♦ Scroll 16
Where have you been hiding?" I asked the face in the mirror—not having seen it for what seemed like years. Actually it had only been a few days since I met this strange, foreign woman. She was smiling in the mirror as if she had swallowed a canary, which she may well have for all I know, but at the moment she wasn't hungry for sure. Behind her head, in the tree outside the window, was a big calico cat, peering into the room, waiting for a chance to pounce at anything alive. I opened the window to warn off the cat but accidentally fell with a crash into the bushes below. Gracefully jumping to my feet, I made a lunge for the cat, but it disappeared into the air, screaming like hell.
I tried to go back to my room but the window was tightly closed from inside and, staring out at me as though I were crazy, was my younger sister, who had disappeared more than three years ago! I opened my mouth and she vanished in front of me like a story that had never been told. It was she who had left home, I muttered to myself, and left me to tend to the flowers. Is it possible that she could have returned, after having eaten the cactus flowers I had cooked for her? She had gone wild and run away for good, it seemed, but her sudden return started me wondering. I ran around to the front door of the house, which stood open, and called out, "Anybody there?"
"Welcome home!" my sister responded from inside the house, and suddenly I realized it was 1975 and I was out of orange flavored Tang drink, but there were Oreo cookies in the cabinet, a parakeet in a cage by the red sofa, and one of my toes was bleeding onto the carpet. I shouted, "Bring me a paper towel," and sensed someone approaching, but there was no answer. I remembered I had fallen from the window, when my toe must have been injured, but after that was a blur, and now it seemed I could only imagine my adult life as a kind of dream. Completely confused, I walked into the kitchen and looked at the calendar to make sure if it was really 1975.
It was in fact September 1975—and yet my mind was somehow still my "adult" mind, observing and participating in my childhood life, just as though nothing unusual had happened. I went to the door and hesitated to open it. In my childhood I always had a "fear" mixed with expectation before opening a door and this moment was no exception. Nonetheless I opened the front door, and realized the world outside was 2013 and that I had been planning to plant some autumn flowers, but found my garden grown wild with brambles. I was shocked because I had always kept it neat, knowing that controlling nature is controlling gods.
I picked a handful of cactus flowers and, instead of cooking them, strewed the petals all over the rambling garden, praying intensely that order and balance should return to nature as well as to my mind. But nothing happened except where each flower petal had fallen there appeared a cat with a ribbon around its neck, sitting patiently and staring at me as if waiting for a command. Beneath the tree was the calico cat that I'd tried to catch earlier in the day and I blinked twice, focusing my thought on the strange woman who had smiled in the mirror, then on my sister who had re-disappeared and the calico cat under the tree. I looked again in the mirror and found, to my distress, that the strange foreign woman had returned! I yelled at her to leave me in peace, but the only sound from my mouth was a deep and menacing purrrrrrr...
(Photo by James C Hopkins: Thailand)