Iman and Yewell walked toward the mouth of the cave. As they approached the edge, the shrubs parted, creating a path through which they walked. Iman turned to me.
“Coming?” he said.
“Where are we going?”
He looked toward the path as Yewell descended into the brush.
I shrugged and followed them through the growth. I took one last look at the people before the leaves blocked them from my view. I wondered if we were going down to get a better look.
I could see the leaves parting as Yewell approached them, steadfast on his journey as if he knew exactly where he was going, as if he’d been here a thousand times before. He probably had. For all I knew, these two had dipped in and out of time more often than I had awakened to greet a new day.
I heard rustling behind me and looked long enough to see the path closing behind us as we made our way down the makeshift trail.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Someplace more familiar,” the call came out from before me. I’m not really sure which one of them said it.
They seemed to be quickening their pace, and I found myself double stepping to keep up. Yewell seemed to be going much faster and I soon lost sight of him. I broke into a light jog as the distance between Iman and I started to lengthen.
The trail seemed to be growing thinner. What I could still see of Iman was partly shrouded in leaves. As he turned a corner out of my sight, I went into a full run to catch up to him. And then the trail ended.
I looked behind me. The path had closed, the branches still moving lightly as if blown by a soft breeze.
“Hello?” I called. “Guys?”
Only the sound of the wind through the trees answered my call.
I pushed my way through the bushes in the direction I thought they had gone. There was no evidence of any path. There were no footprints. No signs that anyone had come this way before. I was alone in a strange world.
I thought about what they had told me about magic, and considered clicking my heels together and wishing for home. Yet I trudged along, pushing my way through myrtles and palmettos until I heard a sound.
It was faint at first, but familiar, a whooshing sound that grew louder and more frequent as I made my way through the wilderness. I clamored through the bushes, moving as quickly as I could in the direction of the sound. I crashed through a stand of palmettos, and my foot snagged a root, bringing me facedown onto a bed of grass.
I looked up to see the source of the sound. Traffic. Cars whizzed by on the road before me beyond which downtown Sarasota rose above the palm trees. To my left was Sarasota Bay, still pocked with abandoned sailboats and overlooked by the John Ringling Causeway Bridge.
I rose to my feet and looked around, but saw no sign of either of the aliens. A small dog barked at me, and its owner looked at me as if I were crazy. I wished I could have assured her otherwise, but I wasn’t all that sure. I considered asking her if she’d seen a couple of extraterrestrials, but I reasoned that she probably would have called the authorities.
I walked the sidewalk to Main Street and headed toward the bus station to catch a ride home. Though the aliens had told me that I was going someplace more familiar, as I walked down the street of my hometown, it seemed anything but.
This is an excerpt from How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. Come back weekly for the next part or order your copy in ebook or paperback today!