James sat in the road, necktie fluttering in the wind.
All around were the passersby and random drivers.
A massive bustling city. That’s what everyone said it’d been. Had been, but was no longer.
Great skyscrapers stretched into the sky in various states of function and failure. Roads were everything between trafficked and abandoned, clean and strewn with litter.
Those who walked by him stared, though he mostly knew it because he could feel it more so than he really saw it.
All he saw was the lens.
That’s what they’d called them.
Large elliptical shapes that stood as tall as a two-story home, and nearly as wide. They rested a few inches off the ground as though hovering on some small pillow of air.
Looking at it was like looking at highly polished glass – the way it reflected, but still let you see through. The way it allowed you to see the world, but saw the warp and bend of light that gave certain objects at the edge a weird bend in how they looked.
James took a deep breath and gave a wince as he did. He didn’t want to think about it too much.
So many had left already.
Science and politics had tried to sway the deeds of man, but there was too little to be done, too many locations to deal with. No one even knew what they were.
They only knew that you could walk into them, and you were just…gone…
But to where?
Heaven? Hell? The past? The future?
James always wondered if maybe it just threw people into the bottom of the ocean, some deep watery grave where nothing ever floated out. Or maybe they were launched into space, a small army of bodies that had voluntarily ejected themselves from living so that they could float off like frozen debris in the void of stars and asteroids.
Picket lines had formed. People decried it as the work of the devil.
Crowds formed. People screamed that it was a test of God – a literal leap of faith. It was the rapture.
In time, those who didn’t walk through them simply walked around them.
Were they the brave ones? Were they the cowards? The smart ones? The foolish?
James could hear his song playing now. Sharp and shrill and rhythmic.
He remembered when she’d left him. He remembered when she’d gone through. He remembered his father doing the same. He remembered the wreckage left behind as his mother fell to pieces in her twilight years after that departure.
He remembered businesses failing. Businesses starting to try to capitalize on them. He remembered…too damn much.
He’d lost friends. Enemies. Lovers. Family.
Tires screeched and passersby became idle onlookers. Doors flew open and James could hear the feet shuffling over the ground.
He stood, arm clutching his stomach where blood was already leaving him too fast for him to hold onto fantasies of a full recovery.
“Put your hands up over your head and turn around!” the voice came out loud and harsh through the bullhorn.
“I always wanted to see the ocean,” James said as he stumbled toward the lens.
Part of him hoped they’d shoot. Part of him hoped they wouldn’t.
His hand touched the glossy surface, somehow the blood didn’t even seem to touch it, as though it existed here – but not entirely. It was cool to the touch, smooth.
“Last warning!” the voice came again, “Put your hands up above your head and turn around!”
Maybe they took people to the past.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
Maybe he could find himself. Maybe he could tell himself to be…