Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Closet by William Quincy Belle

Jack falls through a hole in his closet into a mysterious and dangerous world; by William Quincy Belle.

Jack blinked several times. What had just happened? He was lying on his back looking straight up. His brain still felt a little addled. He moved his right arm a bit. He held up his left hand and looked at it. Then he flexed his legs. The body seemed to be still functioning. He turned his head to the right, then the left. There didn't seem to be any pain.

He looked straight up again and things slowly started to fall into place. Jack had been checking for messages on his cellphone when he opened the door to the closet to get dressed for work. He set the phone down, took a step, then pitched forward. He fell for a split second, hitting several things and ending up on his back, cushioned by something soft and somewhat prickly. How far had he fallen? Could he have broken his neck?

Jack slowly sat up and looked around as he tried to grasp what he was looking at. He seemed to be in some sort of fluorescent woodland. All around bizarre trees with twisted, bent trunks were covered in bright red leaves. Yellow grass was spotted with blue bushes shaped like big rectangles. Jack realized his fall had been broken by one of these bushes. He carefully placed the flat of his hand on the bush beneath him. It felt like a sponge.

Jack furrowed his brow as he turned to look around a little more. Where was he and how did he get here? He raised his gaze. The sky, or whatever was above him, was an odd shade of green. But almost directly over him a colored spot was hanging in midair. Could he see something through it? Jack stared at the spot for several seconds until he understood he could see the inside of his closet. His eyes widened. He looked around some more, then rolled to one side and flipped off the top of the sponge bush onto the ground. He looked back up at the view of his closet that hung above his head. What the heck? Somehow he had stepped into his closet and fallen through a hole into this weird place. Obviously this wasn't the third story under his fourth-floor apartment, so where was he, exactly?

Jack tried to estimate the height of the hole, if he could call it that. He stepped back. It seemed as if it was about fifteen feet up. Just fifteen feet away was his escape out of this place and back to his world, but how would he ever get up there?

Jack took another step back, still looking at the hole. As he put his foot down, something behind him squealed loudly. Startled, Jack spun around. There on the ground was a tiny creature, no bigger than a mouse. Jack leaned over to look at it more closely. Its bright orange body seemed to be a shell mounted on three legs. The crab-like creature scurried back and forth a number of times, stopped, and tilted its body upwards so its two eyes could look directly at Jack. After a moment of silence, a mouth at the front of the shell opened and the animal hissed.

Immediately the crab rushed forward over Jack's slipper and started to climb the leg of his pajamas. Somehow each of the three legs was able to grip the material as the crab mounted Jack's leg like a fly on the wall. Startled, Jack took a step back as he looked down in horror at this odd creature on his person. Out of blind fear, he reached down and swatted the animal. It tumbled to the ground and rolled over a couple of times before its three legs got a grip.

The crab turned to Jack and hissed again. It started towards him. Jack raised his foot, paused to aim, then stomped down with his full weight on the creature. The hard shell cracked under the strain and Jack heard a distinct squish. He looked down and saw three legs splayed out from under his slipper. The ground around his slipper was now covered with bluish goo. Was that the animal's blood? Was it flesh?

Jack picked up his foot and wiped the sole of his slipper on some fresh grass. He could see blue on the bright yellow blades. Standing on one foot, Jack glanced at the bottom of his slipper. Most of the blue was gone.

Back at the sponge bush, Jack gazed toward the opening to his closet. How could he get up there? Fifteen feet wasn't that high, but it was certainly out of reach.

Jack looked around and noticed several tall trees off to one side. They looked taller than the height of the opening. Unfortunately, the gap between them looked to be a dozen feet so it wasn't as if Jack could jump from one of the trees to the opening.

Jack shifted his weight to one leg and crossed his arms. He furrowed his brow as he tried to think of something to do. There had to be something he could do, but what was it? It didn't seem likely that he could build a ladder. He doubted he could find anything resembling a pole tall enough to shin up, even if he could figure out how to securely anchor it in the ground.

Glancing around, Jack noticed what appeared to be some sort of vine. He strode over to the base of one of the twisted trees and reached down to grasp a rope-like stalk. Yanking up, he managed to free a section of the vine. With both hands, he moved it back and forth, trying to determine its strength and flexibility. It did seem to have qualities like rope. Jack looked up at his closet, then at the trees. Could he use the vine to swing over to his closet?

Ouch! Jack jumped back, startled. He had felt something jab his ankle. Looking down, he saw a crab on his slipper. It raised one of its legs and poked Jack in the ankle again. "Ow!" Jack shook his foot and the crab tumbled off to one side. It righted itself, then started coming towards Jack. Jack furrowed his brow again. What's this? Aggressive behavior? He raised his foot and stomped down, but the crab had seen or sensed the movement and scurried to one side. It then ran forward and got on Jack's slipper, raised a leg, and stabbed Jack in the ankle.

"Jesus!" That hurt. Jack tried to shake off the crab once more. This time, however, it had somehow dug its legs into Jack's slipper and wouldn't come off. Jack shook his foot again. The crab was hanging on. Jack stood on one foot, and used the other foot to brush the crab off. It tumbled onto its back. Jack immediately put his foot on the crab, then leaned with his full weight on it. For a moment, the shell held. Then there was an audible crack and blue goo spurted out from under Jack's slipper once again.

As Jack looked at the blue goo surrounding his slipper, he heard a rustle behind him. He turned to discover a number of crabs had gathered around the body of the first crab he had stomped. Several of them were using a single leg to touch the broken shell.

Suddenly, the group turned to face Jack. There was a momentary pause as Jack looked at the group of crabs and the group seemed to stare back at him. Then, in unison, they all rushed towards Jack. Jack took a step back, surprised at this unified movement. Was he under attack?

As the first few crabs got close to his feet, Jack raised his one foot and brought it down, kicking with his slipper angled sideways. He managed to catch several crabs at once, sending them flying in the air back about ten feet. The rest of the crabs stopped. They all stared at Jack. Jack took a step forward and executed another kick and sent another three crabs flying. The remaining crabs scattered.

Jack stood there, defiantly looking around for any other crabs. Nothing seemed to be close. He had just relaxed a little when there was a sharp pain in his left ankle. He whirled around to find a lone crab just behind him. "Damn," said Jack. He raised his foot, but the crab started to run away. Jack leaned forward and transferred his weight to his front foot. He caught the crab in the middle of the shell and crushed it completely.

Jack spun around. The other crabs were coming back at him. He stepped forward and gave them a boot and sent several of them arcing through the air. He stepped again and repeated kicks several times in a row. The remaining crabs began backing away.

Turning, Jack found more crabs coming up behind him. He stepped forward and kicked, then spun around and surveyed the area. Crabs were everywhere. He was now standing in a little crab-free zone that looked to be shrinking as the growing number of crabs moved in closer.

Jack ran up to the first group of crabs and started stomping his feet. He looked down carefully, aiming his slippers as strategically as possible. Crush! Crush! Crush! He stepped on crab after crab, leaving a trail of blue splotches behind him. Once again, the remaining crabs scattered out of the way.

Jack stood again, looking at the damage he had just wrought. There were splashes of blue goo and crushed shells all around him. For the moment things seemed to be calm, but Jack was getting the idea this wasn't going to be the end of it. Everywhere he looked, he could see crabs. They were keeping their distance, but it was getting more and more obvious that they would attempt another assault. Jack would remain safe only if he was vigilant. Was the idea to wear him down? Did the crabs go after creatures larger than themselves this way, eventually winning when their victims tired out? Jack needed to get out of here.

He turned back to examine the vine, only to notice that all the crabs had turned to one side. It was as if they were looking at something, but what? Jack peered in the general direction and saw movement among some trees. He then noticed there was an odd noise coming from that particular direction. Jack tried to identify the sound, which sounded like slurping, the sound one would make when sucking through a straw.

A lumbering animal the size of a pony waddled into view. It had its head down, slowly moving it left and right as it seemingly examined the ground. Sprouting out of the middle of the creature's head was something like a short elephant trunk which moved around and occasionally touched the ground. Whenever the trunk came in contact with the ground, there was a slurping sound.

When the animal was a little closer, Jack realized that the animal seemed to be sucking up the crabs. It would move its head, examining the ground, and when it saw a crab, it would put its trunk on top of the crab and the crab would disappear. Jack shook his head, puzzled. Really? He looked around and saw the crabs were just standing still, staring at this odd animal. Maybe this distraction would mean the crabs would stop bothering him.

Jack turned back to the vine and carefully undid the length of it from around the base of the tree. He wondered how much of it he could gather to have a continuous length of rope. Jack bent down, grabbed part of the vine, and started tugging at it, pulling it up from the ground. The vine seemed to be attached in some manner to various things, so he occasionally had to pull hard to break it free. He started coiling one end of the vine to make it a little easier to carry.

Off to one side, the mini-elephant animal was waddling slowly around the trees, vacuuming up as many crabs as it could find. It seemed totally disinterested in Jack. So far, it had not even acknowledged that Jack was even there. Did it have poor eyesight? Was it only interested in crabs?

Jack tugged on the vine, but it refused to come away from the tree. He soon determined that part of the vine was wound around a piece of root. He bent over to free it when he heard something go splat over his head. Jack looked up to see something gooey on the trunk of the tree. As he stared at the splotch, a vapor started to float up from it, accompanied by the sound of hissing. What was that? Jack stood to look closer. The trunk seemed to be dissolving. Jack furrowed his brow, then looked back. The mini-elephant creature had its trunk up and was pointing it at Jack. Jack jumped out of the way just as something squirted out of the trunk and flew against the tree. Jack looked at this with wide eyes, realizing that the fluid was some sort of acid. And the acid was dissolving the tree trunk.

Jack quickly stepped behind the tree trunk and peeked out. The animal still had its trunk pointed up towards him. He looked around and spied something like a rock on the ground. Jack picked it up, took aim, and flung it at the creature. The lumbering animal was still looking towards Jack when the object hit it square in the forehead. The animal blinked, then shot more acid towards the tree. The hissing was louder.

Jack found several similar objects and picked them up. One by one, he threw them at the animal, hitting it a few times in the head and body. The animal sprayed more acid on the tree. The hissing was quite noticeable now and Jack could see a cloud of vapor slowly spreading away from the other side of the trunk.

There was a crack; then another. Jack looked at the trunk. It moved slightly. He looked around at the animal. It stared back at him. The trunk shook. There were several more loud cracks. Jack came back around and put both his hands on the trunk and pushed. He could feel the tree swaying. Jack backed up, then lunged at the trunk several times, throwing all his weight against it. Suddenly there was a loud crack followed by a continuous sound of something breaking apart. Jack looked up and the tree began to topple. It moved slowly, then picked up speed. Jack backed up to get out of the way and watched as the tree fell over with a crash. He could hear squealing coming from the other side. Obviously the tree had fallen right on top of the animal.

Jack walked back around the stump of the tree and picked up his coil of vine. He tugged at the remaining length, freeing it from the surrounding roots. Looking back, Jack could see the animal struggling under the branches of the fallen tree. For the moment, Jack wouldn't have to worry about that. But would the presence of the animal be enough to keep the crabs distracted? Rather than worry about that for the moment, Jack walked off, looking up at his closet and trying to estimate which of the surrounding trees would be best to swing from.

The bush on which Jack had landed was almost directly underneath the opening to his closet. He studied each of the high trees, trying to imagine the vine tied to a branch like a pendulum. If he hung off it and kicked his legs, he figured he could increase the arc to the point where he could reach his closet. That was his theory, in any case.

Jack laid out one end of the vine and uncoiled the rest of it as he walked towards the bush. He wanted to estimate the length necessary to match the distance between the tree and the opening to his closet. He dropped the other end of the vine at the bush, then paced back the length. It seemed to be eighteen feet long. He looked up at his closet, then at the trees. Swinging seemed like a risky way of getting back to his closet. It would have probably been preferable to tie both ends of the vine at equal distances off the ground and then slide across it, but the only trees higher than the height of the closet were just on one side. He would have to swing. The problem was having a clear swing. He needed a high branch that stuck out far enough to allow for an unobstructed movement.

Choosing the middle tree, Jack recoiled the vine and walked over to the trunk. He peered up into the branches as he calculated that he had to climb at least fifteen feet, the same height as the closet. Maybe a little higher would be better. He put one arm through the coil, then hung the coil diagonally off one shoulder. With his hands free, he reached up to a low-hanging branch and climbed up.

Fortunately the tree had a lot of branches, so moving up was fairly easy. In some places, however, the branches were close together and it took a bit of planning to figure out the best route up. Periodically, Jack stopped and looked over to his closet. He wanted to make sure he climbed to the right height.

Once level with the closet, Jack looked up. Just up a bit was a large branch which projected out farther than the rest. This was the one he would use to tie off the vine.

Jack got on the branch and laid himself out flat. He started to half crawl, half slide himself out on the branch. He looked down. Whoa, bad move. Eighteen feet wasn't that high, but it was high enough if he fell. Jack went back to concentrating on the matter at hand.

Checking the clearance, he knew this was the spot. He carefully balanced himself as he got the vine off his shoulder, tied off one end, and let out the rest of the vine. It hung down clear of the lower branches. Taking a last look at how he had tied off the vine, Jack slid back to the trunk and climbed back to the ground.

Jack walked out beside the tree and grabbed the hanging end. He looked up at the vine: a length of fifteen feet tied approximately eighteen feet up. He looked at his closet. This just might work. Twisting the end of the vine around, Jack tied a knot in the vine about six feet off the ground. This would make it a lot easier to hold onto the vine as he swung back and forth. Plus, as he was swinging, he wanted to be slightly off the ground so he didn't scrape it with his feet.

Taking a few steps back away from the closet, Jack ran forward, then jumped up and grabbed the knot. He swung towards his closet a bit, paused, then started to swing back. He twisted slightly, kicking his legs to increase the swing. Fortunately, the vine remained fairly fixed even as he turned, so he was able to keep swinging face forward.

With each successive swing, the end of Jack's arc came closer to the closet. He was now feeling pretty sure that he was going to be able to get back to his closet. All he had to do was get a leg and an arm through the opening and get a hold of something like the door jamb and he would be able to pull himself back up. If he missed, he pictured himself doing what he had done to get here in the first place: He'd fall fifteen feet onto a sponge bush. At least he would have a soft landing.

Jack was swinging back and forth with a fairly strong motion now. He was close. During his swing, he heard a noise off to one side. He turned his head and saw the mini-elephant creature wandering through the trees. Once again, it had its head down as it looked for crabs. No matter; Jack kicked his feet. His goal was in sight. Just another couple of swings and he'd be there.

Jack arced up. He could see in his closet. He was just out of reach. One more swing would do it. Jack swung back down and, just as he reached the lowest point in his arc, his feet struck something. The force of the impact jarred his entire body so much that he lost his grip and fell to the ground. He lay there a moment, the wind knocked out of him. What had happened?

Jack sat up and looked back. His feet had hit the creature. It had come waddling by the tree directly in Jack's path and Jack's feet had slammed into it and pushed it onto its side. The creature wasn't moving. Had Jack killed it? Had he hurt it? Was it just unconscious? Whatever the case, Jack wanted to get back to swinging. He was so close now and he didn't want to miss the chance to get out of this crazy place.

Jack got up and straightened the vine. He stepped back, then ran forward and jumped up to grab the vine. He once again kicked his feet to build up the pendulum effect. He could do this. He had to do this. He had to get back home.

After a number of swings, Jack glanced over and noticed the creature was no longer lying on the ground. He tried to look around, curious as to where it had gone, but he couldn't see it. No matter. He concentrated on swinging.

After going back and forth, Jack was once again almost to the proper height. He readied himself for the final swing and the effort to hook his leg and arm inside the opening. This was it. He arced back and felt the vine jerk. He looked up and saw the entire tree sway slightly. What was going on? The branch had been stable up to now.

Jack swung again, but this time looked at the tree trunk. He saw the creature was standing close by. There was a cloud of vapour around one side of the trunk and Jack could now hear some hissing. His eyes widened. The creature had sprayed whatever that acid stuff was onto the trunk of the tree. It was going to deliberately knock the tree over.

Putting out one arm, Jack reached for the opening, but he wasn't quite close enough. He swung back down and felt the vine shake. The tree was going to fall over. Jack swung back up and kicked his feet with all his might. Now or never. He had to make it.

Jack felt himself surge forward. He knew this was going to be it. He swung up to the top of the arc and managed to get one foot and an arm in the closet. He grabbed hold of the door jamb and held on tight. Just then, he heard a loud cracking sound. Jack looked back and saw the tree slowly toppling over. He let go of the vine and watched it being pulled away from him by the force of the falling tree.

Turning back to the closet, Jack strained to pull himself up. Twisting, he tried to get his other arm closer to the opening so he could use both arms. He moved in spurts. He grunted. He pulled. Finally he got his torso over the lip of the opening and the balance of his body completely changed; the majority of his weight was now back in the closet. He had made it.

Jack pulled himself into his apartment and lay there for a moment on the floor as he caught his breath. That was a close call. He rolled over. Sure enough, there in the floor of his closet just inside the door was an opening. He had opened the door, and instead of stepping into the closet, had stepped through this hole. What was it? Why was it here?

He cautiously moved close to the opening and looked down. There was the bush. There was the toppled tree. He could see the elephant creature wandering around. Jack furrowed his brow and looked up at his apartment. He looked back at the hole. Lying flat on the floor, he put both his hands on the edge of the opening, then put his head through it. He turned his head to look around. He stopped. In one direction, there were no trees and he could look off in the distance. He could see other openings. There were several of them close by, with more spread out in the distance. Just as he started to count them, something fell out of an opening. He shook his head. What was that? After a moment, he realized he had seen a body falling. Somebody just like him had taken a step and pitched forward through a hole. Jack went back to counting. How many were there? Obviously this wasn't a localized event.

Jack turned his head to look in the other direction. He stopped. He stared. A couple of hundred feet away was another opening and just underneath it was a body of what looked like a man. There was a big hole in the man's chest. Jack was certain the man was dead. Beside the body was one of those mini-elephant creatures. As Jack watched, the trunk of the creature began to suck up one of the man's arms. The trunk got all the way to the shoulder, then the creature turned and waddled to a leg. The arm was gone.

Jack pulled himself back into his apartment and moved as far away from his closet as he could get. He stood for a moment, shaking, trying to understand what this was all about. It didn't make sense. It was crazy.

He looked at the time. He had only been gone an hour. What an odd adventure. Was he dreaming? He suddenly felt very tired. Jack went to his bedroom and sat on the bed. He looked at his pillow, leaned over, and laid his head on it. Just give me a moment, he thought.



Jack woke with a start. What time was it? Damn, had he overslept? He glanced at the clock. Oh my God, he was late. He jumped up to go the bathroom, where he quickly brushed his teeth and shaved. Back in his bedroom, he tore off his pajamas and grabbed some socks and underwear from a dresser drawer.

Just before going to the closet, he spied his cellphone. He quickly picked it up and checked for messages. There were none. He set it back down and pulled open the closet door. Just as he took a step into the closet, he became alarmed. He shifted his balance and moved his leg all the way to the back of the closet. He stood there for a while, doing splits with one foot in the bedroom and one foot under his hanging clothes.

Jack looked down at the floor. It looked perfectly normal. He grabbed the doorjamb and pulled himself back into the bedroom. Then he got down on his hands and knees and began to touch the floor of the closet. It was solid. Nothing looked unusual.

Jack stood up and, balancing himself, put one foot on the floor of the closet. It seemed to be okay. He tentatively lowered his foot to the floor and slowly put more weight on it. It was holding. The floor was really there. Standing there for a moment, Jack stared down into his closet. He doubted his own eyes. Had it all been a dream?

Shaking his head and chuckling, Jack went into the closet and started grabbing pieces of clothing. He stood in front of the closet, hopping up and down as he pulled on one pant leg and then the other. He had some shirt buttons to contend with, then a belt, and he was good to go. There wasn't any time for a coffee so he would have to grab something on the way. He picked up his cellphone, keys, and briefcase and headed for the door.

Jack furrowed his brow. What had happened? Who could he tell? Who would ever believe this? Seriously, had he been dreaming?

Just before he opened the apartment door, he glanced at his phone and hit the button to see his various news feeds. What was trending? The same old, same old. Cat found in tree, film at eleven. As he scrolled down, he saw somebody had written about a mysterious hole. What the heck was that? He scrolled some more and found two more entries talking about a mysterious hole. Had he been dreaming? Maybe he hadn't. Were those the other holes he had seen?

Jack opened his apartment door as he stared at the screen of his cellphone. This was incredible. Other people had experienced the same thing, going through a hole into another world. He had to find these people to see if he could figure out what had happened to him.

Jack took a step, then pitched forward and fell out of sight. There was a moment of silence in the hall before a muffled voice from somewhere below said, "Ah crap, not again!"

1 comment:

  1. Poor Jack found neither Nardia nor the wonderous rabbit hole of Alice. But it does sound like he's going to be late for a very important date.

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