Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Change of Routine

The alarm pounded through my deep sleep and forced me awake. I groaned and squeezed my eyes shut. The annoyingly piercing noise continued, and I finally reached over and turned it off. I snuggled back into my pillow for a few extra seconds, but, my brain kept reminding me to get out of my cozy bed. I sighed and swung my legs onto the floor. My breath hissed in when my bare toes made contact with the ice that was my floor.

1/2 an hour later, I scrounged through the fridge to find food to pack for lunch. Empty. I kept meaning to go grocery shopping, but sitting on the couch watching TV always sounded like a much more fun idea. I rummaged through the half empty bottles of condiments and peeked under the package of rotten lettuce in the hopes of finding a meager, but still good, leftover. No luck. Guess I'll have to buy lunch today. Again.

Bundling up, I grabbed my purse and my briefcase and walked out the door. I reached into my purse to get my keys to lock the door, and of course they were way at the bottom. Digging through everything, I felt the key rings, but had to tug to free them from the rubbish. Suddenly unattached to anything, they flew out of my hand and into the snow on the other side of the driveway. I trudged, irritated, to retrieve them and returned to lock the back door.

Our back sidewalk leading to our driveway was a sheet of ice. This morning wasn't the first morning that I'd thought about wearing ice skates just to make it to my car. My choice of shoes today were not in any way conducive to walking across ice; cute black ballet flats. But I was sick of hiding my creativity just because of snow and ice. I wanted to wear my cute shoes! But, as I walked to my car, I paid the price. The lack of traction on the soles caused my feet to slip out from underneath me and I landed on my bottom on the cold ice. The only good thing was that it was too early for any neighbors to be roaming around.

Dejectedly, I pulled myself back up onto my feet. I knew I should have stayed in bed this morning. Carefully, I opened my car door, threw my stuff in the passenger seat, and sat down. My bum was a bit sore from hitting the ice, but I wiggled and made myself as comfortable as possible for the 10 minute drive to work. I started the car and backed out of the driveway.

At my last oil change, the guy told me that my tires were getting bald. When I went for my state inspection, I just barely passed because of the state of my tires. Getting new tires was neither in my budget nor on my list of favorite things to do, so it was not a priority. Unfortunately, almost bald tires do not do well on icy streets in the middle of January in New England. As I backed out, my tires found nothing to catch on, and so they veered the back of my car into a snowbank. A loud crunch reverberated off of the walls of the houses and my heart dropped to my stomach. I banged my head on the steering wheel.

I knew I should have stayed in bed this morning.

I slowly lifted my head and reached down to put my car into drive. Out of the corners of my eyes, though, I no longer saw the white of snow. Instead, it was a light tan color. The heat coming through my vents was suddenly too much, and I reached out with my gloved hand to turn it off. My gloves were causing my hands to sweat, so I threw those onto the passenger seat and looked around me. I was in the middle of the desert.

Wait, what?! How did I end up here?

All around, for 360 degrees was sand and blue sky and a bright sun beating down. Sitting in my thick peacoat and scarf I was starting to melt. I opened the car door and stepped outside, stripping off my jacket. The air was dry, no moisture at all. The sand crunched beneath my feet. There was nothing in the horizon; no mountains, no plateaus, no rocks....I even took off my sweater, stripping down to the tank top underneath. Beads of sweat popped up around my forehead. I was bewildered. One second I was stuck in a snowbank, my car covered in ice and frost, and the next, I was here, in this boiling heat, confused and concerned.

"Hello?!" I called, out, hoping and praying for a response. "Hello?! HELLO?!"

Nothing.

Oh, crap.

I got back in my car, frantically searching for some button I may have pressed that says "Take Me to Desert" or something to that affect. I got back out again, and checked my back bumper, where I thought I had hit the snowbank. No scratches at all, and no button back there either. It was becoming hotter and hotter, especially with the sun reflecting off of the metal of my car. I was going to have to find some way to get to civilization before I dehydrate and die. That thought sent a cold shiver down my spine.

I looked up at the sun, squinting into its brightness. Like I knew how to tell direction from that. I didn't even know where I was. I could be in the Sahara for all I knew, and then what would I do? I thought back to my science classes in high school. The sun rises in the East (assuming I was still on Earth, which I wasn't 100% sure about) and sets in the West. I looked at my watch. It was 9:03 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, which meant that if I was still in the US, the sun should be pretty low in the sky. Especially in Nevada or Arizona, where it was 6 or 7 in the morning. The sun looked to be about 1/2 way between the horizon and the top of the sky (if the sky has a top), so if I face it, that means I'm going East. If I put my back to it, I'm going West. Which way should I go?

Well, if I am in the Sahara, I know Cairo is to the East and I've always wanted to go to Egypt. That made my decision. Facing the sun, I started walking. But then I stopped. If I was in Africa, and it was 9 in the morning by my watch which was set for United States Eastern Standard Time, it should be much later in the afternoon here. So there goes that logic. But I decided to keep going East anyway. If I was in Arizona or Nevada, East would be the way back to Boston.

Hours and hours and hours and hours later, I was still walking. No change in scenery; still the sand beneath my feet and the wavering horizon stretching out before me. The sun had moved, it was now behind me, elongating my shadow. But everything else was the same. My legs were getting tired and it was becoming a process just to take one step. The inside of my mouth felt like sandpaper. Sweat just poured down my body and I forgot that it was even there. I had lost my shoes somewhere along the way, and the scorch of the hot sand beneath my feet didn't even bother me anymore. I just focused on taking each step.

Eventually I couldn't even do that anymore. I took one last step and then I fell to my knees with exhaustion. I ended up on my face, the sand scratching and heating my skin. My muscles refused to move anymore. I didn't care. I just laid there, wanting to sleep, waiting for unconsciousness to take me under.

Faintly, a sound reached my ears. I opened my eyes, straining to hear what it was. It came again, softly, but a tiny bit louder.

"Hannah....."

My name slowly entered my brain.

"Hannah....Wake up...."

I squeezed my eyes shut, not believing that someone had found me, much less knew who I was, in this endless expanse of desert.

The voice came to me much louder this time.

"Hannah..."

I opened my eyes, and gasped in surprise. The desert no longer surrounded me on all sides and I was no longer face down in the sand. I was lying on my back with some sort of cushioning underneath me, staring up into fluorescent lights. I turned my head, and there was a slight pain. There was a window covered with blinds to my left and to my right was an empty bed. Looking at me with concern in his brown eyes was a man wearing a white overcoat.

"Good morning, Hannah. You had us worried for a while, there."

My eyes widened. I felt around with my hands and noticed I was underneath a blanket and there was a tube in my arm. I must be in a hospital.

"I got out of the desert?" I asked.

"Desert?" The doctor looked confused. "No, you were in a car accident. You hit your head on your steering wheel after your car slid into a snowbank."

The car accident came flooding back to me. I reached up and felt the bandage on my forehead. I thought I had just banged my head on the steering wheel out of frustration from a bad morning, but I guess it had been much worse. Huh. And then ending up in a desert. Funny how the mind works. The doctor rattled on about the treatments he was giving and how I'd be discharged the next day, but I just picked up my chocolate pudding on the tray in front of me and enjoyed every spoonful. This was way better than the boring job I had to sit through every day.

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