Perchance: Part II is the second chapter in the ongoing Perchance serial, a fictional story revolving around Joe Wood’s encounters in the unreality of dreamscapes. Click here for the previous chapter.
Joe felt sore. A sharp pain raced through his spine and into his shoulder muscles. Nevertheless, he felt as comfortable as he possibly could, given the circumstances. He knew that he was on some sort of bed or cushion, but he still had yet to open his eyes. The smell of smoke and fragrant wax entered his nose – candles. He could still hear the ocean in the distance. Any doubt about the reality of his situation, waking up in the boat in the middle of the ocean, heartily disappeared.
“I know that you’re awake. That’s good. We were worried. Don’t try to move yet. Take your time. I’ll get the others.”
He heard the footsteps of the speaker departing. As well as he could tell, the voice sounded young, likely belonging to the younger woman who had been kneeling closest to him on the beach. He continued to wait, simply listening, at ease.
He heard swinging fabric, flapping in and out of tension. Birds lightly whistled and clicked. There was nothing threatening about the place; he felt no reason to be afraid.
Joe slowly opened his eyes, the brightness searing in through a thin line in the tent flap. The room itself was dark, shielded from the sunlight and glowing with twisting candlelight, but the open triangle, faced towards the setting sun, was enough to overcome his vision. He closed his eyes once again, his blindness painted orange through his eyelids. Then, he perceived a shadow, as the orange faded to violet. He heard people entering. He clenched his fists, still caked in traces of dried-on sand. Before he had a chance to speak or see who had come in, he groaned softly, “where am I?”
“You don’t get to ask questions like that. Not yet. How did you get here?” a different voice answered; this voice sounded deeper than the one before and had a noticeable bite to it, as well as the soft twinge of some unfamiliar accent.
“I don’t – I don’t quite remember. Something led me here. I followed it, an orb. A glowing sphere, that took me, transported me near to your island.”
Joe felt the room’s silence. After hearing the shifting of feet in the sand, a third voice, likely belonging to one of the two older women that he remembered glimpsing on the beach, added, “and why did you follow the orb?”
“I don’t know.”
“What did it look like? Be specific.”
“Whitish blue. A sphere, but dynamic, like looking at the moon through fog, or on a cloudy night.
Again, he heard the pair shift on their feet. He leaned upwards a little and opened his eyes completely, seeing, as he had expected, the two older women, who stood further off. He was on a low, clean bed, in the corner of a wide canvas tent, while the two of them stood near to a table, which, seemingly composed of old planks and driftwood, sank at an angle into the sand floor.
The woman on the left, the owner of the first voice, had black hair, and her sharp eyes cut outwards from a rounded, gentle face. At the edge of her eyebrows, thin frown lines seemed to just have begun taking shape. She reminded him faintly of a teacher, with her features striking the balance between benevolence and authority.
The second woman had a freckled face and a pinched, upturned nose, divoted at the tip, which lent a sense of false or unintentional patronization to her countenance. She had wide cheeks and a firm jaw, outlined firmly by her auburn hair, and seemed to be quite athletically strong, holding herself in a posture of controlled tension.
“Who are you?” Joe finally managed to ask.
“I’m Mo,” the first replied.
“And I’m Cal.”
“We know who you are.” In answer to his puzzled look, Mo threw Joe a mound of leather. It was his waterlogged wallet, with driver’s license still intact. “This was in your pants pocket. It’s the only reason that this interrogation has been so civil. You’re clearly not a threat.”
Before they could answer, the younger woman walked into the tent, holding a towel and washbasin. Mo shook her head in Joe’s direction, silencing him before he could inquire more into the so-called threat. The young woman looked at him with a soft smile. “Good evening, Joe. Glad to see you’re with us. I’m Sandra,” she said.
I’ve told you that that’s not your name! What is your name?
“I’m Sandra,” she said.
What is your name?
“I’m Sandra,” she said.
To put it simply, Joe found himself enthralled by her almost instantly.
No. I told you, this is not that kind of a story. But there’s no time to reset. Rebekah, dear, that’s not the story that I want to tell you. Not the one I need to tell you! It doesn’t matter what he thinks of you. All that matters is what you are. All that matters is what you are to me. You are real to me.
Fine, go on.
Sandra’s voice seemed optimistic, and she carried herself with some untraceable, confident energy, unable to be confined. He could not tell if it was simply in his own head, or the way in which she opened the front flap of the tent, but when she entered, the whole room seemed to brighten.
Sandra placed a wash basin down on the table and laid the towel out beside it. “I thought that you might want to wash up,” she said.
Joe nodded. “Yes, yes please.”
“Alright then. We’ll leave you be. Come out of the tent when you’re ready, and call out if you need any help.” Sandra made her way towards the tent opening, turning to the other women as she did. “Come on, nans, let’s give him some privacy.” Glancing briefly at each other, the two followed her. This time, without a doubt, Joe noted that the room seemed to darken just a little after Sandra left.
Joe began to roll out of the bed and, for the first time, realized that he felt a little different. He looked down and gasped in horror. “They changed my clothes!” he spluttered, running his hands over the thin cloth draped into sectioned segments of clothing, somewhat like a toga. “So much for privacy,” he mumbled to himself, although relieved when he found that they had left on his undergarments.
As he leaned up more, Joe’s back cracked jarringly, like fractured seashells along each of the vertebrae. He could feel bandages on his back where he had hit the reef. He stood and stumbled over to the table, falling into one of its chairs. Then, he reached for the towel and began to wash his face.
After nearly an hour, cleaning himself off and getting back on firmer footing, Joe exited the tent. The sun, now much lower in the golden sky, did not hurt his eyes to the same degree. For a moment, Joe would have even sworn that the sun itself had somehow deepened in shadow, as though obscured in an invisible eclipse. Before him, in a semicircle on the edge of a small bay, a few other tents rested on the island’s floor of sand, grass, and flowers. Amidst these tents, a wooden structure, a two-story house somewhere in size between a lodge and a cabin, stood parallel to the mossy trunks of the palm and pine trees. Closer to him, a stone table was laid out with books, maps, and lamps, and sitting there were the three women. Seeing this strange, tossed-about scene, Joe was reminded of the shipwreck aesthetic and the sprawling tree forts of tropical fantasies.
“You’re up,” Cal said, offering him a glass of water as he approached. “Hungry?”
Before he could answer, a plate of fruit seemed to almost materialize in front of him. “Thank you.” He avoided Mo’s distrustful eyes.
“How did you get here?” Sandra asked.
“Where exactly is here?”
“It’s our island. Our oasis.”
“I can see that.”
“How did you get here?” Sandra repeated. Her smile did not leave her lips, but her tone had become more insistent.
“I followed an orb, and I was suddenly in the ocean.” Sandra stole a glance at each of the other women, who themselves remained oddly stoic.
By the time Joe was finished with his food, the sun had completely descended below the horizon. Light was becoming an increasingly rare commodity, as orange clouds waned to pinks and purples. Mo stood. “It’s late,” she observed. “We need to get inside. Joe, we’ll find room for you in the house.”
“I won’t be staying in the tent?”
“The outside isn’t safe at night.” And, somehow for the first time, Joe noticed the stained machete hanging from Mo’s belt, nearly hidden beneath her tunic and vest. “Let’s go.”
Thus, the four stood and made their way towards the house. However, as Joe would soon find, this house was no ordinary house, for it had only one real room, and it rarely stayed put for long.
Click here for the next chapter.