The city was dark and gloomy, almost unnaturally so. Walking aimlessly from one street to the next, Brook Lopez had stopped looking at the buildings he was passing. Each of the towering steel edifices was lacking any identifying information at all. Instead, they all gave off a general aura of malevolence, as if some inhuman industry was taking place within.
It seemed like forever ago that he had ended up here. One minute, he had been sprawled out on his extra-long sofa, sketching out scenes for his in-progress comic book, and the next, he was in this dismal metropolis which seemed like it should have been bustling but wasn’t. Stoplights controlled traffic that wasn’t there. The few illuminated windows revealed no human activity. Rain gathered in still puddles undisturbed by footsteps. The only conversations he could hear were the rumbles of thunder echoing back and forth off the buildings.
He had given up trying to figure out why he been taken to this place. He figured that a rogue fragment of his psyche had overthrown his sanity, and he could only hope that sanity would win out in the end. Until then, he was damned to walk the streets of this lonely city, feeling wet and miserable.
“Hey! Hey!” came a feminine voice from behind him that was accompanied by the rushing clatter of footsteps. Brook looked over his shoulder and saw a woman running towards him.
“I never thought I’d see another person again,” the woman said in between panting breaths. Being a foot and a half shorter than Brook, she had to crane her neck to look him in the eyes. “Do you know where we are?”
“No idea,” Brook answered. “There’s no signs or anything.”
The woman looked put out that Brook didn’t have any more information than she did. “Is this, like, even real? Are you real? Or did my subconscious make you up to provide me comfort in an uncomfortable situation?”
“I could ask you the same,” Brook replied. He started walking again, but purposely kept his strides short so the woman could keep pace with him. “But I’m not going to complain about having somebody to talk to in this comic book-induced hallucination of mine.”
“Comic books?” the woman repeated. “Weird. I was writing fanfiction up until the moment I found myself here.”
Brook grimaced at the mention of fanfiction, a medium of expression which never ceased to mischaracterize his favorite comic book heroes, but his face was so far above the woman’s that his reaction went unnoticed. “It would seem, then, that our creative pursuits have landed us in an alternate dimension where creativity doesn’t exist.” It was a dumb theory when said aloud, but Brook was willing to believe it in the absence of any other plausible theories. “What’s your name, anyway?”
“Amelia,” the woman answered. “What’s yours?”
Brook found himself unexpectedly glad that Amelia didn’t recognize him. It was often tiring to be a public figure. “Brook. Yeah, it’s a girls’ name.”
“I bet at your size, nobody bothers you too much about it,” Amelia quipped. She randomly turned down an adjacent street, so Brook followed her, even though the new street was not appreciably different from the old.
Except it was.
“That building up there looks a bit different from the rest,” Brook said, squinting through the raindrops. “It’s got some color to it, not just gray.”
Amelia likewise squinted into the distance. “That’s good. I was starting to feel a bit hopeless.”
When Amelia said this, Brook realized that he had been feeling the same way. The terrifying prospect of being stuck in this nameless, featureless city for the rest of time had been sneaking into his thoughts. He unconsciously sped up his walking pace to quicker reach their new destination, forcing Amelia to jog to keep up. Soon, they reached the front door of the building, which was a surprise in and of itself; none of the other buildings had doors of any kind. Above the door was a simple two-letter sign: “HQ”.
“Headquarters for what?” Amelia asked.
“I guess we’ll find out,” Brook said, grabbing the handle and pulling open the door.
Contrary to what he had been secretly hoping for, there was no obvious explanation of their predicament waiting for them on the other side. The lobby of the building was, again, mostly gray, with some hints of brown and red. Nobody was there, either behind the reception desk or anywhere else. At the least, Brook had been hoping to find some other lost visitors gathered there.
Amelia once again showed how closely their thoughts mirrored each other’s. “Damn. Empty. Like everywhere else in this city.”
“Not necessarily,” Brook replied, noticing the bank of elevators to their right. “There could be people on another floor.” Hitting the “up” button, an elevator soon arrived. Brook stepped inside, with Amelia following.