Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

#FridayFlash 67: A Flash of Colour

Follow the lemmings, she thought as she joined the hundreds of commuters filing two by two down the stairs to exit the train station.   Her whole life had been an adventure.  She loved that her friends watched her, bemused, to see what the next twist might be.  But now she who loved light, colour, and openness trudged between the tight grey rows of skyscrapers.

At the first red light, she looked around, determined not to succumb to the temptation to stare at her phone and complete the transformation into “one of them”.  It was a little defiance, but the only thing she could do to keep her sense of self.  On the opposite corner, she noticed a teenage girl wearing a brilliant red cape. Most unusual though was that the girl was looking right at her. They made eye contact as the light changed.  The girl pointed with her chin over her shoulder, spun around and left; her cape billowed behind her as people blindly shuffled to allow her to pass through.

Lizzie elbowed her way to the front of the crowd, eyes scanning the limited routes.  A flash of red flickered at the edge of an alley, and without allowing herself to consider her motives, Lizzie trailed it.  This alley was noticeably quieter and calmer.   The masses of people continued down the main road.  Up ahead the girl looked back over her shoulder, gave a mischievous wink, and let herself through a gate.

Lizzie was sure the gate hadn’t been there yesterday.  She would’ve sworn this was a dead end.  She looked behind her, giving a moment’s thought to the safe and responsible option of continuing on to work.  She dismissed it instantly. 

On closer inspection, Lizzie decided the gate had been there forever, she’d simply missed it.  It was ancient, yet opened smoothly when she pushed through it.  She heard the latch click behind her and turned to look back, relieved that everything was exactly as she’d expect to see and then amused at herself for considering anything else.  But when she faced forward, her world had changed.  The girl still stood waiting for her, but no longer was she standing in a city alley with office buildings on either side of her; in front of her lay something from a storybook – rolling hills of green, trees off to one side, and a castle in the distance.  A frantic look back revealed the city Lizzie knew, and she reached backward for the gate.  The cold metal in her hand was reassuring, but as she opened it, she felt an almost overwhelming sense of loss.  She allowed the gate to close again which dulled the sensation significantly, but her fingers turned white with the intensity of the grip she kept.

“What…?  Where…?” usually articulate, she found herself unable to formulate a question that would address the situation she found herself in.

A bird calling in the distance was the only answer she received.  It was not a city bird she heard. 

Lizzie’s feet felt rooted in cement.  She could not go forward if she wished, but nor was she inclined to tolerate the intense misery of the gate.  The other girl’s hands were interlaced in front of her while she stood quietly.  Her eyes shone of wisdom and experience well beyond what her age should allow.

“Who are you?” Lizzie’s words came out barely more than a whisper.

“I was once as you are now.  I made my choice; now you must make yours.”  Her melodic voice had a hypnotic tone to it that suited the look in her eyes but not her youth.

“How did that work out for you?”

The girl’s eyes crinkled as she let out a short laugh that instantly set Lizzie at ease.   The woman-girl paused for a moment, looking away from Lizzie before answering.

“My choice had consequences,” she spoke slowly, as though considering each word.  “Some were very hard,” she gave a gentle laugh, making Lizzie wonder how much time had passed that such hard results could now have happy memories.   Lizzie waited for her to continue, but the girl had her lips pressed tightly together.

She phrased her next question carefully.  

“If you were to do it again, knowing what you know now, would you make the same choice you did?”

The girl gave the smallest of nods before speaking, “Yes I would, but realize I did not face the same choice you have in front of you.  Your choice is your own, but if you wait much longer to decide, you’re going to be late for work.”

The reality check startled Lizzie.  What was she doing?  She had to get to work.  She needed that job.  She opened the gate and felt the sense of loss wash over her.  Her feet were still unwilling to move.  Reaching into her purse she smiled; she never missed a day so nobody would care as long as she called in – and given that she was seeing fantasy countries in a dead-end alley, she was clearly in need of a mental health day.

Her relief at the simple solution disappeared instantly when she discovered she had no service.

“Really?” her guide rolled her eyes, suddenly seeming entirely like the teenager she appeared to be.

So go to work like a responsible adult or play hooky for a little while?  That was the decision Lizzie tried to rationalize, but she knew in the part of her soul that’s reserved only for truth, that the choice she had to make would be immeasurably more significant than that.

She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, thought about everybody important in her life, and realized that every one of them would understand that she needed to make the choice they never would.

So with fear and excitement warring for control over her emotions, she let go of the gate and walked towards her next adventure.


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