Everything feels cold and wet. My jacket is soaked through. This is when I realise that I can feel again. The chill of the air as it enters my lungs. My body begins to shiver with the shock of the cold.
When I open my eyes I see that I am lying, flat on my back, on that same forest track where I first saw the birds. As I look up to the sky I see them, circling as before. But, this time, there is something different. They are further away from me and… I don’t know what, something is off. They appear to be moving much slower than normal, so slowly that you would think that they would fall from the sky. Yet, they continue to drift around in their formation.
Dragging myself to my feet, I realise that it is almost dark. Dusk or dawn, I do not know. I pray for the latter, it is bitterly cold now. So, I decide to start moving. The analysis, of what the hell just happened to me, can wait. I need to get safe and warm.
As I am walking along the track I begin to feel that the sun must be setting, the light is gradually dimming and it is getting colder. Although, that could just be my sopping jacket that is adding to that impression. I am a good hour from home and am beginning to panic.
I look up to check the sky, if it is really darkening. It is, but not only because the sun is setting, but those birds are still above me. Except now they seem to be closer. A slowly circling patch of black that is almost filling the sky. Now only 10 metres above my head, still drifting so slowly that they are defying all laws of physics. And they are silent, as if they are simply a simulation.
The closer I look at everything, the more I see and feel an inexplicable strangeness. The only thing that seems solid is the track that I am standing on. Even the trees appear, somehow, other. I decide I need to try something. As I walk to the side of the track, to where the tree line begins, the crunching of my shoes in the snow is a consolation, something true. When I get to stand right next to the first tree, I can see almost a blurriness to it. I reach my hand out to touch it, but terror is gripping me, my hand is shaking uncontrollably. Finally, I build up enough courage to reach out and touch it. As I do, solidity seems to return to the tree, at least the part that I am touching anyway. I can feel the roughness of the bark under my skin, and it appears more real, at least the part immediately surrounding my hand. About 10 centimetres from my palm it begins to blur again.
to be continued…
Have you missed the previous parts?
Part 1 http://neilhayeswrites.com/2022/01/16/tracks-a-short-story-part-1/
Part 2 https://neilhayeswrites.com/2022/01/20/tracks-a-short-story-part-2/#more-1911
© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswrites