by Poet on the Piano   Nov 30, 2020

I wake up shivering, burying my hands in my cashmere sweater. The tangerine sun rises from the city skyline, and instantly instills in me a comfort, a normalcy. I had the strangest dream, the kind where, when you wake up, it takes several minutes to ground yourself and realize it wasn't real. I no longer hear the panic, the screeching, the high-pitched echos of chaos.

I am alone, so I savor it..

Within minutes though, a nagging sensation latches onto my thoughts.

I'm on a stopped train.
I don't remember how I got here.

Taking a steady breath, I look around the empty train. And then, it hits me like a punch to the gut. I'm not supposed to be here. I left the train once it stopped outside the city, right before sunset.

Gazing at the skyscrapers to my right, bathed in golden sunrays, not one of them looks familiar. To a passing stranger, it may appear like any other regular city, but this isn't the city I grew up in. It looks far too menacing, the buildings rotted and lonely, beams of light filling in the abandoned spaces.

I shiver once more, watching as my breath stutters out at abrupt intervals. It must be below freezing. Winter will be an unkind stranger in a few weeks.

Anxiously grabbing my backpack and checking for my phone, only to find it ran out of juice, my hand meets a small tattered notebook that clearly isn't mine, hidden inside one of the secret pockets. I open the notebook, curious for any kind of explanation.

Frantic scrawlings take up every inch of the paper, traces of fear everywhere, and as I read, a knot of uncertainty builds in my stomach.

The power had gone off, and it was suspected this was no accident. People were disappearing from their homes; riots started in the streets as families shouted for answers, begging to know where their loved ones had been taken. Hospitals were empty. People hoarded resources and formed alliances. City leaders were nowhere to be found.

On the edges of each page are doodles: angry flames overtaking the public parks, cartoon monsters digging themselves out of graves, homes and businesses being torn apart by swirling hurricanes. The confusion and fear of the unknown is palpable.

I search and search for names, specifics, anything that I can recognize. But the coordinates and city neighborhoods are unfamiliar.

Hunched over, re-reading every paragraph for the tenth time, I finally find a reference to the year.

But, this can't be it...

This has to be some kind of misunderstanding...

The notebook says that the outages and downfall of the city were predicted in 2050, and since that didn't happen, people grew accustomed to their routine way of life, unprepared for anything able to shatter them and strip them of their humanity. Until now.

Last time I checked, it was 2020. I'd exited the train with several other people last night, but I don't know what happened after that. I don't remember falling asleep, or if I even arrived home.

My mouth runs dry, my lungs heaving. I tightly tuck my arms into my body and curl my legs close to me, shutting my eyes. I try to slow down the onslaught of panic in my brain.

Could I have been in a coma? Or kidnapped?

Did all of this happen without my consciousness knowing?

It can't be time travel, can it?

I shudder at the thought.

Where am I, and more importantly, why am I here?


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