I floated on wings of silence like a piece of driftwood at sea. Colored gases swirled around me like silk scarves, brushing against my bare arms and legs. It delighted my senses and tingled nerve endings. For as far as I could see a myriad of colors swum and twirled dipping and rolling around particles of dark matter and glittering specs of sunbeams in miniature cosmos. I wondered why I was there? Where WAS there? Where was I? Was it a dream? I didn’t remember going to sleep. In fact, I didn’t remember anything at all. Eventually I heard soft singing and the sharp but pleasant ringing of bells. I opened my eyes; had they been shut? And realized I was surrounded by glimmering radiant beings hovering in the rainbow cosmic cloud.
“Mind the signs,” echoed in my skull and repeated over and over in millions of voices separately and in unison. “Mind the signs…..Mind the signs…..”
My room was dark when I awoke. I didn’t recall having gone to bed, but since I was awaking in it I must have. I shoved the covers off with my feet and stood, stretching. The house was unusually quiet. I figured I must be the first up. I used the bathroom and dressed. Still no sounds. I went to the kitchen. No one. I was beginning to worry. This was not like my parents to sleep in, especially later than me. I went to their room.
“Mom,” I called softly. I pushed on the door which was slightly ajar, “Dad? Anyone up? Hey, sleepy heads….” I stepped inside. The room was empty. The bed was made. My stomach flip-flopped. I went to Marcy’s room next.
“You’ll be late….” I didn’t finish because no one was there to hear me. Her room was immaculate, which never happened, and empty. Now I panicked. I ran to Jarrod’s room and found the same thing. I was alone.
“Where did you all go without me?” I yelled to the ceiling, tears beginning to prick my eyes. “Where is everyone?”
I ran to the front door and flung it open.
I slammed it shut again and locked the deadbolt with a satisfying crunch then ran back to my room. I crouched, crying in the corner behind my bed. My room was still dark and shadows wavered and squirmed across the walls like living shades. I shut my eyes and slid my hands across my ears to shut out the world. I had to shut out this world that was not mine.
I must have fallen asleep again because when I woke the room was pitch black and I knew the sun had gone down. I found it odd that the day never got brighter than gray and overcast, but figured it was going to rain. I checked the kitchen and found a few eggs and bread so I ate then lay back down on my bed and fell into a fitful sleep.
Sometime in the middle of the night, I guessed anyway, I awoke with a strange sense of foreboding. The hair on my neck and arms stood up as my skin prickled as though with a soft electric shock. My breathing became ragged and my heart thumped so loudly in my chest I could hear it in the silence of the room. Something wasn’t right. I knew I’d locked the door all the way….but still…..
When I woke again a gray light pushed its way past the edges of my window blinds spitting its dullness into the room.
I decided I would find no answers holed up in the house, so I showered and dressed and took several deep breaths before opening the door again. This time I thought I was prepared.
The murky gray light that filled the sky seemed watery and weak. Although there was no cloud cover, there was no sunlight. I stepped onto the stoop and jumped when my foot landed on something soft. It was a folded newspaper. I opened it and read Jacksonville Times Union. I tucked it under one arm and stepped down onto the dirt that once was my dad’s pride and joy green grass.
A crushed stone walkway lined a packed dirt road that ran in front of the house. To the left and right of the house sat tall and short buildings of every description. Some seemed to be stores, others apartment buildings or individual homes such as mine. Tall brass street lights stood sentinel on each intersection.
Many of the windows held new handbills showing a child with the words “Have You Seen This Child?” underneath. It shocked me to realize each face was that of a different child. How many children disappeared from this city and where did they go?
There were no traffic lights or signs. A rumble overhead pulled my attention to the murky sky as a glass-enclosed egg floated by. At the rear spun a huge brass propeller with puffs of steam escaping into the atmosphere. Inside the egg people were seated lining the edges. I wondered what they called this mass transportation.
I jumped as a sudden chug and zip sounded then a puff of steam enveloped me. I watched the rear of a triangular car with all glass top speed down the road. Another headed my direction on the opposite side. The driver sat in the front of the triangle managing the car with a joystick while two passengers sat side-by-side on the rear seat. It maneuvered surprisingly well and was quite fast.
While gawking at the odd modes of transportation I had not paid attention to where I was going, which I quickly realized was stupid.
“Watch where you’re going, lunchmeat,” a low and menacing voice growled in my ear. I was jostled so hard I fell against a building scraping my arm. “Haven’t you ever seen a Skiibuss or Tricar before? Imbecile…” he continued speaking as he walked away the opposite direction.
I turned to apologize but stopped short with the words stuck in my throat when I realized he was the largest man I’d ever seen. He stood easily over eight feet tall. He wasn’t fat, just….big. He wore a black top hat and cape. He also spun a black cane with a gold dragon-shaped handle with glittering diamond eyes. He must have realized I was staring because he turned just his head and grinned maliciously at me with a flick of red eyes before his head swiveled back around.