The sun beat down on the top of my head as if trying to force me to the ground with its pressure. Not a breeze stirred the air, nor could any water be seen. I longed to go swimming, to wash away the sickly heat. But I knew there was nowhere cool to go in this crowded city. People pushed past me, calling to each other and hurrying this way and that, so many ants under the microscope.
I stared down the long street hesitantly, looking around with wide eyes at a scene that was so vividly different from the one I was used to. Yes, I was a city kid. But not this kind of city. I was used to well cut lawns and sprinklers, hamburger bars and neat little fountains. I had never been anywhere so crowded and dirty, never heard traffic noises this loud before. Horns honked as voices yelled angry words to other drivers. There was no pattern to the movement of the cars. No simple, easy to follow rules could withstand this chaos.
I brushed sweat soaked brown hair from my eyes, feeling it against my hand, searching for something normal in all this strangeness. Could it really be true that a mere twelve hours ago I was reclined in an armchair in my own cozy living room? It felt like I had walked into some strange dream.
A voice interrupted my musing. I couldn't understand the words, the language bouncing off my ears like so much meaningless music. I shook my head, hoping the tall man before me would understand. But he did not look away from me, his black eyes glinting as he shouted. His face was sallow and underfed, the skin stretching across it twisting his mouth into a grimace as it pulled at the corner of his eyes. I blinked back apprehension, as sympathetic as I was nervous. I wanted him to go away even as much as I wanted to help him. I thought numbly of what a strange world I had stepped into.