It was an unbearably icy day. The air, cold as death, assaulted my vulnerable pink face and my ice blue eyes, making tears cascade down my cheeks, only to freeze and gnaw at my skin.
I wanted ice cream. Peanut butter-and-chocolate ice cream, from the friendly neighborhood ice-cream shoppe. In spite of the bitter cold, I trudged on determinedly for ten excruciatingly long city blocks (long even for Portland, Oregon) until I decided to turn and hide from the piercingly cold wind in a narrow grey alley between Burnside and Alder. An ordinary alley, as far as I could tell...why shouldn't it be? Weathered black dumpsters everywhere, the morning issue of The Oregonian being blown around by the wind, alley stuff. "Nothing ever happens to me" was one of the more common thoughts in my plain, drab world, and this alley in particular was the epitome of plain and drab.
Looking around, I noticed that things seemed to be getting less and less...solid around me. Soon, my surroundings had grown dark--as black as midnight on a moonless night. Everything was black, but I can't rightly say everything. As far as I knew, everything was nothing. Nothing was everything. My usual level-headed logic was not functional. I seemed to be nowhere. My feet weren't even on land. I was suspended in midair, like a marionette, waiting. I squinted, hard, for signs of light, but it was utterly hopeless. Darkness was everywhere. The longer I waited, the more I wanted to refer to my surroundings (or lack thereof) as NOTHING. I was neither warm nor cold, no breeze stirred to assure me that I was alive. I began to wonder where, or if, I was.
I began to feel completely and hopelessly trapped in this nothingness. Imagine the most torturous boredom mixed with the most agonizing suspense...that's what it was. Had my life flashed before my eyes, I would have accepted it gracefully, but here I was, drowning in uncertainty and despair. Shutting my eyes, I hoped. That was the only thing to do, hope.
Then I saw it. A light, then two, then three, and so on, until I couldn't count them anymore, appeared before and around me. The lights were rectangular, like doors, in every imaginable color. I spotted a red light and concentrated on it. Either the light got closer to me, or I got closer to it--I'm not too sure.
All I know is: The light became bigger, and redder, until I noticed a small object protruding from it--a doorknob. I turned, glad to be able to touch anything. There was a barely audible click, and the door glided open.
There before me was an enormous red room, relatively unfurnished. The floor was covered by something like grass, only it was red. The room was illuminated by a glow coming from the base of the walls. The light blanketed everything in a glowing red, including me. In the far right corner was a red velvet couch with a red crepe de chine curtain around it and a "skirt" around the bottom. The curtain surrounded the couch, as if to protect it from something. In the near right corner was a small waterfall coming from nowhere but the wall. The top of the waterfall was about knee-high to me. A clear red liquid tumbled over smooth, glassy red rocks to a tranquil pool at the rock-lined bottom. Around the pool's edge were several small white porcelain teacups with intricate gold and red patterns on them. I was dying for a drink, so I seized the nearest cup and plunged it into the pool, so as to get it full. The strange liquid proved to be strawberry Kool-Aid, and seeing as how I'd spent God-knows-how-long in nothingness, the reminder of the real world was more than welcome. I sat and gazed around the room. Red struck me as a fascinating color, but it had always clashed with my lifestyle. Pastels were as loud as I would get, and this place was a change...this place was something.
I placed the cup where I'd found it and plodded over to the couch. I was exhausted, so I decided to lie down for a bit. I poked the cushions to make sure they weren't uncomfortable or anything. The cushion gave in under my touch...it was softer than any couch cushion I'd ever poked. In fact, it was softer than any feather pillow, than anything I'd ever discovered. Eagerly, I collapsed onto the couch. I just sank. I didn't even have to get comfortable. It was too much. I was starving, though. I was so emaciated that I blacked out immediately and stayed so for what seemed like countless hours.
When I awoke, I had forgotten where I was. Upon realizing that I was okay, I decided to search under the couch. I reached under the couch and produced a pair of slightly worn red velvet slippers which, as it turned out, fit perfectly and proved to be a lovely break from Reeboks. They, too, were soft like the couch. I then found a red velvet dress with a long circle skirt and long fitted sleeves. Both the dress and the shoes were edged with gold embroidery, and the dress, too, fit perfectly. I kind of wondered why they fit me, of all people, perfectly. I decided not to question it, though. There must be a reason, and, as my German teacher always said, "Ein geschenktes Gaul sieht man nie ins Maul." Translation: Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
On either side of the skirt were two pockets sewn into the lining...they almost went unnoticed. Reaching into the left pocket, I found a yellowed piece of paper containing a sketch of some sort of creature. My eyes were riveted on the page until I was able to wad the paper into a ball and hurl it across the room. Reaching under the couch a third time, I discovered a gold hand-mirror with intricate designs resembling swords. Closer scrutinization showed the mirror handle to be a removable dagger. The mirror showed me: Fifteen, long blue-black hair, average height (for a girl), a single dimple on my left cheek......
I almost didn't see it. It crept up behind me, and put a filthy, shriveled hand over my mouth. I couldn't scream...I couldn't even breathe, for fear of inhaling the sickening stench from this monster--I still have no idea what it was. The creature reeked of sulfur and rotting flesh, and there was very little that I could do to combat the waves of nausea wracking my terrified frame. Its other arm encircled my waist tightly. I could feel the veins and lumps on the creature's arm, not to mention the bone itself. I was crushed against its ribcage, and the ribs were like blunt knives stabbing me relentlessly in the back.
I could see a small black opening appearing where I had entered. I panicked. What now? was all I could think as I was forced across the room. It didn't take much to make me move--my legs had turned into gelatin, I was so scared. Suddenly, I broke free and whirled around to face my attacker.
I only saw its face once. Horrible and hideous, grey, pointed head, fogged amber eyes, huge gaping mouth and no nose--only a hole, ringed with black blood. It looked exactly like that drawing. I rushed around the room, closely pursued by the thing. It stood upright, like a human, but it looked like a skeleton with skin stretched over it, and it when it ran, it took huge, bounding steps, almost as though it were skipping, over-joyed at the opportunity to kill me. I kept running and waiting for courage to do what I finally realized I had to. That was obvio
Ignoring the cruel cold that pierced my inadequate clothing like millions of thumbtacks and the colder stares (I was, after all, wearing only a red velvet dress and matching shoes), I raced home, through the front door, and collapsed on the couch, exhausted. My little sister, brat extraordinaire, entered the room and announced, "You're in TROUBLE, Anita!"
"Shut up, Cyndi," I wheezed. "Here's some money. Go and get me some ice cream, peanut butter-chocolate. Have Mom drive you. Please."
I saved the souvenirs from my adventure. I still have them, and I never walk in alleys. Never.
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