My lungs were burning. There was a sharp pain in my side. There was a dull ache in my head. I looked ahead and there was a black ring around my world. I didn’t know what the thing behind me was, but I knew I had to keep it behind me.
“This will be fun,” he said.
“My god you are cute when I’m drunk,” I said.
“Come with me and I can guarantee you are going to have a great night,” he said.
Now, that boy who thought I could be his man was nothing but a smear on the walls. Now, whatever it was that we found in the woods was chasing me.
When I tripped, the world just slowed down. I felt myself falling. I could see the ground coming up to meet me. I hoped that it would knock me out. That way I would be unconscious when it found me.
The flash of pain was followed by a warm feeling as blood ran down my face. I knew I was still awake. Now, all I could do was lie there listening as it came towards me.
The camera was one of the greatest inventions of all time. It allowed for a moment in time to be captured forever. It allowed for memories to be kept without fail. It allowed the world to look back and see the truth in things that would have otherwise been forgotten.
For the rest of us, it created a way to be caught and known for what you are. It allowed for our unnatural actions to be recorded rather than rationalized. It was also forced us to see what we had done. To look back on things we might wish we had forgotten and know we would never escape them.
I don’t take pictures. I don’t like them to be taken; and if I see you lift that phone up and point it at me, I will rip your arm off.
Does that answer the question of whether or not you can take my picture since no wasn’t good enough?
~ Note ~
I am sorry for dropping off the face of everything and making you wait for an update. While I might have excuses, that is really all they are. I won’t share them. I will be getting back to work. I will finish this serial with this update, so it might be a long installment; then it will be back to short stories. I hope you enjoy what is coming.
~ /Note ~
It was almost sunset before I managed to steel my nerve for the actions that I must take. I rode into the failing light, my stomach twisting and turning in anticipation.
I arrived at Mary’s estate and made my way in. I noticed that a number of the servants had worried expressions on their faces, but as I walked I attributed it to my own nerves.
I should not have.
It was unusual for me to call upon Mary after dark without expression invitation for some event. She was a child of the sun and as such, most of our outings and adventures were during the day. Due to her father’s opinions on the impropriety of spending time alone before we were wed, it simply was not done.
I topped the stairs and headed towards the little sitting room that I knew to be her favorite. I was concerned about the prospect of meeting her father in the hall, but that thought flew from my head when I rounded the corner and saw two of the maids pressing their ears to the door.
When I was noticed, they both jumped before hurrying away down the hall away from me. I noticed that they both looked over their shoulders as me as they turned the corner.
My time in the other world might have been small, but it imbued me with a sense of caution that I was not in possession of before. When I reached the room, I listened. The sounds I heard through the oak would have been unknown to me before my trip. Now though, after my time with Samantha, I knew exactly what was happening.
I stood there with my hand on the knob, trying to decide if I should enter or not. I wasn’t sure I could deal with what I was about to see, but I decided that catching her in the act was the only reasonable course. It would allow me to remedy my situation without stain to my honor or reputation. I felt shallow for thinking of that, but I still twisted the latch and carefully opened the door.
I was greeted to the image of my sweet, innocent Mary being ravaged by the man who I had asked to stand beside me at my wedding. Carl had her pushed over the back of a sofa so that both of them were facing away from door.
I looked to either side and my gaze came to rest on a bottle. So instead of speaking, I walked into the room and began to fix myself a drink.
I knew the moment the Carl became aware of me because the steady sound of skin slapping into skin ceased. I turned around and faced them as I took a sip of the scotch. A moment later, Mary groaned in protest before lifting her head to look up. She followed Carl’s gaze to me and stared in dumb struck silence before the reality of my presence dawned on her. She straightened up, crossed her arms over her exposed breasts, and began to hyperventilate.
I took another drink, emptying the glass before setting it down. When Carl opened his mouth I lifted my hand and he stopped. We stood there in silence for perhaps a minute, and then I shook my head and headed towards the door.
“You should fetch Mary’s father,” I told a maid as I passed her. “I believe that she and Carl will need to speak to him.”
The next morning, my mother and father joined me for breakfast. Father was furious and Mother was near to crying. I went about the process of opening my egg before I told my father of my plans. He sat in stoic silence for a few minutes before shaking his head. “That girl’s family is too far beneath us.”
“I will do as I wish,” I said. “I have made up my mind and that is that.”
He stared at me, lips pressed tightly together, but said not another word. I kissed my mother’s cheek and patted his shoulder when I rose to leave the table. It was time to go ask for my new bride’s hand in marriage.
I arrived at Samantha’s home and was given a cold greeting by her father. The news of my discovery the day before was spreading over the country like wind rolling over a field. Samantha’s father was beside himself with anger and assumed that I had some foul intention behind my visit. It took a great deal of time, as well as a couple of glasses of scotch despite the early hour, but eventually the man was sitting in a chair opposite me with a grin on his face. Samantha’s mother had joined us and she was bouncing in her chair from excitement.
“Do you really mean to do this?” She asked.
“And your family is alright with it?”
I smiled and lifted my glass. “I did not ask my father his opinion. I told him what I was going to do and I came here to do it.”
The man alternated between nodding and shaking his head. “I believe she is in her dressing room. I will send the maid to fetch her.”
I waited for a few moments, thinking of how I would greet her, of how I would tell her of my intention to wed her. I was thinking of this when the joy of my future actions was shattered by the maid’s screaming.
We all ran to Samantha’s room. Her parents clung to each other, the maid leaned against the wall, attempting to keep her feet with it’s support. I stood in the doorway, staring at the overturned chair, attempting to keep my focus away from the pointed shoe tips that floated above it.
I left my home a few days later. Now, I am floating down the river while drinking myself into a stupor. I have passed out and floated everyday for the last week. Maybe, if I am lucky, I will find that Samantha is in that other world waiting for me. I will find that she figured out how to go back when she left me.
I lie on the bottom of the boat and stare up into the sky, letting my eyelids drift closed.
When mother entered the study, I could tell by the look on her face that she intended to speak her mind. She sat down a tray of tea, took a seat, and then patted a spot beside her.
I took the seat and the cup of tea.
“My dear boy,” she said. “You have been acting strangely for over a week. You have neglected your Mary and you have been avoiding your friends. Has something happened?”
I shook my head. “It is not so much that something happened as that my view of things has changed.”
“What do you mean?”
I rubbed my face, considering my words for a moment. “Have you ever went to bed at night with worries only to wake in the morning knowing exactly how to proceed?”
She smiled. “I have.” She looked at me for a second and then patted my leg. “I have and I understand, but you must keep the world around you in perspective. Mary needs to hear from you. You cannot abandon her without a word after the amount of time the two of you have spent together.”
I nodded and sipped my tea. As I considered what I would say when I saw Mary, I fell so far into my thoughts that I did not note my Mother leaving the room.
Tonight, I would talk to Mary. Tomorrow, I would speak to Carl. Finally, on Saturday, I would call upon Samantha and speak to her father. I would pursue her the proper way, treating her as a lady. I would treat her as she deserved to be treated.
I watched the others sleep but noticed that they did not sleep well. All of my companions twitched and fidgeted, making pained and frightened noises as they did so. I had no idea how long they would sleep, but I took the time to consider my course of action.
When they woke, each looked around in confusion with fear in their eyes before they realized where they were. Eyes roamed around, looking for the beasts from their nightmares as the quiet of the afternoon was ripped apart by gasps of surprise.
Samantha was the first to wake. She looked at me and her eyes narrowed when she saw Mary resting against my chest. When her eyes returned to mine, she bit her lip, lowered her eyes again and lifted her hand to wipe her eyes. She did not meet my gaze again, though she did sit up so that Carl’s arms were no longer around her. I wish she had looked up so that she could have seen me smile at her.
Mark was the next to rise. He looked around the boat and rubbed his neck. I assumed that was the last physical sensation he could remember from when I had watched the torch disappear into the night. After his eyes met mine he turned around and looked at Samantha. He looked at Carl’s sleeping face, sighed, and then turned to stare over the side of the boat.
Mary woke and began brushing her arms. She looked all over, searching her arm and skirts for intruders before looking at us and letting out a sigh of relief. She curled into my arms, burying her face against my chest and shuddered.
Carl was the last to wake. He jerked up with a start and drew in a huge breath. After his moments of disorientation, he sighed and shook his head.
None of us spoke. Carl and I picked up the oars and moved the boat along as fast as was possible until making our port. Odd and uncomfortable words were exchanged with the boat’s owners and the coach drivers, but everyone was as off put by our attitudes as we were.
My friends and I parted ways. I sat in the study, staring at the fire and drinking far more brandy than was my norm, replaying the dreams that I was certain were not just dreams.
I would have to proceed with caution. I would not hurt Mary. She deserved better than that, but I could not ignore what I felt for Samantha. In that strange dream world, despite its horrors and pain, I had found love.
When I opened my eyes, I was genuinely surprised. I tried to reconcile the bright sunlight dappling my face through a canopy of dark green leaves with me memories of breaking bone. I could still feel the burning and tearing of my flesh where the worm had attacked, but the sight of clouds moving through the sky to my left made me question my sanity.
Perhaps I had lived a life of sufficient virtue to be granted paradise. Perhaps I was hallucinating. Perhaps I was even dreaming.
This thought stuck in my mind. The idea that I was dreaming beat upon me like a hammer striking steel yet I was sure I had just died. I should not be thinking at all. I should be nothing more than a ghost in a strange land.
Something made me look down. Some weight that made it hard to breath. I lowered my eyes, expecting to see an absence of legs or the worm chewing on my guts. I did not expect to see a pile of golden curls.
“Mary?” I whispered the word, speaking just above a breath.
I looked up and found that Mark was in the middle of the boat. He was curled in a ball with his head on his arm. Then I could see the toes of Samantha’s boots.
She was dressed, and whole, and alive. She was reclined in the other end of the boat, her dark curls resting on Carl’s chest, his arms around her.
I snarled at the idea of him touching her.
I looked around as the others slept and confirmed that we were all still dressed. They were all uninjured and as far as I could tell our canoe had drifted to the side a short ways before we were supposed to have landed.
We were alive and well. It had all been some horrible nightmare.
As I rested there, feeling Mary’s body move with her breath I watched Samantha. I looked from Carl to Mark and realized I was clenching my fist. It was more than a dream. I felt it in my bones. It was more than a dream and I would not leave the woman who had saved my life and shown me a new world. Samantha had shown me love.
There were many things I would have to change.
We walked together, no longer hand in hand, but holding hands. I watched over her, not because I did not want to be alone, but because I was worried about Samantha’s safety. With every step, I grew more concerned for her than I was for me.
“Stop.” Samantha hissed the word, pulling me back by the hand so that I almost fell back into her. “Be careful.”
I had been looking up, checking for spiders or birds, so I had missed the large hole in the ground a few steps in front of me.
“Thanks,” I said.
I looked at her in confusion, wondering why I needed to be so quiet because of a hole in the ground.
She leaned over, whispering so that the heat of her breath sent chills running down my spine. “Wait and watch.”
We stood there for a few minute before I saw a gigantic fly weaving its way through the forest. It dodged from side to side, flying as if it were a drunk staggering home after a night on the town, until it reached the center of the little clearing that we had been about to step into.
A worm of some sort shot out of the ground, its mouth opening and spreading out like a fisherman’s net, as it tried to grab the fly out of the air. There was a swishing sound and a quiet clap as the worm’s mouth missed the mark.
Almost a dozen of the worms shot up after the fly before one managed to catch it. There was a squishy sounding crunch as the insect broke apart, and then the field went quiet.
“Oh,” Samantha said. “I had only seen one of them.”
I nodded and began to lead the way around the clearing. We did more looking around than we did moving, doing our best to be careful. Samantha pointed out holes ahead of us, and I would move further away into the brush.
When the worm shot out of the ground beside of us, coming out of the middle of a bush covered with thick green leaves, it was a total surprise.
The wide net of a mouth was large enough to wrap all the way around Samantha’s chest and still catch my arm as it snapped shut. I was jerked closer to her. The force of the delicate looking jaws clamping onto us sent a sharp jolt of pain through my body as my shoulder popped and knocked a short scream out of Samantha. As our bodies were slammed together, I heard cracking noises come from Samantha’s torso and I realized that her ribs had just broken.
The worm let go, pulling back into the ground. I turned and tried to wrap my good arm around Samantha’s waist. Her eyes rolled, even as her knees buckled, and I felt a stabbing pain shoot through my chest.
Then the worm came back up.
Its mouth wrapped around us and when the worm’s jaws snapped closed, my own breath was forced out of my body as my ribs snapped. Waves of burning pain tore my mind to shreds and for a moment I thought I was on fire.
Then, I looked into Samantha’s eyes. She was looking at me, nose to nose, as our bodies were lifted into the air.
I tried to say “I love you,” but no words came out. She mouthed the same to me.
Darkness crashed down as the pain threw me into the abyss of unconsciousness. My last clear thought, “If only we could have had more time,” seemed to echo around inside my mind in the way a man’s voice will answer him in the mountains.