Congratulations

It’s Friday morning and I’m walking from the station to work when I pass Norma’s Drycleaning as I do every other weekday. Out of the corner of my eye I can still see the dress that’s been there since we moved into the new building nearly four years ago now.

I’m going to say it’s an African dress of some sort but I could be wrong and I have little reference to go off other than the colours and the patterns.
The dress is wrapped in plastic, hanging with the other clothes except that it’s positioned facing the street. Facing me.
I pass the store and it leaves my sight but today something makes me stop in my tracks. The thought of another day of a strict routine in a job that I hate is too much to handle so I start acting out of my routine like I’m about to do.
Instead of walking toward work, I’m walking backwards V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W-L-Y as if unsure of what I’m doing but now I’m more sure than ever…I think.

I peek the pattern of green, yellow and red lines streaming out of the black circle in the chest of the dress like the rays of some other wordly sun. Entering the store I notice there is no one at the counter and I just stand there unsure of what to do next.

A man comes out from the back and looks at me with tired eyes, “Yes?” He’s balding and has a weak nest of salt and pepper hair around the bald crown poking out like some disappointing egg.
I raise my arm and point to the dress behind him, “I’m here to…pick that up.” comes out in a stammer.
The man’s tired eyes sharpen as he looks into me before turning to look back at the dress and back to me again. “Are you sure that’s what you want?” He says.
“Yes.” I’m sure of it now.
It’s at this time that I notice that the store is quiet, so quiet it’s almost as if we’re in a vacuum. Another dimension so far from the one I usually inhabit.
The only sound I hear is the light crunch of the plastic surrounding the dress that he’s now bringing over to me. In fact, I can’t even hear the sound of my blood pumping violently through my body, I can only feel it.
He hands over the dress and I take it into my hands.
The lights start to grow dim before completely darkening. Now, I can’t see the man, the dress or even my own hands.
Then just like that, the lights grow dim and come back to full brightness. The man is looking at me, but the dress that was just in my hands is gone.
He’s smiling, “Congratulations, you’ve found the key and you can move on to the next stage.”
I blink.
I blink again.
Without another word, he turns around and walks to the back of the store, disappearing from site in amongst the other clothes waiting to be collected.
I back out from the store to the outside world.
Everything is the same but also quite different.
There are doors where there weren’t doors before and new things in place of old things.

I let out a breath of relief.
After all this time, this is where it was.

I smile to myself.

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