I stood at a distance from her, but we looked at each other and smiled. She looked away and back again. I smiled at the sidewalk. This was the most we’d communicated ever, despite the fact that we’d both been catching the afternoon trolley here all summer. Heat, rain, sunshine, wind. Huddled under our separate umbrellas, not making eye contact.
I glanced away and noticed a circle of white mushrooms in the grass just off the sidewalk. They’d sprouted up overnight, as mushrooms will do. I looked back at her, and she had taken a step closer to me.
“You know the legend about mushroom circles?” she said. “That’s where fairies danced. It’s magical. You can step into the circle and be frozen in time. You’d think only a second or two had passed, and when you step out you’ll find years have gone by.”
“Cool. I always wanted to see the future.”
I walked over to stand just outside the circle. There were nine white caps in the grass, forming an oval. I looked back at her.
“Maybe you shouldn’t do it,” she said.
“As long as we have to wait for this trolley? Anything to make the time go faster.”
I stepped into the circle and looked up at her. She didn’t move or speak. Traffic paused. The world went silent for a moment, and I wondered.
What if I step out of the circle and 10 years have passed? The economy’s collapsed. National Guard in tanks and Humvees patrol the street. People ride bicycles along the four-lane roads, past closed convenience stores, shuttered restaurants, boarded over boutiques, empty parking lots.
What if a hundred years have slipped away, and the polar ice caps have melted, and this part of the world is underwater now? I could step out to find myself on the bottom of the sea, crushed by brackish water as fish play among the wrecked cars still sitting where they once ruled the pavement.
I watch her standing there by the trolley sign, and she smiles at me. It comes over her face slowly, like morning dawning. It brightens her eyes. I realize time has stopped for one of us, at least.
What if I step out of the circle and she has gone away? I have missed the trolley and never found out her name?
I return her smile and step out of the circle, into a future I didn’t have a minute ago.
(c) 2010 by Tony Simmons
From the "366 Days" project
Chosen because I need to feel a little hope tonight.