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The Distant Presence

The first Chapter of a book about two people who meet each other on the internet and in mysterious real life circumstances. Natasja and I never met for real so the “coordinated writing” took a fair amount of e-communication skills. Since women’s perception and feelings about life and the expression of them vary from men’s to a certain extent, the contributions from Natasja are in italic to offer you the possibility to refine your understanding of gender differences in response to various events.

 

Chapter I

 

You know those crispy, wind-still fall mornings showing nothing but grey clouds slowly swaying over the ground instead of flying high, with chilly thick air carrying the moldy scent of decaying leaves? This was one of them. Diluted darkness tainted the peaceful forest scene, as if foreknowingly reigning over the eye of a vivid colorful storm to come. Condensed dewdrops broke the silence when they splattered on the autumn carpet with a faint rhythm of an omni-spherical metronome. The silence was not even disturbed when the local Tawny Owl flew by during its last predatory sweep. Maybe it had imagined one of the Wood Mice sticking its pink nose out from the burrow nearby. The earliest bird of the mice family usually sniffed around for fresh morning air, or more likely for possible dangers, wiggling its head about in all directions. Since no mice seemed to be around that morning, the owl landed on its habitual spot in one of the big, bare oaks and tended its feathers before settling down for the daily rest. I bet it had noticed the faint glow on the horizon as well, soon to distend into array of sunlight between the trees, drawing first red, then gold lines in the mist.

To add a poignant touch to the primordial atmosphere and quite frankly also for coziness and warmth, I gathered some dry twigs and pineapples and started a fire, not bigger than a hand. The smoke cut a twirling column through the haze and was promptly caught by the first beam of sunlight high above the trees. An early blackbird hopped nearby over a frosted grass patch, looking for worms. It suddenly flew up and broke the silence with an alarming call together with a rustling noise from the tree canopy at the edge of the woods. It was easy to recognize what animal had created the uproar, using the sweep of branches to jump from tree to tree. The squirrel speeded down the stem of the big oak, stopped dead in its tracks for a brief moment with its tail up in the air and then ran into a small moss-covered valley in the woods. It didn’t appear again, so I crawled over to the edge of the valley and peeked over the rim. It was nibbling at something and looked up every now and then until a twig broke under my foot. The squirrel shoved the food in its mouth and ran up the tree, where it nervously continued to eat while looking nervously around.
I just left it in peace and when the sunlight spread into the valley, I noticed a group of edible Boletus on the moss carpet. I picked one, gathered a couple of chestnuts on my way back to the fire and tossed the lot into the smoldering ashes. The silence and serenity had returned, a slight breeze created a dance of gold and yellow mist swirls between the trees and an occasional leaf twirled down slowly and settled itself on the soil for its final journey. The boiling chestnuts sizzled and soon enough one of them popped and jumped in the air. I juggled it around a bit, peeled it and took a bite from the roasted mushroom to add a rich wild taste to the creamy chestnuts.

The morning was really breaking through when I stood up to pick another mushroom. I found one resembling a Milkcap in the middle of the Boletus group. It had a pinky shade over off-white skin, very slender and smooth all over. Hoping for its edibility and for the heck of it, I promptly created a witch circle when I picked it, took a small bite and returned to the fire to roast it. A faint unfamiliar sound behind me made me jump and look back. Spread out in the middle of the mushroom circle laid a woman, asleep it seemed. I could see her breath fog in the cold morning air. She wore nothing but a long white shiny nightdress and her blond hair covered her face. I just stared at first but when the image didn’t go away after blinking and rubbing my eyes, I quietly walked over, picked up a feather and tried to move the hair carefully aside to see her face but the feather went right through it. Now, that confused me at first but when I took a closer look, the sunlight revealed beautiful features indeed. She smiled with her eyes closed, breathing softly. I tried to touch her cheeks but again my hand touched only air as it moved through her head. It felt like digging into a pile of warm cotton buds.

Early bird songs muffled her soft moaning, but I could hear it nevertheless. After a while, I just got disappointed that I could see, hear and sense the thing but not touch it. I rubbed my eyes, pinched my arm, shrugged at having a silly daydream and returned to the fire to eat the rest of the chestnuts. Unfortunately, they were all charred, the fire was out, the eastern breeze had blown the mist away and it was getting warmer. With the early morning charm of the woods gone, I returned to the valley to have another look at the mushroom but half hoping to have that dream again.

It was still there, to my surprise and secret pleasure. I knelt down at her feet and sniggered like a kid waiting to play and experiment with this thing. First, I tickled her imaginary foot with the feather, making her giggle in her sleep. Then I gave one of her toes a firm air squeeze. Instantly, a scream filled the woods as she jumped up, looking around in panic while I tumbled on my butt with a fright. She ran away, stopped half way down the valley, turned around slowly and stared at my undoubtedly ashen face with a bewildered look on her face. She approached step by step, seemingly frightened but curious. I couldn’t help just stare at her, well... at her breasts, other features not sufficiently covered and her sensually foxy face. Hence promptly losing any sense of reason.
How did you get in here?” she asked.
“Through there.” I said bravely but shaken, pointing at the east entrance of the valley. She looked around and said something more to herself than to anyone else.
Shit, I must have left the door open and fallen asleep.”
“What door?” I rubbed my face and squeezed my arm again. At this point, I was really convinced that I was dreaming, hallucinating or worse.
The woman suddenly picked something up, pointed it in my direction and started yelling at me.

“Don’t touch me or I’ll shoot!”
I only just managed to keep a straight face and smirk, “What with?”
For a second she looked puzzled but then composed herself, “This gun, ya nut!”
“I'm not a nut, but it seems you are, if you exist at all.”
You bet I exist, now git out!” She aimed at my belly.
“Look, you're in the middle of a wood, which happens to be my garden and you are a hallucination so what should I get out of?”
What do you mean? I'm not in any wood, I’m in my home! You're crazy! Go away!” I saw her cocking the presumed gun.
“Don't shoot; I think you’ll just ruin something in your house. Maybe I can prove that I'm not really where you are.”
I slowly walked backwards towards the oak tree with my hands up in the air and saw her eyes become as big as saucers when I disappeared, probably through the wall of her house. I could still see her putting on a gown and run out of the valley. She disappeared for a while and then showed up next to me.
What are you?”
“I'm a living human being as far as I remember, but you're definitely not for real here, like I am not at your place. I can see and hear you but I can’t feel you and you can't either, I bet.”
When she moved her hand through me, I felt the same strange sensation as before, almost like a heat wave moving in my body.

This feels strange. Do tell me I'm dreaming, okay? These things just don’t happen for real.”
“Maybe not, but it feels pretty real for a dream over here, I am definitely standing in my garden and I am very awake.”
Well, I must be the one who is dreaming then.”
I shrugged and pointed to the valley: “Is that where your house is?”
Yes, but your hand is stuck in a wall right now.” she giggled.
“Shall we go back to the inside-your-house? You must be feeling uncomfortable here. I won't harm you, promise...”
Okay, but walk with me. I hate to see you walk through my wall, gives me the creeps.”
“I can't, you're walking through about five oak trees over here while going to your door.”
I watched her going to the valley entrance, walked forward again, sat down on the ground where she was sleeping before. Strangely enough, I didn’t see anything extraordinary again for a while and just stared blankly at the woods while I waited and tried to get my thoughts straight. By that time of the morning, the bright sunlight illuminated the oak leave colors from yellow over red to sheer violet and peeked through a little hole in the canopy right on the spot where I dropped the forgotten mushroom. After all that mysterious stuff, I had serious doubts about my edibility judgment, and was glad I didn’t eat all of it. I tossed it in the air just when the woman walked into the valley again. She sat down next to me and stared without saying a word.
“I'm sorry I woke you up.”
“How did you?”
“I squeezed your imaginary foot.”
But why would that wake me up, since I can't feel you?”
“In fact I can feel something when you touch me, some kind of warmth. Try it.”
She waved her hand through my head and smiled.

“Wow, I do feel it as well now, strange how it woke me up, though. Why did you squeeze me in the first place?”
“Just as an experiment, I didn't know you were something real.”
I wonder how it would feel if...” She stopped talking and looked with a twinkle in her grey eyes straight into mine.
“It’s worth a try.” I whispered, moved over and slid into her image. The sensation was enormous, the world around me turned into a spinning rainbow of colors while I saw the mushroom flying through the air in a graceful arc and splash on the ground.
I was alone again.

 

I remembered waking up as if from a drugged sleep, feeling a cool breeze touching my face and wondering why because I knew I was inside my house. Then I felt the sudden sensation that I was not alone. I sensed someone's eyes on me, very close to me, so close that I could have reached out and touched them. I was not actually afraid, but I didn’t want him to know this till I gather my thoughts together and figured out what was happening to me. My breath stopped in my throat as I gazed as this man before me. His fine chiseled face stared back at me like I was a mirage or something, like I intruded his privacy, like I was somewhere I should not be. I reached for my gun and pointed it at the image next to my feet. As he spoke with a deep, intriguing voice, I realized that was exactly what he was thinking. He actually accused me of being in his woods and valley. I shook my head to clear my thoughts as he kept telling me this wild tale. I couldn’t take my eyes off his face, he looked so familiar to me. Someone I should have known, yet I didn’t know whom. I felt a chill go up my spine. It must have been the cool air, which made me realize that I was cold! How could that be, the stranger was telling the truth, I was in his woods! I slowly walked away from him, still trying to get my thoughts in order, thinking how strange all this was. After a few minutes, I came back, walked over to the man and sat beside him. He told me I couldn’t touch him, only hear and see him. I slowly placed my hand where his face was. With a shock, I realized it went right through it! I almost fainted from the sensation that it caused in my body when I did that. Made me wonder how something else would feel. I think he wondered the same thing too, because he moved his body into mine. I closed my eyes and gasped when I felt him. It was so unreal, yet such a wonderful feeling that I had never experienced before. When I opened my eyes to ask him if he felt it too, he was gone.

 

Written by: Natasja Ivanovskaya & Ivan Lynnishkin (aka Solbe)

 

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