The Long Sleeves

I could feel the day wearing thin. Haze was lingering around the buildings and hovering at about eye level. Fascination was everywhere, lighting up the street, along the alleyways, and back through my footsteps to where I once was.

The last time I passed the old wooden bridge on Turnlanders Street it was almost dusk and the sun was sinking down into the clouds. The sky was painted a deep red, and felt rather ordinary, like any other that had previously slipped by unnoticed.

I remember it so clearly because there was a long sleeve light yellow shirt, with navy blue trim around the edges, hanging off the guard rail. I didn’t think much of it when I originally passed it, yet I couldn’t get it out of my mind from thereafter. It just hung there like a memory, without fading out, pulling me back to it, like an unrelenting force, yet being nothing but merely cloth, hanging off a bridge.

I eventually turned back, amidst the twilight, retracing my tracks, down the long curving streets which stretched on for seemingly ever, and returned to the bridge.

To my dismay the shirt was gone. I looked up at the moon waning fully over the crooked, elongated, pointy rooftops. Smoke was rising from one and making the starry backdrop invisible, and seem like it was no longer there, nor anywhere. It reminded me of a crow’s mouth, pointing up, about to indulge itself in the sky, or perhaps engulf itself all over the sky.

I took a deep breath and almost swallowed myself, peering down into the darkness below. There were patches of deep green, dark blue, shadows drawn from the lampposts, all casting outlines. There was something else too, though I wasn’t fully conscious of it’s existence until some time later.

Without really thinking I went down into the field below in hopes of finding the long sleeves. When I was almost there I must have tumbled or something, because I woke up where the river bed once was, with something wet running down my face.

My head hurt and I could hear people’s voices talking above. The liquid tasted bitter ‘n salty, and somehow had a strange feeling of suddeness, as if something were certain to happen, or have happened. Everything around me was covered in a thick translucent fog, though I wasn’t sure it was even there at all.

I looked up again and could only see the lampposts above, silhouettes of the people passing by on the streets, continuing on their way. They were like shadows cast upon the open night sky, veering off to everywhere.

Moments later I remembered why I was there and began looking around. It was to no avail. It was nowhere in sight. I felt around in the grass and came across dirt, stones, and weeds, but there were no clothes to be found.

I gave up after about thirty minutes and started walking along the path: the dried up riverbed. Feeling dizzy as I was, I wished not to climb up the steep cliffs to the bridge. In hindsight, I’m not sure I could have. It went on for hours and hours without the banks receding at all. It was if it went on forever, enclosing everything in it’s path.

There was no escape in this sullen land. I was Malice in Neverland: only blood dripping hearts and spiraling spades, cutting up into the diamonds and ripping off the clubs. Somehow I was becoming someone else with only the slightest awareness that I was.

The fog grew thicker and thicker as I went deeper and deeper into the night. I was about to give in and climb the walls when I came to a dead end: a concrete wall covered in graffiti, with a pond at it’s baseー it was so small it was almost a puddle.

In the center of it a piece of clothing lay floating around, kinda dead, almost not moving at all, like it wasn’t even really there. It turned out not to be the one I was after. It was similar but had chocolate stains, or some purpose, all over it. I left it as it was and climbed an old wooden ladder that was perched against the wall.

I emerged to a trail in a dark forest, trees all around, stretching up into the sky. I followed it along to an old wooden house lit by candle light on the outside.

A couple knocks later an old man with a beard hesitantly opened the door a crack and peeked out, “Yes? What do call for so late at night?”.

When I asked for directions he recommended me to a hospital and asked that I wait a moment. Shortly after he reappeared, handed me a map, and then sealed up the crack without a word. The door closed.

I trudged along for some time, feeling faint, stopping to rest several times, before finally arriving at the red X that he’d marked on the map. The place had an uncanny institutional appearance to it, new age windows, crumbling grey stone walls, and a prickly elongated rooftop, much like the crows mouth I’d seen near the bridge years earlier. Only here there were many, rather than just one, resembling baby crows, gouging at the sky, with their mouths.

I went in the automatic sliding doors, took a paper number in the waiting room, and then went to the bathroom to clean up. Upon looking in the mirror I noticed something: to my disarray and utter confusion I was wearing the long sleeve light yellow shirt with blue trim around the edges– only it now had blood stains all over it.

I’d been so busy chasing it that it was all over me, without my knowing it. In fact, I was not standing in a hospital at all. I’d just thought it was because that’s where the map had led to.

I heard a dripping sound and looked upーabove was a sky of swirling, melting, purple smoke, no stars, just.. *Poof*

And then I awoke.

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