I just found this in a notebook. It might be some kind of prose poem or the beginning of a science fiction novel. Hard to say. It’s called “Two-Page Story” because the only constraint I set was that it had to fit in exactly two pages of the notebook. I think it’s from this February, which would account for both the springtime imagery and the feeling of lurking doom.
One: I woke up. Two: It was morning. Three: I was not at home.
Where I was I didn’t know, or I wasn’t sure, or I’d forgotten. I was alone, and the bed and the walls were strangers to me.
I dressed in strange clothes – strange to me, that is – and walked through the door. I was on a charming canal-side street. A passing old woman handed me a flower and smiled. “Good day, good day, miss,” she said in a sing-song voice with a strange accent.
All along the street and on the other side of the canal the shops were opening, people waking up, people going about their business and starting the day. I turned and strolled nonchalantly along the canal. I passed a little news stand: “Good day, good day, miss,” its proprietor said in the same sing-song tone. He looked just like the old woman – he had the same shock of snowy hair, the same kindly black eyes, the same wrinkled red cheeks like an old dried-out apple. He nodded and handed me a paper. “Oh, I don’t think I have any money,” I said, searching my pockets for any strange coins. “Never mind, never mind, miss,” he said, and with another nod I went my way down the street.
Of course I couldn’t read the newspaper. Its alphabet was as strange and unknown to me as everything else in this strange and unknown land. Still I studied its pages, nodding sagely from time to time, until I reached the end of the canal-side street.
Here where the canal entered a tunnel the city street turned into a lovely landscaped park. Groups of cheerful elderly people were strolling arm in arm, nodding and smiling at me. In the bandstand a group of horn players were setting up and warming up. And in the distance, on top of a hill, an enormous gibbet loomed over us all. It was then that I remembered everything.