as a feather or not even have feet. I looked down in vain, hoping the fog would part so I could see what was going on, and luckily it did somewhat clear up. Unfortunately, denial set in when I saw that, while I did have feet, I was floating. Drifting. Sashaying along with the nonexistent breeze in this hell that I’ve been ensnared in. My brain couldn’t formulate any kind of answer to this either, so I had to blindly accept it. It didn’t feel right. That sense I had in my gut… it was growing stronger by the minute.
Eventually--years or hours or minutes or seconds later--the fog started to let up and I could finally see what was going on in front of me. An off-white color filtered in through holes in the fog, if that makes any sense. It illuminated the darkness I was caught in and made the inkiness of whatever I was in fade away. I couldn’t see anything just, yet though, since there was still a lot of mist to go before I was out of it. It was a good mile or so on the horizon, but I felt it as if I were right next to it.
I made my way up to the end quickly, my drifting becoming more of a glide, and my glide in turn becoming more of a brisk flying. I felt myself soaring through this twisted landscape, cutting it as I flew by. I stretched my arms to the side and opened my mouth in pleasure, trying to make a whoop of some sort--but then I realized I didn’t have a voice. I tried to scream and shout and whisper and make any sort of noise, but my happiness faded away quickly when I saw that I couldn’t emote at all. I could twist and contort my face, sure, but what good would it be without a voice--?
The fog parted and I found that my flying had gone with it. I was back to drifting, and eventually walking on solid ground, the fog completely behind me. The ground and, by extension, the landscape around it was too bright for me to see at first, so I stopped moving while my eyes adjusted. I almost wish that I stayed in that fog when I saw what lay in front of me.
A city. No, not a city, a shell of a city. Something bad happened here. An earthquake or a hurricane or--
That thought flew into my mind out of nowhere, almost as if someone whispered it into my ear. A bomb leveled this town. It was hard to accept, but I guess it did make sense, seeing the state that this place was in. Everything was destroyed. There was nobody in sight that I could make out. Any buildings that were here were turned into a giant pit of rubble and debris. Cars hung on the sides of the buildings in a failing effort to stay out of harm’s way, and if any buildings were standing it was only a stunted skeleton of what it once was.
There was a breeze, too. A summer breeze. It made this feel even worse than what it was, because a summer breeze usually makes me happy. It makes me want to ride my bike or eat popsicles, or just be a kid. A summer breeze shouldn’t bring these feelings. A summer breeze shouldn’t be in a god-forsaken place like this.
I was standing atop a hill that was swept clean of any vegetation that might’ve been on it previously. Grass, dandelions--everything was gone. There was only the soiled dirt below my feet and nothing else. Some rocks here and there, but my point still stands. There was nothing to be seen here. I took another close look at the area I was around and saw that there were a number of other hills that formed some sort of collective cliffside, and the ruined city below me was some sort of a crater.
We used to sit on these hills.
Another thought that wasn’t mine. What the hell was going on here? Why was this happening? Where was I? Who was I? Why was--
Don’t tell me what to do. Get out of my head and get out of my life.
With a sigh, I realized that, no matter how hard I wanted to fight it, I couldn’t find anything else to do here, so I had to keep going. That voice… something about it seemed familiar. Something about it struck me. Odd.
I lowered myself down from my perch and plotted a course to the ruined city below me. If I was careful, it would probably take about ten minutes or so to get down from here to the city. There was a lot of distance between me and the ground. I would have to carefully, ever so slightly--
The air whooshed from my lungs as I tumbled downwards. I felt myself getting queasy, and I knew I was going to die. I knew this was it. This was the end of… me. I still didn’t know my name, I realized. Maybe I should’ve thought of something better before I died, but my last thought was that I still didn’t know my name. The ground was fast approaching, and I gritted my teeth in anticipation of the moment when my organs flew out of my mouth and onto the pavement around me.
Except… that splat noise and that intense pain didn’t happen. I landed softly, and the only thing that would’ve reminded me I fell was the unease my stomach was feeling. But how did that happen? I fell from over 100 meters, I shouldn’t have scraped by without a single injury. I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be alive. I shouldn’t be anything.
Just a tiny bump, Sport.
Okay, this was pissing me off. Who’s doing that? I opened my mouth to yell in anger or frustration, but the only noise that came from my mouth was a hollow whooshing noise, like I was made of plastic or something. I tried to scream and I tried to bawl my eyes out, but it never happened. Nothing happened. Logic must not exist here. Why?
Recovering from my experience with only two tears-worth of water less in my body, I took a better look at what was in front of me. It looked like a metropolitan area, someplace that would’ve been bustling with activity before that bomb struck. There were skyscrapers smashing into one another, lying vertically, their innards--the desks and papers inside of them--scattered all around the immediate vicinity. There were a few cars on the street, too, but they were all destroyed beyond belief. Engines lay meters away with only a faint trickle of oil still left in them, bumpers were lying inside the seats, and the seats were on top of the remains of the buildings.
Everything here was chaotic. Chaos, chaos, chaos. Nothing made sense, I didn’t make sense, the mist didn’t make sense, the cliffs didn’t make sense. I couldn’t wrap my mind around anything that was going on.
What car was nice? No car here was nice. Everything was destroyed. Nothing here worked. That stupid-ass voice of mine, that dumbass voice that kept on telling me these jackass statements. Stop it, I swear to God I’ll… I’ll…
I can’t do anything about it.
I have to keep going, I have to see why I’m here. I picked my way through the decimated debris, trying to spot any signs of life. Curiously enough, I didn’t see any blood or fluids or bodies or skeletons. Nothing here suggested that humans frequented this area. There was nothing here but inanimate objects. Desks, pencils, hats. I suppose that a fedora was the closest thing I came to seeing human life in this place, because there wasn’t anything else that even hinted people were here.
My adventure continued. I stepped in and out of buildings, leapt across scaffolding and beams with reckless abandon--I couldn’t be hurt, after all--and climbed up pillars made of shingling. I felt like a real hardass. Indiana Jones. I was on top of the world, for sure… whichever world this was. There were no rules here, no people, and no way for me to die. I was free to do whatever I pleased.
I noticed inside of a building that I went into, an office building that said “J. T. and Sons Realty,” that there was a flash. Maybe flash wasn’t the right word, maybe flash would be too normal. This wasn’t a flash, it was more like a glimpse. No, I don’t know how to describe it. The word is gone from my memory bank. I don’t know what to call it, but I saw it.
It looked sort of like a person. A male body, some sort of clean cut gentleman. He had on a coat and a fedora, and was holding a suitcase. He looked sort of warped though, like areas of his body were missing. Not like he was cut into, but like parts of his body were erased from the world. His head was missing, of course, so I couldn’t see that, only a floating fedora. But just as soon as I saw it, it disappeared.
Five hundred dollars.
Yeah, what I wouldn’t give to get out of this place. I would give more than 500 dollars. I would give my whole life’s savings to escape this place. It wasn’t hospitable at all. It was cold and lonely.
However, my moping was cut short when I felt a small rumble coming from the ground below me. It crescendoed into a loud roar, and it didn’t stop like the image I saw before. It kept going. The rumble was too powerful for the area to cover, and the ground tore open in a few spots. My heart raced and I started to panic. It was an earthquake.
The ground around me started to give, and that was my hint to get out of there. I had to leave now. To my right the ground toppled under, and the buildings around me started to give way too. The area around me was crumbling right before my eyes. I felt very panicked, but then I remembered that I couldn’t be hurt. Well, I hoped I couldn’t. I didn’t take any chances though. I was out of there.
I stepped on the sinking platforms like I was playing some horrible form of hopscotch, and whenever I stepped on one it gave way almost immediately. I had to be quick on my feet, or else I was a goner.
Me too. I’m sorry I couldn’t figure this out. I’m sorry I didn’t get out of here sooner. I’m sorry I didn’t figure out who I was. I’m sorry for everything.
Eventually my luck ran out and the piece of ground I was on fell under me. I didn’t reach any other pieces and so I was doomed to fall to my demise. As I fell, I noticed that the grey mist came back. It enveloped me and grew stronger and more present every few meters or so I fell. After a tiny bit of time I couldn’t even see my hands in front of me again, and all the while I was falling. Continuously, without a pause. I kept on tumbling down.
The greyness segued into a black, and then the black segued into midnight. I couldn’t see anything now. Nothing was around me. I was doomed. I was gone. The midnight didn’t let up, and it filled me like a nice drink. It tasted like asphalt and rubber. It didn’t taste good. It filled me up to the point where I felt like bursting. I couldn’t get it out, though, gag and retch as I may. I shoved my hand down my throat and tried to scoop it out, but I couldn’t. Nothing worked.
While I fell, I noticed something I didn’t notice before: There was a sound. A single chord or chime, a single note. One note that grew increasingly louder as I fell down. All the while nothing was in front of me and I felt nothing, and being able to hear something felt sort of nice. It felt relieving. I felt a lot less alarmed. That note grew and grew, that one singular note, until it drowned out the blackness too.
Nothing was there but the noise, that single noise. And, eventually, I was gone too.