When Paul Benson stumbles upon an otherworldly doorway in the ruins of his bombed flat, he isn't sure if it's a hallucination, a dream, or a beautiful reality.
Paul stood shivering in the charred shell of his flat complex. He reached out to steady himself on a blackened stump of wall. The chill seeped under his thin coat; his fingers trembled.
When the sirens had begun to wail, Paul had shoved everything into an old carpetbag and taken refuge in London's underground rail station. Almost everything. It was only when he was huddled tiredly against the chill wall of the tunnel, along with hundreds of his fellow countrymen, did the awful realization slap him. The photograph, bent and yellowed around the edges from wear, the only picture of his long ago family, had been forgotten in the top drawer of his dresser.
He had torn from the station, madness and desperation overturning any thought of safety. He had heard dull roar of the Luftwaffe overhead, but the sound of his pounding chest roared louder. The airstrike had come too soon, and Paul came too late. His flat was a smoky pile of burnt beams, and his photograph had long since been consumed by the hungry flames.
But none of that came to Paul's mind now. He did not mourn the loss of the picture, that would come later. He did not think at all, only stared slack jawed ahead in wonder.
The city vibrated.
There in the ruins stood a charred door frame, with no support or even a door on its hinges. Just a frame, a survivor, a reminder of what was.
And through it, white flowers. Flowers upon flowers nestled in bright summer grass. It was almost as if snow had grown from the earth. A breeze caressed the blossoms, stirring them gently. Sweet perfume kissed at his nose. Though the doorframe, the sun shone; on either side of the frame, lay a chill night. Where Paul stood sirens pierced the air in awful cries and November air bit at his face. World War Two shuddered in the dark as England crumbled into ruin.
Paul swayed unsteadily. "A hallucination," he muttered. "I'm having a hallucination. Perhaps this is a seizure coming on. I must sit down." He bent to sit, but the world spun mutinously around him and he fell forward, catching hold on the frame. He clung to the wood breathing heavily. Sunshine fell warmly onto his chilled skin, and a soft gust tousled his hair.
"So strange." He murmured.