Something was wrong. Jasper wasn’t entirely sure exactly how he’d reached this conclusion, but he had. Perhaps it was the absence of the ever-persistent door-knocking of his little sister, telling him that he’d be late for school—not that he seemed to care much about unpunctuality nowadays—or perhaps it was the paradoxical sound of crickets nearby. Paradoxical because crickets don’t tend to survive the English winter, and what he was hearing was most certainly crickets. Plural. Douzens. Too many to count.
Either way, even before Jasper Flemming opened his eyes, he knew with an almost utmost certainty that wherever he was, it wasn’t within the confines of his bedroom in the eastern parts of London. London, the capital of the United Kingdom, that is; not one of the numerous other Londons that exist throughout the world. He wasn’t quite sure if he should open his eyes. Was it safe? He kept them shut for a little longer, taking in his surroundings via his other senses.
The surface on which he was lying on was hard, like packed dirt. Rustling of leaves. The smell one tends to assign to somewhere tropical and humid. His clothes clinging to his body like adhesive tape. And there was something else—something he hadn’t previously noticed: the slow and steadfast sound of someone breathing. Or perhaps even more disturbing—depending on a plethora of different factors: something breathing.
But as perplexing and downright frightening as the facts he’d gathered so far were, he didn’t immediately go into full panic mode. Jasper rarely panicked, and he wasn’t about to start now.
Slowly, he opened his eyes, allowing them to adjust to the light. High above him were tree-tops, the sun filtering through the leaves. This wasn’t England.
He turned his head to his side, spotting the individual responsible for the breathing: a someone of the male variety. Early twenties, stereotypical surfer guy by the looks of it. He had a head of light brown curls and was sporting a golden tan. He even wore a tee-shirt featuring the exceedingly intelligent statement A BAD DAY AT THE BEACH IS BETTER THAN A GOOD DAY AT SCHOOL.
Jasper was a big believer in stereotypes.
This is so bloody surreal, he thought.
The breather grunted in his sleep.
Jasper pushed himself up from the ground, brushing dirt off of his blue-and-white plaid pajama bottoms. He turned around, and what he saw surprised him more than any of what he’d seen so far: a bell-tower. Smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. The bell-tower was a small-scale version of Big Ben, though not exactly small by most standards. There was something strange about it—other than the fact that it was situated in the middle of bloody nowhere—the face of the bell-tower was blank. White and blank. Nothing there. A feeling of terror ran through him, the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, but he quickly dismissed the feeling, not wanting to let fear settle within him just yet.
When fear first pays you a visit, it’s not leaving any time soon. It’s there to stay.
The bell-tower looked so out of place that he couldn’t help but laugh. It looked comical. How did it get here? And why? But perhaps more importantly: how did he get here? It couldn’t be a dream; it was too realistic, too concrete.
He was on the fence about how to proceed, what his next move ought to be—to take action or remain passive. His gaze moved from the bell-tower to the breather, who now seemed to be almost half-awake, turning and tossing.
Surfer Boy coughed, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. He acted like everything was normal, and perhaps, Jasper thought, a terrifying and admittedly rather far-fetched idea forming in his head, maybe to him it was. Perhaps he lived here. Maybe the stranger had drugged him, kidnapped him, and placed him here—for who knows what reason. He’d always known there was something not quite right about surfers. Although the likelihood of this being true was probably minuscule, he couldn’t quite shake the theory.
Jasper stared at the stranger, thinking that this was it. In a matter of a few seconds, his potential kidnapper would be awake. He had to make his decision now—run or stay. But he couldn’t. Instead Jasper pondered why it was that his brain suddenly felt like mush, when fear really is supposed to make you agile.
Surfer Boy blinked several times, and Jasper saw his eyes widen in surprise. “Where the hell am I?!” said the guy, and Jasper quickly decided that he probably wasn’t his kidnapper after all. “And who the hell are you?” The guy blinked some more, a confused and decidedly a little dumb expression on his face.
“I don’t have the slightest clue,” Jasper replied honestly, and caught himself feeling almost happy to have company—however poor said company was deeming itself to be. At least he wouldn’t have to wander the woods alone now. He could use Surfer Boy as a shield to protect himself from potential dangers. “And I’m Jasper Flemming,” he added.
The guy got to his feet, and they shook hands. “Logan Young.”
A brief yet awkward silence ensued.
“God, this is strange,” Logan said, pointing out the oh-so obvious.
“You could say that.”
“You sure it’s not a dream?”
“Well, technically we can’t be sure of anything yet.”
“So you’re saying it’s a dream?”
“No. I’m just saying that we probably shouldn’t completely discard the idea, but that the evidence doesn’t exactly point towards it. I don’t tend to remember my dreams, but then again,” Jasper said, the wheels turning in his head, “perhaps this is what my dream reality feels like as I’m dreaming . . .” he said, wandering off.
Logan nodded his head in a way that said that he was impressed with Jasper’s line of thinking. “Interesting,” he said, pausing, “Did you try pinching your arm?”
“No,” said Jasper, through a small laugh. He didn’t know exactly why he laughed; the situation didn’t seem to exactly call for laughter. Or perhaps it did. He hadn’t quite made up his mind yet on that matter.
Logan pinched his arm. “Ouch,” he said, rubbing his now red skin.
“Probably not a dream, then,” replied Jasper in a snooty tone, who, despite the slight silliness of the arm-pinching experiment, felt like applauding Logan for thinking of it.
“Is that a . . . bell-tower?” Logan said, craning his neck, and taking a couple of steps back in order to get a better view of it.
“You think this is some kind of government experiment?” Logan suggested, widening his dark grey eyes.
“A government experiment?” he said, mirroring his words. “I really don’t know. I suppose it’s possible.” It was the best theory so far, and while he didn’t exactly find this theory all that plausible either, he was surprised that Logan had thought of it, who, judging by that dumb look in his eyes, seemed to possess the accumulative brainpower of approximately three goldfish—and that might even be a stretch.
Logan seemed to mull this over for a moment, but didn’t comment on it. Instead he said, “So, what should we do now?
Jasper wasn’t sure if he should feel flattered that Logan turned to him for answers; he knew just as little as Logan did, and was therefore in an equally poor position to make decisions. So he just said, “What do you think?” He quickly felt like a coward for not giving him a proper answer, though.
Logan puffed out his cheeks, looking a little disappointed. Then his expression brightened. “Well, I mean, it can’t hurt to explore this place, right?” he said in a tone that Jasper found to be overly optimistic, and clasped his hands together.
Actually, it could probably hurt, but Jasper didn’t mention this.
As they walked, neither of them saying much, Jasper couldn’t help but notice the woods becoming sparser and sparser, and once in a while, they would spot something that didn’t quite seem to fit in—a pine tree, for example. It might have been Jasper’s imagination pulling tricks on him, but he could swear that it was getting colder by each and every step they took. Not that anything should surprise him given the situation he was currently in, but still.
Logan, who was only wearing that silly bloody surfer tee-shirt, had goosebumps all up and down his arms, and Jasper, who was walking barefoot, could swear that his feet were beginning to go numb. His clothes no longer stuck to his skin, and there was a sharp bite to the air.
And it wasn’t just that. It was quiet. Eerily so. Although the chirping of crickets from before had been unnerving, this was infinitely worse. A feeling of immense loneliness wrapped itself around Jasper—a blanket that provided the opposite of warmth and consolation. Even Logan had shut up by that point. Earlier, Jasper had comforted himself by thinking that surely there must be others here, too. Others with no recollection of how the hell they’d ended up in this place.
Now he wasn’t so sure.
In fact, ever since he’d realised that he wasn’t at home, he hadn’t been sure of anything. This was a completely foreign feeling to him, but it was worse than any other bad feeling because it didn’t function like sadness or anger did. Banishing it to the back of one’s head and calling it irrational didn’t do it for confusion.
The only way to shake confusion is to seek answers. At least he was sure of that. But how? And what if no matter how long and hard one searches, one is still left in the darkness? What if the answers don’t arrive not because they don’t wish to be found, but instead because they don’t exist? How long is a reasonable amount of time to diligently pursue said answers? Jasper had no clue. He could only hope that their search wouldn’t be completely for granted.
That was when the snow began falling—heavily. Simultaneously, Jasper and Logan turned their heads up to the now overcast sky, watching as abnormally large bits of white fluff tumbled silently from the sky.
“What the actual fuck? WE’RE IN MOTHERFUCKING NARNIA!” said Logan, and let out a short, dubious laugh.
“That seems fairly plausible at this point, actually,” Jasper said, in a low, concerned voice. Although he found Logan’s way of handling things slightly uplifting—though granted a little unconventional—he couldn’t quite manage to return the laugh. He quickly regretted that he didn’t laugh, though; Logan probably needed it just as much as he did.
It took a little while before what he was seeing truly hit him. In a matter of an hour’s walking, they’d moved from a place with a climate similar to the amazonian rain forest, to a place with subzero temperatures and snow. From what he could tell, they hadn’t moved much farther up in height either, so what they were seeing was simply not scientifically possible. Although he knew that the human mind was extremely perceptible to hallucinations, he couldn’t bring himself to believe that what they were seeing was, in fact, all a figment of his imagination.
Dead looking trees bared of their leaves stood scattered across the barren landscape, reminding Jasper of skeletons, their arms outstretched, reaching for something better, someplace less depressing.
“Maybe we should just head back. My feet are about to morph into actual ice cubes,” said Jasper through a poor attempt at a nonchalant laugh, and tried to wiggle his toes. They responded, though only barely.
“Yeah. I second that,” said Logan, admittedly looking a little deflated.
With little purpose and really no idea of what they were going back to—except for a warmer climate—they turned on their heel and began walking back to where they’d come from.
That was when he saw it. Jasper wasn’t certain at first, thinking that he must have seen wrong, that this time it had to be a hallucination. It had to be the cold. He was suffering from some sort of shock—physical or otherwise.
But it was unmistakable. Logan had stopped short in his tracks, too, wide-eyed.
A mere two feet before them stood some sort of antlered animal, depending only on its hind legs for support. Its fur was short and black, its antlers bone white.
Its pure white gaze was human-like and all-too-familiar to Jasper.
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