Home > My Favorites > Day Seventy-six: A New World

Day Seventy-six: A New World

Adam let the door swing open and stood on the front step, looking into his house. His sister had kept it in good shape for him, while he was… away. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been gone, though. A few months in the hospital, but the time before that was indistinct. Cloudy. He touched that space in his memory like it was a sprained ankle, a bone-deep bruise, and then left it alone.

He stepped inside and took a deep breath. The air smelled dry and flat, unused. He dropped his suitcase by the door, which he then shut and locked. The lights were still working, so his sister must have been paying for the electricity. He felt bad, what she had been through. She didn’t have a lot of reason to be so kind to him, and they both knew it. But when he asked why, she just said, “Because you’re my brother. What else could I do?”

The water in the kitchen sink sputtered a little when he turned it on, but it came out cold and clear. He held his hands under it, and for a moment felt something else. A stream. Snowmelt from high, impassable mountains. A woman, over his shoulder.

He spun around, and there was no one there. The memory, too, clouded back over and he couldn’t quite remember what it was he had remembered. But it made him feel sad, whatever it was.

There was no food in the fridge, of course. It had been switched off and was disconcertingly warm when he stuck his hand inside to turn the dial and get the cold going again. There were probably menus somewhere, someplace he could order from. He went through a drawer under the phone until he found a bunch of menus from a Chinese place, Jade Hall. The menus, classic red-on-white printing, had a great sinuous dragon flowing across the top, and he found himself staring at it, unable to move, unable to look away. A voice came to him from the depths of his battered and broken memory, and it was terrifying. It resonated like a funeral bell the size of the world and held nothing but contempt for him and everyone else in creation.

“Very well, then,” he remembered it saying. “We are agreed.”

Adam felt a sudden pain in his arm, like someone had set a burning iron against it. He hissed and grabbed at his sleeve, nearly tearing it off as he ran back to the sink to hold his arm under water. When he looked at his arm, the skin was clean and undamaged. The burning feeling was gone, along with the voice.

“No,” he said. “No, no. This is just what the doctors said would happen.” he was aware that he was talking to no one, but the silence of the house seemed worse. “Oh, hell, damn, damn,” he said, slumping down on the kitchen floor with his hands over his eyes.

Doctor Greer had recommended against Adam leaving the hospital when he did. He called Adam into his office and sat him down, and then looked at him with that weird, avuncular smile he had. “Adam,” he said. His beard gave his voice a gentle, muffled tone that probably went a long way towards calming his patients. “Adam, we want to help you, you know that?”

“Yes, doctor Greer,” Adam said. “I know that. But I really feel like I’m better now. I think I’m going to be okay.”

“And that is wonderful to hear, Adam.” Doctor Greer took up Adam’s file and looked it over, as if he hadn’t been treating the man for months. “No more intrusive fantasies? No more of those voices?”

Adam shook his head. “No, doctor,” he said, and it was true. He had gone a long time without flashing back to that strange reality he’d built for himself. Without thinking he had to get back. Greer said it was just an escape fantasy, that it was brought on by stress. Work, with all the cutbacks. His mother’s death. His marriage. Nothing was staying the way it was supposed to stay – stable, reliable, true. And so he had retreated, the doctors said. He had gone into his mind, into another world where things made sense. Where he could be the hero and impose order on the world and make it make sense.

He’d gone crazy, in other words. Nuts. Wacko. Or, in psychological parlance, “experienced a near-total disassociative state of mental dissonance.”

And, after a lot of therapy and a regular regimen of medication, Adam knew that they were right. He’d gone off the deep end, lost his marbles, and when they found him in that field, laughing and crying at the same time, well, how else could you explain it? What other explanation could there possibly be?

“We are agreed,” that voice said again, and it made Adam cover his head and scream. It opened up cracks and fissures and gaps, and it let other things flow up out from between them. A great mansion, gilded and perched atop a high mountain. A woman with eyes as blue as the sky on a late autumn day and skin that was deep, almost impossible violet, and her breath smelled of honey when they kissed. Red skies and rain that burned and great insects that flew and carried people off only to drop them from the sky. A blade in his hand that sang to him and called down the lightning when he needed it.

“It was all a dream,” Adam said, and he said it again and again and again, but he knew… In his heart he knew.

There was a stone, and that stone was a key.

There was a door, but it wasn’t a door.

There was a path, and it was a path he could not see but he walked anyway and it led him to her. To the keep. To the dragon and the battle and the promise. And the field.

The truth hit Adam like thunder and he wept. He cried for a long time, curled up on the kitchen floor.

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