Room twenty-two. That’s our room, though I’m not really sure what ouris supposed to mean in these circumstances.
There are six of us: an elderly couple, a blond girl, me, and a couple of boys. Not boys, men. I don’t remember their names. We hardly speak; most of the time, we just sit on the three beds in the room and the two chairs, and look around or down.
Something is wrong, but I don’t know what it is. The air weighs heavy with anxiety, fear and confusion, and some desperate hopelessness. But nobody says a word.
Now and then, one of us would get up to look through the window and go back to our place and sit down and hang our head.
I don’t even know where we are. It’s some large building, a rundown hospital or a very low-class hotel. But if it’s a hospital or something similar, where are the people? Where are the nurses and the doctors? Besides, I don’t feel sick, and the others look healthy enough, too.
I remember my favorite dream, the dream I hope I never forget.
Maybe I’m dreaming now? No, that can’t be. Everything looks so real.
So, in my favorite dream, I’m in a tunnel, like a subway, and two professional-looking guys load people into individual little cars that are not connected to anything or to each other. They load me into one of these cars, too. It’s really comfortable, like my very own cab, but it takes me upwards, above ground, to a high plateau covered in the lushest and greenest grass I’ve ever seen.
The plateau is high above the ground and full of people. I get off the railcar and go to the edge, like looking down to earth from a plane, that’s how high it is.
Somebody, a man, comes up to me and says: “Aren’t you jumping?”
And I actually really want to, but I’m scared. The man gives me an encouraging smile. I trust him unquestionably, spread my arms, and jump. I’m flying.
Suddenly, I realize I’m dead. Not as a consequence of the jump, no. I died and was brought here, which is somewhere strange, but I like it because I can fly.
When I woke up that morning, I started scratching wildly at the door of my subconscious to continue dreaming.
Could it be that I’ve died, and this is some distribution center, like the tunnel from my dream?
No, wait. It’s not a distribution center; it’s something else. A safe place. A haven. A hideout.
I leave the room. First, I walk up to the last floor, the attic, which now houses all the members of a drag queen show. I like visiting them, desperation is not so bottomless there. Their hands are always busy sewing, fixing things; I don’t know what else, but they never stop.
In our room, nobody does anything. Sometimes, I ask Mark, the only other smoker, for a cigarette, and sometimes, he asks me for one, and that’s it. Oh, once I went with the blond girl outside to pick some apples—there’s an overgrown apple orchard near the building. We picked them quickly, looking around anxiously. None of us asked the other one why we were so alarmed, and I was too embarrassed to bring it up later.
Apparently, everyone else knows why we’re here, and I’m the only one who has forgotten. This is humiliating. Also, everyone looks like they want to say something, but they never do. Apart from Mark. This one looks like he never opens his mouth because he just doesn’t like talking. Yes, the one with the blue eyes is Mark, the brown-eyed one is…I don’t remember.
Irina writes about the energy industry for a living and has been doing it with no small amount of pleasure for well over a decade. Since writing is the only thing she knows how to do (sort of), she does it pretty much all the time. For some reason, the stories she produces always turn out scary or weird, or plain unpleasant and upsetting but she enjoys writing them anyway.
Photo Credit: Overlooking Plateau Point. Photo by Whit Richardson