J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: Running--The Rabbit Hole Part 4
The pop of existence that had shaken me to my cells did not ease as we raced out of my apartment. In fact, it doubled, making my vision run around the edges, blur the familiar stairs beneath me. I'd walked these halls for years. But now the fear of the unknown, dancing just behind every second, made every stair a waiting grenade.
That grenade didn't go off, however, until we crossed the apartment building's threshold. Sam grabbed my hand just as a monster the size of a minivan came sliding out of thin air. Where the monster--and I didn't know how else to describe the armored animal hunkering toward us, jaws the size of bus doors and dripping torrents of gooey spittle--slid out of the air, there was a shimmer of light and color.
And the monster wasn't the only thing sliding through the interworld shimmer. A tide of snow washed in around the beast, blasting us with cold air and blanketing our vision in white. Sam pulled me along as he dove into an alley alongside the building.
"Not much time to prepare you," he yelled. "Sorry about that. Don't hold your breath. You're going to want to. Don't. You'll faint. Keep your hand in mine, keep your other arm flat to your side. Eyes on me. Always on me." He turned away before I could say anything. But what would I have said?
What the hell just appeared in front of my apartment building? Where are we going? What about the other people here? But more than anything else: I don't want to do this. Please, don't make me do this.
Then, the monster rounded the corner, sliding against the pavement as if it were ice, bringing a shower of snow. It was wider than the alley, but it was still going to try, clawing to wedge itself between the buildings. And as its skateboard sized claws tore through the pavement like fingers through sand, I worried less about the people left behind and more about me.
"Eyes on me," he yelled.
I spared him a glance just in time to see him throw his hand out. The air wobbled like it does when it's too hot out and then a yawning nothing opened in front of us.
He pulled me through as the buildings we were between started to creak and buckled in protest. I’d never heard anything so terrifying, knowing that what was on the other end was even scarier than the noise it was making. I didn’t have much time to quake, as that yawning nothing was now everywhere around me.
I felt as if nothing surrounded me--not air, nor space. There was no ground, or water. There was nothing. But that nothing had me gasping for air that wasn’t there, so I sucked up as much as I could and held my breath, clinging to Sam’s hand. His warning came back, and I sucked down another mouthful of whatever I was breathing.
My left hand trailed from my side and my fingers instantly felt as if they had fallen asleep, slipping into...nonexistence, the black nothing that was everything besides Sam ahead of me and my physical self. I snatched my hand back and stared at where my fingers had disappeared. The nothing seemed impossible. A lack of anything at all, not even quite a blackness. But my mind couldn’t understand how else to categorize the empty.
I started to falter, and Sam’s hand tightened to pain around my fingers. I opened my mouth to reprimand him, but no words came out. I focused on the back of his head, hoping he could feel my glare.
I didn’t have long to work up a good glare before we tumbled into something, into being. Sam was there to keep me from falling to my knees, but even his support didn’t keep me from sagging as all of reality seemed to snap back into place, giving everything weight and color and sound. My head throbbed. My chest felt as if it would explode. The air was too much and I found myself bent back over, gulping at the ground and staring at Sam’s boots next to my sneakers...which were melting. I jumped away from Sam and fell onto my ass, kicking at my shoes. Once they were off, I stared at them as if they were going to try and reattach themselves. I was sitting on my ass in my socks in a dirt parking lot.
“What....the hell?” I finally gasped.
“Seems as if your sneakers don’t do so well in the tunnels. We’ll have to get you some boots.” I looked around him at a sign hanging in front of the building behind him. It was a big boot for a place called Roscoe’s Shoe Cobbler Shop.
“Did you have a feeling I was going to need boots?”
“Nearly the moment we walked into the tunnel. Useful place to turn out, right?” He smiled and put his hands on his hips. I fought the urge to kick him in the shins. I lost.
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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.