So I'm entering a writing contest. The only restriction is a word cap of 1500. As I post submissions here, please vote on the best ones. It'd be incredibly, unfathomably helpful. Thanks! :D
Blink and You’ll Miss It
The flickering lights of the massive theater screen did nothing to calm his nerves. Placing the bag of popcorn on the floor, Jack pulled out a stick of peppermint and popped it into his mouth. The taste took his mind off of the excruciating pain, but it still lingered as a remnant in the back of his mind... waiting for an opportunity to flourish. "Hey, are you alright?" Cindy whispered from his left.
He gave a convincing lie in the form of a nod, but clear signs of distress were scrawled all over his face in thick, red ink. Before the horror movie monster could even corner the blonde, Jack was face down on the floor. "Guys!" she gasped, poking Brandon's shoulder, "Jack passed out!"
The other two stood up from their seats in alarm, causing a little more than a few of the patrons to grumble and shout. "Someone help!" Dani cried, "My boyfriend is unconscious! Call 9-1-1!"
Angry clamoring quickly turned into concerned murmurs as the theater employees rushed through the doors.
I stared at myself. At least, he looked enough like me. In this strange dimension entirely painted in white, the laws of time and space apparently didn't wander. He stood in front of me at arm's length, nude but lacking the reproductive features of a human being. Otherwise, we were the exact same height, and I'd recognize that face anywhere. We stood staring at each other for what could've been a thousand years before he initiated the conversation. "You're me", he remarked, a bewildered expression on his face.
I drew back, a bit startled that our voices matched as well. "Who are you?" I asked.
For some reason, it didn't matter to me where we were, I simply wanted to know who he was. In any other circumstance I would've asked for location first, but this dimension apparently altered your mind as well. "I am Apeiros," he answered in my voice, "Of the Alithian walkers."
Before I could even process this reply in my head, a powerful force began to assert its authority. It felt like reality was being torn in half as I was ripped away from this mysterious doppelganger. As he faded in the distance, new knowledge poured into my skull. Not simply advanced physics or calculus, but every question anyone ever asked about existence was burned into my thoughts. Along with this burst of information came something spectacular: a set of memories. "I am Apeiros," I muttered involuntarily, "Of the Alithian walkers."
My eyes opened. My sensory receptors overloaded as a billion things popped out in front of me at once. My vision blurred, I could only perceive a blinding white light. My hands touched soft warmth that blanketed almost my entire body. After the initial shock of waking up, I discovered that I was in a hospital bed. Puzzled at first, I soon remembered the theater and how horrible I'd felt... I guess this was the result. But, where were the other walkers? Where was the Path? A sick feeling clenched my stomach as I realized that my body was housing two sets of memories at once, two souls... from very different worlds: Apeiros of the Alith and Jack, from Calgary. I was living both of their lives at once... but then who was I? "Looks like that lightning strike last week affected you in more ways than one," Dr. Philips chuckled as he entered my room, "Passed out during a movie, huh?"
Things grew complicated as I walked home from school next Tuesday. Standing in my suburban neighborhood in the pouring rain was a strange boy in a dark raincoat. With my excellent vision, I could tell that something about him wasn't right, simply from the look in his eyes. I walked by him as casually as I could, but he stopped me. The child, who only stood up to my ribcage, whispered the word which caught my attention instantly... "Apeiros."
"You're Apeiros, aren't you?" he inquired in a voice much too mature for his miniscule appearance, "I can tell from looking in your eyes."
Ironic how life worked sometimes, wasn’t it?
"Do you understand where you are right now?" he asked. Before I could answer, he answered for me. "You're on Earth, a planet in a galaxy. You remember galaxies, right? Those pesky particles, the size of your fingertip; you always brushed them aside as you walked the Path, believing them to be nothing more than dust particles. Now you’re seeing the dust from the inside.”
"Are you an Alithian?" I asked demandingly.
He nodded. "I am indeed. There is a dark force in the universe; it caused you to stray from the Path and brought you here. Luckily, I know how you can return to the Path, to be with your family."
"Please, explain!" the Apeiros within me urged, filled to the brim with hope and joyousness.
The young boy flashed a sinister grin. "You simply have to relinquish your human container." He held out an elegantly crafted knife, a shiny 7" blade etched with Alithian runes. "Once the body of Jack is destroyed by the sacred knife of Alith I hold in my possession, the soul of Apeiros will be sent back to the body to Apeiros, to walk the Path once again."
As Apeiros contemplated this, Jack screamed inside. "Hurry," the mysterious child murmured, "You are the foreigner to this body, Apeiros. As Jack ages, his body will build immunity to your soul. You will lose your grasp on this body. Soon, you'll be no more than a lost memory in the back of his mind... leading to eventual disintegration, destruction of your spiritual being."
I took the knife from his open hand. It felt good... it felt right. At the end of the Path, the Alith would be given salvation. At the end of Jack's life... there was nothing. Jack's planet wasn't even a speck, but a speck of a speck. There was nothing in this life worth keeping compared to the salvation promised to the Alithians by the Creator. "Are you kidding?!" Jack desperately wailed, "Search my memories, Apeiros! Search through the last sixteen years of my life and tell me that it's not meaningful! Humans may not be giants compared to galaxies, but we have experiences in life that, in my opinion... are unparalleled."
The soul of Apeiros took Jack's plea to heart. We shared memories now, so it was much easier for Apeiros to sympathize with Jack. I allowed the human’s memories to seep through me. Billions of vivid images flashed through my mind. Birthdays, baseball games, friends, family... First kiss, first dance, grandfather's death... sickness, hate, regret, anger...
Positive or negative, the experiences I had as Jack all seemed so beautiful to Apeiros; unattainably beautiful. The Alithians experienced little to none of these. To us, the Path was the only goal, the Path equaled salvation and truth. These submicroscopic organisms experienced more life in their short lives than the entire race of Alithians combined, perhaps throughout all of Alithian history.
"I can't fulfill the task", I told the boy, regaining my breath at last.
"Are you sure?" he breathed, "This will be your only chance to return to the Path. Decomposition of your soul is imminent, Apeiros. I hope you realize that."
The rain subsided. As Apeiros, seeing a rainbow form in the afternoon sky was breathtaking. "There's nothing at the end of the Path that compares to even a single moment in this life", I clarified, returning the Alithian knife.
When Jack turned seventeen, the soul of Apeiros departed from our world and, to his surprise... he was returned to the Path at the exact moment he'd left, as if nothing had ever occurred. Perhaps the mysterious Alithian’s threat of disintegration had only been a test. There was a noticeable difference in Apeiros' personality. He took every measure to ensure that each speck of "dust" was unharmed as they walked the Path, instructing others to do the same. While they first thought that he'd gone mad, his awareness and care began to grow on his fellow Alithians.
Apeiros often spoke of an enchanting, hopelessly alluring place where the important part of the journey was not the destination, but the journey itself. Soon enough, the idea of salvation at the end of the Path was forgotten. The Alithians still walked the Path, but never dwelled on the end. They encountered countless obstacles and cruel cosmic forces, but always managed to persevere and continue the walk. When alone, Apeiros found himself viewing Jack's memories over and over again, longing for a home as valuable as Earth. The planet was long gone now of course, since an Alithian's breath was equivalent to a star's lifetime; but no length of life could ever compare to the quality of a human's.
And as for what awaited the Alithians at the end of the Path, well... that's not important.