Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Grey in the Middle

Skylar gasped as the ground rushed to meet her and whisked her breath away.
Great. I’ll never hear the end of this. After a few moments, she regained her breath and pushed herself up from the ground, prepared for the taunts from her friends.
“If you guys crack one joke, I’ll shove someone!” Skylar laughed but the noise died in her throat the moment she lifted her head.
A large expanse of grey extended in front of her. There were no carnival rides. No groups of people to shove or run past. There were no overwhelming smells of cooking foods. Only a far-extending blankness of grey.
The sounds of people talking and laughing were gone too. She picked herself up from the ground as her stomach began to churn. What the hell?
“Hello?” Her words did not linger and cut off the moment she stopped talking. The unwelcoming atmosphere prompted chills down her arms. She stared and hoped for an end, but the large expanse stretched endlessly.
She swiveled around to a more alien sight. Greyness spanned on either of her but a rectangular projection of the carnival stood ahead. The rectangular image was a strange island in the deserted landscape.
Skylar drew closer. As she walked forward, she recognized the scene in the rectangular frame: the exact place she had tripped in the carnival moments before. She watched in awe as people ambled past her on-screen in leisurely pace. Small but muffled voices arose from the screen.
Hope flitted in her chest. Was this a portal? With unease, she extended her hand in front of her. Each step seemed like an eternity before she closed in on the image. Her fingertips extended toward the projection but met resistance. Her hand jerked backward at the unexpected surface. Then she placed her entire hand on it. It was like a thick glass. But it was not cold or hot. It just was.
The teenager dropped her hand from the screen in time to see a group her age come into view. The bright-colored clothing and distinct appearances were instantly recognizable.
The girl leaped toward the group. In the next moment, she harshly encountered the hard surface of before. Lowered voices from far-away became audible as she recovered from the blow.
“Skylar? Skylar, where are you?” A boy from the group craned his neck to stare past the bustling crowds.
“Over here!” Skylar lunged at the image once more and encountered the surface again before she pounded with her fist. “Hey!”
“Maybe she ditched us again.” The group slowed to a stop just twenty feet away. “You tried calling her, right?”
“Yeah.” A tall boy raised a cell phone to his face. “She hasn’t called me back either.”
Catching sight of the device, Skylar looked down and patted her jeans, feeling her horror deepen as hands ran smoothly over her pockets. Her eyes scanned the scene of the image until she spotted a single item near the place she had fallen. The pink cellphone reflecting the flashing carnival lights cemented her dread.
A short girl in the group shrugged. “Let’s just go. She’s probably home by now.”
“No!” Skylar’s shout was thrust in the grey emptiness surrounding her as the group began to retreat from view. She struck the screen and yelled, helplessly watching as the figures became smaller and smaller and were swallowed by the bustling masses.
Her hands soon burned after minutes of hammering on the display. When she paused for a break, the anxiety of the encompassing gray surrounding her spurred action once more. A numbness settled over her hands that caused them to feel like heavy burdens at the end of her arms. 
                Skylar stopped when her energy began to wane. Resigned, she lowered her hands and felt the effects from her intensity. Fatigue washed over her like a wave. The girl sunk to the floor, using the projection as a pillow for her head and closed her eyes to avoid the cold span of land that thrust her in loneliness.

                “Hello? Hey, wake up.”
                Skylar felt another tap on her shoulder. She opened her eyes and when she looked up, she gave a shriek.
                “Can you save the drama?” Skylar watched entranced as an older woman straightened from the stooped position in front of her. “The faster we get rolling, the better.”
                The older woman stepped away from the dazed teenager. Skylar rose to her feet and watched as the woman surveyed the now-darkened projection. People were no longer walking. The carnival lights had been dimmed and the former cheerful place now looked deserted.
                “I can’t tell what this is.” The woman squinted as her nose wrinkled with the action. “Was this some kinda concert you young ones went to?”
                “No. It was just a carnival.” Relief flooded Skylar like a warm embrace. The presence of another person was comforting. “Who are you?”
                “You’re still stuck in that?” The woman rolled her eyes as she regarded the teenager. “Names aren’t important with no one to say them. So I forgot mine a long time ago. I’m me.”
                “Are we alone? Is there more of us?” Skylar looked around but grayness spanned as far as the eye could see.
                “Don’t get too hopeful now, kid.” The woman chuckled with a superior tone and scratched her face with a hand. “You’re the only one I’ve found in twenty five years.”
                “Don’t be too sad either. At least your last memory was a good one.”
                “Last?” A cold began to seep through Skylar. She lunged toward the woman. “Get me out. I don’t want to rot here.”
                “And you think I do?” The woman’s question was met with submission as Skylar retreated. “Okay, look, here’s what you do. Have you tried hitting that thing?”
                “Yes.” Skylar watched as a soundless breeze swept through the image, causing abandoned paper cups to stir from their places.
                “Have you tried getting people’s attention through it?”
                “I did.”
                “Did anything work?”
                “Great!” The woman smiled with glee. “You’ve tried everything you can. You give up and get to walk with me now.”
                “Give up? There has to be some other way.”
                “If there was, I would have been out of here long ago. It’s easier to lose hope, trust me. See if there’s more souls out there! Better than being alone. What do you say?”
                Skylar thought for a long time and felt the woman’s expectant gaze on her. The girl sighed, trying to settle the fluttering in her chest. “You’re right.”
                “I’m right!” The woman cackled. “Great! Okay, choose the way. I’m tired of leading myself.”

                Skylar stared into the infinite gray that stretched in every direction. My new home. Her eyes scanned the endless dull horizon before she pointed. “That way.”

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