A short story written as part of the Summer Prose Competition 2011 Challenges 1 and 2
Three brilliant lights shone out of the purple darkness. Mere seconds ago, if that was truly an accurate measure of time, he had been on the side of a highway. The flattened corpse of a rodent marinated in the tangy sweetness of May showers uncomfortably close. Civilization was far from view yet the rushing traffic alerted him that he was too close to people. A large truck voraciously pulled him towards the chaos of the road with the force of its velocity and violently pushed him away as he was released from its gravity, unwanted. He plucked a pebble from the side of the road. Rough edges pressed into the flesh of his fingertips; remnants of asphalt under his nails.
The small pebble was deposited into the inner pocket of his coat. A souvenir of yet another time he could not dwell in. The collection had grown heavy now, weighing against his breast. He hadn’t been traveling for a great expanse of time and yet it felt as long as the ages he had spanned. As soon as the highway came into view he’d known he’d need to leave.
The road sign design betrayed his location to the late 20th century. He hadn’t stayed long enough to get anymore exact than that before coming to this strange place with glowing stars in the distance. He had reached into the pocket of his trousers, felt the smooth stones and encircled them with his fist. He recalled the incantations that awakened them.
The stones’ ability had been stumbled upon. Gangly and awkward he had been outcast by his peers. With a facetious and melancholy disposition he had tested the unconditional love of his friends and family and found them to be conditional. Religious embraces soon turned hypocritical and accusatory. Even the silent company of the indifferent had proved worse than loneliness. He was innately despicable he knew; unable to be happy and enjoy life.
Entering a life of hermitage he sought the beliefs and powers of the universe to change himself; to heal the innate wretchedness that had shunned him from the company of others. Studiously he learnt to arrange crystals to purge his soul, to manipulate with witchcraft and alchemy. It had brought him far into the future and he’d traversed through the past.
It had brought him to the year 3016 were he’d met Millicent. Quiet, calm and understanding she had given him hope for his own future. Yet his blemished soul had proved too base. He was unable to keep his anxieties at bay sometimes manifesting in sadness and still worse other times in anger. She had been tainted by him. Her sweet optimism was slowly corrupted with worry and sorrow.
He had watched her agonized, not knowing how to stop the change. She became less and less like herself, more withdrawn and sullen when her entreaties for him to ‘cheer up’ were met with the defeated answer ‘I can’t’ and then she had left. He had even helped her program the storage shuttle to transport her belongings to her new location before she ducked into the vehicle and sped away from him, forever.
And so he had travelled back and forth through time trying to escape his past. He never stayed long, weeks, days or like the highway simply a few seconds. Collecting his pebbles and moving on. His travels did little to alleviate the pain of being left, of being so utterly unlovable. His debts to the universe only amassed. When his money was inappropriate for the time or place he stole. He wondered at the laws of the universe he was blaspheming even twisting to ruin; how many butterflies had he rendered flightless by brushing their wings as he opened the temporal planes?
He had elected to end the chain of sin. He would return home, to where it had all began and there he would end it all. Yet he hadn’t returned home but here in this strange dark place. The perceptible landscape was that of barren rolling hills. Deserted as it was he ventured out farther into the darkness. The lights grew closer and although it hurt to look directly at them he noticed their shape was spherical.
The ground was solid yet not firm. It softly quivered, undulating beneath his feet. A stone structure appeared to the North as he traversed the desultory land. “Is this”, he thought “the vista of the end of the world?” He pulled the enchanted stones from his pocket and whispered the igniting incantation. His feet remained firmly rooted to the wavering surface. Again he squeezed the stones and repeated the locomotive words. Nothing but purple atmosphere and brilliant orbs, more of them now, a few feet above his head were visible. The looming structure stood in the distance.
The orbs were close enough that if he jumped he might graze their shinning surface with his hands but they shone hot on his head and he was unable to lift himself from the surface. “Or in my request to travel home have I been brought to another plane, a level of hell were I can waste away in my own putridness?” his thought continued. The tread of his boots had disappeared beneath the soft purple ground. He looked up at the several brilliant orbs coalescing above him. An acrid lurch emanated from his stomach as his temples began to throb. A cavernous burning occupied his chest and the perspiration vanished from his skin nearly as soon as it escaped the pores.
“If I seek my end must it be like this?”, he queried himself again. His eyes darted towards the stone construct to the north. At first dark and menacing the structure now seemed like a beacon of salvation, the only shelter in sight and the orbs were quickly merging.