A Christmas Treat — That Between Is & Not

wreath

It’s been a while, I know. We’ve had difficulties at Hrothgarian Productions’ Headquarters, what with the virus and all. Oddly, people don’t work as well when they can claim to be having technical difficulties and no one can disprove it. Fortunately, we’re getting back into the swing of things and may very well start posting regularly again. Maybe.

Well, I’m glad to be able to wish you a Merry Christmas this year, from as many of the Hrothgarians as we can confirm are still alive. They intend to have a reunion of sorts soon, and perhaps we can slip a Hrothgarian Productions Interviewer in to ask them a few questions.

In the meantime, we have a special little Christmas treat for you all; Tobias Hrothgar has just sent in a report concerning a certain rabbit trail he got lost down not long ago. Care to take a look?


By Tobias Hrothgar

Andrew’s been growing a bit restless as of late, which worries me. I’m afraid some of what we showed him welcomed a dangerous sense of want, so I’ve been trying to keep his longing at bay by keeping him busy. Unfortunately, I had to go away when I began picking up bizarre continuum readings. Vail, graciously, said that he would be willing to keep an eye on our friend Andrew while I went away, so at least if he tries anything foolish, I’ll be quickly informed.

The reading’s I’ve been picking up is well worth noting, though they’re more observations. Across the entire world, there were reports of what I see as a “ripple”. A man would be sitting in a pub and everything to his left would go completely still, everything to both sides of him would speed up significantly, and then everything to his right would go still. This means that people would freeze in place, beer would stop pouring, and all sound would cease, but only for a moment. It sounds like some sort of ripple in time, passing over everyone, but it seems to cause no direct harm. 

I might have just ignored it if it only happened a couple of times in a small area, but other contacts across the Union stated that the exact same thing was taking place in their ordained worlds. Despite its seeming harmlessness, I gathered that the wisest choice would be to investigate the “ripples”.

After a quick week of examining and pondering the matter, I determined that these ripples behaved much the way a sound wave does, which could very well mean something was sending out a message we incapable of deciphering. Either way, I needed to find the source of this possible communication, and so I bid Vail farewell and good luck and set off on my way. 

I already had enough data from my communications to know that there were only five worlds that the “ripples” could be originating from, two of which were uncharted, so I would just have to stop by each world until I could find the source. The prospect of recording uncharted worlds very nearly distracted me from the complicated ordeal concerning Andrew, so I set out eagerly, first going to Floga, a rather unpleasant jungle of a place, known for its 40 degree Celsius winters.

In Floga I was welcomed by Vail’s girlfriend, Anwen. She had been hanging out in Floga on a quick assignment and ended up staying longer than she intended when the “ripples” began, to keep people calm. I stayed for just a couple of days before I determined that the the “ripples” were too slow and spread out for the source to be in this world. I thanked Anwen for her hospitality, and I moved on, taking a rift to the next world on the list, one of the uncharted lands.

I didn’t stay long in the world. In fact, I didn’t even remain for ten minutes. I climbed out of a hole in the ground into a cold and empty arctic world, the snowfall not allowing for vision beyond five metres. Empty may not actually be a very accurate description as a rather enormous snake-like creature surrounded me—which I failed to notice until I nearly ran straight into its giant mouth. Understandably, I decided to go the other way, and with the aid of some firecrackers and a mysterious snow pirate of sorts, I was able to escape and crawl down another hole I came across which, believe it or not, was a direct doorway to another world.

Squeezing between two rocks, I felt a familiar tug, and when I looked up, I was somewhere else entirely. The sound of wind and the cold of the frost died away as my senses began taking in their new surroundings.

Before I tell you about what I saw, I want you to take a moment to open up your mind as I share this world with you. Think of a place that’s on the border of not and is; a place that has, yet hasn’t. Where there is silence, but it overwhelms the senses, where there’s light, but it feels no different than standing in the wilderness when all light is taken.

I stood on the border that divided a desert and a forest, a bottomless ravine cut into the earth like the gods had a pizza cutter. But it sounded like I just contradicted myself, didn’t it? I said I stood on the border, and the border is a ravine. Let me explain: I meant exactly as I said, for I stood directly in the middle of a perfectly straight and smooth, ten-metre wide trench, my feet firmly planted in the air.

To my left was a vast, white desert if smooth stone, with no cracks or inconsistencies. The ground was as flat as a pancake, assuming the pancake maker is capable of making his pancakes as flat and level as this desert.

On my right was a wall of trees. Not a branch reached above the ravine and not a leaf rose above another to touch the sky. Someone might have assumed this forest was attended to, but if you were to see it, you would know without a doubt that no person had so much as set foot on the ground in this whole silent place.

Not a single gust of wind dared blow. I’m not even sure there was any motion to encourage the air to move. No sun was visible, yet a constant, clean light shone over the desert.

Seeing nothing of interest to my right, I turned to the left and urged my legs to move toward the trees. My legs, rather not liking the lack of solid ground beneath them, did not immediately comply, so I had to urge them more sternly before they gave in. It was most mitigating, I did not plummet to my death immediately but instead was able to walk the whole five metres and step into the arms of the dark, awaiting wood.

What I stepped onto rather intrigued me: Instead of earth, tree roots were woven together in an intricate and beautiful pattern. They offered an even, level surface to walk across, and the trees were spaced apart perfectly, each tree identical to the one before it.

I tread lightly, scared to break the deep silence that had sunken further down for who knows how many ages. The light was dull beneath the cover of the trees, but somehow it felt brighter here than it did in the open. As I walked, I observed the straight, rough trunks closely, noting the unbroken pattern each tree shared.

But then one was flawed. A single crack that might have gone unnoticed stood out so clearly from the perfect unity of the rest of the forest, a single loose thread in the factory cloth. I ran my finger over the crack, then was startled by a sharp pain in my head. The roots unwound themselves from around the tree, and I dropped with it down into darkness.

I tried to scream, but as if in a nightmare, not a sound would come out. The feeling of falling was one that was all too familiar, and I squeezed my eyes shut to quiet the fear. But then nothing had happened. I opened my eyes and I was standing just as I had been before, hand on the tree, but now the flaw was gone. I thought the feeling of dread would fade away, but I still had I strange feeling I had just died, even though I was clearly quite alright.

The forest whispered ever so slightly, though the air remained motionless. I had an uneasy feeling that the trees were watching me. I realized this had been the case before, where they had been curious, but now they seemed displeased. I began walking swiftly, ignoring the quickly rising tempest. The trees swayed and howled in outrage the faster I went. They began pulling in closely, closing in the space between them. Limbs snatched at me, trying to take me.

I put on an extra burst of speed and stumbled out into oblivion, flailing for some sort of a handhold. Stars glared at me in such a way that I didn’t think most stars were capable, but this was clearly not a world of friendly stars. Or trees.

But then I was in a field, wind blowing and grasshoppers humming as they should. It was truly a welcome sight after what I had experienced.

I’m still investigating the time “ripples” as before, but the forest hasn’t left me quite yet. I’m not sure it ever will. I continue to feel that I died, and though I’m alive, I’m never bringing back whatever part of me I lost in the whispering wood.

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