Direction Chapter Seven
The Man by the Water
“Kid! Hey kid! What are you doing here?” a voice called out.
Chris violently coughed awaked and felt a strange rough surface against his face. A strong metallic taste blanketed his tongue, and what was that smell…eggs? He pushed himself up, wearing the maroon sweatpants and oversized Elmer Fudd shirt he went to bed in. “What the fuck…where am I?” He brushed off what looked like black sand from his body and shook out his disheveled beard.
“How did you get here, kid? Answer me now!”
Chris wiped the black sand off of his hands with the inside of his shirt, then rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “What? Where am I? Who are you?”
“Look, you really shouldn’t be here. I don’t know how you got yourself here but go ahead and leave the way you came. Right now.”
“Just…hold on a sec,” Chris replied, confused. “I don’t even know where this is.” He quickly looked around. It was nighttime, or looked like it at least. There were no stars or moon, but some sort of midnight glow radiated from the surrounding horizon. The black sand felt like dense clay under his bare feet, and shimmering dark water stretched out in front of him. He circled, trying to locate the voice.
“Well, if you didn’t know you were in the lady’s washroom, you’d still be asked to leave when someone found you. Point being, you’re not supposed to be here.”
With no options left, Chris looked down. A small, bright box turtle sat nestled in the dark sand. He jumped and pulled his feet up, stumbling back. “Whoa!”
“Watch it kid!” the turtle exclaimed, or was it the turtle? Chris settled himself and bent down to get a better look. “Are you…talking to me?” he mumbled to the turtle.
“Obviously,” the turtle replied. Chris stared at it, speechless. “Hello…kid?”
“Sorry…I…is this a dream? This has to be a dream. Weird, what the hell was I watching before I went to bed?”
“This isn’t a dream, and you are not supposed to be here!” The turtle clawed itself closer, it’s eyes almost inquisitive.
“Uh, you’re a talking turtle, I think I know a fucking dream when I see one.”
“I’m not talking, turtles can’t talk, it’s telepathy. Here, this should make things simpler.”
Chris was now staring at a foot – a man’s bare foot. He scrambled backward, falling onto his ass. A fit, naked man now stood in front of him.
“Whoa, wait a minute,” Chris blurted out as he stood and backed up with his arms raised, “I don’t really want that kind of dream.”
“Take it easy Romeo.” The man was now wearing the exact same outfit as Chris. “Satisfactory?”
“Sure, I guess. Still doesn’t convince me this isn’t a dream.”
“It wasn’t meant to convince you of anything,” the man replied. “Now kid, would you be kind enough to tell me how you arrived here?”
“I already told you, I don’t know how I got here…wherever this is.” Chris started toward the dark water to get a better look. “This is my own dream, so why don’t you just tell me where the fuck I am and who the hell you are, for starters.”
The man looked apprehensive, then shrugged his shoulders. “Eh, why not. Look, you’re the furthest from asleep, I assure you. As for location, how do I put this delicately? You’re kind of in Hell, almost. But no one ventures this way anymore.”
“Oh, so you’re saying I’m dead?”
“No kid, you’re not deceased. That’s why I haven’t the slightest idea how or why you’re here.”
Chris stopped and turned back toward the man. Though he still thought he was dreaming, he had a pretty open mind. He decided to roll with it for now, see where this goes, he just had to remember to write all this shit down when he woke up. "Okay, so I'm not asleep and I'm not dead, but I'm sort of in Hell and you're a talking man-turtle. Sound about right so far?"
“Yes, I'd say you hit the nail on the head."
"So why don't you, someone who seems to know these parts, explain to me how I could possibly be here?”
"Well," the man paused and rubbed his strong, rough hand against the back of his neck, "that's the other thing. You were never even born. That aspect makes it a little difficult to explain your presence here. I’m not exactly sure how or why you even exist.”
Chris raised his eyebrows and gave a half smirk, then turned and continued toward the dark water; the man began to follow. "Oh really? Then how would you explain a man who was never born being alive?"
"First off I don't think you're grasping the gravity of your situation. I need to figure out how you got here, that answer might clear things up for the both of us. Why don't you start by telling me the last thing you remember before you woke up here.”
"Well, I was lying in bed trying to sleep. It was pretty late, and I could hear music playing through the open window by my desk." Chris arrived at the edge of the dark water and knelt down. "Then sleep I guess, which is why I'm here now, in this fucked up dream," his voice trailed off.
After a beat of silence he looked down at the water. It was incredibly dark, like looking into a pool of ink. There was something moving just under the surface. He reached a hand down and extended his finger to the dark water, it was the coldest thing he had ever felt, like nothingness. His limbs gave out, he could feel himself falling forward. His life had lost all meaning, leaving nothing but despair. He wanted to die. The only tiny shred of joy he possessed was knowing that he'd soon be dead. This was real, not a dream. He closed his eyes, he was ready. Suddenly he was falling the opposite way. His eyes shot open as his back met the dense sand, the starless sky now the only thing in view other than the strange muscular man looking down at him. He sat up and scrambled backwards, feverishly pushing his bare hands and feet into ground. His heart was racing, adrenaline and anxiety taking complete control of his senses. "Holy fucking sh-shit, I want to wake up. P-please just let me wake up." He squeezed his eyes shut. "Wake up, wake the fuck up!"
"I told you already, this is no dream. And mind the water, it's got a lot of leftover hopelessness from the last guy who used to run this place."
Chris was breathing heavily, he felt lightheaded like he might pass out. The man knelt down next to him and grabbed his shoulder. His eyes were dark – still resembling the turtles – and his skin a golden color. Such a weird complexion for a place like this. "Give me a name," the man said.
"A name, of someone you knew before you got here."
"A name? I mean, my p-parents, Joanne Jean and Freddie Allen Peck."
The man closed his eyes for a moment, as if in deep concentration, then shook his head. "No, no they're not your parents."
"Wh-what are you talking about?"
"There was a Joanne and Fred Peck, but they're no longer together and never had any children."
"Well, you're mistaken obviously." Chris’ confusion was leaning a little more toward anger now.
"What did I just say, kid? Give me another."
"My buddy I live with, Jeff Jameson Glass."
The man closed his eyes again, his face now distorting to a look of concern. "Shit.”