The first thing he was aware of were colorful flashes, streaks and sparks, that seemed to dance around in his field of vision. His head was spinning in a way that, while not exactly painful, was extremely unpleasant. He tried to shake off the disorientation. It was imperative that he came to his senses. He was supposed to be doing something. Something important. Perhaps even the most important thing in his life. If only he could remember what it was.
Frustration washed over him like a wave. His hands tightened into fists. His jaws clenched tight. He had no idea where he was or how he got here, and he was wasting time. Why was it so hard to breathe? The air almost had a syrupy quality to it. That’s when he noticed the repulsive mixture of oil, gasoline and some sort of metal or rust, so thick he could taste it as well as smell it. No wonder his body was fighting to keep the air out of his lungs. This shit probably was toxic as hell.
Get up, he had to get up… and go…somewhere. He scrambled unsteadily to his feet. The colored flashes had faded, but his vision had not improved much. It was dark, almost too dark to see. He had to strain his eyes to make out…bricks. There was a brick wall maybe two paces in front of him. He followed the wall until it came to a corner. Brick wall to the left of him, too. He spun around. A little too fast, his mind kept spinning after his body stopped. He lost his balance and fell to one knee. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. When he opened them he was staring at brick wall.
What the hell?
He stumbled towards the wall until he had the palms of his hands pressed against it. It felt just like a brick wall should feel. Cool to the touch, rough, shallow dents where the grout held the bricks together. He walked along the walls, inspecting them was best as he could. There were no signs of doors or windows anywhere. Just solid brick wall, four sides to make a completely closed off room.
“I’m trapped,” he whispered to the space in front of him. “I can’t get out.” He could feel panic rising. He started pacing through the room. His head was throbbing now. He wasn't supposed to be here. This didn’t fit into his plans. He had things to do, places to go and this was holding him back. How did he get into this mess? He would have screamed, had screaming not demanded taking a deep breath, which he still seemed unable to do.
His foot hit something. The something had some weight to it. It made the sound of metal sliding over bare concrete as it skidded away from him. He dropped to his knees and felt over the ground, until his hand closed over a large crowbar.
“I’m getting out” he whispered. “Do you hear me?” he said louder, “I’m getting out!”
He charged one of the walls with the crowbar, wedging the straight end into the grout. It gave way much easier than expected. He didn’t allow himself any time to be surprised. He put all his weight on the crowbar. With a creak some of the bricks started moving. Soon he had created a hole large enough to crawl through. Without a second thought he threw himself into the space on the other side of the wall. Once again it was hard to see anything. This time because it was too bright. Squinting, he waited for his eyes to adjust to the new light levels.
“What the actual hell?” he said amazed when he was able to look around him. He appeared to be on the outskirts of a city. It was like no city he had ever seen. Building rose into the air in odd directions, defying gravity. The ground felt solid enough, it just looked like there was nothing there. The whole scene made him dizzy . Strangely enough the air still smelled like oil and gasoline, exactly like inside the room he just escaped.
Getting out of the strange room and into the strange city had done nothing to relieve his sense of urgency. He still had the distinct feeling he needed to be somewhere and that time was limited. While he still didn’t have any idea where he was or what he should be doing, looking at the cityscape before him he now had a sense of where he should go. He needed to be at the other side of town. And fast.
He started walking down a broad street — what he assumed to be a street. It was a long, straight opening between buildings. It just didn’t have any asphalt. Or sidewalks. Or any kind of vehicle. In fact there seemed to be no movement, no sign of life of any kind, except for himself.
As much as it went against his impulse, he forced himself to stand still for a moment to listen. For a large city it was eerily quiet. There was no sound. Not even wind.
No, wait, there was a sound after all. A low, constant, monotone noise. Not quite a buzzing. Not quite a ringing either. He hadn’t heard it until he listened for it. But now that he heard it, it was impossible to ignore. He couldn’t place the sound, but it was familiar. Familiar enough to make him nervous. This sound, whatever it was, it wasn’t anything good. The gasoline smell seemed to be getting stronger as well.
He started walking again. As quickly as he could. He had to get out. He had to get to the other side of town. It was important. He was needed…
Someone was waiting for him.
As soon as the thought came to him he noticed a refection in a window. For a second his pace slowed. He stared at the image in the window. He knew that face. A small smile crept on his lips. “Susan” he whispered happily. His girl. His thumb rubbed the base of his ring-finger, wiggling the still uncomfortable gold band around it. Not just his girl, his wife.
The face in the mirror contorted, grimacing in pain. “No! Susan!” he yelled. “I’m coming!” He started running. He suddenly remembered where he was going. The hospital. The hospital was on the other side of town. He promised her he would be there. She was counting on him.
He ran as fast as he could. Every window was reflecting the pained face of his wife. “Hold on, baby, I am coming!” he screamed. He ignored the pain in his limbs and chest and ran as fast as he could down the street. In the distance he could see the hospital building looming at the end of the road.
Just as it seemed he got closer to the hospital, a wall appeared, blocking off the road. “No! This can’t be.” He looked to his left, looking for a way around it. The wall seemed to stretch out for miles. He looked right. There was a little girl, playing with street chalk. Surprised, he walked towards the little girl. She was scratching on the wall with a piece of chalk.
“What are you doing?” he asked curiously.
The girl looked at him. She had bright blue eyes that reminded him of Susan’s eyes. “I’m helping,” she replied, sounding pleased.
He looked at the wall. The girl had been trying to write on it in big letters. He judged her to be about four years old. Her writing was unsteady and nonsensical. “What’s this?” he asked.
She gave him a proud look. “For you to read.”
II9 LLAC IRIS.
“Iris? Is that your name?”he asked. The girl giggled and ran down the street he just came from. “Hey, wait,” he called after her and turned around to follow him. Then he noticed the girl’s writing, mirrored in a large store window.
“Siri call 911,” he read out loud. His mind screamed the message over and over, making him scream as well: “SIRI CALL 911!”
The buildings of the city started crumbling. Large pieces of stone fell down into the street. He sprinted towards one of the buildings, trying to use the wall that was still standing to shelter himself against the falling derbies. Suddenly the nothingness that was the ground no longer supported him. Right before he started falling he managed to grab a piece of rain pipe that had come loose.
The little girl appeared inside the crumbling building, walking towards him. “Can I help you, sir?” she asked. Her voice had a strange mechanical quality she had not had before.
“I have to go to the hospital!” he screamed with a panicked voice. “I have to get to Susan!”
The girl made some sound. The monotone noise had become so loud, it was drowning out her words. “I can’t hear you. I don’t understand,” he sobbed. The noise. He knew what the noise was. It was a car horn. Something was laying on a car horn somewhere. And the smell.
All the glass still intact in the city shattered at once. Shards slowly turned and floated all around him. Breaking glass. So much breaking glass. He knew this glass. It had been the last thing he saw.
He had been on his way to the hospital.
Driving way too fast.
The oncoming car had swerved.
He had pulled the wheel, hard.
There had been a brick wall.
So much glass.
Words floated trough the sound of the car horn: “Hold on, sir”
He did hold on. As best as he could. He had no choice. Susan was waiting for him. She was counting on him to be there. She needed him. She was…
Far off in the distance his ears picked up the wail of sirens. He paid it little attention. He knew he was still missing some important piece of information.
Susan had called.
She had been on her way to the hospital.
He had dropped everything and jumped into the car.
He had to be with his girl.
He gasped and jerked back violently. Bright colored flashes danced before his eyes. When the world appeared back in his vision he was looking at his steering wheel. The car horn had stopped. The sirens were very close. He pried his hands off the wheel and carefully rubbed his chest where his safety belt had left a painful streak.
“Sir? Sir, are you all right?” an EMT appeared at the the window and opened the car door.
He grabbed the man’s arm. “Get me to my wife. She’s in labor.”
“Are you kidding me?” Susan asked angrily when they rolled him into her room. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. “Are you freaking kidding me?”
“The doctor wants him to rest. He insisted on coming here.” the nurse said, equal parts impressed and disapproving.
“Susan, I am sorry. I am so sorry.” He stood up from the wheel chair. He wobbled a little, searching for his balance. His nurse sped forward to help him but he pushed her off, choosing instead to steady himself on the IV drip. He leaned forward to kiss his wife on the cheek and grabbed her hand. “I’m sorry I’m late. I’m here now.”
“You could have died!” Susan cried. “I am going to kill you.”
“I know. I’m an idiot. How are you?” he asked tenderly.
She laughed through her tears. “Much better than you are.”
“And our girl?”
“Perfectly healthy and perfect in every other way.” she sighed. “And hungry.”
He carefully caressed his newborn daughter’s cheek as she was feeding on her mother’s breast.
“How are you?” Susan asked concerned.
“We’ll have to buy a new car,” he said, not taking his eyes off his baby. “The safest car I can find. One with airbags on every side.”