The door, fortunately, was a push door. I doubt I’d have been able to pry it open otherwise.
That said, upon its opening the water sucked me down in a vortex that pulled me every which way-and-when. Past the threshold went little ol’ me, and head over heels I tumbled like Alice into an aquatic rabbit hole. Down, down, down and then up! My trajectory, best I could tell, was a parabolic arch that slung me down, then up, then down yet again. This way, that way, I didn’t know where I was but I did know I wasn’t gonna flush another goldfish down the toilet if this was what the ride was like. Granted, the goldfish is always dead in that scenario. Me? Less dead, more dizzy.
And then there was the noise. The rushing roar-howl of the marine banshee, the beast whose belly I was trapped inside of. It clawed its way through the tunnel voraciously, cleaving earth from dirt from rock and blending it all together in a soggy sandstorm that battered the exterior of my diving suit. A million little impacts and thank the gods that I never bashed the sides of the tunnel, but all the same pebble-bullets ricocheted off me. But I never saw a muzzle flash, never heard the gunshots; there was only the roar of the banshee.
Night. Night descended over the plains of my consciousness and my brain shut off, the current sweeping me from waking to oblivion like a piece of driftwood pulled out to sea. Night enveloped me, took me in, and then spit me back out upon a geyser that rocketed through the air like the angry fist of Neptune. The walls of the tunnel fell away in an instant and savannah plains stretched out infinitely in their place. So infinite was their domain that the Earth fell away well before I could spot their end, even as I soared through the heavens on a liquid throne. I was an eagle under the coming evening’s sun, elder rays of light drying my feathers as fast as the geyser could wet them.
At the peak of my ascent, I must have been thirty feet in the air. But the torrent of water shrunk, and as it did, I sunk lazily down until at last I was left sitting in a puddle of water, barely deep enough to soak my ankles.
A Zebra sat not ten strides to my Northern side. With its legs crossed, it looked quite peaceful from the other side of my suit’s protective glass wall. Its front hooves rested on its striped zebra knees and its chest rose defiantly up towards the amber sky.
I undid my helmet and pulled off the rest of my equipment.
“Arumph.” I noised, clearing my throat.
“Sit.” Said the Zebra
And I Sunk. Now I too sat cross-legged upon the ground, my spine taught, a formidable tower that jutted from an energy well I could feel pooling in my gut. I didn’t know what to call it—my Chi? My energy? Something felt aligned in a way that I’d never experienced before.
The Zebra opened its eyes, two emerald stones that shone luminously in the twilight, like rainbow snakes coiled in a knot, writhing internally, chasing their tails.
“Tomorrow, the sun will rise and the day will be new,” Said the Zebra.
“The flowers will sing and the birds will bloom. Tomorrow will rise with the sun and the heat and by high noon the sweat will drip down your brow and you’ll think…”
“Boy,” I offered, “Isn’t this neat?”
The Zebra was quiet. It’s eyes closed and the rainbows were gone. The sun screamed in the sky and blood pooled on the horizon marking the end of a day. The tall grass sharpened their blades on the rustling wind, warring against the dying of the light. Silence was their battle cry and ~ me oh my ~ it was deafening.
The Zebra spoke again.
“Then the sun will set and we’ll weep once more. A glorious day gone by, a glorious day to mourn. Tomorrow as it is today as it was before and shall be again forever more.”
Breath, said the Zebra
And I expired, my breath drawn from my lips like a fish on a line. An indigo coy with flecks of orange, reeled in and cast into the sky, pulling with it a curtain across space, a rich tapestry smattered with stars and planets and moons of oneiric colors; every color of the rainbow that dances behind your eyes, every color you can chase but never catch.
Breath, said the Zebra once more
And I respired, my lungs now full, fully expanded, and I was sucker punched by the force of the expansion. The power of the Zebra’s words pushed me from my body and now I floated not five feet from my physical form. The astral plains of the savannah stretched out into a void, a shadow of the world I’d left behind.
“Pick your god and pray. Pick wisely as you can, but know that this choice weighs far less than the million more you’ll make after every time you bow your head and speak these words in your god’s name.”
“What words are those, Zebra?”
“Gods are good, gods are great.
Mine is love, as well as hate.
My god is good, but what is greater
Is my eye, God’s Creator.”
My astral form had come around, drifted to face my body’s front, and saw a fire ignite upon the pool of energy that circulated through my legs and my core. Above my lap a flame rose, rooted to a single dark coal. It floated there, protected by my body, a marble guardian, dark like a frozen shadow. My silhouette was night, but my gasoline-veins had burst into flame like networks of magma in the Earth’s subvolcanic catacombs.
“Now open your eyes, Adventurer.”
Just as a rubber band, released after being stretched to the point of breaking, I careened back into my body and SNAP, my eyes were wide open, the sun reappeared, and—
~ Ô IRRATIONAL DAY, how hath thou come so soon, I doth not know how it could be, already, high noon ~
and the Zebra unraveled with an almost explosive force. Its many stripes disbanded and tore across the tall grass. They whistled and hollered as they screamed past my ears, succumbing to a chaotic episode before schooling together like a band of flying eels. I sat in the center of the cyclone, guarding my fire. The terrible winds threatened to choke it out, and seeing no other refuge a part from dousing it in the savannah’s dusty earth, I shut my eyes tight, braced myself and—
I swallowed the fire whole.
Silence. The winds had died down, and now the only sound for miles around was the rustling of a gentle breeze caressing the green, green grass. When I opened my eyes, I was looking down and I saw the warm glow of my flame burning deep within my gut. In raising my gaze to my surroundings, I saw that the Zebra had vanished entirely, not a stripe remaining. The cyclone had cut away the grass, banished the dust, and exposed the fecund earth beneath. From said fecund earth, oaken doors had risen, a Stonehenge of twelve portals surrounded me.
It should be fairly obvious what happened next,
seeing as I am, after all, the Great Adventurer.
I went straight for 12 o’clock and pulled back the door.