He couldn’t breath. He took quick sharp inhales back to back, but couldn’t catch his breath.
His stomach was flung to the back of his throat, and pressure built in his head as if he were hanging upside down. He looked out the small, circular window and saw the earth spinning. The sky in the ocean, the ocean in the sky, the land between in a winding, twisting, blurry streak of green, black, and shades of brown, spinning into the center of his sight, and disappearing as if going down a drain.
An invisible force thrust him back into his seat, and he grabbed tightly onto the armrests as his body stretched in opposite directions. In his ears a piercing echo, like an engine blown, like a thousand screams, like a countdown to detonation, like a tumbling descent from the heavens.
He braced himself for impact, for certain death, as the sound increased in volume, and he peeled back his lips from his chattering teeth in an attempt at one final call for help from an unseen God.
Then total silence, total darkness. He felt he was still falling, but in extreme slow motion, conscious but unable to change his circumstance. He was suspended between time and space—freefall in limbo. He heard voices in the distance trying to break through the barrier. They were muffled at first, but grew louder and clear the closer they came, bouncing around him like a ripple in a wave underwater, until finally the burst through the bubble.
“Interesting story, isn’t it? A crew of fishermen lost at sea over thirty years discover a small island and build a town.”
He was standing in front of a framed painting of a large schooner against a black sky in the middle of the ocean being tossed to and fro by the winds and the waves. The plaque underneath read: The Net on its maiden voyage, mid-October 1869.
The source of the voice that broke him from his trance stood next to him. She had her hands behind her back, admiring the painting. He scanned his surroundings and realized he was in a small museum, one that depicted the apparent history of whatever town he’d found himself in. Mounted on the walls were more paintings, each one representing a point in the timeline. He assumed he stood before the first, since behind him was an entrance door that was closed off by a velvet rope.
He turned to the woman who was now smiling at him.
“I’m sorry.” He hesitated. He couldn’t remember why he was there, or how he had even gotten there. It was as if he’d been picked up and put somewhere he didn’t recognized. He wondered if he should tell her this. How crazy would he sound to her?
“I’m feeling kind of hazy. Could you tell me where I am?”
Her smile slowly faded away. She lowered her eyes to the floor and said, “Oceanview.” He waited for details—Oceanview, California? Florida? Which ocean was viewable—the Atlantic, Pacific? But she offered no explanation. Her smile returned, a little weaker, and he tried to smile too, despite being helplessly confused, but when he looked into her eyes, he saw a hint of fear and perhaps even sadness, and he wondered if there was something more dire about this Oceanview that she was unwilling to reveal.
Up Next: “Introductions” …
It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt from Julie Duffy invites us to take a second look at a story we’ve written in the past. I have so many stories I could return to and write from a different angle, but I decided on this story, which I haven’t looked at since writing it back in 2014 for a fiction writing class and later posting it here.