Rolling white sands stretched across the vast expanse of the horizon. A man walked an endless path, legs and hips moving as a continuous and automated mechanism.
Walking always walking along the timeless and sunless day. Hours, minutes, day and night all held no meaning here. The words foreign to the ever-walking man, they were concepts now long forgotten for no wind nor rain or sun entered this plain. Only the unchanging white sands as a constant companion.
The ever-walking man slowed his steadfast pace eventually halting to a standstill. Staring down at something very peculiar in his path. For it was not white nor was it sand. Crouching down he reached out almost startled he still had arms and fingers before gently lifting a half buried photograph out of the sand.
A photograph, the term entered his mind like a long lost object. The damaged image displayed two smiling men. A third figure huddling in shadows of the background.
He studied the brown haired young man with the nice smile. Who was he? He seemed happy standing by his friend, crease damage blurring the friends' features only a smile was visible.
The man righted himself his attention caught by the leather wristband on his arm. Another peculiar item found half buried in the white sands.
When had that been?
When...? No there was no when. Not here.
There was only before and after the wristband. Now there will be before and after the photograph. The man tucked it safely in his breast pocket and continued his walk. Walking always walking.
Then there was the voice.
"Jack!" The man halted at the abnormality of the sound. A voice...
"Jack where are you?"
A screaming voice...
Jack? What is a Jack? The man turned about as ever only white sands and blue skies for as far as the eye could see and beyond, far beyond.
Then there was the figure.
The figure of a man flickered into view. Unstable and fading it seemed to search about him spotting the halted man to his right.
"Take my hand!" The figure yelled as he held out his arm reaching out for him. The man stared at he outstretched hand so alien to him.
"Jack please!" The figure pleaded. "TAKE MY HAND!" The command struck his chest, his foot moved, his arm raised up almost involuntarily and he grasped the offering. The flesh felt firm under his fingers as the flickering image pulled the man to his chest holding him tightly.
Then the world shook.
Adrian held his breath as they crashed on the hard wooden floorboards, cracking beneath them in the force of their reentry. He held Jack tightly against him praying the man had made it through unscathed. How he wished he could reenter Jack slowly but there was simply no time.
Releasing Jack from his hold he looked down to see two very bewildered eyes stare right back at him.
"Are you alright?" he asked sitting up quickly checking Jacks body for any physical injuries.
"I'm sorry for the rough landing but he'd know if the door was open too long." He babbled picking himself up off the floor. Where is it - where is it - where is it? Adrian frantically searched the barren room sighting the amulet almost immediately.
Grabbing it he ran back to Jack still dazed on the floor and grasped ahold of his shoulders sinking down in front of him.
"Jack, look at me. We don't have much time. I need to do this and it is going to hurt. It's gonna hurt bad I'm so sorry. Please trust me." Jack didn't react just stared back at him.
Adrian pressed the simply carved amulet to Jacks chest with the palm of his hand. Closing his eyes he muttered the incantation he's spend the last two years of his life sculpting.
"M'anam mar do sciath. Do chuid fola le mo neart. Mo anáil do do chroí, do chuid fola le mo anái . Iarr mé Domhan mar chaomhnóir, Gaoithe ár gcara , ár Slánaitheoir Uisce agus Dóiteáin ár gcumhacht. Phléadáil mé, ceangal mé, a ghlacadh mé fochéime síoraí."
(My soul as your shield. Your blood to my strength. My breath to your heart, your blood to my breath. I ask Earth as guardian, Wind our friend, Water our saviour and Fire our power. I plead, I bind, I undertake eternal.)
As he uttered the last syllable blinding pain seared through his body flowing into Jack's through the amulet. They both screamed as the incantation manifested itself, the amulet slowly melting into Jack's chest scorching Adrian's hand.
At the sudden absence of pain both men collapsed to the ground. Panting hard they slowly recovered. Relief left Adrian almost dizzy as he saw the woven lines of the amulet's imprint on his palm.
It worked, thank the elements it worked!
The man rubbed his chest gingerly the strange mark still sore and itchy. The "trust me" guy had said some strange things rushing them out of the room they'd been in. Darkness flooded his vision as they stepped outside and he'd shivered in the cold winds pushing them down the street.
Why was it dark?
Why was it cold?
Why does it smell so?
Adrian started to worry. Expect for 'ouch!' Jack hadn't utter as single word. Just stared at anything and everything with a curious half crazed look on his face. He was sure they blitzed without Jack even noticing the change of cities along the way. After blitzing through countless cities in countless countries Adrian stopped at a small highway diner. He needed food to regain some strength before they reached the cabin. Jack must be starving.
He chose a secluded booth at the far end of the deserted diner. Jack stared out of the window mesmerized by the darkness of the night.
"What can i get you boys?" A middle-aged waitress in a faded yellow uniform materialized at their table.
"Coffee and whatever the special is today." Adrian smiled tiredly
"One coffee and one eggs Benedict. You want that with a side order of bacon?"
To Adrian's astonishment Jack perked up immediately.
"Bacon?" a small smile lingered on his lips.
"Sure. What do you want Jack?"
"Bacon." Seemed to be the magic word.
"Make that two coffee's two specials with a double order of bacon on the side." Adrian smiled genuinely, it always paid to be nice servers, he'd been one long enough to know.
"I'll be right back with your order boys." She vanished from their table.
Adrian leaned in over the table.
"I'm sorry we couldn't rest before now Jack. But we'll be staying put at our next stop, I promise." He whispered. Jack just stared back at him as a slow frown creased his brow placing his hands on the table suddenly very interested in the lines of his palm.
"Am I Jack?" he asked looking up uncertainly.
Adrian's heart sank.
I stared back at the boy in front of me. His features fell and a flash of utter misery and pain crossed his face. How odd, I can see what he feels, but what are those feelings to me? Do I feel those feelings as he sits across me? Lost in thought my eyes wonder around. We're in a booth at a small town roadside diner. My mind feels dusty resurrecting these concepts and words from long ago. Or wasn't it long ago?
Things don't seem quite right. Cars looks different, televisions have changed, clothes are ... not completely right.
The boy leans in grasping my hands on the table. His touch is warm, as we'd walked through all the changing streets he'd held on to my arm. But through his hands on mine I feel the heat on my skin.
"Yes, you're Jack. Your name is Jack Smythe, 24 years old. You were a teacher. Do you remember?"
Jack Smythe? ....
"Jack ...?" I muse, the boys nods encouragingly. Ah... "Jack Bernard Smythe?" I ask that sounded about right. The boy erupts in a smile. It's a nice smile. Just like in the photograph of Jamie and me.
"Yes that is right. Jack B. Smythe."
I reach into my breast pocket for the damaged picture.
"The photograph" The boy gasped. "You found it?"
I nod; well obviously I found it.
"Who's Jamie?" I ask
The boy reaches over and points to the second man in the picture.
"That's Jamie and that is you Jack you haven't aged a day."
"There you are boys two coffee's and two specials with bacon on the side."
BACON! The smell is making my mouth water. For the first time in I have no idea how long. I am hungry!
Jack's face lights up as the waitress arrives with our food. I forget how long it's been since he's eaten actual food.
"Yeah I guess." Jack shrugs halfheartedly while wolfing doing his food. The contrast of speech and action would have been comical if it wasn't so upsetting.
I eat slowly mostly enjoying the site of an enthusiastic devourer leaving my bacon untouched he'll want it later by the looks of it.
"Jamie Richardson was you're best friend from what I know. Roommates in college, ran cross-country together too. He got a great kick out of playing your wingman at bars so I'm told."
Jack laughed loudly almost chocking on his eggs.
"Yeah he said if I were willing to flirt with women to back him up it was only right he'd do the same with men for me." I'm awed by the illuminating smile and joy on Jacks face. It quickly morphed into its 'normal' state of dazed confusion as he stared down at his half eaten food. He's so confused.
"I'm glad you're starting to remember." I say softly
"It's dark outside" Jack mumbled."
"Yes it's night here." I keep my voice low, I hope I sound reassuring in a way... in any way...
"It's cold here."
"It'll be winter soon."
Silently Jack sipped his coffee immediately scrunching up his face.
"I don't think I like coffee".
"You don't have to drink it." I smiled, good reaction.
A scattered mind jumps from one thought to another trying to make sense of the world. Whether it is a new world, an old world or a long forgotten one. Worse if it's a mesh of all three.
Jack nodded "You send the photograph."
"Yes I did. I needed to pin point your exact position to get you out as quickly as possible. Like ...erm..." Shit how to explain..."A beacon!"
Jack nodded again, though I wasn't sure if he understood all of it. Yet gladly ate up all the extra bacon I tossed his way.
"So I'm Jack." Jack said fingering the photograph again after a while of silence. "That's Jamie, but who are you?"
I gulped trying to stare steadily into Jack's eyes. "My names Adrian. Adrian Gray."
A chill rain down my spine. Or that is what is felt like at least. Pressure on my lungs reminded me of the necessity of breathing.
"Little Adi?" I choked out. Flashes of a little baby boy with a mess of blond curls and bright hazel eyes hit my mind.
"Yeah." The boy said carefully as a lost memory floods back with such a force it knocks the wind out of me. A two-year-old running around a park, giggling and screaming his head off as I try to catch him. Nuzzling his chubby little cheek before tossing him playfully into Jamie's arms. 'nle Jaymie catch Adi!' he squeals as Jamie twirls him around.
I pant hard as I stare straight into the boy's eyes in front of me. The same bright hazel eyes, dirty blond curls, no chubby cheeks but the features have lingered.
"You've been gone a very long time Jack."
Jack's breath hitched his chest heaved uncontrollably; eyes darted all over the place.
I grab his arm and drag him stumbling outside into the bushes at the back of the deserted diner.
Jacks shaking in my arms, I need to focus him fast.
"Jack. Jack! Look at me." His frazzled eyes lock onto mine. "Breath Jack, breathe and calm down." He gulps a few large breaths of air. "Look here Jack. Look at this." I shove a little picture under his nose. His eyes widen.
"This is Inu. He is going to be your new best friend Jack."
The effect is instantaneous, the trembling man in front of me stops shaking fixated on the little picture in his hands.
"Think of Inu. Think of him very hard. Think of holding him and calling his name. Close your eyes and think only of Inu and nothing else." He does was I ask immediately as I hug to tightly to me.
Here it goes!
***************** (to be continued)
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PART TWO COMING SOON!