By L. Stewart Marsden
Kyle Wyndham Adams blinked, which in and of itself was nothing unusual. He had blinked countless times during his sixty-six years, and for many reasons.
This blink, however, was different. Like an oncoming sneeze, he knew he was about to blink, yet instead of it being an instantaneous fraction of a second, the blink slowed to a fair creep, as though time suddenly down-shifted to a lethargic pace.
As he blinked, he felt himself — or the essence of himself — pull away from his body. Not pulled away, as if he were taffy being stretched, but pulling away in the sense of fleeing — escaping.
One moment, he was driving a switch-back road in his smart sports car, top down, sun and wind rifling through his long, gray hair. The next moment, he was feet above the bright red car with its driver, and getting further away. The car bore steadily up the switchbacks, its driver leaning into the turns and shifting gears in the ascent.
He hadn’t died, obviously. Merely vacated. And what was left of him in the car below was oblivious to the change of condition.
Then he felt a new compulsion, and Kyle Wyndham Adams craned his neck upwards to the deep blue sky above, dotted with small puffs of white clouds. He blinked again, and found himself high above the earth at cloud level, all below him stretching out in an immense patchwork of color.
Another blink, again staring upward into the deepening blue above, and he was at the edge of the earth’s atmosphere and on the cusp of the expanding, eternal dark and light of space.
He had sensations of movement — of the passing of air over his essence — and of slight variations of heat and cold. He sensed his body — his head and face and neck and shoulders as he looked, blinked, and moved. His arms and hands, legs and feet were like trailing wisps of transluscence. He felt himself breathe, and air filled his lungs to a capacity he knew he could hold forever, if necessary. But he knew that would never be necessary. He was safe and unharmed, and would remain so if he chose.
The earth spun slowly behind him like a beautiful blue-white agate — the most perfect shooting marble one could ever want or play Ringer for.
He looked out into the expanse and blinked, finding himself so deep in space he could see the entirety of the Milky Way. Even as he looked, small bursts and flashes spotted the vacuous darkness — like blinks. He knew innately creation was playing out before him, and that new and strange things — planets and objects and beings of all sorts — were coming into existence. At the same time, great and small lights suddenly went dark, as if a light switch had been tripped. The ends of suns and worlds and vast histories.
He was struck by how satisfying and expected everything was. He hadn’t fallen into an anxious state, asking who, what, when, where, why or how. It was as though he had always known the answer to each question. Now was a matter of confirmation of those answers.
It was his moment of Ah!
Serendipitously, he reversed his direction along the invisible trail, and began tracking back, following luminous markers left as if to guide him. A thin line of return urged him along, and as he neared the familiar, he felt himself pulsing and speeding up, his trailing parts stretched far behind him.
He reentered the earth’s atmosphere, which seemed to him less cloudy and clearer than before. He fell headlong into dark and bulky storm clouds, and shared the sky with torrential rain and wind, that soaked and buffeted him about arbitrarily.
Finally, he returned to the mountain slope where his blink launched his brief journey, and as he did, so returned the thoughts and feelings that had cluttered him before the blink.
Just before he landed, before he impacted into the soft-soiled mulch of a thick mountain forest, he realized that everything was different.
He had regained form, but was stark naked. So painfully aware was he of that nakedness that he immediately looked for some way to cover himself. He was tentative and careful moving through the thick undergrowth of the forest. The steep incline of the hill added more to cope with, and he slipped on fallen pine needles and tumbled down until his descent was abruptly stopped by a rotting tree.
He lay still, panting. His skin began to itch from the touch of bark and pine needles and various vines. A shaft of sunlight pierced through the tightly woven canopy of oak and elder branches and their bright green leafs.
It was still spring, he judged from the size and color of the leaves. That hadn’t changed. Thankfully it was not terribly cold, although his skin was pimpled from the chill air.
He stood to a crouch, expecting a hiker to break suddenly through the brush.
“Hi there! I see you’re naked! Well, imagine that!”
He caught fleeting images of birds darting through the treetops. He heard their various avian chatter, and imagined him to be the source of their conversation.
“Have you seen the naked man in the forest? Look! Down there! Such a vile and ugly creature without his plumage, don’t you think?”
Adams worked his way carefully back up the hill, thinking he might find a break in the forest at some point where he could see beyond his close confines. His tender feet were sensitive to every step, and immediately reacted to any twig or stone that he stepped on. Thorny vines hung from low-hanging branches and attacked his bare ankles and calfs.
He came upon ferns, and fashioned footwear by stripping Virginia Creeper and using the vines to bind the ferns to his feet. He did the same in covering his genitals and buttocks, making a belt of vines braided together, and anchoring large fern fronds with it as a skirt.
“If the board could only see me now,” he said aloud, remembering how he had raged about the financial jungle out there, and how the company needed to behave with primitive aggression, attacking and debilitating its competition.
“Survival of the fittest,” he had let echo in the room of head nodders as his hand slapped the mahogany board table.
He smiled at the irony, and continued his ascent.
He finally began to reach the summit of whatever hill or peak or mountain he was climbing. Trees thinned, and grew shorter and more gnarled. Groupings of granite erupted from the forest carpet more frequently, until the stone took over and the vegetation all but disappeared.
His fern shoes wore more quickly against the rock, and as he was afraid he might slip, he pulled them apart. The perfect recyclable footwear. But again his feet were unprotected, and he had some distance yet before reaching the climb’s summit. The going was slowed.
By the time he reached the top, the sun had begun to sink, and a blue-gray mist shrouded the valleys below. At the sun’s retreat, the air quickly cooled. He felt his scrotum and penis shrivel in response. It would soon be dark. He could not remain at the top of this peak overnight. He was tired. He was thirsty. His bowels groaned with hunger. The joints of his body reminded him he was not a young man, although he seemed less old since his journey began.
His nakedness reminded him he was not in his board room. “Survival of the fittest” reechoed in his mind.
He slowly rotated, scanning the world below for some sign of life or refuge. A large lake glistened with a sky rose-reflected surface many miles below and away. A source of water. Otherwise, the darkening tops of pine and oak and other trees undulated below. No roads. No lights. No houses or farms. No cleared areas.
A lone eagle soared above and kreed forlornly into the sunset sky.
He wondered if he could intentionally blink this away. Perhaps he could look up and shoot out into the darkening sky, into the stratosphere, into deep space again. He tried.
He wasn’t panicked, though, but strangely calm; as when he observed the interstellar creations and conception of new things and new life.
It was a trace of smoke that turned his head. The smell of burning wood, split and dried, roasting hot somewhere and emitting a trail of barely perceptible aroma. Comforting. Inviting. Alluring.
He turned his head and saw the thin wisp of smoke rise above the forest below. Cocking his head, he smiled. It was reachable. It was an attainable goal. It was within his ability.
He began the careful descent, filled with a new hope and a new venture. No stocks or bonds. No corporate takeovers. But a better hope provided by a thin wisp of smoke gesturing to him from the dark below.