Image Prompt Response 079 – An Abyss of Stars

An image taken from slightly above looking down on a collection of classical inspired buildings including one with a dome. Buildings are surrounded by paved pathways and green grassy areas.

I chose the image of Calton Hill for my prompt today.  It reminded me of an Image Prompt from a while back (number 40) so this is more a continuation of that idea (as in an actual continuation of the scene, so you may want to go read that first) than it is anything about the picture, but I had fun with it all the same.  I hope you enjoy.

An Abyss of Stars:

“What is this?” Ryan asked.  He could still feel the solid ground beneath his feet, still feel Xander’s hand in his, but everywhere he looked was just an expanse of stars, as if they would float off into space at any moment.

“This is the Celestial Academy,” Xander said, gently squeezing Ryan’s hand.  “It’s a bit of a space unto itself, but it’s also very much here in Edinburgh at the top of a hill overlooking the city,” he said.  Xander stepped closer, never letting go of Ryan’s hand, and pointed behind Ryan with the hand holding the flask.  “Look.”

Ryan turned, and right behind him was the grass and the paths, and beyond that the gate and the light of the city beyond.

“This is one of those things that I’d have called crazy until you showed me it was real, isn’t it?” Ryan asked.  Xander was always talking about something strange, like purple plants or fairies being real, but he almost always managed to come up with real proof to show Ryan he wasn’t crazy.

“Probably,” Xander replied.  “I’m so immersed here that I forget what you consider normal.”

“Nothing about you has ever been normal if that helps,” Ryan replied, turning to look at Xander again.  “So how does this particular not normal work?  And is it safe to walk here?  Because it looks like I’m going to fall into an abyss of stars.”

“I won’t let you fall,” Xander said, his hand holding Ryan’s just a little tighter.  “The new students usually say it’s easier not to look at your feet or think about them much.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Ryan replied.  He trusted Xander, but this was taking that to a bit of an extreme.

“Come on,” Xander said, taking a step forward.  “I’ve got you.”

Ryan nodded and took a step to follow Xander.  His foot landed again like he was still walking on that worn stone path, so he took a deep breath, focused on Xander’s face, and walked forward.

Xander smiled at him, and once again Ryan remembered why he went along with all the weird.  Xander was a lot of things, but above all else he was Ryan’s oldest, closest friend, and the man he loved the most, even if Xander didn’t necessarily know that last part.

Ryan managed fairly well as they walked along the wall of the building, the solid presence of it giving him something to orient toward.  When they reached the corner and Xander turned them left, out into the abyss of stars, Ryan tried to focus on Xander, but after only two steps he tripped over his own feet and the sudden movement without any visual cues triggered the nausea and Ryan stumbled to a stop, eyes closed, clinging desperately to Xander’s hand.

“Ryan?” Xander asked softly.

Ryan squeezes Xander’s hand to let him know he’d heard.  He swallowed hard, praying his dinner wasn’t about to make a second appearance.  He was incredibly prone to certain kinds of motion sickness so he had plenty pf practice trying not to hurl when it happened.  Ryan very carefully shifted his feet, spreading them wider for better balance and leaned down a little, resting his free hand on his knee.  He took slow deep breathes and remained very still, hoping his stomach would settle once his inner ear did.

“You didn’t tell us you’d have a guest tonight,” a woman’s voice said.

Ryan flinched, surprised by the unfamiliar voice and the nausea threatened to overwhelm him again.

“Hold this,” Xander said to the new person before Xander’s hand came to rest against Ryan’s neck.  “I won’t let you fall,” Xander whispered softly, followed by a string of gibberish that didn’t sound like any language Ryan had ever heard.

Xander’s hand grew cooler against his skin.  The nausea slowly faded away, the sense of disorientation going with it.

Ryan risked cracking one eye open.

Xander was bent slightly, looking into Ryan’s face with obvious concern.

“Better?” Xander asked.

“Yeah,” Ryan replied softly, swallowing one more time.

“I’m glad,” Xander said, standing up straight again but not moving his hand.

Ryan stood up straighter too, very conscious of the fact that Xander’s hand was still resting on his neck.  They were standing close.  So close.  Ryan took a deep breath.  They weren’t alone, and this wasn’t the time to risk decades of friendship on something ridiculous.

“You haven’t done that for anyone in a long time,” the woman said softly.

“The students have to learn it for themselves,” Xander replied, stepping back and pulling his hand away.  He squeezed Ryan’s hand though, that connection still there to ground Ryan.

Ryan glanced around, finding an incredibly tall woman with luxurious black hair, bright brown eyes, and the smoothly perfect dark skin that spoke of ancestry somewhere in Asia.

“This is Anusha,” Xander said.  “She’s one of the other teachers here.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Ryan said, nodding to her.  Normally he’d offer to shake hands, but even if Xander didn’t have his right hand, he wasn’t sure he should move yet.  He was a little surprised the nodding hadn’t caused a resurgence of nausea.

“It’s always nice to meet one of Xander’s friends,” Anusha said, smiling brightly.  “He seems to have forgotten some of his manners though,” she said, smirking at Xander.

Xander blushed.

Ryan blinked.  He’d never seen that before.

“This is my oldest friend, Ryan,” Xander said softly.

Anusha’s eyes went a little wide, and she looked at Ryan again.  “That must make this spring water then,” she said, holding up the flask.

“He was very kind to bring it,” Xander answered.

“Shall we?” Anusha asked, motioning to Ryan’s left.

Ryan turned and found they were standing beside a different building, a door waiting to be opened.

“We shall,” Xander replied, motioning Anusha to lead the way.

Anusha opened the door and held it for them.

Ryan took a careful step and when the nausea didn’t come surging back, walked into the building still holding Xander’s hand.

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