The phone was ringing, loudly, insistently. I came awake slowly, annoyed by the ringing. I was feeling distinctly green about the gills as I tried to reach it. As I touched it, the ringing stopped. I closed my eyes and tried to recover the dream, something about rivers, magic, and strangeness. Looking around my familiar bedroom, the magic seems very distant.
Again, it rings, and I force myself awake. Groggy, I snatch the handset. “Hello?”
Well, I’m awake now, even if I’m not feeling myself.
It almost feels as if waking up had required more effort than usual. Had I really been stuck in an alternate reality? One where magic was real, and I was able to use it?
I distinctly remembered running off the edge of a cliff and not falling after waving a wand. Then walking calmly down what could have been an invisible staircase to reach the visible ground below. And yet, looking around at the small apartment that I’ve occupied for at least a year, at the computer on the desk in the corner, the small and efficient kitchen, the modern appliances, I was now back in my more familiar mundane world.
Last thing I remembered was falling asleep in the Inn. And now I’m awake here. That was as shocking an transition as what brought me there in the first place what seemed like several weeks ago.
Hmm. Judging from the full but short beard I’m sporting today, have I been trapped in bed here for weeks? The pile of mail behind the front door seems to hint at that.
I’m a bit of a loner here, so no one noticing that I’ve been out of touch for a week or so might not be a complete surprise. But I do have a landlord, and bills to pay. And those are the sorts of animals that take notice if one simply vanishes, or ceases to respond to email, phone, and letter.
Which makes me envy the simpler world I had gone to sleep in. True, I was a person of consequence there, compared to just one thin step better than a hobo here as the past-due notices piled behind my door were trying to remind me.
I went through my usual morning routine like a zombie. I hadn’t shaved in a while, but I wasn’t starved. The fridge was nearly empty, of course, and there was that pile of mail to sort. And lurking behind me all the while was the computer which if opened might burst any number of bubbles.
What had happened to me?
Was it still happening?
I tried to sift my memories. What was the last thing I remembered that was clearly from here and not there?
I’d gone to that party, and met a number of shady people. Somebody could have slipped me something, but here I was at home, not in a strange place or an ER. So it probably wasn’t drugs or poison.
But wasn’t there a rat?
And then on the other side, the same rat again?
Then I saw him, standing in conspicuously on my table. That same rat.
“Come on, we have to go,” he said impatiently. “You’re wanted.”
My head hit the pillow without much further thought.