“Do not go anywhere near the fifth floor…”
As Susan approached the mail chute, she played back his words in her head. Do not go anywhere near the fifth floor. The strange man in front of the seemingly abandoned building had not been clear when he warned her. Despite her questions, he refused to explain the dangers of the fifth floor, which only made her more curious to find out what was lurking there. Her intentions were never to put herself in danger, but she could not imagine what could possibly go wrong if she simply stepped inside to take a look for herself. Worst case scenario: I’ll scream, she thought, and someone should be able to hear me. True, there aren’t many people around here, especially as it’s 2 a.m. in Brooklyn, but someone ought to be passing by. That old man, for instance. Susan recalled the man’s words again, but it was too late now. She was already on the fifth floor, slowly walking towards the mail chute which had an odd, almost tangible aura around it. The man could’ve just been a lunatic, she thought, an escaped asylum patient. But she couldn’t deny that she felt something strange and different when the ancient staircase led her to the fifth floor. As she suspected, the building was abandoned; in fact, it was completely bare. All except for the single mail chute.
Susan was now close enough to notice an aged envelope lying there, and grabbed it to discover what it contained. Was this why the man warned me? Is there something in this letter I shouldn’t know about? she wondered, but tried to get the thought out of her head; he was insane, after all. The front of the envelope only contained a capital T written in indigo ink, with smudges on the side. With growing interest, Susan grabbed the envelope, attempting to open it, but before she could, an intense pain from her fingers began to distribute to the rest of her body. Wincing in pain, she cowered, suddenly realizing that her legs somehow looked smaller. With her hand before her eyes, she gasped as she watched each finger slowly shrink. By the time her mind could wrap around what was happening, she was already a miniscule fraction of her once tall and wide frame. Susan became just small enough to fit into the mail chute.
In spite of her better judgment, she sprung up high like a flea into the chute, and soared through its winding tunnels. The faster she fell, the weaker she felt. Her orientation was almost non existent, as she could no longer tell whether she was falling face down, sideways, or not at all. This is just my imagination. I’m at home. In my bedroom. Sleeping. This is just my imagination. This is just my imagination. But no matter how hard Susan tried to convince herself, she knew that the unexplainable events of the day were real. It was only two hours ago that I found John dead. It was only two hours ago that I ran from the house, heading nowhere. It was only an hour ago that I stumbled upon this place. It was only a minute ago that I made the mistake.
Bend after bend, tunnel after tunnel, Susan fell onto a concrete surface. I can feel that barbeque chicken pizza coming back up, she thought as she was overwhelmed by vertigo. Once the dizziness began to fade, she got on her knees and stood up, trying to figure out her surroundings. What she first thought was a regular road, was actually a thick piece of paper. What she first thought to be flowers or trees, were actually multi-colored ink marks. Some were sky blue, others navy; some grassy green, others dark forest. Squinting her eyes, they appeared as letters written in calligraphy. Her first instinct was to laugh; this could not possibly be what she thought it was.
“Watch out!” a deep voice echoed behind her. Susan spun around, only to come face to face with a horse black as coal. “Would you watch where you’re going, Miss? Some of us are in a hurry!” a man perched on top of the horse bellowed, his face turning the shade of a tomato. “And please do yourself a favor and put some clothes on!” What does he mean? I’m wearing a dress. The dress I wore to the dance. The dance I went to with John. Once he passed, it struck her that she was in the middle of a papyrus road. Old fashioned carriages pulled by the finest horses she had ever seen were passing by; the horses almost looking two dimensional like paper cut outs. Still, they galloped forward, obviously not restricted by their unusual form. She crossed onto what she assumed was a sidewalk, with its lightweight paper curbs and risen platforms. The individuals strolling along were not exactly the typical New Yorkers she was used to seeing on a daily basis. The girls who wore short shorts, the guys who wore baseball jerseys. These people were different; their clothes, their manner, their features. Susan had never seen such long, elaborate gowns, or such elegant, colorful hats. Not one of them had their ankles bare, or their back slumped. Each lady that passed looked more superior than the last. The men, likewise, looked like they had just come out of a Jane Austen novel. Mr. Darcy’s were surrounding her like tourists in Manhattan. Monocles, top hats, and waistcoats were all she could see; and she could not look away.
Again, she laughed, attracting attention from the 18th century-like crowd. This is some joke. Some sick, horrible joke. This day didn’t happen. It didn’t.
“Ow!” Susan’s thoughts were interrupted as a heap of sheets fell down on her, knocking her out of place.
“There’s no place for prostitutes in this town!” she heard a thick cockney accent from above. Susan glanced up at the paper houses, but the owner’s voice had disappeared. Without a second thought, she wrapped herself in one of the lace sheets, creating a makeshift ankle length skirt, to cover up the short mint green dress she had worn earlier this evening. John had loved it. She recalled the way he made her spin around in it, watching as the tulle fabric danced around her. It seemed like the start to a memorable night. And yes, it was memorable, but not in the way she would have ever wanted.
“My, you seem to be quite lost,” a pale faced lady said, looking her up and down as if she were a dirty peasant. Well, I sure must look that way to her.
“Uhh- Well, yes, I am. I’m really lost, actually. Could you, um, tell me where I am?”
“Certainly, my dear. You are on Quill Lane, right across from the park,” the woman replied.
“Yeah, but,” Susan paused, not quite sure how to ask the question. “Which country am I in? Or is country not the right term? Which land am I in?”
“Which land? What do you mean, child? There is but one, and this is it. Triarta,” the woman seemed caught off guard, thinking she must be talking to someone suffering from amnesia. “Poor child, you must come with me. You’ll be better soon, and when you are-”
“Triarta. With a T?” Susan interrupted.
“Why, how else would you spell it?”
It makes sense now. Susan thought back to the envelope she saw. A single, indigo T written across. The entrance to this country, this land, this world. Triarta.