The dream came back to me as I ran, shocking and haunting in its clarity. I hadn’t ever seen the man in my dream, and yet I knew him. I could remember Aldrin, and the fact that he had done something. He didn’t like me, and I knew our dislike for each other had not been that big. However, he was a man to take everything to extremes, be it love or hate. And hate me he did.
Trees flew past me as I fled down an empty alley, the unfamiliar scent of a food wafting through the air. Why was someone up so early? Didn’t they have anything better to do? Or maybe it was the scent of burning flesh of a man I had just met, his knife melting in his hand, a web of fire entangling him in its fiery strands of death?
But how did I know what Lornath was?
How did I know about Aldrin? Or Kira?
A sentence bubbled up in my memory, scary and unbidden. “Kira taught you well,” he had said. Aldrin had said.
A car passed me at an incredible speed, horn blaring and the wind of its passing hitting me in the face. Still I ran, and I didn’t know where my destination was. My mind had got into a deadlock, and I knew it, but was powerless to stop it.
But a shred of sanity in my mind was not ready to give in. A small voice screamed at me to stop my feet, to sit down and consider this, but I didn’t know why I ran, so how could I stop it?
A wall suddenly loomed in front of me. I had moved my eyes up too late to notice it, and I was going to pay for it. Even as I thought it, the tips of my hair brushed its rough surface, and my face collided with it, sending me reeling. I flew backward, spinning a hundred and eighty degrees in mid air, and landing hard on the asphalt and laying there, dazed.
Even though I hadn’t hit my head against the wall that hard, and even though I wasn’t feeling particularly hurt, I was flickering in and out of consciousness, and I felt this was going to get more serious if I didn’t stop it, right then. But how could I? The only thing I was certain of was about to desert me. Slipping through the fabric of reality, to the unknown beyond. I closed my eyes. Aldrin’s image came back to me, his face filled with such hatred that even the sight of it scared me.
Yes, slipping into the unknown. Where I may follow soon.
A sniffle brought me out of nothingness, reawakening my senses, tuning them to inhuman proportions.
“That was amazing.”
I opened my eyes and looked up. A small boy, around six, seven years of age stood in front of me, grinning.
“Sure was, kid,” I croaked.
He laughed. “No, really. How did you do it?”
I shook my head and hissed as stars exploded in my vision. He looked me up and down.
“Yes,” I said when I was finally able to speak, wiping tears from my eyes. “How… How did I do what?”
He sat down cross legged and put his hands on his dirty jeans. For a moment, I was caught in the puzzle of which was dirtier; his hands or his jeans, but looking at him it was hard to decide: he had dirt smeared all over his clothing, face and possibly his body, too. He pointed behind himself.
“You know, that funny thing.”
I must have looked puzzled, because he emitted a short, impatient chuckle.
“You know, how the walls and you…”
Not feeling comfortable on the pavement any longer, I slowly sat up. The world spun and tilted for a few seconds, but I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth against it. When I opened them, the world seemed to settle.
“Oh, that. Well, you can do it too.”
His eyes opened wide.
“Really? Can you teach me?”
I sighed and thought of my agenda.
“Sure. I have lots of time on my hands,” I said sarcastically. “Here, you just drop your head low, and run like a charging bull, and you hit the wall, then you get thrown back like a…” here I stalled, looking for a particular adjective that would suit a charging bull. Finding none, I continued, “like a charging bull that has hit a big wall.”
“Heh heh,” the boy chuckled in a you-can’t-fool-me fashion, “you didn’t get thrown back. As far as I could see, you flew through the wall, spun, and fell on your back. Of course I know how to hit a wall you silly pothead.”
Silly pothead? At my time, even Franklin, who wasn’t a particularly bright or nice-mouthed kid on the block, wouldn’t call someone twenty something years his senior a pothead.
I sighed inwardly. Being a grandfather would not help at all. There was something, however, at the back of my mind, nagging constantly at me, tugging relentlessly on my line of thought. I paused my own nagging, and there it was.
“I flew through the wall?” I said, giving the kind of chuckle in the middle of my words that I hated when others did. It meant you are stupid, and such a thing just couldn’t be right, and that I didn’t believe you could be that stupid – my girlfriends did that quite a lot. Now I was doing the same.
“Fine. I’m not stupid though,” the boy said. Then, he got up, glowered at me with the whole hatred of the world in his narrowed eyes, and stomped off. I searched desperately for something comforting to say to him, or something nice at least, something fatherly, but nothing came. I just sighed. I did that quite often; when there was nothing else to do.
I got up to my feet, wobbled slightly, but managed to keep standing by holding on to the wall. The wall was particularly warm, probably the effect of the Sun hitting it. I looked up reflexively, but the Sun was not there; it was probably in a different direction and the wall was blocking it. In fact, now that I thought about it, I couldn’t even see it when I pivoted around on my heel before I fell.
Why would I pivot on my heel?
Something came to me, its power more than the dream, more than the impact with the wall, more than anything I had ever felt in my life. Thinking back to it now, it was what made reality and unreality converge into a single point, in just an instant.
The boy was right. I had come through the wall.
I slid to the ground while leaning against the wall. I could remember this in countless movies I had watched as a superhero fan, in countless dreams i had in which I snapped my fingers and something happened and I whooped in delight. But none of them were like this. None of them were so unexpected. None of them were so… real.
Yet my conscious mind was trying to convince me otherwise. And who else could be in the midst of my mind’s struggling battle but me? Receiving countless blows, trying to protect the scattered fragments of… of what? My mind? But then, it would be self preservation. Nothing less, nothing more. This was far from it, though. This was not self preservation: this was painful elimination. Or perhaps painful illumination. The battle of the conscious and unconscious mind. And the best bet for them was to use me as their shield. How much, do you think, an untrained boxer could take in the ring? Knowing that he could go down at any moment? The dreaded countdown, the end of it all. And then the gong of the bell, luring him into sweet, all-forgiving darkness…
I was in the ring. I was the boxer. The countdown began. And the only thing I carried with me into the ring was one word: lornath.