The Stranger in a Strange Town

Hella was walking down a street. There was nothing unusual about that, except she had never seen this road before, never seen this town before.

The people too, did not look right to her either. It was as though they came from some other land. A different tone of skin colour and something about their eyes, an angle to them, which was different from what Hella was used to in her home town.

The air was warmer too, drier, as though she had somehow moved a few hundred miles closer to the equator from her cold northern European homeland.

Earlier, as she’d walked down the street, someone had spoken to her from a car pulled over at the kerb. She had not understood, not recognised the language. Hella had to shrug and shake her head, saying ‘sorry, I don’t understand.’ The other woman, in a model of car Hella had never seen before, looked at her with a puzzled frown, shrugged and drove out back into the traffic.

Hella saw a small park, more of an urban public garden. There was a metal bench there, painted green, like so many municipal park benches. But the design of this one, softly curved metal struts shaped like the letter ‘S’ welded together into a seat-shaped structure that was not unlike some modern sculpture. If it were not that two other similar structures in other parts of the park were being used as park benches, Hella would have wondered, been hesitant about sitting on it. She did not want to draw attention to herself until she knew what was going on.

She sat on the bench. Immediately, some birds, not too unlike the urban pigeons she knew from her own town, fluttered down, strutting around by her feet.

‘I have nothing to eat,’ she told the birds, even though it was less likely the birds would understand her than the people of this strange town.

She thought back. She had come to consciousness already walking along the street. There was a point when she could remember seeing the name of a shop across the street, or at least she presumed it was the name of a store. The language was strange to her, the letters themselves like no other alphabet she had ever seen. The font used in the shop logo too was unlike anything she had noticed before.

She stood on the pavement as the people rushed past her. The first few she had not really noticed. She lived in a modern metropolitan city. She was used to seeing people of all colours, races and nationalities on the streets around her. It was only the growing realisation that all the people on these streets were foreign, and bore more of a general similarity, that she began to pay more attention. She noticed too that all the shops used the same language, alphabet and unusual fonts that she had initially taken as an affectation by that first shop she’d seen.

She sighed, the bench, though an odd shape was more comfortable than it first appeared. She looked around, away from the strange birds to the strange town lying outside the small formal garden, which too had plants, trees and flowers she had never seen before.

Hella wondered here she was and, more importantly, how she had arrived here. Beyond that, though, she wondered how she could get back home again.

 

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