“Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.” ~ Charles F. Kittering
Ch 3 … Primal Gestalt
Dryst stood immobile and faced the back end of the thundering sandstorm. His brain and heart raced just as furiously as the freakish event of nature that had unfurled itself and had cruelly altered his world. His thoughts boiled in a rapid sequence of connections…a process that hid itself even from his own mind, allowing him the Presence to stand silently and to watch anxiously as the storm rapidly blurred the edges of the world and blended back into the long horizon.
He had yelled Mya’s name from a place of primal desparation. His sounds had texture and substance. They weighed heavily in the air but with an indescribable velocity. They bullied through space undeterred and unimpeded by anything, including gravity. Even Dryst had been shocked by the sheer power in his own voice. From deep within his breath, he had felt the sound of her name hone in on and lasso another level, find another path, travel another plane, and move faster than light, faster than instinct, faster than awareness.
He whispered to himself, “Mya…did you hear that…”
In the gathering silence, Dryst felt a sudden wave of her presence rush over him. He grabbed ahold tightly and absorbed their connection…a connection that was so strong it would not be broken, even as his eyes widened and he was overcome with the sudden shock of witnessing the edge of the horizon buckle and crack as if it were dough being kneaded and punched into. The ground crackled. The sky inhaled itself into a fiercesome gulp then released a fury of light and dark winds that rushed out for miles before rushing back into itself and vanishing just as quickly as it had appeared.
And still, Dryst knew. They held on tightly to each other, knowing each was still there. Heart racing, breath pushing in and out of his lungs. Still. Without question, he knew this to be so.
In his next breath, his legs lunged.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Dryst frowned. His feet had been digging into the ground, moving him forward into the part of the planet where the world and space and time had all torn themselves wide open and then — just as unbelievably, just as improbably so — had gripped themselves bindingly closed again. Like pinkish white scars that mounded up and disappeared…only they weren’t little this time, and this time, the disappearance was beyond the pale. He could see a tingling, subtlely pulsing rippling in the air that hovered around the spot where the world had born a gaping hole only to heal itself whole. This time, the turn of events would not stand, Dyst was certain and in fact, had long since decided. No. They would not hold. On this, he was single-minded. He could feel in his fiber that the only thing calling to him was the need to find Mya.
And now…what!…he thought with growing exasperation. He growled silently. What other weird shit could happen? he muttered.
“Oh, oh…plenty, m’friend. Plenty.”
The muscles across Dryst’s shoulders knotted together…both from this strange and new intrusion and from the strange “m’friend” reference, which reeked of being a touch disingenuous. Dryst had no idea who this person was who spoke to him now…or why he spoke to him now.
“How is that.”
It was far less a question, far more a strong insistence that this new voice provide an explanation. Invisibly poised on the balls of his feet, Dryst turned quietly to see who talked to him. His chest and arms threaded themselves tightly, instinctively. He was in no mood for games. He was feverishly questioning everything that had just happened but only in terms of the urgency of figuring out just how he could get to Mya or how she could get back to him. He had no idea how long the rippling in the air would stay visible to him. He cared less about being sidetracked by what he presumed would be an exploration of the logic or the science behind a soaring warrior that rode on the back of a raging sandstorm, or a gaping hole in space and time that swallowed itself up into what appeared – by all outward appearances – to be repair, or a curious voice that played at threatening and toyed carelessly with the notion of true friendship. A voice that had come out of nowhere to the exact spot where Mya and he had been standing alone and where, in one fell swoop, up had become down, down had become up, and little to nothing made sense. Fine. Chaos has been unleashed. Fine. There easily would have been a time when Dryst would have enjoyed tinkering idlely through the logic, the lack of logic, the sensations, the perspectives, and the improbabilities of it all. But that time clearly wasn’t now.
They stood eye to eye, Dryst and the owner of this new voice. From all outward appearnces, Dryst guessed their ages to be different (with Dryst the younger of the two). Although, they were about the same size, which wasn’t small despite the fact that Mya was taller than Dryst. But that was only when she wore heels. Otherwise, she was a few inches shorter. Still, tall for a woman. Dryst’s thoughts drifted more deeply around Mya. A lithe slender reed. He counted on that fact. And impossibly strong-minded in some ways. He counted on this fight in her, too.
A soft breeze skipped along the base of his neck as Dryst steered his mind back to his immediate surroundings. He evaluated the source of this new voice, the owner of which Dryst was positive didn’t feel that same breeze around the neck. Too many people stood behind the fellow for him to feel anything as gentle, as subtle as a swirling breeze…one that required open space in which to lull in and over and under and through the tiny hairs that graced the flesh. In the heat of all this insanity, Dryst was momentarily surprised that he could feel something as soothing and gentle as this breeze. Something deep within him told him to listen to it, even while he stood very much in the Now and faced a tribe of some unknown quantity and intention.
The older one sensed Dryst’s edge. He smiled like someone who had seen a great deal…like someone who had come away from it all understanding some of what he had seen, but who, ultimately, had come away from it all having given up the chase of trying to comprehend most of what he had seen. Maybe it was more giving up control, less giving up comprehension. Either way, this older one clearly was the leader of this group of various assorted individuals – men and women, all somewhat wary-eyed and watchful – who collectively had the uncanny ability to move with stealth-like silence across a barren topical desert…whether in daylight or dusklight, didn’t matter. But, in the face of things, who couldn’t. Part of the world just had a hole punched into it and a massive amount of energy sucked out of it – with Mya along for that preciptious ride up or down or around into some other place, he didn’t know – so it could be that Dryst just hadn’t bothered to give them much notice until now.
“Could be we should try this again.”
“Could be,” Dryst said flatly. “Could be ‘nother time.”
“What’s your hurry.”
“m’friend…no offense…if you have to ask, I don’t have the time to tell you.” Dryst turned on the balls of his feet and launched into a run.
“You can’t get to her that way,” the older one yelled. “Son…do you really think you can get to her that way? Chasing the horizon? How the hell will you know when you get there? The world isn’t flat, kiddo. Hasn’t been thought of as flat since, oh, a few hundred years. Not unless you’re a host on ‘The View.’ You ain’t…are ya?”
Dryst heard the old man but kept running. He didn’t care that it was clear that the old guy had witnessed the day’s event just as much as Dryst had…but nowhere near as intimately, as primally as Dryst had. Dryst didn’t know and didn’t care how long this tribe had been present, but he got the gist that they had been there long enough to understand that Mya had vanished. And from the sound of it, they might even have a sense as to how she vanished. And this all might have interested Dryst in another place, in another time; but not here, not now. The only thing that mustered the full force of Dryst’s interest was that blasted air that hovered like a signpost at the spot of The Event. What else could he call it but The Event…he didn’t have time to think through this, to label it, to sort it, to contain it. It had happened…as outrageous as that was even to him, but it had. And that blasted rippling air – so very far away but so very much in his sights – had just started flickering. His chest tightened. Skittishly so. His blood pounded in his ears. Like a candle in the wind that was about to blow itself out. His breath flattened.
And then it did.
Dryst bolted up hard in his tracks, pulled up fast to a dead stop. His chest heaved. His eyes tore wide open across his face. They strained to see. They pressed themselves to will the rippling air back into existence. But the air was unmoved, and in that moment, so was Dryst. He stood motionless for precious seconds but it felt to him like he was losing excruciating hours. His mind hushed itself into disbelief. He was no longer sure what to do. No longer sure where to go. He was breathing hard.
“Kid…friend…” The old man’s voice was softer, kinder, less snarky. “Trust me.” He put a hand on Dryst’s shoulder. “She’s okay. Don’t ask me how I know. I just do.”
Dryst turned to face him full on. Without hesitating, he said, “How do you know.”
The old man smiled, more warmly now…almost in recognition of the circumstances, almost in understanding The Event. Maybe even comprehending the lack of control. Maybe even with some defiance directed at the uncontrollable.
“Because m’friend,” he paused. “I know how to get there. I’ve been there. I can help you get there. But chasing the horizon is like herding cats. Can’t be done.”
They stared silently at each other for a few seconds.
The old man shrugged and held his arms open at his sides. “What other choice do you have?” he asked. “Trust me. Come with us to the encampment.” Dryst listened, still unmoved. “Name’s Spence.” Dryst’s mind processed the man’s words. No action in Dryst resulted from them, but he did feel a burning sensation in the palm of his hand.
“There’s nothing to be done about things until The Gloaming,” Spence added, and nodded his head toward Dryst’s hand. “The Gloaming,” Dryst murmured and followed the man’s line of sight to the object in Dryst’s hand.
“The Gloaming,” Spence said to reinforce its significance. “Now, let’s get a move on to the encampment, Kid. …and make sure to bring that Portal with you.”
Spence pointed his gaze again to Dryst’s palm where the scrap metal glowed and burned.
National Novel Writing Month: Chapter 3 of 30 (gah! eyes crossed!); Chapter 3 total wordcount: 1900 (not including this notation). Total total count: 5400.