Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 68
The first several times I took the Chisholm trail south, it was to visit the Barnes & Noble bookstore on 15th Street or Jersey Mike’s Subs that sits on the Central Expressway service road; both establishments have been the recipient of a fair amount of my money over the years. This area was my new neighborhood. Naturally, I was in more of an explorer mode.
The apartment complex, which is my home for the next year, sits nestled in the V formed by the Chisholm trail and the Park / Enterprise intersection.
Running several miles through greenbelts, thousands of Plano residents use the Chisholm Trail daily. Cyclists, joggers, walkers, and itinerant wanderers like me use it to reconnect with nature or, as in my case, to reach the bookstore.
The trail is a well-maintained sidewalk, and it passes under heavily trafficked streets such as Park.
When I returned from the sub shop, I noticed a wooden picket fence off to the right of the trail after passing under Park. My apartment complex was just ahead. Beyond the field had to be the Park / Enterprise intersection.
One day, feeling energetic, I crossed into the small field that set almost forgotten in what I presumed had to be a more-or-less triangular plot of land. I’d already had my fill of people that day and was actively seeking non-people diversions to occupy myself with for the rest of the day.
As I straddled the low wooden fence, I noticed a significant drop in the temperature.
That’s odd, I thought, but then I ended up thinking it was just the slight promontory I had climbed, exposed me to a bit more to the wind that was blowing out from the east.
But there was something else. Something shifted as I crossed the fence.
So stymied was I by the change in sensations that I felt I should stop lest I had had a stroke or some such thing.
What’s different here?
Then it hit me.
Noise. There was no noise.
While not overly loud, the sounds from the Central Expressway are a consistent white noise one can detect from Chisholm. But now I couldn’t hear it at all? That made no sense.
I see a row of trees just twenty yards across the small field I had wandered in when I crossed the fence.
Could the trees be blocking the sound from the north and southbound cars, I wondered?
Somehow I doubted it, but I had committed at this point. I’d already done the hard part by scaling the fence and risking a splinter in my inner thigh.
So I crossed the narrow field and peeked through the trees there. On the other side was a broad field.
That was impossible.
Something is wrong. Either with me personally or in this situation. I need to be out of here now.
So I retreated across the field, recrossed the fence, and made my way home with no further incident that day.
My low back pain seemed to disappear, as it does on unpredictable occasions. But my experience with seeing the impossibly large field sandwiched where it couldn’t possibly exist nagged at me. It was a constant koan parked in some hidden corner of my consciousness. My mind returned to it repeatedly, like a tongue probing a loose or missing tooth.
Two nights afterward, I walked to the convenience store/gas station that set, I assumed, on the other side of the field. It sat squarely in the northwest corner of the Park / Enterprise intersection. My sweet tooth had growled, and I thought they might have Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – they did not.
Exiting the store with an inferior brand of ice cream in hand, I looked westward. I checked out the field from the other side. But as I crossed a line of trees, I could already see the wooden fence just twenty yards beyond.
I cross the fence and want to be home before the ice cream melts. But something keeps me in place.
I’ve felt wonderful since crossing into the field, but where was it? If I felt great, then is it logical for me to assume that I wasn’t having a stroke or that I didn’t imagine the whole thing? I don’t know the answer to that, but I can’t drop it now. If I return home tonight, I will not get to sleep later.
So I stop myself when I step onto the Chisholm trail. I look at my phone – I decide to give myself ten minutes to find the field.
Alarms sound in my brain. The field does NOT, can NOT exist. My spatial relationships may not be perfect, but I saw what I saw; there’s no way that field would fit in this space.
I cross to the fence, but before crossing it, I set a timer for ten minutes. My eyes are on my phone, so I see the SIGNAL LOST notification when I hop over the fence.
I want to leave again, but I at least crossed the line of trees last time. Surely I can’t settle for less today.
Steeling my nerve, I hit START on the timer and try not to think about the ‘SIGNAL LOST’ notification.
As I pass between the same two trees I had crossed between before, I see it again. A vast field lies before me.
As I entered, I heard loud noises of respiration. I rounded a bend in the field. There I saw a dozen or more buffalo grazing in the tall grasses.
Buffalo in Plano? Okay, maybe I have had a stroke. That is nuts. Again, I cut my exploration short. But I am as quiet as possible when I leave, just in case the buffalo are not a product of my imagination.
TEN DAYS Later…
A lot has happened in the last week and a half. I finally forced myself to return to the field. No matter how I approached from the east, I couldn’t find the grassy meadow.
I could only enter the hidden field from the west.
It sounds crazy, but the only conclusion I could come to is a one-directional portal along the fence line.
The further I wandered into the field (while carefully keeping a treeline in sight, in case the buffalo return), the more wonders I discovered. The most surprising discovery was a small wooden sign that said “Sutter’s Mill 3 miles” with a crooked, crude arrow pointing to the right. The second was a torn corner of newspaper found along a dirt trail, the date stamped in one corner: November 18, 1847.
The field where no field can exist doesn’t exist in Plano in the year 2021. The meadow was situated just outside Coloma, California, in 1847, only a few months before the gold rush.
I spent several days back in modern-day Plano doing deep dives through GOOGLE on the gold rush. Equipped with this information, I crossed the fence one last time.
I’m not equipped to live in 2021 Plano. A series of questionable life choices and a general lack of interest in behaving responsibly with my finances have left me on track to work until I die.
I’ve not experienced long stretches of happiness in my life. A happy moment here and there, but nothing I could string together and proudly declare, ‘I am happy.’ I can be dour or even moody; I enjoy writing, massage, and little else.
I will make my way in a different space and time. I will pan for gold (I know precisely where to find it now, thanks to GOOGLE). I quit this place and time. I assume I can recross back into Plano anytime I want, but I honestly don’t care if the portal shuts while I’m there.
I’m sure it sounds like I’m giving up on life here rather quickly. I assure you I am not. I was sixty in Plano. Once I came across a mirror when I was on the other side. The image I saw looking back at me from the mirror wasn’t sixty. It wasn’t me at fifty, forty, or even thirty. The face I saw looking back at me was the same as that once appeared on my college ID some forty years ago.
Who wouldn’t go where I am going?