The Place to Be

by Amanda Dawson

There’s a pigeon that comes to my window every morning for breadcrumbs. His name is Bob. I thought it was him pecking at my window when I woke, but it wasn’t. It was them, and they wasted no time in taking me into their ship.

As we leave, I watch the Earth become smaller and smaller until it is no more than a tiny, blue-and-white marble suspended in the vast, trackless dark. I turn and ask them, “Where are we going?”

Their large eyes are expressionless and solid black, big as saucers. They have told me they are one being in several forms. I don’t know if it’s true or not. They don’t tell me much.

“You know where,” they say in unison.

I consider this. “It’s not real.”

“It is.”

“My therapists disagree.”

“They do not know.”

I glance back, watch as Saturn and its rings pass by and shrink, space dust catching the ethereal blue light of the engines.

“Fine,” I say. “Then why me?”

“You were ready.”

I eye them suspiciously. “Am I dead?”

They stare at me. I wonder if the concept of death means anything to them.

I try again. “Is this a dream? Another hallucination?”

“Would you believe us if we told you?”

I shrug, because they’re right. I miss Bob. I’m probably never going to see him again. I hope he’ll find someone to give him his breadcrumbs.

Stop it, I tell myself. This isn’t real.

My heart jumps with a sudden thought. “I’ve forgotten my medication. We’ll have to go back.”

“No. You won’t need it.”

By now, the ship has left the solar system behind, and is gaining speed. Planetary debris flies past in flickers like camera flashes. I think of where we’re going. “In the…visions…there are other people,” I say slowly. I shouldn’t be indulging myself. Like all the other times, I’m going to wake up somewhere else, and the doctors will tell me it isn’t real all over again. I hate that part. I don’t want to do it again.

“There are others. Some you know.”

The ones I know, I miss them. It’s not real. It’s not real. I can feel the cracks starting. The chinks in the wall I built inside my head beginning to tremble. I want it to be real.

Stop it. I try to summon remnants of reality to my brain. The sound of sirens. The smell of wet dust after rain. The taste of ripe mangoes. It’s not…

I can feel their eyes on me. I open my own, peering into space. We’re in an asteroid field. There’s a star somewhere close, the dim, red fire of its dying light bathing the rocks in ultraviolet blood.

The problem was that reality didn’t give me any good reasons to want to believe in it. What did I have? My dirty, dank apartment. Bob, with his swivel head and googly eyes.

I close my eyes again, squeeze them shut. Real.

“How far is it?” My voice is distant. Brick and mortar crumble inside my head, the galaxy a dark, crashing sea beyond. It’s not…

“Not far now.”

Maybe this time we’ll actually get there. I release my hold on reality, let the walls fall the rest of the way. When I open my eyes again, I see it unfolding before the ship, filling the whole of time and space. The place where we’re going. The place I’ve always wanted to be. My retinas burn as I take it in. My soul expands to bursting. Reality or unreality, I don’t know. All I can think of is that they’re waiting for me. I can feel them. My heart is an aching drumbeat in my chest.

I know when I reach out that I don’t know what is and what is not. But when I touch it, I know it won’t matter.

I miss them.

I’m here.

Let me in.

Amanda Dawson grew up in rural Alberta, Canada, where she spent her time reading books and stargazing (there wasn’t much else to do). She is currently pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of Saskatchewan.
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