A man wakes up dazed and confused apparently in an alternate universe.
| He groaned loudly as he lifted himself from the floor. He shook his head and groaned again, “Oh god… what a headache. Where am I?” He looked around the room but it was pitch black. He could see only one thing in front of him—a heavy wooden door. On this particular door there was a small number. He walked up to the door, his footsteps sounded as though he was walking on old cobblestone. There was no echo; no reverberation of his footsteps. It was totally quiet. The number on the door read simply “0.”
“Huh,” he said in confusion as he reached for the doorknob. The knob was hot—very hot! He tried to pull his hand back but he couldn’t! He couldn’t control his hand! Just when he thought he was going to pass out from the pain, the door completely disappeared. His hand didn’t hurt and it was pitch black again.
“What the Hell’s going on here?” There was no longer anything in front of him so he turned around. Now he was really confused.
“Where’d this come from?” The soft glow of a streetlamp stood silently in the middle of a cobblestone square. A small fence half his height enclosed the square. There was nothing else around so he decided that he’d go inspect the strange appearance of this streetlamp. He took one step toward the cobblestone square, which was a good way off, and to his amazement (and more importantly confusion) his foot landed on the cobblestone lit by the lamp. The streetlamp was only a yard away from him now.
“Woah.” He said in utter confusion.
“I am unfamiliar with this word,” replied a calm male voice.
“What? Who’s there?” he spun around in surprise, expecting someone to be behind him. Nothing. Nothing except the blackness that was apparently everywhere.
“I do not understand.” The lamp’s light fluctuated as the voice spoke. “What do you mean by who?”
Was this streetlamp talking to him? It was apparently so, but how could this be? He tried to rationalize the thought.
“Oh. I know what’s going on. I’m dreaming. I gotta be.” He nodded in awe of his own flawless logic.
“I really don’t think so,” the lamppost replied.
“Oh yeah?” he retorted. “Wait, why am I talking to a lamppost?” he chuckled as he shook his head.
“You aren’t talking to a lamppost,” the light replied.
“What do you mean I’m not talking to a lamppost? I’m looking right at you and I’m speaking.”
Silence. He received no reply.
“Hey! Answer me! Who are you then?” he yelled suddenly feeling an overwhelming sensation of loneliness.
“I do not understand your question.”
“Who are you? Like, what’s your name?”
“Name? I do not understand.” The light pulsated with its response.
“Well, what are you called?” he asked, walking up to the light and sitting down on the cobblestone.
“I have been called lamppost before.” The light replied trying as well as it could to answer his question.
“No. I didn’t ask you what I called you. I want to know what other people call you.” He was beginning to get frustrated now.
“People? You are only the second person who has ever been here.” The voice was always calm and never fluctuated in tone.
“There was someone else here? When? What was his name? Wait a second… I don’t even know where here is. What exactly is this place?” He was starting to get excited now. But mostly, he still felt utterly confused.
“Yes. There was another being that looked like you. I cannot tell you when he was last here and I do not remember his name. As for where you are, that is a bit difficult to explain.”
“Ok, now I have lots more questions. Let’s start with this one: Why can’t you tell me when he was last here?”
“He is here. He was here. He will be here. He will never arrive but yet he will always remain here.”
“What? What are you talking about?” He looked around anxiously, expecting to see someone else. “I don’t see anyone here.”
“He is not here now. But he is here now.”
“Wait, are you trying to give me a riddle? Are you talking about me?” again, he was trying to rationalize something that he could not understand.
“No. I am not speaking of you. There is and was another.”
“Then how can he be here now but not here now? That doesn’t make any sense!” he was getting frustrated with this voice again. He wasn’t getting anywhere with his questions.
“Time. Time is the key to this place. Here, a place where there is no time, strange things tend to happen. Things tend to exist and not exist simultaneously. But hopefully now you see.”
“How is that possible? Where am I? What is this place?” Now he was totally confused. Where exactly did he end up? The Doc told him that something might go wrong, but he volunteered to try it out anyway. “Damn, if I hadn’t tried Doc’s stupid invention, I’d still be home, safe and sound.”
“Doc? I remember Doc. That was his name. He said he came looking for a man named John. John Steele.” The light answered.
“What? That’s me!” he stood up excitedly.
“You are not Doc.”
“No! I mean I’m John Steele! The Doc was here looking for me? When did he come by?”
“He came by some time ago but he has not yet arrived. And yet, here he is asking me questions. But he has never been here.” The light replied the best that it could.
He sighed audibly, “Right. No time.” He paused for a moment, feeling it was hopeless to continue conversing with this light. “What do you call this place?”
“It has been called The End of Time.”
“How fitting. How can I leave this place?”
“Leave? What do you wish to leave? You are not here and yet here you are. There is nowhere else except everywhere. But there is nothing.”
“I mean, how do I get back to where I was before I got here? I want to go home!”
“There is nowhere else but everywhere. You cannot leave.”
He walked to the fence surrounding his new environment and peered over the edge. Apparently there was no floor on the other side of this fence. He stood there staring for as long as he could remember and finally, just as he was about to turn back, he saw a small light flickering. It seemed like it was miles and miles below him.
“I see a light down there! What is it?” he finally felt like he was making some progress. He turned to the lamppost and asked again, “What is that light down there?”
“It is here and there. But then again, it is not.”
“Thanks. Well, no sense waiting around to die!” with that he leaped the fence and started falling. He fell for what seemed like an eternity. The boredom was overwhelming. He fell and fell. At times he tried to sleep to pass the time but alas, he was never tired. The little light miles below him drew nearer ever so slowly. He would soon be upon it! With a loud slam, he landed on a fenced cobblestone square. In the center was a lamppost.
“Welcome back, John Steele. Then again, you never left.” The lamppost greeted him.
“Damnit!! Oh man, am I ever screwed. I’m never gunna get outta here am I?” he was angry now. He lay down next to the light, mentally exhausted.
“Would you like to leave? The Doc says he would like you to come back.” The lamppost told him.
“Did you see Doc again? Of course I’d like to leave! That’s what I’ve been trying to do!” he sat up anxiously.
“Doc says that if you want to come back, all you have to do is use the bucket.”
He looked around the square. Sure enough. Behind him there was a small wooden bucket. “Wow,” he thought, “I just love it when stuff appears out of nowhere.” He stood up and walked over to the bucket. “What do you mean use the bucket?”
The light remained silent.
He looked into the bucket. Was it bottomless? It was pitch black inside. He was about to turn back to the lamppost when a little glint of light caught his eye. He reached into the bucket to inspect what it was. As he reached inside, everything grew brighter and brighter. Soon everything was bright white and he couldn’t see anything! With a flash and a loud crash of thunder, he was back in the Doc’s lab. He stepped out of the chamber, extremely happy to be back, but also angry at the Doc.
“Damnit Doc! What did you do?” he walked across the lab up to Doc.
“What do you mean John? It worked perfectly! You got in that chamber,” he pointed to the left of the room, “and you came out that chamber.” he pointed to the right of the room at the other chamber.
“Yeah but why the hell did it take so long?”
“What are you talking about John? You teleported so fast you were almost in both places at once! The teleporter worked perfectly!” the Doc replied a bit confused.
“You need to do a bit more work on it. You still got a few problems.” John said gruffly, making his way to the door.
“Problems? What problems? John, wait! You have to tell me what happened!” Doc said anxiously wondering what went wrong.
John turned back from the exit of the lab, “Tomorrow, Doc. Right now, I’m goin’ home.”