The wind blew softly against Nick’s face as he blinked himself into awareness. He rolled out his fingers and felt the dewy grass warm against his hands, realizing he was laying down. Water flowed by him and the sound felt comforting, like a song he was meant to hear. He began to stand up slowly and stretched out his weary body.
What is all of this?
Nick had never seen this colour before, the colour of the flowers in front of him. There were thousands upon thousands of these flowers and the aroma in the air was almost intoxicating. He had never smelt this kind of pleasure before. The seemingly never-ending field of vibrant colour and smell was all he could see to his north. As he turned, he smiled at the small flowing creek and wandered over for a drink of the crystal-clear water.
Ah, yes. Some familiarity.
Nick had always had an affinity for large bodies of water and felt a sudden urge to plunge into the water. He decided against it. Nick always felt most at home when he was by the sea. Looking up at the sky above him he took a deep breath. What greeted his gaze was a bird, something crossed between an eagle and a swan, he thought, elegant but powerful. He smiled to himself and turned back toward the field of flowers.
Or so he thought.
When he turned around, he was almost knocked off his feet by the darkness. The flowers and fields were a scorched black. Everything in front of him was bleeding from the earth with a dark serenade that smelt worse than it looked. He coughed and stumbled as he tried to absorb what had happened. Then he saw the man out of the corner of his eye. The man was standing about eight feet from him, holding a long spear. He looked to be of around the same age, somewhere in his twenties, with a powerful, lean build and dark, tanned skin. The man was gazing at Nick with a look that was both intimidatingly piercing and inviting. He felt like he had seen this man before but could not quite put his finger on where. The man moved closer, slowly, and Nick stood perfectly still. He knew he should probably run, but he couldn’t. His heart was pounding into his throat.
Ah well, this is a fitting way to go.
Nick closed his eyes. When he opened them, the man was standing right in front of him, smirking. He was slowly twirling his spear around in circles.
“What are you doing here?” the man asked frankly, still smiling. His voice was deep and his accent beautiful.
Nick thought clearly for the first time since he came back into consciousness. He had no idea where he was, what he was doing, where he was supposed to be. This disorientated him for a moment. Then he looked the man straight in the eyes.
“I don’t know. I..I.. don’t know where I am.”
The man raised an eyebrow.
“What do you see all behind me?”
“I see darkness, pain, death.” Nick shivered in disgust. “Did you do this to the flowers?” he asked quizzingly
The dark-skinned man laughed hysterically.
“Did I do this?” His eyebrows raised. “You really don’t know do you… Nick?” He emphasised the Nick.
“I don’t know what? How do you know my name?”
He was backing away now as he spoke, anxiety surging deep into his bones. He turned to run and slipped. He tumbled just a few metres and crashed into the flowing creek. The water was like a slap in the face, slicing into his skin with its wicked cold. He tumbled under the water for a few moments before he could collect himself and then rose to the surface. He gasped for air and found his feet. He breathed deeply as he stood in disbelief.
Walking up the little rockface back toward where he fell, he noticed the man sitting on a rock, smiling again.
“Need a hand?”
He offered his hand to help Nick up and Nick gleefully accepted the even momentary sign of friendship.
The two men walked briefly side by side taking in the surrounds. Nick was in absolute awe. The man just kept smiling, almost smirking, in what seemed like pure contentment. The sun was drying Nick quickly and he welcomed the warmth on his skin.
“How?” Nick posed.
The man said nothing.
“Please, at least tell me your name or if not that, where we are?”
“I am you Nick, and you are me. Don’t you see? No, I suppose you don’t, they never do till it is too late. I guess then, you may call me Taabe”
“Taabe, okay. You are talking riddles. What is this place? How did I get here?”
“Look around you, what do you see?”
Both men stopped and soaked in the blissful scene around them. Flowers as far as the eye could see and the smell, well, Nick could never forget this smell. How could there be a new colour? Nick thought it wasn’t possible, yet here it was right in front of him.
“How? Where did all the fire and death go? All I can see now is colour, life, beauty all around us. It’s just amazing.”
“Yes, it sure is, and Nick – you can see it whenever you like, it is always there. The happiness, the contentment. Nothing has changed except how you yourself viewed the world in those moments we met.”
“You mean, the flowers were never burnt to a crisp? There was never a foul smell all around us? No, this can’t be real.”
Suddenly, Taabe rushed at Nick and put him in a choke hold, squeezing the life out of his body. Nick writhed with all his strength but could not resist.
“Yes, yes, fight, feel the fear. Now close your eyes. Close them!”
Nick closed his eyes and Taabe let go. Coughing and spluttering, Nick regained his breathing. He opened his eyes and there it was. The darkness. Engulfing and splendid in all its insidiousness.
“This isn’t possible… How?” Nicks voice shook as he said it.
Taabe turned and smirked once again at Nick.
“Now, my friend, look into your heart. What is it you see?”