Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Worst Feeling

Get up…

It's cool here.

That's the first thing that came to his mind as the wind past faintly, barely blowing the hairs on his forearm. The air was so brisk, just cold enough to still feel nice, like autumn. His favorite season. Eagerly, he opened his eyes, anxious to take in the rest of his environment. Funny, you'd think he'd fine a peculiarity in this keenness to survey the what, without the why or how. Nevertheless, the thought never formed and he remained content, absorbing all that surrounded him.

He was in a field, perhaps on a hill in a far-off countryside. It must have been, because all he could see is grass and sky for miles ahead. And leaves, gently floating to the ground slowly, hazily. Of course leaves do tend to float slowly, but for him, it felt even slower than usual, as if they would soon decelerate, perhaps even change course, drifting upward unto the far reaches of this pale, cloudless blue. Such strange leaves, and to come from nowhere like this. He turned his head upward to find they indeed had an origin. The limbs of a giant tree obscured his skyward view. It was the only tree there, this tree he had been leaning against this whole time. Of course. Had he not been upright this whole time? Perhaps it was the softness of its bark, the absence of its pressure that surprised him the most. No itch from its texture, not even the faintest scratch he felt. It was just, just "there" enough to support his weight.

…no patience for this. You best…

It was all he could do to marvel at this place, not for these little glitches of physics, no. These things only grazed his mind, passing without discomfort or unease. What did unease his mind was the feeling it gave him. It was so … so serene. It was unusual for him to feel this pleasant, at least that's what it seem like. He had no place in his heart for this warmth, but he was more than willing to find the room and welcome it unconditionally as a permanent member of his person. Yes, he could get use to they, just lying here with the wind, the leaves, the tree and her.

She had been lying so quietly in his arms, he had not realized her presence until now. But there she was, breathing softly, his arm just above her stomach. She was so light, he barely felt her weight. Not until he had noticed her did her force register and his hand feel the expansion and contraction of her chest, punctuated with the beats of her heart. Yet here she had been the whole time. How strange.

Strange like the silence. Not a deafening one. That would ring his ears. That would be unpleasant, and that's not what this place is about. No, not this place, where time moves only as fast as it needs to and things hide from perception, only showing themselves when absolutely necessary, appearing piecemeal, first in sight, then in touch, then…

Hm. No smell. He was already aware of the still of it all, but this lack of olfactory sensation was new to him. He took in one big breath, finding this absence so hard to believe, only to find there was an odor. Pine. And lemon. And ocean breeze. All here. All out of place. But it was smell, enough to satisfy his curiosity. Had this smell always been there? Or had the world seen fit to correct its oversight? He didn't care.

…think that playing possum will aid you, well, I suppose you forget my love of desecra…

Perfection. It was a wonder that he found no need to probe this place further. Why wouldn't this utopia unsettle his nerve, pique his senses? Maybe it's the joy of discovery, the sheer excitement of finding yet another detail to revel in. Maybe it's just part of the package. You marvel at the softness, the stillness, the purity of it all, then, you let your newfound knowledge go, tiny feathers set free in the wind, only to have them return and fill you with the same joy you had when you first plucked them from the sky. How could he resist staying here for days, shucking all that he needed to do…

Was there something he was to be doing right now? He couldn't remember, but in the back of his heart, where all he had felt before this place had been pushed to, he could hear something ting, the only thing that fazed him, chilling the warmth that had now become him. That and the taste. It was familiar, but as with everything he had experienced recently, that doesn't count for much. It wasn't altogether unpalatable, perhaps because he felt he should know what it is, that he should be accustom to it, but the sheer fact that its identity was quite literally on the tip of his tongue struck at his resolve all the more. Well, I guess nothing is completely perfect, he thought as he closed his eyes and hugged her tightly.

He was right. Nothing is perfect, not even perfection. If he had not been so content he might have stopped to think. He might have remembered why. It never lasts. Sooner or later the restful are thrown in upheaval, and the unease, the natural state, retakes its place in the forefront of your mind. And you best not ignore. For the longer the disregard, the more violent the upheaval.

"Fine. You want a rude awakening. I'm more than happy to oblige."

He heard it clearly. He looked down. It hadn't come from her: it was a masculine voice. But it was so close, words still ringing. It had cut through the silence, showing how truly quiet it had really been. Here was no sound — not the rustling of leaves, not the sound of her breath, not even a soft howl from the wind — suddenly cleaved, pierced by this sudden blade of speech. Now, where there was hush, the voice of malevolence reigned.

Everything was unsettled now. No more silence. No more wind. And the leaves that had bordered on suspension were now, in fact, traveling upward in a quick, unyielding motion.

A sharp pain struck the small of his back. He didn't call out in pain. He had wanted to, but now, in his only moment of exclamatory need, he found his facilities failed him. It pained him to move his jaw. In fact, it hurt to move his arm, to bend his leg, to do anything at all. Had it been this way the whole time?

This world faded quickly after that. Before he could realize, before he could regret, all that had been was no more. No more sky. No more leaves. No more blue. No more green. No more girl. Just the spotted darkness behind the back of his eyelids.


It's the taste that comes back to him first. Blood. Fresh and still flowing from the cuts and abrasions that populate his face. As he goes to wipe the blood from his mouth, he struggles. His right arm lies pinned under his stomach. Already exhausted, he wearily turns his head to his left, beginning the arduous task of moving his left arm. It still hurt to move, but at least now he knows why. There was nothing unsettling about this pain. The mystery is gone.

His hand runs across his lips. He goes to examine the blood, opening his eye. Singular. The left one is swollen shut, no doubt red and tender. He decides against exploration. No sense in rewarding the pain from move his arm to his eye with the sting of touching a still swollen bruise.

"I wish I could say I'm not enjoying this, but what's the point. You'd know I'm lying. I'd know I'm lying. We shouldn't complicate things with false regrets and empty exchanges."

He can hear his assailant's approach, slow enough to have time to dread the arrival, but with an undeniable air of urgency. His opponent can only savor this bout for so long. He can't deny himself the end of the fight forever. Sooner or later he'll have to let go of the fun of torture and embrace the inevitable conclusion of this conflict, but for now he can enjoy it while it lasted.

His weight on his left arm, the beaten one rises, first to his elbows, then his knees. It was still a burden, sure, but what choice was there? He has to defend himself. Rale would not relent his assault…

It was the first time he had realized that he knew his attacker's name. In fact, he knew so much more. The haze that had clouded his memories has passed so quickly, and now he can recall. He recalls Rale. He recalls the fight. He recalls the dream.

That's all it had been, of course. A brief vacation for consciousness, miles away from the ever-present battle, yet still very much here. Undeniable in it's peculiarities now, the obviousness of its true nature baffles him. He should have known. Nothing in his life is that good.

Rale sighs. "Another go? I have to tell you Birn, I can't find the same joy in fighting you as I used to. What's wrong with you? Nary a snide remark or sappy riposte? Come now. Don't rob me of my fun."

Birn was up to his feet now, still not facing Rale. He could hear him from his right, but his mind is on something, somewhere else. He is still thinking. Thinking of the wind. The leaves. Her.

His eye changes rather quickly then, opening wider now. The blue and green is no longer confined to his head. They course through him, clinching his fist, hardening his stance, dulling the pain.

Rale still waits in vain for a reply. Alas, Birn is no longer in the talking mood. He sighs again. "Well, can't say I'll mourn you."

It's one swift motion At first he thinks Birn was finally turning to respond. He is, just not with his mouth. The hand approaches his neck without hesitation. A second later, Rale's back is to the closest wall, suspended above the floor, throat collapsing under Birn's unyielding grasp. He can't breath. Can't talk. Good.

Now you would think, mistakenly so, that anger and frustration is what sparked this. Here he was, fresh from paradise, thrown to confrontation. On the losing side, at that. I'm sure you've been a victim of such. Eyes wide, lying in bed, wondering where all that money went, why the fans are gone. It's jarring for some, annoying for most.

Not Birn. Some of us are just wired right. Some people know, subconsciously perhaps, what a dream is suppose to do. So when they awake each morning from a world so very much unlike theirs, a place they so very much want to return to, they don't bemoan the lose of what never was. It's a task, a challenge to set out and make it what will be. No, frustration is not what drives his hand and stays the pain. Ambition is.

"This is no debate." He finally says, pausing to meet Rale's gaze. "No more words."

As quickly as he had grabbed him, he throws Rale behind his back, without effort, without pause. It was now Rale lying still on the ground, not from defeat, but amazement. So close had victory seemed. Had he been bluffing before? He must have. Surprise. Deception. Those are the gambits of a cornered man. It wouldn't be much longer now, once he shatters this last, desperate tactic, there…

But as Birn turns to meet his eyes once more. He knows it was no gambit that brought this to bare. No, not with that look, overflowing with forceful sincerity. No tricks, no half-truths are present here. Here is something he didn't bring into this fight. Here truly is the result of a dream deferred.

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