I woke up in the desert, lying in warm sand. I sat up trying to understand where I was while brushing the sand off my clothes. Looking around, at first I thought I was alone. But then I saw the striking man from the bar, crouching next to me. I wasn’t scared, just curious. He reached towards me.
“Where am I?” I asked looking at miles and miles of desert. He did not answer my question but pointed to a bridge that had not been there the moment before. I went to the bridge but there was no water under it only sand.
“Is this death?” I don’t know why I asked but it seemed like the appropriate question. I wasn’t scared, I felt eerily calm.
He shook his head no, slowly and deliberately, but did not move closer to me. I looked again and there were thousands of snakes now under the bridge coiling and slithering over one another. They had an agitated feel to them. The serpents scared me.
“Don’t fall in.” the voice came from directly behind me. His voice was soft and velvety.
“Who are you?”
“I could ask you the same question.”
“Have we met?”I tried another line of questioning.
“What are you doing here?”
“I don’t know.”
“Come with me. I would like to show you something.” He said his eyes still calm and expressionless. I took his hand though it wasn’t extended. He looked at my hand in his and back at me as if I had lost my mind but the expression only lasted seconds. I let him lead me without question.
We walked for a long while in silence but our fingers interlaced with a mind of their own. Eventually I could see old farm houses off in the distance. We were approaching a town. Where did that come from? There was no town before. As we got to the town and I saw the shadows of people roaming around like a memory I suddenly understood.
“All of these people are dead.”
“Who lives here?”
“No one lives here. This is my town.”
The way the buildings lined the dirt road reminded me of a western ghost town. The glass windows were so dirty that I couldn’t clearly see inside. The closer I came to them the more corporeal shadow people were. They were walking around the street and in and out of stores that were no longer seemed so dirty and abandoned. They went about their business as if we were not there. We continued down the street. At the end of the street there were two identical buildings on either side. Both of them had large red double doors. Each door was about twenty feet tall and five feet wide. I looked back and forth between them.
“I don’t understand.”
“Let’s not stop here. We will keep going around the corner.” His voice seemed almost desperate, betraying his calm eyes.
“What is around the corner?”
“I don’t know there has never been a corner before.”He smiled, but his eyes lingered on the doors intently. His jaw flexed and set at a stubborn angle “These doors are not for you.”
“Why? I don’t want to go, let’s go back. I don’t understand.”
He pulled my hand suddenly insistent. “There is no going back. We need to go around the corner… now.” I let him pull me to the corner.
It was not only a new street but like a different place altogether. This one was not sad and desolate with only images of the past. This one was busy and bursting with life. It reminded me of the market in Florence. It looked inviting. At first, I was glad we went around the corner then I saw a giant red man in leather pants walking down the street carrying a huge sword. Immediately I was scared. I tried to let go of the man’s hand so I could run, but he wouldn’t let go of me. I looked at him in panic as the man got closer.
“It’s ok. We will stay… fight.”
“Are you crazy? No we have to leave.”
“I can make you stay.”
“Come with me.” This time I pulled his hand, He followed as I went back around the corner. The red man was so close now I could hear his heavy steps. I went up to the red door and tried to open it, but it would not open.
“Not in there.” He said almost pleading.
“There is no where else.”
He made eye contact with me for a moment as if he were trying to read my thoughts. “If you would really like to go in there, just knock.” his voice was somehow different now, deeper more gravelly.
I did and the door slowly opened. Immediately, I recognized my mistake… only it was too late.