I was watching TV, upside-down, when my phone started ringing.
I somersaulted on the sofa, flipping the right way round, and grabbed my phone from the coffee table. I was dead bored, and completely disinterested in the episode of Supernatural on telly. “Hello?”
“Autumn!” came the shriek. I winced, and held the phone a little farther from my ear. “It’s Kayla!”
Of course it was Kayla – my crazy, possible kleptomaniac of a best friend. Her voice was recognizable through even the worst connections. She had a low-pitched voice which became very squeaky when she chose to scream, which, she just did.
“Hi,” I replied, kicking up my feet. Sam darted across the TV screen. “Your greetings warm my cold heart.”
“Don’t sound so discouraged, the scream was only to attract your attention,” Kayla scolded. “Anyway, you need to come down to the ice-cream bar. I’ve been making… plans.”
“What sort of plans?” I asked her, smiling a little. Honestly, with Kayla the word ‘plans’ could mean anything from giving blankets to the homeless to committing a burglary. Either way, I usually loved them. They were always full of thrill.
“Evil plans. And I need a partner in crime. Please?”
I didn’t have anything better to do, so I shrugged, although she couldn’t see me. “Sure. I’ll be there in about twenty minutes.”
“Slacker,” she said, before ending the call. I scoffed at the phone, running a hand through my hair. I was in need of a shower, so I would indeed take at least twenty minutes. I left my phone on the sofa, and, taking random items of clothing from my closet, ducked into the bathroom.
The shower was hot and relaxing, and I hopped out of the cubicle with a towel wrapped around my torso, almost slipping. I cursed.
“Stupid shower,” I muttered, annoyed, because really? The point of a shower cubicle is to keep the water in the cubicle, not leak it on the floor. Huffing in irritation, I dried myself with the towel and dropped it on the lid of the toilet. I slipped into some denim shorts and a white t-shirt that read ‘Pink Floyd' in scratchy handwriting.
Suddenly, my mobile phone started ringing from in my apartment. Just my luck.
“Crap,” I hissed, flipping my wet hair out of my face. “Coming!” I shouted out to the phone, although it couldn’t actually hear me and no-one else was there.
I quickly wrapped the towel around my head, turban-style, and ran for the door… but my foot was damp, and the floor a puddle on it, and I slipped backwards, flailing.
My head turned backwards instinctively to take a peek at where I was falling, and my left temple crashed against the side of the sink. I cried out as my head burned with avid pain.
Darkness was encroaching my vision, but, after a couple of seconds of dazed lying, I blinked and managed to stand up. My towel slipped unnoticed to the tiles.
Unfortunately, this gave me a somewhat clear image in the mirror of the bloody cut beginning to dribble across my face… And I had a massive fear of blood.
My legs folded in on themselves and I collapsed, water seeping into my clothes, but I couldn’ t tell. I just wanted to sleep… So badly… Sleep the pain away…
My eyelids fluttered shut.
It was… grey.
That was the first thought that came to my head when I awoke. I was staring at the usually-warm peach colour of my sink, and… it was more grey than peach.
My clothes, I realized, were no longer wet. I touched the side of my head, wincing at the inevitable contact, but… It didn’t hurt. My fingers didn’t come away with blood. It was odd.
I sat up, slowly. The floor was dry and clean… and also greyer than normal.
Actually, everything seemed to have been doused in a million shades of grey paint, varying in degrees of darkness.
I got to my feet, wary. “What the bloody hell?” I asked the silence.
That was all I could hear. Even though I lived in an apartment where, a couple floors down, an unpleasant old man plays classical music so loud you can feel it thrum through the floor.
“Is this some sort of joke?” I said, running a hand through my hair. It echoed around my pale white walls.
Then I realized; I was late. Kayla was going to kill me!
I hopped into some socks and high-tops. I grabbed my wallet, phone, and apartment keys, and rushed outside, quickly locking the door. I ran down the stairs two at a time, thumping.
I reached ground floor – and froze.
Nobody was there.
There’s always someone in the lobby, always. It’s not even a question to consider debating on. Whether it’s a receptionist or an occupant or a janitor, you can’t not find someone in our lobby.
Except… I couldn’t see anyone.
The street even looked desert, all forlorn and grey.
“Hel-looooo?” I yelled, even though all the adults usually glare at me when I yell – except there weren’t any adults, here.
I jumped, startled, but quickly steeled myself.
"Who're you?" I snapped, storming over to the side of the building, where a man stood. He looked slightly scruffy, with dirty-blonde hair and stubble. He hardly looked intimidating, and I was never one to fear from males.
"Who're you?" he asked me, looking wary, eyes flickering around me. I crossed my arms.
"I'm Autumn Summers and I want to know where the hell I am, and what sort of sick prank this is," I said angrily.
He looked taken aback by my attitude - which, admittedly, most people are. "I don't know where we are. I just came outside for some fresh air after waking up, and it was all... lifeless."
He was fidgeting, but he looked honest enough and I let myself relax, if only slightly.
I pieced the minority of puzzle pieces I had all together - I had woken up in an odd parody of my own home after falling unconscious. I had probably lost a lot of blood, because that wound had looked pretty severe. I had met one man who also had no idea of this parody universe.
"Okay, then," I said, sitting back against the bricked walls. "What do we do now?"
The man's eyes darted towards me, then back at the dull street. "I'm not sure. I'm Conner, by the way. Conner Anwell."
"Hello, Conner," I replied grimly. "Sorry we had to meet under these circumstances."
He nodded in response. "So - how did you get here?"
I gestured with my chin towards the building against my back. "I just. I fell in the shower and hit my head against the sink, and fainted. I got this huge cut on my temple."
He peered at me. "You don't seem to have any cuts on you."
"I know. It's gone. I was wet as well, but now I'm pretty dry." I looked around - the surroundings hadn't changed. "Do you know the time?"
Conner shook his head and pulled his phone out of his pocket, fiddling around with it. "Okay, this is seriously fucked up."
"What?" I asked, standing again (grudgingly) to peek at his phone. To my surprise, it was frozen at 11:59 p.m.
So close to midnight. Never to reach it.
"Okay, that is actually really creepy," I said, cautious. I stole another useless glance around, as did Conner. It was hopeless.
Conner shrugged. "Should we just walk around?"
I hesitated. Walking around a foreign area with a foreign man didn't seem a good idea. But it seemed like the only choice we had. "Yeah."