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- Any Coincidence Is - 17/17 -

rolling across the floor at ankle level. She tried to move out of its way, but it wrapped around her feet, and she could no longer move. Whatever was really going on, if there really was a pattern hidden behind the curtain, behind the screen, from somewhere beneath the lowest pit in the theater, it was slowly creeping across the room. None of the others noticed it as they kept up their insane combat, pounding each other as if the future of the world depended on this last battle. Outside, the city lights were fading in the fog, shimmering and melting in what seemed less like air and more like the bottom of a gray sea.

What kind of author would treat their characters this way? Julia wondered, as she felt her shins being enveloped by whatever it was. She struggled, but her legs would not move. She tried walking, running, kicking. All equally useless. That is, until Cecil rubbed his head against her chin and began to purr.

Her left foot suddenly came loose, and she was able to take a step. Then her right. This couldn't be happening, she thought. Totally irrational. This doesn't make sense! But she found herself muttering these thoughts as her legs carried her slowly toward the doors. Outside the gray light had grown dark, as if the theater had been cut off from the rest of the world. Perhaps the conspiracy had done it: perhaps they had moved the theater to that 'somewhere else'. Or maybe it was just payback time. Julia didn't know, but she did know that, for this moment, the answer did not matter.

As the fog swirled and filled the lobby, and as the muffled sounds of fighting echoed dully in her ears, she found herself at the doors. She reached out and pushed them, and they swung open without resistance. Behind her, she heard Uncle Justin call her name from somewhere in the lobby. She looked back, but the room was completely filled by the nothing that had blown in. Nothing was behind her, not even the lobby. Her hand held the door open, as if the rest of them were about to follow her outside.

Cecil hopped out of her arm and landed at her feet. He walked ahead into the darkness and looked back. She could hear the others making their way toward her, but something was wrong. It didn't sound like them anymore. The footsteps were slow and heavy, and she could no longer hear any voices. The room had suddenly become so cold that Julia could see her breath. She began to shiver, and the sounds of the footsteps were nearing.

So Julia did the only thing she could do: she stepped outside and allowed the door to close on its own, and she followed Cecil away from wherever it was she had been.

30. What happens next? "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." -- Socrates

Oh great, Julia thought, a light at the end of the tunnel. And it was a tunnel, completely dark, with only the theater doors behind her. Cecil was ahead of her but getting farther away. Julia tried to keep up but couldn't keep her footing on what seemed to be a slope toward the white light in the distance.

Venus?, she thought. God? Swamp gas? The end of a dream? If this were the end of one of those novels she had been reading, she figured that there wouldn't be an ending. All a trick by some smart-ass author who wanted the audience to put all the pieces together, figure it out, write papers, hold seminars about 'what he really meant', provoke arguments, inspire entire schools of thought... all of that crap. It would have to be this.... stuck in-between the two possible answers to the question... whether this had all happened for a purpose or had all just happened.

Nuts, she thought. I bet it's one of those. I wouldn't be lucky enough to have this turn out to be just a regular, old-fashioned, story. The kind that people actually read. Then it would at least have an ending. Nothing to figure out. All in-your-face, like television. A movie would be better, though... at least there'd be a budget. Hopefully a good soundtrack, too. Who would play her and Uncle Justin? Would the director cast real actors or some muscle-bound and double-D bearing gimps who would have a few lines of dialog between shoot-outs? Would it even matter? Because, Julia noted, the light was getting larger... and brighter. Cecil was lost from sight.

Great, I'm about to meet God. Or just wake up. Or just keep going like this forever. Great choices. I suppose if it's all been a comedy, I just wake up right there next to Auntie Em. If it's a tragedy, I'm dead, right? That's how they all have to end -- it's in the union rules. Unless there's a twist right after that ending, where the good ending turns sour or vice verse... if it's a comedy, who writes God's lines? Or a dark comedy. Then I'd just keeping walking forever and ever... and bitching about it every step of the way. Waiting for God, you know... Good grief, I hope whoever is behind this has a better sense of humor than that.

Good, the light's still getting bigger. I suppose it's close to the end now. Hopefully not 'The End' but just the 'end' of whatever kind of weird day this has been. Too much for me, I can tell you. Like this tunnel... Oh great, what if it just looks like I'm getting closer but in fact the tunnel just stretches on forever? It wouldn't be so bad if this were just a dream... I'd have to wake up eventually. Thank God for bladders.

Well, I guess I have my three choices... I go on forever, I wake up, or I die. Unless the author is so far-gone that he won't even stop at three choices! My God, what would be the fourth? How weird could this get?! Maybe this is like one of those art projects where the artist gets stoned and paints with bear snot? Oh, who cares?! Can't this come to a conclusion one way or another? That would be the worst. Never knowing one way or the other. That would be a fate worse than death. Oh... good phrase. I bet it's in the title of whatever this is. I wonder what it means... I bet anything the author doesn't know.

Oh, my feet! I should have worn sneakers today. It's so bright up there! Is this it coming up? Is this my answer to everything? That moment of truth? If it's not, where I am supposed to be looking if not here? Maybe I'm supposed to just stop worrying about and just take whatever it is as it is...? You know, just let go of the preconceptions and see what's in front of me for the first time?

Oh God, I sound like such an idiot I should be on a talk show! There might as well be a white rabbit up there, for all the good I'm doing. Or Oz! Oh great, I'll escape from Wisconsin and end up in Kansas. Think positive: maybe I'll end up wherever those romance novels take place. Maybe I could do some passionate heaving for a while instead of all this walking.

Is this tunnel ever going to end? The light is just ahead! Is it supposed to get harder to reach the closer you are? Is all this supposed to be metaphysical or just plain impossible? And how did that cat get through all of this while I'm still here? Is that God's message to me? The cat gets nirvana while I trudge up this incline forever? It's so bright -- what if he's waiting for me in there and I step on him? The cat, I mean, not God. Oh, this is ludicrous! Isn't this ever going to end?!

31. Sunlight

Julia awoke on her couch with the morning light that streamed in through the blinds. Cecil, sleeping in the crook of her arm, twitched and tried to roll over. Julia felt the warmth of the light on her legs and arm and wondered what time it was. She stretched and dislodged Cecil, who jumped to the carpet and padded off to use the cat box.

Am I back from Wonderland?, she asked herself, unable to control the smile that spread across her face. Julia stood and stretched in the morning light that made her body feel whole and warm and good.

She stretched until she stood at the tip of her toes, as tall and straight as she would ever be. She relaxed and let her body go limp, her head tilting forward just enough to see a weather balloon drift into view in the otherwise blue sky, where it hung lazily in the air for a last few moments before it descended gently to the ground.


Any Coincidence Is - 17/17

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