~ 17 min read, publishedPublished 3 October 2018 16:48 - Updated 7 October 2018 01:54 (98 views)
A Trippy Story
”If only the real world were as interesting or as beautiful as it’s portrayed in poetry,” I sighed.
“It’s not?” a voice asked behind me.
I turned to find Mitchell looking at me curiously. This surprised me as he always seemed most content in no one’s company but his own and usually kept quiet in class. His face wore a perpetual brooding expression that fascinated me as I took in his tanned complexion, dark brown eyes, full lips, and black, curly hair.
“Definitely not,” I insisted.
“Can it be?” he asked.
By this time, Ashley had already disappeared among the crowd, considering herself dismissed, so he possessed my undivided attention. “What do you mean?”
”Do you think the real world can be as interesting or as beautiful as it is portrayed in poetry?”
I took a few seconds to respond even though I had already decided on an answer. “No,” I said, finally.
“I see,” he said and moved past me into the hallway.
I followed him, reluctant to let the conversation end there. “Do you?” I asked.
He turned to look at me. “No,” he said. “I know it can be.”
“Really,” I said, my voice communicating skepticism.
“Yes,” he said, simply.
He continued walking and I hastened my strides to keep up with him. “Can you elaborate?” I challenged.
There was another pause and I asked, “Will you?”
He looked at me, surprised, but I had a feeling he was feigning the emotion. “I can show you, if you’d like me to,” he offered.
“Sure,” I accepted.
I kept a few paces behind him as he walked, but I had a feeling he could still discern my shape in his peripheral vision because he never turned his head to check if I was following him. He crossed the lawn behind the school and crossed the road without waiting for the red man to turn green and, as a couple of cars honked their horns in disapproval, I sped up to walk by his side. We crossed the fence to Ms. Smith’s property and moved over to the middle of her enormous lawn where an apple tree grew, flourishing in the late August weather.
He sat down beneath the tree and I stared at him disappointingly as I had expected him to lead me to a more exciting place.
“Sit down,” he ordered.
I sat down next to him, leaning against the trunk.
“What do you see?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
He studied my face intently. “What do you see?” he repeated, gesturing with his hands toward our surroundings.
I glanced around. “It’s a pretty nice day,” I observed.
“How come you think the day is pretty nice?” he asked impatiently.
I hesitated. “Well, the sun is shining and there isn’t a cloud visible in the sky.” He indicated with a hand that I should continue. “The grass is green,” I said and he clapped slowly. I flushed and tried to ignore him. “It’s quiet and there aren’t any mosquitoes around to harass us. There’s a slight breeze, something I would usually not appreciate, but on a day as warm as this, I welcome it. There’s a forest over there,” I pointed toward it with a hand, “and I think it’s to blame for the hint of pine tree smell I detect in the air.”
He stared at me for a couple of seconds after I finished speaking. “Hey, that’s better,” he complimented. Then he got up on his feet and unexpectedly started to climb the tree. Hanging from a branch, he lifted himself up by his arms and seized an apple growing on another branch. He dropped to the ground and handed it to me. I took it hesitantly and looked at him confusedly. He sat back down against the trunk next to me.
I took a bite of the apple and the noise of my teeth sinking into it broke the silence and caused me to chew as slowly and as silently as I could manage, making me feel slightly embarrassed though he seemed not to notice. After a few seconds, he turned his back to me as he reached for his backpack. I heard the soft “psst!” of a soda can being opened and then another. He turned to me and handed me a Coke which I accepted gratefully. I took a big gulp and lowered it to rest it on my thigh, but I quickly raised it again to take another.
“It’s warm today,” I commented.
“You’ve already made that observation,” he pointed out.
I felt my heart skip a beat at his unexpected remark, and then I felt the feeling of surprise transform into anger. I wondered if his sole intention for bringing me here was to ridicule me and for a moment I considered getting to my feet and leaving, but then a wave of fatigue suddenly crashed on top of me. I decided to stay a bit longer.
I studied his face as he gazed out into the distance. “What do you see?” I asked while adjusting myself so I would be more comfortable.
He turned to look at me and smiled for the first time. I suppose it was more of a grin. His white teeth shone brilliantly against his russet skin and I appreciated the way they were perfectly aligned side by side.
“That’s a good question,” he said and I felt pleased with myself until I realized I was only repeating his question. “It’s not cold outside,” he said slowly and I laughed. “One astronomical unit away from us, billions upon billions of high energy atoms are constantly bombarding each other, undergoing nuclear fusion, and in the process they create sufficient energy to keep up alive. This is something many of us remain ignorant of, even whilst our eyes are absorbing the light created by this phenomenon. We just gaze up at the sky and discern a circle of light suspended in the air, shrug, and move on. Yes, the sun is indeed shining. It illuminates the emerald green grass stretching like a thick, green carpet covering the rich soil beneath us that provides nutrients necessary to grow food that we also rely on for life. Today is a quiet day, but I can still make out the flutter of birds in the distance, striving for survival in a way we humans cannot imagine. We might have it easier than birds, but we, too, have opponents to face. Soldiers with life spans so short it is beyond our comprehension crave to draw on our blood so they can multiply in numbers and continue to pester us for many years to come. Not today, however. Today is a peaceful day, sitting on this lawn, under an apple tree. Over there, on the other hand,” he pointed in the distance, “over there in the jungle, more exciting things take place.”
It took me a moment to realize that he had stopped talking and I slowly turned my head to look where he was pointing. I squinted my heavy eyes and in the distance I could make out an array of palm trees standing in a line at the edge of a jungle. I wondered how I had not noticed it before and then I closed my eyes for a moment because they were hurting from the luminosity of the surroundings due to the sun.
“You need to wake up. There’s a fire.”
My eyes flew open at these words but I quickly closed them again as smoke blew in my eyes. I tried to sit up but I felt pinned to the ground and my arms twitched uselessly by the side of my torso. I coughed as I inhaled a good amount of smoke and I opened my eyes again.
The flames were surrounding me and I became aware of how warm my body was. I knew I had to get away from there but I could not seem to move, so instead I laid there for a while until I could inhale the smoke without coughing. I felt stronger so I jumped to my feet and ran away from the flames. I turned to see Mitchell following me and I felt a surge of relief pulse through my body. I wanted to study the flames but I was distracted by a cry from behind.
“Stay away from my apples,” the voice cried. I saw a figure racing towards us and I noticed quickly that it was a woman. She was beautiful with ink-black hair adorned with a diadem and she had a transparent, violet-laced veil hanging down the back of her head. I was surprised by the height of the slim woman and I was terrified when, beneath the brows furrowed in a scowl, I saw a pair of wicked eyes, shining like the circular parts of a peacock’s feather, staring at me.
“Let’s get out of here,” suggested Mitchell, urgently.
I followed him as he took off toward the jungle. I had already been sweaty, but by the time we reached the end of the jungle, I was drenched in it. “Did you see who that was?” I asked.
“Yes,” he answered.
As we moved into the jungle, I detected a faint rustling sound around us. I let my eyes sweep from side to side but could not locate the source of the sound. My throat felt dry and slightly numb so I swallowed hard, and then I could not remember whether I had swallowed so I did it again, but with difficulty. I became distinctly aware of an air bubble stuck somewhere in my throat but, no matter how hard I tried, I just could not swallow it down. I wanted to talk but I was afraid to open my mouth in case the air bubble might escape as a burp and embarrass me.
A koala bear skidded past me, carrying a red stone in its tiny hands. I watched it with fascination as it paused in front of the trunk of a palm tree and cocked its head as it looked at me. I studied its tiny, furry face when suddenly it winked. I raised my hands to rub my eyes and looked at the tiny creature again. This time it appeared to have a human mouth which it twisted into a tiny, scheming smile. I flinched in shock and caught sight of movement in the corner of my eye. I turned to see that the ground was swarmed by spiders as big as my hands and they were running and jumping in my direction. When some of them brushed against my legs, I yelled out loud.
“What?” Mitchell inquired. “Are you scared of monkeys?”
Bewildered, I turned to look at him. “Monkeys?” I asked.
“Yes?” He pointed to the foot of the trunk of a palm tree.
I directed my gaze to stare at the tiny monkey holding a banana in its hands. I laughed out loud and Mitchell did the same. We continued walking.
“Wait, why did we laugh?” I asked after a while.
“I don’t know,” he replied. We laughed again.
I watched my steps carefully as we walked on the sand, surprised when the trunk of a palm tree would appear out of nowhere and nearly hit me in the face. I let my mouth drop open in awe as I noticed a bird ablaze in flame appear behind a bush, but, as it noticed our presence, it took off in flight and disappeared into the jungle, seeming to leave a trace of light where it had flown.
“Hey, what do you see?” Mitchell asked.
We walked for a while. “What do you see?” I asked.
“The palm trees are growing thick around us, but every now and then a ray of sunlight breaks through to illuminate the jade green grass on which we stride. I see numerous monkeys running around, passing the plentiful bananas lying on the ground without a second thought, before leaping into palm trunks and ascending the trees. Every now and then, I see parrots.”
“Really? Is that what you see?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “Isn’t that what you see?”
I looked around and saw what he had described. “Yes,” I answered.
“Why are you on the ground?” he asked.
I looked down at the knees folded beneath my body. “I got tired,” I guessed.
“Hey, look,” he said, pointing behind me. I turned to see a big oasis surrounded by palm trees. “Let’s take a bath,” he suggested.
I jumped into the water without being told twice. As the cool water embraced my heated body, I sighed appreciatively. I commanded my arms to take long swimming strokes that carried my body forward in the pleasant water. As Mitchell dipped below the surface of the water, I let my eyes scan the vicinity, searching for the spot where he would reappear. Suddenly, I observed a gargantuan crocodile lying idly by the side of the pond. I felt my heartbeat quicken and slowly began swimming to the other side. When I finally reached land, I turned to see that Mitchell had been following me. I started running into the jungle and, as I could hear his footsteps following me, I did not pause until I was out of breath.
The sighting of the crocodile had left me paranoid and I turned my head frantically from side to side order to look for other threats.
Then I abruptly caught sight of a snake staring at me. The snake was hiding in a bush and I knew better than to make any sudden movements, but when it slowly revealed more and more of itself, panic seized control of my body and I bolted through the jungle. I ran as fast as I could while yelling a warning to Mitchell and the palm trees around me were blurs in my peripheral vision, but still the snake chased me.
I felt my foot catch on something and I toppled over. Immediately, I rolled on to my back and watched as the snake leaped to land on top of me. I yelled out but remained paralyzed in fear, unsure how to react in order to avoid getting bitten.
Suddenly, I felt something jerk below my navel and the pressure around my waist suddenly faded.
“It got you,” Mitchell’s voice informed. Though I was shaken by the announcement, I was relieved to hear his voice. I let my head fall back on the ground as I tried to prepare myself for a sensation I could not anticipate.
My heart beat violently and I realized the water from the lake had been replaced by sweat. “You need to call for help,” I whispered.
“I didn’t bring my phone,” he replied.
“Use mine,” I said and began reaching for my pocket but he grabbed my hand to stop me.
“There’s no time. Save your energy.”
“What can we do?” I asked.
“I’ll have to suck the venom out, won’t I?” he said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“Oh,” was all I could manage.
I figured there must have been some kind of sedative in the venom that caused my body to relax. Instinctively, my hands flew down to touch the area where I had felt the change in pressure around my waist and I flinched in shock as I found the area already swollen and I quickly removed my hand.
I did not know a lot about snake-venom, but when I found myself shift into a state of drowsiness, I was not surprised. I stared at the leaves above and thought that if this was what it was like to die then it was not bad at all. I felt like I was losing contact with my body and, as my eyes rolled back in my head, I moaned aloud.
“Don’t you die on me,” demanded Mitchell.
“I’m not sure I can help it,” I replied in uneven breaths.
I felt a pulse of emotion emanate from where the snake had bitten me, spreading out to my toes, my head, the tip of my fingers, and my body trembled. For a moment, I felt like I was falling and then the frame of my body grew rigid for a few seconds before it relaxed, and my vision faded to black.
When I woke up, I was surprised to find myself in a forest. I rolled over on my side to remove a pine cone that had been digging into my back and I found Mitchell looking at me.
It took me a few seconds before the memories of what had happened came back to me and, when they did, I gasped. “Did you save me?” I asked.
“No,” he said and grinned at me. “I’m afraid you died on me.”
“Oh,” I breathed, puzzled.
We hurried through the forest, kicking aside bundles of leaves that were blowing in the soft breeze and almost tripping over the trunk of a fallen tree as we passed a pond. When we finally escaped the forest, I offered numerous squirrels one last glance before we crossed Ms. Smith’s big lawn. As we passed the apple tree, I noticed the remains of two cigarettes lying on the ground and I wondered who had so inconsiderately left them there. I turned my gaze toward Ms. Smith’s house and found its owner standing at the bottom of the stairs leading to the entrance. I lifted a hand and waved at her but she did not wave back. Perplexed, I lowered my hand and followed Mitchell back to the school.
The parking lot was empty as the sun was about to set in the horizon. We reached the stairs at the back of the school and sat down.
Mitchell looked at me and laughed.
“What?” I said.
“Nothing,” he replied.
I leaned on my arms against the top of the staircase. Mitchell leaned toward me and focused his eyes on me, keenly. “What do you see?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” he replied and I laughed because I knew he was mocking me. “Well,” he drew a deep breath. “I see two olive-green eyes, one of which is half covered by the fringe of light-brown hair. I see a nose proportional to the face it’s attached to, eyebrows pressed together in worry, lips pressed together in a nervous line… wait, a smile. Dimples. Tiny wrinkles around the eyes.” He was describing my mirror reflection. “I see proof that I’m right,” he finally concluded.