Just One Point Of View Contest -- January 2017
Nowhere by Hazel Mist
(2507 word count)
Aspynn danced and twirled about, kicking her legs out in any which way. Her eyes were closed, her chin tilted upward, and her features illuminated with the sun's omnipotent rays. She carelessly pranced across the land, her bare feet caressing the emerald blades of grass below, each stride making her long blonde tresses billow out from behind her.
Upon passing the pasture, a number of furry animals and cheery birds emerged from the trees and burrows and the like, all coming to offer a pleasant greeting. The swift deer made her smile, and the sparrows had the most beautiful song, and the chipmunks were jolly and proffered new jokes each time she came around.
Capering along, Aspynn soon came to the small river. There resided a beaver who always gave her trouble, yelling that she wasn't allowed to cross the bridge. It didn't bother her, though. Instead, she handed him a slender chip of wood so that he may add it to his dam. It was a token of her friendship. The beaver never could remember Aspynn as a friend for he was old and forgetful and couldn't see quite as well as he use to. The girl then offered him a bright 'Good day!' and continued on her way over the bridge.
This led the way to a worn dirt path that winded around, gradually descending and tapering off at a sandy bank flanked by large stones. This small bay gave her access to the shallow, slow moving river. The water was crystal clear and the bottom was filled with bright-hued pebbles, turtles and frogs, crawdads and colorful fish.
She wasn't alone, though. Well, she was never alone unless she wished to be. But there was another person here. A boy.
"There you are. Took you long enough."
"There you are. Took you long enough."
He was perched upon a dark grey rock out a few feet into the stream. His legs were carefully crossed and on top of his thighs rested his elbows, which led to his curled fists supporting his head as if he had grown so bored waiting for Aspynn.
Her bare feet stepped into the cool water. It sent a shiver up her spine and put goose-bumps along her pale arms. She moved gently, as the pebbles were uneven and hard beneath her feet, until she reached a large stone at the edge of the water. Climbing on it, she mimicked his pose, though she squirmed more often than he; the rock was very warm from its day of basking in the Sun. "Danny, you know I always stop to talk to the Finch."
The boy merely shook his head. His tousled brown tresses flopped over his tanned skin and played shadows over his dark eyes.
And like she did so often, Aspynn got lost in them. She loved looking at his eyes. They reminded her of sweet dark chocolate her mother would give her for dessert, despite the natural fierceness that lay within their depths. And as often as Aspynn would admire them, Daniel would grow frustrated, for he knew that unless he said something, Aspynn would stare at him all day long and claim his eyes had these strange, intricate patterns of 'gold'. Nonsense.
He frowned, his nostrils flaring with a spurt of irritation. "My eyes are just black. Stop-"
She shook her head, the easy smile ever present across her light pink lips. "No, no. They are so much more than that."
Daniel shook his head, giving an infamous scowl. He stood, jumping off the rock and to the bank. She followed suit. "I think the beaver lost his watch. Again."
Aspynn's mouth fell into a small 'o', "Did he? Oh dear. We'll have to find it for him."
"Why? He can't hardly read it anyways; he's blind."
“Come on, it’ll be fun! It’ll be like a scavenger hunt!”
Daniel shook his head and stalked back up the path. Aspynn skipped along after him, thrilled with the prospect of helping out her friend, Mr. Beaver.
Aspynn was off a ways, observing the old beaver’s bridge as if finding all the possible locations of the missing watch. Aspynn was so intent on finding this silly thing, and Daniel hadn't a hope as to understand why. It was just a watch and in any case, what did Aspynn care what time it was when she was in Nowhere? There were days where Daniel was pretty sure he was more sane than she. However, he would help her find it.
"Aspynn- wait for me, sweetie." Aspynn’s mother called for her.
“Hey, Aspynn! I found it!” Danield called to her and she ran after him, excited.
"Don't go any further- No!"
Aspynn's mother had told Aspynn to stop. And now there was a thick IV in her small hand and cords setting her up with a monitor. The bubbles crept along the clear tube...
Everything was just as she remembered it: the mountains disappeared into the sky, the forests stretched past the horizon, the stream idly swam beneath the bridge, the sparrows chirped and danced, the deer ran by her side through the hills, and the chipmunks chortled with new puns and jokes.
Even Mr. Beaver was the same.
He often forgot Aspynn, thinking she was some rowdy child about to stomp over his delicate bridge. And each time he did so, she would offer him a token of wood and he would give her a warm smile, his whiskers quivering in pleasure at recognizing her as good company.
It was what she couldn’t remember that was the problem. There was something missing but couldn’t quite put her finger on. It felt as though she had always been in Nowhere, as though this was where she’d always lived. There was nothing but Nowhere; that was all there was and all there had ever been.
Despite having no evidence or memory to contradict this, she knew it was wrong. She went along, as if she suspected nothing was out of the ordinary because she really had no reason to think otherwise, other than the twinge in her gut. That, and Daniel was different.
He was the only thing different.
It use to be whenever he grew frustrated with some annoyance, he would spit out a sour remark. However, now whenever he grew upset with some odd quirk of Aspynn’s, his eyes, such a crisp ebony hue, would soften and his features would run slack; solemn.
The calculating and scornful expression would fade away to something unfamiliar and almost unidentifiable to Aspynn, though she gradually put the emotion of ‘pity’ to it. Daniel was pitiful? Of what?
It was unsettling.
“Do you think it’d hurt to fall from here?” Aspynn was set upon the low hanging branch of a rather thick oak tree. It had a great number of large limbs that stretched towards the ground, allowing Aspynn to scale to whatever seat she wished. It’s leaves were bright shades of green that flickered and illuminated in the soft breeze, whenever the sun could wriggle a ray of shine through. Daniel gave her that sad look, the one that made his bottom lip jut out just a bit. He didn’t answer. In place of the silence, Aspynn asked another question. “What are you thinking of?”
At that moment, Aspynn seemed so childish to him. So puerile and innocent. Of course it would hurt if she fell from this height. It’d hurt if she thought it would hurt, because Nowhere was completely and utterly a figment of her imagination, yet as she thought it was real, she would expect real consequences. It was such a brilliant imagination at play that she didn’t even realize it was all in her head.
He quickly replied this time. “Of whether or not it’d hurt.”
“It doesn’t look like it.”
“I think so. We’re twenty feet up-” Danny tried to rationalize why he thought it would hurt; they were a good ways off the ground. However, Aspynn cut him off.
“It doesn’t look like that’s what you’re thinking of. You look sad.” Despite all her peurile tendancies, Aspynn could sometimes show how mature she actually was. How wise beyond her years was she to know that something was so very wrong.
“Because I know if you would fall, you’d get hurt. I’d not want that.” The very air held still, as if holding it’s breath.
“Danny, please tell me.” She wouldn’t drop it.
“I don’t know if,” He paused, furrowing his brows. His dark eyes flickered away from her, as if that would somehow make his next words a lie. He lied to her a lot, honestly, but they were all lies to make her content or happy. Little white lies. But he wasn’t now. “We’ll be around much longer. You know?”
Aspynn watched him, her features devoid of emotion. She swung her legs idly below the branch; her delicate digits tracing light patterns in the bark.
“You think something is going to happen.” It wasn’t a question. Daniel stayed quiet. “What do you think will happen?” Her tone wasn’t pressing, rather, genuine. Curious. As always.
“I think that ... we’ll just find out when we get there, alright?”
And, finally, she left it at that.
The doctors stated that there wasn’t anything they could do. They said that even if Aspynn somehow woke, her mind and body were so traumatized that ... There wasn’t really any chance of her waking, anyways.
All that was left to do was to say goodbye and let her go.
One by one, every aspect of Nowhere began to change. Sometimes it was subtle, other times the change was so drastic that Aspynn was dumbfounded, though quickly accepted it as though that’s how Nowhere had always been. Perhaps there had always been this few of trees. Maybe the mountains never really touched the sky. Had she even imagined how vibrant the sunrises and sunsets were? They were now dull. Aspynn justified this by thinking that she had only thought they were so wonderful because that’s what everyone assumes sunrises and sunsets are.
"Has the river always been so slow?"
Daniel was quiet. The river hadn't been as slow as this before. And that was possible to know because before, the river had at least moved. Now, it was still. No ripples or waves broke the surface, no fish swam up and down it's length... the only movement was from an animal's lips as it dipped it's head to drink.
"Yes." He finally stated. Without another word, he stood up from the bank, brushed his hands against his shorts to rid them of the loose sand, and walked away, leaving Aspynn to lie there for the afternoon in thought. He did not wish to bear the agony of trying to answer any more of her questions.
Never before had an animal been sick.
"Aspynn! Daniel! Come quick!" The deer were frantic, racing up to them and running about in circles.
“What’s wrong?” They all replied at once and so the answer was garbled and drowned out by their hooves stamping the ground. Regardless of not being cognizant of what was causing the chaos, Aspynn and Daniel followed them, filled with the dreadful realization that something was very wrong.
It was a duckling. And then a deer. A woodpecker, a grasshopper, a ground squirrel, a snake.... Everyone was somber. They all knew what was coming. Who was next? It didn’t matter. They were all knew that their demise was nearing. But that did not make the heartache of each loss any easier. With each passing, there were fewer animals left. And, despite that, more tears fell.
Everything that made Nowhere special was dwindling away to nothing and it was on the day, (or was it night? The sun was so feeble anymore it was difficult to tell if it were evening or morning), that Aspynn took note that she could no longer find a bird that it was Mr. Beaver’s turn. Daniel held him. His breath came in a strangled wheeze, each more faint than the last. Aspynn sat by his side, gently running her fingers the fur around his cheeks and whiskers, even after the light dissipated from his beady eyes. The wind stilled in the trees, what crickets and frogs were left stopped their evening chant, and not a single peep was made from any animal. The only sound was of the small pools of liquid forming on the dirt after trickling down the sorrowful faces of Mr. Beaver’s few surviving friends.
The largest puddle of all was below Daniel.
Daniel, Aspynn, a single rabbit, a small patch of weak vegetation, and a small pond in the place of the river were all that was left.
Daniel, Aspynn, a small patch of withering trees, and a tiny puddle in the place of the river were all that was left.
Daniel, Aspynn, and a singular drop of water in the place of the river were all that was left.
Daniel and Aspynn were all that were left.
The sun gave up entirely. The moon didn’t bother show up. It was just dark. The two could only just make out the outline of the other, merely by the will of needing to know that the other was still there. They held each other in the silence. There was no way to tell how long they sat there, nor was there any need to know. It could have been mere seconds. It could have been a week.