The microcosm portal, p.1
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       The Microcosm Portal, p.1
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           Harrison Thoreau
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The Microcosm Portal


  The Microcosm Portal

  Harrison Thoreau

  Copyright 2011 Harrison Thoreau

  ~~~

  Chapter One

  Samuel woke up drowning.

  He half coughed, half vomited water from his lungs, gasping for air.

  Water?

  Here?

  There's no way out.

  He leapt to his feet. There was no way out. He was frozen in place, unable to respond to what was happening before him. He blinked, but remained otherwise motionless. Nerves sensed water climbing up his shins. A moment later the water was past Samuel's knees, continuing up his thighs. He silently observed droplets of water collecting on the convex wall in front of him; they raced down its surface in streams, adding to the pool in the bowl of the room. The water was now above his waist. Bubbles erupted against the wall before him. He broke from his trance and half ran, half swam to the source.

  There.

  An opening in the wall just wide enough for him to fit the width of his fingers. A rush of warm air from the other side caressed his skin and beckoned to him.

  It's a door. A way out.

  The water continued to rise and he could no longer keep his head above the surface without kicking to swim. His arms struggled to be longer, but distance between him and the door was widening. He gasped for air and swam back to it, desperately trying to force the opening to be wider. Soon he found himself fighting against a sudden, and rapidly strengthening current. He tried to hold on by wedging his hand in the gap, but in vain. The current ripped him away from the wall and spun him in circles.

  After several attempts to regain control of his position he found himself in a quickly diminishing air pocket at the dome of the ceiling gasping for breath. Samuel panicked. His muscles trembled with exhaustion from trying to stay afloat. His heart, pounding against his ribs, felt as if it were trying to liberate itself from his chest.

  He stayed flailing at the surface until the water touched the highest point of the ceiling, then was submerged entirely. His body was thrashed around the room by the force of the swirling vortex, then suddenly all movement ceased. Everything became perfectly still and Samuel momentarily forgot the restricting pain in his lungs. Small, flickering points of light filled his vision and he felt himself beginning to lose consciousness. He tried to focus through the water and his failing vision on the opening in the wall, still wreathed in bubbles, calling to him.

  Freedom. Salvation.

  “I'm . . . coming.”

  A sudden and powerful surge forced him downwards, flattening him to the floor. The pressure was enormous. His body went slack in submission to the forces around him. Samuel felt useless, weak, insignificant. The crushing weight of water on his back began to lessen. His ears popped from the pressure. His brain screamed for air.

  Dizziness. Nausea.

  Darkness.

  ***

  It had been days, perhaps weeks since the flood. Time was of no consequence to Samuel. Since he had regained consciousness, he had spent every passing moment crouched in a fetal position in front of the door. He had not slept, felt no hunger nor thirst, yet his mind was still inexplicably, completely alert. All his focus and energy was directed at and through the doorway. Nothing else mattered.

  Other than the clothes on his back and a revolver tucked under his belt, Samuel had no belongings. The revolver was missing one bullet. The empty case was still in its cylinder but the slug was gone. Samuel could not fathom what may have happened to it. He fancied that he had tried suicide at one point, but he could find no supporting evidence, and had no memory of what may have happened. There was no flattened slug, no bullet holes nor depressions in the walls, or for that matter, anywhere on his body. It was a mystery, just like everything else about this place.

  There were no honest memories of his life floating through his mind, but he was not without knowledge. He had no mirror, yet could picture his own face in his mind and knew it as himself. He knew his full name. He knew of, and could so fathom ideas such as math and numbers. He thought with, and talked to himself using a complete, logical language. He had some grasp of natural physics and understood the governing rules of physical matter, as all living creatures to some extent comprehend these unspoken laws, whether consciously or unconsciously. With this in mind, he was also completely aware of the impossibility of his situation.

  There was no reason why he should be in this place, it should not exist. It had no doors, no windows, no mode of entry or exit whatsoever. One does not just materialize in a room, outside of which nothing else existed. This room couldn't possibly be all there was, and yet there was a nagging voice in his mind trying to convince him otherwise. He was trying desperately to shrug off its words while feverishly clawing at the opening.

  There is no outside. There is only this room.

  “I can feel a breeze from the other side.”

  That's only so you can breathe.

  “But if I'm not real, then why do I need to breathe?”

  You tell me, it's your fantasy.

  Samuel slapped himself in the head.

  “Shut up.”

  Just give up. There's nothing out there.

  “Then how do I know the things I know. I know colors, and there are no colors here. I know the color red, I can see it clearly.”

  His mind instantly filled with the color red. A flat, infinitely expanding plain of red that smoothed in and out between all it shades, from blood to rose, maroon to clay, burgundy to pink, all exploding in his mind's eye. He heard the voice in his mind chuckling.

  Madness isn't without its perks.

  “Damn you!”

  Enraged, Samuel shot to his feet, as much in fury as desperation, and immediately realized his error. He had been in one position for so long and his muscles so disused they gave up soon after he called them into action. All the blood rushed from his brain, nearly instantly robbing him of consciousness. He slumped forward like an empty sack.

  Then the strangest thing.

  Without pause or restraint and without will, his body slid effortlessly, head-first, through the opening. He fell soundlessly and thoughtlessly. His body turned and tumbled head over heels for an unknown and unobserved amount of time through a void of purest emptiness that slowly washed into an explosion of lush green.

  Chapter Two

  For endless stretches of unremembered time, Waste had perched on the needle, his throne. Set in the center of a crescent bow of mountains, the needle overlooked a yawning expanse of sand, scorched dry by the rays of a molten sun long ago trapped in place, unmoving and unforgiving.

  His knees were drawn level with his ears, his arms tucked between his legs in a crouch. Boney hands and feet clutched like vice grips on the eye of the needle. Blistering hot gusts of wind sent slow motion flames of black cloth bellowing around his skeletal frame.

  Beneath the grime of ages past, his shroud had once been an elegant white, lined with gold leaf, fur and finely woven stitchery swirling across the fabric in painstakingly rendered representations of nature's most complex and beautiful patterns, the royal garments of a king.

  A blackened hood covered most of Waste's head, exposing only his elongated facial protrusions, starting from high on his forehead, a sickle moon of nose and chin, liking him to a bird of prey. His lips were fixed in a savage, unintentional grin, exposing rows of sharp, needle thin teeth which, although flush, failed to dam the trickles of black saliva that ran from his mouth and down the surface of his cracked, gray skin, down his jaw and throat and vanished from sight under the collar of his robes. His eyes, though obscured in shadows beneath the hood, shown like blood filled lanterns; their furious intensity burning with ancient hatred.

  Hovering around him
were the last survivors of his once great swarm, the demon locusts born of his own flesh. The dried, crumbling shells of the long dead, littered the floor of the valley for miles, from the foot of the mountains to well into the open dust plains. These last few lazily circled their master in a somnambulistic stupor. Their mandibles and their barbed legs twitched every so often, more as a reflex than a purposeful action. Death was not long for them. Their chitin was riddled with cracks and holes of decay. Their once brilliant crimson eyes were merely a dull flicker which threatened to extinguish at any moment. Their wings had become so tattered by their endless circling flight that they were little more than cobwebs stretched over a thin frame; that they still bore their cargo through the air was nothing short of extraordinary.

  The presence of these insects was completely ignored by Waste, as was everything else. His attention was focused elsewhere. His unholy eyes never blinked. His mind barely thought. For untold ages Waste had faced the eastern skyline, waiting.

  He had destroyed this world to his satisfaction and erected his needle throne in ages so long past he barely retained a ghost of the memory. His only purpose any longer was to wait for the return of his enemy. This was the only true thought that Waste still had meandering though the diseased corridors of his brain. Not once in all this time had it occurred to him to climb down from his perch. This was all he had left, a ghost of a thought that fell somewhere between ultimate desire and the greatest fear; the enemy's return.

  Although the rotation of the planet had ceased, it still revolved around its dying sun more times than one could count. The moons had pursued each other across the sky in a dizzying chase until hunter and hunted became a trivial notion. An endless stream of time had flown past him like grains of sand through his boney fingers, until one day, this day.

  Waste had the sensation of falling forward, a rushing free-fall he could not control, yet he was not moving. He saw then with his mind's eye, not a form, but a presence, that filled his entire being with dread and anticipation. The enemy.

  The rotten gears of Waste's mind began to turn again. All the muscles in his body retracted and unclenched, breaking from their rigor mortis and freeing themselves for movement. He arched his back and legs, crouched down as far as the needle would allow and launched himself into the air. The last of the swarm died of shock in that moment, their lifeless bodies pinwheeled to the ground, landing with soft thuds amongst the ruins of their familiars.

  He hit the ground at a roll and somersaulted end over end before digging his claws into the sand and bringing himself to rest. Pausing only for a moment, Waste looked into the east, lowered his head and narrowed his eyes. His vocal cords tightened and a sickening hiss issued from his diseased mouth. Then, racing forward on all fours, Waste began to close the gap between himself and the enemy. The already dry sand under his hands and feet withered even further to become no more than a fine, powdered ash as Waste absorbed whatever was left of its vitality, for Waste was a cavern of stolen life, a black hole.

  Chapter Three

  Samuel felt his whole body jolt from a falling impact, jarring him awake. He was face down. With his eyes still pulled shut he rolled onto his back, passively wondering what felt so different about the floor. A gentle breeze rolled over him, prickling his skin to goose-bumps. His eyes snapped open. He saw a purple and orange evening sky full of plump, sun-highlighted nimbus clouds, half obscured by the branches of a tree, drooping and heavy with thick, bulging tufts of green leaves.

  He was outside.

  Springing into a sitting position, Samuel snapped his head back and forth and around in rapid semi-circles trying desperately to understand where he was. His vision was blurry with excitement and tears but he could make out plants, flowers and trees, many of them. He rotated his torso and placed his hands on the ground to push himself to his feet. He was on the edge of a brick road which had become overgrown with moss, vines and roots. After fully standing and wiping the tears from his eyes, he turned and issued a strangled gasp of alarm. Floating in the air beside him at chest height was a dull stone sphere the size of his fist.

  The Room.

  He did not make any internal inquiries regarding its new scale or how he had managed to escape its confinement, nor to the impracticality of the notion that this small floating sphere could in any way actually be the room. All he did was turn from it and run.

  He ran until his chest cramped and his legs burned, and kept running. Foliage rushed past him in a constant blur of green. His propelled body leapt instinctually over massive roots that had torn their way out of the road. He ran until he could no longer feel his body through the numbing exertion. His legs had become rubber, soft and uncontrolled. His steady, rasping breath thundered inside the echo-chamber of his head. He slowed his pace, came to a halt. He rested his hands on his knees, panting. He then dropped to his knees, rolled onto his back, and closed his eyes. His breathing gradually slowed.

  Darkness like a blanket. More darkness, then silence. More silence, then dreams.

  These could not have been dreams born of memory, for Samuel had none. The actual imagery he was experiencing was not entirely clear. It was too confusing to focus on any one thing. Too many colors. Too many moving surfaces.

  No order.

  All chaos.

  The surfaces moved like water, islands of liquid mirrors in a churning sea of air. They floated one on top of the other into infinity in every direction. They rolled and undulated, dove and rose. Somehow they were able to avoid collision. Knotting and weaving, it was mesmerizing.

  A voice, but not a voice, was speaking, but not speaking, narrating. Samuel had not noticed it at first, so he picked up somewhere in the middle of the narration. At first it only filtered through in fragments but slowly gained in clarity, or at least as clear as their source would allow.

  . . . was the oceans once . . . now . . . separated . . . and consuming . . . wings and chitin . . . claws . . . millions of eyes . . . the swarm . . . within the swarm . . . a shadow darker than the others. The old king reborn.

  The liquid mirrors dissolved and distorted into a barren landscape. Gray dust carried by wind rushed through Samuel's disembodied point of view in thick, billowing clouds, obstructing what lay in the distance. His mind strained to focus through the haze. He felt this was important. There in the distance, buried under the clouds of dust, a mountain range.

  He willed his point of view closer. As he approached the mountain range the narration continued, still in that bizarre manner of speaking but not speaking.

  . . . descent from light to . . . the result remains . . . kingdoms . . . to ash . . . throne towering above the wasteland.

  The dust clouds parted. There, in the center of the mountain range, nearly invisible despite its towering height, stood the throne, a needle piercing the heart of the earth. The eye of the needle starred back at Samuel, recognized him, and awoke.

  ***

  Samuel woke in a sweat, ironically shivering. The evening sun still shown above him. Despite the briefness of the dream, he had the impression that he had been asleep for some time, yet the day had not aged. He climbed to his feet and looked around to get his bearings. Trampled foliage to his left suggested his approach, and thus the direction of the room. Samuel turned to his right and starting walking.

  It wasn't long before Samuel came across the ruins of an ancient structure. Whatever it was, it had certainly been massive judging by the collapsed tower that bisected the road, barring his passage. Even on its side, and broken open, the tower was too high for him to attempt a summit. The top floors of the tower had spilled into a steep ravine to the right of the road. His only option was to attempt passage through the base of the main structure. The trees and underbrush had grown thick against the walls of the building. Navigating the way was a slow, careful process. There seemed to be no end to the wall in sight.

  Finally an opening presented itself. Samuel stepped halfway through into the ruins and was shocked still by the sight be
fore him. The wall he had been following had apparently been just that, not a building but a wall, a barrier that had once housed a civilization that stretched as far as he could see into the distance. Houses and pillars, fountains, churches and towers filled the valley and rose with the adjacent hills, vanishing over the crest. The valley opened to the sea, as an audience to a stage. The sea. It was as he had seen in his dreams, not of water, but an endless blur of drifting mirrors reflecting the perpetual evening sky. He exhaled slowly through his open mouth before rubbing his eyes with his palms in disbelief.

  You've finally lost it, Sam ole buddy.

  “Yeah, we'll see about that.”

  He pulled himself the rest of the way through the opening and started his long hike to the shore.

  Chapter Four

  Having traversed the great expanse of desert, Waste perched on a jutting outcrop of stone atop a towering cliff side, overlooking vast rolling grass plains. His swiveling eyes followed the slow movements of a grazing herd of wild beasts. They were many. Their numbers aside, the beasts themselves were quite large, at least twice Waste's own height at the shoulder. He could hear the clomping of their powerful hoofs echoing through the earth despite his great distance. He watched intently as their leathery, folded skin bulged and stretched over their muscles as they meandered across the field. Their wide, flat faces were pressed to the ground, too engrossed in feeding to notice anything besides their meals.

  With the agility and grace of a spider, Waste crept head-first down the face of the cliff to the plains. He slinked through the tall grass, weaving back and forth, progressively closer to the grazing herd, maintaining a fixed gaze on the closest to him. The beast stopped its feeding and raised its head to scan the landscape, sensing something amiss. Looking toward the distant cliffs it noticed a snaking trail of crumbling, dead grass that seemed to be advancing toward it. At the head of the trail was a flitting shadow with burning eyes that glinted red through the tall blades, locked on its own eyes. It tried to move, to run, to cry out a warning to the rest of the herd, but its body would not obey. Its jaw dropped, releasing a mouthful of half chewed grass. Trapped by Waste's hypnotic gaze, all the beast could do was watch in paralyzed horror as the shadow darted closer and closer.

 
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