Laughter from inside the apartment. Jane felt the music, the voices pulling her back in. Needed another beer, in any case. She reached down to the plastic table where she had laid her empty bottle, then stood back up and laughed on remembering Wings had already taken it inside.
She turned towards the screen door leading to the kitchen, BANG! The sudden eruption of sound caught Jane’s attention, but did not startle her, years of living in Chicago having trained her to immediately distinguish between gunshots and a truck engine backfire. But as her eyes scanned over the dark alleyway again, she found her body gliding back to the handrail, her eyes tracing the alley’s darkness as it evaporated into the bright lights of the Chicago street.
Struck by a sudden impulse she didn’t understand, Jane leaned forward, her stomach pressing firmly yet securely on the wooden handrail, and spread her arms wide, her head tilting back as she closed her eyes and focused on the sounds around her — the music and laughter in the apartment, the scuffling of feet in the alley beneath, the traffic from the street, even the distant sound of jet engines high above. A few months earlier she might have looked down and seen an abyss, dark and foreboding, and yes, considered leaping down into that void; opening her eyes now and looking down, she saw that darkness was just as thick, just as her adopted city was no less dangerous. Yet with a contented smile, she realized the frightening menace of those early days was long gone.
Yes, the future was uncertain. Given what had happened that incredible morning last fall, Jane knew there would always be a chance she’d wake up tomorrow morning, or the next, and find herself back in the world she remembered, making this world she’d lived in the past several months, with its Jetsonian computers and phones but Flinstonian transportation, seem like an unpleasant dream. Or maybe that day would never come, and she’d remain in this world that was so familiar, yet so strange. But as she closed her eyes again, spread her arms wide, leaned her body safely over the handrail . . . she realized she no longer cared what happened. She felt strong enough to face whatever bizarre twist fate would throw at her next.
Jane Summers laughed, a tear of gratitude falling from her right eye, as she symbolically embraced the darkness around her, inviting it to take her wherever it may, even if it lead her to a land without mosquitos.
End of “The Land Without Mosquitos”