Strange Land

My vision was blurry when I opened my eyes. It was as though I was looking through a haze of petroleum jelly. I rubbed out my eyes with the outside of my curled index fingers. The view cleared enough that I could see that I was lying in a dark alley. The only light was from the interplay of multi-colored flashes on the wall at the end of the alleyway. The light shone from some major thoroughfare down the dogleg by which this alley was apparently street accessible.

I got up wearily, feeling as though I had been worked over by a prizefighter. My clothes were disheveled and tattered. The pocket of my button-down short-sleeve shirt had been pulled down such that it was now just a loose flap of cloth below a hole torn in my shirt front. My right knee both ached and burned and I reached down to find that pant leg was ripped open and a sticky substance, ostensibly my congealed blood, rimmed the tattered opening. A few threads stuck in the wound, and pulling them away was mildly painful and indescribably odd feeling that led me to abandon the operation.  

I staggered from the alley into the dogleg. As soon as I rounded the corner, the chaotic din of humanity became clearly recognizable. The street ahead was bustling, and, as I entered the street, I found myself in a foreign land. The people’s facial features were unlike mine, and their rapid chatter was completely incomprehensible to me. The signs were written in some script that I could not read.

I tried to recall how I might have gotten here, in this foreign country, but came to the terrifying realization that I could not remember anything. Little snippets of memory were like dreams, and the more I tried to remember them, the more quickly they vanished.

The people passing looked at me aghast. I must have been some sight, a foreigner limping along clearly having received a severe beating.  A few showed particularly severe agitation, and I knew my crazy new life was about to get yet more interesting.

Just then I passed the shop window of an electronics store. I thought I might have a heart attack when I saw my own face in the corner of a television screen over the shoulder of a navy-suited anchorman with perfect hair. I couldn’t read the tagline, and there was no audio, so I had no idea what the story was about, but it couldn’t be good.  

I turned when I heard a voice shouting words I could not understand. There was an old lady with silver hair pointing directly at me, and next to her were two police officers. The officers had fastidiously maintained uniforms with blue-grey coats and white leather sashes diagonally across their fronts and stiff patent-leather billed caps with shiny chrome badges above the bill.

The two officers began to undo the straps of their white leather holsters as they shouted at me with words I could not understand but assumed were a command to “freeze.” They were obviously not as accustomed to drawing their weapons as were the officers in my own, more violent, country, and they covered several steps before they managed to get the side-arms drawn.

I panicked and went into a dead sprint in the opposite direction, the adrenaline overwhelming my aches and pains. I had no idea where I was going, but turned at the first opportunity. The lane I had turned onto was a narrow market street. It was packed with shoppers buying various street foods. I weaved through the crowd as agilely as I could. I turned down the second line of stalls perpendicular to the lane. People must have thought I was crazy, but soon became distracted with the whistles and shouting of the police officers who were in pursuit.

I made yet another 90 degree turn and found myself at the corner of the market area. Faces were all turned toward the pursuing police and I was able to duck under the tarp of a closed stall and hide myself in a cubby under the counter. There I hid until the wee hours of the morning without being discovered.

About B Gourley

Bernie Gourley is a writer living in Bangalore, India. His poetry collection, Poems of the Introverted Yogi is now available on Amazon. He teaches yoga, with a specialization in pranayama, and holds a RYT500 certification. For most of his adult life, he practiced martial arts, including: Kobudo, Muay Thai, Kalaripayattu, and Taiji. He is a world traveler, having visited more than 40 countries around the globe.
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