Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Stars Within the Glass" by Karl Bjorn Erickson, Part Five

His consciousness seemed to drain away like blood flowing from a deep wound. He
slipped into another place and somehow joined with all of the colors and shapes
surrounding him. The brilliant colors and geometric patterns, like a sheen of oil atop a puddle, grew more intense as he slipped beneath their spell. Mental images of the world shot through his brain. He moved his fingers, and he felt the cold stillness of the sky. Bewildering alien landscapes passed in and out of view. Then, he recognized what the landscapes were: insane fractals. It was a world somehow constructed or rooted upon the fractal form. As he gazed through his mind’s eye, there was movement far off. The images changed to pictures of people—more like silhouettes at dusk than clear people, but he felt with certainty that they had been like him once. There was a mysterious quality of waiting about them, but he didn’t understand what precisely held their attention. David watched as they milled about and then disappeared into a bright mist. He could just catch the sound of a licking fire and questioning voices, but only a single word came to mind: purifying; none of it made any sense. Then, there was a gentle yet stern voice that simply said, “No!” The sound of that single voice echoed in his thoughts.

As if caught up in a surging current, David felt himself pushed upwards towards the
surface, and the disturbing images and sounds faded away. Once his eyes opened again,
he could not contain his own panic. Flailing wildly, he tumbled over the edge of the alien peak. The shooting speed of his fall downward was incredible. Wind whistled in his ears as the swirling landscape below drew nearer and nearer. He screamed up into the darkness. An explosion of thunder suddenly reverberated all around him, making his ears ring and his head ache violently. His arms throbbed in pain. Without thinking, he drew them close to his sides. The speed of his fall should have increased, but, to his astonishment, his rate of descent slowed significantly. He tried bringing his legs tightly together next, and, again, the sensation of falling became much reduced. The fall began to resemble a dream that he recalled having as a child, or perhaps it was a dream of a dream. Something struck his face hard, then disappeared. He spit out a red fluorescent feather that tasted something like cinnamon and honey and tried to right himself in a position that was perpendicular to the ground below. He could make out figures on the surface now, their heads turned up to gaze at this peculiar shooting star. David brought his legs together again and pointed his toes downward—as if he were trying a new high diving technique. The fall slowed to a crawl, and he alighted gently on the glassy blue
surface. As his tattered shoes pressed into the ground, the blue became darker around the outline of his feet. It reminded him of walking in a shallow pond, or pressing a finger too hard on a liquid crystal display.

Looking up, he gazed at the star-shaped mountains towering up into the mist above.
Intricate fractal patterns played out over the mountain walls, and all around him the
landscape extended out in impossible directions and swirling shapes of blue and red. It was more than his brain could accept, and he fell to his knees on the spongy ground. He refused to be afraid. Shaking his head, David slowly rose to his feet and continued on. With each step, he felt a growing assurance that he was simply experiencing some kind of altered mental state--perhaps even food poisoning. He walked along a gently sloping spiral of a green and ocean blue fractal, lost in his own thoughts. His eyes were downcast as the slope began to level. David’s mind focused on the loss of Laura, and his anger began to grow as he nurtured it. What made her do it? What right did she have? Faint singing and the scent of pine and roses wafted to him from somewhere, but they only distracted him for a moment. David quickened his pace as the path leveled, but he was startled out of his thoughts by a questioning voice. A tall man faced him, and there was a distinct quality about the stranger that made David recognize instantly that this was no ordinary man. This also was clearly not a figment of David’s imagination. It would be more likely that David himself did not exist. The man simply stared at him expectantly, awaiting a reply. The light around his face was brighter. He stood at least several feet
above David’s height.

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