He couldn’t tell what he was looking at, not even if it was alive – or even something else, like a machine…
As the first rush of fear subsided, as confusion turned to curiosity and as Tracy’s shock morphed into a desire to run – anywhere – he tried to hold onto his sense of reality as he stared into what appeared to be – an eye. A huge eye, true, but the thing down there in the water looked just like an eye.
“Is that what I think it is,” he whispered.
“If you think it’s your eye you’re right on the money.”
“My eye? What are you talking about?”
“Blink again, would you, but this time with your left eye only…”
He closed his left eye and the eye in the water disappeared, but when he reopened his eye the doppelgänger in the water reappeared.
“Now…try the right,” she whispered.
He slowly closed his right eye and held it shut, and once again the eye in the water disappeared. “Well, that’s not something you see everyday,” he sighed. “Is it real, ya think?”
“At this point, Hank, I have no idea what’s going on…”
He blinked his right eye several times in rapid succession and they watched as the eye in the water disappeared and reappeared as quickly, then Henry stood on the swim platform and stared at the thing, now at a complete loss…
Then, without thinking, he jumped into the water, hoping to land right in the middle of the eye.
It felt as if he had landed in something like honey, something not as sticky yet thickly viscous even so. Thick, and exerting an inward force that made it difficult to breath – then he realized he was was awash in overwhelmingly bright light. And it was everywhere – not simply coming from a single point source – and that just didn’t make any sense at all. Vertigo hit when he couldn’t tell how he was oriented – because in this sudden shift there simply was no longer any up or down – indeed, no reference to any ‘external world’ at all.
Then upsetting him most of all, he felt some – thing – in his mind. He couldn’t understand the feeling, not when it first began, but soon he saw a rapid succession of memories flashing through his mind’s eye and realized this something was literally going through his mind, apparently searching for something specific.
And he was powerless to resist.
He closed his eyes and drifted, trying to ignore the flood of unwanted memory – until he felt a sudden shift –
And when he opened his eyes he realized he was hundreds of miles above the earth. Above Paris, if he wasn’t mistaken, and now the viscous goo was gone.
He looked around for evidence of some kind of structure – but saw nothing. He reached out – and felt nothing. He tried to walk – but there was nothing underfoot. Yet he was breathing.
He closed his eyes and leaned his head back and reached out for Pinky and in his mind he saw the moon beyond the earth, yet his eye had taken the moon’s place – and when he blinked the moon disappeared. He opened his eyes and saw the moon again and he felt a little relieved.
He turned his head again, then he looked down. He could see Paris between a mottled deck of clouds, her lights peeking out between low lying clouds just thick enough to obscure the real contours of the city…
So close. So far away.
He reached out as if he trying to grab hold of the city and pull himself back through the clouds, then he shook his head as the feeling returned…
‘…something is going through my mind, looking for…?’
Inside the mountain. Outside of Seattle. The security gates. Dr. Collins and the rest of the team.
Inside the Boeing Group’s reconstructed vehicle.
Sitting at the panel. Reaching out.
He closed his eyes and relaxed as best he could.
His body accelerated away from the earth and he grinned.
Now he was hundreds of thousands of miles beyond the blinking eye of the moon, adrift within fields of dancing asteroids.
‘Go back…to the exact same place in orbit.’
The acceleration and deceleration was almost instantaneous, the distance covered in the time it took to think about it trip.
‘To the marina, just behind the swim platform, a foot above the water.’
Tracy was still sitting there, still looking down into the water, when he reappeared – and she screamed when his body seemed to materialize out of nothingness.
And he was standing there. A foot above the water.
When she realized what she was looking at she stood and moved to the aft deck, shaking through her sidelong gaze while she tried to reconcile the dissonant bile rising in her throat.
“Can you come here, please?” he asked.
“I want to see if something works the way I think it might.”
“Henry! You just jumped in the water and a millisecond later you’re naked and just standing there…tell me what the fuck is going on!”
Then Clyde was there beside her and he barked once before he ambled down to the swim platform. He walked over to the edge and looked down, saw that the skinny white guy wasn’t standing on anything and he barked again.
Henry knelt then reached out and scratched Clyde behind the ears. All resistance melted away and the pup stepped out and settled next to Henry, then he looked up expectantly, and a little nervously.
“Tracy. Come on. I need to try something.”
She came down and stood close to the edge of the swim platform and looked past Clyde down into the water.
“Come on. Give me your hand.”
She reached out and took it, then slowly stepped away from Time Bandits.
Then she was by his side, holding on tight, her eyes squeezed shut.
‘Back to the same spot in orbit.’
Instantly the three of them were hundreds of miles above the earth.
Tracy sniffed the air, her nose wrinkled in disgust.
“There’s an atmosphere,” Henry said. “But…how can that be…?”
He looked down and around but he still couldn’t see anything that even remotely resembled a structure of any kind.
Then, a leap of faith.
‘Show the instrument panel.’
A panel appeared, and dozens of displays as well. They were of unrecognizable function, and he’d never seen anything like them before.
‘Show the rest of the ship.’
The cockpit took shape, and several corridors leading from the cockpit led, presumably, to other parts of the ship. He could feel Tracy shaking all over now, and Clyde have moved closer and was now sitting on his feet.
He took a deep breath and held it, then…
‘Show the rest of the crew.’
And in the next instant they were in the water behind Time Bandits, thrashing away as their surroundings began to register…
He carried Clyde down the companionway steps right to the shower in the aft head, then, when the water had warmed up a bit he stepped in and held the old boy under the spray until his shivering stopped. Clyde rested his head on Henry’s shoulder and moaned once, and Henry massaged Clyde’s back, letting the water work its magic…
“Can I get you anything?” Tracy asked when she arrived.
“Lay out some towels on the bed, would you? And hand me a couple to use in here.”
“Where are they?”
“Bottom drawer, just to your left.”
“Got it,” she said. “How many will you need?”
“Call it three.”
He turned off the water and took a towel from her, and he patted Clyde dry then wrapped him in another fresh towel and carried him to the bed. With two more towels wrapped around him he seemed content. A Golden Retriever burrito, Henry called it…then he looked at his watch.
“Ten-thirty-seven?” he said, clearly not believing what he saw on his wrist.
“That’s not right,” Tracy replied. “I have one fifteen on mine, and on my phone, too.”
Taggart went to slip on some clothes then up to the chart table; the old mechanical clock there showed one seventeen in the morning, so there was a nine hour and change discrepancy…
‘Which has to be about the amount of time I was stuck in that goo…’
He walked back to his cabin and found Tracy coiled up on the floor, stark terror in her eyes.
He followed her eyes until he found what she was looking at…
Pinky’s pale pink sphere, hovering in the doorway to the head.
“It’s okay,” he said to Tracy. “She’s a friend.”
“A friend? Henry, are you out of your fucking mind!?”
He turned to the sphere and spoke to it: “Go ahead. There’s plenty of space on the bed…”
Then he looked at the sphere again. This one was different. Not Pinky. Probably not even her people.
He crossed his arms defensively and then waited for it to make the next move…
© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.