Chapter 1: Heck of a Day
It’s freezing, but I don’t feel like moving. I’m scared.
I frenetically look around to desperately catch a hint, but the more I keep my eyes open and the more I wanna shut them dead, desiring to run with nowhere to go.
Sunlight shines bright on the streets, yet I’m terrified like I’m surrounded by darkness; everything is unfamiliar. The street signs, buildings, people. I’m stuck.
No one ever walks around knowing every face passing by, but there’s still something to assure you are at home – and that is far from it.
I don’t know how I got here. It’s blank.
Everything is blank. I cannot tell who my friends are, who my family is, the places I’ve been living in;
I’m stuck here – and only here.
Standing up was surprisingly harder than expected, my back hurts and I can’t tell how I got so weak, but I only wished to sleep everything off on a bed.
I guess I have no choice, but to look for one.
‘ Gotta start somewhere, somehow.
I’m shaking. When did walking get so hard?
Every house had a garden, never higher than two floors, but mainly, never attached to another.
This must be a town. Which is good news, considering average prices in towns.
Money? How do I even think about money? Do I have some?
I checked every inch of clothing I had on, thanking whatever is outside of my control I had a bag with me. How do I have a bag with me?
There’s no time for that, now.
Apparently, nothing useful was in my bag either. Random, pointless objects. Nothing.
An envelope. Hidden at the bottom of a bag, but still an envelope.
I prayed whatever there could be money in there, at least something valuable, but all it had was a blank paper. What’s the point to have an unwritten letter ready to be sent?
There was an address written behind it. It’s not much, but it’s the only thing I’ve got, now.
Whoever had to receive this letter – or whoever I wanted to write it for – must be able to reveal the smallest something.
I tried to stop a few people to ask indications, but no one stopped.
Wherever I am, I’m surely not gonna come back intentionally.
I need to think.
Sitting on the closest plank I could find, I took a deeper look in my, apparently, school bag.
There wasn’t much, but at least I’m in a full furnished town; it would’ve been worse to be in a forest.
These objects are surely curious; if I can find a logic between them, maybe I could have a clue of what I was planning to do.
Given that is even my school bag, at least.
Where’s the connection between a beanie, a book, an envelope and a file of papers?
Music. Music sheets.
Who the fuck can read music sheets? I sure as hell cannot.
Great. Just great.
Maybe a walk would help me clear my head.
Probably I’m just exhausted, but I feel like I’ve been walking a whole week. Rationally, I think I walked an hour or so.
I have surely regretted leaving wherever I was; the full-of-people wherever I was.
Forcing myself not to fall into a mental breakdown, I sat down again. Just on the sidewalk, staring at a random spot.
I need to stay focused, but everything I could see were houses, trees and parks. Not even a car.
Assuring myself I will eventually find something usefull, my legs could only start again. There’s no other way.
A huge building in the middle of nowhere is surely surprising, but I don’t think I’m in the position to get surprised by it anymore.
Apparently, a university.
I don’t even know what time it is, but the sun is up. Early afternoon, for sure.
Aren’t minds a curious thing?
The more I got closer to my only hope, the more I hypothesized every reason why it would surely be closed.
I don’t even know how these people could help me, but they were people and that was enough.
Okay, hype’s over.
What do I even ask them? If there’s a motel nearby that would give me a room for free?
The address! Maybe there’s even a bus. If there is, they’ll know it. They can check. I couldn’t pay for it, but a ticket is not my biggest concern right now.
It’s surely not my country, but at least they speak English.
I could’ve been stuck in Russia, for that matter. That would’ve been worse.
No one had a clue of where the address was, but an extremely old computer came in handy.
Too old. How did they even find it? How can it possibly still work?
Again, not now. Things are weird enough, already.
That university is exactly in the street I was trying to reach, but the house number wasn’t. Surely a mistake.
Well, isn’t this my lucky day. I honestly cannot tell if that is good news or not, but I decided to see the glass half full: for all I know, that address could have been in a whole different city.
What were the chances to walk randomly to it?
I guess I do deserve a little help here, though.
I saw a redhead – a stunning redhead, to be fair – smoking a cigarette.
Guess what else I actually do deserve today?
“Excuse me?” – not gonna lie, I did not expect a courtesy smile when she turned her head.
I didn’t even expect her to turn her head at all.
I hate feeling shy. I so fucking hate feeling shy.
“I’m sorry to bother, but could I steal a cigarette of yours? Today has been hell of a day”
She laughed. Why am I so surprised to see her laugh? Doesn’t matter.
“Of course you can. I just bought them, anyway” – she seems friendly.
She even handed me a lighter without waiting for me to ask for it.
It’s a small gesture, but it counts.
I could only use my eyes to thank her while I lightened it, but words came out just a second later -her warm smile gave me the impression I did not need to use them.
I wished I didn’t have to take one step away from this girl. I just wanna talk to someone, for a moment. Who would be eager to walk away from a kind girl during a day like this?
“So – she started, taking one more drag.
“Heck of a day, huh?”
Will I ever be happier about small talks? I highly doubt it.
“So much I am even enjoying small talks” – oh, well. It’s always nice to make someone laugh.
Especially when it’s such a genuine, cheerful laughter.
“I didn’t have the greatest day either. We’ll probably feel like having a second one” – her eyes were cunning, precise.
“I wouldn’t say no. So, what happened today?”
“Ugh, just an important exam gone wrong. It’s the third time I take this fucking thing - I thought that the more you study and the better it should go, not the bloody opposite”
I couldn’t hold my laughter. I surely know what she means.
“Tell me about it”
“You too? Please, tell me I’m not the only hopeless one in this place” – she was surely being ironic, I liked her humour, but if she could only know what I actually wished to answer, she might reconsider her day.
“Well, I am definitely trying to hold onto the little pieces of mine, no worries”
“What exam were you preparing for?”
“Oh, no. I’m not a student here, but maybe you can help me – scrambling through my bag, I tried to find that envelope as fast as I could.
“I was trying to reach this address, do you have any idea of where it is? – handing her the paper felt like landing her my whole heart.
Please, say something useful.
“I’ve been told it’s nearby, but the number’s wrong” – silence was getting a little uncomfortable and the wait was eating me alive.
“No, it’s right”
“Good! Good, can you tell me where is it? Do you know this place?”
“It’s my address”
I said ‘useful’.
Chapter 2: Yet to be found
Questions on top of questions
“I don’t think I could ever thank you enough, Charlotte”
The cup of boiling hot tea was burning my hands, but I liked the pain. I just realized how I couldn’t stand a second more in that freezing weather.
Where am I? It would be too weird to ask. She has hidden her thoughts throughout the whole time, she was just hearing my story with the perfect poker face.
“It’s okay, it’s the least I can do” – she too was staring down at her cup, lost in thoughts. I so wish I could read her mind. It’s hard to bear the idea of looking completely nuts at her eyes.
“I wonder how did you get my address. If you don’t remember anything, I should still be able to recognize you. I don’t understand” – I said nothing. I was speechless. What is there to say, anyway?
She saved me from finding it out, asking me what’s next.
“Do you even had a plan?”
“Not really. This address is the only thing I’ve got. If you can’t help me figure it out, I have no clue. Maybe I should just try to find a job and try to create a life here in the meantime. I don’t know. I really don’t know” – her look was compassionate, but it was hard to read anything else.
“You can stay here as long as you need. Just sleep it off, for now”
The room smelt familiar, so sweet it calmed me down. I could fall asleep right there.
“You’re a life saviour” – she looks so tender when she laughs.
Her light caress on my arm was just a light gesture, an unworded answer, but it made me feel almost grateful to this whole madness.
I just smiled.
She contained hers, but her eyes did not.
“Alright”- she started.
“I’ll leave you in the hands of Morpheus, then” – I giggled.
Voiceless, I let her go.
I didn’t even want to think about any of this, I just wanted to sleep.
There’s a place in the dark where the animals go
You can take off your skin in the cannibal glow
Juliet loves the beat and the lust it commands
Drop the dagger and lather the blood on your hands,
Unmistakeable morning light, it did not bother me. I ignored the world by letting myself slip into the scent of the sheets – anything can wait a couple of minutes.
It took me a look to realize I wasn’t at home, wherever home was. That scent is so familiar it tricked my memory for a bit.
Still, the situation has definitely improved. I should stand up, but I don’t exactly know how to face Charlotte. I can only figure things out step by step; whatever she’ll say, I’ll find an answer to it.
I can’t prepare myself in advance.
I just want to stay a bit more where things are quiet, where I don’t need to face anything yet.
The house looked so much brighter than yesterday: morning rays came straight through the window to give the living room a whole new atmosphere. Nothing compares to early morning.
How much have I slept? It wasn’t even dinnertime when I went to bed.
Actually, I’m starving – and Charlotte wasn’t around.
I couldn’t check the whole place, but I could feel the house being empty. Headed to the kitchen, I saw a cup on the table, with a little note right beside it.
How could I ever repay this girl?
After two eggs and a cup of coffee, I felt the urge to take a shower. I knew she’d let me, but I still felt uncomfortable. I guess I don’t really have a choice.
I still feel a little guilty, but I feel I am born again.
I desperately wanted to go outside, look for whatever place could allow me to work a bit: a little coffee shop, a bar, a supermarket. Anything. I need to repay her and I need to stand on my two own feet. The door is obviously locked – even if it wasn’t, I couldn’t risk to leave it open.
Cleaning. That could be an idea to show a bit of gratitude – at least the only one I could think of.
It’s a strange house, not gonna lie. Old and modern at the same time: wooden furniture, weird looking lamps ; little statues, modern pictures on the walls. Certainly original.
Without feeding my curiosity too much, I simply started my task, but that didn’t take long enough – I cannot procrastinate it any longer. I need to think.
Finding a job sounds like a good plan, but I still need to figure the rest out.
First off: where am I?
Maybe having a look at some books or papers around should give me a clue to guess the spoken language – but that could be just where she or her family is from. A newspaper, maybe, but who does even read newspaper nowadays? I haven’t seen any, anyway.
I feel crazy just by thinking about it, but I can’t afford to ignore options: why were does computers so old? People didn’t dress weirdly, but there’s still something unfamiliar, even with how people dress. I don’t know shit about cars, so that’s not really helpful.
Those computers, though.
Okay, I’m going too far. I need to stay rational, otherwise I’ll start looking for ufos. It’s just a fucking computer.
Bag. My bag.
I put every little thing on the table, maybe I missed something.
Where the fuck has been a phone the whole time?
A fucking phone.
A blank phone. With nothing on it.
Some songs, yes, but literally nothing else.
Again, good and bad news, but a phone can always come in handy.
Does it even work?
I’ll try it when Charlotte comes back home.
The more I looked at my bag and the more I got confused: doesn’t matter how much I stare at those music sheet, I won’t learn to read them ; why on Earth would someone put a rope in a bag? I could see reason behind a hat, but a rope? A blank envelope? A phone with nothing on it, even.
At least, there’s a book. I cannot tell who the author is, nor anything else.
I just have too many missing pieces. I cannot figure it out, yet. I need to go on.
Resigned to my await, I just waited.
I just started reading.
Chapter 3: The Greatest show on Earth
This is where it start to make sense.
I do want to publish the rest, this is just the start - but maybe I should just keep it as a "longer" one shot.
Do you want me to continue?
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
I could get used to it. Cooking together like it’s an everyday thing, talking about our mornings like we already know each other – she couldn’t thank me enough for a bit of cleaning few hours before, but I guess she was forgetting a couple of details, like hosting me.
She’s nice, she’s kind, but there’s something about her. It doesn’t necessarily have to be bad, but there’s just more to it – and I wanna find it out.
Lunchtime was relaxing. We didn’t open the item, yet; we were just drinking coffee on her balcony while she gave me one more cigarette of hers.
I felt happy.
This is still madness, but I feel happy.
Sudden, loud music interrupted our conversation, clearly coming from the kitchen. When we got there, it stopped.
That song. I know that song. I remember that song.
While I felt petrified in my own thoughts, desperately trying to grab that only gran of sand of my memory, Charlotte brought me back to the present:
“Where did that come from?”
“Apparently, my phone. If that’s mine, of course”
“Was it in your bag?” – where else?
“If that’s mine, too. Yeah. From the bag” – she immediately walked towards it, while I added:
“Apparently I didn’t notice it” – like it mattered.
She had the most curious frown.
“What is this?” – now that her eyes are on me, I can clearly see that is far from a frown. Is she scared? She seems too cold to be scared. She seems surprised, but focused. I guess.
“The phone?” – I can’t take all this mistery anymore.
“This. This is your phone” – why does she suddenly sound so sarcastic?
“Yeah, that is it” – her expression changes like my mood. Why does she suddenly look angry?
“This is not a phone, this is a phone!” – she took out of her pocket a very, very old one.
“I don’t know what this is, but it’s certainly not a phone” – I was petrified.
She wasn’t angry, she was freaked out.
“I’m afraid that is a phone – I looked like I just saw a ghost and I am about to go inside a haunted house, but am I to blame?
“Charlotte, are the computers at your University’s reception new?”
“What on Earth has that have to do with this?”
“Please, please just answer me” – I didn’t even wanna hear it. Judging from my face, I guess she put aside her own questions to answer to mine. Am I so obviously on the edge of a mental breakdown?
“For all I know, yeah” – she sounds resigned, she obviously just wants to figure things out.
It got worse: I was even more scared and she was even more confused.
“What year is this?” – I had my eyes shut. I cannot believe what I just asked and I did not want to see her reaction.
“What?” – nor hear it.
“I’m serious. Just – I just can’t.
Just answer it.”
My eyes are now wide open, but my sight got blurred. I think I was about to faint.
I sat down.
I felt her touch, heard some sounds, but I couldn’t understand what was going on.
I have no idea what it’s going on.
It’s too much, it’s just too much. Too fast.
I didn’t even realized my tears were sliding down until I felt her hand wiping them away.
I looked upon her face and asking myself how I couldn’t notice her eyes were so blue became a priority, but I guess I just need another cigarette.
She suddenly seems so peaceful, just staring at me with both her hands on my face.
I didn’t even try to figure out her look, this time. I was just enjoying that somehow-calming stare.
“I guess I’m gonna steal another cigarette” – our sudden giggle turned into a laugh, both mechanic and genuine. We are freaking out, but not in the worst way.
The atmosphere on the balcony is peaceful; we avoided words, giving space to each other thoughts, but we are probably just waiting for nothing.
“It all makes sense, now – but I couldn’t keep them for myself anymore.
“At least, most of it. Waking up in the middle of nowhere, with nothing on me. Even this confusion makes more sense. The exhaustion…”
“Well, now we know time traveling is exhausting” – my laugh was genuine. I don’t know how I could cope with the whole thing without a bit of her irony.
“I dreamt of that song, tonight. I realize it just now.” – I spoke between the drags, but my eyes haven’t moved an inch.
“Do you know the title?”
“No clue. One of the many question marks” – and there, another drag and my cigarette was almost finished. Fuck.
“I guess we need to talk” – I swear to God I am gonna get a lung cancer if this thing doesn’t slow down.
“Do I need to worry?”
“No – she giggled, but that wasn’t as cheerful as the previous ones.
“I mean, it shouldn’t be a concern considering what we’ve just discovered. It isn’t really about me, more about my family” – her stare came back to being sweet, but almost ashamed. Why?
“Go on, then. I don’t think it would make the situation any worse, would it” – that might not have been my greatest attempt to solace someone.
“My family has interesting roots. I still don’t know the whole thing, I tried to keep myself out of it, but my family does practice some sort of witchcraft” – she admitted it like it was her biggest secret, but I think it’s sort of cool. Considering the situation, what’s common is still yet to be defined.
“I guess the surprises are not gonna be over for a while. Why do you seem ashamed of it?”
There it is, that’s her laugh. More like a liberating one than a cheerful one, but I can’t complain.
She definitely got it out of her chest, apparently expecting a different reaction from me. It’s good.
“It’s surely not a small talk kind of item, but nothing sounds weird anymore, does it?” – That’s it. She’s definitely back. I smiled.
“That might explain why I had to come to you. Maybe someone can help, who knows.”
“Yeah, not really – first off: great. Secondly: where did she go again?
“The only one who had a clue of what she was doing was my granma, but she passed away a few years ago. This is her house”
Oh, well, that explains the mixed furniture.
I am living in a dead witch’s house? Did I get that right?
“Is there someone else?” -
“My mother, maybe. I think it’s time for a non-announced visit”
“No. Who are you?” – I love this girl. Her humour cracks me in half.
“I will find a way to thank you, I promise” – she caressed my arm again, looking at nothing in front of her, again.
I did the same – maybe this is actually gonna work out.
This madness - as I feel a bit guilty to call – just looks like the greatest show on Earth, now.
I do want to publish the rest, this is just the start - but maybe I should just keep it as a "longer" one shot.
Do you want me to continue?