The sound of footsteps. Things being dragged across the ground. Someone coughing. Voices. I couldn’t see a damn thing. Just blurry, white, whiteness. Where the hell was I?
My body felt like rubber and broken glass. When I tried to move I felt a kind of disorderly numbness that probably should have been excruciating, given the number of things that seemed out of place. But, fortunately I’d been spared the pain for the moment.
There were other noises. Distant, thunderous blasts, and sharper reports that were obviously much closer. Footsteps were all around me.
I heard my name, followed by a rush of syllables that blew past by my ears in a breezy, metallic, echo—distant and alien—as if I were wearing one of those old-timey diving helmets.
“Wayne, something something echo something echo echo.”
I tried concentrating on the words—really focusing—but it didn’t help.
“Who’s there?” I tried to say. To me, my voice was hollow and remote. That, combined with the fact that I couldn’t actually feel my mouth, my tongue, or my throat, forced me to imagine forming the words, hoping that they were at the very least intelligible. “Who’s that?”
A flurry of nauseating sounds were offered in reply. The blurry, white nothingness that was the limit of my vision, was temporarily interrupted by a blurry, dark nothingness. A passing cloud? A person looming overhead?
And then, much louder, as if someone were screaming in my ear: “Something something echoey something something!”
I understood nothing. But, I was at least able to make out the tone. It was a familiar voice… I believed I knew the person who was trying to speak to me.
I tried again: “What is your name?”
A sudden crack! like a clap of thunder reverberated in my ears. Even in my near deaf state, it was deafening. My ears started to ring.
I called out: “You there?!”
I screamed it again, as loud as I could, or at least as loud as I could imagine.
For all I knew, I was face down in the mud.
I called out again and again. Over and over. But the voice, and the footsteps, never came back.
I was alone again.