A lone bird chirped distantly.
The wind rose and something rustled.
Tom opened his eyes.
The world was initially blinding until his pupils adjusted.
Clouds, motionless, appeared to be painted on a fading sky.
Sitting up, he found himself in a field, wearing a baseball shirt and jeans.
He tugged at the shirt, trying to read it. It seemed vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place why.
He’d been here before. He’d been gone a while.
It seemed so recent, yet so long ago…whatever “it” had been.
He took in his surroundings.
It was late evening by the sun’s position, right above the horizon.
Trees off to the east. A lake to the south. Some thickening brush to the north. Hills to the west.
He rose, and after a moment’s deliberation, headed west.
It just felt right.
He couldn’t explain it if he tried, but it felt like he was supposed to head for the setting sun.
Like he belonged there.
He’d only gone a few paces before noticing a baseball glove lying on the ground.
Stooping, he picked it up, and immediately put it in his back waistband.
The entire motion was involuntary.
Once again, it just felt right and he hadn’t a clue why.
What seemed like an hour and roughly four miles later, Tom found himself at an abrupt edge to the field.
The lake still glistened in the south.
Farther ahead, in a wide stretch of desolate, desert-like terrain lay a small, motionless war.
Upon arrival, he discovered it to be a battalion of life-sized G.I. Joes opposite the Cobra Command. The latter appeared to be decidedly losing. The toys were massive, as tall as him.
But for Tom this seemed normal. He didn’t question it.
A sound began to grow.
Similar to wind, but not quite.
Tom looked down as the earth shuddered slightly beneath his feet.
Turning to the north he saw a tsunami rapidly approaching. He hadn’t time to react and was gathered up in a swirl of oversized plastic jeeps and futuristic aircraft.
He awakened, wet and muddy, on the shoreline of the lake.
A giant plastic missile floated nearby, a Joe’s arm purposefully wrapped around it.
Pressing himself up, he tried to make heads or tails of what just happened.
But again, that odd familiarity filled the moment.
A few barks in the distance grabbed his attention. They came from further west, stopping as soon as they began.
The sun flickered.
It was only for a split second. Had he blinked he would have missed it.
He rubbed his eyes and squinted at the sun, waiting to catch it again.
It dawned on him that although he’d been walking for over an hour, not to mention the unknown amount of time he’d been unconscious, the sun hadn’t dropped an inch.
He considered for a moment the change in terrain, landmarks, and his positioning.
None of them added up.
The sun was definitely in the same spot.
Another bark, even further.
He pressed on, leaving the toys behind in the muddy shallows.
Hours passed as he continued walking toward the motionless, although larger, sun.
It had flickered three more times, in quick succession, but that was over an hour ago. Or what felt like an hour anyway.
Without a way to track time it could have been five hours for all he knew.
He had left the desert terrain and entered another field, almost identical to the first.
It was then he had another realization: He wasn’t tired.
He’d been walking for miles now, for an undetermined amount of time, and he wasn’t exhausted. He wasn’t even short of breath. He had no thirst or hunger for that matter.
Suddenly, a small dog burst from the brush to his right, barking wildly as it tore into the distance.
Tom jumped, startled. “…Jack?…Jack!”
The dog skittered to a stop and jerked around, searching for the source of its name as if it hadn’t heard it in years.
Spotting Tom it padded up slowly, suspiciously, coming to a stop some four feet away.
Tom knelt down and reached out a hand, beckoning the dog.
After some tentative sniffing, snorts, and questioning looks, the dog seemed satisfied.
It began to wag its tail, barking loudly as it ran around Tom in a few circles before heading off in the distance again.
Smiling as the dog ran away, he noticed a blue Jeep Wrangler nearby, with giant floodlights on the roll bar and an oddly placed center steering wheel in front of one giant bench seat.
Approaching it, he saw keys hanging from the ignition. He hopped in and felt something press against his back.
Pulling out the glove, he noticed a baseball in the small trunk space. He tossed the glove in with the ball.
It felt involuntary again, familiar again.
He turned the ignition. The key clicked in the slot, turning in circles.
This brought a fleeting memory, gone before he could catch it.
Pressing lightly the accelerator, a high pitched whine began as the Jeep eased forward a few feet.
He released the pedal and the Jeep stopped. Gathering it was electric, he floored it, resuming his trek towards the sun.
Cruising along in the electric Jeep he made much better time. Or so it felt.
He’d passed through miles of gravel.
The Jeep got stuck a few times in the thicker areas. It was while digging himself out he noticed the wheels were made of plastic.
This seemed off, yet perfectly reasonable.
He’d begun to accept these double feelings.
A few more hours and he was out of the gravel. The sun had quadrupled in size and flickered at least once per minute now.
As he pulled around some more brush the Jeep’s familiar whine began to drone down. As it lowered the power dropped in step. A few minutes later it came to a halt.
Releasing and pressing the pedal only got a few lurches, then eventually nothing.
Tom stepped from the Jeep and continued on foot.
The sun appeared to grow larger now with each step.
It also appeared to be changing shape.
With each flicker he thought he saw shadows pass across the surface.
Another hour had passed.
The sun was visibly a square in shape, and the brightness that once flashed from it seemed more ambient now.
The closer Tom got, the shadows looked more and more like people.
Hours since he first awoke in the field, or days for all he knew, Tom finally reached the sun.
It was still square in shape, and spanned about ten feet across. It was some kind of plastic, translucent, like a giant, semi-frosted window hanging in the air.
He could see his reflection. The reflection of a young man.
Cupping his hands around his face he pressed against it, and could see the vague outlines of people on the other side.
He yelled out for them. No response.
He beat against it. The plastic rippled, but still gained no response.
Turning away, frustrated, he started.
Behind him was a power wheel Jeep with ball and glove in the back, a pothole filled with gravel, his dog, Jack, some G.I Joes floating in a small puddle created by a running hose, and a small patch of grass beyond which spidered around everything.
Turning back to the window, his reflection was one of a child in muddy clothes.
A female voice sing-songed “Say cheese!” and the sun exploded in a brilliant, white light.
In a well-kept kitchen, a college aged Tom digs through a refrigerator, sandwich in one hand.
On the freezer door above him, a magnet holds a photo of a 4 year old Tom with Jack and his power wheel nearby, as he happily drowns a pile of G. I. Joes with a garden hose.
Multiple other photos of Tom, from differing ages, surround this one.
An older woman approaches, notices the photo of young Tom and smiles. She pulls it from the door lovingly.
Tom finds what he’s looking for, closes the refrigerator, takes a bite from his sandwich.
The woman holds the photo up. “I remember this. So long ago…but seems like yesterday. Do you? That day when you decided to flood my yard?”
“…Not really,” he mumbles through a full mouth.
Her smile returns. “Well I do…I love these…”
She replaces the photo on the door.
“They’re like little moments of you I get to keep forever.”
“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.” – Eudora Welty