Random thoughts, settings, characters, situations, perhaps leading somewhere


Sunday 24 March 2013 - Filed under Squibs

Bright sunlight woke me. I blearily raised my head from my tucked arm, and tensed. I was in the beginning of a bad novel. I was sprawled facedown on sacks of garbage, their dark green plastic warming in the spotty sunlight and emitting their customary fragrance. Concrete gritted under the tips of my shoes. Steel gray bricks formed a wall to my right. I was down and out in a back alley, twisted sunglasses pinned to one ear, a pain in the crook of my neck. The bags squeaked and clanked as I scrambled to the vertical, or as near as I could manage. The bag under my foot shifted, and I went over backwards. Fortunately from this position I could see the head of the alley.

I could see tops of roofs, water behind them. This alley was evidently on a hill of some kind. I stood, retrieved my sunglasses, and shuffled through the trash to the opening. Before me was a narrow street, terraced in loops across a steep slope, paved in blue-gray brick. It didn’t look familiar. The house that I leaned against looked more unfamiliar. It was checkerboarded in alternating runs of steel blue and pale white brick, with neutral gray stones used for the window mullions and the archways above them and the doorways. Across the road, the red roofs of similar buildings occupied the next terrace down. The edge of the road was bordered by a low white wall, with intermittent rectangular spaces jutting out over the terrace that served as parking spaces. At least some were occupied by a species of motorscooter I didn’t recognize. Odd. Somewhere in Europe? Why would I be in Europe? But, then again, why would I be laid out in an alley anywhere? I didn’t normally occupy myself in ways that would lead me to that situation. The subliminal sense of unease in my chest spread in an odd prickling coldness down my arms.

Belatedly, I checked my pockets, but my phone and wallet were still intact. The phone told me it was 7:42 am, but it was obviously wrong. The light said ten-thirty, maybe eleven. The phone also told me it couldn’t find any signal. Not even roaming. The wallet still had cash and cards and drivers license. Whatever had happened, I hadn’t been rolled for my stash. The USB stick was still in my change pocket.

I shook the last bag off my foot and stumbled out into the full sun.The sunglasses helped with that and my headache at the same time. It was a little chilly, but not too bad. There was a faint breeze, and a scent of salt. On a whim, I pulled out my useless phone and snapped some pictures: of my alley, the scooter across the street, the house. I went left, because it was as good a direction as any.

The street wound back and forth for a quarter mile or so until I found a staircase leading down the side of the terrace. There had been no traffic in the residential terrace, but that changed as I reached the next level. I came between buildings from the landing and emerged on a street moderately busy, foot traffic and motorscooters weaving between each other, taller buildings around me and taller still jutting up from the terrace still lower.

Again, the scene was unfamiliar. Not wildly unfamiliar, but subtly so. The scooters whined in an odd key. Men paired oddly Arabic tunics of white coarse cloth with simple shirts of brown or tan and loose chinos. Women favored flowing robes over pleated slacks and brilliantly-colored, highly-complicated blouse constructions. All wore patterned headbands with a single  complementary strip going over the head from ear to ear. My button-down over t-shirt plus jeans and loafers looked like nothing at all. Adding to the shiver of unease was the faint stirrings of culture shock at the base of my brain. I checked my phone again, nervously. It was still refusing to find a cell. I unlocked it and swiped my way to the map settings, activating the GPS. It would take a few minutes to get an ephemeris, so I stuck it back in my pocket.

The shopfronts all had large black slabs of glass in front of them that flickered oddly as I shifted my head. Polarized flatscreens, evidently. Lifting my sunglasses I could see writing, shapes, layouts, but nothing familiar. And that also jarred.

2013-03-24  »  Edward Semblance