Austin stared at the vast, bleak emptiness and shuddered.

Forbidding. Paralyzing. Insurmountable. His mind churned out descriptor after descriptor like oozing blobs of meat from Mr. Zagorski’s ancient meat grinder. Ferocious, empty, indomitable, hopeless, desolate, foreboding, dire — words continued to froth forth, filling his mind with a picture and purpose but no actual solution emerged. No action sprang to the forefront. No instrument presented itself.

Time was ticking by. Precious, unrecoverable time. Time that was the one commodity that he could no longer afford, nor buy, nor sell. Time was slipping and churning down that drain like water, carrying away the vestiges of his old life, scouring it clean and revealing his true self. The emptiness. And the time. The enemies before him. And he couldn’t turn away. There was no escape. Although he wasn’t surrounded, no matter which way he turned, the bleakness was there and the time still seeped away. The only escape was forward. The only true path to follow lay ahead.

All Austin need was a moment. A moment and an action. One brief beginning and let momentum break the trail.

It was cold. And that wasn’t going to change either. One way or another he was going to have to endure. Austin closed his eyes, thrust his narrow shoulders back, dropping them slowly and stretching to his full five foot nine. Begin, he murmured to himself. Just begin.

Wrapped in his own Ki, hopeful in his energy, Austin gathered all that he was into the moment. This moment. And opened his eyes, leaned into it and… slumped.

“I’ll never get this essay done on time.”

He grabbed another hand full of Bugles.