This is the fifth part of a continuing story. Here is the link to the fourth part if you have not read it yet: https://titantime.org/6951/lifestyle/creative-contributions/the-wanderer-part-four/
For a few moments, they just stared at each other: Jenna on the floor, the One-Eyed Man crouching above her. The disembodied hum was becoming more of a shriek. Jenna, with a feeling of dismay, felt herself cringing while the man’s face continued smiling in grotesque amusement. She had no control over herself between the skull-splitting scream of whatever was behind the way and the strange gravity of the dark eye that was currently hidden from her sight. After what seemed like forever, the high-pitched warbling exceeded the extent of Jenna’s hearing, allowing her to release the breath she had apparently been holding. The man stood up and walked a few feet away from Jenna. The pull she felt was gone now too, allowing her to control herself as she normally would. She sat up, figuring there was no point to laying on the ground anymore. The man was turned profile looking behind the partial wall, the empty socket facing away from Jenna and his arms clasped behind his back. The orange light that was becoming bright enough to illuminate most of the room lit up his face. He was no longer smiling. A deranged glint, however, remained in his eye.
“What is reality?” he asked. Jenna wasn’t sure if this was meant to be a rhetorical question or not, but the man continued before she would have been able to answer. “Is it what you are seeing, hearing, feeling, and breathing right now? If it is, we could say that the only reality that exists in the current moment is within this room. We could say that nothing outside this room exists, and never will unless we leave. But we must both know that there has to be something beyond this room or there would be nowhere to walk out of it into. If there was nothing else, this room wouldn’t even exist. There must be other things: other rooms, other buildings, other towns, other cities, other countries, other planets, other galaxies, even other universes. But that’s too big, isn’t it? We may know what exists out of our immediate surroundings, but our minds are too small to imagine all of it at the same time, let alone understand it. Existence never ends. It is found in every corner of the infinite expanse of all realities, which is to say, there aren’t actually any corners.”
Jenna wasn’t sure what most of this meant or how it pertained to the situation she currently found herself in. But that was the point, wasn’t it? That everything was so big it could hardly be imagined or connected to everything else. The One-Eyed Man was right: infinity was too large to understand and every time she tried thinking about it, she could feel her mind disintegrating into the never-ending pit of existential panic. Infinities leading to the depths of even more infinities.
“As much as I would enjoy continuing to explain this theory of existence,” the man continued, “there are more important things to discuss. Though I anticipate that I’ll be doing most of the talking.” The smile was back, but he was still facing whatever was glowing behind the incomplete wall. “That was only a prologue to show how horrifically inaccurate your measly view of reality is. You only believe in what you are currently seeing while everything else fades into a half-developed understanding.” Still smiling, he turned his gaze away from the glowing thing and toward Jenna. “Come over here. I assume you’ve been wondering what’s been enlightening our little one-sided conversation.”
Jenna stood up and began walking across the room, not entirely sure she really wanted to. She was, admittedly, terribly curious about what was creating the strange orange light and she didn’t feel like she had much choice in the matter anyways. Even so, Jenna had the uneasy feeling of crossing the threshold into a place she wasn’t sure she would be able to get back from.
By the time she she got past the end of the wall, the man was looking back at the glowing thing. The light seemed a lot brighter now that she was so close to it. As she turned towards the source of the light, the man placed a hand on her shoulder, as if he thought she would somehow try to run away. At any other time, Jenna imagined that it would have made her skin crawl. Now, she didn’t even notice his hand was there.
In the opposite wall, there was a hole. A hole in the wall wouldn’t have been anything unusual, especially in an old downtown building. The captivating part of the hole was that inside it was an energy coursing around and around in circles. It was orange, almost like fire, but it gave off no heat. It looked flat and yet there was a depth to it, as if the energy kept flowing into itself and then back out. It pulled at her. Maybe that’s why the man kept a hand on her shoulder.
“There are many worlds and paths to each,” the man said. Jenna wondered at the lack of awe in his voice. She had never seen anything like this. “Why did you think the new cafe was called The Portal? After all, we’re in its basement.”
“It’ll change your life,” Jenna murmured, more to herself than anything else. A portal. Suddenly, an idea popped into her head. She hadn’t noticed any doors in the room, but there had to be one somewhere. However, in the time she took to open it, the One-Eyed Man might be able to catch her again, especially if the door was locked or if the man had blocked it. This portal didn’t have a door or anything in front of it. As long as she ran fast enough, he wouldn’t be able to catch her before she went through. Sure, she didn’t know where the portal went, but she felt that she would have a better chance on the other side of it than she would have here. It might be worth the risk.
Jenna lifted her foot and kicked the man hard in the shin. He fell to the ground with a cry of pain. It seemed as if he went down a little too easily, but Jenna didn’t stop to consider this. She ran toward the portal.
“If you go through you won’t be coming back!” the man yelled after her.
Jenna paused and turned back. The hat had fallen off the man’s head so his dark eye was out in plain sight. She met its gaze without fear. “What choice do I have?” She took another step and was gone.
The One-Eyed Man stood up, leaving his hat on the ground behind him. He might have a bruise on his shin for a couple of days, buts it had taken a lot of acting to make that fall look real. He began to laugh, the darkness spreading out and contracting in to its socket, as if the darkness itself was laughing too. What choice indeed.