A day of surreal events.
|For Thrice Prompted
Word count: 1,836
Prompt: Two worlds collide
There was a man, seated behind a desk and talking into a cellphone. This was seen through a pane of glass, reflections breaking up the vision and shivering as though someone were banging on the window somewhere. We were standing in a darkened room, the only light coming from the window through which we could see the man.
Something was wrong.
The reflections in the glass, what was causing them? There were no lights in our room to rebound off the pane. The window, too, didn’t seem to be a window at all. It filled the wall we were facing. Do you remember that?
I saw your narrowed eyes gazing into that room through the glass. It came to me that you were trying to hear what the man was saying into the phone. And that was when I realised that we should have been able to hear him, at least faintly. He was clearly angry, mouth gaping around a loud but soundless voice, like a goldfish gasping in stagnant water. His free hand was making extravagant and exaggerated motions in the air to punctuate his words. But we heard only silence
Maybe we should have been more surprised at what we were seeing. Thinking about it now, I realise that we must have been in some sort of shock and unable to react to something that made no sense. We were both trying to construct explanations for this unnatural occurrence, giving our minds time to absorb the sight before making any judgment on it.
The vision wasn’t helping. It was moving, the desk and the man behind it, moving closer toward the glass. As it approached, things became blurred and staccato, leaping forward and then back, as though an old film was slipping on the reels, jerking through time in haphazard leaps.
I moved toward the glass and found myself falling as my footing disappeared below me. My mind was expecting to crash through the glass but my body just stumbled headlong and then I was falling through a bright light, my eyes closing instinctively after the darkened room. I landed in sand, the impact knocking the breath from my lungs.
For a few moments I lay there, regaining my breath, before opening my eyes to the world around me. I was on a beach with a deep green ocean before me. Little waves broke near the shore and ran, hissing, up the sand and then retreating again. The sun shone bright in the blue sky above and gulls called harshly from the heights. My hand dug into the sand and emerged, allowing the grains to run between my fingers and back to the beach again.
This was real.
I turned over painfully and managed to get to my knees. The beach was deserted as far as I could see, but I heard the sound of a voice behind me. It was distant and I could not make out the words. Were you calling to me, even then?
Somehow I struggled to a standing position and turned around. The man at the desk was there but now I saw him from behind. He was still yelling into the phone but I could hear nothing. Beyond him was the glass, not a window at all, but a seemingly endless sheet that stretched from one horizon to the other. On the other side was darkness but I could make out a faint shape that I supposed must be you, still caught in that darkened room.
The beach moved several yards towards the room. Or maybe the room moved, for I was not swept off my feet and felt no tremors. Whatever had happened, I was now closer to the room and took a step towards it.
There was a confused moment that I can only describe as existence blinking and I was standing next to the man at the desk. And now I could hear him shouting. Not that it did me any good, for he was venting his anger in some foreign language that I knew nothing of. He seemed unfazed by my sudden appearance, not even acknowledging my presence with a glance.
Both times I had tried to move had resulted in the unexpected. I froze now, determined to stay where I was until I had some sort of understanding of what was happening. Beside me, the man suddenly stopped shouting and threw his cellphone across the room. It disappeared into the darkness beyond the glass.
The man muttered something to himself, then stood and turned to depart. It was fortunate that he turned away from me as I could not move if he wanted to leave in my direction. What would happen if he collided with me, I had no idea. Since he couldn’t see me, would he just pass through me? I did not want to find out.
But he was moving away and now seemed to be climbing an invisible flight of stairs. His head disappeared into the ceiling, followed by his shoulders, his torso, legs and finally the last foot flipping itself into invisibility. I was beginning to have a slight understanding of these strange events.
If my reasoning was correct, it was imperative that I find a way back to you as soon as possible. Crouching like a coiled spring, I prepared to hurl myself towards the glass. Just as I released all my energy into a mad dash for the darkness, I saw the world move sideways. The desk shot past me and I saw room after room flashing before my eyes as though they were the brightly lit carriages of an underground train racing past.
Once again, I felt myself falling, but this time only a short way before the hard pavement of a city street brought me to a standstill. The shock of landing threw me sideways to land in a heap against a brick wall. I had been falling at an angle, it seemed.
That fitted my evolving theory. I carried out a hasty check for injuries and found nothing serious. Then I stood and looked around.
The street in which I stood was not one I recognised but it did seem the sort of place that might be found in my home city. The buildings looked familiar without any unusual architectural features. The only oddity was the glass wall. It emerged from the concrete of the building opposite and then proceeded upwards in a slant toward the heavens. No longer flat but waving in several bends and breaks, it disappeared into the grey sky above. My theory received another encouragement.
I began to walk in the direction that promised to bring me further from the glass wall. Turning the corner, I saw that I was succeeding in this. I increased my pace.
The streets were not empty. People were dotted about, standing, staring at the sky, sitting and lying down, a few, like me, wandering without clear intention. A few cars were stopped here and there, parked in unlikely positions as though abandoned by their occupants for no reason. No one seemed to be talking to anyone else. They just looked around in dazed fashion, ignoring others.
I kept going in determination, though the street bent sometimes against my desired direction and corners often presented me with choices that were not convenient. And, as I watched, the city around me began to seem familiar. I thought I recognised certain places and was quite sure that I had seen some of the street names before.
One last corner after which the street stretched out in a straight line before me and I knew where I was. Our apartment could not be more than ten minutes away. I quickened my pace. “Home” was a word of infinite comfort on this day of utter madness.
The building loomed before me and I hurried through the door and climbed the flight of stairs to our apartment. Incredibly, the key was exactly where I expected it to be, in my pocket, and I inserted it in the lock. Once inside, I called your name but received no reply. I began to search the rooms.
I found the bedroom divided in two by the sheet of glass. A moment of doubt assailed me as the thought that this might be some insane form of symbolism flashed through my mind. What was happening was surely too large and encompassing to be a mere creation of my insanity.
You were standing on the other side of the glass, looking at me. Dead still but the room behind you changing at breakneck pace, becoming one room with lights bright, then another receding into darkness, one more slowly turning in circles around you, a brief flash of a room upside down, you standing on the ceiling while chairs, a table and a mat hung suspended above. It was as though you were standing on a platform while a train of different rooms rushed past behind you, through the station and into oblivion.
There must be no mistake this time.
Not daring to take another step, I extended my arm, offering you my hand. My arm stretched toward the glass. It became elastic and my hand touched the glass. Ripples spread out in circles from the point of contact. The sight of you became rippled in sympathy with the glass but I could see that you were reaching out to me, too. I stretched further forward and my hand passed through the barrier, no longer glass but a translucent sheet or interface between us.
Our fingers touched and our hands clasped. I pulled with all my might and you shot through the interface without difficulty, cannoning into me so that we fell together to the floor and lay there in each other’s arms, united but unable to speak in the strangeness of the day’s events.
Later, when we were able to sit up and stare into the glass that was now receding from the room, I told you what I thought must be happening and you nodded in constant agreement. Somehow our world had found a breach in the wall between it and another in a different dimension. Perhaps we had always occupied the same space in a multi-dimensional equivalent of the universe, but, for some reason, a break somewhere had enabled the two worlds to begin to interact with each other, producing the crazed jumble of sights we were experiencing. And our world seemed to be moving through and away from the other, which would explain the strange, moving interface between them, like continental plates shifting along a fault line.
As the worlds drifted apart and order returned, the arguments and theories began but the consensus was that my theory had the essential parts right. Two worlds had collided, nearly destroyed each other, and then gone their separate ways. In time things returned almost to normal.
But I’ll never be able to look through a glass window again without experiencing a deep feeling of unease.