Zan continued to fall. The feeling of feathers in his chest had faded only slightly since the start. His speed was impossible to tell for he had nothing to compare it to. He could see nothing. He knew that speed was only a measurement of traveling a certain distance in a specific amount of time. He currently had no concept of distance or time. He could be falling as fast as an arrow just released from the bow, or perhaps even standing still. This latter thought caused his head to spin even more than it was already.
If he had to guess, he had been falling for over an hour. He also would have believed it if someone told him it was only five minutes, or even five hours. After the first bit of falling, his arms and legs ceased from flailing for something to grasp. Both feet and both hands were very uncomfortable with nothing to touch or confirm their reality. They truly had minds of their own for a time, but slowly he gained control once more. His arms now formed a diamond over his head, his palms flat and facing downwards. Air rushed past his ears, whipping his hair and filling his open mouth. The air was pure. He even laughed as the air pushed its way into his lungs, puffing out his cheeks and his chest, fighting back against the feathers.
He remained on his stomach, his arms and legs bending slightly behind his back. It reminded him of a penguin, whatever that was. A creature of some sort. His eyes were watering fiercely, so he closed them. By holding his limbs steady, light adjustments with his arms gave him some control over his motion. At first he had tried swimming in the air like he would in the ocean. This did nothing for him, causing more panic. With the steady, controlled motions he was able to glide. Left and right, forward and back. He explored the tunnel he was falling in, searching for boundaries but careful not to catch a ledge. Several times he imagined a rocky outcrop that would poke out from nowhere and take his life. This never happened.
After a while, he almost wished for the rocky ledge. That would indicate something was in there with him. He had felt nothing. Touched nothing. Gradually the illusion of falling down a tunnel faded. It was replaced with a much more terrifying feeling. He was falling in an endless cavern, with one pinhole in the ceiling from which he had entered. The cavern must stretch in every direction to infinite, perhaps looping on itself at some point. A world of its own. A limbo of emptiness. He even tucked his hands down to his waist and sides, causing him to double or even triple in speed both forwards and downwards. If there was an object, he was now hurtling towards it. He felt nothing but more air at constant temperature and purity. He rotated to his back, and found a position that held him relatively still. He tried to wait for what was coming next, but his heart would not allow such peace.
He began to see things in the darkness. Things he couldn’t quite remember, but nonetheless still lived somewhere in his mind all the same. They were living, for they were moving. They were doing things, realistic or maybe not.
He saw places filled with objects. The objects seemed random at first, but quickly blended into the places they resided, as if a part of the place themselves. Words appeared in his mind which were tied to each object. Street lamps. Canals. Boats. Apartments. Bicycles. The bicycles were moving upright, though they looked as if they should fall over any minute. He tried to grasp the words in his mind to make sure they never escaped again. This brought a new image in front of him. A hand darting into waters to catch tiny fish called minnows. The hand would close on the silver slivers, only to open itself palm up and empty. These words were minnows. It was best to let them be. They had remained so far, even though something had clearly happened to wipe his mind of easily accessible memories. Free, they remained. Flee, if detained. The memories returned as he traveled throughout this world. Where ever the heck this world was.
So this was his mission. His drive. For some reason he felt an empty space inside that needed filled. He needed a purpose. Something to push towards. Before it was the puzzle of the thunks. It had come so quickly with such beautiful and plentiful color that he hadn’t thought twice about it. The puzzle had given him purpose. It had given him direction. It was the only place he could remember clearly that gave him peace. It was his home. He missed it. He wanted to go back there, to look upon the mural of colors in the wall once more. And the white light. There were answers there.
But perhaps this journey was required. What good were answers without questions? He had all the answers before him, but the significance and meaning of each had been lost. It was just a pretty picture before. If he could return Home after the crucible that awaited him, then maybe he would finally have his Answers.
Faded colors were now filling in the images in his mind. Green trees. Blue-green waters flowing gently in the canal. Wooden boats floating with the drift. Red and yellow and orange bikes flying past. Shops and restaurants of all kinds. He remembered they were for dining but recognized none of the names or emblems. He heard voices and laughter, though saw not from whence it came.
Finally, he saw life. Dogs they were called. He had a dog once! A beautiful shepherding dog with unweaning loyalty. Zan remembered his thick coat, brown eyes, and floppy black ears. His name was still lost.
This dog he now saw was golden and massive, its fur wavy, its tongue bouncing about with each prance of its paws. It stayed near something else moving in its general direction, glancing back every few steps for direction. He saw another dog on the run, trying to escape what was behind it. This dog seemed to belong in cooler climates, though this place looked coastal. Another dog ran up a tree shouting in desperation. There were a pair of squirrels at the top, chittering what was most probably insults about the dog’s own bitch mother. A reference to the gender of its mum, but taken as an offense that the squirrels surely inferred. They laughed even harder in their high pitched voices.
Cats watched from the shadows, taking in all to record in a shared index of knowledge amongst all other feline species. The omnipresent spies of the universe. Several birds dropped from the skies then, fluttering about on a whim as if part of a different world entirely. Free spirits only caught by the spies themselves. The trees took on greater aura as the scene continued to fill in with movement, with life. Willow trees with long, lazy branches. Oaks telling stories in their bark.
Finally, Zan could see what the dogs ran with and from. Saw who cared for the shops, who used the shops. Saw who fed the birds with a scatter of seeds, who fished from the consecutive stone bridges across the canals. People. Human beings. Creatures like himself. There was something different about them. They walked and talked with no specific order. They colored everything around them like nothing else could. Their decisions shaped the world around them.
All of these observations came as pictures, as if reading them in a book and agreeing completely with every word. Thoughts he had thought once upon a time, but had forgotten since.
And then it faded. Just as before, it all slipped away leaving only a faint trace of black and white outlines. He was still falling.
He saw another land appear in the eyes of his mind. It was red. All of it. Different shades of black and gray existed, and even other colors were mingled in between. But even with some variance in colors, it was all still seen as if through a clear red lens. There were tall skyscrapers all with the same massive symbol on them. Many smaller buildings surrounded the giants, though they thudded and thumped as if they were giants themselves. Waters were not too far from the city, but no one was there. It was blocked off. One side of the city held a wall of infinite length. Zan could only see the sky beyond this wall, still red. The city was built into the wall, embracing it. Homes and apartments hung from the escarpment, giving a spectacular view of the red sea beyond. This was a place of thrill and abundance. It rose passion within him.
The third land appeared as the red landscape melted into a flaming orange. No skyscrapers towered here. Three times as many thumping buildings were lined in three different rows along the coast. He could see the waves of sound coming from the structures, could almost feel it and hear it himself. Two days and two nights flashed my in several seconds, though something seemed off about the sun. The beaches changed, ever shifting with the motion of people. Unintelligible shouts of celebration from people under the same lens of orange, wearing little to no clothing. It rose desire within him.
The fourth land was an exuberant yellow, pulsing with energy. Beaches were made of round stones instead of sand. They were on serene lakes of tree scattered forests. Trails intertwined from the orange beaches into the yellow lands, bringing only the people who sought a quieter atmosphere. High-spirited individuals wielded beaming smiles as weapons, inviting any and all to join them for the adventures of the day. Some hung in tank-tops from ropes pinned to the mountain faces. Others leapt from the peaks of these mountains into the waters below, far higher than Zan had thought safe. It must have been at least three hundred feet. Flowers were absolutely everywhere, though their colors were still colored over in a yellow lens. It rose a thrill within him.
The fifth land was a natural green. It was further in the luscious, rocky mountains. Furs and aspens competed in gangs to drop both leaves and pine cones over the rich soils. Mountain lakes were colder and clearer than their yellow counterparts. Less people swam and more people sat atop small boats and fished the depths. Smaller groups of people who all looked similar were scattered on the outskirts of the trees. Family picnics and gatherings. Fewer, steeper trails weaved in the rocky trails. It rose a truth within him.
The sixth land was a tranquil blue. Beaches of white sand was spotted with baby sea turtles and shelled crabs. More people than the green forests, but far fewer than the orange beaches of endless celebration. Jungles stood in the back, holding many different sizes and shapes of flora and fauna. Monkeys were howling in the branches, looking for food to steal in a deceivingly cute fashion. It rose a peace within him.
The seventh land was a chilling violet, with welcoming abodes giving heat and love. It was easily the quietest of them all, backed up against another wall. This wall was infinite like the wall in the red city, though it reached at least thirty times higher into the sky. It was almost all covered in a blanket of cold, accentuating the violet of the land. Smoke was seen rising from small cubes as sleds of barking dogs drew patterns on the ground. He saw another figure that he recognized immediately. It was a penguin. It had its chest puffed out and back straight, both little wings out straight and behind its back, running wildly for something that Zan could not see. Not for the first time during his flight, he laughed. It rose humility within him.
Zan took note of the colors and numbers of the lands.
In the kaleidoscope of color existed an eternal range from black to white. The blackness was at the bottom of each colored kingdom, the whiteness on top. Then he noticed why the sun had been so odd before. It was never-setting. The never-setting sun hung in the sky relentlessly. Something said it was moving away from them. Similar lines were distinctly defined between each colored land.
The sun was above, the moon a mirror below. Some chose to live in one or the other, some in between, some always traveling.
The land of deep violet remained in front of him. He realized he was cold. And he was getting colder. Soon he was trembling, just as the outlines of the violet shapes grew solid. He was freezing, his hands having become excruciating, useless masses at the end of his arms. As useful as soft hammers with ice blocks for heads. He felt a new force. It was pulling him towards the violet landscape. Simultaneously the force pulling him downwards lightened up. Gradually the forces exchanged energy. It were as if a perfectly smooth wall had appeared right next to him, and as he fell, the wall curved the smallest fraction away from the vertical, converting his energy from falling into the wall which eventually would flatten out to the horizontal. And the horizontal was the violet-white blanket of cold in front of him.
He was slowing. His energy was converting. The invisible smooth wall was turning into a slide. He held his numb hands against this wall, wondering if he could feel it if only it weren’t so cold. It even smelled cold.
He slid on the invisible wall that if made of matter surely would have lit his clothes aflame with friction. Most energy gone, but not all, Zan slid with hands outstretched into the blanket of ice. It was soft, like the pillows of feathers no longer in his chest. It was very cold indeed, though his clothes remained uncombusted and reliable for a thin layer against the weather. He placed his feet below them, wrestling with a ground that continued to compact and give away all around him. Finally he compacted enough to stand though he would refrain from stepping forward just yet, for fear of falling through the white stuff (snow) and tumbling down another seemingly endless pit.
He stood and looked around. He was looking through a violet lens. It coating everything, just as the snow seemed to do. Patches of sheer mountain cliff remained black and unblanketed, daunting in their denial of the regional substance. He looked to his left. There was the wall of unimaginable height. It towered over even the highest peaks, as if built in another world and placed here by an outside hand. Surely no human hands had ever touched the bricks at the top, just as they had never touched the very snowflakes around him.
Every snowflake is unique. No two shapes are the same. This whisper came to his mind, another minnow of memory. It was preposterous. He looked before him, at a loss of even how to estimate how many snowflakes there were. Billions. Trillion. Gadillions. Kachillions. Zaflibions, if that is even a word. It seemed absolutely ridiculous that none two here, or throughout all time of all snow. It was a popular belief. He wondered how it had become that way.
In front of him were the highest peaks, screaming up towards the sky with shocking rapidity. To his right was a small town of cabin homes. He held himself in his own arms. Glad to be done falling. Sad to be so cold. He took a step to the homes, almost hoping to plunge into another tunnel if it meant warmth. He sank to his thighs, then stopped. He took another step with the same result. And so he proceeded to the town of cabin homes and smoking chimneys.