“Mystery tour! The ONE and only UNIQUE opportunity for an out-of-this-world experience” screamed the neon lit billboard ad.
It caught my attention as soon as I saw it. Well, of course it would. It was meant to. I felt a familiar tingling of excitement, a precursor that alerted me to take special note of whatever this was about. I snapped a photo of the ad. It had contact details on it. This was not going to be one of those quick on the run things to do while I was busy. I wanted to look into it in detail at home without interruptions.
Hurrying home, I threw my keys, handbag and jacket on the sofa. Grabbing a quick coffee and a sandwich, I made my way to the study kicking off my shoes along the way. Bad practice that. I’m a neat-nick. The laptop was ready for action. I had left it on after checking my morning mail. Bad practice, I know. I munched on my sandwich and sipped coffee eyes glued to the screen while the website was loading up. Yet another bad practice. I do not do bad practices. Ever. Except today it seems. The internet was frustratingly and unusually slow. There was a sense of urgency gnawing at me. As though if I didn’t do this IMMEDIATELY I would miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-repeated something. Even not knowing what it was I would potentially be missing out on left me with a feeling of strange emptiness. It was weird. Not at all like me. I am always in control of my feelings. And methodical. Meticulous to the point of being ridiculous, I have to find out every godforsaken last detail about everything before I ever commit myself to anything. I was breaking all my own rules. And it didn’t bother me. Fleetingly I wondered if I should be bothered about not being bothered, then dismissed the thought.
Ah, at last! The same image as that on the billboard stared back at me from the screen. Flashing neon lights beckoning me to delve deeper into the mystery on offer. Click…. Click…. Click….By the time I finished clicking, I had signed up and committed myself to a mystery tour I still knew very little about. The tingling persisted. The urgency of not missing out loomed large enough for me to not worry about the fine details. So be it. It remains a mystery. I will find out. That’s why it’s a mystery after all. Hang on – WHO am I ?!
I had jotted down some important notes during my frenzied clicking. Just what do I know? I read through the list –
I would go to places
where time dances to different hours
the night is split open with stars
see things that are as splendid as a sequin in the palm of a pearl
where I will be given more time
hear the sounds of home
be in another climate
and have different conversations
Not exactly a tangible list of what the tour had to offer. Strangely, none of that bothered me. I was excited. My booking was done, travel details to be confirmed by email in three days.
T i m e seemed to c r a w l by. Every chance I got I checked the email Inbox. Even though I knew it would not arrive for three days. For some reason I was terrified something had gone wrong. Perhaps I had not filled the form in correctly. Did I have enough money in my account? Did the email actually leave my outbox? Maybe they were fully booked. These and a dozen other disastrous possibilities filled my head. I checked and double checked everything I could. There was nothing untoward. Even the payment had gone through. That was a huge relief.
Finally day three dawned. I woke at the crack of dawn. The sun was barely peeking its head over the horizon. The last three days had passed in a surreal haze of anxious waiting.
T i m e d r a g g e d. My usually meticulous routine, planned to the last minute, had been totally abandoned. I went through the motions of essential tasks barely noticing what I was doing. My apartment was a chaotic mess. I had turned back into that dreadful monster of a thoughtless teenager who never tidied up after themselves. Fraught and nervous, I walked around aimlessly, jumped at noises, ran to check the emails every time I heard the ping of an incoming message. Only to be disappointed. Leaving the apartment was not an option.
I phoned in sick. There was no point in going to work – I would have just been a liability. Forcing myself to go through the usual morning ablutions kept my mind busy. I knew it was too early for the much aw as if expecting a visit from Royalty, I went into a cleaning frenzy unaware of the march of time. T w o h o u r s later the apartment was back to its usual pristine state. As I headed to the shower I noticed that I actually felt better. More like my normal self. Except for a nervous tension in the pit of my stomach, a dry mouth and sweaty palms reminding me this was The Much Awaited Day.
PING ! I jumped with fright even though this was the very sound I had been waiting for. Nervous tension flooded my body. Swallowing hard, I checked the Inbox. There it was – finally! My much awaited Mystery Tour information. With shaking hands, I clicked to open it. Uncomprehending, I stared at the screen. All it said was – “WELCOME to your Mystery Tour. Come as you are. Your Perfectly Magical Day awaits… Pick up in 30 m i n u t e s.” A million questions zoomed around in my head. But there was no-one to ask.
Having made a cup of coffee I sat slowly drinking it while I waited. There really was nothing else I could do. The seconds ticked by s l o w l y….
To be continued…..
This story has been written as a combined response to
a three word prompt “Voyage of Time” received from
Candice has very kindly given me permission to quote her poetry .
I have created the poem in this story from her writings which are identified by italics.
© Raili Tanska