Steps Backward and Forward

New chapter of City Intersection coming out tomorrow (or today, technically, I guess) or Sunday, but I just had a little idea for this and wanted to get it down.

Unsurprisingly, I’m currently reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I just finished the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series the other day, absolutely loved them all.

I think I might actually post a link to a song or album each time I make a post, now, actually. Might be the music I listened to while writing whatever story I’m posting, or it might not. But it’ll be good stuff.

Here’s the album Innerspeaker by Tame Impala. Probably a good fit for posting with this story, actually.

~

The point was to stay hydrated. Water. Hydro… Dihydrogen monoxide. Water, liquid, stay hydrated. Why was that? I didn’t know, other than the neon sign flashing in my mind – though hard to see with the other multitude of visuals I was presented with – that just said “stay hydrated”.
I opened my eyes. I didn’t know they hadn’t been open, but I opened them. My mind looped, I was sent back a step (a step being, in my mind’s current state, about three and two-fifths of a second) to when I was reading that flashing neon sign again. Stay hydrated. But my eyes were open now and I could see the glass of water. I just had to reach out and grab it and…
And hold onto that train of thought for long enough. Problem was, the train was rocketing away from me at about a billion inches per step, which is quite a distance when it all takes place in your mind. That’s about a large enough distance for the train of thought to just bust through your skull and fly off into the distance, never to return.
Point being, it was another few minutes before I had actually managed to take hold of my glass. My hand shook, or, rather, I temporarily forgot which way was up, and a bit spilled onto the chair I was sitting on.
I was sitting on my bed. The chair had been, I checked a counter in my mind, about two-hundred and forty steps back. I didn’t know when I had gotten to my bed. Or, more importantly, how I had. I was trapped inside my own mind, any “movement” I made was just traversing the neurological mess I had gotten myself into.
Well, I had taken hold of my glass a while back. I noticed that my eyes were open, although I hadn’t been actually seeing anything through them for a while, and thereby saw that I was still, in fact, holding the glass of water.
“Stay hydrated” the neon sign flashed.
“That’s right, I…” I started saying. I thought I was saying it in my mind, but I quickly found out I was saying it out loud. My mind took a step back. I was staring at the neon sign again with one pair of eyes and the glass of water with another pair.
“…was going to take…” I continued. I didn’t remember starting saying anything out loud but was surprised to find that I was. I got a wave of deja vu. There had been no pause between my two sentence fragments, I realized in a sudden moment of psuedo-sanity, but I couldn’t remember what I was saying. I supposed I would just have to listen to find out what it was.
My mouth kept moving, my vocal chords kept making sound. “…a drink of water…” I heard myself say. I looked down into my hand and found that, quite conveniently, there was a glass of water located there. I started lifting it to my mouth.
Another step back. Mind wavering in and out, passing between the gates of heaven and hell faster than you could blink your three eyes. I suddenly felt something press against my mouth. I looked down and found that it was a glass of water.
“…because I need to stay hydrablaftugh,” I concluded. The last word was muffled because at that very moment, my mouth was flooded with water.
I was drowning! I had gotten myself to a pool or ocean or something and decided to take a swim, like that other goddamn time. My eyes were still open, but I didn’t at the moment notice what was going on beyond them. I figured that whatever it was, it was probably important.
I was sitting on my bed. An odd place to drown, I thought. I looked down, slightly crossing my eyes, and found that it was just a glass of water. Ah, good job, I thought to myself, staying hydrated, just like that sign said. Where had that sign been? I remembered seeing it. Was it behind the gates of heaven or hell?
Heaven or hell? What was I thinking about? I’d end up in one of them soon enough if I didn’t get out of this goddamn ocean and crawl to dry land. I’d better swallow this water in my mouth and try to catch a breath before I’m tossed under again by one of these waves, I thought.
I did. It wasn’t salty at all. Quite nice. Purified water, I noted, quite like the purified water I had at home. I cleared my throat. “Stay hydrated, I meant.”
What did that mean? Who was I clarifying it for? Was someone else there in the ocean with me? I should call for help, I thought.
I was oddly dry for being drowning, though.
“Stay hydrated,” the sign kept flashing. I’ll hydrate myself to death here if I don’t get some help, I screamed in my mind. My eyes were closed in fear, I found, so I opened them. I should have my eyes open if I’m going to find my way out of this goddamn drowning pit.
I was holding a glass of water. I saw my reflection in its surface. Wild eyes, disorganized hair, and a toothy smile that reached, literally, from ear to ear. That wasn’t normal, was it? Well, at least I was out of the ocean. Safe.
My arm was getting tired. Probably tired from swimming. No, probably from holding a glass of water. How many steps was that, again?
Six-point-five steps, the counter in my head announced.
That was a long time, right? Too long to be holding a glass of water. I tried to put it back on the bedside table next to me, but I noticed that this claw-game-machine wasn’t working right. Those things never worked right. You thought you had got a perfect hold on that stuffed armadillo, but just as it started to lift up the claw slackened slightly – just enough that most people wouldn’t notice it – and it slipped out from its grasp.
What a farce those things were. And here I was, trying to move around a glass of water with one. Those weren’t built to move around glasses of water. Too smooth of a surface. They were rigged anyway, but who the hell would put a glass of water in one?
I blinked. My eyes were dry.
“Stay hydrated.”
Oh, it wasn’t a claw machine. Or maybe I had just won it and now was holding my prize. Funny, I didn’t remember winning it. But I had the glass of water in my hand, so I must have…
Why the hell would someone put a glass of water in one of those things?
I whipped my head around and found myself in my room, sitting on my bed, not a claw machine in sight. Phew, my arm was getting heavy. No shit, I said to myself as I looked at it, you’ve been holding a glass of water in it for god-knows-how-long.
I set the glass of water on the table next to me without actually sending out the conscious commands to my body and arm and finger nerves and muscles to accomplish that task.
Phew. I was glad I got through all that. About twenty seconds out of four hours completed. Not a bad start, I thought.

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