"I am who I am."
There I was again, hanging by aching fingers on the edge of an abyss.
I'm getting tired of that.
My muscles ached beyond belief. My head was spinning and my stomach was screaming about its difficulty deciding what was up and what was down.
I closed my eyes, hoping to muster the strength to claw my way up. The strength never came. My arms began trembling and, had my fingers not been in this position so long, I think they would have let go without waiting for my conscious mind to catch up.
I opened my eyes for a moment. There above me, through the darkness, stood a little old man with a walking stick. His eyes were set deep into the wrinkles of his forehead, and his ears were slightly furry. His hair was so thin, it fell like snow-coloured threads from his scalp, though this did not stop him from growing a magnificent beard that followed his crooked form from chin to toe, thick and wild as the darkest part of Dark Africa. I swear I saw several pairs of eyes examine me before retreating.
Though he was looking in my direction, and though his ears twitched when I cried for help, he was obviously intent on something beyond me. It was as if the space he occupied was not congruent with the space in which I dangled.
My fingers began to slowly lose their strength. As a final chance, I reached out with my right hand, grasping for some purchase, determined to not go quietly and fall without struggle, and I caught a
handful of hair from the old man's beard. My left hand lost its purchase on the earth, and the old man finally noticed me.
Old and feeble as he looked, he was amazingly strong. His attention on the thing other than me was interrupted as soon as my weight pulled on his beard, but he leaned back hard and pulled me up. I collapsed on the ground, panting and flexing my fingers.
I felt his eyes upon me, glaring from deep within the folds of his forehead. He studied me from toe to the top hair on my head, and then worked his way back down. It was strange to feel his glance, heavier than six dancing elephants, crushing my body beneath their slippered feet.
A deep breath brought the scent of wet earth into my lungs, and I choked it out again. I rolled over my right side, and gazed up at the green sun, feeling the yellow grass about me. The sky was red at mid-day, and the cardinals were blue as they sang mournfully in the trees.
It was all as it was before. Or was it? I didn't remember. It all felt normal, but there was a nagging feeling in my mind, the kind that gives you a 10 foot leash, but still never lets you go.
Finally, I turned my eyes to the old man who had, in a way, rescued me. He had already turned his back on me and was now gazing fixedly over the cliff I was just about to fall from. It was as if I had never distracted him.
I tried to stand, but the stress of my recent situation had removed any strength that existed. Instead, I raised my head and called out.
"Sir!" I rasped. It seems that, while hanging there, I had been screaming. "Thank you. Without you, I would have fallen!"
"And a good riddance it would have been, too," came the mumbled reply. He made no move to turn, to try to help me up. His hunched from exuded a feeling of coldness that penetrated my flesh and
creeped into my bones.
I lay my head back down and pulled my arms around me. The green sun afforded me no warmth, and the yellow grass pierced my skin. I waited for the feelings to die down as I shivered and huddled.
I waited until I could move with less pain. Eventually the pain either numbed or went away, though I was too exhausted to ask which. I pulled myself into a sitting position, and then onto my feet. I steadied myself before stepping forward, and reached where the old man was gazing.
Even in this state I could prove myself contrary. I looked down directly over his shoulder, close enough that I knew he could feel me. I was hoping he would be more than a little annoyed.
To my surprise, the abyss was gone.
Not four hundred feet away, I was shocked to see a large grassy field. Upon it, small, bent men with long beards ran around, or waited while others ran around.
Suddenly, I realised that I knew that pattern. This was a game of baseball.
I watched in awe as the pitcher drew back, flinging a blue ball at the plate. The batter smacked it, and it flew through the air toward us.
Suddenly the old man became very animated, and his shoulder hit my chin hard. I fell back to the ground, and looked up just in time to see him catch the blue ball.
He held it aloft with a look of child-like bliss on his face. He threw down his walking stick and began to dance around, crowing like Peter Pan and clicking his heels together.
Forgetting my pain, I jumped up and joined him, dancing around him and crying happily. We spun around, arms locked together, and again I was amazed by his strength. Finally, he stopped and held the ball in his hands.
"I finally have it back!" he cried. "It's all mine again!"
I sat upon the green grass, and looked up at the yellow sun. The red cardinal was singing lustily in the tree, and the blue sky spread out above us.
"Michael, look here!" he cried, pointing to a spot on the ball that wasn't blue, but brown. I examined the ball for a moment before I finally realized what it was.
"That's Earth!" I shouted. "Is. . . Is everything right on it? They hit it very hard for it to get here."
"Oh, of course everything's alright. You might say I have a Midas Touch about me when it comes to that. Look here, though."
I finally looked where he wanted me to. I looked closely, drawing near to the ball.
"That's me! I'm lying in bed!"
"That's right. You're asleep and this never happened. You've seen it yourself now." The old man's smile got wider. "It's just as well. No one would believe you anyway."
"You know, you're probably right. Who are you, anyway?"
"Oh, you know that you know who you know who I am. You always do. Doesn't matter what I wear."
With that, he, the ball, and everything else disappeared into the cosmos, and I floated back into my bed. My alarm was going off, and everything was exactly how it was when I went to bed.
Except that I still ached all over.
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