A short story written as part of the Summer Prose Competition 2011 Challenges 1 and 2
I could not believe my luck. Lights in the distance kept beckoning me towards it. And I found myself walking in its direction, dragging my punctured bicycle beside me. I silently reprimanded myself for not double-checking the tyres that morning. But there was no use for that now. It was late and all I needed was a place to crash for the night.
The lights continued to lure me in an uncanny way. It wasn’t that I had to make much of an effort anyway. Making my way there was effortless, but it was the cold that surrounded me and that made my journey towards the hut longer than usual. It was strange but despite this being my daily route home, I never remembered seeing this hut before. But I knew this place, or so it seemed. A nagging feeling was starting to build up inside of me and try as I might, I couldn't find an explanation for it. For the cold. For the nagging feeling. For the familiarity of this hut.
I stopped and looked up at the door which stood before me. There was a blue neon sign above it that said "Free accommodation". What an oxymoron, I thought to myself. Can anything be free these days? I felt myself shivering from the cold and I breathed out into my hands, trying to warm them up.
Seconds later I found myself inside a well-lit room. The light which had been luring me towards it was in fact coming from a fireplace at the other end of the room. There was a jukebox playing in a corner of the room.
"Can I help ya?"
I turned around and felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I had to force myself to look away from her. It was either that or risk sustaining a long stare. Her hair was whiter than chalk and her face was creased like she had been soaked in water for days. A prune would have been horrified at the effect. My heart raced and I opened my mouth to respond, but felt a dryness spread down my throat.
"Bah! Here, s'all paid for. Knock yerself out."
I looked down and found a bunch of rusty old keys in my hands. The keys had a bevelled image of a dragon on it but no number. I found a memory taking hold of me again without warning. It had been happening to me all week. A flashback would attack my consciousness and rid me of all awareness. It would be minutes later when I would find myself in a different setting, not knowing how or when I had arrived there. I felt happening to me again. This time I was sitting on the back of a dragon, whizzing through the air. I was at a happy place and in a happy time. I was also younger, much younger. I hardly recognised myself. The dragon was young too and docile in that he hadn’t learnt about breathing fire yet. He took me higher up the open air and I could feel the wind crashing against my face the faster he went until I could bear it no longer. It almost felt like I was suffocating when I instantly snapped out of it.
The old woman had disappeared and I felt cold. I was no longer in the room with the juke box or the fireplace. I found myself standing at the top of a set of stairs. There was a long corridor ahead of me with doors on either side. How odd for a hut to seem so small on the outside yet be quite large on the inside. Each door had an animal inscribed on a plate affixed in the centre. I kept walking, looking at the animals on either side until I stopped in front of a door with the image of a dragon. The image was the same one on the keys in my hands.
Moments later I was inside. There was bed and a wooden stool. I shook my head and thought to myself that all I needed was to get some sleep, nevermind about the minimalist approach to furnishing. This unsettling feeling within me was exacerbated by all these flashbacks. Tyron had told me that the only way to overcome this was to learn to control the flashbacks. Where was Tyron now when I needed him. He was the only one whom I had confided in when all this started happening to me. How could I not tell him when he was the one who was there and witnessed that flashback as it had hit me. I lay down on the bed and thought back to Tyron’s words but sleep was fast and forthcoming. All I could think of as I drifted off to sleep was where I had left my punctured bicycle and how I would get home in the morning. The music in the juke box started invading my dreams. It was muffled and distant. Images of the old woman with the chalk-white hair appeared before me. Knock yerself out. And that was exactly what I was doing as I succumbed to a deep slumber.