Tales from The Eighth World
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While the colors on the walls were faded and the stone was cracked and chipped, the vibrant air was still apparent. Beneath the once-colorful-now-bleached hanging cloths, on the hard, dusty ground, he sat. The sunlight streamed in from the wooden lattice covering the top of the courtyard. It felt warm on his skin. The air was still. Nothing moved but the particles of dust floating in the afternoon warmth. At that moment, where he was did not matter. How he got there wasn’t of any importance. He knew that he could exist here, in harmony with nature, and that he could leave his old life at the door. And that was enough.
In the end, everything would become dust. That’s what she told herself, anyway. It didn’t help. Nothing could truly help. A hug and some kind words from a friend gave some relief, sure, but it was temporary. Leaves crunched beneath her feet as she walked. Objectively, the trees were gorgeous this time of year. She didn’t notice. In the end, wouldn’t everything turn to dust? Why should she care about the trees? The trees didn’t care about her. No one did. The leaves crunched beneath her feet.
Inhale. Exhale. Breathe in. Breathe out. Golden light filtered through the leaves cast partial shadows on the soft grass. Warm fingers, intertwined with their own. Somewhere far away, a brook burbled. Relax. Breathe with me. The face of the person in front of them was like water shifting sand around at the bottom of a riverbed, constantly in motion, never solid. The grass tickled their legs as they kneeled in front of the other person. You’re losing focus. Stay with me. The wind was picking up, whipping their hair around their face and causing the leaves to rustle about like newsparcel in a mail-carrying bag. The world seemed to smear with the gusts, blurring and running like paint on a hot canvas. You won’t remember any of this in the morning. Mind disconnected from body. They were ascending into the sunlit sky.
A cold wind swept across my body. Pollen drapes across my shoulders like a shawl. Snow waits upon my head like a hat, well placed by the uncaring hand of nature. Sunlight streams down through the clouds and struggles to warm my icy skin. I have seen the rise of revolutions. I have seen the fall of cities. I have watched armies march past, men and boys eager to be slaughtered like animals. I have sat through floodwater, trying its might to wash everything in its path away. I have sat through a raging fire, unleashing its unseeing wrath onto the land around me. I have been a seat, holding up the weight of children and adults alike. I have been a platform upon which creatures have been sacrificed. I have shared in the joy of watching many a passionate kiss between lovers. I have watched eons pass by. And I will watch many more. I am unmoving. I remain.
The air smelled of roses, but not quite roses. Like ocean spray intertwined with petals. The water lapped softly at the stone shore. The radio played barely audible static. They opened their eyes. The light filtered in through the window ajar, pink in all its serene glory. The couch was soft under their cheek, smooth but firm. They sat up. Feet grazing the hardwood floor, then, the carpet. Rough under their bare skin. They shuffle over to the desk. The chair creaks as they rest their weight upon it. They pick up the pen. The ink begins to flow. A floral breeze drifts past the windowsill.
He gripped the steering wheel tightly. The road was slick with midsummer rain, the last thing he wanted was to skid off the road on the way to his parents house. The sky was gray but it was still fairly bright outside of the car. The rain wasn’t coming down very hard anymore, that was good. The air was cool. The trees stretched into the air, twenty, maybe thirty feet high. Hardly any cars passed him, this far out into the wilderness. It was quiet. Peaceful. Relaxing. Almost hypnotically so. The road moved past smoothly, the rain came down steadily, the rumble of the engine harmonizing with the strange thrum from somewhere within the woods. He began to drift out of the car, letting it drive away from him. The car continued down the road while he began to follow the primordial pulse from deep within the woods. He flew high above the ground, swooping in-between the trees as the rain began to pour down. The further he traveled, the more the trees appeared to be shattered by a blast, blown apart and back by some massive force. Yet they stood still in the rain, frozen in time, shards of wood eerily still beneath the overcast sky. Chunks of earth suspended in the air, unmoving. Without knowing why and without knowing where, he followed the ancient song deeper and deeper into the woods. He was getting closer. He could feel its song hum across his skin and reverberate into his bones. He could feel its energy travel across his nervous system. His heartbeats became synced with the thrumming power. More than one. One becomes many. One joins the mass. Power beyond comprehension. Waiting. Watching. Wondering-
The car began to slide. He jolted awake, scrambling to regain control of the quickly slipping car. But his efforts were for naught, as his car began to spin out of control and quickly off the road. He was thrown to one side as the car hit a tree, his head slamming against the window, he could do nothing but close his eyes and pray.
The car ground to a halt. He opened his eyes. The back of the car was crumpled but he was miraculously unharmed, aside from a few bruises. He carefully unbuckled his seatbelt. Hoping the door wasn’t blocked, he pulled the handle and- heard it. It was back. The ancient song had returned. He swung the door open. His skin tingled, as if small bolts of lightning arced across his flesh. The ground around him was a crater, the trees blown backward, everything frozen in time- just like he had seen in his dream. And in the center of the crater- A massive, black, primeval sphere. It seemed to have its own gravitational pull. He wanted to walk closer, to be enveloped in its song, to become one with its mind, to join the chant, to release his consciousness, to be consumed by the energy. His legs moved him forward, he had no say in the matter. Lay your hand upon us, become one with the Infinite Sun. The strum of the Sun was all encompassing. As he got closer, the tingle became a pain and the murmur became a roar. He was no longer walking, his feet left the ground and his body was pulled forth. He raised his arm. He held out his palm. He succumbed to the Infinite Sun. He gasped as visions rushed into his head- A cabin, a cave, an island, a mansion, this forest- Your time will soon arrive. Patience.
The road seemed to stretch on forever, the car drove smoothly through the rain. Everything was as it should be. Nothing had changed. He was lucky that nothing bad had happened to him while he was asleep at the wheel. He would go on to his parents house and have a nice dinner with them. He would not notice the black circular outline on his palm until days later, in his own bed. And all he remembered of that day was the strange dream he had, asleep in his car.