Leitha was dreaming again.
She stood alone in the blackened wreckage. The curling steam enclosed her in a dirty mist, laced with oily fumes and the sharp stench of smouldering plastic.
Again, she began to walk.
The mist swirled, eddying into shapes that were almost faces. There was no breeze, but an eerie background murmer sounded more like wind, thrumming through the broken windows, than voices. Occasionally a dull thud signalled a far off explosion. Tiny bits of debris, shaken loose, rained down.
It was cold. She was wearing a thin red Patriot Day dress. Stuffing her chilled hands into the apron pockets for warmth, she touched a small stick. It turned out to be a tight roll of paper. Opening it out revealed a short column of Japanese characters. At the bottom was an arrow pointing right.
Leitha puzzled over the characters as she walked. One meant ‘door’…
…and she stopped, suddenly faced with a wall. Its warm red stones were untouched by fire. Ivy meandered across them. The wall stretched forever in both directions.
Leitha looked back. She thought she could see figures in the distant mists, moving towards her. She glanced down at the scroll.
When she raised her eyes, she was in Patriot Avenue, and it was a row of shops in front of her. She turned right.
Some of the window displays seemed familiar. Somehow she couldn’t quite read the bold names bannered above. Leitha soon realised that none of the shops had doors.
She was walking quickly now, terrified of what she might see if she looked back again. She passed a silent fruit shop, a chemists, a clothes shop whose beckoning mannequins startled and slowed her. The next window was full of clocks all pointing to midnight.
There was the cheery tinkle of an old fashioned shop bell and she collided with an elderly man who had just stepped out from his shop doorway.
As they stared at each other in amazement, all the clocks began to sound their alarms. She strained to hear what the man was saying to her, but the noise rose to an awful crescendo. Leitha clapped her hands over her ears and shut her eyes….
…and awoke to the shrilling dormitory bell.
It was Patriot Day.