© E.R. Anders
All Rights Reserved
He sat up in a graveyard. Everything was gray, not just the sky, but the dumb ground, the silent headstones and stately massive mausoleums adorned with weeping angels. He stood up. The graveyard was on a hill beside a town overlooking a bay. Even the water was gray, streaked occasionally with flecks of white foam. He looked down at himself, examining his hands, his clothes. The only colors he saw were the blue in his jeans, the brown in his shoes, black sweater and tan raincoat. Everything else in the world was gray.
He shuddered, but the chill was from within signaling that he should be moving. He heeded the signal. A path from the cemetery led down the hill to a street on the edge of town. He followed the path.
He was alone. The town was New England, white clapboard houses and shops. There was no-one on the street or in the shops. The overcast sky remained gray, but there was more color. He passed a beauty salon. A faded poster advertising a Permanent for half price, attracted his attention. A woman's face looked out at him from the poster. The woman's features were all but washed out. Just dark thoughtless eyes over lines that hinted at a nose and two lips curved to suggest a smile. The hair, however, was highly resolved, in a palette shifted hard toward a pale magenta. He continued walking, past a drug store, a church, and a diner.
A man suddenly hurried by him and disappeared around a corner. More a blur of movement than a solid image. He followed. There were others, young men and woman carrying books, entering a building with a theater facade. There was no-one in the ticket booth so he entered, passing through a dark corridor into the light.
"What is your name, young man?" a man's voice asked.
"Brad," he replied.
"Well, Mr. Brad, you are late. Please take a seat."
He was standing at the back of a filled lecture hall. The audience was young, college age, he guessed. The hall was shaped like a half bowl. A center aisle slanted steeply down toward the stage where the elderly man who questioned him stood.
Brad caught a hint of movement to his left. A young woman motioned him to come and sit next to her. He felt self-conscious standing where he was and moved past several seated "students" and toward where she sat, four seats in from the center aisle.
"I saved this seat for you," she said, as he sat.
"Now, back to the mainstream of our symposium." The man who was clearly some sort of professor or teacher, Brad surmised, continued. "In summary, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle marks the end of the second phase of inquiry into Spatial Dialectics in the Post Modern Age. Its impact on culture and society in the later part of the 20th Century was indeed pervasive and now, in retrospect, clearly discernible through analyses of technological advances in information systems of the period," the man paused. "What then are your questions at this point?" he waited.
Brad stood up.
"What is your question?"
"Where am I?" Brad asked. His question produced a skittering of laughter from those in the audience. The question also brought a look of amusement to the professor's face.
"Why, you sir, are at the center of the Universe." More laughter. "If that is all, you are dismissed until next time," the professor said to the audience. They began to leave. Brad remained standing, motionless, unsure of what to do. He felt a tug at his elbow.
"Come with me," the woman said. She stood up and made her way to the aisle and headed for a side exit. Brad followed. The exit led to a side street that meandered down a lane that ended in a dirt path toward the beach. The woman didn't look back as Brad followed. They turned and headed up the beach. She walked a few paces ahead of him. He watched her body as it moved under the light print dress. Her hair was cut short in a "bob". He knew her hair was blond but there was no color in it. All color had been drained to black and white and shades of gray in this world.
"Where are we going?" he asked her. The woman stopped and turned, facing him.
"Where do you want to go?"
"I'm not sure," he said.
The woman said nothing and started up the beach again. He followed her in silence.
"The sky is blue," he said, noticing for the first time.
"Yes," she said.
Through breaks in the overcast, the sky indeed showed blue. There were also aquamarine flecks in the ocean waves as they rolled up the beach. The sand of the beach also took on coloration, light browns and lines of darker browns. The farther they walked along the beach more color showed. The ocean too was blue. Large billowing white clouds dominated a cobalt sky. Above the beach line to their right, dark green palms loomed against tall, patterned bamboo.
"I'm over here," the woman said, pointing to a break in the beach that led inland. "My cabin."
It was no grass shack, Brad noticed. A long verandah of bamboo and wood, a peaked roof spread wide over a single level. Large bamboo framed windows with huge wood shutters; more like a rich South Seas plantation owners home.
He noticed, too, color in the woman's dress, pastel swirls mostly, against white cotton. Her bare arms and legs were tanned and yellow showed in her hair for first time. Without hesitating, she led him up the stairs of the verandah and inside.
It was cool and dark inside. He stood still to let his eyes adjust. When they did, he saw teak and rattan. Big paddle blade fans installed in the ceiling turned above him. There was also a light scent of jasmine in the air.
"Paradise." Brad commented.
"Yes," the woman said. She had already put down the books she'd been carrying. She moved to him. Her eyes were deeply blue and widely intense. Her face was well made. Perfect nose and soft curved mouth showing straight white teeth. The face was familiar, but Brad could not remember to whom it belonged.
"Would you like a drink?"
"Sure," Brad said, trying to sound relaxed. "What do you have?"
She pointed to a sideboard. On it was a large pitcher of orange juice, two glasses and a china plate with slices of oranges arranged in a decorative spiral.
She went to the sideboard, picked up the tray and returned with it to him.
"Juice as good as nature can make it." she said, placing the tray on a low table next to them. As she bent down, Brad could not help but notice the movement of her unrestrained breasts beneath the light cotton dress. Her nipples were hard and left a sharp imprint in the dress and his mind.
She gestured for him to sit. He complied. She sat next to him and poured a glass of orange juice from the pitcher. It was the orangest color he had ever seen. He took the glass from her hand. There was just a hint of foam on the surface of the juice. Beads of condensation already sheathed the glass that felt cold and wet in his hand. He drank deeply.
"This is very, very good," he said afterward. This seemed to please her. He noticed the brand name of the orange juice, etched on the side of the glass. She moved closer. He felt the pressure of her breasts against his arm. She turned her face to his. She seemed to fill up his senses. The scent of jasmine tinged with orange enveloped him. He leaned closer to kiss her and felt the firm press of her lips. Eyes closed, he set the glass down. He kissed her cheek and moved to the soft curve of her neck. His hand moved to her thigh. He felt soft smooth skin where the dress ended. He stopped, pulling away.
"What's the matter?" the woman said softly. He was still close enough to feel the warm breath of her words on his cheek.
"I don't know," Brad replied, brow knitted in thought.
"Wife?" she looked at him kindly.
"Yes," he said beginning to remember.
"We had a fight," he paused. "An argument."
Brad shook his head. The stream of jumbled, jump-cut images which had flashed in high contrast and half focused in his mind's eye stopped.
"Something stupid, I think."
"Do you know where you want to go now?"
"Yes," Brad said. "I want to go home."
"Sorry about the brown-out, man." Eyes peered at him from behind round lenses. Brad felt cool air on his skin. He was beginning to see clearly.
"Damn, power company," the attendant groused, as he leaned over to unsnap the clasps on the arm and leg restraints. "You're gonna feel a little wobbly," he said as he helped Brad stand. He was right.
"Whoop, there ya go," he said, as Brad stumbled out of the pod into the darkly lit room. Cones of light angled down from the ceiling randomly, making a jumble of shapes. Deeply shadowed pods, large and small among cabling and HVAC tubing were scattered in disorderly clusterings across the floor. Most of the pods were closed. Only a few were clam shelled open like his own and they were empty.
"You okay, man?" the attendant asked. He handed Brad his coat.
"Yeah, I'm okay." Brad felt a little weak in the knees but otherwise steady enough to make it on his own. As he started for the exit, he sensed that he was being watched. Glancing up, he caught a glimpse of a woman watching from the large glazed center window of the overhead control booth. She wore a headset. Euro-Asian he guessed. There was something strangely familiar in her intensely blue eyes, too.
"It's raining outside, man," the attendant shouted from across the room.
Brad nodded. "Thanks." He paused to put on his coat before going out.
Brad flicked the collar of his coat up and the music came on. High, shrill electric slide guitar and a voice that was low down dirty blue. He began walking past alleys that were like cracks in a great wall. A faint glow from flames rising out of a 55-gallon drum touched the figures of the derelict men warming themselves by the fire, but did nothing to soften their faces; each one turning slowly, sharp shadowed and dead eyed as Brad passed.
Music banged down another alley, reaching the street in a rush. Flashes of blue, white and green neon dashed against the side of the alley, "Tokyo BAR & Grill", they repeated above a darkened doorway. Brad walked toward the noise, but turned abruptly into another entrance leading to stairs going up. He swiped his ID card down through the lock slot and pushed the door open.
Dull yellow light greeted him. His feet scraped against bare boards. A sad sofa sagged in silence against a wall. There was little else to look at.
"Molly?" He said, moving toward the shadows where the bedroom hid. He didn't turn the lights on. He could see her in the dim. Her hair was clipped short and yellow-white. In the dark he could not tell what was in her eyes. She pulled the sheet back revealing nakedness. She cupped her hands over small breasts. She moved her hands lower, slowly; down to the smooth and slick. She had remembered. He was forgiven..
"Welcome home," she said.