A Jaunty Walk
It started out like an ordinary day. I woke up for my early morning walk, put on my favorite exercising outfit and did a few warm up stretches before opening my bedroom door. What happened next wasn’t what I expected.
I looked out onto the inside of a huge circular tower covered with green vines on the inner wall. A stone floor, large enough to hold a few people, stood right in front of me. The stone’s color was like obsidian, black as night with light golden streaks across, giving it a luminescent effect. The stairs were located to the right of my bedroom door, worn down to a uniform smoothness. I cautiously stepped on to the floor, worried that it would vanish and plunge me towards an uncertain doom. I breathed a sigh of relief as I bent down and touched solid stone.
I stood back up and turned around, my mouth hanging open as I saw what had happened. The bedroom door was gone, leaving only a blank wall with vines covering it.
“Well, it looks like you have no choice but to go up the stairs and hope that you find the exit out of this crazy tower,” I said as I put my foot on the first step.
I looked around me while I started walking up the stairs. The walls that peeked through the vines were made of a dark gray stone with a fleshy appearance, giving it a slightly moist look. Small glass globes of white light were placed on the wall every twentieth step, giving the tower an ambient moody glow. The green vines seemed to be literally fused with it, almost as if they were the wall’s veins. If I squinted I swore that I could actually see them throb.
It looked like a fortified tower straight out of medieval times. A quick glance upward revealed that there was no roof, only open sky with white fluffy clouds. They quickly shifted into all sorts of weird shapes as I stared at them. A flock of seagulls made of damp newspaper flew over the exposed top, water dripping off their wingtips.
“I certainly never saw birds like that. Still, I better see if there’s an exit around here,” A quick scan revealed that the stairway I was walking on lead to a faraway door that looked exactly like my bedroom door, down to the faux gold opener decorated with green rust spots.
“There’s a good chance that I’m heading into a trap, but it doesn’t look like I have any other options,” I said as I stared at the door. “Besides, there are worse places to take a walk, like an active minefield in the middle of a sweltering desert.”
So that’s how I began my walk. I worked up a good amount of sweat in about twenty minutes, whistling as I climbed up the stairs. I thought that I was the only person in the tower, until I saw somebody else coming down the stairs. At least I think it was a person, since they looked like a human from far off. That illusion dissipated when I was able to look at him up close. The person’s head literally looked like a red strawberry with a bowler hat on top. He wore a black suit and carried an umbrella.
I was ready to move out of the way when I felt the stairs under my feet began to shift. I instinctively put one of my hands against the wall in order not to fall. I looked up and saw that the stairway was literally stretching, longways like rubber, in order to make room for the both of us. As I stood there in slack-jawed surprise, the strawberry headed man moved around me.
“Um, thanks,” I said, feeling awkward around him. The whole thing felt strange with its banal surrealism.
“You’re welcome,” He said, tipping his hat to me. “I hope you enjoy the rest of your walk.”
“You too,” I said, waving a friendly goodbye. I then resumed my walk.
After that, the stairway shrunk back to its normal size. My curiosity getting the better of me, I stopped walking as I leaned towards the wall.
I took a closer look at the throbbing green vines. They gave off a nice minty smell as I examined them. To my surprise, the vines felt normal, firm and cool but flexible if you bent them, but they kept beating as if they were human veins. I plucked a leaf from a vine, scrutinizing it for any other odd details. It was a light green leaf shaped like a spade. The stem was a shade darker and had the same texture and shape as the vines. It looked normal, much to my disappointment.
“Hey, you’re not supposed to pluck the leaves! The Tower is a living being and can feel pain,” a male voice said, causing me to stand still in shock. I took a quick look at my immediate surroundings before seeing a white booth with a person standing behind it.
The person wore a soda jerk outfit: a candy cane vest on top of a white starched dress shirt, a black bowtie and black pants. But the most prominent feature was that his head was shaped like a faucet. He had a simple arrangement of about a dozen white plastic cups front of him.
“Um, sorry about that,” I said, feeling pretty embarrassed. “I didn’t even know the tower was actually alive, this is my first time here.”
“Well, if that’s the case, I’ll cut you a little slack.” The person picked up an empty cup and turned on the knob located on top of his head. Clear, bubbling water poured out of the faucet. “You look pretty parched after your walk, so have a drink before you collapse from dehydration.” He gave the cup to me, which I took reluctantly.
“Thanks, but is this sanitary?” I said. “I hate to think that I might be drinking your spit.”
Much to my surprise, the man burst into uproarious laughter. “Don’t worry, this water isn’t my saliva. I would also like to mention that it energizes you for the rest of the day. Go on and try it.”
I stared at the cup before finally drinking it down in one gulp. “Hey, this does taste pretty good, like a mixture of mint and raspberry.”
“My special brand of water tastes different to every person who drinks it,” he said with obvious pride.
“Wow, how do you make it?” I asked.
“Trade secret,” he said, a hint of a smile in his voice.
“By the way, do you know the way out of the tower?” I asked. “I enjoyed my walk, but I would like to get home.”
“Well, the only exit is at the top of the tower,” He said, pointing upwards towards a door that looked exactly the one to my bedroom. “The good news is that you’re almost there, so it won’t take you long.”
“Thanks,” I replied. “I hope we’ll meet up again, if I ever come back to this interesting place.”
“I’m sure we will,” he said, shaking my hand. “For if anybody ever needs something cool and refreshing to drink, I’ll be here to provide it.”
I waved goodbye before resuming my walk. I turned my head around after a moment to see what he was doing. But he had literally vanished, dark grey steps in the place where he used to be.
“I have got to ask him to teach me that trick, if I ever come back here,” I said to myself.
The rest of the walk was uneventful, though I occasionally looked up to the sky and saw fish made out of coins and pairs of human hands fused at the wrist flying through the clouds. When I came to the doorway, my stomach rumbled in nervous anticipation. It may look like my bedroom door, but there was no certainty that it would lead into my room. I could very well be stepping into a dark void or into the belly of a monster that mimicked human bedrooms.
“There doesn’t seem to be any other exit, so you just have to plunge ahead. This is no time to be getting cold feet,” I said to myself. I took a deep breath and grabbed the knob, yanking the door open.
It looked exactly like my bedroom, down to the garish strawberry wallpaper. I cautiously stepped into the room, expecting something weird to happen at any moment. After a few agonizing minutes, nothing happened.
“Well, I should take a shower before I do anything else,” I said to myself. “I feel like I’m a pig roasting in the oven.”
I closed the bedroom door and went into the bathroom next to the left side of my bed to shower. After I washed up, I came out of the bathroom and stared at the door with nervous anticipation. Was I safely back in the real world or would it still lead into the tower? My hand lingered on the doorknob, trembling.
“Stop that,” I said to myself. “You’re never going to get anywhere by being consumed with fear, so open the damn door already!” I took a deep breath and yanked it open. The door hit the wall, leaving a small dent.
My plain white hallway stretched before me, without any weird detail that hinted that something was up. “Whew!” I said, sighing in relief. “Nice to see that I’m in the real world again.”
I saw my cat Muffy walk down the hallway towards me. I picked him up and scratched his head. “Muffy, you won’t believe the day I had,” I said. “And the weird thing about it is that I wouldn’t mind going back there, that walk was wonderful.”
And that’s what happened to me on my walk today. If you don’t believe me, that’s fine, I just hope that you enjoyed my story.
Holly Saiki has been published in the online magazine, The Stray Branch. She is currently editing a superhero novel, "Shotgun Annie and Blood Gun" for Pronoun. Her story, "The Fractal Tamer," appeared in Issue #53 of The Cafe Irreal.