There was a very loud sound. The only thing he could compare it to was thunder. He could not see. Everything around him was ringing with sound and light. Had he been struck by lightning? But if one of the thunderbolts of Zeus had struck him, he would be dead...wouldn't he?
Soon the brightness faded. He was on his hands and knees on a forest path. He could feel the grittiness of sand and small pebbles on his palms and knees because he was naked. On either side, mighty oaks and ancient maple trees arched their branches overhead. The afternoon sunlight trickling through their sheltering branches slanted to the path.
There was no sign of Epione or Hippolytus, who had been with him only a moment before.
Where was he? Something about the scene was familiar, tickling his memory. Had he been here before? To the right of the path the ground sloped up. A hill, then, he thought. That suggested two courses of action: he could climb to the summit to get a better look around him...or go downhill, seeking a stream or river that would lead him to civilization.
But which path to take? He had difficulty deciding. His thoughts seemed turgid, clouded. What was wrong with him? He shook his head to clear it and discovered he was unable to close his eyes. What, had he no eyelids? He felt a moment of terror at this strangeness, but it was soon eclipsed when he raised a hand to his chin and found his beard was gone.
This fired his curiosity even further. Since he had no clothes, he might as well check the condition of his body. Standing up, he scrutinized his arms, his legs, and all else he could see of himself. He appeared to be uninjured.
But there was a further strangeness there: he had no scars. On his left leg, where an old injury from the hunting of the Calydonian Boar had left its scar, there was none to be found. And here, on his right hand, where years with his stylus, scribbling on the slates had made a callus: nothing. His skin was as smooth and unblemished as that of a newborn child, as if he had just been born – fully grown, yet still a beardless youth.
A sudden, silent pain stung him in his backside: a mosquito had found him. He slapped the insect not knowing if he got it, and felt his mind beginning to think again. I am lost and naked, he thought. His stomach rumbled. All right, he corrected: lost, naked and hungry. His first priorities, therefore, had to be to obtain food and clothing. After that he could concentrate on other things like finding his way home and figuring out how he had come to this forest.
A thought struck him: could this be a dream? Yes, that must be it. But he had never dreamed anything so loud, so intense as that thunderbolt or whatever it had been. In frustration, he slapped a tree trunk. And his hand hurt! He shook the tingling fingers, thinking. He had never hurt himself in a dream. In his dreams, any violent action always woke him up. Experimentally, he smacked the tree with his other hand. Now he had two sore hands and was still not waking up. Perhaps this was not a dream. Waking up to escape it seemed out of the question. Either it was some kind of dream where you could feel pain and not wake up...or he really was naked in a forest. He could see no other option.
He bent down and wiped a palm across a root at the base of the tree and then held up the hand: no dust. A world without dust? Now I know I am asleep, he reflected. If I grind sand to powder, and then continue, does it just collapse to nothing?
He laughed. Madness. Maybe this was the realm of Hades, and he was being punished for something. But would that be better than being insane?
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