J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: The Rabbit Hole--Part 3: Baggage
I’ve never been a runner. To be perfectly honest with myself, I’ve never really been any sort of athletic, or hell, even fit. I got by in a size 10, and was lucky that the soft rolls had rolled on into curves. I was happy enough standing naked in the mirror most days. But those days seemed to far away as I ran as fast, and as hard as I ever had toward the place that had started this whole acid trip.
I had a moment where I almost turned around, found the longest, farthest other route to my apartment. OK, I had more than one moment of that. Maybe I was running right into a tear in the continuum or some shit. Maybe I would destroy the world, the galaxy, the universe as we all know it, because I was curious. Because I could possibly catch myself leaving me a note? Or maybe there was no point whatsoever to run there, or away, because whatever decision I had made...had already been made. Would be made again.
I was spiraling into a line of thinking that was going to have smoke curling out of my ears, so I almost ran right past the building. If someone was watching me, surely they’d seen me skid across the sidewalk like the Roadrunner, as I tried to stop myself. Heart beating in that wild and deadly manner, the kind that came right before forced darkness, I stared at the rock. And standing beside it...was no one. No one was there. I approached it cautiously, as if it would suddenly transform, but there wasn’t even a note. Not written, or spray painted. After checking the “rabbit hole,” and seeing that it looked even more undisturbed than usual, as if nothing had touched it or gone near it in years, I started to doubt anything ever happened at all.
The distinct fall of a shoes in the grass made me turn faster than was safe for me at the time. Unfortunately, I was still crouched on my hands and knees in front of the hole, so I smacked right into his legs with my head. Not the best defensive pose, I have to admit. I knew it was a “he” the moment I saw his shoes, surrounded by torn jeans. Big, dark grey boots. Looked like they could very easily kick ass,
“Sorry,” he said, reaching down and pulling me to my feet before I responded in anyway. “Popping up out of nowhere is a terrible habit of mine,” he continued. He held me close enough that I still hadn’t really seen his face. Just his black shirt, black jacket and dark hands. “You say I should wear bells. Or you will say it.”
I jerked back a few steps to actually get a look at him. I assumed if he was going to hurt me, he very easily could have done so while I was bent over in front of him, or attempting to tackle him with my face when I turned around. Any time at all, so I wasn’t overly worried about my safety.
He was handsome. Not like hit you over the head handsome, but the kind of handsome where it grew continuously until you can’t believe you didn’t think he was ridiculously attractive. Then, he smiled.
“Samir,” he said. “Sam. It’s nice to meet you, Aniyah.” He held his hand out.
I stared at it for a second and then grabbed it. It was warm, but in a nice way. “Again, I assume?”
“In a way,” he laughed. “We better go get packed.”
“Packed?” We? I backed up.
“Yes, packed. OK, look, I know you don’t know me. But you will, and I think you tried to warn yourself this time? Because last time, you fought me for...I think 14 or 15 hours. Running, hiding, dodging, entirely ignoring. You almost died as a result. And you’ve had no clean clothes for about a week. I’m trying to prevent that by being very proactive. I would say we have 30 minutes before the rip.”
“What is that?” I could guess, but I wanted to hear him say it. Really say it.
“When we experience the time rip. It’s going to happen in 30 minutes or so.”
“Well, I don’t know why yet, but it always happens 30 minutes from now. 6:12PM. It’s just that the last time it happened, you ran around in the chaos for a while. But you survived, clearly. So, no big deal.”
“No...big deal.” I felt a little faint. I was trying to stop breathing so quickly, but it wasn’t working. I stared at him and wanted to tell him to slow down, that I needed a minute, but my mouth...it wasn’t working either.
“Anxiety attack?” I gasped and shook my head quickly. I didn’t have anxiety attacks. I suddenly pictured a very sterile hospital bed. I was heading straight for the looney bin. I started to feel the earth move beneath me. “Yep, anxiety attack. Bend over.” I reeled away from him, and he caught my wrist, pulling me back. He pushed my head down and I bent. I think I flopped around like a drowning cat, but eventually I stopped. And I noticed I could breathe easier. I took a few deep breaths. He stepped back and I stood up.
"I've never had an anxiety attack before today.”
“Today,” Sam said. “Is a big day of firsts for you. Ready to go pack?”
I was ready to melt into the ground. Or burst into confetti. Instead of doing either of those things, I nodded. I was going to trust the Esper. “Yeah, we should get going if the world is going to rip apart in less than half an hour. ‘Cause I’ve got a lot of baggage.”
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J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacheri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.