13 Ways: The Wonder Wall
Posted on December 22nd, 2011
Again, Dr. Jellicoe waited several minutes before responding. Tom watched her jot something in her notebook with a glossy black pen. Then she looked up at him, uncrossed her legs, and leaned forward in her chair, once more meeting his eyes with such a direct gaze that he would have thought it a come-on in another context; but not here. Here, it meant, “I am listening, and you have my undivided attention.” Tom was not so ignorant or vain that he failed to understand that.
“What happened to you at that wall, Tom? Why does Gayla think you might be going crazy?”
Tom cleared his throat and broke away from her gaze to the painting on the wall behind Dr. Jellicoe’s head. It was a print – though not a very good one – of Picasso’s The Old Guitarist. Tom’s eyes rested there as he spoke.
“On a Sunday evening six weeks ago, I came out of a 7-11 outside the town of Bendano, with two coffees and a receipt for a tank of petrol. It was around dusk, and Gayla and I were heading home from a weekend in the country, where we’d stayed in our friends’ cabin by Lake Reverie. We’d had an OK time, but nothing special, and we were both thinking of other things on the drive home. We were due back at work on Monday morning, so maybe that’s what was on our minds. I can’t really say for sure now. I don’t remember talking much at all.
“Anyway, instead of going right back to the car, to Gayla, I stopped to look at that wall – the Wonder Wall, it was called – and I guess I stood there longer than I realised, kind of daydreaming or something. I don’t clearly recall what happened around me, just that I heard those kids laughing and talking, and the wall’s colours looked brilliant, and the sun was setting just behind me, so the light started to change on the wall as I stood there watching it. I think it had some reflective bits on it, some shiny parts that caught the light just beautifully. Or, that’s how I remember it, anyway.
“After a while, the wall seemed to develop a shimmer, and it was like it started to breathe – like a living thing. The whales and octopuses and fish began to make swimming motions, and the planets and stars lit up, like real planets, and real stars. And you know, all this time, I was thinking, ‘No wonder it’s called the Wonder Wall, this is fantastic!’ because I was thinking this was all part of the gimmick – even though I couldn’t see how it worked.
“Then, I began to hear music coming from it. First, it was just music like an old calliope would make on a carousel. But then the sounds of the sea rose up out of the wall – real sounds, of waves washing up on rocks, and gulls squawking overhead – even though we were nowhere near the ocean.