Ariel woke up feeling vaguely confused, and peered at her surroundings through half-closed, swollen eyes. When her vision finally adjusted to the dim light, she sat bolt upright in bed.
The room’s faded, moth-eaten curtains blew inwards on a stiff night breeze, swirling puffs off dust into the air. The bright yellow bedspread she was sleepy under smelled stale and musty, as if it had been in storage for many years, but it also looked strangely clean and pressed. In the corner of the room was a porcelain sink, with bright copper fittings. She shook her head, trying to process the odd combination of neatness and decay. She rubbed her eyes, hoping that once she opened them again things would make more sense. It was a forlorn hope – when she dared to look around again, absolutely nothing had changed. She was forced to accept the truth - she had no idea where she was or how she had gotten here.
Deciding that nothing would be clarified by hiding under the covers she finally crawled out of bed, and discovered that she was fully dressed apart from for her boots. She looked around for the missing boots, trying to shake off the grogginess that made her brain feel like it was trapped in a vat of molasses. She quickly located one of the boots in front of the nightstand, and after a long search found the other pushed far back under the bed.
She pulled them on and started purposefully towards the bedroom door, but stopped abruptly as she felt an oppressive sense of doom stealing over her. She put her ear to the closed door, and listened intently for several minutes, straining her ears to catch any sound in the silence. She could hear no sounds at all through the heavy wooden door, but found this less reassuring than she had hoped. Slowly, she turned the knob and peered around the doorframe. There was nothing.
Creeping down the stairs, she felt her way to the front door, and let herself out into the deserted streets of a completely unfamiliar town. As she threaded her way through the empty darkness, her eyes took in store fronts advertising the latest record releases or sales on fondu sets. She blinked as she passed a slightly rusted Ford Pinto, and stopped to take in her surroundings more thoroughly. The last thing she remembered before waking up in the strange room was boarding a train at a very 21st century platform in downtown Philadelphia. She strained to recall any details after that, but her mind was a complete blank.
As she drifted through the shadowy streets, still straining her ears for any small noise, She felt her muscles grow painfully tense. The streets, like the room, were pristinely maintained but seemed to be frozen in time. She looked in vain for someone to help her find her way out of this anachronistic ghost town, but there were no signs that another living soul had passed this way in recent memory.
Finally, as she neared the edge of town, she heard a distance rumble. A sign of life at last! Sprinting around the corner, she nearly cried in relief as she saw an approaching train slowing down to pull into the station at the end of the road. She had a flash of memory when she saw the side of the train – the logo wasn’t for SEPTA, but she didn’t care where it was going as long as it took her away from here. Running flat out, she leapt, sweating and breathless, through the train door just as it began to close.
As she struggled to catch her breath, the memory that had been drifting at the back of her mind took hold. She looked around the train as it slowly pulled out of the station. She was alone in the car, which was covered floor to ceiling in wood paneling. The seats were made of fake leather, which was dyed a dirty orange. A series of dome-shaped lights ran along the upper part of the car. This was the train she had tried to escape from back on Market Street, but the doors had slammed shut just as she reached them. Gasping in horror, she retched as the room around her started to spin.
Ariel woke up feeling vaguely confused…
About the Creator
F. Anne Fischer is a biochemist by day, and author, poet, and dragon collector at night. She lives in Czechia with her very opinionated cat, Agatha, and visits the local castles as often as possible.