Suburbia

Arthur’s life was rather normal. Chief accountant of a small company, he lived in the leafy London suburb of Palmer’s Green. He had in his wife Heather a steady companion of twenty-five years. His journeys to work varied only with the vagaries of London transport. Altogether, he was the last person to whom something extraordinary should happen.

Arthur’s extraordinary day also began normally enough. There was a, “Breakfast, dear?” from Heather; there was the paper; there was toast and tea.

Arthur sipped his tea with satisfaction. Putting down the paper, he looked at his watch.

“Time to go, dear?” This was Heather again. Arthur grunted. He put on his coat, decided against the hat, picked up his umbrella, and giving his wife a rather tepid kiss marched out onto the front path.

It was May, and pink cherry blossom had transformed the avenue, spilling into Arthur’s garden. Yet Arthur had no feeling for beauty. That in itself would not have mattered–indeed, there was almost something redeeming in the way he exclaimed, “Bloody petals!” and kicked at the pink drift by the gate. But even this gesture was reflex, for his mind was already on his spreadsheets. Overall, Arthur was as little engaged with our reality as it is possible to be.

Unfortunately, just at that point reality itself had worn a little thin. So it should come as no surprise that when Arthur slipped on the blossom and fell he became disengaged completely and disappeared from our world.

•  •  •

Arthur’s sensation was of falling–not down onto the pavement but backwards through his front gate. In his panic, he had the sense that he would fall all the way back to his own front door. But his new reality righted itself, and he found that he was sitting on a bed of leaves.

Arthur’s relief gave way to puzzlement. The familiar avenue had disappeared, replaced by a dense forest of trees. Nor were the trees the black-trunked, cherry-blossomed variety of Palmers Green. They were varying shades of blue.

“What?” he asked himself in disbelief. “What on earth?” He picked up a handful of the leaves. They were crisp and dry–and also stubbornly blue.

But as moments passed and nothing happened, Arthur’s natural dullness reasserted itself. He got up and crunched off through the leaves towards what appeared to be a path.

Where was Arthur? He had slipped by accident through a window into another reality that lies at a ninety-degree angle to ours. And this reality was just as firmly shaped by the perceptions of its inhabitants as is our own.

The path ran into a larger smoother path which, like most things in this world, was blue. Arthur quickened his pace in the hope of coming to a road. But the blue-barked blue-leaved trees thronged as thickly as before. What did appear, though, was one of this world’s inhabitants.

This individual was pale blue and the size and shape of a child in a nightdress. But it apparently moved by hovering since no legs were visible; it had too many arms; and the head–if the thing at the top of the nightdress was a head–was a strange shape too.

Hardly noticing the creature’s strangeness, Arthur asked it the way to the road.

The creature, however, noticed Arthur–and found him quite an affront to its sense of reality. It spun round several times, flailed its arms and emitted little chirps. Then it seemed to recover, and sped off the way it had come.

After this, Arthur at least had the sense to look for something to reinforce his side of the argument. A stick would have done, but it seemed that the trees of this blue world were rather robust–no fallen branches were to be seen. Nonetheless, the creature’s rapid passage had swept aside the leaves, uncovering some stones. Arthur picked up a couple of these stones and put them in his pocket.

Moments later, Arthur found his way blocked by some invisible barrier. Annoyed, he looked around. Perhaps he thought he was dreaming–and here his lack of imagination helped him. For when a veritable army of robot-like creatures swept up on all sides, Arthur simply laughed. And when he felt a sudden, real pain in his back, his indignant being rejected this world entirely. After a brief sensation of falling forwards through the window, he found himself sitting on the blossom-strewn pavement outside his own house.

•  •  •

Arthur sat blinking and wondering what had happened. His back was still sore. But the sight of the familiar avenue convinced him that his experience was just a piece of nonsense, and he tried to put it out of his mind.

The pink cherry blossom festooned the trees and even his trousers; the air was as fresh and the spring morning as bright as before. In Arthur’s shaken state he actually noticed these things. Perhaps for the first time, he was struck by the beauty of it all.

As Arthur picked himself up and brushed ineffectually at his trousers, an idea came to him. He would take Heather somewhere. Yes, they hadn’t done anything new in years. They would take a trip, take a holiday! As the idea grew in his mind, Arthur became quite dizzy, for his engagement with our world was still tenuous.

“Back again, dear?” Heather looked at him anxiously when she opened the door. “Are you all right?”

“Fine, thank you!” Arthur said. And he actually gave his wife a hug.

Then he explained his holiday idea.

Heather was pleased, and surprised. What had made him think of it? They would certainly go. But before he did anything else, he must change out of those trousers.

She helped him out of his jacket, as Arthur had not quite got to grips with our world. And when she ran her hands through the pockets, she felt something.

“What have you got in your pocket, dear? Look at these!” And she brought out two stones of a curious blue.

When she looked up, her husband was nowhere to be seen.

 

Matthew Harrison

About Matthew Harrison

Matthew Harrison lives in Hong Kong, and whether because of that or some other reason entirely his writing has veered from non-fiction to literary and he is currently reliving a boyhood passion for science fiction. He has published numerous SF short stories and is building up to longer pieces as he learns more about the universe. Matthew is married with two children but no pets as there is no space for these in Hong Kong.
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