Tanya didn’t know exactly what had happened. She remembered being late, and being irritable, and pulling over. Why had she pulled over when she was running late? She frowned, struggling to retrieve the memory.
She had heard a thump.
She had pulled over because she thought she had hit something – or someone – with her car. She had gotten out, and looked around … and … then what?
Her head was throbbing. She couldn’t remember what had happened after that, no matter how hard she tried.
Well, then, she thought. Where was she now?
She seemed to be in a featureless grey room with no windows; it was lit, but not by any source she could determine – there was just a soft white glow all around her, illuminating the grey floor. There were no walls that she could see. Everything outside of the soft glow just dissipated into total darkness. There was no furniture, no item or other person. She called out, first tentatively, and then more urgently, more loudly. No one answered.
Her voice didn’t even echo in this vast, grey place. It was swallowed up into the darkness of the periphery. She began to be extremely frightened.
“Where am I?” she shouted, starting to cry. “What’s happening?”
For what seemed like hours – but might only have been a few minutes – she screamed for anyone, for help, for explanations. Still no one answered. She cast herself onto the grey floor and sobbed, overcome with fear and confusion. What the hell was happening? How did she get here?
Eventually she managed to pull herself together, and climbed unsteadily to her feet. Looking around her for a moment, she selected a direction and began to walk.
The soft white light followed her, dispelling the darkness ahead of her as though she were driving through fog. She still couldn’t tell where the light was coming from. She wondered briefly if she was dead, but decided ultimately that her heart was beating too loudly for her to be dead.
She walked for at least a mile, running occasionally in growing alarm. The grey floor continued smooth and flat in all directions, and nowhere was there a wall or a mark or anything.
This is insane! she thought, trying not to panic. It occurred to her then that perhaps she had been in some kind of accident. Perhaps she was unconscious, in a coma in a hospital bed, and this was just a really vivid dream. Maybe it was just some kind of elaborate metaphor her brain was devising to find her way back to consciousness.
She stopped walking then, and sat down. Once again, she looked all around her.
There was a window.
It was small – miniscule – but it was definitely a window. It must be very far away, but she could see blue sky through it.
“Oh, my God!” she cried. She jumped up and ran toward the window.
It turned out to be only a few feet away, and she had actually run past it before skidding to a halt and turning back toward it. What the hell? She stared, baffled, at the window.
It was only about six inches by four inches, and it floated in mid-air at about waist-height. She walked around it slowly, not able at first to absorb what she was seeing. When she stood behind the window, it vanished, but reappeared again when she came full circle.
She bent down and peered through this strange, floating window. On the other side was blue sky that was deepening to twilight, and a row of houses. She could hear voices, girls’ voices, all telling each other they would see each other in the morning. Then a figure walked past the window – one of the girls.
“Help!” she shouted. The girl stopped and turned around, clearly uncertain who had spoken. She called out, and Tanya shouted again: “Help!”
The girl approached the little window, and bent down to stare Tanya directly in the eyes. She seemed irritated, and clearly thought someone was playing a trick on her. She called out for the pranksters to reveal themselves.
Tanya realized the girl must be as perplexed by the little window as she was. “Please!” she begged. “Please! Let me out of here! Let me out!”
The girl became angrier. She looked back and forth, and demanded to know, “How did you do this?” She bent down then, her nose only inches from Tanya’s. Tanya took a chance and reached out through the little window, her fingers grasping at the girl’s hair.
The girl jerked back and screamed, running away toward the row of houses. “Please!” Tanya yelled after her. “Please come back! I need to get out!” Her fingers gripped the edges of the little window, and she pushed her nose and mouth through the tiny opening. Tears fell unheeded as she screamed and screamed, but, if the girl could hear her, she didn’t respond. Soon she had run completely out of sight, and Tanya collapsed on the grey floor in despair.
She stayed next to the little window as the sky on the other side of it grew darker and darker. “Please,” she whispered over and over. “Please help me.” She stared unblinking at the sliver of sky, and at the narrow band of stars.