I had been here before, a long time ago. I was here.
The memory is foggy, like a waking dream. I don’t remember exact details – no faces, no signs. The place feels the same. I feel the bite of the cold through my shirt and leather jacket. I was wearing a jacket that first time. Was it this one? I can’t remember.
The sounds… the engines of the cars and bikes, the buzzing of the people, the distant yet loud jet engine of a plane overhead. I smell the frigid air. I expect my breath to form a fog when I exhale. It does not, but the icy breeze slices into my lungs, while the odors of gasoline smog, street asphalt and a hundred people assault my brain. This is all very familiar. Shouldn’t there be a scent of strawberries somewhere…?
Is it all a dream? That’s my first thought. At any moment I expect harpstrings and wavy lines. I’ll open my eyes and see that I’m in my bed, still dressed and wasted from a night of debauchery. Or I’ll hear fingers snap. I’ll be greeted by a bespectacled man waving a pocket watch in my face, telling me that I won’t remember a thing. Only I do remember.
The alternative is that I’m wide awake. I want to be here. I am here for a reason. If that’s true, then I must be high. This was the kind of feeling that I got after being in a marijuana cloud for a while. When you’re high and you look over a dance floor, all you see are streaks of colour and music pulsing directly into your brain. Everything is loud and colourful and dreamlike. Nothing seems important.
Except that something is important. I am supposed to be here.
I see the coloured lights streaking and converging. I should remember this, but I misremember. Or I forget, it’s one or the other. The wind shrieks by, taking all manner of skirts and body heat with it. I wonder how cold it is. It must be sub-zero. It was this cold that first time. Maybe even colder, if that’s possible.
My feet follow the flow of the crowd, unconsciously. The cacophony is unintelligible, but urgent. I can feel the dozens of heartbeats as they swarm and swirl and eventually spin away, to be replaced by a new pulse. The city itself beats beneath its stony skin and granite face. Perhaps the reason I feel that I had been here is that everywhere is here.
I arrive. Here.
The tints and hues coalesce in a tangled mass of sharp melted candy-coloured metal. I see the crumpled bodies of what must be people, but I cannot see their faces. I see them all as flames. All but one flicker and sputter. They go out one after another, candles extinguished by the chill winds that swirl around me. Only one endures, bravely.
I am drawn to that one light, brightest of all lights tonight.
I was here once before. I was here for this.
I am here again.
I reach through and snuff the light out.