There is no sign of a road.
Surely, but surely there has to be one. (What am I standing on, then?)
Everything is dark and there is a dampness in the air like it's been raining, maybe an hour or two ago, the moisture just starting to dry from the ground. No light shines to lead her way. But at least her eyes seem to be adjusting, since she can now see her sneaker-clad feet. She takes a harder look at what's under her shoes and sees that it's concrete. Probably. It feels hard enough.
A tentative step forward, the soles of her feet barely leaving the ground. The rubber sole makes a scuffling sound, faint. Another step forward, and another, leads to another, until she's walking in a slow half-shuffle. Very, very slowly. But moving nonetheless. Nothing has come to harm her (yet), and the ground hasn't suddenly sprouted fangs and a black hole to suck her in and chew her to bits. It seems safe enough to walk, with adequate caution. It was better than standing there, still on the outside and flipping in the inside, worried and frightened and absolutely helpless.
The concrete ground kept stretching out in front of her. There seems to be no right way, no direction, no due course. She wasn't sure if her feet, no longer dragging the soles, were moving straight. Maybe she was going in circles and she didn't even know it. Or straight into a monster's trap. No answers lay conveniently in front, or anywhere in the surrounding. Which was still dark and ambiguous by the way, not unnerving at all.
She shook her head. Why fool herself when there was no one else. But it wasn't easy to let herself succumb to it, when her own pride was still around and kicking (damn this hyperactive self-consciousness).
It feels like forever and a half of walking, nothing in her ears except her own footsteps, sometimes shuffling, sometimes a staccato, always nervous.
Until there are things in her line of sight. Some books. A CD. Several pens and an ugly little cell phone (the one you actually open and close and the display is tiny). It had been a long time since her eyes focused on something that wasn't herself. Her back creaks, and the muscle in her legs are taut in an uncomfortable twist as she crouches down. She picks the objects up, one by one, with uncertain fingers. A notebook. A watercolor set. They all feel cold to the touch. Lonesome, even. A mechanical pencil with blue-colored lead. Christmas gift wrap. Her hands were slowly, but surely, filling up.
Suddenly she's bombarded by sound. And light. A lot of light. It's as if someone finally realized the computer screen was asleep and hastily jabbed random keys to get it back on (oh, and the mute button was on, too, gotta undo that). And as much as she's immensely happy to see other people (it never occured to her that she missed people), it unnerves her.
They were there, all along, and she didn't notice them.
(A prideful, spiteful voice whispered, no one reached out to you, either, but that was easily dismissed.)
So she wasn't exactly going in a circle, or a straight line. She turned around for the first time to see a faint zig-zag pattern glowing through the crowds, cleanly avoiding collision with anything and anyone. It was a very deliberate, and calculated path.
The things she carried, now, seemed irrelevant. They were relics, in comparison to what was surrounding her. She drops them all to the ground, and tries to mingle. "Tries" is the key word. Sure, people respond to her comments (when she actually made them), and some would tilt their head from a distance in acknowledgement. But she was hopeless at keeping contact, at being normal (that much she could tell from the disgruntled look in their eyes, the barely concealed downwards turn of their lips). Dread, fear, and incompetence wells up from her stomach to clog her soft insides, fitfully clenching at her heart. So much, that the weight of it pulls at her hair in ruthless fistfuls as if to rip them right off, forcing her eyes to the ground for a long time. When she finally gains composure to look up, their faces are all plain and unreadable. Porcelain, ceramics, clay. So beautiful, yet hardly attainable.
The lights slowly dim. Or maybe it was quick, she couldn't tell. What was nice, moderate liveliness quickly tune out to the same colorless drab, drowning the buzz of voices and some pop music faint in the distance. She didn't know the song, and it was gone before she could at least give a shot at the title.
After a long time spent staring into space (it was no longer a crowd, no longer anything, really), she starts moving again. This time, the darkness was comforting. Her posture more upright, with sure footsteps, eyes down to the ground. Familiar and silent. The air was cool and soft to her skin, with a hint of moisture. Nondescript mildness, senses dwindling as a candle burns out in the end. Inevitable, but it was right.
Until there are things in her line of sight. Some books. A CD. Several pens and a square cell phone that looks like a smartphone but isn't (it has a nice keyboard, though).