Chapter Two: In the Bathroom
In attempts of clearing his schedule (and appeasing his insistent mother) he tries to do schoolwork, but his mind veers away after the first hour passes by. The sky outside the window grows darker as clouds roll in, and distant flickers of light illuminate the clouds momentarily. It vaguely registers that his parents are listening to the car radio tell them about incoming storms and erratic drops in temperature. He knows his parents are worried as his mother fidgets in her seat just as she always does when things come up unexpectedly. No one expected this year's winter to last so long nor for it to be so cold.
This, too, fades from his mind when he sees it. It starts on the crack between the window and the door of the car. It curls all the way to the end, and his eyes follow the faintly glowing gold line. Ever so quickly he casts a glance to his parents, who are still in conversation about the weather. He knows they won't see it. They've never been able to see it. He runs his fingertips against the edge of his papers and feels their tiny edges slip past his thumb. Knowing that if he's caught his mother will yell at him, he still decides to risk what he is about to do. He whips out a fresh sheet of paper and begins to draw what he sees. He sketches out a line that reminds him of a winding river at the end of which sits an almost triangular shape. He imagines it to be a mountain, perhaps, and he traces along the edges of what he sees. Then, he looks back towards the window to see that this small image had grown once more. He goes to try to catch this new form as well, but as he goes to do so he imagines he hears a voice. Faint to the point of being nearly undetectable, he wonders if it is his parents calling him. He looks back to the front seat to see that they were still in conversation with each other. He knows then that neither of them had called his name. Still, the sound stood against the sound of the radio. He slips his homework paper over his sketch and asks, "Did you say something to me?"
His mother cranes her head around to take a look at him. She is about to answer, but he notices her eyes fall on his page. "What do you think you're doing? Stop that! Do your homework right now!"
Forever used to scolding, he slumps back in his seat. He looks to the window and to no surprise the swirling line was gone. He puts the drawing away and drums his pencil against a textbook.
This is what he hides from everyone else – this random swirling line that formed intricate patterns of beautiful images. It started years ago in his dreams. There were never any people, no real places or animals or words, just this single glowing swirling pattern that swam around in a sea of darkness in his mind. At first, he'd just thought it was a strange dream until it happened again, then again, and again. Now, Tyler dreams of this golden glowing line every single night. However, it wasn't until recently that he had started seeing it outside of the dream world. Perhaps it was about two months now that he saw them in broad daylight and in random places. The line work that made up the patterns was always the same. It was gold and very thin, but the pattern itself would change. Sometimes he would just know what something was – like a flying bird – and other times he had no idea. These images always made him wonder, though, and so he took on the habit of trying to draw them out as quickly as he could. He wanted to have some form of record for all the things he saw. Maybe he could make sense of it eventually, even if his family couldn't.
He also wrote down what he'd eaten then and the time, as if any of that mattered. It really didn't. These things occurred no matter what he ate or how much he slept. Still, he had hope that one day it would all make sense to him. Thinking someone was talking to him was something relatively new, though. Maybe he had imagined it? Maybe it was some kind of weird background noise from the radio. Like always, he attempts to wipe it from his memory and instead focus on what he knows.
He ends up scribbling nonsense onto his homework, and after a solid minute of trying to re-read the same sentence, he decides to give up in hopes of taking a short nap.
Breaking through his sleep, he hears his mother's voice. "I told you we took a wrong turn!" He shifts around in his seat as he takes in what's happening around him. Clearing sleep from his eyes, he sees his mother get out of the car in a huff and his father toss the map angrily. They are in a parking lot next to a large building that Tyler can only guess to be a mall.
His dad holds out his hand as he talks as if that would somehow calm his mother. She stares blankly at him as she waits for him to say something. In a calm voice, he says, "Let's just go in. We'll look for some scarves and mittens if that makes you feel better." In response she purses her lips, but she shrugs as if satisfied by this answer. "We'll ask for a new map, and everything will be fine," his father continues. "And, we'll even get some food, okay?"
She nods as she thinks on his word, then she looks to Tyler who finally manages to drag himself out of the car. "Where's your jacket? You have to be careful not to catch cold," she scolds.
He walks passed her only to turn around to check if she's following. "Mom, its fine. I'm not even cold yet, and besides, aren't you hungry? Let's go inside." He motions for her to come with him. She follows, and so too does his dad after he locks the car.
He hadn't really cared about eating, but he knew that food would help soften their moods. It was already getting late in the day. They would be up for hours to come before they reached their destination up north. Walking, his mom is still trying to tell him what to do, suggesting that he wear different shoes as if his sneakers weren't enough in the cold weather. She repeats to her that he is fine, but at the same time he knows she is never going to stop worrying.
When they gets inside, he realizes he is grateful for the stop, for he has to use the restroom. He excuses himself from his parents, who nod and go off in search of jackets and mittens. Meanwhile, he passes through the main lobby, following various signs. Navigating through the unknown mall is a bit difficult as the mall is crowded with tourists and locals alike. They smash through the alleyway and clog the stairs. He sighs at how unusually busy it is since the holidays have ended. He has to push a bit to get through the busy crowd as he climbs to the second floor to the bathroom area.
He hastens his step out of relief after he finally sees the bathroom door. Opening it, bright lights make cause him to squint. 'Let's just get this over with…' he thinks. He tries to put up with it and just do his business as he hears the last person leave. When he finishes and washes his hands, the lights above him begin to flicker. He looks at the ceiling. 'Hopefully the power doesn't go out. The storm must be rolling in…'
He dries his hands and vows to get to his family before the power turns out, yet on his way to the door he begins to have that feeling again. Something is about to happen.
The ground begins quaking underneath his shoes, and the force sends harsh vibrations through his body. He tries to brace himself by grabbing onto the sinks, but it is not enough. Confusion rolls through him as the ground shakes with such force that he falls onto the cold tile. A deep rumble rolls out of nowhere, and the lights begin a manic flicker that ends in utter darkness. 'Earthquake!' He clamps his hands over his head in order to protect himself as he waits out the ride. He vaguely recalls that this area should not have earthquakes, but that didn't make this any less real. His heart pounds, and he prays his family is okay as he waits. So many thoughts invade his mind: Is the building secure? Is everyone okay? Would they make it? What was happening? He hears shattering from above him, and pieces of glass rain down over him. Wetness dampens his jeans, and he realizes that water was leaked from somewhere. He can't see through the dark, though, and he tries to stand but is brought back down by force. His mind racing, all he can think about is his parents. 'Where are they?'
And after a moment, the ground shutters to a halt. He waits for a moment longer before deciding to stand again, as if the moment wouldn't last. "What was that," he says breathlessly to no one in particular. The power has yet to return, so he fumbles in the darkness for a moment. His hands briefly touch the surface of the walls, and in that moment, he knew that something very strange was happening. The walls didn't file like the tile of the bathroom wall. It felt like cold unworked stone. Panic tries to well in his stomach, but he swallows hard against it. He moves forward, though he nearly stumbles on the suddenly uneven ground. He continues forward in what he thinks is the exit, but he is stopped short. A wall stands in front of him, and he moves his hands all along the surface. "What the hell? What happened? What is this?" He leans against the wall. Perhaps debris had fallen in front of the door. "Hello?" he calls out as loudly as he can. "Can anyone hear me? Hello? I'm stuck!"
No response. He pushes with all his might. Whatever was blocking him from the exit crashes with such a force that he falls forward. Instantaneously, he is hit with a force of wind and light. He coughs, the air having been pushed from his lungs, and he waits for dust to settle so that he can get a better look at his surroundings.
He isn't on Earth anymore.