"All out," the elevator man was saying, and I watched the elevator doors close behind me like blinds. I pulled the newspaper off my face and stared at the headlines (which were written in my native tongue, but which I could never quite comprehend).

"Welcome to Destination Unknown!" I read. I skimmed the review, and decided I'd buy the book after all -- or at least when it came out in paperback.

The carpet beneath my feet flew out from under me, and curled itself up as it rolled down the hall. But there was no floor beneath it and I fell one flight down.

A fish was taking a bath in a bowl on the table, and I hid my eyes in embarrassment. "Excuse me, Ma'am," I apologized, and dashed out the door.

I decided to go back inside and go for a swim after all, but the door was locked and footsteps were coming my way.

"Excuse me, do you have a key?" I asked a shadow that passed on the wall. But the shadow was silent, and I watched it disappear in the light of an open window, and I couldn't help thinking I'd seen that shadow somewhere before.

I shrugged and turned to more pressing matters. Keys. There must be a key somewhere. I remembered seeing some keys. There was a whole key chain of sparkling keys dangling by a thread. But where had I seen it? I knew they were someplace just beyond my reach. I knew they were the keys to open all the closed and hidden doors I'd seen or passed. If only I could reach them. I had to reach them. But the more I stretched, the further they seemed to dangle from my reach.

I was walking along thinking about those keys when I tripped over a blind beggar sitting in the hallway. As I struggled to my feet, I felt the barely noticeable touch of his pickpocket hands grabbing for my valuables. But of course, I didn't have anything to steal. After apologizing for tripping over him, I hurried down the hall and checked my pockets anyway. That's when I found the crumpled piece of paper.

I uncrumpled the page and saw there was a note in a woman's handwriting. But I couldn't figure out what it said. "Hiara...pirlu...resh...kavawn..." I deciphered, and as I muttered the words I heard angelic voices echoing them in the back of my mind. Just when I realized that I'd heard those syllables before, somewhere, sometime, the letters rearranged themselves through my blurry vision. "Meet me at 11:00 at the place where we met."

My heart was pounding in my shoe. I felt as if a great mystery had been unveiled. But what did this all mean? Why did this note seem so important!

I stuffed the paper in my shirt pocket and looked at my watch. It said 11:00. My heart pounded even louder. I held the watch to my ear, but it wasn't ticking. Then I remembered I didn't have a watch a minute ago, and I figured it was probably the blind beggar's, so I walked back and handed it to him.

"Oh thanks," he slobbered. "I guess I dropped it," he smiled. He slipped it on his wrist and looked at it with unseeing eyes. "Yep, plenty more time to waste," he chuckled.

I turned to walk away. "Oh, yeah. You get that letter?" he inquired, looking up past me. "The one from the lady."

"Yes!" I gasped excitedly, spinning around. "Who gave it to you...what did she look like?" I blurted, then bit my tongue. The blind beggar just smiled, ignoring my faux pas.

"Oh, yeah. She told me to give this to you," he mumbled, and held up a piece of grimy tin-foil. It was rolled in a circle like a ring.

I thanked him and put it on my finger, grime and all. It and the note were the only links to...to who I was, and what I was doing in this crazy dream. Or at least that's what I thought at the time.

"Well, bye then," I stammered uncomfortably, for he was now picking his teeth with a ruby ring. I looked at the grimy one on my finger, and the thought flashed through my mind that I'd been robbed after all.

"Are you sure that ring in your hand isn't the one she told you to give me?" I accused, a little embarrassed for asking.

But he just smiled a toothless grin. "Nope," was his defense. And that's all he had to say.

I wasn't sure if he meant "Nope," he wasn't sure, or "Nope," it wasn't that ring, but I convinced myself I had gotten what I was supposed to get, and I was so happy inside I thought I would burst. I had a note and a ring, and all I had to do was figure out what they meant, and then I'd discover the reason why I was here. What more could I ask for? I waved good bye and headed for the stairs.

I opened the stairwell door and began to hop down the steps, feeling like a new man. I had no idea what the "hiara pirlu" part of the note was about or just where I'd heard those strange words before, or why they'd transformed into intelligible words. But the rearranged message was an undeniable promise of hope... "11:00 at the place where we met," I mumbled as I jumped down the stairs by twos. "2...4...6..." I counted. "Now, where would we have met? I know if I just try, I'll remember...24...26...28...It must be important... 32...34...I know that's where I'm supposed to be. If I can figure it out, this whole thing will finally make some sense..." I sighed.

"I guess I should hurry," I thought, and tried jumping by threes, but decided it was too dangerous. "...40...42...I wouldn't want to keep...well, whoever wrote this letter, waiting." I looked up and noticed I was still on the 8th floor. At least that's what the sign read. Or sort of. This 8, like the last one, seemed to have fallen on its side.

I went back to jumping. "...120...122... 124..." Still the 8th floor!

By now, as you can imagine, I was really out of breath, and decided I had better take the elevator.

Be With You
( Chapter 11- MP3 song demo by Lyndon DeRobertis)


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