Jordan Allegra Haines
This Place is not a place you want to stay, it’s a cold, perfect place, an exploration of the mind of a dying explorer trying to reach themselves, blurring the lines of sanity and self as they fall apart
This place is...well, what is This Place? Does it even have a name? I wish I could tell you, but I've been here so long that I can't recall, there is no one else here that I could ask either, I suppose that should make this a lonely place, but I'm not sure. I can summon birds and animals as much as I like, but never people. I cannot imagine how people would even live in such an impermanent world as this, Every time I wake, it starts over new, sometimes I wander in the tallest mountains or through fields of grass as high as my waist, but other times I drift in the deepest depths of the seas or float in the light of the farthest burning stars. Those are the moments I feel most alive, I often wonder if I came from that place faraway in the blackness of space, I see ships out there occasionally, but I never get close enough to see who might be inside before I am whisked away again. This is my world, but I do not control it, I may only influence it in some ways. My favorite of these is to make it rain in odd ways, under the sea, or so high on the mountains the drops freeze like little diamonds, sometimes the forests rain purple, and the fields are gold, sometimes it rains frogs or other small creatures, or doesn't rain at all. This is....these influences, they're nothing really, I can do this as much as I like but it doesn't make anything move forward and I always feel like I am waiting, and holding my breath even when I don't breath. This Place is cold and still, no matter where I go.
In this place, there is no time, Day and Night only come when I call for them, There is no Hunger, or Disease, no Death, no Pain, they are all simply concepts in this place, things that I read about, things that I imagine, but never feel, I discovered a long time ago that if I would hurt myself, the world changes to prevent it, for a time I would jump from trees just to see ponds and pillows appear beneath me. Even that game grew tiresome after a while, just like everything does. Though nothing else reaches me here, boredom never seems to leave. In this dull Place, I drift for hours and hours, but it is too bright and so noisy here, the water flows and bubbles, the wind whistles against everything it touches and the trees and grass whisper to each other, always leaving me out of the conversation, I long for somewhere calm, somewhere without distraction, but every time I go there I am drawn away again too soon. Enough, I decide, This Place isn't right, I will find a way to return where I belong. As with everything in This Place, the next time I returned to the dark Space, I noticed what I needed to, the feeling of falling, i was falling through Space towards that small ship, but I never fell fast enough, that was my answer, I finally had a purpose, something to aim for, I would reach that ship.
It does not take me long to realise what I must do to leave This Place, I must fall faster and further than a simple pond or pillow can protect me from, there is only one place that will suit my purpose and it is not here. I take off at a run, I have not run in a long time, there was no need to, and I feel it like a forgotten thought at the back of the mind. A dull ache rolls around my chest, bumping against my ribs and pressing on my heart as i speed onwards, the grass hisses around me as it parts and my bare feet slip on soft loose dirt, threatening to slow me down, but I will not be stopped now. All too soon I am standing at the foot of the tallest mountain i have ever seen, i don't ever remember it being so tall as it looms over me and casts a long, cool shadow, as if trying to turn me away, but I will not be stopped. I begin to climb. The clouds are dense, the air is thin, and the stones that jut awkwardly from the side of the mountain ars sharp and loose, not one of them looks like it should hold my weight, but This Place is mine, and will never let me be hurt, so as I push myself further upwards, my shaking hands and aching legs find only smooth, solid landings that are all too easy to grab. I continue climbing. The mountain becomes sheer, and yet I do not struggle to find my way up, though I know I should, I don't seem to have any more weight than a feather fallen from a bird's wing. I stop climbing. Finally I stand at the highest point of the mountain, balanced between two craggy points and looking down at the jagged cliff face below, I have no guarantee that This Place will behave according to my plan, but even if it doesn't, I will not be here anymore. I hesitated, leaning forward just a little, but it was just enough when the wind let out a pitiful moan, pressing against my back, the moan turned into a wail as I tipped forward and went tumbling down, if I only reached my hand out I could touch the face of the mountain, catch a ledge and stop myself, but that was not my plan. I fell, further and further until every aspect of the dark stone melted together into an inky blue, and suddenly, This Place changed, now I was falling through darkness, tiny distant lights spiralled around me, seeming to blink out if I looked straight at them, the howling stopped, the rushing air against my skin stopped, and then it was just Space arcing past as the ship came into view, I would make it this time, I was so close.
I flinched as my fingers made contact with the ship, it was right there in front of me now and it was simultaneously hot and cold, but not in a way that balanced each other out, in a way that made my stomach lurch and my head spin, the metal was too hot to keep a grip on, but it left my skin feeling icy as I peered through the front window. Red, everywhere, it edges my vision and pours from the screens across everything. 'Critical Operations Error'. It pours across the consoles. 'Stasis Extraction Failure'. It spills over the floor. 'Oxygen Systems Offline'. It drips from the walls and suits, hanging just out of reach. 'Pilot Override Required'. It swims across the still face of the pilot, My face. Red. everything is bathed in red and I am too still, I don't move, I don't even breathe. I can't breathe. 'Pilot Override Required' I can't reach the button, and there is no one else here with me, Why am I alone in That Place? I am always alone. Now I know I was right, I did come from That Place deep in the void beyond the farthest burning star, and I need to return there immediately.
Suddenly I am back in This Place, laying under the mountain on a feather cushion, It feels like the mountain itself has come crashing down, pressing itself onto my chest and crushing the air from my lungs. I gasp, I thrash, I try to crawl free, but my hands sink ineffectively into the feathers, I can't breathe, my head is starting to ache, my vision is edged with red, but it is dark, these are not the warning lights, this is different, it's This Place, It's trying to keep me here where I can't be hurt, but I need to return to That Place. I claw at the ground until it starts cracking, they spread like spiderwebs from under me, pieces falling away. Finally it cannot take the weight of me anymore and the dirt under the feathers cave, as it falls away so too does the weight on my chest and I'm free, I drag myself up and start running again, I have to get back, I have to get away from This Place, maybe there is still time. It's not Enough, No matter how far I run, long past the crumbling mountain, the withered field, the murky ocean, long past the birds and creatures that chase me as I pass, past everything, even when the ground falls from under my feet, I cannot reach That Place, now there is Nothing, not This Place, nor That Place, not even a Nowhere, just a Nothing that goes on forever, It's cold and quiet and hard to think, and I am Alone.
Jordan Haines is a fourth-year creative writing major and digital artist with dreams of escaping overseas to teach English as a Foreign Language in Japan. When she’s not writing, she’s plotting the comic adaptations of her own or other’s works or watching every Studio Ghibli movie back to back. In social circles she’s known for being over-energetic and under-focused, and in creative circles is infamous for plotting fantasy worlds to intense detail, creating living breathing worlds with cultures and histories all their own, and then never finishing a single project involving them - ever.