Episode XL – Just Freeze.

Tiny water droplets hung in a partially congealed limbo on dead branches. The branches were festering with rot and gorged with a winter of excess fluid. Gangrenous leaves were plastered on the black bark in a mockery of growth. The upper reaches of the tree were indecipherable to the eye because of the thick coat of fog that obscured everything above ten feet in height. The thick grey blanket hovered at that midpoint in the air, and threatened to fall to the ground, squashing everything underneath. Its diaphanous substance had to settle for absorbing all sounds that came from vocal cords. Every last syllable disappeared in puffs of vaporous futility in the ephemeral mass.

Relentlessly, torrentially, and inexorably, water poured from the invisible watering can that rested just above the clouds and trees. Each square inch of purported unoccupied space was filled by an endless train of precipitation, each drop shoving and nudging the one before it toward the ground faster than gravity wished to operate. The elemental commute was further complicated by a fell wind blustering. The gale screeched from unknown quarters, prying and yanking at the tired hydrogen-oxygen bonds with evil fury.

Sparkles of diamond chains of lost molecules cascaded in last minute throes before impacting on the sodden mud of the ground where grass had once set forth roots. Minute fractions of topsoil reeled in mid-air and contorted in agony in perfect rings above transitory circles that disappeared as the barrage of droplets continued unabated.

One step from the door, and I was a sodden mass. Two steps from the door and I had forgotten the eyes of the majority of the team who watched the four of us heading out to the empty area. Three steps from the door, the ambient temperature yanked at the heat of my core with long talons that had already stripped off warmth from my extremities. Four steps from the door and my heart’s clockwork beat was racing against the demons that hid in the elements like it was Armageddon. Five steps from the door my chest rattled and hummed with fluid that had been forced into my lungs. Six steps from the door I stopped.

I didn’t look left. I didn’t look right. I didn’t want to imagine that I was alone and foolish. I cautiously moved forward. Seven steps. My mind had already admitted the futility of shivering, and my muscles shook not at all. At eight steps, I could literally feel my red blood cells refusing to journey into my fingers, and stopping at my wrists. Nine steps. The rain pounded at the anvil of my skull in quick staccato hammer beats.

Then there were many, many, steps, breaking my slow resting motion, comprising ten, eleven, twelve, and more all in a quick succession that frozen neurons could never hope to comprehend. The blank black asphalt fell away as my feet sped over its flooded flawed surface. I leapt and soared. For a fleet second, I was just another particle being cast about randomly on the X and Y planes of time. That illusion vanished in the blink of an eye.

Massive momentum threw me forward, forcing every atom aside. My chest smashed the mud out in all directions. The ground fought back, battering and bruising my ribs. My flight had been short; the arc of my jump too narrow and low. My velocity caused the fetid weeks-old top level over-saturated groundwater to scratch at my tightly sealed mouth with covetous envy. Tendrils of dirt caught in the crevasses of my nose, ears, and eyes, and wiggled like feverish newly hatched maggots. Assorted twigs, trash, and other rotten materials latched onto my arms from the depths of their disturbed graves. Slimy, slippery things penetrated into the gap between my hair and scalp and sucked fast with leech-like efficiency. Hordes of bacteria rapidly infested the layers of dermis opened by bits of branches.

And then it was over. The only motion was the rotation of the planet, whisking my body along through the stars. Behind me, my meteoric swath of disaster cut through the twenty odd feet of swamp I had disturbed. My feet slipped out from under me as I stood. Somewhere, the bog had taken my shoe. Forty-two steps, I estimated. The contamination of infection coursed through every major system of my body. The unsustainable fire of fever was catching ablaze. There was nothing to do for it, but to take several more steps, and slide and slide again, scorching the water logged earth with the folly of myself and my teammates that I could now see all about me, experiencing the same moment.