By Orit Yeret
The other morning, I was feeling a little under the weather. I had been tossing and turning all night, trying to shake off a persistent headache. I peeked out the window of my apartment and saw that the sky was overcast, matching my mood. The streets were quiet, and the only sounds were the occasional honking of a car and the distant chatter of people. I felt drained and exhausted, and I was in no condition to face the day.
When my alarm went off, I hit snooze a few too many times, indulging in some precious minutes of rest. By the time I finally dragged myself out of bed, I was running late. I had overslept, and I had to rush to get dressed and head to class.
As I stepped outside, I felt a chill in the air. The wind was blowing, making the trees sway and the leaves rustle. I could see my breath in the cool morning air. I felt a sense of urgency as I stumbled down the street, hurrying to catch the bus.
I reached the campus just as it was beginning to come to life. Students were streaming in and out of buildings, rushing to their classes and to their activities. I felt a twinge of anxiety as I realized that I was going to be late for my lecture, for the third time that week.
I knew that my professor was strict about punctuality and that she would give me that look again, the one that says it all without using actual words. I sighed in anguish.
As I approached the building, I noticed something strange. The elevator, which was usually crowded and noisy, was eerily silent. I shrugged, stepped inside, and pressed the button for my floor, but nothing happened. The elevator was stalled.
Suddenly, I noticed a loose nail spinning around in circles near my feet. I was about to reach down and pick it up when the elevator lights flickered. I was trapped.
With a loud thump, the elevator doors opened again.
“You did not move,” said a man who had been kneeling as the doors opened.
“Excuse me?” I asked, confused and rattled.
“This one has been acting out all morning,” the man said and opened a large toolbox. I noticed he was wearing a gray jumpsuit and that his name tag read Victor. “I was in the middle of fixing the elevator as you rushed in,” he continued.
“I didn’t…” I mumbled, shaking.
“I’m sorry if it gave you a scare.” He smiled. “It will only be a minute or two.”
He offered his hand to help me out of the elevator. I stepped out and leaned against the adjacent wall.
“I’m late for class, again,” I blurted out loud. “Maybe I should just take the stairs, five floors?”
“That would be quite a workout,” Victor chimed in.
“Professor Timpson is the worst. She is so strict,” I continued.
“She teaches macroeconomics?” Victor asked as he looked down and searched for something in his toolbox.
“And micro, and statistics… She is basically the entire econ department, and she hates me.” I threw my hands up in the air.
“Come on, I’m sure that’s not true.” Victor laughed. “I went to school too, many years ago,” he continued. “My wife and I struggled back then. We had just had a baby daughter, you see, and with me working and studying…it was a tough time.”
Victor kept moving the different tools in the toolbox, and the mash of metals made them jingle.
“Yeah, the years go by too fast.” Victor kept talking. “She is graduating high school this year; next year she’ll be just like you.” He looked at me and smiled.
As I caught his glance, I was suddenly transported back in time to my first year of college. Memories flooded through my brain like a tidal wave, taking me back to the endless hours spent reading textbooks and scribbling out notes in crowded lecture halls. I remembered the late-night study sessions fueled by caffeine, and the stress of exams and papers that seemed to be constantly hanging over my head.
But it wasn’t all stress and anxiety. As the memories continued to rush through my mind, I was reminded of the moments of laughter shared with my classmates, the friendships that had been formed over long conversations. I remembered the joy of experiencing new things, the excitement of exploring the campus and the city, and the sense of freedom that came with being away from home for the first time.
I stood there for several minutes watching Victor go in and out of the elevator, checking the circuit and fiddling with a few different tools.
“There.” Victor stepped out of the elevator and closed his toolbox. “Should be all set now.”
He ushered me in with a gesture, but I hesitated.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” he said.
I took a deep breath and got in. Victor came in the elevator halfway and leaned over to reach the elevator’s control panel. He pressed the button marked 5.
I was still quite anxious.
“You’ll get there.” He smiled as he stepped out of the elevator completely.
“But what if I…” I began to mumble something as the doors shut. I was alone now, surrounded by four metal walls. Everything around me was gray, and I felt cold. I shivered.
Looking down at the elevator floor, I saw that loose nail again, spinning in circles.
“Hey,” I called out to no one, “you forgot…”
Mesmerized by this strange dance, I reached down and tried to pick it up. The lights flickered again.
The elevator doors opened with a soft swoosh, and as they did, a gentle breeze carried with it the scent of blooming flowers. I was struck by the breathtaking sight before me. The space was filled with colors and textures, an explosion of life that filled the air with a sense of vitality.
I stepped out and looked around. I saw that I was standing in the middle of a lush green garden, surrounded by trees and bushes bursting with bright colors. The air was filled with the fragrance of a thousand different flowers. The sun shone down through the leaves. Birds were flying about. I felt like I had stumbled into a secret garden, a hidden oasis of natural beauty.
I was not on campus anymore, that was for sure, and this was definitely not the way to my econ lecture.
The scene was so enchanting that I stood frozen in place for a moment, simply taking it all in. Everywhere I looked, there was something new and stunning to behold. It was a vision of beauty like no other, a magical space that felt like it existed outside of time and reality.
I looked back at the elevator, whose doors remained open. The loose nail was still there, on the floor, spinning in circles.
I felt a pinch. I saw the elevator doors begin to close.
“No, wait!” I shouted.
I ran to the elevator and away from the garden. The doors shut as soon as I stepped inside.
“So,” I was now sitting in an interrogation room, handcuffed to the table, “you want to tell me how I got here?”
The room was small, with plain white walls that seemed to close in on me. The only light came from a single overhead bulb casting harsh shadows on the corners of the room. The table I was handcuffed to was made of cold, hard metal, and my chair was uncomfortable and rigid.
Across from me, a man in a dark blue suit was watching me closely, his eyes locked onto mine.
“You want to tell me how I did?” He lifted the identification card that was wrapped around his neck; the tag read Victor.
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, feeling the weight of the handcuffs on my wrists. I could not remember how I had gotten here. My mind was a blank slate. I had been plucked from one reality and thrown into another without any warning.
“You got too attached again, didn’t you?” Victor said, frustrated.
I was confused.
“I told you not to get too attached. It’s all temporary,” he stood up, “this life and the next one, and the next one.” He placed his hands in his pants pockets.
“But I didn’t… I don’t think I did…” I felt ashamed.
“You must have; otherwise, they would not kick us out.” He banged on the table angrily.
“Calm down!” I raised my voice. “Let’s think…how can we go back in?” I wondered out loud.
Tension filled the air. I leaned back in my chair, my eyes scanning the room as I tried to come up with a solution. I knew that we needed to act fast before things got out of control.
The walls were completely bare, except for a small, worn clock that ticked away the seconds. There was a dusty-looking door in the corner of the room. It looked like it had not been opened in years, but I figured it was the only option we had.
“Take apart that clock,” I said to Victor, “and help me get out of these cuffs.”
Victor began to move rapidly, and soon enough my hands were free.
“We’ll have to create the spin ourselves and break through there.” I pointed in the direction of the door. Victor nodded in agreement.
Without another word, I began spinning the rusty nail that Victor used to uncuff me.
As it spun vigorously, we got up quickly and made our way to the door, hoping against hope that it would be our way back in. Little did we know what was waiting for us on the other side.
“Watch out!” I screamed.
As the door flung open, I realized we were standing at the edge of a massive cliff. Below us, the furious ocean waves crashed relentlessly, producing a deafening roar. The wind was so strong that it seemed to push us closer to the edge, threatening to send us tumbling into the water.
The ocean extended as far as my eyes could see, and the waves kept surging and receding.
“That can’t be right!” Victor shouted as we clenched the door handle for dear life.
“You think?” I shouted.
I used all my energy to shut the door, and the weight of it made me land on my back on the floor. The floor was different now, though; it was sandy with small red and black pebble stones.
I was not in the same room anymore, but where the hell was I?
“This is quite a ride,” a man said as he stood up. He tried to help me up as well, but I did not take his hand.
I rose and looked around. This new place gave me the chills. I could not explain why, but I felt exposed. It was too quiet; it was too secluded.
“We should go,” I said slowly. “I feel like someone is watching us.”
“Nonsense. There is no one here.” The man dusted off his clothes. He was wearing denim overalls with a name tag sticker that said Victor.
“Why are you here?” I faced Victor and scratched my head.
“Why shouldn’t I be?” he responded with a giggle.
“I was alone in the garden.” I crossed my arms.
“That was not supposed to happen,” Victor said and started walking. I followed him. “I let you out of my sight for one second,” he mumbled. “They warned me.” He slapped his forehead and came to a halt.
We both paused for a moment, taking in our new surroundings. We were standing in the middle of a deserted terrain with a desert-like appearance. The vast and barren landscape seemed to stretch on for miles without any sign of life. The ground was covered in fine red sand or dust, creating a desolate and inhospitable environment.
In the distance we could spot some rocks or boulders, but there were no visible signs of vegetation or water anywhere in sight. The silence was deafening, broken only by the sound of the howling wind.
“Is that why we are being punished?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Victor replied, confused. “But we are in some kind purgatory for sure.”
As we stood there, trying to figure out our next move, we heard a sudden sound. At first, it was a faint rumbling, but it quickly grew louder and louder, until it became a loud roar that echoed across the terrain.
“What was that?” I turned my head in the direction of where the sound was coming from.
And then, out of nowhere, a huge dragon appeared. Its scales sparkled in the red-hued light, and it seemed to be larger than any dragon I had ever seen before. Its eyes locked onto me, and I froze, wondering if this was the end of it all.
I swallowed heavily. Victor immediately grabbed me by the hand and yelled, “RUN!”
I felt yanked by him as we began to run at unbelievable speed. The trouble was there was nowhere to run to; there was nowhere to hide.
The dragon began hissing and spitting fire. We zigzagged to avoid the flames.
“There! I see it!” Victor shouted and pointed in the direction of a shining object he spotted on the ground.
I squinted to try to see what he was seeing. As we got closer, I could make out the object—the spinning nail—our way out.
As we neared the spinning nail, it began to take shape and create a portal. It seemed like some sort of vortex, and we both got pulled down due to its strong energy.
I felt a jolt. The portal closed with a whoosh as soon as it transported us out. And just like that, everything around me changed yet again.
“Is this ever going to end?” I asked the man who helped me up, trying to catch my breath.
“Not until we learn our lesson.” He was wearing a light green ski outfit, and the name Victor was sewn onto his vest.
“Which is?” As the words came out of my mouth, I saw my breath in the freezing air.
“You’ll need these.” He handed me a pair of skis. Victor then placed goggles over his eyes and said, “Follow me.”
“Where to?” I shouted as he slid down and away from me.
I stood at the top of the mountain, breathing in the cold, crisp air. I could feel the heavy weight of snow on my skis as I tried to gain my bearings. The mountain stood tall and majestic under the clear blue sky. I glanced down the slope. What hidden dangers and unexpected obstacles wait for me here? I wondered.
With a sense of determination, I pushed off and down the slope, feeling the wind rush past my face as I picked up speed. I felt the freedom and adventure that came with skiing down the steep slopes, but I could not shake the irritation of not knowing what to expect next.
As I reached the bottom of the slope, I turned to look back up at the mountain, taking in the vast landscape of this reality. I called out to Victor, but he was nowhere to be found.
In a panic, I searched for the spinning nail, but the snow was too deep and piling on the ground.
I finally found the nail by a tall tree, though it was stuck there and not moving.
I managed to pull it out somehow and then began to clear a path through the snow so I could place it on the ground and start the spin. My mind raced as I was trying to move as quickly as possible. I was amazed to see the nail beginning to spin despite being placed in mud.
I felt a surge of energy running through my body. The nail continued to spin, faster and faster, until it was nothing but a blur of motion. I watched in awe as it created a vortex of air around it.
As I stood there, watching the spinning nail, I knew that the future was uncertain, but that I was ready to face it head-on. I closed my eyes and let it transport me to the next destination, wherever and whatever that may be.
“Are you okay?” a man’s voice asked as I slowly opened my eyes. His handle read Victor.
“Sorry, I had to take a break for a minute.” I adjusted my headset.
“Always say AFK,” Victor responded. “I need to know if you’re still in it or not.”
“I’m in, I’m in,” I responded. “It got way too real there for a moment,” I continued.
With a relieved chuckle, Victor replied, “Yeah, that was a close one. I almost thought you were done for.”
I took a deep breath, feeling the adrenaline rush fade away as I regained my composure.
“But that’s just it, you know? It’s all about staying focused and being ready for anything.”
I looked away from my screen and down at my desk. “I’ll have to wrap it up for tonight, though. Time to hit the books,” I sighed.
“Econ,” Victor sighed as well, “that’s tough.”
“Yeah.” I nodded to myself. “Wait, how did you…?”
“Professor Timpson can be very strict.” Victor’s voice echoed in my head. “Don’t worry, you’ll get there,” Victor said and began giggling loudly.
“What is going on?” Victor’s images from all my past lives flashed before my eyes. I shook my head sideways to focus my attention on a single memory that might have been real.
“Don’t get too attached,” Victor kept going.
My breaths became shorter and shorter. I began to hyperventilate. I felt as if the walls were closing in on me. I closed my eyes and tried to settle down.
“You’ll need this,” Victor declared.
I opened my eyes. Clutched in the palm of my hand was a rusty nail.
About the author: Orit Yeret is a writer, artist and teacher. Born and raised in Israel, she currently lives in the U.S. She enjoys photography, painting, and writing short prose and poetry in both English and Hebrew. Her work recently appeared or is forthcoming in American Writers Review, The Borfski Press, Drunk Monkeys, Euphony Journal, Ink Pantry, Crack the Spine, Blue Lake Review, Steam Ticket, Avalon Literary, Evening Street Review, (mac)ro(mic), The Magnolia Review, October Hill Magazine, Think Journal, Voices de la Luna, Whistling Shade and Isele Magazine. Read and view more of her work at http://www.orityeret.com.
This post has already been read 492 times!