Net Velocity: Zero | Julien Laforest

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The sky is white here. So is the ground. And the expanse goes on for miles. At least I think it does, I haven’t managed to walk more than a couple of feet in one direction or another without giving up on looking for some sort of end. I was frantic at first. Running back and forth, like a fly stuck under a glass. I don’t even know if I’m back where I started or on an entirely different plane. I mean plane as in a surface, not like the ones that fly or anything. Do people even fly anymore? Planes must be outdated by now, right? I mean, how long has it been? Am I even alive?

If this white expanse is the afterlife, it must be some sort of hell. Despite the apparent lack of hellfire and demons, this perpetual quiet and nothingness is slowly driving me insane.

Driving. I remember I was behind the wheel just a second ago. I forget where I was going, but I was on the road, I’m sure of it. But how’d I end up here? I can’t remember, my memory’s shot.

I tried talking once, you know. Before that, I tried to whistle, I even stomped my foot on the ground. But I didn’t hear anything. Absolutely nothing. Not a word or a sound, not even my breath. Only my thoughts and a quiet steady rhythm that I could only hope was my heartbeat.

I could smell and see though. I can’t stare too far in one direction or I start getting dizzy, my eyes start to hurt, and I feel nauseous. My mouth fills with bitter saliva and I start to gag. I always shut my eyes before anything worse can happen. The smell reminded me of chlorine or disinfectant. A subtle sweet smell, almost like lime or bergamot, broke through and struck my nose every so often. It was as if the whole space had been scrubbed down with antibacterial soap and spritzed with air freshener. Like some sort of hospital. I’ve never been one to get sick, at least I don’t think so. I mean I had the occasional cold, where my mom would bring me some chicken soup. Now my fiance does that for me. Wait no, she wasn’t. I hadn’t given her the ring yet. I never really found the right time to ask, so it was stuck collecting dust in my dresser drawer.

My mom always said that about me. I was always too hung up on the ‘right’ time. I settled too much or waited too long. The moment I found a steady job, I went for it. It’s been almost six years now working at that accounting firm, and I still hate it.

I couldn’t find any walls, and there isn’t a ceiling as far as I know. The ground is steady – maybe I could dig my way out. I didn’t have much in the way of tools but I figured my hands were as good a tool as any.

It was like oobleck or quicksand. I hadn’t noticed it before, since I’d been walking for so long. But the moment I stopped to dig, I started to sink. Any force I struck it with was met with stark resistance, but when I worked a little gentler or just not at all, it was as if the floor itself was swallowing me up. I tried to pull my legs out, but to no avail.

It was an hour or so before I fell through. Not drowned but fell through.

I was falling.

Cool air rushed past my face and pushed against my back as if desperately trying to lift me back up, almost like I was floating over a block of solid air. I didn’t know when or if I would ever reach the ground, so I wasn’t scared, just anxious. I started to tear up, the salty water burning my eyes. As I brought my hand towards my face to wipe away the tears, my back slammed against the ground. Followed by my head hitting the floor with a sickening crack. My body curled up, unmoving and flooded with pain.

It was hours, maybe a day before I managed to stand, finding myself in some desolate expanse, bereft of color or sound.

The sky is white here. So is the ground. And the expanse goes on for miles.

Julien Laforest was born in Haiti and currently lives in Connecticut. He is attending Southern Connecticut State University.

Twitter: @julienhlaforest Instagram: @therealjulienlaforest

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