As I stepped out off the curb, my boot sent pillowing clouds of dust exploding up from oddly soft layers of dirt before dissipating in a surreal stretching of time. My hooded duster settled as I stood there in the warm rays of the sun. I took the open flaps of my duster and shook them off as best I could and then looked down the empty street one way before slowly turning to look down the other. Something isn’t right, I thought.
No sooner than I let that thought float away did the sky turn dark and I had to tilt my gaze up to see if incoming clouds were the cause, but no. Not a cloud to be seen. Just a growing darkness. An odd darkness. The street scene was still illuminated, mind you, but it was almost as if I had walked into a room and someone started to turn down the dimmer knob on the light switch.
And then it was eerily cold. Not like the cold that slowly sinks in as your body becomes aware of it. No, this was an immediate drop in temperature. I can only describe it, too, as an odd cold. A general cold, if that makes any sense. I sure as hell know it didn’t make much sense to me. And then a thought struck me.
That’s it!, I said outloud to myself, no longer concerned that I was seemingly the only other living being here. I’m neither here nor there. Not in my world, or the other.
I pulled the hood down on my duster so I could listen unubstructed to the sounds of the strange environment around me, but there was nothing other than silence. A full and deafening silence. I know this plaza, though. I was just in it a minute ago while it was starting to fill with the morning bustle. I was walking to… where was I going, I tried to recall. The memory now gone to the ether. I do know this intersection but it had taken on an alien landscape that I couldn’t quite place, at the same time.
The buildings took on a slightly tilted appearance, often at odd angles, and never perpendicular to each other; like having been drawn out of proportion and exaggerated for surreal effect by a drunk cartoonist trying their hand at realism. With their non-dominant hand.
Even the light was an odd, unidentifiable hue, caught somewhere between gray and lilac, as best I could tell. There’s also blue in there, I noted to myself. Interesting.
A lone bird, large and also drawn of the same unsettling dimensions and odd color of black-but-not-black and not any other directly recognizable color, sat atop the high pitched roof of the inn directly across the street from where I stood. Its gaze focused and intent on me.
The fantastically strange bird flapped its wings and wrenched its head up higher to the sky appearing to squawk but I couldn’t hear any of it. A slightly worried chuckle had begun to escape my lips which I immediately shut down by biting my lower lip. I know that bird. That goddamned bird. My wife has come for a visit.
I began a slow clap and let it build up in both force and speed until I was slapping my hands together so hard I brought a sting to my palms and while they created a loud and emphatic crack, there’s no echo coming off of any of the surrounding buildings. As soon as the sound erupted, it was gone.
She looked down at me, head to one side like a Cocker Spaniel. I admit the slow clap was a bit dramatic. But, then again, so was her entrance. I had to give credit where credit was due, and she’d earned a dramatic acknowledgement of… whatever this was.
I ran a hand through my beard, contemplating the situation and what must have transpired in order for us to be where we were at that moment in time. Me, standing in the dust of what was a bustling street. My wife, a Raven I think, perched atop the inn looking down at me. Both of us in a world between worlds of her making, I ponder. And then…
I regained consciousness, face down in the dirt. Pain and heat radiated from my face. Slowly and carefully I lifted myself up to a settled position on my knees as I wiped a hand across my face. I pulled it away to look down at a muddy mix of dust and blood. Looking around, the gray gloom that once shadowed the street was gone, replaced with the faint glow of the lamps from the street at the mouth of the alley.
And there were people. And the sounds of the night, vibrantly echoing in every direction, a cacophony of sound.
How long have I been here? What… happened?!? And where is Enid?!?
The thoughts that raced through my mind pushed and pulled at one another, hitting me between the eyes with a migraine as they fought for dominance. Or is it the head wound? I clumsily stood up, stretched out the kinks in my back, and leaned back against a brick wall.
Keeping an occasional eye on the alley entrance, I brushed muyself off as best I could, my duster filthy with alley grime. I ran a hand through my hair, catching twigs and causing puffs of dust to circle and fall around my face. I couldn’t feel anything in the air. Nothing riding the waves, as I like to say, either.
Once I felt solid enough to take leave of the minimal protection of the alley, I slowly walked back out onto the street and started to make my way back to the apothecary.