She woke from a dream into what her life had become. Somehow, while she had been sleeping, resting peacefully, the ground beneath her suffered a quake and all was indistinguishable. The people she once trusted were replaced with mannequins. New faces, unrecognizable, beautiful faces surrounded her, circling in like vultures, smiling and reassuring while remaining foreign and petrifying. Her hand was being held, tightly, and it was him. He whom she knew. He whom she trusted, not a mannequin like the others, not speaking tongues, but staring, wide-eyed and expectant. She held her breath for a long time. Too long a time. Maybe this was the dream. Maybe the world hadn’t flip-flopped while the moon rested above, and she was consoled momentarily by her thoughts. But her eyes sprung open and she knew the dream world was nothing of the sort. He was still there, still holding her hand, but it was his world now. All the constants in her reality were replaced. She knew the colors she saw were the same, but that their names were different. Her blue no longer looked like blue, but was red now. Her red, yellow. There was a calmness to this stability in the changes, a knowingness that it was right, even though subconsciously she knew it to be different. The beautiful faces were benign and her fear was fading. They reached out and caressed her hair, brushing it back from her face. He looked on, never letting go, approving and stoic. There was food but it tasted of mere air. It had matter, took up space and was undeniably real, yet somehow lacked taste, although it served to fill her stomach. She didn’t remember eating, or moving, but she was alive, so she must have.
His facial hair grew and retracted as if mechanical, but it made no difference. The passing of time was evident, yet she sat and watched, as though she were the axis that the world was spinning ‘round. Stagnant while complacent, the still and calm of the universe balanced atop her sternum. She knew this to be true, and understood her relevance in the scheme of things, but no one seemed to take note. The faces passed her by, in rotation, smiling and reassuring her that things were just as they had always been. He turned his head and the ground shook. She clenched his hand and the earth mended beneath her feet, clad in irrelevant shoes. Her belongings: visible, but drifting out of reach. Her life seemed tangible, as if she could take a bite out of it, or shred it in a cheese grater. The colors grew more vibrant, the faces less clear, his always standing out from the crowd, like some Mecca of peace and quiet amongst the storm, but also somehow causing the tantrum of wind around her. The tornadoes whizzed by, the rains fell, the water hit her skin and penetrated her pores, causing the feeling of “wetness”, or at least what she used to know to be wetness, but now it felt still, dry, unnervingly heavy upon her. All at once gone, though, like time passing through at light speed and she drugged at the control station.
There was music, and it made her smile but didn’t make a sound, although she could hear it. Her senses numbed to everything except his fingers intertwined in hers. She could feel her synapses firing, like miniature electrical shocks at the top of her spinal cord. They were speaking to her in a language she never studied in school. The words were not the least bit melodic, yet someone was singing and she could hear it clear as day, an oldies radio station playing Motown hits, telling her that he was holding her down. She opened the eyes in the back of her head, metaphorically, of course, and saw a familiar scene, her backwards ducts sucked up tears like a vacuum as she watched it unfold behind the firing synapses, behind the Motown and in a place where blue was blue and red was red and yellow was her least favorite color.
A tall man playing records in a big empty room covered in a black floral rug. A small boy throwing couch cushions and thrusting his knees in rhythm with the music pouring out of the speakers. Real melodies dancing through the air. Food that tasted appropriately so: mashed potatoes with chunks of red skin and real butter melting in the center, a volcano of carbohydrates. A child dances, twirls and smiles at the man, a smile that makes the ground shake and his hand, his hand that she has been clenching, clenching and clinging to for reality, balance in a world of chaos slips away, momentarily, the earth emits smoke and fire and she looks at the child, she watches her dance, she watches her smile at the man, she notices the way the colors are real and the ground stable. She recognizes what she has left behind and once again clenches his hand, the earth mending beneath their feet. The dance is over and the colors have changed and the clocks must go back an hour and we can sleep a little longer but the morning will still feel like yellow and blue will smell like red and her favorite color is indistinguishable. But his hand, his hand is still there, like a bandage covering up a healed wound, like a pair of un-prescription glasses, yet keeping the ground stable until she is ready for the coming storms.