Join Date: Jan 2006
I felt like I had to fight for consciousness... like wrestling to pull that consciousness-enveloping blanket off of me. It seemed to take hours, before I finally won the battle, and I came awake and jerked upright at the same moment.
Immediately two hands gripped my shoulders, and tried to push me back down onto the bed. "It's okay! Take it easy! Don't--"
But the warning had come too late, for my head started pounding, and I groaned pitifully. I let the hands ease me back down onto the bed, and I cradled my head with a hand as I waited for the headache to subside.
And that's when I realized that I'd just heard a human voice.
I worked my eyes open and looked about. I was back in my "home," in the bed that looked like mine. I looked to the side of the bed, and stared into the eyes of a girl I did not know. She was beautiful, Mediterranean-looking, with tanned-olive skin and long, dark hair. And she looked as surprised to see me as I was to see her.
Just as notable as her beauty: She was not dressed and painted as a panda.
"Who are you?" I asked... well, moaned, more accurately.
"I live two doors over," the girl explained. "I received a call to come here. The door opened..."
"Yes," I whispered, so as not to upset my head, "it does that..."
"...and I found you." She gazed at me in concern, brushing the stray hairs from my forehead. "You're the first person I've seen here since I arrived. Well, other than--"
"Other than the guy dressed as a panda?"
"Yes," she replied, and winced a bit, as if the mere mention of him was painful to her. "What happened to you?"
"I was hit by a panda the size of a semi," I replied. "Why are you here?"
"Well... I told you, I got a call..."
"No. Why are you in this zoo?"
"Oh. I don't really know." She glanced about warily, before continuing. "I just woke up here. I was riding in an elevator in my apartment building, and I got dizzy... that's the last thing I remember."
"And you ended up here," I finished, and she nodded. "Do you know where 'here' is?"
"Did you just resign from your job?"
"No," she replied. "I'd never do that... I have a great job. I just came back from a conference, and it was great! I made some great contacts... my boss got three new contracts... he even closed the Madison deal."
"Yeah..." So much for my deductive skills, I thought. "Listen, I need to get going..."
"Going?" She bit her lip in concern as I slowly levered myself upright, and swung my legs over the bed. "You don't look like you can stand, much less go anywhere."
"Do you know how I can get out of this place?"
"No way that I know of. All the roads seem to lead right back to the zoo."
"Well, I have to go..."
"No, please... you're in no shape to go anywhere," she insisted, pushing me back down on the bed. "Besides," she added guiltily, "if you go... I won't have anyone to talk to."
I was still too weak to put up much of a fight, so I gave in and settled back onto the bed. "How long have you been here?"
"Ever since the conference... a month ago. And it's been torture... I haven't been able to tell anyone about what happened!"
"At the conference. How Frank--that's my boss--got the Madison deal," she explained conspiratorially. "He slept with Edie Lane, from Madison, at the conference! He tried to keep it quiet, too... but I happened to see them coming out of his room, and it was obvious what was going on."
"Was it?" I was beginning to understand...
"Oh, yes. If anyone else at Madison, or at my office, knew about it, the scandal would be incredible!"
"I see. And after the conference... you ended up here."
"Yes," she replied. She didn't seem to be making the connection. Instead, she was fixing me with a significant look.
"Well," she replied, "it's just... you're the first person I've seen in weeks, and..." She ran her hand over my forehead again. "And I really could stand having someone to... to talk to..."
She was leaning forward, and the tips of her hair were brushing against my chest. "Talk?"
"Yes," she replied. "And maybe... to do other things, too..."