The Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Weekly Challenge for this week was to write about a flea market.
You are lying back on a couch in room full of unread books and pot plants.
"Let me try again."
The therapist sighs. He fiddles with his bow-tie. In the end he consents. You lie back on the couch and watch the watch. It swings back and forth. Your breathing slows. Liquid relaxation flows in from your extremities and then... BLAM!...you're under.
The entrance to the market is crazy. You've been here many times. Bright lights and loud noises. Fast food, hot clothes. iPads and jet-skis. A game-show host in a purple tux offers you the chance of a lifetime to win the steak knives of your dreams.
You push your way through. This one is easy.
There's a crush of bodies moving deeper into the market. It's hard to get air and everybody wants your attention. Better abs. A gift for your boss. A t-shirt that will perfectly express how little you need a t-shirt to express yourself.
Someone else is pushing through. You follow in their slipstream. As you follow (deeper, deeper) you wonder who they are. From behind you can't tell. Not one of your parents. No teacher you can remember.
They stop at table selling flowers and spent shotgun cartridges. You crane your neck to see who has led you this far but the crowd pushes you on and do not see. Doesn't matter. Keep moving. Eyes on the prize. Deeper.
The crowd loosens and thins. You are more free but more exposed. There are memories here. Photographs in frames of all sizes and shapes. Colour, focus and scale all mean something.
You can come back anytime. Let's get in there.
You take a deep breath and walk on. Into the dark tent where rows of sex toys form an intimidating wall. You don't want to touch them but it's the only way forward. Resist the shame, handle guilt, focus on the good times and move on.
You're at school now. Endless corridors and arching walls. Teachers, friends and enemies selling pieces of your past. It's not all bad. Sometimes you get stuck here staring at a sunbeam. Dust caught in light that you can stare at for hours. You feel relaxed, warm.
Not this time.
You gather yourself. Pull up your ill-fitting uniform and march on. To the real estate agent with all the houses you have ever called home. She doesn't look like your mother this time. That helps. She takes keys from a big box full but you know they are the right ones. You take them, thank her. Ignore her loneliness. Keep moving or drown.
The road is not as you remember. The dog is scary, the neighbour friendly.
The front door is the wrong kind of blue. Chipped. Brass handle. It is ajar. Your hand trembles as you push it open.
You have never been down this hall before. The walls are dark and wet. Into the room; not your room. You can hear singing. Nursery rhymes you never knew.
The room is bright. The Sun from the windows is too bright to see out. There's a mirror on the wall and you know that you will make it. Head bent and squinting against the brightness you crawl towards it. Your pudgy hands are difficult to control but you can lean against the wall and with a great effort drag your infant body upright to peer into the mirror.
What you see is yourself.
You see yourself on a couch in an office full of unread books and pot plants.
Opposite you is a small man in a bow-tie snoring loudly.