Wynona is an unhappy young woman who uses sleep as an escape from her life. When she wakes alone in the woods, she is forced to survive until she encounters a strange man speaking an unfamiliar language. She soon discovers four kingdoms depend on her, but can she do what she must to help them?
The blast of cold winter air shocked me out of my lecture-induced fugue. Professor Blair’s classes were by far my most painful. Out of boredom, I had taken a tally of how many times he said ‘um.’ Let’s just say that if I could have gotten a nickel for each one, I wouldn’t have a student loan to pay off.
It had snowed again while I sat in class; the thickest blades of grass erupted through the thin layer of fresh snow like stubble on a man’s face. I heard the echo of rustling plastic as a squirrel appeared on the edge of the garbage can beside me. We stared at each other for a moment before he returned to his meal, probably realizing I wasn’t dangerous. Scavengers did what they must to survive, who was I to judge?
I headed down the steps and across the quad to the library for something to eat. The usual campus watering holes always buzzed with interactions that I was not part of. At least in the library cafe, I wouldn’t be the only one sitting alone.
A table sat empty in the corner. I made a beeline for it, snowsuit crinkling and swishing as I walked, boots leaving a trail of dark, glossy islands on the ceramic tile floor. I dropped my bag onto the second chair and emerged from my polyester cocoon. The thing had experienced more winters than I had, but it kept me warm. It had belonged to my mum, once upon a time, before I liberated it. There was a picture of her wearing it in 1982—the thing was already old by then—when she was the same age I was now. She and her youngest brother were out in the woods—my grandmother had taken the photo—and it had struck me when I found it how young and care-free she looked. It’s always surreal to see your parents back before you existed. When they weren’t your parents, just people.
My stomach grumbled, reminding me to feed it. Taking the hint, I made my way over to the food counter, boots clunking, and grabbed my standard fare: egg salad sandwich and a cinnamon bun. The line moved quickly. The cashier was no rookie, she was a seasoned and proficient veteran; she rang me through almost every day.
As the line moved forward, I fantasized that this time she would remember me, that there would be some flicker or glimpse of recognition. When I got up to the till, I put my provisions on the counter and waited. In a flash of fire-engine-red nail polish, she punched the price of the sandwich into the register, and peeked into the paper bag.
“Correct,” I said in my cheerful, sing-song voice. Another flash of red.
“Five ninety-eight,” she said, reading the screen. I held my card out, but not too far, so she would have to look up. She did. Her pencilled-in brows didn’t rise in acknowledgement, her pink, sticky lips didn’t widen into any semblance of a smile. The band of silver eye shadow shrunk minutely as her eyes widened the slightest bit in impatience, staring at the card in my hand. Nothing. I handed it over in resignation. She swiped my card and handed it back, already punching in the next person’s purchase before I had removed mine from the counter.
I sat back down, despondently picking away at my egg salad sandwich, looking around. I didn’t actually want to see him, it was just a reflex. He had been the one person who made me feel normal. Now he was gone—had removed himself from my life and our relationship—leaving me with nothing but a broken heart and a squeaky bed.
Staring out the floor-to-ceiling windows, I watched students and faculty hurry by, bundles of cloth and fabric, trying to get wherever they were going quickly. It was hard to imagine the lawns littered with the clusters of students so characteristic of campus life in the warmer months. I observed the unfamiliar faces in transit until the anonymity depressed me.
The sandwich didn’t take long to eat. I crumpled up the empty package, put the uneaten cinnamon bun in my bag, and retreated back into my snowsuit. I had to get out. Being surrounded by people just made it worse, and I felt more alone than ever.
I retrieved my bike from in front of the psychology building, where I had sat through my first class this morning. Coasting off campus, I left social isolation behind and pedalled towards a comfortable solitude; the blood and wind rushing through my ears muted the sounds and voices of downtown. Well, most of them, anyways.
“Unhand me, you rogues, I am a King!” A red light stopped me long enough to witness the daily drama with the homeless guy across the street. Our own Don Quixote. He liked to hover around the front of the local coffee shop, muttering to himself. Looked like Paul had gotten fed up and called the police again. “Do you know who I am?” Quixote asked, trying to shake the two police officers off. “I am King Simon of Ring-a-vat, victor of the battles of Never-stop, Covet-all, and Nazi-storm! You two would have run like cowards at the Battle of Nazi-storm, I tell you. How dare you touch me?” The light turned green as the two officers coaxed him into the back seat of their cruiser.
I rode past my apartment’s designated parking space and once again wished I had something to fill it with. Walking past the wall of mailboxes, I looked over at the slot with my number on it. I thought about checking for mail, but why bother? I continued up the stairs, the bicycle pedals charley-horsing me every couple of steps, despite my best defensive efforts. Judging by the smell in the stairwell, Mrs. Ackerman had left her garbage on the landing again. Last night’s dinner: liver and onions. The door and I had our routine disagreement. At some point in its existence, it had swelled, making it a struggle to open and close. I won, and victoriously crossed the threshold.
Once again peeling off the retro husk of orange and black polyester, I tossed it in the corner of my studio apartment, the armchair disappearing beneath its bulky mass. The slush fell off my bike onto the floor with a loud splat, but I didn’t care. I sunk into my bed with a sigh and set my alarm. Just one hour.