Thursday March 6th, 2014

The exercise:

Let us make our third visit to Vancouver Irrealis.

Don't want to say too much up top, as my entries into the yearlong prompts always go long. So I shall just share a picture I took of Max this morning:

He was playing peek-a-boo with the kitchen curtains. He can be heart-achingly cute sometimes.


Though the approaching sounds made him want to run or at least hide, Tristam forced himself to hold his ground. One of the few things he knew for certain was that he was safe in that grassy clearing by the pond, and that was more than what could be said about anywhere he might end up if he allowed panic to take over.

It's hard to say what he was expecting to emerge from the treeline. If he was feeling optimistic, perhaps someone to show him the way back home. Pessimistic, armed law enforcement officers. If he was wise, anything at all.

As it turned out, it was a boy.

"Oh, hello there," the child said as he drew to a halt, one strangely-fingered hand resting against a glowing tree trunk. It was a wary greeting but still a relatively friendly one.

"Hello." Tristam opened his mouth to say more before snapping it shut again. When you were utterly out of your depth it's rarely a bad idea to let someone else take the lead. He'd learned that the hard way at his last job.

"My name is Ertrob," the boy offered, rising up on his toes before settling down again. He couldn't be more than eight or nine years old, Tristam realized.

"Nice to meet you. I'm Mattris." A puzzled look appeared on Tristam's face and he tried again. "No, I meant to say Mattris."

"It's okay," Ertrob said. "You'll get used to that, Mattris."

"That... that's not my name!"

"Maybe not where we came from, but it is here."

"You're... you don't belong here either?" Tristam asked, a wave of relief flooding over him. He had found someone like him. Or rather, someone like him had found him. Whichever.

It didn't matter. He was not alone.

"Belong? Maybe, maybe not." The boy's face, lit by the blue of the trees on either side of him, looked thoughtful. "I'm beginning to think that maybe I didn't belong back there. The longer I stay in this place, the more it feels like home."

"No thanks. I want to go back, right now." Tristam looked around the grove and was unable to suppress a shudder. A question occurred to him then but he found himself reluctant to ask it. "Wait... just how long have you been here anyway?"


Greg said...

Oh dear, Max is going to break hearts when he's older, isn't he? That is a very cute picture of him!
Hmm, another cross-over! And one who possibly wants to stay in the new world, that is interesting! Certainly Vancouver Irrealis suddenly seems to have lots of interesting secrets that I'd like to know more about :)
Heh, and I like the way that this new world doesn't just change physical things, but it changes things like people's names as well. There's definitely a fitting-in effect going on, I think.

Ertrob shrugged, his face suddenly crafty. "I don't really know," he said. "Not long, long enough? You know?" He leaned against the blue trunk of the nearest tree, and didn't react at all when the trees branches bent slightly inwards and the leaves seemed to caress him. Tristam shivered, forgetting everything that had been said, and almost reached for the boy, then pulled back again. Then he reached out again, and stopped, halfway to touching him. Ertrob laughed.
"They're not dangerous," he said, stroking the tree. The leaves rustled as though stirred by the wind, but Tristam couldn't feel a breeze. "They're friendly, it's like what our side of the world must have been like, way back then."
"Way back then?" Tristam was starting to feel as though he was being teased by this boy. Why wouldn't he just say what he meant?
"Yah." Ertrob pushed the branch aside and stepped away from the tree, which rustled to itself. "But if you're going again then I don't think you need to know."
"I don't want to know," said Tristam. A seed of doubt in the back of mind was pushed down, but as he did so, he found himself wondering what the boy, Ertro– no, Robert dammit – meant by need to know.
"Great," said Ertrob. He turned away and walked back in to the trees.
"Wait!" Tristam thought that Ertrob wasn't going to stop, but then finally he did, though he didn't turn back around. "Wait, how do I get back?"
Ertrob shrugged and started walking again.
"No, please wait!" Tristam started forwards, then stopped jerkily, unsure of getting closer to the animate trees. "Please! I need to know how to get home."
Ertrob still didn't turn, but he looked back over his shoulder. "How did you get here?" he said. "Just do what you did to get here and maybe you'll get home. If you're sure you know where that is."
Tristam watched helplessly as the boy disappeared into the subtle blue glow of the copse, and then turned back to the pond. He scuffed a foot in the grass, annoyed that the wrong smell rose up, smelling like citrus instead of grass, and wondered what he'd done to get here. He'd sat down and eaten in Anne-Marie's restaurant. Was that what it would take to get back? That should be easy enough to do.
He hoped. He sat down in the grass and stared at the mirror-like surface of the water, and hoped as hard as he could that Anne-Marie was coming back.

morganna said...

Tristam continued to sit by the pond, although he was starting to shiver as the sun went down. Would Anne-Marie come back? Or would he freeze to death here? Would eating at the table in Anne-Marie's restaurant really take him back to his own world? Since Ertrob's abortive visit, he was starting to think that there was something he had forgotten, something that had happened right before he entered this world. What could it be?

He racked his brains as he shivered by the pond. Just as another rustling began in the trees behind him, he remembered. Just before he had appeared in this world, a small boy had brushed by his seat, bumping his shoulder. Could that have been the trigger?

Marc said...

Greg - yes, he certainly is.

That's a wonderfully creepy scene. The description of the trees was particularly effective. And you've given us some things to ponder as well, nicely done!

Morganna - I love the idea that Ertrob may have been the one who brought Tristam over. Whole world of possibilities with that thought...