The jump flung Frederick hard on his back. He lay on the wet ground and listened to a cacophony of sounds. When they settled and he could identify each noise for what it actually was, Frederick stumbled to his feet. He was in a city, some city, some alley, somewhere. He groaned and his joints responded with a flaming ache. The ache traveled to his left side and he poked at the sensitive area. There were broken ribs there, at least two. Upon inspecting his body further, Frederick found his elbows were bleeding from the fall; he cleaned with trembling fingers the small filth stuck there.
It was becoming harder to focus, to decompose and rebuild his presence; every fiber of his being tore from structure, pulling him simultaneously towards different places at different speeds. That gave him an explosion of contrasting images eloping from his visual field, from memory. His eyes hurt and he blinked particles and nuances away, steadying his floating world. Breathing in and out helped, but the sensation was crushing, and Frederick could feel the beginning of a strong migraine.
He was getting worse at teleportation.
Frederick considered the possibility that he had used up his ability and was now choking on its last exhausts – he wasn’t sure how his teleportation worked. He chuckled as he walked limping out of the alley he had landed in. Science novels didn’t paint the picture as near as it was for him – he didn’t have inner knowledge of the mechanisms of his capability, neither knew its origin. Frederick could only decipher what this new inner sensation meant. It felt like he was borrowing on the very last energy, jumping on the thinnest and weakest of power surges, which either rendered him unconscious or badly injured.
He remembered to check his pockets and was relieved to find his wallet in there. He opened it and swore under his breath; the picture on his ID was smudged and watery, his face unreadable. He stared at the faceless photo trying to make something out of it by memory, but neither shape nor color came to mind.
The smell of burning oil and sweetness made its way to him as the backdoor of a Chinese restaurant slammed open. Frederick spun around to see a heavy-looking chef coming out of the steamy kitchen and littering a bucket mushy food in the garbage container. Frederick watched that motion play in front of him and it seemed odd. The bucket was shaken to drop its last remains, but Frederick couldn’t understand what exactly he was seeing. To him it looked like two separate scenes were happening at an almost synchronized timing. He couldn’t tell if there was more than one image before him, not really, though the more he stared, the more it seemed to him that there were two buckets being emptied.
They would be absolutely identical if it weren’t for something uneven about their reality. Frederick looked back at the chef and there it was. Frederick was looking at two men, identical in any way, both simultaneously busy with the task of cleaning the bin. However it was like watching a split screen of the same movie where one of the screenings had a delay. It was so small, so brief that it was impossible to spot with a naked eye, but Frederick caught the glitch. Now the chef was looking at him. He barked some obscenities in Chinese and went back inside.
He was losing his mind. All the jumps had made him insane. His brain was boiled. Frederick hurriedly ran out of the alley.
The city in front of him took his breath away. The broken screen of his reality took over his entire view and Frederick walked drunkenly in the in-between space caught in the moment now and the moment ago. The gap widened, it changed, not just an overlayed image now, but an entirely singular world activity left and right of Frederick, and in the midst of it every individual object subjected to its own dissection of reality. Frederick could see it all in a vast and grand way. He could isolate every glitch and view it separately. Juxtaposing the two images, he found that it wasn’t a delay; it was a speeded fragment splintering from the true time. It became so jagged; people who spoke around him made no sense, their sentences ending in a void and out the other side new words abruptly continued, no connection between the two.
Soon there would be a sunset on the right, and the night would fall there. Was that the future? Or was it a different reality which Frederick had dragged with himself through one of his jumps?
Was he split too?
He pressed his nose against the glass of a store. He was two men. His disheveled left looked confused back from the reflection, while his right stared back wide-eyed. The right side of his mouth was saying something. Frederick understood it.
He sat on the steps of the store and waited. It was going to splinter completely soon, restore order. And he was in the middle holding it all together.