Toast – part 1


     And I open my eyes. At first, it hurts. It feels like I’ve been asleep for days, or even months. And the bright blue clear sky above me is to crisp, too clear. As I shield my eyes with my hand, I notice my breath, and the gentle grey wispy shapes it’s making. Awareness spreads, and just before I feel it, I realize it’s cold. Very cold. And I’m lying flat on my back, my left leg wet from the puddle it’s resting in. I struggle to my feet, coaxing feeling into my leg as I do so.

I really have to stop waking up like this.

My vision sorts itself out, and my leg is feeling better (and doesn’t give me any trouble when I put my weight on it). I begin to take in my surroundings. It’s mainly waste land, with half demolished houses around me, and as far as I can see. All around me, to every horizon. I’m stood in rubble, a destroyed land. There’s what was once a road to my left, and I’m half way up a small hill. I immediately panic, assuming that I’m back to that awful place, and any moment now, the blitz will begin again. But then I notice some wallpaper flapping against an exposed second floor room, and the ruins of a widescreen television. Although my adrenalin is still pumping, I do allow my self to relax slightly. what ever hellhole this is, at least I’m not going to get several tonnes of bomb dropped on my head; then the thought occurs to me that the blitz was bad, but this is after that. Something worse than bombs could get dropped on me. The crystal clear sky, empty as the land about me, gives me no clues.

The flapping wallpaper draws my attention, after I’ve nervously scanned the sky. The paper is pale yellow, with faded bunnies and teddies running, jumping and laughing on it. I feel sad, and melancholy. Maybe it was a child’s room; I wonder if they survived whatever happened? The world begins to swim about me, and I hear the sound of a child laughing, very faintly. Then a woman’s voice, filled with love and warmth. It reminds me of the last time I woke up, of the endless summer fields, the wheat corn that swayed like an inviting sea, the trees that held up the sky and sheltered me from the rain. I almost feel happy before I snap out of it, brought back to my present by a bitterly cold wind that whips my ears and hands. Nothing here is green, or golden. The warmth is gone. And the pack of dogs look straight at me and growl.

They are right at the bottom of the hill, but the largest of them has noticed me, and as I dreamily watch, the others join him. They all turn to face me, snarling and growling, the fur on their shoulders rising and convulsing in angry ripples. I turn, very slowly and deliberately, and walk away. Fear pounds in my chest, and I imagine them chasing after me, hunting me down. I couldn’t run (you’re not supposed to, I assure my-self.) if I wanted to. The rubble all around would make it too difficult. If they want me, I’m helpless.

I’m so focused on picking a path over and through the slabs of concrete, I’m at the top of the hill before I realise it. Steeling myself, I look back. The dogs are gone, nowhere in sight. Sometimes, you worry over nothing, and all you need is a bit of bravery and the ability to keep a clear head. But the view from the top of the hill is more of the same. I’m in the middle of a ruined city. A big one. I been filled with fear and apprehension since I woke up, but this now becomes a steady steam of questions, how did, how could this happen? What happened? When did it happen? Where is this? My breath becomes short and sharp at this. For all I know, I could be standing on my home. It doesn’t feel familiar. As familiar as home would anyway, but there is a nagging déjà vu feeling as I look around. I feel haunted.

The trouble with being lost for so long is you start to wish everywhere was home. I sit down on a protruding chunk of concrete, being careful not to catch myself on the jagged and rusty metal struts poking out of it. Maybe I’m lost for good, forever. Maybe I’ve been here before, been everywhere before, and I’m just circling, endlessly, the same places and events. Maybe I’ll never see home again. And if I can’t remember it, how would I recognize it if I saw it? I punch the concrete block. I cannot allow myself to give up, to give in. Self pity will kill you. I stand up, and decide I should try to find some shelter before it begins to get dark. I make my way forwards, over the waste land, towards what I hope is the city’s centre.

Just after dark, I’m crouched in a small alcove of rubble, huddled close to a small fire that I managed to make from scraps of paper and cardboard that was strewn about this place, which seems to be a high street of some kind. The shops don’t seem to be too badly damaged, and the pedestrianised shopping area once more fills me with a sense of loss and isolation. Why do I never see or find people? Only the animals seem to notice I’m here. The wind flaps a piece of paper to me. It’s part of a ripped poster, and I pull it straight to read it. There’s a black cat smiling at me. It’s very brightly coloured, like a children’s story book, ‘Magicat’ says the logo. There is something about the cat’s eyes, something I should know, something familiar. And then I slip into sleep.

I open my eyes, and blink away the sleep. I feel warm and rested. The white girders arc geometrically above me, crisscrossing themselves away down the corridor. I pull myself up, and have to hunch slightly in the narrow corridor. Just over on my left, is a small round window, and I go to it and look out. There’s a small jewel of a blue-green planet falling away from me, and the rest of the darkened sky is stars. I’m on a spaceship. Well, it beats a ruined city. I’m just about to whisper “I really have to stop waking up like this.” to myself, when I look down at my feet. Magicat nuzzles my leg from between them, looks up at me and purrs softly.

Now that’s odd, even for me.

Toast (C) Arken Mint 2004 & 2014, all rights reserved.

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