A Rip in The Fabric of Time

I think someone drove a nail through my shoulder. Maybe they poured some drain cleaner down my throat and glued my eyes shut.

I struggle to sit up, and force my eyes open, expecting to find blood and gore smeared on the pillow. There’s nothing there except a faint outline of my head. When I roll my shoulders, though, pain shoots down my right arm. That’s not a dream.

I maneuver my body sideways and lower my legs to the floor. My toenails are bright green. I stare at them and try to remember how they got in that state, but it’s no good. I don’t remember anything about last night after I walked out of my office into the rain. I’m not even sure what day it is.

I glance at my watch. It reads 7:04. From the pale light streaming through the window, I assume it is morning, and I struggle to my feet. Oh dear, what did I do last night? I wander to the bathroom to perform the necessities than drag myself toward the kitchen. I stop in the living room and stare out into the backyard.

I have lost my mind.

A young woman with auburn curls and dressed in a short purple tunic is brushing a white horse with some kind of horn coming out its head. She sports diaphanous wings. I trip over the low round ottoman and fall on my face.

I hear the door open, but don’t look up.

“Stanley,” a soft voice says. “Are you all right?”

“What has happened to me,” I say into the carpet.

She pats much shoulder as if I were a frightened woodland creature. “Why don’t you sit up? You’ll feel so much better.”

I push myself up, but I do not feel better, even though she smells like jasmine and vanilla and fresh grass after the rain. I try not to gape.

“How do you know me?” I ask.

“You don’t remember,” her voice is a little sad. “Last night just before you left work, you said, ‘Oh please, just let something happen. I need an adventure or I’ll go mad.’ I heard you, Stanley. We had an adventure.”

“But why don’t I remember?”

“You’re coming back to your world. In a few hours you won’t remember anything. I’ll be a dream, if that.”

“A dream?” I shake my head. Oh no, not a dream. That would mean I’d be heading back to the gray world of Williams, Clark and Winston. I’m already running late, but I don’t move. “But I don’t want to forget. I want to remember.”

She smiles. “Oh, Stanley. Don’t you see? You’re not ready. Not yet. When you want to remember, you will.” She leans forward and kisses my forehead, and I get a fleeting impression of eyes the color of jade, rimmed with purple.

The alarm rings.

I sit up, my right shoulder throbbing like a toothache. I’ve been dreaming . . . something, and now I have to rush. No time for breakfast. Just a shower and shave, and I grab a coffee before I board the train.

Weak sunlight filters through the soft gray clouds, and I catch the whiff of something familiar. Vanilla, mixed with some kind of flower. It reminds me of something. It doesn’t matter. I’m late.

I exit the train and hurry topside making my way to the tall, gray glass skyscraper that houses Williams, Clark and Winston, wave my ID and run to the elevator. I’m behind my desk with one minute to spare.

Mrs. Durnham has left a large mug of black coffee on my desk. I breathe in the aroma and think for a moment I smell vanilla. But then it’s gone.

What a strange morning.

Rain begins to fall, running down the sides of the windows like soft tears. I lean back in my chair to take watch before I turn to the pile of folders in my inbox. They smell of ink and paper and urgency. I grab the top folder and begin to read. I need to concentrate.

There is important work to be done.

The Fairies Came Calling

I used to sit behind the thick boxwood hedges where the house cuts in two feet then continues on straight. It made a perfect little niche for me to set out my china tea things for the fairies. It was best towards twilight when the light turned soft rose and the fireflies sparkled and the toads in the window wells croaked out their full- throated symphonies. Soon the cicadas would join in and the crickets would begin to chirp and the doves in the weeping willow would coo ever so softly.

I would hide there from Cousin Carol Anne when she came to visit with my Uncle Peter and Aunt Alice. Carol Anne said fairies were stupid and it was much better to stay in the cool house to watch TV. Carol Anne said she was going to be an actress someday because she was beautiful, not a plain old nobody like me. Carol Anne threw our cat Tinker in the swimming pool because she didn’t like the way he looked at her.

Every evening I would sneak out of the house and hide from Carol Anne until Mama called for me to come in. Every evening I had to listen to her chatter on about how much better her house was than mine. How her room was bigger and her clothes were fancier. Every night I asked the fairies to take Carol Anne away.

The last evening of their visit, I was hiding behind the hedges when Carol Anne came looking for me. I sat still and quiet when she passed by the boxwood hedges and crossed down towards the woods that ran behind our house.

“Where are you, Emily? I’m gonna tell your Mama you’re hiding on me,” she said.

I closed my eyes and shrank into the wall. “Don’t let her find me.” I said it over and over until I realized that Carol Anne had stopped calling.

The fireflies were twinkling, the frogs and cicadas and crickets had begun their symphony. I heard footsteps outside the hedge and Mama’s voice. “Come on in, Emily. You and Carol Anne need to stop playing.”

I poked my head out of the hedge. “But, Mama. It’s just me in here,” I said.

There was a terrible fuss over Carol Anne. The police came and looked for her for days. Dogs tried to track her, but her footsteps ended at the edge of the woods. They brought in all kinds of specialists looking for blood and any kind of trace of Carol Anne, but she had disappeared.

Aunt Alice went a little crazy and had to go to a special rest home after a while poor Uncle Peter was left to deal with the police and the TV reporters and all the publicity.

I told the police the fairies took Carol Anne, but no one believed me. How could someone just disappear?

Of course, I’m grown up now. I know there are no fairies. I know that Carol Anne was never found. Everyone said, “Oh, we could have lost both girls,” but I always believed they wished that I had been the one who was grabbed.

I didn’t grow up to be a famous actress. I just grew up. I have always been just Emily, the one who wasn’t taken. Was I lucky that day?

Carol Anne knows the answer