“Where are you going?” My mom asked with a knowing grin. I finished attaching my snowshoes and looked up, “I know it’s late,” I replied, “but I’m going to walk to the pond.” She knew I loved walking at night, that I loved the snow, and even though it was almost midnight, she acquiesced. “Okay,” she replied, “but be careful. It’s late…please take your phone and bring a light.” “Don’t worry,” I responded and motioned to my flashlight and phone sitting on the bench next to me.
The night was cold. My breath formed dense, white clouds that hung in the air. The deep, fresh snow made it seem as if the world was new, untouched, unmolested. It was a perfect winter night. The full moon was bright, and its light reflected off the snow giving everything a bluish tint. My nose was cold, but I was in a good mood and my body was warm underneath the layers of clothing and my heavy jacket. The world was quiet, asleep, and the only sound I could hear was the crunch of snow beneath my feet.
My destination wasn’t far. I was headed to a nearby pond that froze every winter. It was one of my favorite spots. A few minutes after I started walking, a heavy snow decreased visibility and quickly obscured the evidence of my footsteps. I wasn’t worried; I knew the way by heart.
As I approached, I saw the vast expanse of white of the snow covered, frozen pond. The falling snow had slowed, and the flakes were large and fat. They seemed to float more than fall to the waiting ground. I took off my snowshoes and sat near the pond’s edge, enjoying the solitude and the moment. It was quiet, peaceful.
I looked out over the frozen waters and noticed something odd. There appeared to be a spot free of snow no more than twenty feet out. It didn’t make sense. I strained my eyes, tried to force them to focus on the spot, and I realized the snow didn’t appear to fall in that area. My mind struggled to comprehend what it saw, to process the data.
I stood to get a better look and even directed the beam of my powerful flashlight towards the mysterious aberration. As my eyes adjusted to the distance and the light, it seemed like there was simply an empty space in the middle of the frozen pond. The snow wasn’t falling around something, there just seemed to be nothing there. A cautious person would wait, maybe call a friend, but I was too curious, it was late, and I couldn’t help myself. I had to figure out what was going on.
I knew the ice was thick and safe this time of year. In my excitement, I left my snowshoes where they were and simply walked out onto the ice. I made my way slowly towards the empty space before me. Snowflakes stuck to my eyelashes. As I got closer, the spot only seemed harder to make out, more mysterious. “What am I looking at?” I wondered, as I continued to make my approach.
A part of me felt like the adventurer I had always imagined myself being when I explored the woods as a child. Only now it seemed real, like I was about to uncover something important, significant. I assumed my eyes were tricking me, that it was really nothing, but with each step I became more certain that whatever this nothing was, it was something.
When I was about five feet away from the spot, I realized I was looking at emptiness, at an…opening. It was as if someone had taken a giant pair of scissors and cut a whole in the very fabric of existence. I stopped walking. Before me was a giant sphere of nothingness. There was no snow on the ice where the sphere appeared to be. The snowflakes that touched the sphere, the emptiness, simply vanished.
“What the hell!” I heard myself say. It didn’t appear dangerous; or, rather, it didn’t appear to be any more dangerous than nothingness might appear dangerous. I took a few more cautious steps towards the darkness. My breathing had grown shallow and quickened with my increased heartrate. I was nervous, excited, curious.
When I got close enough, I was captivated by whatever was before me. I reached my hand out to touch it. As my hand brushed against the emptiness, my eyes went wide. My hand disappeared. I jerked my hand back and was relieved to find it still attached to my arm.
“What is going on?” I thought. I took another tentative step towards the emptiness. I was only inches away. I stuck my arm out and once again as it crossed the threshold the darkness swallowed it. I have seen dark nights, I have been in dark houses when there has been a power outage, but nothing compared to this.
I turned to walk around the sphere, to investigate further. Then it happened…I slipped. I fell to the side, towards the emptiness. I watched in horror as my right arm was swallowed by blackness. I couldn’t stop myself. I screamed, but I don’t know if there was even a sound. I was falling inside a place devoid of light and existence. I blacked out.
When I came to, I was hot, so hot. I opened my eyes, surprised by the bright, burning sun. I was laying face down in the middle of what seemed to be a desert, and I was sweating profusely. The ground was dry, cracked, and I thought I could make out some sort of succulent near me. “Where am I?” I thought, as I tried to process what happened. I remembered putting on my snowshoes and heading for the frozen pond late last night, but I didn’t seem to be anywhere near my home.
I sat up and took off my jacket. I took my cellphone out from my pocket; it was still charged. I thanked the universe. I punched in my pin code to unlock my phone. The first thing I noticed was that my phone displayed July 23 as the current date, but I had left my house to take my walk on February 14. “What the hell is going on?” I thought as I started to panic. Nothing made sense. My phone was still charged. “Did I lose time…did I suffer some sort of episode?”
I called my mom. She answered the phone and started crying as soon as she heard my voice. She explained that I had been missing all this time. When I didn’t come home from my walk, they had gone out to search for me fearing that I had falling through the ice or suffered some accident. They found my snowshoes where I had left them by the frozen pond, but I wasn’t there and there were no signs of damage or cracks in the ice.
In a shaky voice, I tried to explain that I didn’t know where I was. She stayed on the phone with me and had my father contact the police. I started walking. After about an hour, I found a road and a gas station. I crossed the dusty, worn asphalt and walked towards the station. Inside, a man wearing a cowboy hat sat behind a counter. “Where am I?” I asked, not even paying attention to how crazy the question must have sounded. The man looked confused for a moment, then simply said, “you’re in my store.” “I mean what state am I in, what’s your store’s address?” The man stared at me for a moment, then said, “son, you’re in Texas…” I didn’t hear anything else he said. “Texas,” I mumbled, “but I live in Vermont.” I collapsed; my body crumpled to the floor.
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