Best of all worlds

This is the best of all worlds. This is my world. Of course, I know there are others, I grew up faintly aware of their existence. But what of it? Other worlds are unknown, dangerous places — everyone knows that. They are certainly no better than mine.

They normally don’t concern me at all, but as we pass yet another portal into those unknown realms, I almost begin to wonder. I have an aching wound in my chest and am distressed about the fact that it slows me down as I try to keep up with Ido. He paces in maddening speed through the dark corridors, jumping over obstacles and flights of stairs. His fists and feet hit everything in his way, the debris, the walls, the doors and leaving a trail of loosened fragments and paint in his wake. He is growling and hooting in sequence, never minding when dust and dirt hits his tattered clothing.

He is rabid with bloodlust.

Every move he makes is imbued with an adrenaline pumped intensity that is extreme even for him. Of course, we would roam around after a kill and he would destroy this and that on his way, but it would be at random. Now I have the feeling that his rampage has a specific destination in mind. The hole in his shirt reveals the extreme tension in the muscles of his left shoulder blade. It reminds me of a bow that is strung so high that any arrow would split the target in two.

With every step I lag behind more and more, but dare not ask him if he could wait up. I am smarter than asking something like that. I’ve known Ido all my life and learned better than to draw attention to myself when he was in one of his moods. He is very zealous in his duty to protect me and my world, but he sometimes gets a bit carried away. So instead of talking to him I run humping and flinching every time a foot touches the ground. It is hard to keep a distance that is not too far away and at the same time far enough: I have to be vigilant of the rubble that occasionally comes my way from the destructive force in front of me. Every surface here is bare and brittle, every structure unstable.

He takes another quick turn to the left down a corridor and I have to tap my last energies to increase the pace so I don’t lose his trail if he changes directions. He would make me pay later if I let that happen, but I would deserve no less. Every corridor holds potential dangers, every step, I should not get lost without him.

When I finally reach the doorway I am surprised to see I am not looking into a corridor, but upon a rooftop next to a landscape of rooftops of approximately the same height, all in different hues of bare concrete. They are illuminated through the faint light of a grey sky. This is a strange sight — most of my world is on the inside, in the shades. I know without thinking that only the rooftop Ido treads upon is on my side — its edges border on other places and times.

And death of course.

That is the most probable outcome for anyone foolish enough to get too close to the edge. Edges are unstable — everyone knows that. That is why I am bewildered to see Ido go directly towards one, behind the only structure on the roof, a small rundown shed with a doorway. He is out of sight, but I can still hear his incessant raving.

Photo by Alex Grodkiewicz on Unsplash

As I reluctantly come closer, catching my breath, my wound pounding from the exertion, I see his destination. Behind the shed there is not only rubble, but a few things that look more … solid. Somehow, I know we are in the place where the old man lived whose blood I can still smell on my shirt. I sense his waning presence. It is as strange and unfamiliar as this place. We are used to handling intruders like him who don’t belong in my world. Ido protects me from them. He always says they thought themselves better than us, but they all begged quite the same in the end.

Come to think of it, that was what set the old man apart: He did not plead. He did not beg. He did not fight. And he showed no fear.

No fear.

Even in the last moments, when usually the horror strikes — he didn’t make a sound. He just fell back looking is if a sweet dream overtook him, with a gentle smile on his face as his lifeforce faded away. I guess that was the moment the dormant pool of Ido’s rage had been sparked from a constant low flame to a wildfire explosion.

No resistance, no fear. We’ve never seen that before.

We don’t usually care to learn about any of the intruders — they don’t matter. They come with their opinions and endanger us, but are soon forgotten after they’ve been vanquished, after we have been proven right, proven victorious. Ido’s frantic aggression against the remnants of this man makes me think he wants every trace of him obliterated.

I understand this is the place the man lived in. It is a concept so alien to me that I can hardly grasp it — he stayed here. He returned here. I know he spent his time here not doing much of anything. Still. Alone. Why would anyone stay in one place?

Ido interrupts my thoughts with a scream so primal it resonates in my bone marrow. My sweat turns cold and my heart thumps in my ears. Something is terribly wrong.

“Where is it?” He kicks a small table with full force and smashes it into a million pieces. “Where the fuck IS it?!”

I have no idea what he is talking about, but I am frantically looking for it, any possible “it”, as well. I have no other choice because although I have no idea what “it” he means, I know he’d better find it or else horrible things will happen.

He hurls a small wooden stool at the wall of the shed but it doesn’t break — it just sprays some cement dust back at him. He jumps towards the stool uttering an incomprehensible grunt and keeps bashing it against the wall until there is no more of it left than a pile of splinters. His hands are bleeding on his washed-out army jeans, but he doesn’t even notice.

I dare not look directly at him and at the same time I can’t avert my eyes in case death comes. I want to see it coming at least. I know he knows I am there and I have been the focus of his rage often enough to have more than one wound that hasn’t healed properly. It has been necessary of course, I haven’t always been a fast learner.

But he doesn’t care to direct his focus at me. At least not just yet.

Instead he turns to the edge of the roof, hesitates for a split second and… jumps! He jumps over the edge!

Time slows down as the gravity of the situation strikes me — if Ido dies I will be unguarded and all alone. He has always been there for me! I lock my gaze on him as he disappears, but instead of falling into certain death, he rolls onto the roof on the other side. I see him quite clearly when he lands on it, but then the view of him becomes distorted and his rampage goes out of focus.

I am petrified. I know something essential is missing — something has gone to the other side with him, but I can’t fathom what. I wonder if I should follow Ido into a possible death, or if I should wait for the punishment when he returns. I would earn it, if I didn’t follow.

I step reluctantly towards the edge and try to see the position of the portal. As my foot brushes some rubble that rolls away I start to realize what is missing — for the first time since I can remember I hear no sound. Silence engulfs me and I my body shivers with a dread so intense that the fear of Ido is dwarfed in comparison. I want to speak up just so I can hear my own voice, but somehow I don’t.

I have already outstretched my hand towards the barrier and now just stare at it. I see the scars that cover my fingers as if for the first time. I stretch out my other hand and turn both my palms toward me, sensing wonder at the fact that they are mine. As a breeze touches the hair on the back of my fingers there is a tingling sensation, every inch of my hands feels full of life. I look towards the sky and note faint cracks of blue behind the thick clouds. Blue. I am not sure I ever saw a color so bright and soft, so comforting.

In the midst of the overwhelming silence I sense a faint smell I haven’t noticed before. It is … sweet and woody. I put my hand over my heart, it beats slowly now. I smile at this new sensation and turn away from the barrier, towards the wall of the shed. I have a feeling the source of the smell is to be found there. Ido’s destruction is obvious, and yet, somehow this place looks more real, more whole, than anything else I know. One of the reasons for this is that in midst of the broken pieces and splinters stands an object that still is whole — it looks like a tall table containing a drawer with a round knob on the front upper side of it. There is smoke rising from a small tray on the top of the table. I guess that is the source of the smell.

How did this survive Ido’s rampage? It looks so fragile, I am sure it could have easily been broken. I notice the table is smooth, ornate and of such a deep auburn it shines. Auburn? I had no idea that such color even existed, let alone what it was called. Yet somehow I know this is the right name for it. I touch the edges of the table and stroke the decorative carvings. I sense that they had been made over the years by the man who lived here. Another strange word strikes me — this had been his … “home”. The chair, the table and this altar were all he ever needed.

I pull the knob, open the drawer and find ‘it’ inside. A small part of me is relieved, because this means I can avoid so much anguish when Ido comes back. But another part of me rebels against the idea of giving it to him.

It calls to me through the silence, but not in a voice, not in anything different than the silence itself. The sensation unsettles me, but at the same time makes my loneliness fade. I reach for the object and see a vision of the man spending days over it, with a feather moving in his hand and leaving traces of his thoughts on its surface. He had poured a part of his soul into it.

A book. Yes, that is the right word.

I take the book and hold it closely, feeling comfort at its touch. The opposite of turmoil. The opposite of grievance. I am not afraid of the silence anymore and the pain in my chest loses its urgency.

I turn toward the barrier and see that Ido is on his way back and without thinking of the consequences I wish that he wasn’t. I wish for him not to see me, and to my astonishment, he doesn’t. He looks confused as he hurls himself towards the barrier just to be bounced back. He searches frantically, unsure of the way back. A part of me is thankful I am not near his fury and at the same time his fury becomes irrelevant to me. I am not afraid anymore. I am not angry nor hateful. I have compassion for him and his affliction.

But I also know he will never stop looking — it is his nature. He may be somewhere else now, but he will come back. He needs me, almost as much as I thought I needed him. Knowing he can’t see me I go towards the door of the shed and wish the portal to be open. I don’t doubt that it is. Never before has anything I wished for come to pass, but this time I know it will. My surroundings are no longer dire, no longer at odds with me.

As I reach for the door and see a vision of Ido screaming at me not to touch it. It is like a small flicker of a past illusion. I pay it no mind. I open the portal without hesitation and step into the unknown.

Now I am in a new world. I can often see the sun shining in the bright blue sky. I am still getting used to the warmth and the colors. I am writing this down while lying in a soft bed because I sense I am forgetting about the place I came from. I am forgetting about the old man, his home, the silence and the serenity I felt. I am forgetting about the rubble, the anger and the animosity. I might forget I have a choice.

But for now, I am free. This gives me hope I can become free again if need be.

Although I know the book is real, although my heart still feels its peace — its memory is also waning. The stillness is overshadowed by sound. Ido is not here now, but I sense that he will be, eventually. He will not give up so easily — but neither will I.

This is my world. It is up to me to ensure it is the best it can be.

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Dear reader,

I am very greatful you found the time to read my story. It is my first, and not a kind of story I ever saw myself writing… That is why it would be of immense importance to me to find out what you thought of it — if you have a minute, it would be great if you could answer a few short questions: https://goo.gl/forms/JShcpAJqrazLhnF92. Any feedback or support from you will be invaluable for my motivation to continue to write and improve.

Thank you!

Damjan