It was one of those perfect late summer evenings. I had finished work a couple of hours ago, deciding to walk home. My favorite little bar called to me as I passed so I stopped for a couple of drinks. Two became several, leaving me feeling more than a bit tipsy and definitely in a great mood as I stepped onto the sidewalk to stroll home.
I was feeling a sense of freedom; a feeling that I hadn’t really had in years. I’m married, have been for almost ten years. We met in college, married young then drifted apart as time went along. My wife is a brilliant doctor both as a researcher and in clinical settings. I work in marketing for a small but highly successful tech company. The IPO left me a wealthy man but I continued to work for the pure pleasure of being part of a growing business. That however wasn’t the real reason for my feeling of freedom. Yesterday I put my wife on a plane to Brazil and the Amazon basin where she will be part of a six to nine-month research project. She is an expert in tropical and jungle diseases which made her a natural for the job. Her location will be so remote that there is simply no electronic communication at all. We won’t be able to reach each other except by snail mail for the whole time! I didn’t tell her, but I’ve taken a leave of absence from work until she returns home. I almost skip along, thinking of all the possibilities!
My path home takes me down a side street that is just light enough to see to walk. I’ve often wondered how the businesses here survive, there is so little traffic, hardly anyone walks this way and the shops always look as if they are closed. Tonight, though, there is one with signs of life. It’s a shop that I hadn’t really noticed before; a basement entry with stairs off of the sidewalk. I see a dimly lit sign in the window that simply says “OPEN”. It’s not a place I would ordinarily go, but I’m a little drunk and somehow feel drawn to the door as I start down the stairs.
Opening the door at the bottom of the stairs, I look in; most of the hallway is narrow and only dimly lit. At the end of the hall, there is an old looking wooden door with bright brass hardware that is somehow brightly lit by two windows that can’t exist in my world. I'm taken aback, wondering where I've taken myself. As I stand there wondering what to do, I hear the door to the street close and lock behind me. I turn quickly, trying to open the only door that leads back to where I came from. Finding it solidly locked I turn again to look down the hallway.
Curious, a bit nervous but still drawn to whatever lies behind that door I walk slowly down the hallway. I can’t help but notice the deep carpet on the floor and the luxurious looking wood paneling on the walls. Reaching the second door, I knock softly, no one answers but the right side of the massive door swings silently open, almost of its own accord. I hear the tinkle of a chime as the door opens and I step into the room. Like the hallway, it's dimly lit but just as luxuriously appointed. There is what appears to be a reception desk against the far wall. I can see a lamp and a computer monitor but otherwise the desk is empty. There are two comfortable looking chairs in front of the desk and a couch against the wall with a matching chair. An end table stands between the chair and the couch with a silver coffee service on it.
I hear a noise behind me as I stand looking around the room. A woman enters the room carrying a clipboard. She's not young, not yet old but she has an air of authority about her despite her pleasant expression.
"Ah, Mr. Wilson, I'm glad you could finally make it tonight. We've been expecting you for some time now. Please sit down." She says indicating the couch.