He stared back calmly without a word, as if accustomed to being threatened in such manner.
“May I have my neck back?”
I began to return to the present. I took notice of my startlingly icy cold skin, finally realized my hands still about his neck, and allayed my grip in time to heed the warning of my retching stomach.
“You were sleeping so peacefully I could have sworn you to be in some happy place,” he grinned, incognizant of the matters he was making light of. “However, now you seem a bit tense…”
“You seriously didn’t see anything? I was asleep?” I rhetorically inquired, still feeling fairly disoriented.
“I’m not the person who took one… Much less chose the red one first.”
“I thought you said you didn’t know which was which?”
“No, what I said precisely was that I couldn’t tell you which was which.”
“Nice,” I replied flatly.
“But your nearly ruining my favorite rug reminds me of an offer I have for you, before we continue on to the next seed.”
“Yeah, I’m not so sure at the moment of your offers of supposed good intent.”
“You don’t even know what it is,” he countered. “Don’t you want to live to see what’s next? You’ll need this in order…” he trailed off as though with a knowing air. he jumped up and again fetched a crimson-filled vial from the disorderly table’s contents and held it out to me.
“There’s no fucking way.” I sat unmoved.
“Very well, I can out-wait your nagging curiosity,” he conceded. He set the vial down on the edge of the tallest candle and sat down. “And where did you pick up such outdated language?” he laughed to himself. He directed his eyes to the remaining seeds in front of me. “Now reconsider; you’ve already got the potentially rough one out of the way. Of which, may I again inquire as to what you saw that so shook you?”
Reminding myself that he was of no responsibility for the content of my vision, I attempted to quell my aggravation. “I saw spirits, the evil ones. I don’t know what else to call them. Four of them- but one was different, coming from the shadows behind you. I’ve known them many times before throughout the ages, but seldom in such a personal and violent manner.” I decided to eschew the details. Similar had happened before, but then there was no rescue but Time. “I also heard and felt a great Wind that scattered them. There were deafening voices, though I could not interpret what they were saying.”
“Hm.” his expression betrayed no surprise. “I can’t tell you what it means, but it will likely serve you to have experienced in its context. Keep it in your mind for that Time.”
“You don’t know, or you won’t tell me, again?”
“Both. I’ve ever remained an advocate for learning by experience.”
Recognizing that further inquiry had yet to get me anywhere with the man, I rewound the unpleasant event in my head to commit to memory. In my rumination I found myself looking at the clock again- of which remained frozen at 3o’clock. Surmising it was broken, I queried as to the time-mindful of where I would be attempting to sleep.
“I think your clock is broken?” I looked up at the steadfast hands, still pointing to the 3 and twelve. “I arrived here an hour or so ago, and the Sun was getting low, so it must have been roughly 6 in the evening then.”
“I don’t need a clock- it’s of no consequence to me. it’s always 3o’clock in my mind, is that not also the case in yours?”
“No…I don’t follow.” All I had heard of any implication was that 3 in the morning was held by some as the easiest hour to shift between the physical, astral, and other planes.
“Regardless, Time does not pass in the way you likely believe it to. You’ll find in this place- in particular and hereafter- that the Sun rarely rises or sets at the Time you would expect, or hope. Neither does the Moon any longer chase the Sun or follow in its “proper” path. Even I’ve seen daylight last for a week straight, and darkness for months. There is no prediction nor observation of Time’s manner of passing; in most places you’ll find it three times as fast, and in a few- just half. So there’s no keeping track of Time; it simply goes as it wills, with or without us- and stops for very few.”
I stared back incredulously.
“Is this belief why you previously thought that I had been walking for days- because it had only been less than one. I was just exhausted when I started…”
“I’m not here to convince anyone, and if I were- well, I wouldn’t.”
The man was clearly either insane, speaking in riddles, or both. Harmlessly so, but in the same.
But in fairness, he also seemed to know things for which I could not account for. I picked up another seed from the table, a light green one. I decided that whatever I saw next would determine for- deciding between the two- which he was. I reminded myself of all the different ways in which I had already died, in order to quell my anxiety, and gulped it down.
This time I immediately noticed the shift, and was conscious of the fact that I was quickly overcome with drowsiness. I opened my eyes to find myself lying on my back, squinting up into a grey torrent of rainfall. Rising, I beheld that familiar low sky of heavy clouds, feigning a black pitch. I stood in a vast glade against the trees, of which was a field of mostly dead grasses up to my knees. The rain poured down in angled sheets, silencing every other sound or thought. I thought to bring to mind where I was, but I could not remember how I had gotten there or where I had been before, and my mind seemingly could behold no tangible thought.
I brought my eyes back up from the dirt to notice a very distant break in the abyss of clouds, through which a single ray of sunlight broke through, shining down upon what, I did not know. Looking back out across the field, I then noticed someone sitting down in the grass, their back to me. My inquisitive nature brought me to tread forward through the muted grasses, mixed with all measures of thorns that had been rendered dull in the rainfall.
Slowly drawing nearer, I made out long, wavy hair of a shade impossibly undecided between red and black, or simply the coexistence of both. I made my way around to the side, standing silently, but she did not avert her eyes from her fixed forward gaze, as though too looking off into the distance at the peculiar beam of light.