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“Come on, Tori! You can eat on the plane.” Tori’s toast smelled tempting. Jim rarely believed in spending the time to make breakfast for himself, but he usually wouldn’t object to someone doing so for him. Today, however, he and his daughter had to catch a flight that was so early in the morning that it still cost Red Eye rates.

Jim bent down to pull on his nice dress shoes. They didn’t suit his jeans and jacket, which, in turn, didn’t suit the sub-tropical climate where they lived, but the whole ensemble weighed less in his carry-on luggage. The first shoe went on without any drama, as shoes normally do, but Jim staggered, oddly, to the left when he reached for the second shoe. He fumbled at the heel but missed the first time.

“Come on! We don’t have time.” Tori had, like her mother, inherited the habit of pushing the boundaries of punctuality. This especially frustrated Jim. This whole trip to parliament house was for her. Couldn’t she be on time for once?

“Dad? What are you yelling about? I’m ready. Let’s go!”

Jim looked up at Tori. She looked nice.

“Huuuh? Where’s your toast?” His words emerged slowly; poorly formed.

Tori looked down. “What toast? Dad?”

Tori fell over sideways. So did the television.

“Tori? Come on…” Jim’s words slurred from his mouth in a lopsided jumble.

“Dad? Dad? Dad?” Tori ran in a bizarre, sideways fashion and reached for his face.

Jim blinked.

The lounge room by the front door evaporated into blue lines that flashed in painful strobes. Each pulse burned through his senses. He felt pain. He smelled burning. He heard piercing interference. He tasted blood. He saw blinding white.

This experience lasted an indefinable amount of time. It felt both like no time had passed, but also like much time had passed; like a weekend that was both full of chores and errands and family, but too brief as a break from work. Only… maybe this was many weekends? Jim just couldn’t tell.

Eventually Monday came – too early, as it always does – and Jim’s eyes opened with a deep and aching fatigue.

Jim’s mind slurred. The morning of Tori’s flight still dominated his mind. Although he’d experienced a brief flash of oddity, his perception of what was going on hadn’t changed for him.

“Come on, Tori…” The final syllable of his daughter’s name extended itself as Jim came to grips with his surroundings. He was lying on his side, as if sprawled out on a couch, which confused Jim greatly. He’d been sitting up a second ago. Tori had disappeared too.

“Tori?” Jim’s voice started to tremble. Where’s my daughter?

Finally, the most telling and obvious detail of all – isn’t it odd how our brains focus on the little things that matter, rather than the big things staring us in the face? – finally tipped Jim over the edge. He screamed.

Jim looked, not at his couch, his daughter, or his house, but at the endless expanse of an isometric, blue grid, emptier than the starless sky.

Jim broke.

Initially, Jim wailed out wave upon wave of wordless pain. As the pain pouring through his veins ebbed away, however, coherent thoughts began to wash away confusion. His turbulent thoughts turned to the last thing he remembered: Tori. Where was his daughter?

“Tori? Tori?” He screamed and yelled her name. A deep panic drowned his conscience once again. He yelled her name for some time more as the image of her falling crashed over him. The scene played over and over in his mind, constant like the tide and eroded his psyche. Eventually, some stubborn rock inside his head slipped free and his perspective drifted.

Upon the Nth cycle where he viewed his daughter fall and call his name, he noticed critical details. First, he heard her voice that contained worry not for herself, but for him. Second, he saw the television behind Tori that had also fallen. Third, he remembered how he felt. The sudden lack of coordination in his left hand; everything tilting to the left; the words and thoughts that he couldn’t form.

“Finally, you see.” A disembodied woman’s voice spoke to him. For a brief moment, his thoughts raced to the precipice of hope.

Tori?

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About the author

ForgottenManOnline

Bio: Hi,
My name's Tim and I'm writing Forgotten Man Online, a game-literature light novel web-series that I plan to release here, on Royal Road, and eventually hopefully through Amazon's Kindle platform.

I studied writing at university for three years and then became a high-school English teacher in Australia (6 years in). Hopefully, that means you will find my content to be of a high standard and that you will enjoy it, provided you can stand the British spelling of words :).

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