Falling. Leaves of red and orange rushing past. Blue and white speeding towards me. Wait, that can’t be right… I’m facing the sky. Leaves, I must be close to the ground. The leaves are falling faster than me? Something is wrong here.
My eyes open a little wider. The leaves are still in motion but the sensation of falling subsides as I realize they are moving towards me and not the other way around. The blue sky stings my eyes and the white clouds towering over me fill me with a strange unease.
This scene would have been beautiful to me once. Now the whole environment seems to be leering at me, judging me. How did I get here? Lying on the ground not knowing which way is up, not knowing if I should stay still or get up and run as fast as I can.
Falling. The colorful bed a leaves looked welcoming. My heart was pounding and my lungs were caught somewhere between a deep breath and a terrified scream. Muscles I never felt before tensed to a breaking point. The dread I felt of impact was somehow overtaken at the last second by relief for the impending end of this ordeal. The leaves looked so wonderful.
I must have rolled over after I landed. I awoke facing the sky, not realizing the journey was over. Why was I in the air? There was a sound; a ripping, screeching, awful sound. And a siren, long wails meant to warn of an immediate danger.
There are trees close by, trees that continue to rain leaves down on me. Trying to bury me, hide me, they know I don’t belong here. But I wasn’t up in a tree, and there is nothing else of height around. Where did I come from, and why I am here?
There was a lot of metal. In fact it was a metal room, with a lot of metal machinery, and a single pane of thick glass in one wall. A red light flashing on and off in slow and steady beats, revealing in short bursts the face on the other side of the glass screaming at me.
Don’t want to think about that right now. How is my body doing? Right arm…works, left…all good. Legs seem to be ok. Everything moves, nothing hurts. Nothing hurts, how can that be? Actually if it weren’t for the trees trying to bury me and the clouds looming over me so menacingly this would be the best I’ve felt in years.
Maybe I should get up. The sitting position doesn’t bring about the flood of pain I am expecting to come. To the right, trees and a ground covered in leaves of varying shades of red and orange and brown. To the left, the same. Behind me, nothing new. It’s fall, and I am the only one here.
It’s never fall in Miami, the leaves are the same boring green all year round. I grew up in Key West, work in Miami, I’ve never seen a real fall season in my life. And we are halfway through December; fall should be over by now anyways.
It is pretty cool though. The leaves blowing around and scraping against each other sounds like a heavy rain. The colors dropping down so quickly looks to me like nature’s version of Tetris. I don’t know why this place felt so sinister just a minute ago. I think I am ready to stand up.
Amazing. I feel so… alive. I pick a direction and start walking. Walking has never felt so good, but I can go faster. I start to jog, I haven’t jogged since college. I can go faster. I start to run, faster and faster. The trees are whizzing by and the leaves have turned into a solid blur. I feel no pain in my legs and my breathing remains steady.
I could run like this forever. A red leaf strikes me in the face and sticks, forcing me to stop. Red, her face was so red in that light. I couldn’t hear her but I could read her lips. “John”, she was repeating over and over.
That’s me, my name is John.
Oh no. The room, the light, the siren, the memories are flooding me. Julie. What is she doing, is she crazy, is she stupid, is she… on the right side of the glass.
I was doing a last minute adjustment on the machine. The doors were set on a time lock that still had 15 minutes on it. The alarm was supposed to go off for a full two minutes before the doors shut.
But that’s not what happened. The doors suddenly shut, for about thirty seconds I was left alone in darkness, confused and terror stricken; and then the stupid alarms came on. My wife was staring at me through the window in utter shock. Behind her the other scientists were blurs of motion trying to find a way to halt the process and free me, but there was nothing they can do to save me.
I need to sit down. I spot a comfortable looking tree and lean back against it. The machine was designed to generate a baby universe, which would separate from our time and space and expand into its own cosmos. I must have got caught up in the wormhole this created. I would have been torn apart atom by atom, I guess I was put back together someplace.
Maybe I went…
Falling. There is that horrible ripping, screeching sound again. At least the siren has shut up. The metal roof is moving away from me. There is a large thunk as my head bangs against the floor with a painful impact.
Faces all around me. Julie, my colleagues, they are competing for my attention. “Are you ok”, “talk to me”, “how many fingers”, “stay with us”.
One question stands out: “what was it like?”
I feel so weak; “fall” is all I can manage to say.
The faces go momentarily silent. “Fall? Did he say fall”
Blurred colors start floating down in the corners of my vision. A new noise permeates the room, it sounds like leaves rustling. The faces and voices are starting to fade, drowned out by the colors filling my vision and the rustling filling my ears.
I wonder if this fall will last forever…