Anson phased in and realized he was not where he intended to go. The heat hit him first—the nerve endings in his epidermis tended to be more sensitive than the rest of his sensory organs.
The dark gray of his vision burst into bright blindness and he threw his hands over his eyes to block out the intensity. Slowly, he peeked through his fingers, squinting against the glare. As his eyesight adjusted, his new surroundings came into focus.
A vast canyon sprawled before him. Trees that looked like twigs stretched up from the depth of the gigantic ravine. A sliver of a stream that was surely a raging river scratched its way through fuzzy foliage. It took a moment for Anson to realize that he stood on the precipice—if he had phased in a third of a meter forward, he would have appeared mid-air and subsequently fallen to his death.
Stupid! he silently scolded himself. Gotta be more careful.
He crept back away from the ledge, and dirt crumbled from the spot his toes vacated. His heart’s beat thrummed in his chest as full realization hit him as to how close to fatal this trip nearly was. His legs turned wobbly and his knees folded. He plopped to the ground, trembling.
After a long moment of drawing shaky breaths, Anson regained control of his mutinous body. “Okay, where am I?” he asked, his voice a mere croak. It had been at least a year since his vocal cords had finally stopped betraying him when he spoke, and he did not like the raspy sound they now made even if no one was in the vicinity to hear it.
He jumped to his feet and spun around. Yep, that confirmed it—absolutely no one was near, possibly for kilometers. Maybe even longer.
Okay, concentrate. Concentrate. Concentrate. He concentrated.
His destination was Paris, so how did he end up here? Where ever here was. He had been off the mark before; after all, he was still learning how to phase. Just never this far. He definitely was not in Paris.
He ran through his lessons on phasing. Focus your mind on your destination. Check. Enter a meditative state. Check. Allow your body to become transcorporeal. Check. Tap into the photonic stream. Check. Create a psychic sight-line to your destination. Check. Launch yourself into the phase stream. Double check.
So where did he go wrong?
This was the part Anson always had problems with, which caused both him and his Mentors much grief. It was rare that he would end up exactly where he wished to go, though usually he arrived just a few meters away from his target. He always tried to land in an open field because he had heard stories of people phasing into a wall or into a moving vehicle—and here he nearly ended up one of those cautionary tales. He wondered that if he had gone into the canyon, would anyone have been able to trace him there to retrieve his body?
A shiver snaked through Anson’s system at the thought of plummeting through the air. He wondered morbidly if he would have felt the impact upon hitting the ground.
Stop it, stupid. Can’t think of that. Gotta figure out where I am.
The problem with phasing was that a lot depended on knowing your location—not with your mind, but with your body. You had to feel part of the geography. The photonic stream was much like air currents in that there was a specific course where it flowed, and that course could change due to a number of factors.
Something sparked in Anson’s memory. The photonic stream. The flow. Had there been a disruption in the current?
An emotion much like giddiness overtook him. He was certain he was onto something. This memory, or a ghost of a memory, seemed right. He took himself mentally back to the moment where he was phasing out. That preternatural calm that surged through his muscles as his mind dove into the stream. And then…and then…
Much like a mirage on a distant plain, there had been a wavering. A slight distortion. But in his noncorporeal state with his mind in flux, almost his entire existence was distorted. And while the entire phasing process was not traumatic, it was heightened, like the most vivid dream imaginable. Once you finished phasing, the trip evaporated into forgetfulness like a reflection on water of the sun that had just set.
Anson tried to force his brain to remember other trips he took where he missed his destination. Did he also experience those disruptions then? He wanted to believe that he did, but he wasn’t convinced that these memories were real.
Another thought crept into his mind, one that was a bit more disturbing—if this happened to him, how many other people experienced it? And why didn’t the Mentors know about it? Surely if they were aware of the distortions, wouldn’t they warn their students and tell them how to overcome it?
Unless there was no way to overcome it.
If the Mentors knew about the distortions but did not warn their students, wouldn’t they be responsible for accidents that occurred? And any deaths caused by those accidents?
Like his near death.
“Let’s say that distortion threw me off track and sent me here,” Anson said, his voice coming out less crackly now. He paced in a circle, as he tended to do when he was deep in thought. “All I have to do is pay attention to the distortion and avoid it. Then I’ll get to where I’m going. Right. It’s gotta work that way.” He hoped.
He returned cautiously to the edge of the cliff where he had phased in and looked out over the great expanse. Was this the Grand Canyon? He wasn’t sure if there were any other geographic formations like this anywhere else in the world, though he thought it was possible.
We’ll go with the Grand Canyon for now, he told himself.
Again he stepped away from the edge. No sense tempting fate.
He prepped himself for the phase. The calming period always took him about a quarter of an hour or so. He focused his mind on Paris. All else dropped away from his consciousness. His breathing and heart rate slowed to a minimum. He felt the molecules in his body separate from their solid state—this part was always the most unsettling to Anson, so it took more effort to maintain the meditation.
As his physical form became less, his mental state opened a seam from his normal existence into that of energy. All about him flowed the photonic stream. He didn’t see it with his eyes, as nothing in his body actually functioned as it did before, but rather he sensed the packets of light swirl around him. Once there, he projected his mind out, thinking PARIS!
Time in the photon stream was difficult to calculate, and tended to be malleable. And with his extreme awareness, his perception of time was most certainly longer than reality. So it seemed to take forever before the image of that familiar city appeared. He searched through the old-fashioned streets and ancient buildings until his essence located a park that sat under the ruins of the Eiffel Tower. That was where he needed to go, and he narrowed his whole attention on it.
Wait! The distortion!
He had nearly forgotten about it. If for some reason he was the cause of the distortion, then he needed to find out why. Or at the very least identify it.
Anson widened his faculty and again sensed the photon stream around him. He forced himself to go even deeper into the calm state of being. He felt the energy around him—through him—with his entire self.
There it was—that ripple, starting like an echo in the distance, then rolling toward him. It was tough to reach out his senses around him and continue to link the image of Paris, especially when the distortion hit. It was less an impact than a wave that tried to spin him. Yet somehow he managed to ride it out.
As soon as the distortion passed, he launched himself.
A cool breeze played over his bare arms and face. The light wasn’t as painfully bright as it was after his last phase-in, but it still took a moment to get used to. Finally, he opened his eyes and looked up at the steel A-framed construction of which long ago the tower portion had broken off.
He was exactly where he wanted to be.
Now he had to find his Parisian Mentor. And discuss his discovery.
Anson wondered, What will he say?
copyright © 2015 Stephen Wise