Sometimes, you just need to hide from the tragic colors of your overwhelming life.
Life had held, for Ida, a million mundane tragedies: The death of her sister; her mother's alcoholism; the common yet crippling reality of poverty. She had dealt with it all. Even her depression, which struck ironically at a time in her life when everything was, for once, happy, and she had nothing concrete to be depressed about—she'd somehow gotten over the hill with that one too. It was manageable now. She could get out of bed every day. She was rounding the bend.
Throughout all these trials and unfortunate circumstances, Ida had found ways to hide. She had often hidden her grief in books full of fantasy, romance, and intrigue, and in the colorful tones of all types of music, from country to jazz. She sometimes got drunk, losing herself for a while, though it only increased her anxiety about winding up exactly like her worn and weathered mother. She had daily found joy in her grandchildren, which she considered specks of light in an otherwise dark and weary world. But all of these things were just temporary; a moment, an hour, a night of mirth before she woke up the next day in the same old bed and the same old circumstances.
Ida had often considered leaving her house and walking until her legs gave out.
And that was why, when Ida discovered another world just outside her doorstep, she knew she had to go. She headed down the cobblestone path that was not there before, and found herself deposited in a world tinted blue.
In this world, she stood in front of Calvary Memorial Hospital. It was nighttime, and everything was shrouded in shadow. It was peaceful. It reminded her of death. She was not surprised to find herself there.
The hospital took on a different tint in this strange new world. Like everything, it was blue. The edges were softer, as though the building itself were melting into the darkness, and the shadows seemed deeper, thicker, and more complete. Ida was not disturbed. She had the desire to delve deeper into the shadows.
She walked to the left of the building. The darkness closed around her, cool and comforting…
"…warned of the dangers of hedonism…"
Ida paused, recognizing the voice immediately. It was her husband, ten years dead. She turned and looked. There he stood, as he looked at age thirty, wearing his professor clothes.
"Ida!" he laughed, face lighting up sweetly. "I didn't expect you here!"
Ida was speechless for a moment.
"I'm sorry, my dear." Ida's eyes were wide. "I don't know what to say!"
The smile remained frozen on the professor's face just a few seconds too long. It was uncanny. He then resumed his pacing and lecturing, as though the interaction had never taken place.
"My love?" A pause. "Mark?" Ida practically yelled. Her husband did not even flinch. It was as though she were invisible. She took a step back, and that strange feeling of peace draped itself over her once again. She decided to move on. She found herself back on the cobblestone path.
It was not long before another voice, small but clear, interrupted the stillness.
"Hi, excuse me! Do you want to help me pick the most yellow flowers?"
Ida looked straight down to see a little girl, about four years old, tugging at the hem of her shirt. In the girl's hands, there was a bouquet of vibrant dandelions. Their petals were a striking shade of yellow, and seemed to emit a light of their own.
"Avery wants to pick flowers too, but it was my idea first, so I have to get the most. There are dandy-lions and buttercups, but Avery doesn't know about the buttercups, so that means that I can get them first. Do you want to help? I'm going to get more flowers than anybody."
Ida raised her eyes from the little girl's face, only to see that the grass around them was suddenly filled with bright yellow dandelions and buttercups. They were incredibly beautiful in contrast to the surrounding darkness, and were so bright that they seemed to light up the whole space.
"Of course, my dear," Ida answered. "My name's Ida. What's your name?"
"Ida is a funny name," the little girl answered, scrunching up her nose. "But still better than Avery. Avery is a dumb name. I don't like her very much, because she's mean. My name is Julia."
Ida spent the next few minutes helping the little girl collect flowers. After a while, Julia stopped and grabbed Ida's hand to get her attention, a look of seriousness on her face.
"I think we have enough flowers now," she said. "Avery will never get this many."
"Okay," Ida answered. "So what should we do with them now?"
"We make them the stars," Julia answered matter-of-factly. "Like this."
Ida watched as the little girl threw her bouquet of wildflowers towards the empty night sky. The flowers flew upwards, and upwards, until they faded into the blackness. Suddenly, a smattering of yellow stars appeared, twinkling, from the void.
"Now you do yours!"
Ida cast her flowers into the sky, and more stars twinkled into existence.
"See?" said the little girl, grinning. "That was fun."
"Okay," Ida said, feeling a bit tired. "I guess I should keep going now. Goodbye, Julia."
"Bye, Mrs. Ida," the little girl answered, waving both of her hands in the air. "But you might want to put on your glasses first, or else you'll never find anything over there."
Ida touched the glasses on her head and flipped them in front of her eyes. Immediately, the little girl and the cobblestone path disappeared.
In front of her, there hovered the shadows of men, so faint that they almost seemed like tricks of the light. They flickered in and out of existence like flames as they passed beneath the blue glow of the streetlamps. They had neither faces nor voices, but they produced a low murmur, like the wind.
Ida was suddenly terrified, and removed her glasses with trembling hands. The nightmares disappeared. She was peacefully standing near the darkened blue form of the Calvary Memorial Hospital. She stayed there, very still, for a very long time, watching the dandelion stars twinkle up above. Then she put on her glasses and began to delve deeper into the darkness.