Dark Doorways #10
Snow shouldn’t shift; it shouldn’t move below you as you walk. But as I walked to campus, knowing it was my last day to prepare for prelims, my feet hesitated like spooked horses. The snow was indeed shifting.
It wasn’t the normal shift you’d expect, the mudslides or earthquakes that would seem practicable. It was the snow itself, as if something was pulling it from under my feet, a great practical joke meant only for me.
Sure, people commuted to work as they normally did and drank their non-fat-grade-lattes like there was no tomorrow. I seemed to be the only victim of this vertigo.
The closer I got to the library, the more it seemed that I was being pulled in by shifting snow blocks as much as walking by my own efforts. There could have been any number of things luring me in, but I let it happen. It was time I let someone else make the decisions while I sit back and have fun. Fun, like riding the moving walkways at O’Hare. Or was it just unnerving? Perhaps there was a fine line.
I never saw Michael that day, or the next day. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t there, just that I never saw him.
The tome came out of my bag too easily, too happy to be dictating how I spent my time. Swanson encouraged me to use his text– yes, his text, the text he wrote– to prepare. Gabi’s treasure map marked where I had left off, the sole bit of innocence in the 800-page volume, perhaps anywhere.
The lights rarely flickered in the library. Electricity knew better than to cross Northwestern’s rich old donors. That made it all the more peculiar when the industrial sized fluorescent lights tapped out their odd rhythm. It distracted me, yes, but what shook me was the dark shadow, the flickering cast over each desk.
My gaze fell on the large corner windows, so eager to collect a few rays of sunshine, so disappointed by the winter darkness. They drooped a bit with each spasm from the lights. They were eyelids, closing further with each new shadow, eyelids trying to close out the nightmare.
The voice either pushed me or someone pulled me. No muscle moved; no joint articulated.
Gabi’s map fluttered, a little butterfly escaping to warmer climates.
“Come little one, accompany me.”
The treasure map butterfly and I, along with Swanson’s text, followed the windows to the exit. They don’t make escape plans for when eerie lights twitch. They don’t show you where the best exit is for escaping shadows. So I stayed where I saw light, the fading light of a winter afternoon.
“We have a few minutes before sunset.” My butterfly and I found a door, only to hesitate.
The snow. The blasted shifting snow.
“Okay, I might be crazy, but I think we’re better off in the daylight than the library.” We we took our steps and took our chances. Off into the sinister snow, we were ignorant of what would swallow us alive or jerk us back into the building.
Were the library windows winking or was I waking up?
“Sarah?” Grace’s voice was my answer. “Sarah, you fell asleep studying. The phone is for you. It’s Swanson.”
Shoving the phone at me, she frowned down at my shoes. My poor, tattered Goodwill shoes. I hadn’t bought a good pair for myself since the funeral.
“Sarah, what’s that on your shoe?”
My two-dollar flats had more than wear and tear lining the soles. The library’s holiday schedule was stuck to the bottom of my right foot.
“So I was there.”
“Where?” Grace had already moved on to dumping some cheese puffs on the floor.
“The library. I had the strangest dream. I thought it was a dream.”