by Laurie Razor
Something isn't right with Caleb.
▼▼▲▲▼▼ ~1889 Words ▲▲▼▼▲▲
It must have been a few hours this time.
Before I woke up in my bed, I was sitting in my car in the parking lot at the Jammy-Johns.
I can't remember exactly, although I think I was waiting for someone.
Where is my car now?
This is weird, I've had these little blackouts a lot lately.
Maybe I should try to get some help.
Nah, I don't have that kind of cash just lying around; I'm sure that it's nothing.
Well, at least nothing that a few beers with my mate Dave can't fix.
The second my foot hits his porch, the door swings open.
"Hey, Caleb. What's cracking?"
I step inside and grab a beer from the fridge.
"By the way man, where were you last night?"
That answers one question I've had; I must have made plans to go out drinking with Dave last night.
"I don't know, dude."
"You don't know? When I pulled up at Jammy-Johns, I saw your car in the parking lot. Where did you go?"
I swallow that first bitter swig.
"Like I said, man, I don't know. I was sitting in the car last night at Jammy-Johns, then I woke up in my bed this morning."
"Far out! That's not normal, dude."
My heavy head drops after I swallow another mouthful; Dave runs his palm over his face.
"This shouldn't happen, dude. Come on, we're going to Jemima's."
"Really, Dave? Jemima? I don't wanna let that big, creepy, satanic-"
"She's not satanic, she just knows a lot about, y'know, weird stuff."
I sit down and cross my arms.
"Hot dang it! I'm not going."
I knock on Jemima's door.
"Who be banging on me door, there?"
"It's Dave and Caleb. Won't you let us in?"
"How I know you're you?"
My word, she's annoying; she's speaking with the worst fake accent I've ever heard.
"Who else is stupid enough to come here?"
She cackles in her horribly irritating way; we hear dozens of locks slide and clack open before the door does.
Jemima Brighton, a painfully slender, near seven-foot tall, pale amazon with a bad blonde dye-job, blocks the doorway.
"Boys! How good to see you. Now what you want? I'm a very busy lady."
Dave nudges me with his elbow.
"Hey Jem, I've been kinda losing time lately, and uhh-"
She pulls me towards her, nestling my face into her bosom as if she were comforting a small child.
"And you want Auntie Jemima to use her mystic witchy powers over the immaterial planes of nonexistence to tell you where to find your time? Of course I'll help you out, baby."
As uncomfortable as I am, I keep hearing my mother's voice swirling around in my head, telling me not to look a gift horse in the mouth.
She carries me inside, my face still awkwardly wedged in her chest.
Finally she lets me go when we are inside her kitchen.
"You boys grab a beer out of the refrigerator and go sit in lounge room. I have to converse with de spirits alone first."
Dave grabs us a beer each and puts his arm around me.
"Thanks for doing this Jemima. We didn't really know where else to go."
"Hey, I know Caleb. All them there doctors would say is something silly, like he has psychophrenia or some other garbage. To the lounge room with the pair of you!"
I'm sitting on a busted brown pinstripe couch, Dave is standing over me, clutching my shoulders.
"Caleb. Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I'm fine. What happened?"
"I dunno, man. We were in the kitchen, then you dropped to the floor and, like, glowed really blue for a minute or so, then you just disappeared."
Is this what's been happening to me?
"What? How'd I get here then?"
"I don't know man. I kind of heard a thump, then here you were."
"That's weird, dude."
"How do you think I felt seeing it? I told Jemima what I saw and she said, she's seen this before and she knows what to do."
She knows what to do?
Well, I'm sure that I'm not the first man who's disappeared from this house; I'm probably the first that's come back though.
Jemima's return breaks our uncomfortable silence.
"How you feeling child?"
I roll my eyes.
"We're the same age Jemima, we went to high school together, remember?"
Dave nudges me again.
"I mean, I'm feeling alright now. Dave told me you've seen this kind of thing before."
She sits down beside me.
"Yes. It's simple. You an auto-dimensional traveler, baby. Now we just have to figure out where you travelling to."
"Cool it with the accent Jemima. Your parents were both whiter than me. You're not fooling anyone here."
She giggles again.
"Okay Caleb. I forgot how well you two know me. Here, take this."
She pulls out a little baggie of off-white powder.
"Come on Jem. You know I'm not into drugs."
"This isn't a dangerous drug. I made it. It's mainly citric acid and mulched up locust wings, with a pinch of St. John's Wort and some other stuff from my kitchen. Just dip your finger in it and toss it down your throat."
"What will it do to me?"
"It'll make you remember where you go and what you do. I've seen it work once."
Dave nudges me harder than before.
"Come on, Caleb. You want this to end, right? Take the damn powder."
I roll my eyes before dipping my finger in the baggie and swallowing a large gulp of the powder; it tastes like cheap blueberry sherbet.
Dave leans forward.
"So what now?"
"Now we wait, it shouldn't take long."
I look over at Jemima.
"What shouldn't take long?"
"Oh, did I forget to mention that it'll also compel you to travel?"
"Yeah, I guess you did."
"Look, it's starting. No matter what happens, Caleb. Keep that powder in your fist. When you are ready to come home, just take some more."
I look down at my hands and see the oddly phantasmal blueish glow that Dave told me about before.
Everything around me starts to lose focus and darken, clouding my view; a high-pitched whine drowns out every other noise.
Somehow I feel completely at peace whilst floating through this void of absolute nothingness.
A bright light replaces the darkness, along with a near deafening silence.
I'm standing at the base of a tall cliff, behind me are nothing but rocks that stretch on as far as my eyes can see.
The air has no taste, it doesn't feel right against my skin.
Why is everything so eerily still?
This barren alien land seems familiar; I guess that makes sense though, this ain't exactly my first time here.
What I first thought were falling stones are actually chunks of the ground that are breaking away and floating upwards, towards a lit up sky that bares no visible sun.
The cliff face moans back at me; the ground rumbles beneath my feet.
I don't know what response I was expecting, but it wasn't that.
As I look down, I notice that I'm naked though my body has changed.
My skin is silver, except for my hands and feet which look the same as they always have, and I have no features, leaving me looking as if I am wearing a tight spandex bodysuit.
I can still feel the baggie in my right fist.
Why has my appearance changed so?
I guess there's no use speculating until I find some answers; I'm not alone here, right?
The cliff face seems to move in front of me; it's not though, I'm the one who's moving.
A small chunk of the ground beneath me has broken and is slowly lifting me high into the air.
"You stand on a rising fragment of greatness, and you dare think? Have you come seeking power?"
This deep voice echoes from nowhere.
What is it talking about?
I don't want power; I just want to know where I am.
"You do not seek power? Then you are not a rival, but a mere Uprider? How do you think here, Uprider?"
"What? No, I don't seek power."
This thing is reading my thoughts.
Do I even need to speak?
What is an Uprider?
"One question at a time, please. No, you don't need to speak, and you are an Uprider."
Who, or what are you?
"I am here, and here is I. We are one entity. I am the all and the everything. The light, and the land. The way of all being here."
I'm not sure I understand you.
"You do not need to understand, Uprider."
What do I call you?
"You may call me Edustatinum, for it was my name once. When I still needed one."
That's a bit of a mouthful, how about I call you Ed?
"If you'd like."
So why am I here, Ed?
“You are here because I have willed you here. This isn't your first visit, although you already know that, don't you, Caleb?"
How do you know my name?
"I took it from your thoughts. Your mind has awakened on this plane, and your thoughts trespass against my own. Now that I know that you do not actively block me from my pursuits, I must ask that you not follow my affairs any longer."
What are you saying, Ed?
"Look at them. Do you still not understand?"
I soar higher, faster than before.
The once odorless air now reeks of life.
Thousands of humanoids, each similar in appearance to how I look now, stand completely still on floating rocks.
Except their faces have no skin, I reach to mine and feel that it is the same.
Bare bone, eyeless sockets, lipless teeth, a hollow cavity where my nose should protrude; my skull is completely exposed.
Every now and then, a few blink in and out of sight.
"I need temporary dormancy here. I, Edustatinum, could not exist without a steady flow of mindlessness from the Upriders. I feed upon it."
"That is a question even to me. Can you explain every action you take?"
Huh, I guess you have a point.
"Now you are starting to understand. This way is mine; the way of everything here. This is why you can not remain here, not like this."
What are you saying Ed?
I can leave, if you'd like.
"No, I am sorry Caleb. I can not let you leave. You know too much. Life is not an option for a thinkable Uprider."
Are you going to kill me then?
"I could, or I could feast upon your memories and banish you. I shall leave the choice to you."
Hmm, that's a tough one.
Either way, I'm never coming back though, right?
"As I have said Caleb, you know too much to come back. You are permanently exiled, you must now decide the style of your deportation."
I choose. . .
"Caleb? How do you feel?"
Dave stands over me, I'm back on the busted brown pinstriped couch at Jemima's.
Jemima steps into view.
"Where'd you go?"
I unfurl my hand, the empty baggie slips to the floor.
"Somewhere I'm never going back to."