Black and White and Is My Face Red
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Found discarded in the stacks of the Wanderers' Library, an unpublished manuscript chronicling one of the many journeys of interdimensional cryptozoologist Lady Fuchs.


forestcharcoal.jpg

It's not the charcoal making it look like that.


First Cycle


The cosmos is so playful. That's the only way I know to explain the feeling I get when I travel to a new world, and discover that it seems to have been designed to mess with my preconceptions, or stagger my senses, or fill me with awe. Very rarely do I find a plane which inspires boredom, or disappointment, or a sense of retreading old ground. I say this now because I've been walking all day in a wooded landscape of pure black, where the only effect light has is to illuminate the edges of objects in pure white, and every step I take is always downhill. In any direction. Even when that's impossible. I could walk a mile, turn around, and walk the same mile back, and be descending the entire way. At first it felt freeing, like a minor reprieve from the tedium of gravity. Then it made me feel powerful, as though I were a giant striding across a world so tiny that I could cross its bent horizon over and over minute by minute.

Now I mostly feel like I'm constantly about to fall down a slope, which is how I know it's time to make camp. I've set up a lovely little fire, and it's really quite an experience to see the white sparks crackle up from the white-rimmed logs while every time I lean to one side, I nearly tip over. Gravity in this world is like a gentle nudge towards some unseen goal.

Unseen, but not unheard. There's something in the woods, something moving just ahead of me, something either lacking the white outline or truly excellent at disguising its presence. It's the only thing with agency I've seen since crossing over, and I very much hope that tomorrow I'll be able to write with triumph about our first encounter.


Second Cycle


I'm not getting any closer, but I'm learning a lot. My quarry is quiet, but incautious; they make only the slightest sound as they move through the trees, but the stark lighting of this plane makes finding bent twigs and footsteps in the muck a simple matter, and there's always a trail to follow. The sky is black as pitch, and there's no change in the lighting from hour to hour, so I'm marking the cycles by when I fall asleep and wake up.

This is a very lonely place.


Third Cycle


The sky is no longer black, but grey. I have an inkling what that might mean, but I'm almost afraid to commit it to paper in case it jinxes me. Please, let me be wrong. In any case I've learned a few more facts about my elusive friend.

They are swift of foot, like myself. I let loose and ran across the landscape for a while, letting my feet fall where they would, flinging myself with wild abandon down the ever-declining forest paths, and caught glimpses of a solid mass of darkness barrelling away at the very same speed. I never lost sight of them, having trained my eyes to catch the disruption of the white outlines by their black form, but they never got closer and they never got far away.

They are quiet, like myself. No hoots, no hollers, not so much as laboured breathing in our long woodland chase.

They are curious, like myself. This is a guess, but it's a good one; in this two-tone plane they could easily disguise themselves by laying down in an unbroken patch of black soil, and I would rush heedlessly past. I choose to believe they're trying to learn more about me before deciding what to do.

The alternative is, of course, that they're hunting me, and this chase is just their way of grinding my energy down.

Haha!


Fourth Cycle


I ended that with "Haha!" because I didn't want to sleep on the serious thought that I might be in danger of death by patient shadow-beast, but it's the reality I woke up to. No matter when I rest, no matter how long I close my eyes, my companion is always out there. Never near, never far. And now I know they really are leading me on.

The sky is pure white now, and it's raining. White lines obscure the world. I can't see a foot in front of my face. But I can hear! Oh, yes, I can hear. A soft melody, a voice singing to me through the whitefall, tantalizingly close and maddeningly familiar. I'm rushing downhill through a thunderstorm which bleaches the black traces of earth and grass and tree trunks into a grey haze, and once again I feel like I'm losing myself in a space that might not be remotely safe. If I hadn't run out of breath, taken shelter beneath a shimmering white and black sycamore and started printing my thoughts down in prose, I might have still been out there running.

The way she's still out there, singing.


Fifth Cycle


Of course she was singing. Of course she was luring me onward. Of course, the inexorable pull to the chase. How could I have been so…

I found the remains of her camp this morning — badly damaged by sudden erosion, the storm taking its toll — and something more. A white scar blasted into the soil. I know what this is. I saw the same thing when I passed through the Way and arrived in the first contrasting clearing. My quarry was caught in the deluge, employed the better part of valour, and departed. It must have been a sudden flight, because they left behind more than the remains of their fire and their simple sleeping bag.

They left a journal. I've transcribed a few excerpts below, not that it matters; I don't think I'll be committing this particular trip to posterity, singular though it's been.

Tuesday


Do they have Tuesdays in this world? Is there anyone here, save myself, who knows what a Tuesday is? I've wandered this gloomy plane for two days now, and all I have to show for it is a few pages of self-indulgent rambling on the nature of light and darkness.

Wednesday


Finally, a subject! They appear like an apparition, a form of purest white — who knows how they'd look in more complex light? — wandering the wilderness just as I have these past few days. I don't know what sort of beast they might be, so I'll hold back for now. Watch, and wait. It's what I do!

Thursday


I'm trying to keep a respectful distance and observe the creature's behaviour, but they're onto me. They keep moving forward! I realize now that I've been drawn towards them this entire time, that feeling that the earth is sloping downwards… what bizarre control over gravity do the denizens of this world possess? It's actively difficult for me to back away from them. For the first time, I feel like I'm trudging uphill. I have to tie myself to a tree at night to avoid falling towards them! If they're this world's equivalent of a bear, well, it's been fun.

Friday


Please don't let that be rain in the sky. I really don't want to have to pop a Way and leave, not when I'm so close to cataloguing this remarkable specimen! I've been making sure to leave a good trail, bending twigs and stepping hard into patches of mud, enabling their curious chase, but if rain works the way I suspect it will around here, it'll be a good deal harder to keep leading them on.

Of course, I could just stop and chat. Let the gravity draw us together.

Then again…

Bear.


Saturday


I specifically asked for that not to be rain.

I've been leading her on — I heard her curse, once, as she chased me, and the voice was instantly recognizable as female — by singing, and it's made me feel like quite the idiot, but until I know their intentions (are they curious? violent? sapient?) it's too dangerous to get up close. You need to be patient with fantastical wildlife, just as you would with the more mundane variety. Can't spring yourself on them too fast, can't make assumptions. I'll keep moving, and keep her moving with me, until the situation improves.


Sunday


Oh, for %@$#'s sake, it's an alternate me. If the rain doesn't let up, I'll ha

Dimensional travel is such a pain sometimes.

— LF

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