It was a slightly encouraging thought , except that it made me worry where we would end up, especially because I was pretty sure we were still in the Effect. I looked up at the trees around us, to make sure they weren’t disappearing.
In my distraction I tripped over a cinderblock. It was one of the last thing I had expected.
“Watch it!” Donny warned as I stumbled forward. “There’s more ahead.”
I looked up. The forest was still flat and misty, but now chunks of pavement stuck out of the mossy ground. Sharp grey against the green, half choked by the earth. I felt my ankle stinging from where it had hit the block. There as defiantly more of that ahead.
“Well that’s…odd,” I muttered. We both continued on, but carefully as the pavement made the whole ground uneven. It was wet and slippery too. We scuffed our soaked shoes on it and followed it. Though after walking a few paces I found it sturdy enough and my feet were used to it. I looked up, and hurried my stride a little. There didn’t seem to be any major pitfalls ahead on the trek across the pavement.
“Well that’s….odd,” I heard a distant voice echo behind us.
I stopped, and so did Donny.
The doubles were there again, at the start of the pavement; yet strangely it seemed as if they couldn’t see us. And as we had seen them before they were shadowy, half-there, almost transparent. I shivered as I watched myself pick my way across the pavement.
“Come on,” I whispered to Donny. She did, pulling her sweater close around her. It didn’t seem like this time we could lose the doubles, they were going to follow, and repeat everything that we did. I wondered if they too would think their doubles were following.
We went on a while like that, the four of us, and I started to feel particularly cold. The damp had gotten to me, and probably the presence of our company behind us. The mist had thickened too, and I didn’t see any end to the pavement.
But now even the mist was beginning to look suspicious. It made me feel groggy, as if I had just woken up, and my surroundings were still rather vague and dark. I think Donny felt it too when I heard her stumble behind me. But we could only go deeper in it, because that was where our path lead. Soon the mist was becoming our surroundings, and everything else just stuck out of it. The grass, the trees. I looked back and saw even the doubles had faded into it.
That made me cautious again, because I couldn’t see what lie behind or ahead. I looked down at my feet as they navigated through the cracks of the pavement. I watched my every footstep, waiting at any moment to find a sink hole.
Instead, the mist began creeping around me feet. The way through the mist was getting narrow, and it was as thick as cold, white soup.
“Donny, take my hand,” I said, a little panicked. I looked behind me and she grabbed mine. The mist had begun to come between us too. I wanted to hurry, but everything around us just seemed too unsteady, as though if we moved too fast it would all shatter, like a good dream that you don’t want to end; except this was a bad dream that I did want to end.
I wondered then if it would work, if a little movement was all the Effect needed to break. I would have to shake the grogginess from my head to do that, but it seemed very probable.
To confirm my grogginess I tripped on a tree root. I caught myself on the guiltily tree, wrapped up in the mist. I pulled Donny up beside me as I stepped over the root.
“You know how if you scream you can break out of a dream?” I said. My voice was low. My lungs didn’t feel apt to help me along.
“You want me to scream?” she asked, bemused. I snorted.
“No,” I returned. “We need to run. The Effect is slowing down, at least I think it is. If we run, it won’t be able to catch up.”
“And we might be able to run right out of it?” She looked over at me. Her dirty face had livened a bit at the idea.
I nodded. She dropped her hand. The next moment she broke into a run ahead of me. I followed, sore ankles, headlong into the mist.
We were fast, but it felt like tearing through a web, and the mist endless ropes of netting. I had no idea what direction we were headed in. But soon there was no more pavement beneath us. We were running on soggy ground, cracking sticks and tearing up mud. My breath caught tight in my throat, it was hard to breath, as it felt hard to run, but my feet wouldn’t stop.
It seemed to be working. Already I could see more clearly Donny running ahead of me.
“Donny, give me your hand,” I heard the voice. My voice. The doubles were somehow right in front of us. Donny didn’t see them in time. She screamed as she ran into herself. She was knocked to the ground when she tried to swerve out of the way.
I slowed and looked up. The doubles started walking forward, not noticing us. Then they got stuck, like a bad tape-recorder. And then they skipped ahead to the next part.
The doubles ran, but even as they did their shadows began to break apart. They shook and jerked like a scratch on a vinyl. And so did suddenly everything around us.
I looked up. The mist was falling, it showed through to the trees. And they were shaking violently. I heard the branches creaking and beginning to break. They started to fall.
I flung myself over Donny, already doubled over. The branches didn’t hit us, but I could still hear them breaking. The leaves shook like huge gusts of wind. They were shaking down to the roots of the trees. I could feel them beginning to pull up. It made the ground was shaking too, rumbling as the roots began to tear themselves up.
I clung closer to Donny. I heard branches falling, even though none hit us. Then the roots directly beneath us began to pull. The earth was pulling away from under us. But even though I felt it, we weren’t moving. There was terror, but nothing was happening.
There was a huge groan from behind us, like a beast finally resigning to its death. The tree was at last falling too. I heard the trunk snap like a spine. The roots tore up a huge chunk of the earth, and the tree fell.
But then for a moment everything was still.
All I could hear was Donny and myself breathing. My own heart pounded. But slowly I began to hear other noises. They started one by one, like figures out of the mist. They were city noises. Trucks beeping. People walking and cars purring as they waited at stoplights.
I looked up. We both did. Soon we both were standing up again on firm, smooth pavement. We were at the bus stop, on the outskirts of a group of people currently boarding. They didn’t notice us as we filed behind, shoes quite muddy compared to their own well-polished ones.
Donny pulled back her hair as we got on board. The bus was heading towards Central. We were finally on our way.
Donny’s phone buzzed.
“It’s Mira!” she exclaimed. Then she put the phone to her ear. “Hello?”
I looked back behind me as we went through the doors. I didn’t listen to what Donny was telling Mira. There was a crow sitting on the side walk, looking back at me.
I winked at it and let the doors slide shut.