This story is by David Brown and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
There are events in all of our lives that take us to the edge. This is the story of my close call. Here, in this plane of existence I could describe in gritty detail the incident, but more intriguing is the small open window into another realm. Wisps of memory; pieces of another reality crossed with this one. From these dreamlike memories I will conjure the scenes of this unusual tale.
I have been given a great inspiration, the writing of this being a small part of it. A mission I have always had, now with greater motivation.
I awoke to the heat of the sun. Dirt ground into my clothes, and my body ached everywhere. Steel. It was so close, it was almost a part of me.
No, this was not right… must return to something that makes sense.
The dark. No clock. Weightless. The galaxies arrayed about me, lit up. The ramparts of starlight. The great gates of Awe. I walked, though I needed not, for walking itself requires time. I saw others, I wished them a good day. Though to speak requires time to canvas the vibrations of sound.
I stood at the gates of Awe. I held yet a sense of finality. Something that was foreign to this place I called my home. I reached for the great door, but again I shifted back.
My body felt feverish under the dry heat of the sun. Too long I lay there. The steel was inside my face, and blood pooled below me. A throbbing so intense racked my skull. Must awake.
I pushed through the gates of Awe and was met with the familiar sight of the gardens of light. Ancient paintings that inspired creation. A melancholy nostalgia swept over me, like finding a picture of myself at Grandma’s house. I could be home for good. And here I could discuss my dreams with entities so wise. Though discussion was not necessary as all could be known by mere thought. I was saddened.
“You should not be here,” a kindly old man said. He sat upon a bench by the pool of sound.
“But I come here often,” I stated.
“You must be careful what you identify as you. Can you say who that is yet?”
I was confused by this question.
“I do not think you are done,” he continued, “and though you come here often, you send a representative. How is it you bring your soul?”
“How is there a difference?”
“Do not be hasty in your decision. Come, let us go to a place of more deliberation, a place of indecision. For you must be sure. I do not think you grasp the magnitude of what you are experiencing.”
We left the city of Galaxies, and appeared upon a great and featureless plain. The kindly old man and I waited for others he summoned.
A tall dark and brooding man appeared at my right; a bright and lovely lady next to him. Their contrast was beautiful beyond comprehension. To my left stood a man who wore a smile so infectious you could remember little else about him, only that he made you happy. I knew these beings as if they were part of my own soul.
The kindly old man spoke first. “Your experience thus far is incomplete. You do not yet grasp the full benefit of the Earth experience.”
The tall dark brooding man spoke. “It is of little consequence. Long we have tried to impart the seriousness of the Earth affair, but he does not heed. He is of such insignificant effect, I think to terminate this experience is best.”
The bright and beautiful lady looked to him with hopeful pity in her eyes. “Oh, don’t be so dismal. He has done much good, and has so much potential before him!”
“Yes he does,” responded the Dismal one, “but so does everyone else. Why should we go to all the trouble of fixing up this mess?”
Smiley spoke next. “I feel a great joy in him being here with us. It is happiness, and that is what we all seek, is it not?”
“Happiness is a byproduct of purpose,” Kindly said.
Dismal scowled. “This is a setback. If he thought he had excuses before not to reach for great accomplishments, now he will be more enabled.”
Brightness spoke, “Is not all the chaos and outlandish accidents but beautiful opportunities to reallocate one’s powers towards greater things? Feeling the nearness of an end brings earnestness to a life.”
“There are other great opportunities waiting,” Dismal said. “Why waste time here, with someone who has done little already, and now is set back. The odds do not stack up, and what a silly thing to get messed up on. Just walk away now, and it will save a long disappointing ending.”
“Young man,” Kindly spoke directly to me. “Have you lived all that you wish? Have you effected all that you can?”
Wild thoughts caused me to stutter. “I-I am not sure. I had many ideas I wanted to try to pursue, but there is a shortage of time on Earth and was having trouble getting them done.”
Dismal scoffed at me. “Blame time? The great gift of the Earth experience? You have no less than anybody else. You are lazy.”
Smiley spoke next. “It is not likely you will achieve great things in your time there. This would be sad. You should take this opportunity to bow out gracefully, then come to joy outside of time!”
“But it would be without fullness of experience, without every opportunity afforded the traveler of Earth,” Brightness said.
“It is my opinion,” Kindly began, “that you should go back, and though you will not remember what we discuss here, you will feel an urgency not before felt. A desire to fulfill those things you were afraid to pursue. It is your choice.”
Looking below the plain, I could see Earth. I could see the beast I rode. I knew it was not me, but the vehicle which I could interact with the Earth realm. It was in a bad way.
“Let me check it out,” I said.
“Be wise,” Smiley said. “Don’t stay if it’s too far gone.”
I smelled the dry earth about me, my left arm was asleep. I pushed myself away from the ground, the arm coming to life. The steel ramp of expanded metal slipped from the cuts in my forehead, my nose bridge, and my upper and lower lips. Sliding my tongue forward I found gaping holes where teeth should have been. I went out.
“No,” I stated simply to the group, “I seem to have missed the reality and found a dream, and not a very nice one. I must wake up in the right place.”
“It is the right place,” Dismal said flatly. “Why do you think we were deliberating so long? You have been out for two Earth hours. People don’t usually come back from that.”
“You’re right, I don’t think I want to come back to that.”
Brightness spoke. “But, Sir! Think of all you’ve learned how to do! You can build things! You play music! You can even do a bit of writing! There is so much we could do!”
I remembered the great many things I had done, and the many more I still wanted to do.
“When you have pursued your purpose with all your worth and have finished your path upon the Earth, then we will feel joy as we speak of great accomplishments and greater moments,” the kindly old man said.
I had already let go of most of what I cared for on Earth. Physical pain was nothing compared to pain that shaped character. Or the fear of not knowing anything; the danger of being in a game that I knew neither the rules nor the point.
But, ‘What an adventure!’ I thought. Yes, I wanted to get back in. I wanted to play hard and win!
I deliberately closed my eyes.
Pain enveloped my consciousness. The Earth waved about as I sat up. The puddle of blood below the steel ramp had caked and dried, more clung to my face and chest. It was a beautiful evening. My dog waited by me, excited to see I awoke from my sudden nap.
I got to my feet, head pounding violently. Picking up my mountain bike I walked home holding the bent front tire off the ground. As this reality came into focus and the other faded, I wondered, ‘What just happened?’