Time-lapse

"Man goes nowhere. Everything comes to man, like tomorrow." - Antonio Porchia

He sees the other's eyes in the swirls of color and light, the blinding rush of centuries before and behind them.

He knows what has happened, a miscalculation, an error in judgement, and they've drifted apart, lost each other in the transition.

They're too far apart for him to reach for the other and even holding onto him won't keep him there. What's done is done.

They're thrown one way and then the next, the one pushed forward, the other back.

He hasn't the breath to scream out a warning, to scream in anger, in desperation.

He wants to beg him to close the gap, to change what's about to happen, even as he knows he can't. They're only a breath apart, an eyelash that could represent a hundred thousand years of human history, days through which both could pass and never meet.

The other turns his head toward him, attempting to speak, words ripped away and echoing a decade behind them.

It happens so slowly he can see it all, feel every fraction of the second, each one an hour.

Black meets black as their eyes touch and hold an instant across time, memories of a friendship, an experiment, a life in another place, shared knowledge that keeps them sane, that keeps them alive in the constant shifts and jumps through countless moments.

The last look is a goodbye, and he knows it.

And then in the instant before he closes his eyes he feels the other disappear.

His eyes are still closed when he lands, the heat of a strange desert burning into his eyelids, searing hot tears against the corneas.

His hand reaches out in the blinding light through his lids, feels the hot and empty sand around him, a thousand grains scalding his skin.

He doesn't want to open his eyes, to see Indians and cowboys, soldiers on horseback, or a thousand other things. But above it all there's one thing he doesn't want to see.

When he finally opens his eyes and stares into the world he doesn't know the year, the date, or the hour. He doesn't even know the place or the circumstances that's he's been thrown into. But he knows one thing, a single fact that rips into him like the Civil War bullet that temporarily ended his life that one time. It's a knowledge that cuts through him and leaves him hollow inside.

For the first time, he's alone.