There was a sound, like gobs of blinking eyes. It was merely an echo-y whisper, yet it was disconcerting because there was nothing that could make that blinking sound around you, and though you had felt ocean waves hitting your feet then receding, they made no sound. You had been surrounded by a magenta foggy haze that had prevented you from seeing little more than dark purple shadows. Approximately six of these shadows were standing, stationary, people each in their own inhuman positions, in a circle silently around you, on the ground that felt like turf, but looked like concrete and in the distance, upon the horizon, a small circle shined a light lavender hue. Other than this there was nothing. You were taking out your notepad and beginning to write what you saw (you used to always write down your observations) when you were greeted to an echo of garbled speech in a language far from your own. The fog had begun to fade, and you had seen the faces of the people (no, not people, statues), around you. Their faces were wrinkled, raisin-y, gloomy faces, and their broken positions looked as if several bones in their bodies had been broken beyond repair. Despite their traumatizing appearance, they had seemed to compliment the “nothingness” that you had previously thought surrounded you. The “nothingness” had revealed itself to be something you hadn’t expected: the ground under your feet was neither turf nor concrete but wet sand (like the beaches up north — less grainy more compact), and the emptiness that had been covered by the haze was not at all empty, in fact the only thing that was what you thought was the bright (now white) sun looking down at your from its place on the horizon. Behind you had been eyes — what seemed like millions of them of all different sizes and shapes (hooded, almond, monolid, deep set, prominent, round, downturned, upturned, large, and small) — blocking your view of anything but the ocean, and they were blinking. Not all at the same time but all at different times and lengths of times. The eyes were staring nowhere in particular all of them moved in different directions and never seemed to be looking at the same spot. You can’t remember, right now, whether you stayed and watched for a while or just went straight to writing but you do remember that after you had finished writing you clicked your pen. All the eyes had stared at you. Some of them eyeing your scribbles, others your face and various parts of your body. The statues had began to move. They had started to twist and turn in impossible ways. They had not moved anywhere, just stayed in their place on the circle when the world had began to quake (as such worlds often do) and fade into a new one.
You were now in a basement. You did not look like yourself. Staring into a puddle formed by leaking pipes you saw your face. Your skin had a sickly yellow pallor, your eyes were sunken and a weird color blue (translucent like fog, but also dark like the deepest parts of the ocean), the bones in your face were pronounced, the bags under your eyes seemed to be the only place where your skin wasn’t tight to your skull. You were beginning to turn away and close your eyes (you were horrified by the face in the water) when the ceiling had disappeared, and whatever the basement was under just left. You were greeted by burning sunlight even though the sun only slightly bigger than the one in your last world, people from the street had looked down at you and your raggy, colorful, too big clothes as tears poured from your eyes. You had been happy to see them, and you attempted to reach them but the house reappeared. Your heart had sank, and you wanted to do nothing more than sleep and cry, but you remembered your book. This time you clicked your pen quietly, and no eyes had stared (there were no staring eyes in this world, silly). Soon you were scribbling words, and drawings that felt strange (but familiar) when a shout had sounded above you. It was a high-pitched squeal that you had never heard before, and wished you hadn’t heard at all. At the sound of it you were filled with dread, and you had longed to see the sun again. You had felt terrified for the person who squealed. Footsteps had been approaching the door that you hadn’t noticed before, the door that seemed to be the only way out. This time, the world simply faded.
The next time you were awakened you were close to the ground, you were in a much happier setting, the sun shone delightedly through the trees, and it had been much closer than you remember it being before. This time there was someone with you. They were silently skipping along their short legs, working hard to keep up with your pace, as they danced over foliage and avoided all the visible bugs that lurked beneath the upturned fallen brown leaves. You had slowed down your pace out of consideration for your silent partner, and she had smiled and nodded a thank you. Then, for a minute or two, you guys walked like that under the towering trees with auburn and burgundy and golden leaves, and branches that shook with every soft blow of the wind and movement of a bird. The only sounds that could have been heard were the birds and the cicadas and the trees swaying. Around you were only trees and bushes and flowers and birds one minute and the next you were in a meadow. Now you can’t remember whether you just weren’t paying attention as you walked or if the setting just changed, but it didn’t matter then. Back then you knew where you needed to be. On the picnic blanket with the girl and Apples (the posh anthropomorphic pony who often made declarations for the town of Ridinia). Upon making it there you had been greeted by a feast carried in by ants, and the girl spoke for the first time. “You’ve been awfully silent Madison.” She spoke with a midwest accent, but seemed to be going for a posh English one.
“I am sorry. I am just a bit tired, you must forgive me,” you had said in an equally horrible attempt to be posh.
“You are forgiven, but you must get some sleep or you’ll get sick,” the girl said, her warm brown eyes had seemed very concerned, before she happily turned to Apples. “Any city news Apples it is most boring here in one of my many country homes.”
“Oui, oui, mon amiem,” the pony had whinnied in a failed attempt to speak French. You had sighed and took out your book and silently began to write. (Something in you was telling you how rude it was to do so, but you only had two pages left to write after this one. Surely it would be forgiven.) “Ahem. Madison.”
“Please excuse me, I do not wish to offend you, I simply do not wish to forget this magical day,” you told them. They had looked unimpressed. “Besides I’m preparing for a job as a secretary.” The girl nodded forgivingly, and Apples had simply rolled his eyes.
“Nevertheless, I shall continue,” Apples sighed, “now, Rina is the biggest talk of the town at the moment because… ” Apples was cut off by an alarm echoing for someone to wake up. The girl sighed, and the sun disappeared.
You had woken up groggily to an alarm that rang an hour late. A dog had looked up at you as you rushed out of bed, and followed your normal morning routine instinctively. Two minute shower, one minute to dry off and put on clothes, three minutes to eat, five minutes to catch your favorite cartoon. Except something was wrong. You had noticed this around the third minute of your cartoon as Captain Pickles began dueling his rival Captain Coleslaw. Usually, it was around this time your mother would wake up in a tizzy upon hearing the clash of swords, but this time there was no body. Not a sound. Although you had been enthralled in the show, you had been more creeped out by the silence. A quick run around the house you found no one. Twice around, the dog following you this time, you had again found nothing. Panicked, you had sighed, sometimes she was at work at this time you remembered. It was time for you to leave anyway, so you walked outside. At first you had noticed nothing but the fact that the sun was much bigger and much closer than normal (it looked like it was in the town center, and it felt like it was baking you alive). Then you had realized no one was on the street, and your dog was right beside you. The same dog you had just left inside your house. Your hands had begun to shake, not wildly, but enough that you dropped your water bottle and it had echoed sinisterly in the empty streets. Your dog had barked, adding to the echoing and it had created a terrifying din. “Shut up, Sparky,” you had said. Sparky had not shut up. Your fear had turned to anger at this point, and you had stomped away angrily thinking about how when you find these people you’ll… you’ll… if only that dog would shut up. You had turned the corner unto what is usually the biggest street, but all there was were neatly parked cars, and neat little closed shops with clean sparkling windows showcasing neat shoes or clothes or toys in a dark room. You saw the local coffee shop had its door open and other than the sun-lit streets it had been the only well lit place. With the howls of your dog, who was still stuck on your block, ringing in your ears you had marched into the shop in attempts to demand an answer. You were greeted to an interior that was not that of the coffee shop of your childhood, but that of a room with a tiki bar with tie-dye blankets on the walls, and comfortable bean bags speckled with people lazing around a bit drunkenly.
“Sit, stay a while,” a voice, belonging to a man who had tried to lead you to a chair, had slurred. “Don’t you have something to write?” You had nodded, confused on how he knew about your book, but somehow unable to voice that confusion. You had followed him into a room connected to the bar, it was white and brightly lit with a table in the middle that looked like an interrogation table from cop movies.
“Write,” he had said as he pulled out a chair and you sat. You had complied as if hypnotized, immediately scribbling your story. You had been so focused on writing (no, documenting) you had noticed nothing else. Now you try to remember how the floor fell from beneath you, but then all you could do was fall. Still focused on your writing you hadn’t realized you were falling until you had finished the page and you had snapped out of your writing haze. The ground had been close, too close, and you were about to hit it when all had turned black.
You were looking up at the hill in front of you, it was green and had a few flowers, and looked like a hill from a fairy tale. You did not have the same majestic look. Your skin had had folds and flopped and stretched out the the spandex you were wearing. For some reason you had convinced yourself that this hill would give you the look you wanted. You just had to run. You had taken a step, and then another (but you had wanted to go faster), and then another one. You had started sweating at this point. Your skin flabs had collided as you used all of your energy to move up the hill, you accelerated and created new bends and warps in time and space. Your breath was short and shallow, and you had wanted to double over, but you had pushed on. The sun seemed as though you could reach it if you ran up this hill, and it beamed as though it was too. You had no book, but you hadn’t really remembered why you thought about a book but you had shrugged it off. The top of the hill had been so far, too far, no book was worth thinking about when the hill was far more important Your earbuds played a song that you can no longer remember. What you do remember are the shimmering notes, the tones that had seeped into your ears and then had circulated throughout your nervous system forcing your feet to move faster than you wanted them to. You fell, and out of nowhere a book had tumbled and landed at the bottom of the hill next to you, a pen rolled neatly on top of it. You had instinctively took the book, popped the pen and wrote furiously. The last page was soon filled with a drawing of the hill, and lovely soliloquies about your first trip up the hill, you had wanted to write more, but you ran out of space. So you had started up the hill again, this time you had felt lighter, skin still twisted and slapped and jiggled but it didn’t hold you down the same way. This time you started and continued, book in hand towards the burning sun. Sweat had dripped off you like rain off a car going way too fast on the freeway, it flew behind you, and had clouded your eyes, and drenched your short dark locks of hair, and discolored the brown spandex that attempted to stretch around you but ended up bunched in your crotch or under your armpits. The sun had seemed to be calling you, it called you Michael, you had been sure that wasn’t your name, but you had no idea what your name was so you accepted Michael. As you edged closer you could see nothing but bright, hot light reflecting off sweat, and possibly tears. Your skin had felt as though it was burning off, the fat melting and unveiling a new person. It was painful at first, but the pain had faded by the time you had made it to the top, and climbed into the sun.
You had been (are being?) faced with a totally new setting, you could (can?) not feel yourself or see yourself, you could (can?) only see white. Blinding white, and a frog on a white marble pedestal. You were (are?) staring at it and it was (is?) staring at you for what seemed (seems?) like hours, when it talks. “Michael here is your entrance to reality.” It blinked (blinks?).
And you are waking up, cloudy eyed, groggy, and a bit damp. Around you is a garden filled with beautiful marigolds, hydrangeas and roses, and trees with, green leaves, all wet with rain and a little stream with a cute wooden bridge, which is made a splotchy brown from the previous rain. Next to you is an old man who is sleeping, and his head is resting on your shoulder. You are gently placing his head on the back of the damp bench, and standing up. You are looking both ways, trying to decide whether you should follow the trail left or right, or go over the bridge. A fish is swimming close to the surface of the water, it is a goldfish that is larger than usual, and its red and gold scales are twinkling beneath the rippling surface drawing your eyes towards it as it is passing beneath the bridge. You are sighing, and then beginning to walk. Something is jingling with the motion of your feet, you are looking down as you cross the bridge, you are noticing that your shoes are red loafers with hints of gold and a scale like pattern that have little bells attached to the tops of them, and beneath your shoes the fish is swimming. Your bells have stopped tinkling, but something continues blending melodically the sound of the water and the fish has stopped swimming now. It is below you just stationary. There is no wind, but the bells tingle a high pitched, long note, and the fish moves. Everything around and within you is tingling, it feels as if tiny strings are trying to vibrate as one, like an orchestra that helps create the world around you. It has stopped now, and you are continuing to walk, taking soft, quiet steps, and looking only ahead knowing that your journey has commenced.
You are walking over a puddle, and you look down (first time since the bridge), your shoes are soaking through, giving them a darker color, which you can see in the puddle along with your black slacks which look newly washed and hang between the puddle and the beginning of your shoes as if unsure whether it wants to get wet or not, but knowing that it does not want to reveal the skin beneath it. Your feet are beginning to get a little cold, so you are hopping out of the puddle and down the asphalt path. The dirt of the garden path had been gone since a while back, it had turned to mud, and then to asphalt. It is still a park, and there are many trees hanging around you, pouring remnants of rain on you whenever the wind blows to hard, and rats scurry beneath the leaf covered grass and dirt on either side of you. You are continuing to walk past that, and towards a playground filled with screaming little kids running wild and tired parents. You are stopping in front of it, leaning on the fence surrounding it, and looking at the kids chase after each other. Their feet are slapping the black rubber tiles, the tiles are the same black as your pants, a deep dark black that almost looks like what nothing would look like. Like the opening to a void, you are staring at it for a minute. For that minute you are focusing only on the foam, the worn, scratched, torn foam, for a moment you are hearing nothing but the sound of slapping feet against foam, it starts out loud and reverberates with the sound of many feet, and then it slows and organizes itself eventually stopping. You are confused and looking up at the children who have started grouping themselves and talking. You are listening to the conversations, and they are typical work conversations filled with surface level scratches at how they’re doing, and what’s up with them. The kids faces are in states of weariness, over enthusiasm and calm expressionless stares. “I haven’t had my morning coffee yet, David, don’t talk to me about this.” One is mumbling in the southwest corner. You are looking towards their parents and you see nothing. You’re staring at the empty benches for a moment. Taking in the absence, and then you are blinking. You are realizing you haven’t blinked in a while, your eyes are dry and your eyelids feel somewhat scratchy as they move to meet each other. You’re find that you are experiencing the same feeling of billions of vibrating strings around you, and inside of you, this time it is more organized, but it is still too messy to make sense of the music, the reason. The kids are playing again. Their shouts and joyful expressions are back, and you are walking away, brushing off the vibrations.
You are thinking of nothing as you walk, and right now you can’t remember ever thinking of something. Is remembering thinking? You are stepping into a puddle, and though you can feel the dirt and water seeping into your shoes, you can’t feel anything else. No sense of disappointment at having your shoes ruined or dismay at having soaking feet. The park gates are looming ahead of you, and you are walking towards them staring blankly ahead. Your bells seem to be tinkling a lot quieter now creating a soft din that keeps you marching like a soldier. The gates are even closer, and you can see the black paint peeling and the hardly noticeable warp that causes the gates to curve away from the park at the slightest angle. As you are walking past the gates the smell of damp leaves and trees and urine, are exchanged for the smell of gasoline, sidewalk cart food, garbage, and a tiny bit of sewage surrounding you with every whiff of the slightly suffocating air. You are walking to your left over garbage and past people and tiny plots of dirt harboring garbage and trees. A store door opens and the smell of chemicals with a bit of a flowery scent wafts out with the air conditioned air. You are walking in and are greeted to rows and rows of makeup and perfume. You are walking towards the perfume section, and one bottle is catching your eye. It has a silvery glass, with bejeweled butterflies flying around it, and was topped with a shimmering blue diamond. You are picking it up and holding it, and in the mirror behind it you see your hands (which look huge compared to the tiny bottle, but somehow delicate) and your shirt, a white polo with an unbuttoned top button and an orange suit jacket.
“Are you thinking about buying that for your wife?” a woman is asking you as you are staring at yourself holding the bottle. You give her a confused look at first, and then nod. She is smiling. “Ask me if you need anything.” And then she is walking away.
You spray the perfume in front of your face and take a deep inhale. The smell is oddly bilgy, and you are beginning to cough. In the mirror in front of you, you can see a ship, a hulking beast with it’s hull turned toward you, and the water seems to dampen your face as you cough. No one in the store around you seems to notice, they are continuing to shop as you are watching the ship pass you by, the stench still lingering. You are closing your eyes, but the smell and sea spray continues. The smell is malodorous, and now you are holding your nose. It is stopping and you are standing up straight and turning the perfume bottle away from your face, pulling your finger off the top, and placing the bottle back. There is no longer a foul smell, instead an all to flowery stench is replacing it. You are staring at your shirt, and now your empty hands in the mirror as the same orchestra of tiny strings vibrates everywhere, and this time it is almost as if you can hear a melody. It is stopping, and you are turning away.
You are on a train, and it is night time. As the rest of the train sleeps, rocked by the motion of the train and calmed by the gentle hum of the train’s wheels on the tracks, you are staring out the window, dark brown bags attempting to pull your lids down. You are not so much resisting the urge to sleep as you are giving into your curiosity. Outside the window is not the city you had walked around in during the day, nor is it the false forest you woke up in. For a while the scenery consisted of shops in the middle of nowhere, and then suburban backyards, and now it is the forest. Trees that rock with the harsh blowing of the wind (a storm is coming) as their branches reach out for the train, and bushes that are half of your size line the tracks that weeds grow in between. The flowery stench of the perfume is almost gone, and now the only other smell is the dinner you had, the coffee and ham sandwich on rye.
“May we join you?” a woman is asking, standing over you in the doorway of your compartment. She was wearing a black coat trimmed with fur that is hanging to her black shiny boots, and behind her legs stands a small boy with deep brown eyes who is peeking shyly behind her.
“No problem,” you are saying, and she is sitting on the other side of the compartment, her son resting on her lap.
“You look tired,” she is observing in attempts to make quiet conversation.
Her fiery red nails (sharpened at the end like claws) tapped gently on the windowsill. You aren’t particularly sure what to reply, so you let the observation hang in the air between you. It seems just as well, as she is shrugging and now she is leaning back and closing her eyes. Her son was staring up at you curiously, and tugging his jacket closer around him. You are ignoring him and looking out the window, you’re seeing the reflection of the boy and his mother whose finger curls stay stationary despite the bobbing of her head. The boy is touching you, his tiny, skinny hand reaching out and patting your arm. His hands are a sticky, rubbery wet, and suddenly they are grasping your hands, and he is staring up at you. Your hands are feeling as though they are being grabbed by something fluffy and warm, and you are seeing them covered by soft winter gloves whose leathery covering were wet with snow around you a cabin with a warm fire glowing and softly crackling across the room. The torn, and tattered train cushions turn into a warm couch, and the woman is standing in front of you absent mindedly chattering, and then she is turning and staring at you neither of you blinking or talking just staring. Your hands are no longer warm now they are cold and the warm couch is simply the train cushion, the boy is sitting curled up in his mother’s lap and the soft swaying of the train car resumes. You are gripping the arm rests, and the strings are vibrating softly, almost visibly, but definitely audibly. They’re playing an interesting melody, slightly out of tune and out of order, and now they are stopping and you are resuming your ride.
You are walking down a quiet Pennsylvania street towards some house (you can’t remember if it’s yours or not). The sidewalks are small, and plants occasionally spill over from the gardens or form a sort of barrier between you the street making the sidewalks too small to walk on, so you are walking in the street lined with cars neatly parked and stationary (you’ve seen no motion anywhere around you and the air is stale and windless.) There is no noise, and you are facing the ground as you climb up the steep hill, the hot sun shining too bright for you to be able to look up, but you begin to look up now. You are seeing a girl on a bike, her face in shadows and her backlit with the glowing sun, she is not moving, her right hand holds a lollipop in her mouth, while her left is resting on the bike handle. Her left shoulder is sagging lower than her right, and her left foot stands on the ground her while her right lays on the pedal. Her bike, pink with rainbow streamers coming from dark black handles is slanted to the side and unmoving. It looks as if she is preparing to ride down the hill you are attempting to climb and she is fixing you with a harsh, hard stare. Her mouth is fixed and concentrated, her eyebrows are furrowed, her blues eyes doll-like and glassy, and her strawberry blonde hair hangs in a limp ponytail at the top of her head. You are staring at her with equal intensity, and you have stopped moving for what seems like hours but is probably just a minute, then you are walking up a hill towards the house and she is saying, “I could’ve sworn I saw you in my dream” while speeding past you on her bicycle. Now you are turning to look at her, the strings vibrating and playing a sinister song, each one looks like a small dot that makes up the world around you, a dot almost to small to see. She is leaving your line of sight and you are turning around, and continuing your way up the hill slowly but surely, and the sun keeps beating down on you.
You are in a house, laying on a bed the strings have not stopped playing and you are tired. They have simmered down, their sinister trills turning into a lullaby. You still see them. You can’t stop seeing them unless you close your eyes. So you are closing your eyes, you are trying to stay awake for some reason but can’t. Something is dragging you down. Something is making everything go dark. Everything is dark, and silent and your snores are filling the room.
And you will wake up, cloudy eyed, and groggy. Around you will be a garden filled with beautiful marigolds, hydrangeas and roses, and trees with fresh, green leaves, all wet with rain and a little stream with a cute wooden bridge, which is splotchy from the rain. Next to you will be an old man who is sleeping with his head resting on your shoulder. You will wake him and ask him where you are. He will turn and face you, his face wrinkled and serious and say nothing.