Note: This is an excerpt of The Boundless, a novel.
Aaron fell into darkness, hurtling headfirst through an ethereal stratosphere. Stars rushed past and transformed into a swirling kaleidoscope of fire. Colors emerged and transmogrified. Black became red became green became orange became purple, the passage accelerating as he did, and he could not slow his speed no matter how hard he tried. There was nothing tangible to grab, not even ground to drag his feet against, and no brakes. It was like falling upward off the highest cliff, with gravity reversing and propelling him into space exponentially faster with every moment.
Then it stopped.
Aaron lied on solid ground. He gingerly reached out a foot to gauge the solidity of the ground. There was nothing but empty space. Everything was black, save the stars.
He fell again.
The stars rose away from him. He desperately grabbed for the unseen platform upon which he had stood. One hand caught the edge of something, but a powerful force dragged him down, taking the platform with him. Stars whirled and funneled inward from afar, spiraling past as the hole in space inhaled everything. He felt the heat of the stars and the icy vacuum they left after they died. A horror rose within as he looked down and saw only darkness.
He lost his grip, but his fingernails somehow held, stretching and bending until they broke one by one in bloody eruptions, and all that held him was the unnaturally distended and curled fingernail of his left ring finger, terrifying in its footlong distortion and status as all that separated him from oblivion.
And whatever else it was, it was oblivion. Of that Aaron was sure. If you die here, you die there. The words echoed within his mind, words he had heard before, though he could not recall where. His bare feet began to break up and disintegrate into disparate molecules. He screamed, but nothing came from his mouth but a black cloud that swallowed the light. He reached up with his free hand to grab hold of his distended fingernail and used it to climb back atop the platform, but each time he neared it, the vacuum sucked him back.
Please get me out of here, he begged God, the universe, or whatever higher power would listen. He didn’t want to die in this astral graveyard.
A loud crack shook him: The last fingernail. He scrambled and reached upward. It snapped and gave way.
Aaron closed his eyes and screamed silence once more.
He pitched into the black.