CHAPTER VIII : summer without feelings
Sam emerged from the waters, breathing as hard as he could.
The fight was rough and he was hurting everywhere.
He had never been in a real fight to the death, but this was intoxicating.
He had transformed into a beast during these last moments, guided by his primal instincts only.
It was taking a completely different form now.
A ghostly, dreadful form of what had just happened.
Despite all the efforts he had put in battle, he had been thrown off the cliff by the savages attacking them.
Even worse, he saw with his own eyes Mog being stabbed, a spear running through his body.
That image was still painfully flashing in his mind.
But he had to push that thought away; he had to reach the shores before drowning through the muddy waters.
But why were the waters so muddy?
He had fallen into the sea, so how could that be?
But there wasn’t any time to think about that, he needed to get back to safety.
He floated more than swam to the coastline, only to realize that this was more of a swamp than a beach.
Still bleeding and feeling himself drifting in and out of consciousness, he grimly sensed that he had switched worlds again.
Mog was probably dead, and he was lost travelling through worlds again.
With a smile he thought that it would probably stop soon enough, for his cuts wouldn’t stop bleeding, and with it he felt his life slipping away from him.
But instead of letting himself die on a rotting shore, Sam felt the urge to try and save himself from such a despicable end.
He thought it was pathetic, he couldn’t accept the idea of dying like a nobody in an unknown land.
The remnants of his ego resurged after all, whispering that it was way better to go out in a more theatrical way; a loud bang echoing through the ears of the world, whichever one this was.
Despite his own will, he had travelled through worlds like no one ever did.
He needed an end worthy of a great adventurer, not a fading tramp decomposing on the coasts of a swamp.
Gathering all forces left inside him, he stood on his trembling legs, seeking for something within reach of his sight.
The air felt cool, it was probably summer.
There was an old castle nearby, with cars as big as limos parked outside.
A way out.
He made it through the weeds, chose a black one, and broke the window like he had seen people do in films, wrapping his dirty shirt around his fist.
Of course, he hurt his arm which dripped blood all over him, but he didn’t care about that.
He was already bleeding to death; this couldn’t hurt more than the rest.
Sam opened the door, sat in the driver’s seat and thought it wasn’t so different from the ones he used to drive in his world.
The inside was grand, with big seats, woodwork and leather.
The glove compartment was engraved like a king would have on his most valuable safe.
He opened it up and was confused by what he found.
A narghile was internally carved into the wood, and a little pouch of sugar laid beside it.
He didn’t care what kind of sugar it was, he took it whole, like he was used to ages ago, when he was still living in his world and not astray into the mess the Indian girl had caused.
The kick-in was nothing like he had ever experienced before: his whole body was aching, yet seconds later it wasn’t anymore.
No pain, no thoughts left in his mind.
The only one he still had was that he would probably die with a spirit blank as a sheet.
Without even noticing it, he found a way to start the engine and began driving, speeding on the road ahead.
Some silly people were yelling behind the roaring car, but he couldn’t care less: all he could think about was his driving.
Sam never really loved speed; he was a scaredy-cat, a careful boy.
But this felt nothing like the Sam he had ever been in the past.
A funny thought popped into his mind: with the multitude of Sams there probably was in all of those different worlds, this was a completely new one.
Speeding his way through the forest, he thought he could at least have the indulgence of tasting the narghile.
And he did.
Everything became blurry.
Colors shone brighter, his scheme of thought became an old grandma’s patchwork of things he had lived and imagined, everything coming together at once and shaping a storm raging through his head.
But he had no time to think about that as he was now approaching a city, and the lights emanating from it were dazzling his eyes to the retina, leaving a mark each time he winked.
As soon as he entered the town, Sam or what was left of him, thought that this was probably what Paris had looked like in the early 1900s, except for the flying fairies and walking trolls in suits.
But this was probably an after effect of the sugar and narghile combined, maybe there wasn’t even a city, maybe he had already died and was speeding to the afterlife.
This particular thought made him laugh so hard, he forgot to look at the road.
There were a lot of people in the street at this time of night, for night it was.
And while Sam may have been blind and delirious, he couldn’t not feel the shock when his car hit something on the road.
Opening his eyes suddenly, and only half realizing what was happening, Sam saw a body crashing into the windshield, shattering the glass to pieces.
Hitting the brakes almost as hard as he had hit the man rumbling over his stolen car, Sam stopped in the middle of the street, dully coming back to his senses: he had probably just killed someone.
Stepping out of his comfortable seat without a thought for the folks standing idly by, or terrorized he couldn’t say, he went to the man lying face down on the pavement.
Turning him to see if the man was still breathing, a shock even more brutal than the one he had just experienced shook him: the man had his exact same face.
Except maybe for the early 20th century costume he was wearing, that man was the same as him.
Though he had to admit that this man’s beard was much more fabulous than the one he had. But no mistake could be made.
This man was the Sam in this world.
And he had just killed him, crushing him like a moth would have crashed into his windshield.
There were people shouting in the background, and whistles echoing through the street.
Anyone including Sam could have recognized that these people represented the law.
Then, without really knowing what he was doing, he started to run, abandoning his car.
He ran through the streets like he had never run before, stumbling on passers-by, fear enveloping all of his being.
What would happen if they caught him?
How could he explain all of this?
The penalty for running over someone exceeding speed limit in a state far from sobriety was probably the same everywhere across the worlds he had been in, even if that special someone he had ran over was his doppelganger.
Luckily the sugar and narghile had stopped the pain, and while he had regained a bit of sense, his body was still in a mid-hallucinating state.
There were a lot of folks around, most of them suited up in the same costume trend his other self was wearing, and truthfully, he thought they all looked like some old Parisian writers.
What a great neighborhood to crash into.
Following only his most basic instincts, the ones only a strayed and scared-to-the-bones dog would have when fleeing a beating from an unwelcoming home, Sam ended up in a park.
The kind with benches and trees growing everywhere but which had been carefully installed by a thoughtful mind.
The whistles were getting nearer by the second, so when Sam noticed a tree with a big hole in it, a rush of blood and fear threw him inside.
When the men in uniforms came to search the square, there was no soul to be found.