Déjà vu?

This was to be my entry to The Afterlife competition until gosh-derned technology thwarted that plan. I've treated this as providence and decided to expand upon it slightly with the extra time/removal of character limits.

This is a story of regret, reflection and rage. It couldn't have been anyone, but it could be everyone. It's so easy to follow a path that seems to be laid out for you, by family, by fate, but doing whats right usually doesn't mean doing what's easy.


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2. Aether

Something about the quality of air, or more accurately lack of it, lack of anything, in this place made the falling different than normal. Smoother. More deliberate.
 After acclimatising to this, and without debilitating panic or mindless flailing to distract him, Tony had begun to regain composure. Of sorts.  He used his new found clarity to try to hold the remaining fragments of his last conversation in his mind, stubbornly fighting the amnesia being forced upon him.  He found, however, that the tighter he tried to hold on to his fleeting recollections, the further they slipped away.
Words flitted into and out of his mind like leaves skirting by an autumn window. Broken, distorted words with a haunting familiarity. For quite what reason the voice perturbed him–whether it be the entropic lethargy of this place or the embargo on his memories- he couldn’t place, but somewhere, in the deepest recesses of his consciousness, he knew the answer was intrinsic to understanding the purpose of his macabre trip through the looking glass.

The falling sensation continued for an indeterminable amount of time. The longer Tony felt himself shifting ceaselessly down through the rainbow of blacks, shimmering and swirling and penetrating everything, the harder it became to judge the abstracts: time, the self, the nature of this new form of existence.  The words scrawled on the little note, now his only tether to before all of this nothing, have lost all meaning, all relevance.
The note! After feeling stripped of all emotion, all internal monologue, the tingle of excitement emanating from the space that the base of his skull once occupied is exacerbated tenfold. What struck him more was how unnatural that elation felt. More so than the endless tunnel and swathing darkness.  ‘Is that normal?’ ‘What is normal?’ ‘And why does the word stick in my throat (for want of a better word) so badly?’
 Not wanting to let this convalescence of self go to waste, and instinctually fearing a return to emptiness, Tony reviewed the note in his hand fervently, abandoning his self-examination for another day.
The words, the handwriting, some clue had to be contained within this item that felt so familiar in the strangeness. Hope dimmed, then burned out and Tony found himself launching the now ball-shaped note, with something that was probably an arm, in a flash of seething anger that passed as quickly as lightning. Just as dismay had started to take root a surge of realisation entered his consciousness, crashing through him like a wave; excitement, fear, hope, anger and dismay. Emotions. A sense of fullness started to permeate from his core at the realisation that instead of dispersing amongst the tapestry of darkness, his faculties seemed to be returning piece by piece.

For the first time in this place duration felt as though it could be measured, as Tony was sure he had only the briefest of seconds to enjoy his reunion.  It was disturbed when something hit him in what was definitely his face. Images flashed across his mind. Not just words but a full-blown montage of images: an eraser in his first year of school, a bully in his third, a group of them in his eighth, a man who no longer had a home and finally a woman in a black veil. The balled-up note expanded and unfurled before Tony could try and derive a meaning from his vision, soon it was everywhere. It convulsed silently, then encased him in a claustrophobic grip. As it wound tighter and tighter the broken, mangled words from earlier returned, this time in larger fragments.
“...not a purchase...is it not?....” No. Not enough. The fragments are still too vague and dispersed to comprehend their meaning. Determination now adorns the now almost corporeal face. Focus.
A sensation like passing under a warm waterfall of sand eased the struggle as it ushered in the cascade. Words came tumbling at him all at once like a damn bursting in his mind. One painfully vague sentence was all that clarified itself amongst the din, before it happened “You will see it all. What did and what didn’t. You will have a chance to influence which becomes fact. No matter the outcome, your debt will be paid.”   
 The explosion of papery shards, their descending downward spiral, was all-consuming, noiseless, absolute and the last thing Tony would see in this place before the blinding light of the next.
 

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