2225 words (8 minute read)

Chapter 2

His head was being ripped apart. Flashes of blue, then green, then red, as he passed in and out of consciousness. He couldn’t feel his body any more, for all he knew this was death and he was being sent to hell. The taste of blood filled his mouth and his mind. The pod had gone, the cold steel of the handles had disappear and he was left pushing his nails into the burning flesh of his hands. Boiling liquid seeped under his nails and down his whitened fingers. Chris lost all concept of time. His brain was a mush, holding no recognisable though, all that he could grasp to was pain. This was the only thing telling Chris he still existed.

Hours passed, the pain only intensifying, until…

Wham! Chris’ bones shook as he hit the cold, stone floor. His brain bounced of either side of his skull, like his head was playing pong and his brain was the ball. Scrunching his eyes as tight as he could, Chris just lay there, letting the pain drain away. He almost hoped he’d just die, right there and then. With his eyes closed, all his other senses started to kick in again, sampling the environment, try to bring context to the whereabouts of his. Small crackles and tiny pops could be heard, fizzling out of existence. The nostrils were assaulted by a bitter, almost acrid smell, scraping the inside walls of his nose. The floor Chris lay upon on was refreshing, after the ordeal he’d just been through, but the side of his face not touching the stonework was still hot. Too hot to be the remnants of his travels.

Chris opened his eyes. The light was dim and flickering, only coming from the centre of the room. A deep pit with flaming logs stacked in it covered a large portion of the floor, smoke rose from the writhing flames, seeping out through any available gap. Over in the corner was the pod he’d initially started out in. He must have fallen out somehow, that would explain why he’d experienced that level of pain, the pod was designed so any sub-dimensional forces were balanced out. After another few minutes of gazing round the room, Chris’ brain began to slowly grasp reality. Something was very wrong. Chris had only planned to go back around 50 years but it looked as if he was in middle ages. All the room contained was the fire pit and some wall brackets with thick tree roots resting in them, rags wrapped round the ends. He was supposed to be in an abandoned warehouse, the exact location he’d left from in 2052, just 50 years early before NASA owned it.

Dust lay on the floor, inches thick, only being disturbed where Chris and his pod had slammed into the floor and a curving arc next to the solid oak which lay out of Chris’ line of sight from the floor. There were no windows too be seen as the smoke clogged the air. Chris reluctantly began to lift his chest off the floor. His lungs filled fuller than they had since his departure giving him the confidence to make the final push to place his shaky legs beneath him and stand. He’d expected the stone to be coarse on his feet, but the stone floor was smooth, almost shiny. This room was clearly once well used. But why the lit fire still? Chris slumped against the nearest wall and began to make his way to where the pod stood. At first he’d thought it was propped against the walls of the corner, but as he neared he could see it was leaning against a wooden frame. Nearer still he could see the frame house an ornate bell. With some of the dust dispersed from it by the pod, Chris could see it still had quite a shine to it.

After a short inspection of the pod Chris pulled out his shoes. Until now all Chris had wanted to do was to go home, but once at the pod horrible memories of the pain he’d endured on his journey came flooding back. Wiping his brow, Chris decided he’d at least explore this place before going back. For all he knew he could have simply miscalculated where he was going to arrive. He could be in an attraction at Disneyworld, closed down for refurbishment. No one seemed to hear him entering this place, although he knew he must have entered with an almighty clatter of metal on stone. No windows, only one door. “Guess there’s only one way to find out.” he thought to himself. With much of his feeling back in his body and no real damage done, Chris too big confident steps towards the closed door. He wished he’d brought a camera. Why didn’t he bring a camera? Reaching the door he grasped the cold brass firmly and twisted. A little click came from the lock.” Dammit!” he thought to himself. He truly was trapped in this room, the only way out being the pod he’d came in. But he didn’t truly trust it now. If it had gone wrong before it could go wrong again, he needed to find out what went wrong and by how much. He didn’t want to get in it once more only to go through all that pain and not arrive back in the correct location. He had one more option, the bell. Chris made his way back to the pod. Moving the pod to one side Chris took a better look at the bell. Horses pranced around the bow of the bell; waves crashed around its waist; and small, ornate leaves surrounded the crown. It was indeed a fine piece of craftsmanship. Chris raised a clammy hand to the rope draped over the wooden frame, and pulled.

The tone of the bell was astounding. Crisp clear, not to loud but to quiet. It was really quite beautiful. You could hear it echo up and up, this bell is clearly at the base of a much taller building and was specifically made so it could be heard even from the top. Curious, but at least Chris new he could finally get some answers. He settled down in his pod, adjusting the seat so it was half comfortable. The whiteness of the pod stuck out like a sore thumb in this entirely stone room. Moments late Chris heard the most peculiar sounds above him. Dust fell from the ceiling as tiny clinks came from above.  They had the rhythm on footsteps but the noise itself was off kilter. A few seconds more passed. Chris tensed up. He started to doubt his decision to ring the bell. The footsteps had reached the door now and everything went totally silent. Chris took matters into his own hands, he knew how to control any meeting with new people, control the space and show them you’re in charge.

“Best not to keep a man waiting, especially when he knows it so” he climbed out of the pod and took a commanding stance a few steps in front of it.

The call clearly worked as the sound of keys clattering frantically together could be heard from the other side of the still sealed door. A small click and the door was unlocked. “Finally” thought Chris to himself, “Time for some answers”. But what came next provided no answers whatsoever, it merely opened the door to a thousand other questions. The door swung slowly open, the brass hinges groaning under the effort of moving, and in the doorframe stood two men. Not two men Chris expected to see. These men were dressed head to toe in armour. Proper medieval armour from the helmets with grill visors to the pointed metal toes of their boots. Chris’ jaw dropped not only to the floor but through it. His confident stance disappeared being replaced by a slightly coiled back body of a very scared man. The men had massive spears and both were pointed in his direction.

“This cannot be…” one guard whispered to the other.

“I can’t believe it. The old wizard was right” he sounded just as astounded as his comrade, quiet enough so Chis couldn’t hear.

“Come with us,” bellowed the second guard, “The king has waited a long time for you.”

“Shouldn’t keep the man waiting any longer should we?”

Chris had massively overshot. He planned to go back fifty years, not five hundred! Hands shackled together Chris stumbled down the stone corridor. Still no windows in sight, they must be underground surely. Chris daren’t say another word, the two guards didn’t hesitate to give him a nasty jab with their spears when he tripped and slowed previously, he was sure they’d have no remorse removing a limb or two if he spoke. The cogs in his brain were working overtime, something they hadn’t done in a very long time. Where was he? What year was it? Who was the king? If only it’d been a queen, his rugged good looks and fresh charisma could charm him out of any situation. The guards didn’t speak a word to each other as they clanked along behind, which annoyed Chris greatly. He needed information, he had to say something.

“Where are you taking me?”

A cold piece of steel entered his abdomen and Chris shrieked in pain.

“Like we said, to the king. Now shut up or I’ll run you through here and now.”

Chris remained quiet for the rest of the journey. His crocodile shoes provided little to no grip on the stone surface and the unevenness of it all was scratching the pattern something terrible. But for once in his adult life he wasn’t worried about his appearance. This certainly wasn’t a warm welcome and he had a sinking feeling it would only get worse. The smell of burning rags scorched the inside of his nose every time the passed a bracket on the wall, the clanking of metallic boots filled his ears. They brackets on the wall began to pass more frequent and it appeared that this never-ending corridor was in fact going to end after all. As a door came into side, a strange blue/green glow came with it, however it wasn’t coming from the edges of the door, but rather it came from the centre. Peculier scratchings became visible now, the ran in long, deep strokes from top to bottom with varying sized notches removed along these cuts. There seemed to be a logical pattern to the notches but with only a moment to take them in, Chris missed his opportunity to discover anything about them.

The door swung open, but it appeared that no one was on the other side that could have opened it. As Chris passed through the doorway he suddenly felt like he was about to simultaneously burst into flames and freeze to death at the same instance. He could his insides convulsing, making him wanting desperately to spill his guts from his mouth but he held himself together. He lurched forward slightly, not totally able to control his body. The guards had not noticed or if they had they probably thought he had just stumbled again. After a few seconds of this awful experience Chris felt the unusual feelings wash away. ‘Very strange’ he thought to himself. Now the pain had gone Chris turned sharply to see if he could catch a glimpse of someone or something that had opened the door, but alas he saw nothing. There was another door directly next to the one he’d entered, almost identical in fact, perhaps with a few slightly different notches but too small for Chris to really catch. He supposed someone could have slipped out right after opening the door while he had stumbled through.

Once more Chris was facing the two men in their armour and grasping to their spears.

“Wait here, the King will be with you in his own time.”

“If you are hungry there is some bread and butter on the table over there, help yourself before the rats do” sneered the second guard.

The two men turned and left the room and once more Chris was alone. He walked over to the aforementioned table and pulled out the one grubby, wooden chair that sat alongside it. The table was, if anything, in a worse state of affairs than the chair. As Chris gingerly sat he felt the chain groan and bend beneath him. He daren’t put any of his weight on the table though, not even an elbow, as it only had one central leg which looked like a starving beaver had been trapped in here. It certainly smelt that way. Despite what the guard had said, Chris didn’t think he’d have to rush to eat the bread before the rats. It was more blue than white.