J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: Finding Our Bearings--The Rabbit Hole Part 5
A double-knot seemed the most logical tying method for what we were going to have to traverse, so despite Sam’s insistence that we hurry, I made sure to tie my new boots thoroughly. I can’t imagine what falling in a tunnel would result in if they could burn my sneakers to pools of goo. Tripping just seemed like it could be life-ending, and in ways that I couldn’t even imagine. But once I was sure my knots would hold and that were safely tucked into my boots, we were off again, through another tunnel.
I knew what to expect this time, but that didn’t make the world splintering around me and reforming itself any easier to deal with. Sam was going to be my literal and metaphorical crutch for...well, for an amount of time I couldn’t even guess, or predict. After maintaining a life of pattern, or order and logical progression, this nameless, faceless future was nearly, if not more terrifying, than the real-life monster I had witnessed less than an hour before.
When we exited our latest tunnel, it was in an area that could be anywhere from the cobbled streets of Savannah, Georgia to the old walls of Rio de Janeiro. Sam allowed me to sit on the wide steps and drink water from a canteen as if it were the first time in days, not in mere moments.
“Deep, even breaths,” he cautioned. I suppose I must have been audibly gulping down air as well as water. “It will come easier, I promise. With time.”
“How much time exactly? And how much time are we going to spend hopping around like this? And why? I mean, clearly, we had to leave my apartment, as the monster from the lagoon crawled out of Antarctica right beside it, but why again?”
Sam looked like he was about to say there wasn’t any time to explain. I waited for him to say again that as soon as he could, he would. Instead, he sat down beside me, took the canteen and took a swig himself. He carefully put it back into his own backpack and pressed his fingers into his air.
“We are jumping to avoid a few things. Monsters from lagoons, tears that could toss us anywhere at any time...and a handful of people who are trying to kill me, and by association,” he paused and turned so we were looking directly into each others’ eyes.
“Me,” I finished.
“You,” he nodded.
I wasn’t quite sure how to react. I didn’t have a lot of shock left to give, or rather, I didn’t have very much surprise and indignation left; only the shock. So I stared at him blankly and hoped that somewhere in my empty face was reflected the terror I truly should have been feeling at this revelation.
“I never would have involved you purposefully,” he continued. “I didn’t mean to accidentally involve you, either, though. We met very much by chance, and I simply couldn’t leave you to die.” He shifted away from me then, stared into the darkening sky. Wherever the hell we were, the sun was setting. But where we sat was quiet and secluded, and I hadn’t heard another human since we ‘landed.’
“The first time we met, for me, was purely by accident, and unquestionably one of the worst days of my life. I was making a jump simply to evade the other agents, but there were, standing right on the edge of a tear that was spitting tentacles forth as if vomiting nightmares. And you backed away as it widened, and never tried to run back, or jump away. Just backing away, eyes and mouth wide. You didn’t scream until I grabbed you, and then you wouldn’t stop.” He smiled as if the memory was fond. “I would like to think you were going to save yourself, but I wasn’t sure, so I thought I’d step in.”
“Thank you,” I said quickly.
“You know, you didn’t thank me the first time,” he laughed.
“Probably a little out of touch at that point,” I defended.
He nodded. “Yes, of course. I’m sure.” He glanced up between the trees again, as if he were judging the amount of time we had by how much light filled sky. “Anyway, once they’d seen me with you, you were just as on-the-run as me.”
“And why are you on the run?”
“This tearing of the universe, this muddling of time and space? It’s a new thing. I’m clearly from the future---”
“Clearly,” I interjected dryly. He crossed his arms. And I made the zip sign across my mouth. I would stop.
“And we’ve never seen anything like this. There’s nothing recorded throughout time that’s any similar. We’re in the dark. So, we’re travelling for answers. But we can do so much more than just find the answer. We can save people’s lives, ease some of the terror, the pain.
But that’s not our objective. And we are not to interfere unnecessarily.”
“And you broke that helping me,” I said, forgetting my vow of silence from only moments before. Or forsaking it, anyway.
“I broke it a long time ago, helping many people, many times. But yes, I certainly broke that with you. And I would do it again, if it meant you being alive.”
This never happened to me, because of him. I had skipped a day that I nearly died, because he had headed it off. ‘Thank you’ seemed so lackluster in return.
“And you wouldn’t happen to know how long I’m going to be alive, would you?” I asked it jokingly, but the reality was he could know the answer, and he could very well share it with me. I found that to be scariest of all.
“I don’t, but I know you’re not dying around me,” he said confidently.
“Will I ever be able to go home?”
“Yes. When, however, is the tricky part. I need to figure out when the other agents found me out, and found you out with me, and make sure that doesn’t happen. But I have to get my bearings first.”
I didn’t know what sort of agents he was talking about, or what kind of agency could possibly exist that time-traveled and decided who to help and why and when. But I certainly knew where he was coming from about catching his bearings.
He was far from the only one.
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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.