“We’ve got a special deal on this beauty right here,” the merchant squawks and hobbles over heavily to the gangly man. Her hands are wearing tattered oven mitts and clasped together holding something gingerly. She flashes a toothy grin at him before plopping a tiny trinket onto the rotting countertop. The minuscule object rolls forward and gently comes to a stop into a tiny groove of the wooden surface.
The man stoops to examine the dazzling sphere, no bigger than a pea, with a golden wireframe snaking around the deep midnight blue flecked with shifting patches of indigo, violet and white.
There is something alluring about this thing. It has a depth to it that staring into seems to expand. The man starts to feel his eyes dissociating and leans into the sensation, a blur of purple now searing his retinas. It is painful, but oh so welcoming. He can look away if he tries, but he does not want to. He feels calm and politely ignores the tiny overlapping voices in his mind urgently objecting to this trance.
No, why should I?
The air is noticeably colder.
“We sell ring bands separately,” the merchant croaks. “But I’ll throw in a nice golden one for you at half price! Only lightly used. Belonged to a young widow I used to know who couldn’t bare to wear it no more.”
The man nods absently.
“Perhaps you’d like to hold it up and see it closer for yourself?” she continues. “There’re so many precious details you’re missing out on from so far away. Your girl deserves the finest for her special day.”
This causes the man to temporarily snap out of it and turn towards the merchant.
“Actually, I’m the best man. I shouldn’t even be looking at special offers, I just came in here to pick up an order for the groom.”
The merchant grumbles. “Right, right, sure, yeah. Listen. Let me give you some space to think about it.”
“No, really, I’m okay,” the man rubs his eyes in a vain attempt to stave off a growing headache he had not noticed earlier.
“I’m gonna have to insist,” she says coolly. There is a certain quality to her tone that chills the man deep to his bones. Before he can stop himself, he looks back at the object and reaches out to touch it with his index finger. Upon direct contact he experiences an icy and slimy shivering sensation as though he is being squeezed through a tube. His immediate surroundings wobble and shift and bend until everything seems to be sucked into the ring. He lets out a cry, but the remaining sound becomes forever lost.
He is now free-floating. The air is shimmering. His reality is unstable. His inner demons grow louder.
Burning balls of light dance along his periphery amid the expanse of overall nothingness. He cannot feel anything now. His limbs are numb and his sanity is sheltering away. The environment passes through him just as easily as he could say he is passing through it.
What is this place?
Am I dead?
He has nowhere to go. He has no one to come to. He has not even himself. He is alienated; vacant; a shadow of a somebody. He is living, or dying, with the thoughts of someone who has seen the end.
But if you are not your thoughts, yet you cannot feel anything either, nor do you even reside in your own world within your own body, what does that make you? What even is you?
Surely this cannot be all there is?
What meaning can there be?
He is trapped between two dimensions. He is now perpetually falling as an embodied to be continued…