Friday, February 9, 2024

2 Minutes. Go!

Her eyes open, and the room changes temperature. You can feel it. A cold gust that whips through the apartment, changing nothing. You lie still. Pretend to be asleep. You are not great at pretending, but she is not perceptive. She is looking with wolf eyes, and they are easily misled. She has no pack to back her. Lone wolf, she.

When she rises, she will start her morning process. The same way she has started every morning for forty years. Same stretch, same tea, same mug. She is married to her habits; she finds safety in them. Safety from what, I do not know. I've been wondering about it for decades now. 

When I get up, it is all pantomime. Man wakes up. All playacting. I don't have a routine. I pretend to stumble, half asleep, into the kitchen. Pour myself the coffee she made. Wonder, as per usual, if it will be the last cup of coffee I ever drink. She watches me with such expectancy. 

But I live. I carry on. I keep sleepwalking.

I'll wake up when she closes her eyes again; that is my time.


  1. Creeping dread permeates the story.

  2. Thomas followed half a dozen steps behind, his attention directed toward another world. We were covering our options equally, neither of us wanting to be surprised.

    It helped to have eyes everywhere. The unwary were easy targets for the predators from the twinned realms, thousands taken before they realised, snuffed out without a trace. And then there would be an increase in the imbalance in the statistics, slippages attributing for more lost individuals than most people thought.

    The people that were aware of it just closed their eyes. It paid to be blind sometimes – vision being one of the anchors fixing us in place.

    Perception can be a curse and conviction a handicap.

    I maintained a continual dialogue, towing Thomas along in my wake. He did the same with me, letting me know where he was, his words tethering us.

    “We’re approaching a divergence in the path,” I said, “the way to the right spiralling steeply around a knoll. We will be following the easier route to the left, staggered steps dropping to a plateau where things should be calmer.”

    Up on the hill, there was a small derelict castle, a handrail guiding its visitors to the top. A man would sell each of them a ticket, taking their money before pressing the button to release the turnstile that barred their way. I led Thomas away and down - the bustle of the city would provide us with cover but would also give the endarkened places where they could hide.

    Thomas was seeing but not aware, his eyes looking inward. His head was in two places, his attention split, hearing me but deafened in the other realm, stumbling over the unseen obstacles here that I had to guide him around.

    “Not a good move, Dude,” Thom said, his head swivelling about as he surveyed the way laid out before him. “There are dangers here in the broken lands. The night is full of fear; the Spear is in the ascendant.” He slowed and crouched within himself, ducking as though to avoid something overhanging his path. I didn’t know what he was seeing; he was in a far different place from the one I was experiencing.

    Thomas’ world was very much like the one I saw but displaced in time and detail. The city was younger and more vibrant, filled with wonders no one here had experienced. There was magic instead of science, its parameters defined by its own limitations. He was a powerful mage in his own realm, strong enough to straddle the divide.

    “Let me show you – you’ll understand then,” he murmured, wide-eyed but seeming vacant. “You might make a different decision. It’s becoming difficult here.”

    The moon fell, and the night closed in. I stumbled, missing my footing. The path was running with slime, and dragons were strafing the buildings. It reminded me of a second world war blitz, our enemies rising relentlessly.

    Except that Hitler was a warlock and looked likely to win.

    1. This is SO rich and visual. If I could paint, I'd try to paint it. You're aces at this quick world-building. It's very hard to pull off, and you crush it every time. - JD


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