My eyes widened as the door did, pupils widening as I took in the shimmer of sunlight. A shadow crept through the entrance of the cellar; a delicate-framed ghost of a child stepped down the crooked stairs, a soft thud with each step, slowly floating over to me before prodding my arm with a twisted metal poker. The touch had a contradictory effect- my muscles tensed up from the dull pain, and yet, it was enough to completely relax them. I winced as I sat up, the blood rushing throughout my body like a waterfall. The child didn’t say a word, simply staring at me as if I were some kind of wild animal. And I, like a fool, stared back. It was definitely a girl, maybe around nine or ten years old, at first glance, innocent, naive, everything that a child should stereotypically be. But what caught me were her eyes, like a spider’s web, and as soon as I made contact with them, I knew I wouldn’t be able to look away. She seemed to be searching me, and it was as if I could feel her inside my mind, inside my thoughts and memories.
Her eyes widened, if that was even possible, and her lips parted in a mixture of shock and surprise.
And then she smiled. Unexpected, yes, but even more so that it seemed to be a smile of pity. It nearly drove me mad- here I was, an adult, if only recently, and a kid was feeling sorry for me. I inhaled sharply. “Why the hell are you smiling?” I breathed angrily, although there was a small part of me that reprimanded myself for swearing at child. But she didn’t even seem to notice.
“You don’t remember.” Her voice wasn’t like a wind chime, or a breeze. Just a regular child’s voice, and I had no idea why I expected to be anything different. Perhaps it was just that everything I had experienced so far had been so out of the ordinary, and quite frankly, insane, that I would have been less surprised if at second glance, she turned into an animal of some sort. The cryptic message was unusual, though.
“Where am I?” In a bakery. Obviously. There were plenty of bakeries by my apartment, it was just a matter of figuring out which one I was in. “I need to leave. I need to go home.” I started to stand up, but lost balance quickly, trying to steady myself on shaky foal legs. The girl just watched me until I regained my footing. Brushing myself off quickly, I started for the door, grabbing onto the soft metal railing.
“You don’t know where to go. You’ll leave the building, but then what? You don’t know where you are.”
“Thanks, but I’m sure I can find my way. I know this town like the back of my hand.” Halfway up the stairs.
“This isn’t your town.”
“What are you talking about?” I turned to face her, but she slipped past me, running ahead to the top of the stairs and holding out her hand. “I’ll show you.” It was that pitying smile again. Absolutely infuriating, but I followed her through the door anyway. If there was any way she could help me, then there was no reason not to go with her.
The front of the bakery was the most undecorated, cluttered building I had ever seen. Bottles, jars, plates of pastries were sprawled out on shelves and tables, but that was all I was able to take in before I realized that the girl had disappeared behind a wall in the back of the store. Hurrying to catch up and not get lost, I saw her standing on a makeshift balcony showcasing what seemed to be the rest of the town- the floor extended farther than the ceiling, and there was a metallic fence surrounding the edge. The support was apparently stronger than it seemed, because the girl was leaning over the fence, and nothing even budged. It was also at this point when I realized that the walls around me, as well as the floor and ceiling, weren’t made of actual wood. It was metal shaped so carefully that it gave off the appearance of lumber. In fact, everything was made of copper, aluminum, and numerous other metals that I didn’t even recognize. The houses surrounding the bakery, the massive glimmering wall that encompassed the area, the streets, the lights next to the sidewalk, even the people below had a cold tinge to them. My heart started beating faster as the recognition, the safety of knowing the area, had vanished. A small warm hand took mine- the girl was next to me, that pitying smile facing me again. But this time, I wasn’t angry. Just hollow and afraid.
“Where am I?” I could barely get the words out.
And the little girl, who had found me in the cellar of the bakery, searched my soul and gave cryptic messages, presented this place in the simplest way she knew how:
“Welcome to Metallic City.”