There’s no way Tama will let me out of the apartment. He thinks I’m terribly ill even though I am not. I don’t feel unwell at all. Tama is reacting unnecessarily. My legs feel a bit weird, but that’s normal. I can still walk. Slowly, carefully, but it can be done. I’ve had this before, and I can handle it.
I need my morning catch up with the ladies, and then my walk in the park. I can go back here right after, there’s no need of him to lock me inside the whole day. What time is it now? 9.15 already? Holy, I have things I need to do. But first, I need to get out of this bed.
Ouch, my back is killing me. As always. So this is what 15 minutes-sun salutation every morning give me? I give up. It’s not worth my time. I’d rather do something else. Something that is rather substantial, like attending to Suede. Where is he anyway? Did Tama cage him this morning? Or did he go for his leisure act somewhere? That spoiled little brat.
Okay. I’m up. One task down, a gazillion more to go. Breath, Bia, breath. It’s not that hard. Toe wiggling! And one, and two, and repeat.
Huh. What is this ugly metal thing in my way? Tama has to drop this attitude. I don’t need him passive-aggressively asking me to use things I don’t need. A wheelchair? He thinks I’m that old? Oh, I’m definitely going to bring this up at the dinner.
Okay, bladder, shush. I know, be patient a little. I am walking over there without the wheelchair. I’ll prove it to Tama that my muscles, my whole motoric system, and my tenacity will prevail. Breath in, breath out.
Yes, yes, bathroom. Where are my slippers? It’s not here where I usually put them. Did Tama move them somewhere? Oh boy, why the walk to the bathroom feels like forever? What is it at the corner of the carpet? Is it goo? Is it from Suede? I’m going to discipline that cat! He’s been a spoiled little punk and it’s all Tama’s fault.
Ouch, ouch. The toilet seat is way too cold. I have to tell Tama to install that fluffy toilet seat cushion for my bathroom. My bottom needs some TLC. See, bladder? Wait a bit isn’t that hard, is it? You did it.
I thought I looked worse than I actually am! Is it the lighting in the bathroom, or did I wake up with a magical botox injection? Could it be that herbal juice Melissa gave me yesterday? They might actually work. In that case, I’m going to finish them after this. God, I love these new towels. I need to remember telling Tama that he has finally done one thing right.
Why does my doorknob feel warm? Is there a fire? Should I call the emergency number? Should I back out? Oh. It’s really not that hot after all. Barely warmer than my usual morning tea. Yeah, it’s fine. My mind was tricking me.
Whoa! Hell, no way. This isn’t my room. Where am I? Am I dreaming? Should I pinch myself? Does it ever really work, pinching yourself in your dream? This is one heck of a lucid dream if I actually am in one. Rather uncanny, this one.
What a bleak-looking room! How can one possibly live in such a stripped place? I don’t even know there are this many shades of grey. And beige. And black. Aren’t they tired of this much grey? Is it supposed to be a dungeon or something? I guess it’s a younger generation thing. That bed looks really inviting, though. This room is immaculate, it’s eerie. How does one live in a room as spotless as this? I don’t understand. Maybe the owners are clean freaks. Or maybe they are these hipsters young people with too much money at hand.
Wait, maybe I’ve seen this place before. But where? On TV? Maybe in one of those afternoon property shows. Where the host showed those ultra-expensive, luxurious condos and resorts. Ah, no matter. I need to get out of this place. I will be late to see my buddies at the park. I also need to take Suede out otherwise he’ll leak at the balcony again. I do not want him ruining my cilantro pots.
Now door. Where is it? Oof, it opens! Someone’s coming!
“There you are. We’ve been waiting for you.”
Wait, is that Tama?
“No time for chitchat. We’re late already.”
Why does he look peculiar? What is that thing on his head? Is that a vest he’s wearing? This is not my Tama. Who is this person?
“Uh...late for what?”
He doesn’t say a word. Instead, he moves away from the door and then comes back with a wheelchair.
“Uh-uh. I can walk just fine.”
Tama stands by the door with an annoyed expression, then bobs his head towards the chair.
“We need to hurry now, can’t waste her time. Chop, chop.”
“I’m not taking it.”
“Don’t be mulish. It’s faster this way.”
He looks very polished. This is not Tama that I know. Should I trust this person? Should I run away? But where?
I decided I’d play along, so I slump myself on the chair.
“Alright, alright. Where are we going?”
Again, he is not saying a word.
“Watch my feet will you? You’ll crush them with the wheels. And don’t roll your eyes, young man, I can see that.”
Tama then silently pushes my wheelchair. We stroll along the passageway, blocks of white concrete with absolutely nothing on them.
This place is humongous.
“Are you cold? Do you need a blanket?”
“I’m alright. Tell me what we’re doing and where we’re going.”
“We are meeting her.”
Meeting me? What the heck is he talking about?
Tama turns on the first left; the hallway still looks as empty and bare.
Why does this place have endless walls? Where is everything else?
All of a sudden, Tama stops the chair and knocks two times on the left wall. It turns out there is an invisible door; a lancet-shaped rectangle big enough for a door, sinks about three inches into the wall then slides over to the right. The room emits a blinding light as if there are thousands of LED lamps inside.
“Wait here just a second.”
Tama steps inside the room, while I squint, trying to take a peek on what’s inside.
Whoa. This room is even bigger than the previous one. Way too bright. Oh, finally, someone has the right mind to turn down the light a bit.
Hold on a minute. Is it me in the photo on the wall back there? That person looks exactly like me, but she isn’t me. She looks more...sophisticated. Trendy updo, sleek blouse, dark lipstick. I have never done that in my entire life. And who is that sitting behind that desk? Is that...me?
Tama comes back to get me and pushes my chair in front of that mysterious looking woman. She exudes a self-assured vibe; bet she never has a single doubt about anything in her life.
“Good morning, Bia.”
How does she know my name? And she has my voice as well. She is me, at least the more affluent version of myself. I have never imagined I’d be like this if I have more money.
She clears her throat, while I’m still confoundedly staring at her.
“I understand that it is a little bewildering. Let me clear up any confusion. I am you, sort of, and I have a proposition to make.”
“What do you mean, you are me? I am me! This is ludicrous, and I want to go home.”
She smiles at me in a sinister way.
What a creep.
“Unfortunately, you can’t go back home. The reason why we bring you here is so that you stay here, and I will get across to your side.”
“What do you mean my side?”
“Your side of the universe.”
This is preposterous! Absolute nonsense!
“Will it be too much if I asked why you wanted to trade your cozy life here with my humble abode?
She goes quiet then inhale deeply.
“I have a really important matter to take care of. Unfortunately, it’s a matter of life and death. The only way I can solve this problem is for us to switch sides.”
God, what is this absurdity.
“How long do you need me here? A couple of hours? A day? Two?”
Just a second ago she looked calm and composed. Now that I ask too many questions, I can see a hint of irritability on her face.
“I’m afraid this arrangement has to be permanent. Otherwise, it’ll be conspicuous if there are two of us at the same time. I can’t afford to raise unnecessary attention. Especially with what I am about to do.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
Her face turns from sheer irritation to downright rage in a split second.
“Well, then it’s too bad. We just have to make you.”
Shoot, my tactic is not working. I don’t think it’s a good idea to make her angry at me.
“If you can at least explain to me, enlighten me, please, what is it that you actually need from me?”
It’s amusing how her face turns from being furious to being smug just like that.
“Suede, your cat. He has something that everyone want. If it’s not me, someone else will fetch him, and they’re not going to play nice. So if I were you, I’d rather have me get to him myself than them.”
“Who is them?”
“Enough with the questions. We don’t have time. Tama, you know what to do.”
Tama nodded, then once again steer me in my wheelchair. Meanwhile, my evil twin—if I can call her that—locks her eyes on me until I can’t see her anymore.
Tama walks me into a different direction than where we were previously. He hurries up this time; I can sense his haste in his steps.
“I’m sorry. I won’t do this if this is not necessary. And it’s not like I have any other choice.”
“What is it, Tama? Tell me, is she going to confine me in here? What does she want out of that bloody cat anyway? His fur? His internals? What could be so attractive of that cat?”
“Again, I’m sorry, but I cannot disclose that information.”
Tama—my Tama— is right, I haven’t been well in a while. Perhaps I am hallucinating. Maybe I am really sick after all, and this is merely my imagination. No, this isn’t right. I have to defend myself. I shouldn’t just obey whatever it is that she wants. I need to get back to the room where I was from. I need to go back home.
Suddenly, the hall ends and we walk into a large chamber with a glass dome roof; an art installation stands right in the center of it. It’s a standing stone that looks as if someone stole one part of Stonehenge, shrunk it a bit, and put it there. Each wall has different ornaments on it; tapestries, full-size armors, weaponry.
This looks like Batman’s Batcave. I wonder if my evil twin is secretly a superhero. Okay, Bia, now focus. You have to get out of this place. Think. Fast.
“Stop. Please stop. I need to go to the bathroom.”
Tama groans but not stopping.
“Sorry, but you have to wait for a bit.”
“Aren’t you a mean person, eh? Try having an old woman’s bladder then you’ll know what I am talking about.”
Tama slows down, perhaps thinking if this is a good idea.
“Alright. But be quick.”
He stops then turns right to the corner, towards an artifact shaped like a wooden cricket bat.
It’s now or never, Bia!
I roar and push myself out of the wheelchair, grab the bat, and take a full swing at Tama. Bam! Tama howls and falls on the floor covering his head. I don’t look back; I just start running—more like walking as fast as my decayed legs can—with whatever power I have left in me.
Right and right all the way. The room will be on the left. Hurry up, legs! Oh Lord, I haven’t run like this in decades. Holy, my chest is about to burst. I’m sweating like a pig. Come on, it’s gotta be here somewhere! Is this it? Is this the room where I was in the first time?
I am taking my chance and knock two times on the wall. Surprisingly, a rectangular shape sinks into the wall and slides, and I am in just like that.
It works! Ha!
I can faintly hear someone is running from afar, perhaps Tama.
It is the room where I was in earlier. This is great.
Okay Bia, quick, there’s no time to slack off! Whoa. I need to hurry back to the bathroom. You’re alright, Bia. You are awesome, you can do this. Now close the bathroom door and lock it. Holy, my legs feel as if they’re about to fall off my body. Take a deep breath. Remember that technique dr. Ansel taught you to do. Calm the hell down.
I stare at the door while trying to catch my breath, half wishing there’s a manual book hiding somewhere on the side.
Now, what to do? Should I unlock the door? If I open it, will I be going back to my old place? Should I concentrate or something? Make a wish? Pray? What?
I slowly put my palm on the doorknob.
Ooh, it feels warm again. Does it mean that it works? Should I open it now? Should I close my eyes while doing it? Perhaps I should.
The door creaks a little when I pull it to open.
Sounds familiar. Let’s take a peek if I’m in the right place.
As soon as I open the door, Suede shrieks and jumps at me. I embrace him tightly while he snuggles in my chest.
Now that was one crazy experience!
“Suede, my dearest! There you are! Oh, you wouldn’t believe what happened.”
He purred as if telling me that he understands.
“I feel alive and well after this hubbub. We should tell Tama all about it when he returns. Now would you care to accompany me for a cup of tea?”
He meows twice, bounces off me, then proceeds towards the kitchen.
While I open the cabinet to get my tea, Suede is standing by the window next to the sink, tapping the glass with his furry paw. He growls; his hair is all up.
“What’s wrong, dear?”
I advance myself to him when I hear something is buzzing outside.
What is that flying, blue thing? Is it a bird? It doesn’t look like a bird. It does look like something else. A drone?
All of a sudden, there are three loud knocks on my front door.
Bang, bang, bang.
Oh, no. Who could that be?
“Lady, we know you’re inside! Open the door at once!”
I can hear his authoritative voice; he sounds tall, judging from where the sound comes from.
I peek through the peephole and see not one, but three men with stern faces, dress as if they are law enforcement officers.
Another loud bang. I jolt and take a step back from the door, beads of sweat run through my face.
“Who are you? What do you want?”
“We want the cat, lady! Give it to us now!”
“No! I’m not giving you my cat! Go away!”
“Step away from the door, we are about to bust the door down!”
I hop to the side, grab Suede; thinking of how to buy some time for both of us to hide.
Another loud bang and my door is down.
“There it is, go get the cat!”
Suede shrills and leaps from my grasp.
Good boy! Now run, Suede, run!
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