Here's the third instalment, bit long I know, but a lot happens here:
That’s when things started to spiral out of control. That one little trip hazard of human emotion and Time fell for it. And it was taking its toll on the rest of the Universe. All round the galaxy, random solar systems and life supporting planets exploded simultaneously. A beautiful picture if viewed from above; not so pretty if your home is combusting for no apparent reason. Most of Earth stayed oblivious to this accidental multi-genocide, but Arthur’s world had become a breath-taking place to be. And I don’t mean it was pretty.
Solid gusts of hot air ripped at Arthur’s short hair, billowed through his pyjamas and tore at his skin. Time had vaporised and deserted him with a guilty and nervous-gulp-worthy expression in and around his eyes. Arthur was alone, stripped of his bed cover armour; he started to lose contact with the mattress. After a couple of attempts, the growing whirlwind, that had come from nowhere was easily tossing Arthur round the room, along with its contents.
Although helpless, Arthur flailed against the gusts, and tried to avoid the fatally fast household items streaming towards him. The wind had craftily emptied his clothes drawers and there was currently a flurry of socks heading his way along the circular current. They plastered themselves to his face and he fought for breath, while they gave him their best attempt at the opposite of the kiss of life. The wind was growing stronger, and was able to carry heavier ammunition. Arthur was able to rip the Death of Socks off his face, quick enough to see his wardrobe about to engulf him. He managed to avoid its hungry, gaping hole but his sleeve got hooked on the door knob.
As the wind whisked him around and around his bedroom in a living tornado, Arthur began to feel quite sick. “Think,” he thought, where’s the calmest place in a storm?” His mind raced back to all the natural disaster movies he had seen, and how the characters always got their hopes up in the middle of the storm when the wind seemed to drop. The middle! The eye of the storm! That was it. He just needed to find a way to exit the sickening stream of air, push himself off the wall and straight into the centre, where he could collect his thoughts and scream for help, or at least do something productive. But he only had one chance. If he were to misjudge the rebound he would feel the full force of the air’s power; he would suffocate in his duvet or be impaled on a chair leg.
The pressure mounted and so did the motion sickness. Arthur counted the 360 degree rotations of the room under his breath. One, two, THREE! And he tore his sleeve free and went crashing into the wall from the gathered momentum. He had unfortunately misjudged how far the air torrent reached out and he was pressed fast to the wall, while being dragged round it at a moderate speed. Rather more unfortunately, Arthur had a caring father, who wished to make up lost time with his son by helping to decorate his room with hanging pictures and photo frames. The tornado had taken these prisoner but had yet the strength to rip out the protruding rusty nails. With each advancing nail, a deep, rough gash appeared on Arthur’s back, oozing scarlet blood through the tears in his shirt. He rolled over onto his front to get into a strong enough position to be able to push himself through a gap in the swirling mess, but it would appear that he miss-judged this as well, as he hit another nail. With his face this time. And it reopened the tender wound from that morning’s Short Cut calamities.
With a last desperate attempt at using every last ounce of strength in his exhausted body, Arthur heaved against the wall, and prayed that it would push back. It did. And after a short burst of action in the whirlwind, he broke through the barrier and landed with a dull thud on his bedroom rug. He silently thanked the floor for coming to his rescue and apologised to it for the many occasions in his life when he’d taken it for granted.
Arthur suddenly heard a door click open and turned around, quite expecting to have to explain to his parents why he was standing the middle of his room, in the middle of a tornado, looking like he’d been in the middle of a war. But, much to his dismay, he turned around to see Time, looking very much like a sorry Spaniel banished out into the rain. The appearance of Time wasn’t the worst part; the door through which Time had entered Arthur’s bedroom was not Arthur’s bedroom door.
Before I continue, I need to clarify what exactly a door is. A door is something that fills the hole of the doorway. This doorway is created by the doorframe. The doorway is a way of passing through a wall to enter or exit different rooms. These rooms have to have walls to be rooms, so the area around the hole in the wall has to be a wall, otherwise there’s nowhere to attach the doorframe. But all that’s beside the point when you think that if there’s no wall, one could pass through without the need of door related assistance. So, to sum up: for a door to be a door you need a door, doorframe, doorway and some wall. (Of course it’s always useful if you have something to open the door with as well.) However, for every rule there are exceptions in extenuating circumstances, such as the circumstance Arthur was in. The door that Time had passed through did not have a doorframe and was not surrounded by walls. The inky blackness stretching out after it as Arthur looked past the door suggested there wasn’t even a doorway. But there was a door knob, which supplied Arthur with a little comfort that the door shaped object was in fact, a door.
Time spoke, on this occasion, with a reproachful tone, and seemed to be seeking acceptance, or at least a second chance amongst human society. “Sorry,” he said. “My fault. Bit of a mix up there. It seems everything goes a tad wrong if I take a breather. Look I, I need to sort one or two things out here, so why don’t we get out of here for a bit, let things calm down?”
Unable to get his voice heard through the wind, and therefore unable to protest, Arthur followed Time through the, ‘doorway.’ He stepped into the darkest shade of black he’d experienced and almost walked straight through Time as he had stopped progressing, and just stood there, silently.
“So, what-“ asked the ever impatient Arthur, but was shushed quiet by Time in quite a stern manner. Arthur waited, and looked around, even though there was nothing to look at. His feet made an echoing shuffle on the ground that wasn’t there, when he turned around to watch his room disappear as the door creaked shut behind them. Arthur sniffled and sighed, making those noises you have to make when there’s a silence screaming to be filled. But Time simply stood, his cloak swishing to the rhythm of the light breeze that had started to pick up.
Gradually, Arthur heard a growing voice from somewhere in the near distance. It wasn’t Time. Arthur strained to make out the words, but all he could make out was: “’ickens, yet or ‘ickens ear.”
As the voice grew nearer, Arthur was anticipating the next utterance to hear if it was any clearer. The voice subsided. The breeze warmed. The blackness brightened. The birds began to sing. And all of a sudden, waves of bustling people were surrounding Arthur and Time like an ocean does an island.
The dazzling sun startled Arthur, and he squinted at his surroundings. He appeared to be in a market place – evidently popular, but poor as well. The few stalls were rickety wooden benches, with no indication as to what they were selling. Most people seemed to have their wares in heaps in front of them on the hard baked earth.
There wasn’t the same variety or quality of produce, and nothing like the everyday items one would seek to buy normally. Arthur observed the market, and through the gaps in the masses of prospective customers milling around, he could see baskets of ashen grey bread, ruby red cherries and large green apples. There were sacks overflowing with potatoes, turnips and carrots. A couple of people were selling sides of bacon and even live –
“CHICKENS! CHICKENS! Get your CHICKENS here!” Arthur flinched away from the poultry seller and ducked further as someone carried a large clay pot over his head.
“Hey watch it son,” the face behind the pot said.
“I thought they couldn’t see us in these kinds of dreams,” said Arthur in disbelief.
“Dream? Where’d you get that idea from?” replied Time.
Arthur considered a response but thought better than to admit that he doubted Time’s existence and still thought he was in a dream. He didn’t want to get him angry again.
“Let’s go somewhere quieter,” Time suggested, and ushered Arthur into a narrow, winding street, lined with small cottages. A lady was hanging washing out in the dusty air, staring warily at Time’s figure. A ginger cat crossed the street and entered the woman’s open doorway. She shooed the cat and hurried into the house, wedging the door firmly shut behind her.
Meanwhile, the cat sat before Time, and weighed up its chances against the new intruder. When Time didn’t advance or pose a threat, the cat felt a bit silly for thinking him a danger, and went to rub itself around Time’s feet. Only when the cat realised it could, no less, pad straight through Time’s ankles, did it flee down the cart track, tail pointing straight up in alarm.
“They can see you too?!” said Arthur.
“Really, kid. I don’t know where you’ve got this invisibility idea from.”
Time halted and produced a neatly folded letter from the folds of his cloak, and handed it to Arthur in silence.
“What’s this for?” Arthur asked.
“I believe it is common among humans to converse through written scripts called ‘letters’. It is also common courtesy to read said letter before you comment to its author on the subject of its content.”
This, Arthur took, as a hint to open the letter. He proceeded to do this and scanned through it, just to please Time, not taking much of it in. He raised his head to ask Time why he couldn’t just talk to him, but Time had since vanished, a thin wisp of grey smoke was all that was left.
Arthur, bent double from a sudden surge of pain from the deep gashes across his back, staggered down a dark alley way, hiding from the strange new world, and thought: “So much for Time being a good healer.” He sat in the mud, trying to twist around in order to examine the extent of the damage, but this only increased the flow of blood over his skin.
He lifted his head in agony and let out a plaintive cry for help. His vision became hazy with the effort, and he slumped, barely conscious, against the wall. His mind darkened and Arthur found himself in a dream world, in a state nearing death; there were voices, echoes and ghosts of objects floating past him – a cog-less watch. This flipped over in mid air to reveal a skull and cross bones emblem on the back. This was then shattered by a large sword which was, in turn, injected by a medical syringe and then an image of an identical twin brother wavered mirage-like over his mind. And all the time he could hear his mother’s voice. He couldn’t understand what she was saying but she sounded anxious. There was another voice that chorused with hers, chanting ‘tea’ over and over. This new voice grew louder, resonating inside Arthur’s head, drowning every other thought out. It grew and grew until Arthur could take no more and he snapped his eyes open.
“Do you want a cup of mead, boy?” A foul stench, similar to what he experienced down that dark hovel he was dragged into the previous morning, overcame him. Its source was the crinkled lips of the same mad old lady who lived in that dark hovel. The woman squinted in Arthur’s direction, and he realised that unfortunately he recognised the wrinkly, haggard features of the lady, who had interrupted his journey to school the previous morning.