Alice Was Feeling Quite:
I fell asleep. Head hit the pillow, out like a light.
Then ... I woke up. Sort of.
I was at my grandparents' old mansion, the one which I'd wandered relentlessly as a child, a veritable land of antiques, mirrors, paintings, marble and luxury. The gardens no different.
I suppose it's no surprise that's where I ended up. Again, sort of.
I was lying on the floor in the middle of what used to be my mother's room, with two twin beds, one on each side, where she and my aunt had grown up. My cousins and I had stayed there ourselves many times, even though we were convinced, in our childhood, that the place was overrun by shadowy monsters just waiting in the wings. As I got older, the creepiness somehow never went away.
I picked myself up off of the floor and noticed the clocks in the room were all set to just a minute to my birthtime, 4:31 AM. In a moment, their alarms all went off. It was deafening, and the only place that seemed to be quiet was the closet. The damned closet of so many awful memories that I hated. But then I heard his voice. My older cousin's, who used to babysit his younger brother and myself countless times growing up.
He was shouting and coming up the stairs, maybe because of the noise.
My hands over my ears, no other choice. The closet it was.
Once inside, it was completely dark. Did I mention there's no light? All of the lights are off. It's the darkness one experiences not during a blackout, but rather a regular night when all the usual fixtures have been turned down or off completely. Just enough to let your eyes adjust, but not see much. But the closet was just dark. Flat dark.
And now he was banging on it. Shit.
"Look down." Said the usual disembodied voice in these types of bizarre experiences. (Probably with drugs, I'd imagine. I wouldn't know. Not my thing.)
But, fair is fair, so I replied in a whisper. "Down where?"
"Take a step forward. Concentrate. And go down."
"I don't like where this is going."
If I'd ever had the unfortunate experience of being suffocated by a boa constrictor, that's a bit what it was like. And fortunately, only for about fifteen seconds. I could hold my breath, and apparently I needed to. There was no air.
As the hole in the floor either rose to take me in, or I slowly slipped into it like quicksand, it grew infinitely darker and I couldn't breathe. But once I was out, I hit the ground. Hard. Asphalt. And above me ... stars.
People were walking, so after staring in awe at stars so beautiful and bright, I got up. "We've got to hurry," said one of them. "Before the portal closes."
He then took my hand and kept at his fast walk. I had no choice but to jog with him. "Portal, okay ... seeing as I just came through the floor, I'm going to assume that's right."
"Where are you from?" He asked, suddenly taking note of me, and seeming to indicate a case of mistaken identity.
"Uhm ... well, my grandparents' mansion. Sort of. It's been gone, torn-down, and rebuilt into something else entirely since '98. So ... the memory of my grandparents' mansion. Anyhow, I came home from work sick -- exhaustion, working too hard, too many hours, emotional stress, blah, blah, blah -- and laid down. Hit the pillow, out like a light. NEVER happens, unless I'm supposed to dream something important. Oh, yeah ... so, anyway, I'm dreaming, and I end up at my grandparents'. But then my bastard cousin starts banging on the door when all of the alarm clocks are going off at my birthtime, and I hide in the closet. But there's a hole in the floor. I fall in. Now I'm here. I dunno; call me Alice. But not really."
He just nods. "Cool. Okay, well, I'll be your guide here, Alice But Not Really."
I laugh. "Cute. So ..." I look at the sky. "Where're we going? Somewhere I've been, somewhere I haven't been."
"Depends where you're going." And he winks.
I laugh again. "Hey, nice one. I think I'm gonna like you, Your Guide Here."
We keep walking. There are pipes everywhere, it's black as night, but the stars are incredible. I hear what sounds like a sea, but taste no salt in the air. It's very urban, very strange and Apocalypse Soon, but also very deserted.
"Are we in the middle of a war?" I ask, suddenly feeling like I really don't want to be here.
"Sort of," he responds. "You'll see."
I continue on with him meeting up with the others. They're talking, but I can't hear what they're saying. "You're not supposed to." He remarks. "You pay attention to everything all of the time. Every date, every detail. Some insight into what you're being told. You're getting too much. It's overwhelming you. Here, you'll only get what matters. The rest you'll ignore or won't hear or see at all."
I nodded, getting a feel for it. "So ... that blankness over there ... ?"
"Not important. Not to you," he clarified.
And we kept going, finally coming to what looked like a series of stone buildings with bizarre markings. "We're looking for the portal," he reminded.
"But nobody knows where it is?"
"We will when we find it."
There was a lot of walking. I don't remember a lot of it. As my guide would have said, that's because it wasn't important. Or, not to me, at least. So I'm okay with that.
"August 1, 1979. That's what we want," said a random guy looking up at a particularly menacing, but very sci-fi looking stone door with strange colourful shapes cut into it.
"Well, January 1, actually," my guide told him.
"They're seven months off," I remarked.
"The same here. We're seven months off." And then he shrugged. This was apparently normal, so I tried not to wrack my brain about it too much and shrugged it off, too. He smiled. "You're learning."
I took it as a compliment and grinned confidently. "I'm a fast learner. So, 1979 ... I wasn't born yet."
"Doesn't matter. We want the January 1, 1979 portal. But it won't take us to 1979." As I tried to think about it he said, "Again, it's just not important."
But then that struck me as horrific. "If it's not important, I won't see it."
"No, it's important ... just ... not ... well, you'll see. The fact that it's a 1979 portal and it takes you to 2006 is not important."
"1979 and 2006 are the same here?"
"Maybe." He didn't know.
I stood looking at the stars for a minute, surveying my surroundings. It was desolate, urban, and a bit creepy. The pipes were reminiscent of that god awful early 1990's "Super Mario Brothers" movie with Hoskins and Leguizamo. Other than that, I liked it. Pipes. Why pipes? Because we were getting the sink repaired?
My thoughts were broken. "Got it."
"Okay, we've got to hurry," my guide says, suddenly becoming more serious.
But then I catch something out of the corner of my eye.
"What's this?" I go to it, like a moth to a flame. It's a long, stone plaque carved into the asphalt. Like a grave, except it isn't. It's asphalt, and this is not a morgue. It's a plaque. Just a plaque. "Myra ... " And what looks to all the world like an S, H, and then it gets fuzzy. O, V, I ... C? K? Damn it. This is important. I start saying it aloud. 1979. Myrashovik. Who was this? Was this me? Myra Shovic? Myra Shavik? Is it an anagram?
"We're going to lose it!" One of them shouts.
"Come on!" He shouts at me.
"But I -- "
"There isn't time!"
"But I've almost got it!" I'm insistent on unfurling this mystery before I go.
"I don't care!" He shouts. And for a moment, his face changes shape, becoming a myriad of people from my past, who've tried to help me, or been integral to my life. My father. My boyfriend. And then, even myself. He grabs my hand, but I pull back, shocked. Then I regain my composure and take it. He pulls me up to the stone door.
"Are you ready?" I look back at the mysterious plaque in the floor and sigh.
"Can I come back here?"
"What if I never figure it out?"
He smiles. "Then it wasn't important."
It was oddly comforting. I nodded. "Okay."
I make to go through, but he vanishes.
I'm alone again. I press against the cold stone, but all it is is cold stone. What was a beautiful place of quiet and serenity, all the wonder the night has the offer is now cold, dark and oppressing. I'm alone. Damn it, I waited too long, and it closed without me, or it won't admit me, or ... I look back to the stone plaque, still there, but now I blame it and myself for being so preoccupied with it. And something tells me, though I don't know what, that I can't go back to it right now. And the words are cryptic, disguised anyway. Like everything else that's not important to me. Right now.
I keep pressing against the cold stone, but nothing. Absolutely nothing. Worried, starting to feel anxious and getting one hell of a migraine I begin to wonder if I really do have migraines classically as much, or if they're a physical manifestation of anxiety, fear, and loneliness.
It's getting so cold.
And then it dawns on me ... the portal's not the way. The 1979 portal wasn't for me. I look back at the plaque. It's ... doing something, saying something. I go back to the words, hearing them in my head, over and over and over again. I lean over, catching my reflection in the marble, polished to an unbelievable sheen, so clear as if you could touch it and it would ripple like water.
In the reflection, above me ... there are the leaves of trees. And I'm laughing.
And ... oh, my god. I'm happy.
It looks like water. It's big enough. I could maybe ... go in? I mean, stuff's odd here. Very Carrollian. Just maybe.
No. It's still stone. Just looks like water. I touch it, now the oil of my hands getting onto it, destroying the sheen the more I try. My reflection pauses, surprised that I can't get to her. She looks sad and then ... as if there's nothing else to do ... disappears from my view.
And I'm alone. Again.
"Come back!" I shout. "No, I can get there, I know I can!" I'm furious. "Fuck!" I hit the stone, cursing a thousand different ways, and trying not to feel as anxiety-ridden and depressed as I am. But I can't wake up yet. And what if I tried? Sometimes it's a terrifying experience if I'm this asleep, and there's no doubt, I'm seriously in the REM.
Resigned to that, I continue to stare at the stone, dejected, forlorn, wishing. I close my eyes, trying to centre myself and then reopen them, staring at the same spot as before. But this time ... it's different. Darker, but without the illumination of the light.
I'm back in the closet.
And then, somehow, I'm awake. Staring at the ceiling fan which I adorned with glow-in-the-dark stars to remind me of my college days which reminded me of my childhood. Relieved, my head is banging, and I get up to see what my boyfriend's up to, as I hear him at the computer, and maybe get something to drink. Something for my head, too, maybe.
I open the door. It's a hallway. We don't have a hallway. We have a very small space which connects the bathroom to the living room. You cannot call it much of anything, save for a wall suitable for a sizeable bookshelf.
Crap. I'm not awake.
And it's not the hallway leading from the same room where my mother grew up, no, this is the house where I grew up. This is the hallway I'd run down so many times with various friends and pets and projects and injuries and my first short stories and school papers. It's dark, though, of course.
Great. I hate the fucking dark.
That's when it clicks. I tried to wake up and failed, and it was dark, which means ...
OH. HOLY. SHIT.
Fire. It starts first from the windows in the old study where I'm standing, and begins to overtake the kitchen. The hallway is now completely engulfed in flame. I've been terrified before. I've wondered how this might feel in my worst nightmares.
Now I know.
This is worse than the dark.
I cover my mouth and run into the kitchen doing my best to avoid the flames which are growing higher and higher, making it impossible to go back where I've been, and the black smoke is creating a thickness in which I can't see anyway. I'm extremely dizzy ... and feel more tired than I ever did at work. I can barely move.
I get the first door open, the strong wooden one. Then I try the little handle on the glass screen door. Nothing. It refuses to budge. Or maybe I'm too weak. It's nothing but blurred black and orange, and so hot that I can't imagine my skin hasn't melted against bone, that there's any flesh left on my body. They say it's the heat, not the flame, if you can believe it.
I want to lay against the door and wait until it's over. Just fall asleep and drift and ... and what? I'll wake up. I always wake up. Don't I?
What if I don't? What if this is the most terrifying thing I've ever imagined, ever dreamed ... and I don't wake up? What then? There's been unexplainable deaths. People just ... die. I've myself been terrified of it.
I can't do that. My hand feels as if I haven't moved it for years. I push myself off of the door, bite my lip and disappear into the black and the orange, the flame and the smoke. I have to get enough of a run. I have to save my strength.
Then, I hit it. At first, I just hit it. And I try again. I don't dare look at myself. I don't know what's left of me. Back into the orange. Back into the black. And out again, stronger, faster, harder.
It shatters. I fall through it.
I'm expecting cold concrete, the porch that was. Maybe even a spring evening. More than anything, I'm expecting pain. Blinding pain. And to be awake.
The closet. I think. But it's cramped. My hands are tingling, but I have my hair, and my skin. Nothing is even singed. It just feels like my hands are regaining circulation.
I open the door. It's our bedroom. And there I am. Sleeping. I'm completely out, wearing my work clothes, curled up against the pillow just dreaming and dreaming away. It looks as if I have no idea what I've even been through. But I'm tired and really, really ready to wake up now. I get it, I think. We'll see.
So I walk over to her. Me. I don't think it'll take much.
"Wake up!" I shout. "Wake up, Auby! Wake up!"
I do. Sort of. Both of us do. I blink repeatedly, and nearly fall back into sleep. The dark hallway again. Something in the blackness.
Oh, hell no.
I wake up.
I wake up.
Yes. I'm awake.
Myrashovik. 1979. What's important. The awful closet. The burning house. Going through the glass door. A dream. I'm awake now.
But am I? Am I truly?
I'm awake, but have I been reborn?
Time tells everything.