What Lies Beyond: Chapter 5

Sister lost sight of Michelle among the crowd of people. She scooted over to the right to try to find her again, and almost fell off the wooden bench she had been sitting on. Startled, she looked down for a moment, and when she looked back the crowd had dispersed, and she was in a different place. It was no less noisy or brightly lit, but the room was much larger with a far higher ceiling, and here the people bustled to and fro rather than chatting, ducking in and out of various rooms as they went. She looked behind herself, and was shocked to find a tree growing there, in the middle of the room. She placed a curious hand on it, and it felt real enough, when she heard a familiar voice.
I’m glad you could make it!” Michelle called to her. Sister turned to look at her. She was wearing a black shirt and blue pants this time. “Come on, let’s go”, she said, turning her back and walking away. Sister had to walk quickly to catch up with her. “Where are we going?” she asked.
One of my favourite places.” Sister fell in step beside her, and Michelle turned to her. “I’m sorry for snubbing you back at the party. Next time, you can ditch me for a guy, then we’ll be even. But you’ll have to find a different one, Steven’s mine now!” she laughed.
Oh, that’s good” Sister replied, not really understanding what was so funny. “Steven’s yours now?”
He calls me every day, and we’ve been out a few times since then. He’s such a sweetie. But still, it’s nice to get some girl time, you know?”
Steven was the man you danced with at the party, right?”
Wow, you really get over guys fast”, she gave Sister a strange look, but didn't press the issue futher. Sister walked along silently after that, trying to make sense of where she was and why she was there. “We’re here!”, Michelle announced happily, and they walked through an open entryway to a large room.

Sister had never seen so many clothes in one place. Dresses and skirts lined every wall, and hundreds of shirts and pants were set up in rows along the floor. “Isn’t it great?” said Michelle, noticing her stunned expression. Sister nodded and followed along as they walked through the isles.
What do you think about this one?” asked Michelle, picking up a blue dress from off the wall and holding it in front of herself.
It’s blue.”
Well, I can see that.” She pressed the dress against her body and tilted her head. “Do you think this would bring out my curves?”
I guess so.” Sister wasn’t sure which curves she meant, and she decided not to ask.
Michelle looked it over again, then wrapped it over her arm. “I guess I’ll try this one on. Oh, and that one. Do you see anything you like?”
I’m not sure. There’s too many to choose from.”
She shook her head. “You really don’t get out much, do you? You’ve got a slender frame and a small bust, so you’d do best with something simple and cute. Like this one”, she draped a green dress over Sister's arm. “Ah yes, that goes perfectly with that blank expression you always have on your face. Let’s go try these on.”
Michelle led them towards the back of the room where there were a number of small stalls. She seemed in much higher spirits than she had been at the party, but Sister didn’t share her mood. She was trying to figure out why she was still here. “You do know how to put on a dress, right?” Michelle asked her from an adjacent stall. Sister changed out of her clothes and into the green dress. It was a bit tight and hard to move about in. “So, let’s see how it looks.”
Oh, yes”, she said, a big smile on her face, “it’s perfect. It really shows off your figure. That'll drive the boys mad.” She paused. “You know, you probably shouldn't wear that around Steven, just to be safe.”
Okay, I try not to make people mad.”
She laughed. “You’ve got a weird sense of humour. But I’m sure you’d like to be with someone, whether you know them yet or not. You should take that dress and show a little initiative, you know? But not with Steven, he's mine.”

Suddenly, there was a ringing sound. Michelle reached into her bag and pulled out a small phone. “Speak of the devil!”, she said, excitedly placing the phone to her ear.
Hi!”, Michelle’s voice echoed through the phone. “Can you believe it?”
Can I believe what?” Sister replied, and then she almost dropped the receiver. She was no longer in the room with all the clothes, she was now in a much smaller room, with a single chair, a table, and a wide padded bench. She was standing near a table, holding a phone in her hand, and there were no windows, giving her no idea where she might be. “What’s going on?”, she demanded of the phone.
Steven asked me to marry him!” Michelle half-shouted back at her. Sister held the phone farther away from her ear. “He what?”
We probably won’t get married right away, because we have to finish school, but- Oh! It’s going to be so wonderful! And to think I was so worried when he went away to go to university…”
Sister was used to being talked at rather than to, but this was too much. “Wait, slow down, can-“
”Of course you can be a bridesmaid”, she said, cutting Sister off, “that’s why I called you! We’ll get to go dress shopping again, won’t that be fun?”

Sister put the phone down on the table and stepped away. Something was terribly wrong. She felt a bit dizzy, and put her hand on one of the walls to steady herself. “Hello?” came a voice from the phone, and then, a little more timidly “aren’t you happy for me?”, but Sister paid no attention to it. She merely ran her hand along the wall until she came to the door and opened it. She took a deep breath and stepped through.

The hallway beyond was dark and featureless. Like the room she had just been in, there were no windows here either. “The sky”, Sister thought to herself, “I have to find it.” She tried the first door on her right, but the handle didn’t turn, even when she twisted it firmly. She spied another door at the end of the hallway, but when she got closer she found that it didn’t even have a handle. She tried to ram the door with her shoulder, but it hurt and the door didn’t budge an inch. Feeling defeated, she slumped down in front of the door. The only light was coming from the room she had left. She crawled back to the table and picked up the phone. “Help me”, she begged weakly, but there was no response. She lay on the ground, holding the phone, listening for something, anything, some kind of way out. She waited, and waited, and then she thought she heard a faint tapping sound. She opened her eyes, and forced herself to stand up. Tap, tap, tap. It was coming from above her, and the tapping was getting faster. Rain! The ocean had come to take her away!

She rushed out the door, into the hallway, and the tapping became louder. It grew louder and faster still as she approached the door with no handle at the end of the hall. Steeling herself, she took a few steps backward and charged at the door, but this time it opened easily, and she tumbled to the ground beyond it. It was wet, and she could feel the rain on the back of her head. She looked up. The sky was a dark grey, and the rain was falling heavily. “It’s finally time”, she thought, “time to go home.” She picked herself up, and stepped away from the building. In front of her, a paved street was flanked by several outdoor lamps, and behind the street lay an expanse of trees. She looked about, but the street merely continued on as far as she could see in each direction. The only bodies of water she could see were some small puddles on the street, and they were far too small for a ship. As she stared into the puddle, she could see that the rain was coming from her left, so she started walking that way. The rain beat against her face as she walked, and it was getting darker. Suddenly, she saw a pair of lights approaching her. Feeling hopeful, she ran towards them, but as they got closer she could see that it was only some sort of small vehicle and not a ship. The vehicle slowed as it drew close to her, and the door opened. “Get inside”, Michelle said, solemnly, “I’ll explain everything.”

What’s going on?”, Sister asked as she closed the door behind herself. The vehicle began to move forward.
We had a fight”, Michelle said in a voice scarcely above a whisper. “A bad one. It’s over.”
Is this the end?” Sister asked as she peered out the window in front of her, looking for her ship. The rain continued to fall, and the sky was dark now.
Yes.” said Michelle, her voice broken up. “We hadn’t spoken in a while, and then… she came into the picture. He insisted there was nothing going on, but I didn’t believe… and then he said I was being too possessive, and that I should just trust him, and I said…” She was sobbing. Sister couldn’t help but feel bad for her. She put a hand on her back. “…I said I never wanted to see him again.”
I thought you two were very close?”, she asked, but Michelle merely sobbed. Sister sighed. It wasn’t the kind of explanation she had been hoping for. She stared out the window to her right. Still the rain fell, and it was pitch black out. “We’ll be home soon”, she said. Michelle nodded.
I don’t know what I’m going to do.” she said, sniffling. Sister spied another set of bright lights off in the distance in front of them. “I had so much of my life planned out. After we graduated, we were going to get married in the fall.” The lights drew closer, and a large figure came into view. Possibly large enough to be the ship! “After we got married, we would get a small apartment in the city. Nothing fancy, not for a while.” The figure drew closer. It was not the ship, it was a vehicle similar to the one they were in, but much larger. “After we had some more money, then we’d get a house in the country. The kind of place where you could raise a family.” The lights came closer still. Too close. “But what good are all those plans now? Now I have nothing!”
STOP!!” Sister cried at the top of her lungs. Michelle jolted back to her senses, and there was a horrible screeching sound. The other vehicle got closer and closer. Michelle screamed, and Sister slammed her eyes shut as tight as they would go.

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