The Next Day Part 5

April 13th, 2012 by Wordsman

“Besides,” Peter added, “who could sleep when they had just learned that there are magic songs that can control people’s minds?”

“Is that sarcasm?”

“It’s . . . not entirely sarcasm.”

While he slept on the fold-out couch in his parents’ living room, Peter had had a dream.  He dreamt that he was in Paris.  The setting of the dream was quite clearly the alleyway behind his old dorm, but for some reason in the dream he thought—no, he knew that it was Paris.  He was talking to David, who had been his friend in the third grade and whom he had never seen since.  David left, and all of a sudden Peter realized that he had something very important to tell him, so he ran after him.  While he ran, someone said, “Look out!  There’s a fire!”  Peter turned, and saw smoke in the distance, and he immediately thought, That’s not Uncle Jim’s house.  (Naturally, there was no sensible reason for Peter to think that Uncle Jim’s house would be on fire.  Nor was there any reason for him to think that he had an uncle named Jim.)  Peter passed the Eiffel Tower, which had a large clock on it.  The clock read 3:57 AM.  Then Big Ben started ringing, and Peter thought, I bet I’m about to wake up.  Then he ran for a while longer.  Then he woke up.

When he had collected his thoughts, Peter decided that, after all the interesting things that had happened to him the day before, it was really stupid of him to have had a dream like that.

“So are you going to be carrying that around all the time now?” the woman asked, pointing to the flute—out of its case, already assembled—in his right hand.

Peter spun the flute absent-mindedly.  “You never know when you’re going to need to summon the squirrels of Simon Park to your aid.”

“Now that was sarcasm.”

“Yes.  One hundred percent.”

“So . . . what’s Simon Park like, anyway?”  The woman cast a reflexive glance toward the stairs.

Peter was temporarily torn.  Reassure her by telling the truth?  Or would the knowledge that the world above ground wasn’t so hot either break her mentally?

“It’s a park,” he said with a shrug.  Ever the strategic liar.

She nodded.  “It’s just a little odd that I’m called ‘The Old Woman of Simon Park Station’ and I’ve never even seen Simon Park.”

He chuckled.  “What’s so funny?” she asked.

“You’re sealed in a subway station by an invisible, inexplicable force, you assault and then teach strange musical hypnosis techniques to strangers, and that’s what you think is odd?”

The woman smiled.  It was good to talk to someone.  Not to pitch him on a quest or try to explain herself: just to talk.  But talk wasn’t going to get her out of there.  “Don’t forget: I eat mystery muffins.  Odd is in the eye of the beholder.  Now did you come here to offer me treats and make small talk or did you come to discuss business?”

“Both.”  Peter looked at the ground, hesitated, and then sat down anyway.  He was still wearing the grungy clothes he had changed into to go home for dinner: no great loss.  “When I start a new job, I like to find out what I’ll be doing as soon as possible.”

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