Chris found himself staring at his reflection. He stepped back to see that the mirror was actually a revolving glass door. He turned around to see where he was, and found himself standing outside a skyscraper, surrounded by more buildings all around. The roads in front of him made an asterisk as they criss-crossed each other, bordered by multi-storey buildings on either side. There was a traffic signal in front of him, glowing red. As he slowly came out of shock, he realised that there was no sound. The absolute silence was almost deafening.
Sarah! The thought struck him, and he quickly spun around to look for her. There was not a single moving thing in sight. Suddenly the traffic signal turned green with an audible twing, and there she stood in her black top and denim jeans, with eyes looking as if they would pop out of her head.
“Chris?” She looked at him with those same wide open eyes, and he returned the gaze.
They stood two feet apart, looking into each other’s eyes and wondering what to say.
A sudden gust of wind brought him out of his shock and he grabbed both her shoulders with his hands, shaking her roughly.
“What are yo- HEY!” Sarah’s head shook violently before she finally came to her senses and looked around her in shock.
“What is this place?” Sarah’s voice was so meek; Chris couldn’t believe she could sound so timid. “Where are we?”
“I don’t know. What did you do?”
“What?” She had been looking in a different direction, but turned around so quickly that he had to step back to avoid her shoulder length hair brushing his face.
Chris didn’t know how to frame his statement. “You... you pushed me, didn’t you, in here? And then I found myself standing here.” He spoke as he gestured towards the glass doors on his left.
“You’re saying I landed us here? Are you out of your mind?”
“I did not”
“Whatever” Chris shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly, deciding that she won’t agree she had pushed him in wherever he was.
She pushed me.
“How did you get in here?”
“I dunno. I just stood where you were standing one moment... and suddenly felt as if I was being sucked into a straw. The next thing I know, I’m standing here.”
“The same thing happened to me. I was just standing when you pushed me, and then I was sucked in here.” He emphasised the word just to prick her conscience.
They didn’t speak for quite some time, until the silence started freaking them out.
Not knowing what to do, Chris turned around and pushed the door to step inside the building beside which he had appeared.
“Coming?” He looked at Sarah just as he was about to enter, who turned her head the other way and sniffed. Chris had always been a reserved person, never mingling with others, never having many friends. But wherever he was right now, Sarah was there. And for the first time in his life he didn’t feel like venturing alone somewhere. So he decided to change his approach and added one more word. “Please?”
Sarah turned around and pushed the doors, walking inside with her head held high. Chris followed immediately, and when the door revolved he ran into Sarah’s back and quickly spluttered an apology. She was standing just ahead of the door, so he couldn’t do anything except stand in the half open door and wait for her to move. But she seemed to have rooted to the spot, and for the first time he looked where she was looking. His jaw dropped.
They were inside a mall with shops all around them, their neon signs glowing. But what was even more shocking were the names on the neon signs. They were brands and shops which Chris saw everyday during his bus trip from home to school. McDonald’s, Hidesign, Esprit, Aquafina...Dell? He looked in wonder all around him, unable to believe what he was seeing, wondering what was Sarah thinking about all thhis. Where are we?
I don’t know.
A clear response rang inside his head, and he jumped in surprise. Sarah turned around to stare at him.
“What was that?”
“I don’t know.” He shook his head vigorously when she looked like she didn’t believe him, and stopped only when she straightened her back and turned around once more.
“Let’s check out this place.” Chris spoke as he softly pushed her to make way, and she jumped away when she saw why he had touched her. She blushed, and quickly took two more steps to clear some space. “Sorry.”
Chris walked towards an escalator in the front, thinking of climbing up when it started moving automatically and threw him off balance for a moment. Sarah looked surprised too, but she followed. When they got off the escalator, the first shop in front of them was an iStore. Cautiously, Chris bent a little forward to get a better look through the glass doors when they also slipped open without prior warning, making him jump once again. This time he heard Sarah chuckle, and tried to gather his nerves quickly.
“Looks like all shops are open, but nobody has arrived for shopping yet.” Sarah spoke matter-of-factly and went inside. They were surrounded by iPods, iPads and Macbooks. Sarah walked up to an exhibition counter and picked up a touchscreen iPod.
“Check this out.” She held it out in her hand to show Chris, and saw him shiver.
“What?” She whispered, suddenly feeling afraid of something he might have seen behind her.
“What?” Chris stood straight once more, but now blinking like an idiot. “Oh that! The AC rotated and I got hit by a cold wave.”
Sarah looked at the air conditioning vent above him. It was really moving. Everything’s perfect, except there’s nobody there to keep it perfect. She shook her head and opened the casing to take out the earphones in the box. She plugged them in and switched on the iPod. She couldn’t believe her ears, just like her eyes till now. The first song that played was her favourite ‘Falling into you’. She flipped through the playlist only to find all the songs preloaded that she ever listened to, and not a single one she did not want. Interesting.
Chris stood in front of a Macbook Pro, and after looking left and right, half expecting someone to tell him not to touch it, he powered the device. The desktop popped up in front of him. He blinked. He had always dreamed of owning a computer that didn’t waste time in booting.
Boys. Once again the voice rang so clearly in his head that it seemed to resonate inside, and it had made him jump again. He looked at Sarah, who was staring at him in return.
“Leave it there. You have to pay for it.”
No kidding. I have my Master Card in my wallet. And I should bill myself at the counter and checkout.
Precisely. Sarah’s voice echoed in his head once again, but this time he didn’t jump out of his skin. He was expecting it any moment now.
Chris let the machine rest on the counter where he had picked it up walked to join Sarah, who was replacing the iPod in its case.
She looked at him. “You know, I think I’ve understood what happens in this place.”
Oh really, Einstein? “Really? What?”
That we can hear each others’ thoughts here, and we get whatever we wish. The voice rang in his head once more, so clear that it seemed to bounce off at different places inside his skull. Probably because he was standing closer to her now.
Yes, Einstein. If thoughts could take a physical form, he was sure he would have felt a jabbing in his ribs. She had heard him crystal clear inside her head.
“So should we check out the McDonalds?”
Her eyes lit up like a small girl’s. Let’s go. She spoke, no- thought inside his head and walked out of the iStore and beckoned him to follow. When they entered McDonald’s with a single table already served with what they had discussed mentally while coming down the escalator, they grinned at each other like kindergarten kids and thought that this whatever land was not so bad after all. And Sarah also figured out that they probably didn’t have to pay for the burgers, or anything else.
Sarah, I’m going to get that Macbook.
She chewed her Chicken McGrill slowly. Get my iPod too. And better checkout Dell before Apple. Windows 7 is easier than Apple’s OS.
He sipped his coke and grinned mentally. Sarah looked up from her burger, smiling.
Does this mean we transmit emotions too?
How do I hide something I don’t want you to know I’m thinking?
I guess that’s not possible.
Holy- beep. He censored whatever he was about to say with a beep in his mind, and Sarah burst out laughing.
In the utter silence of the mall, the laugh sounded strange.