Globe Without Goodbye – Outside the Cave, continued (8)

This story begins with Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore (1).  To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.

 

As if beckoned by Jeffrey’s thoughts, the wind returned. It blew around the cave and knocked over the former Nadja, beautiful Russian doll. “Stop doing that!” Nadja shouted, and Jeffrey found it odd that he could hear her easily, despite the fact that she had fallen on her blocky rock face. “You need to learn how to respect those who have come before you, Jeffrey Hamen! Know your place, you are foreign here!”

“What am I supposed to stop doing? I’m just trying to talk to you!”

“Liar. That is a foreign wind. You challenge my authority. I never bring air currents this close to my cave. I do not like sand on my cave’s floor. The wind moves the sand. Leave, and take that wind with you – but put my book back first!”

He narrowed his eyes. Sliding from his rocky seat, he picked the book up, closing it carefully. He crossed back to the cave entrance and stood towering over Nadja. Deliberately, he dropped the book in front of her. “You put it back.”

Nadja did not move.

“You couldn’t lift this book if you tried, could you?” he said confidently. “It takes all you have to stay in this world, attached to a collection of rocks. On your strongest day, you will always be weaker than me on my weakest day, just because I am alive. Only living things that breathe can speak, and you in that body of stone are no longer a living thing. How are you talking right now? Where does your voice come from? I bet you’ve forgotten, in your long sleep.”

“SCREW YOU!”

Jeffrey wondered why somebody who had come to this world as long ago as Nadja had said she did would talk to him in contemporary slang. Instinctively, he knew that Nadja hadn’t actually spoken to him; rather, she had somehow imprinted communication directly into his thoughts. She probably hadn’t even used the words he had thought he had heard. His own mind had probably shaped her projections into words. Did he even need to speak? Could Nadja read his thoughts?

As that particular question slipped into his consciousness, the doll’s arms and legs twitched violently.  Nadja mentally replied in mock-human tones, with the speed of panic: “You are too powerful, too powerful for me in my cave! I only wanted to sleep here! WHY DO YOU NOT GO TO THE VORTEX? GO, GO NOW!!!”

Thank you for reading!  Coming up next week:  Nadja explains the nature of the vortex to Jeffrey.

If you are enjoying Globe Without Goodbye, please support my writing on Patreon.

Globe Without Goodbye – Outside the Cave, continued (7)

This story begins with Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore (1).  To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.

 

Jeffrey looked up. His headache eased, and he saw that the doll stood outside of the cave’s entrance. It faced him, blocky hands on stone hips. It had gotten there under its own power, somehow. Its face held the same expression: two eyes of clear glass, no nose, mouth ajar to pantomime those who need to breathe. The doll had no eyebrows, no facial muscles. Its hands could not hold tools or weapons. How had it gotten out of the cave? It freaked him out, but surprisingly, only a little bit.

As he looked at the bizarre doll, a wind blew around him for the first time since he had arrived. The light, lonely wind breezed through his long hair. When it reached the doll, the doll tottered.

Somehow, Jeffrey knew that the doll would not harm him. The doll, in fact, could not harm him. Its threatening tone was empty. It needed all of its power to animate its body. It counted on its unnaturalness to intimidate him into leaving the book behind. The doll probably felt very scared, behind its solid glass eyes. He decided to try to talk to it a little bit more. “Who are you?”

The doll’s mouth clicked shut.

Jeffrey remembered it had taken the doll some time to formulate an answer previously, so he tried to be patient.

The doll did not answer.

He phrased the question differently. “Who were you?”

The doll’s mouth clicked open right away. “When I came to this world between worlds, I was twenty-five. I was a beautiful woman with many lovers and suitors. I didn’t intend to come but I had no choice, as I’m sure you had no choice yourself. In time, I came to call this world my home. I stayed where no one is meant to stay. I loved every grain of sand on the shore, every tree in the forest. I grew old here. I died here, but I loved this place so much that still I stay, still I love. This is where I belong. I will never listen to the vortex. I will never leave!” The doll sounded defiant.

He wondered what she had meant by ‘the vortex’, but decided to ask another question first: “What was your name?”

Her mouth had never closed, so it had no need to open again. But it took her a long time to answer him.   “In my old life, I came from a land called Russia. My name was Nadja there. Here I have no need of a name. Here I left all names behind. That is the best part of the world between worlds. The ones who are native to this world fear the vortex and keep far away from its domain. Most exiles from your world do not stay long. But you are here now. Frog man, what is your name?”

He felt pride that, unlike her, he still thought of his own name as his own. Clearly, spending so much time in solitude had affected her mind. He answered her slowly: “Jeffrey Hamen.”

“Jeffrey Hamen, I do not like you. Go back to the world you came from, or go on to your next one. Make your choice. Put my book back, and leave my home!”

He felt certain that her blustering threat was empty. Hell, she hadn’t even said the infinitely stupid words “or else” yet. Who did she think she was, ordering him around? Clearly not Nadja anymore.

Thank you for reading!  Coming up next week: Jeffrey discovers that he can use magical powers instinctively in this mysterious “world between worlds.”

If you are enjoying Globe Without Goodbye, please support my writing on Patreon.

Globe Without Goodbye – Outside the Cave (6)

This story begins with Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore (1).  To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.

 

Jeffrey found a flat rock of comfortable height nestled up near the cave’s entrance. He sat down to read. He had the idea that this book contained the answers he needed to solve his current situation. Books had always held answers for him. He’d grown up a reader; books had proven better friends to him than his peers several times. More times than he cared to recall. This particular book had no visible title. The dark leather stripe of its spine, while reinforced compared to the suede cover, had still been flexible enough to get it away from the corpse. He wondered how old the book was. He looked at the first page –

A headache split into him as soon as he tried to read it. The text looked splintered, like a broken mirror, and the words slithered along the cracks. They moved! Very quickly, cramped in diagonal lines that swirled around a central point. Yes, the text was moving; was it alive, like the doll?   He felt dizzy. He dropped the book. As soon as he could no longer see the moving text, the headache subsided.

Jeffrey looked down at the book near his feet. From this distance, the text looked more like a spiderweb than a broken mirror. The letters had become tiny, but he could still see their motion on the page. It reminded him of heat rising from pavement in another world, another lifetime. The headache slammed into his brain again as he tried to read the page a second time. Not as strong of a headache, but still vicious.

He tried to flip the pages of the book with his toes. Difficult; the book was so small, and the paper so waxy. On each page, he saw a slightly different spiderweb. He could not read any of them through the relentless headache. He would get no answers from this book. Bile rose in the back of his throat.

“You.” The unearthly voice assailed him, sounding just as loud as it had when the doll had rested in his hands. “You with your ruddy face. You with your brown whiskers. You with your long hair, with your brown eyes missing their glasses. You with your blue pants that people from your time always wear. You with your potbelly but your thin arms and legs. You look like a frog I would have happily eaten once. You leave my book alone.

Thank you for reading!  Coming up next week: Jeffrey learns more about the doll’s past.

If you are enjoying Globe Without Goodbye, please support my writing on Patreon.

Globe Without Goodbye – The Doll and the Skeleton, continued (5)

This story begins with Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore (1).  To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.

Amazed as he realized the doll had truly spoken to him, not just given a recorded warning, Jeffrey slowly turned to his right. A wizened corpse lay stretched out naked on a lower slab. He hadn’t noticed it before. The corpse was so old, the flesh so desiccated, that it looked like a coated skeleton. He could barely tell that the body had been female. Dried hair rested against its old shoulders, but in the dim light of the cave he could not be certain of the hair’s color. The skeleton’s hands clasped over a small book that laid against its time-flattened chest. The corpse gave off no smell. It did not disgust Jeffrey. In fact, it fascinated him. He’d only seen bodies alive, in mock life at funerals, or depicted artistically, before now. He’d never seen a former person remind him so much of withered autumn leaves.

Jeffrey swallowed. He looked down at the doll and spoke to it: “You’re a doll. And you’re talking. But you’re a doll.” He swallowed again, his tongue feeling thick and stupid, like he hadn’t used it in years. Suddenly he knew he hadn’t dreamt this up. His mind simply did not contain these details. He had somehow been transported to another world, and he did not understand its rules. “How can those be your bones?”

The doll only responded by clicking shut its jaw.

In time, Jeffrey wondered if it had ever talked at all, if he had not perhaps completely imagined the thin voice. Perhaps he had hallucinated every inch of the shore to here. Did that make him insane? If so, would he ever be sane again?

At last the jaw clicked open. He heard the doll say: “Welcome to the world between worlds. The longer you stay here, the more powers you will develop. Powers like mine. Welcome. Now put me down and go about your business. I made this place so I could rest forever.”

Jeffrey tried to parse what the doll had said. His eyes traveled over the interior of the cave. He remembered how from the outside he could not tell if it were natural or fabricated. It did not appear to hold any other secrets; it only contained rocks, a very small amount of sand, a skeleton holding an intriguing book, a stone doll with glass eyes, and him.

He set the doll down gently where he had found it – lying on its back this time, like an infant in a crib. He ignored the doll’s protests as he approached the skeleton. He knelt beside it. He felt no fear; the ancient taboo against interacting with dead things held no power here. He wanted that book!

The flesh-coated skeleton’s arms didn’t want to move. They had stiffened into place pressing the book against the withered chest. The book, however, could bend. Two inches thick, about seven inches tall and five inches wide, it was bound in worn brown suede. He slid it loose from under the skeleton’s hands with a minimum of cracking of flesh, a minimum of wiggling of bones. Pulling it free carefully, he took it outside the cave to read. In the light of the blue sky with no sun, he could see grease-prints in the suede, where the book had been held open with eager fingers many, many times.

Thank you for reading!  Coming up next week:  Jeffrey tries to read the stolen book.

If you are enjoying Globe Without Goodbye, please support my writing on Patreon.

Globe Without Goodbye – The Doll and the Skeleton (4)

This story begins with Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore (1).  To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.

 

Jeffrey walked into the cave, holding his rock low. He did not know what to expect, but he knew he wanted to rest. Running had tired him. He wanted to hear nothing but his own breathing and heart. He hoped the dim interior of the cave held no surprises.

The dry, sandy bottom of the entrance felt cool against the soles of his feet. As his eyes adjusted to the lack of light, he saw that the cave floor soon became rockier, and he wondered what wind had blown sand into the entrance, as the air had hung so still while he had been running up the shore. He could now see that small rocks littered the floor of the cave, among others too large and heavy for him to roll. A few larger slabs tilted at angles. As he looked at these rocks, he saw two points side by side at the far side of the cave, reflecting the last of the light from the entrance. They drew his attention. He realized the points of light nestled into the head of a familiar shape: a miniature human form. Jeffrey had found a doll with glass eyes.

Jeffrey could see from across the cave, just barely, that the doll with glass eyes balanced on a slab, at about the height of his waist. He picked his way through the rocks to get a closer look. About twelve inches long, its body matched the shadowed interior of the cave in color. Its clear eyes protruded slightly from its flat face. Its proportions were human, but androgynous. It wore no clothing. Most of its joints were articulated, but it had no fingers or toes. It also had no nose, navel, ears, or genitals. Its articulated jaw was closed. It reminded him of the manikins visual artists use to help accurately outline human beings. That type of doll can be positioned, and it did look like this doll had been posed, its calves dangling over its ledge. Whimsically, he decided to move the doll into a different pose. He set his damp rock down on the floor of the cave and picked the doll up.

He couldn’t see exactly how its joints linked together, perhaps some sort of wire, but he could tell by the feel of the doll in his hands that it was made from stones. As he gripped it around its upper arms and lifted, the doll’s legs swiveled. The stones clinked against each other, and when Jeffrey shifted his hands to hold the doll on its back, the doll’s arms also swiveled.

As he studied the human abstraction, its jaw clicked open. A voice issued from the doll, thin and unearthly: “Mind my skeleton!”

He blinked. The doll did not look the least bit alive. He had not expected it to speak, let alone regarding its skeleton. He wondered if its joints were linked with some kind of ligament, not wire. Perhaps it was more fragile than it first appeared to be?

After pausing, the doll spoke again, censorious. “My bones. To your right. Be mindful of them. Why have you come here? Why do you disturb my final rest?”

Thank you for reading!  Coming up next week:  The skeleton, which holds a book.

If you are enjoying Globe Without Goodbye, please support my writing on Patreon.