by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
The outside seemed to have undergone some minor changes while they were inside. The temperature had gone down perceptibly, but that was by no means the first thing they noticed. Rather, they saw a lack of forest, the sudden appearance of grass, rolling hills stretching out into infinity, a tree here and there.
“My God, we’re in Ireland!” Jonas sighed. Then he observed the weather. “But it isn’t raining.” He turned. The building was nowhere to be seen, just endless green meadows. Jonas thought heavily about how he had ended up there. In a sudden realization, he hung his shoulders. “Damn. The gas.”
The men were ambling around, waving their arms, arguing. Jonas figured they would fade away soon, and he’d either slip into death, or go straight to whatever was beyond, if there was any. He heard a rolling thunder coming from somewhere, shaking the earth. But the sky was still clear. It must have been the explosion he was waiting for. Not exactly what he was expecting from 18 kilos of C-1, but who knows what effect the gas had on his perception?
Jonas gripped his rifle tighter. He didn’t feel it, so he looked to see. There was nothing there to see. His men had thrown their rifles away soon after arriving on the meadow, but the rifles themselves were nowhere to be seen. Jonas shook his head, feeling ever number. He was holding the rifle. His body was just dead, and he couldn’t feel it in his hand. He wondered when his memories would start to fade. Maybe they already had, and he just hadn’t noticed.
It didn’t take any strength to move, yet he did not move in the direction he would have preferred. He felt himself glide effortlessly over the meadow, it felt a little like running, yet he didn’t feel an impact with the ground with every step. He didn’t feel the air either, yet there was a slight breeze gently moving the grass about.
It seemed to him he ran for hours, with nothing to see but green meadows, low hills, a few tight groupings of trees. Not an animal in sight. His men had scattered long ago. At all times he tried not to lose his grip on the rifle. He just knew the rifle was still there, and if this was heaven, well, God needed killing.
But if this was heaven, then why was he there? Wasn’t he evil? Jonas remembered well having killed several people for money and had accidentally killed the wrong one a few times, too. He didn’t repent of a thing.
At last he spotted some people in the far distance. He drifted toward them. They were beautiful, bright-looking people in colourful robes, women with long blonde hair and with flowers woven around their heads, men playing musical instruments.
“I’m in Hell,” said Jonas in a low voice. “And Hell is full of hippies. I hate hippies.”
Jonas came to a stop with these people, They saw him and greeted him. A tall blonde woman walked up to him and spoke to him: “Hello, Jonas. We have been expecting you.”
“And who are you?”
“We are your friends. Come, have a drink with us. We can dance and sing until morning.”
“I can’t dance.”
“We don’t let such trifles stop us.”
“Besides, I’m busy. You know, people to kill, things to destroy.”
“Don’t make war, make love.”
“I’m not a lover, I’m a fighter. Sorry.”
“Aw, come on. Everybody can do it, even you.” The woman tugged on his sleeve. He felt something then, though he could not see it. His rifle; it was invisible but still there. He hit the woman in the forehead with it, felling her to the ground.
Jonas beheld his rifle as it almost faded into sight, but not quite. The safety was off. He knew, because he always had it off. Well, invisible or not, it was still an AK, and he was surrounded by hippies, wasn’t he? Imaginary or not, they were going down!
The shots were loud and clear, just what to expect from an invisible .223 rifle. First, he shot the standing hippies, then the sitting ones. They fell and died or squirmed on the ground. Jonas emptied the mag, but the hippies were too many, and some got away unscathed. The woman was still there, on the ground, staring wide-eyed at Jonas. Jonas smiled at her. That was fun.
“Why are you doing this?” asked the woman, her voice quivering in surprise and sorrow.
“Well, I hold you personally responsible for me being here now. I believe you may know the way back. Tell me, or I will be a blight upon your world forever and ever.”
“Why are you so hostile?”
“It is what I do for a living. Now, tell me what I want to know, please.” Jonas smiled as friendly a smile as he could muster.
“Why would you want to go back? The world you came from is full of death and pain and sorrow. Wouldn’t you rather stay?”
“Then I wouldn’t get paid.” Jonas kicked the woman, thwarting her attempt to rise to her feet, and stomped his foot on her arm, grinding it beneath his boot. “Send me back, or I will make this world of yours a living hell.”
* * *
When Jonas next opened his eyes, he was standing in front of the building he exited earlier. His team was still missing, but their weapons were lying on the ground, spread out between the dead trees. Jonas looked back at the building. The mess hall lived up to its name; all the windows were broken, and pieces of computer equipment were lying on the ground outside.
Jonas didn’t bother to go inside. He picked up more ammo off the ground and an extra rifle, just in case. Now he had to call in the choppers — well, a chopper — as it seemed his team had disappeared. He turned his beacon on.
He walked away from the building, expecting the North Korean army to arrive soon. The North Korean army was right in front of him. And they were loud. He went in closer. It sounded awfully similar to singing. At first he figured they were just drunk. Then he saw them. Then he thought they were high.
There was a platoon of North Korean cannon fodder there, just a hundred meters from him, singing and dancing as they moved through the forest. Some were spreading colourful confetti, others were making crowns and necklaces of flowers. They looked happy.
It was one of the scariest scenes Jonas had ever seen. Not so much the North Korean army itself, but what it represented: those damned hippies had defiled his world. They had turned North Korea into what North Korea wanted everybody to think it was: a country full of joyful, singing people. He shuddered to think what had become of the rest of the world.
Jonas ran back to the compound as fast as his feet could carry him. This had to be fixed. His mind raced as he wondered how he could enter the world of green meadows and get these hippies to give him back his world. He remembered how he had gotten there, or so he thought: by running out of the complex. But maybe the large hole had something to do with it, the endless void behind that door.
Jonas stopped running as he entered the building, and took some deep breaths. He walked out again. All he saw were some dead trees. He walked in again. He walked through the mess hall. There was a crater in the floor, and dust was still falling from the ceiling. He went back to the observation room. It was mostly intact. Some cracks in the walls and broken glass.
The C-1 was still there. Just over 16 kilos of RDX had somehow failed to explode. How? Magic: The only explanation. Almost a kilo had blown in a closed space, taken out a wall and thrown the debris all over and into the void, but it had not touched the huge amount of explosives right beside it. That was unusual; the unexploded stuff was still wired together and capped. Jonas figured he’d just put another timer on it and blow it up. But first, he had to take a closer look at that void.
With the wall completely broken down, Jonas could see the void better. Not that there was anything to see, it was a void. He stepped into the room. It was there before him, black, like nothingness itself. Jonas stared at it, wondering how the North Koreans had opened it. There had been that nuclear cloud... Maybe there had been a nuclear reactor in there, and some nuclear experiment had caused this?
Jonas had an urge to jump into the void, but his better judgment told him not to. His better judgment also told him there could be a leaking reactor in there. It just happened to be invisible because of “nuclear things.” All the better reason not to go in. But still... The North Korean army had been singing. And before that he had been on a large meadow, shooting hippies with an invisible AK.
“To hell with it, I’m going in,” said Jonas, and ran toward the void. He felt it was right somehow. Everything else was wrong; why not?
* * *
Jonas jumped through the hole in the wall, and drifted into the nothing beyond. He turned around, and saw the hole: dark, yet brighter than everything else. He shone his flashlight toward it, and it lit up, but nothing above, below, or to the sides of it lit. It was just a hole into something. Soon it disappeared into the distance. And Jonas drifted away from the known world for a very long time.
The day passed, and Jonas got tired, but he kept drifting, or so he gathered. He might as well have stayed put. And he got thinking, in this void, there was breathable air, yet he met no resistance from it as he travelled through it.
In the dark, it was easy to fall asleep.
Jonas woke up, standing in the green meadow. There were no hippies to be seen. Perhaps they were hiding in the trees? Jonas walked around, searching for them. He drifted through the grass, looking in every patch of wood, scanning the horizon from every hill.
At one point he spotted something. It was a small deer, and it looked back at him with its big black eyes. It stood at the edge of a patch of trees, surrounded by flowers of all possible and a couple of impossible colours. Jonas shot the critter in the head from 120 meters. It was a beautiful shot. Especially considering he never saw the gunsights, they being invisible.
“Why did you do that?” asked a woman’s voice from behind him.
“I was getting hungry,” answered Jonas, seeking his cooking paraphernalia.
“There’s plenty of fruit in the woods.”
“I was in the mood for steak.”
Jonas looked around. It was that hippie woman again. She had come from nowhere to annoy him, but still, just the person he was looking for. And he punched her in the face.
“Bring me my world back like it was when I left it.”
“You actually liked it like that?”
“Yes. Now, undo the damage, and let me back.”
“But you’ll die.”
“It’s my life.”
“Wouldn’t you rather stay here with me?”
“What is this? Do you enjoy getting beat up? Just do it.”
The woman looked unhappy.
“And if I find the world has turned into a musical rendering of itself, I’ll come back here and really hurt you. Understand?”
The woman gave him a sad, wide-eyed look that annoyed him so much that he shot her.
Then it was back to making steak. The deer was tender and juicy. After dinner, Jonas went back to looking for someone in charge. But wherever he looked, nobody was to be seen. The only movement was the grass waving in the soft breeze, the only sound the sound of grass ruffling.
Jonas turned around, and as he turned, he noticed, that no matter how much he turned around, he could never turn a full circle. The horizon was endless, never the same, but always just meadows. And the silence, apart from the gentle breeze, was complete. He had never seen bluer skies, never greener meadows.
Come to think of it, this place was almost disturbingly monochromatic. Where was the sun? How come it was so bright, without a sun? Looking around, he never saw his shadow either. But then, with a horizon of well over 360°, it was perhaps no wonder.
And so, with nowhere to go, and all places the same, Jonas figured it best to just stand still and relax. There was a sound, a different ruffling in the grass - he turned two circles around himself before he saw something: a disturbance in the grass. Not much, not far away, and moving in slowly.
Whatever it was, it was big. Jonas thought he heard it growl at him. It stayed there, looming in the grass, waiting for him to turn around, face some other direction of the infinity of directions available on the meadow. All the while, Jonas was calculating its size and shape, based on movements in the grass.
As Jonas lifted his rifle, he heard another noise of a similar nature coming from somewhere around. He wondered if this was why he couldn’t find the hippies: he just wasn’t facing the right direction. Then the thing in the grass jumped. Its hind legs made pits in the grass as it leapt.
Jonas fired in its general direction and jumped aside. He felt something slip by him as he jumped, coming from a direction unexplainable in ordinary terms. He had to turn a whole lot to fire on the other thing before it struck, and he just made it in time. The thing was still breathing when it hit him, and they both fell on the carcass of the first animal.
Jonas wondered if there was anyone here who had spray-paint, so he could paint the things in a perceivable colour, and have a look at their details. He was greatly interested in the fangs.
And Jonas spoke to the meadow: “Are you ever going to let me go?”
But the meadow was silent, save for grass in the wind.
Jonas walked toward a large patch of trees he spotted not too far away. He got out his lighter, and set fire to the patch of trees. And as the trees caught fire, he walked into the woods, and turned around, and fire spread to other areas more quickly as he did this.
And the meadow spoke: “Why do you wish to destroy me?”
“Why do you wish to destroy my world?” answered Jonas.
“I am not destroying your world. I have made everybody happy.”
“They are insane. Make them normal again.”
“Your definition of normal is insane.”
“Do you want to be set on fire?”
“Do you not like it here?”
“No. This place is full of hippies. I wanna go back.”
“I don’t understand you.”
“Hey, I am uncomfortable with spaces I cannot understand, and I want out. You are uncomfortable with me, a person you do not understand, yet you insist on bringing me here for us to to annoy each other. You, therefore, must be crazy. Let me go, or I’ll get all evil on you.”
The meadow thought this through and concluded that Jonas had a point.
* * *
Copyright © 2004 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson<