These are the things I’ve never seen. Grass, mist, planes, pools, mildew, moss. These are the things I’ve never done. Never been anonymous, had an accent, been a foreigner. Never left the house without a shield.
I don’t remember falling asleep. A bright, lid piercing orange light jolts me out of a potent dream about shapes converging, or something like that. I groan, Mina has forgotten to close the curtains again. I roll over to shake her, but my hands fall on cold bedding. My eyes snap open.
I’ve been having a lot of dreams recently, all variables of the same. A vast space or an infinitely deep hole, they’re hard to remember.
The light is coming from a plate in the wall, which only last night glowed as an ember. I fumble over its surface. It dims and I am left with the grey blue of another morning in an unfamiliar room. The plate reads 06:30.
Sliding off the bed, I cross to the bathroom. The floor creaks, a sound so extremely loud in this quiet house, I almost feel ashamed.
The interior of the bathroom is simple besides a circular window against the far wall meant to overlook the back garden only now it displays a dimensionless sheet of fog. I experiment with the tap a few times over. Shaken by its unconcerned flow, I stop up the basin with a hand towel, filling it until the very edge. The water is perfect. Wanting terribly to just dive into it, I scoop up a handful. Semi cool.
In bringing it to my lips, I inadvertently make eye contact with myself in the mirror. My hair is a rat’s nest, falling over my shoulders into the bowl, my cheeks are puffy from sleep, my eyes rung with deep dark circles. I watch myself drinking handfuls of water until my belly distends, noting with sick satisfaction how well my vile appearance fits into this invented ceremony.
I’ve never had this much space of my own to spread out and leave things unfetched or haphazard. I am virtually intoxicated by this freedom; I toss the wet towel into the corner as I make my way back to bed.
The sheets have cooled in my absence and no matter how hard I try to sleep again, brain keeps reliving the past 24 hours. The last few days have been a blurry, ragged memory. Things happened so fast that this quiet hour feels like death. I could use this interval of calm to find clarity within myself but part of this sensation of death is that I seem to be watching myself from afar. I am completely disconnected to physical reality. Have I succeeded in astral projecting? Or did I fall somewhere in the desert and this is all a fever dream as my body bakes away unprotected in the sun?
It had been my first flight. A redeye. Eight hours, four in anti-gravity. I’d planned on sleeping through the experience, but excitement got the best of me. My sleeping capsule remained forgotten in my pocket as I became transfixed by the layer of cloud spanning out towards a horizon for the duration of the flight, the faintest of colors emanating from its bow.
They’d shut the blinds in the descent so whatever spatial awareness I might have gained from seeing the reapproaching earth was diminished severely.
I had expected to see some kind of transition, a soft melt from city to country, but the view from the taxi to the Eco-Reservation was too dark and vague to see much besides a muted glow behind a heavy fog bank.
My driver talked incessantly for the first half hour about his mission to deliver a hundred toolboxes to a church community. Once, he spat into a ceramic pot lodged into the cup holder. A slightly sour smell filled the car for a minute before fading away into the ambient scent of leather.
Either sleep overtook me lest the darkness dragged me into a trance, I cannot be certain, but after what felt like a thousand years of blank soundlessness, I was jolted upright by a by a nasty grating clatter. The collection of untethered tins jerking about in the trunk indicated our departure from the highway onto unpaved back roads
Hammering in steep decline, small stones beat up against the metal underbelly of the vehicle, adding to the soundtrack from hell. We seemed to at times become airborne before landing roughly several feet forward. One more precipitous landing, I thought, and I’ll just pass straight out, that will be it for me. Deposited at Vita not as a warm student, rather a cold cadaver, blanched, rigor mortis pinning my features into pallid terror.
“Is it always so foggy?” I had asked the driver after we’d flattened out some and I was able to restore myself enough to look out the window properly. The sun wasn’t quite up but a cold blue dawn had arrived as if an opening act for the real morning. Notions of tree’s and fields began to peek out in between the gaps in the mist, covered with a soft white down perforated only by the occasion of a taller bracken.
My voice came out small-- he didn’t hear me. I’d felt invisible. I fingered my pocket humidifier in my purse, absently clicking it open and shut. They have Ozone purifiers here. Massive whirring machines so loud they have to build sound barriers hundreds of feet tall.
“We’re getting close!” The driver shouted over the din. He indicated for me to look out the window. I couldn’t yet see why but I looked anyways. Establishments had started to crop up, plaster coated inns with stacks of salvaged wood and stone piled outside, mid construction, or deconstruction, glass cubes blushing from pilot power, unopened shop fronts and hallowed out structures, overrun with vines or dunes. The landscape emerged as if from a long sleep.
We approached an archway more intricately carved than anything I’d ever seen of that size. I’d let out an involuntary sigh. My first real view. The impending stone sign read “Welcome to Queen’s Peace, Home of Earths Rehab, Tipping the World Back Since 2090.”
Caspian Alavi-Flint lives in California with her dog. The image is the writer’s own.