Replay

It’s been a long time since you’ve walked this way, the pavement seeming to twist and change ‘neath your feet; new buildings and new people watch you as you head down a quiet road, to a place you haven’t visited for a very long time. (Too long, you tell yourself. Too long. Grey suits and taxes and desks and responsibility… You forgot. You forgot all of it.)

You’ve been tired for a while now, every street seeming to blend into one another, your eyes half-closed as you navigate the alleyways and roads of your childhood, your home. Your limbs ache, fatigue close to catching up with you; only finding it jerks you out of your trance, that small frayed edge of reality. (You prayed, but you thought – you feared – that maybe it was all your imagination in the first place; that you’d never crossed the threshold, never found something… else.)

To anyone else you probably look strange – more than a little mad: a businessman in a suit, lifting a pinstripe-sleeved arm into thin air, flattening his palm against something that isn’t there. You close your eyes and, in your head, correct any observers – in fact, it only seems not to be there. (You’re wearing a suit you’ll never use, the suitcase in your hand now useless; your boss fired you two days ago. Maybe you should have been miserable – probably. Instead, you just felt free, and it was the day you started this ridiculous quest for something that might not even be there any more.)

The invisible curtain is soft, lifts slightly, encouraging your touch. Gripping it now, you pull it further, and there is suddenly a breeze that seems to clash against the rest of the wind around you. You sniff, smelling the sea air so familiar to you, and step forward. (Back again. This is home, the home that the cramped little house with your parents never was.)

You open your eyes and they’re assailed by bright sunlight, sunlight that can’t possibly be from the dreary grey day on the other side of the curtain. (It isn’t. You know that well enough.)

She stands in front of you, your childhood imaginary friend – well, that was always what they called her; you knew enough not to believe them. As you thought she would, she’s grown up beautiful, a sweet dusting of freckles across her nose and her eyes bright. It’s unsurprising, but, you find, still somehow lovely. She holds open her arms with a smile, and you drop the suitcase, embracing her tightly, smiling for the first time in three years. (Her arms are rest, peace, and the chance to start all over again. Finally.)

Dedicated to a friend of nearly five years. Happy birthday, mate. (This also happens to be the hundredth post on Strange Digestives!)

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