Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The point of the knife

“Just go through,” said Isabella, pushing him in the small of the back.  David opened the door further and stepped through, holding the door open behind with one hand.  He stared around him, trying to reconcile this new place with the old-fashioned sitting room that they’d just come through from.  There was grass underfoot and some trees growing off in the distance.  There was a paling fence about twenty-feet away, with a black-latched gate in the middle of it.  Flowers grew in a flower bed off to his left, and after that was a freshly-dug patch of ground, and then another paling fence.  A bird twittered overhead and he looked up to see the sky, dotted with fluffy clouds.
And everything was either black, white or shades of grey.
“I’m back,” said Isabella behind him, her hand prising his fingers off the door.  He turned to look at her, his eyes glazed over and his whole face slightly vacant.  “Have you touched anything?”  She closed the door, and with a tiny click it was gone; behind them both was just a field stretching off into the slightly-grey distance.
“No,” he said.  “It’s… this is like a black and white photograph.  Only… it’s not a photograph.  Is it?”
“It’s not a photograph,” said Isabella.  “It’s just desaturated.”
“All the colours bled out,” she said.  “It happens, but we don’t know why.  It’s not the only place like this, and they don’t seem to be dangerous, although the longer you stay the longer it takes you to return to normal when you leave.”
“Really David, sometimes I don’t think you think at all.  When we leave this area and go back to a saturated zone where there’s colours again it’ll take a minute or two for us to return to colour.  We’ll be black and white temporarily.”
David looked down at his hands and turned them over and back, looking at them like they belonged to someone else.  While he stared, Isabella looked around.  She recognised the area in general; it was still part of the Teddybear land, but there were no buildings to provide a proper landmark.  She checked the position of the sun in the sky and turned to face south.  The flower bed and the dug-over ground was there, and she walked over to take a closer look.
The flowers were large blooms on thick, fleshy stems.  They were shaped like a cross between snap-dragons and tulips, and she picked a single stem, curious as to what colour it would be when she took back somewhere saturated.  The flower-bed looked tended, and recently at that.  As she looked over it she spotted a small weeding trowel and a similar sized fork half-hidden by the base of the leafier flowers.  She looked around her again then, taking more time and scanning the horizon for signs of any more teddy-bears.
“David!”  She watched until he looked up, his eyes still wide and slightly-scared looking.  For a moment she considered just cutting open a new door and leaving him here.  She hadn’t told him quite the truth about the dangers of the unsaturated regions: stay here long enough and you’d fade away until you just disappeared on a gust of strong wind one day.  “Come on!  We’re out in the open here, and I’d rather like to find a way back to our world before anyone else in this world finds us.”  She skirted the flower-bed and fresh diggings – probably a vegetable patch, she decided – and stepped neatly over the paling fence.  Then she looked back; he’d not moved.  “David!”
“What happened to the teddy-bear back there, Issy?” His voice was low but it carried in the quiet air.
“It lived happily ever after,” she said.  “Just like in the fairy-tales.  Come on, David.  This isn’t a game, remember?”
“It looked all slumped over,” he said.  “When I turned out when you came out, I saw it.  It looked –“
“Asleep,” said Isabella.  “They’re small mammals, think of them as being a bit like cats.  They sleep a lot, and they eat when they’re not sleeping.  And if they find us, and there’s a pack of them, they’ll eat us.  So come on, David.”
“Asleep,” he repeated.  “I suppose….”

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