The man scowled at Norman, who was hanging upside down from a stop sign next to a road in the desolate scrubland. The man was short and thin, sunglasses and leather-suit clad; he vigorously smoked a cigaretted as he pounded the stop sign with tennis balls in an attempt to dislodge Norman. Each of the endless tennis balls came from a hole in the air--the man would reach back to a spot five feet above (or below, according to Norman's perspective) the ground and pull out a new scruffy ball, before taking a suck of nicotine and carcinogens and lobbing the projectile. After hitting the sign, the balls would fall up into the air in parabolas.
"Please stop," pleaded Norman.
"No," said the man without breaking his pounding rhythm. Norman slid further down (up) towards cerulean blue nothing, his fingers dripping sweat skyward.
"Please, I don't want to fall," said Norman, trying to pull his legs up to rest on the red sign, but his arms just shook and burned.
"Where is it?" asked the man, throwing a ball directly at Norman's fingers. The pain seared.
"I don't know, I've told you! I really don't know!"
"Hmmm," said the man, pausing, then he reached back, grabbed a basketball from the air (Norman screamed), and threw it at Norman's fingers. Norman lost his grip and slipped into the blue above. He watched the Earth start to zoom away and he felt intense vertigo. The man held a hand out before him, pointed a finger ahead, and rotated his hand like he was stealing frosting from a cake. The world spun around, and Norman fell back towards the Earth. He landed face first on the yellow line of the road and lost consciousness.
The man casually walked up to Norman, humming. He kicked Norman in the hip, but Norman did not move. The man pulled a chair form the hole in the air. He placed it astraddle the yellow line, then pulled Norman up to sit in the chair. The man pulled a roll of duct tape from the air and attached Norman firmly to the chair. Then the man walked to stand in the scrub by the side of the road, and waited for Norman to regain consciousness, which he did, ten seconds later.
"Where is it?" asked the man, lighting up a new cigarette.
"What?" asked Norman. He looked down at his bindings. "Come, on!"
"Where is it?"
"Jeez, man, I don't know!"
"Look down the road will you? Ahead of you; that's right." The man took a long puff. "See how long and straight the road is?"
"Uh, yeah. Look dude, would you just--"
"Shut up. I'm trying to tell you something. Down at the end of that road is a truck, driving at seventy miles an hour. You can't see it now, but it will be here in a minute."
Norman squinted. The end of the road wobbled in mirage. Something glinted in the sunlight.
"If you tell me where it is, I'll pull you from the road."
"I don't know! I seriously don't know! Honestly dude, it's something you need to find on your own."
"We are way past that."
Norman sighed, then he started rocking from side to side in the chair, and in four rocks he fell to the left side of the road.
"Ah, come on!"
"Doesn't matter for you. The truck is driving down the middle of the road. Look, you can see it now."
The truck was indeed visible, the grill could be distinguished from the cab. Norman frantically started inching towards the left side of the road using his shoulder and forehead to propel himself. He grunted with exertion. The truck sounded its horns.
"You're an asshole, you know that?" screamed Norman. The man picked a shard of tabacco from his mouth and flicked it to the ground.
"Where is it?"
"I don't know!" screeched Norman. The truck was not slowing. Norman could see the cab. The man was sitting behind the wheel, inscrutable behind sunglasses. Norman gasped, watching the man pull the horn. The sound filled him, as the grill rushed over him. Darkness. Something from under the truck caught his arm and pulled him in, twisting, mangling, spitting. There was intense heat as his body pulled apart, then a rush of cold water as it condensed again.
Water filled Norman's throat as he tried to scream. Something pressed all around him. He floated upward. His vision came back, and there was blue-green blur above. A dark massed moved over him. Norman found his limbs again and started to flail, swimming upward, kicking hard. He looked down. Below his feet was a stand of bleached dead coral stretching over a white sandy bottom.
The dark mass moved past his left. Norman turned and looked and focused. It was a great white shark. It beat its tail side to side, eyeing Norman. Norman kicked harder for the surface, his lungs feeling about to burst. Then the shark started to convulse. Its eye rolled back. Blood started to cloud out into the water from its belly. Something poked through. A hand holding a knife. The hand pushed down, slitting the belly open. A figure emerged in a dark swirling cloud of blood and organs, donned in scuba gear. The figure swam towards Norman leaving the shark lifeless and listing. Norman unitentionally exhaled all his air as the figure approached. Norman started to black out as the figure took off the breathing apparatus and forced it into Norman's mouth. Norman swallowed a great gulp of seawater then sucked oxygen into grateful lungs.
The scuba figure kicked down with long foot fins, pushing them to the surface. They bobbed up together, in an embrace. The air was cooling and fragrant. Norman looked around to see nothing but open ocean. He peered with bleary eyes into the face mask of his unlikely rescuer, but the plastic surface was mirrored. He could see only himself.
The figure pulled off the mask.
"Where is it?"
"Of course," said Norman. In that moment he remembered where he was. He pushed away, but the man held his arm.
"Where are you going?"
"Away from you!" yelled Norman.
"I don't think so," said the man. He held out a finger and spun the world. Normal flew up into the sky, beads of water arcing into the air. The man let Norman slip until he was holding Norman's wrist.
"Where is it?"
"Do you have to do that?" Norman kicked his legs in frustration.
"Yes. Where is it?"
"You're a sadistic idiot!"
"Where is it?" asked the man calmly. New shark fins started to emerge from all over the deep in a circle around the man.
"You don't have to do this," said Norman, glancing from fin to fin.
"If they eat me, you have two choices. You can be pulled in and eaten by them, or you can let go and eventually fall into space, where you will suffocate, if you don't first freeze to death."
"You don't even know where you are."
"Yes I do."
"You think this is all real. But the joke is on you buddy."
"Of course it's real."
"No, it's not," said Norman laughing. "And I just told you where it is!"
The man looked suddenly angry.
"I don't understand!" yelled the man, yanking on Norman's wrist.
"You might have control over this domain, but I have control over the domain that surrounds it and gives it existence."
"Bu-bye," said Norman, smiling. He wrenched his arm free, and fell into the sky.