Last night I had a very interesting dream.
I sit in a blue chair within a large auditorium. Two other people are here, one near the front by the rotund stage and the other only a few seats away from me. Two young men enter the room, the one with black hair strings a giant poster of a balloon from the ceiling. The other with brown hair pastes posters of mountain climbing and reading onto the walls.
“Are you the only three here?” The black haired boy asks me.
“Yes,” says the kid near the front. He’s younger than me and is wearing overalls and a white shirt. “No one else came.”
“It is summer,” says the girl, who sat near me. She wore a yellow shirt and a long white skirt.
“You all should come to my balloon event. Flying High. Talk all about the art of flying, and ride in a balloon for fifteen minutes.” The black haired boy gestures to his poster that holds the image of a hot air balloon.
“Or you could try your hand at mountain climbing. Read atop a mountain and enjoy the wind in your hair!” The brown haired boy jerks his thumb toward his posters.
I stand and pick up my backpack. The seats are tightly packed together and the two boys are yelling their announcements now, but I drift away, through the maze of chairs, banging my right knee a few times against the backs of chairs. I find the doorway and push my way through into a new room, the shouts of the other people fading and then vanishing as the door slams shut behind me.
The room is large with roman columns adorning the walls, holding up a rotund ceiling decorated with vines and leaves. I step around fallen bricks and splintered wood, the walls coated with moss and the sweet smell of pine from the needles that litter the floor. My feet crunch against the fallen debris, and I step through the fallen doors into a corridor. Picnic tables cluster to my left near a wall with a large hole in its center, inside I see tipped over stoves and vines encroaching on what was once a cafeteria kitchen. Ahead of me is another set of doors, but these are made of metal and firmly locked into place by the bricks that separate me from the inside of the school and the destroyed gym and cafeteria. I press my hands against the cold metal and look through the panes in the glass. There is a Buddhist shrine halfway down the hallway and two people kneel before it, their heads bowed and long grey robes covering their bodies, the hoods over their heads. I reach for the door handle, but a crash sounds to my right, and I turn to see the entrance doors of the cafeteria crumble. The ground shakes, I fall against the cold metal, and then a crack in the floor opens. It is a stairwell. I take a few steps forward and near the bottom I see a tall man in a black suit with a red tie. He stands at the first landing, his hands crossed behind his back.
“You see here?” He gestures to a large opening in the wall halfway down the stairs. “It lives here. Small and light on its feet.” He picks up some of the fallen leaves and crumbles them in his hands. Wiping his hands on his pants legs, he brushes by me and up the stairs. I look through the opening and see the dirt, the pine needles, and maple leaves. There is no creature, only a nest. I walk past it and through the first landing. The stairs curl around a corner and vines that hung from the ceiling hit against the sides of my head. Boulders litter the bottom of the stairs, and I climb over them and through the tangles of vines. The other side is a field of yellow and violet flowers. A stream rumbles past the boulders on my right, the froth of rapids bubbling over the rocks strewn across its stream bed. To my left is an asphalt trail, it heads straight into a pine forest. I walk across the meadow, the soft grasses and flowers brush against my calves.
The trail is long but the hike calming. The pines meld into a more temperate forest of maples and ash. Leaves drift across the trail from a faint wind that pushes the hair from my eyes. A twig cracks behind me, and I turn to see the boy from the front of the auditorium following me. His hands are in his pockets and he just nods at me. I nod back. Our path takes us to a town, the buildings made of wood, and a few townspeople standing in the streets, shouting. I run forward to the middle of the main street, where the most people are congregated, and I see the green funnel cloud. It roars down from the sky, straight toward the tallest of the wooden buildings, the ones that have hospital written across the top of the building in bold red letters. A woman in a yellow dress with a white apron weeps openly in front of me as the other people – men and women alike cry out in fear.
The boy, who had followed me, shouts, “What are you going to do?”
I push my way through the crowd, heading straight toward the hospital and the tornado. Heavy winds push me back toward the crowd, but I push my way forward. Breathing in through my mouth and exhaling through my nose, I count my breaths. I stand directly below the approaching funnel cloud and raise my hands toward it. My counts reach twenty-six, and I take a deep breath, inhaling the green tornado. It flows into my mouth, the winds smashing against my teeth, bouncing down my esophagus, and into my stomach. I cough as the last bit enters my mouth, and a bit of green air puffs out of my nostrils.
The crowd is silent behind me. Their round eyes stares at me as I turn around to face them. Whispers race through the crowd, fingers point my way, and the people back away from me. A passage appears through the crowd, the men and women alike pushing one another to get away from me. Fear constricts their faces, and hands grab at children, pulling them out of my reach. I slide my hands into my pockets and walk through the crowd silently. The tornado is gone, roaring softly in my stomach and chest, but no longer able to harm the hospital or the townsfolk.
“Thank you,” the women in the yellow dress says as I walk by her. I nod at her and continue down the dusty road back toward the asphalt trail that leads back into the forest and away from this town.
The boy, who followed me here, runs up to me and grasps my arm. “How did you do that?” His eyes are wide and his breaths short and gasping from the run.
He shakes his head. “Amazing. Look, what’s your name? Can you teach me?”
I shrug. “Don’t have a name. I just am.”
“You a boy or a girl then?” He frowns, his forehead wrinkling.
“I’m genderless. Existing as I am.” I shake off his hand and take a step backward, away from him.
The boy crosses his arms over his chest. “Hey now, no one is genderless. What are you?”
I turn and run. My feet pound against the asphalt, the wind howls in my ears, and my stomach and chest burns. Behind me, I hear the women in the yellow dress say, “Why did you do that? Why did you scare her off?”
The boy replies, “I just wanted the truth.”
“Boy, there is no truth.” Her last words echo behind me as I enter the forest. The calls of the birds, the howl of the wind through the trees drones out all voices from the town. I am left with the burn of wind in my chest and stomach and the thumps of my feet against the ground.