How Long Does It Take To Step Into Another Universe?

I'm in a city called Red Jakarta. It resembles Venice, with a strong dash of Constantinople thrown in. There are roads and canals throughout the city, and most of the buildings have domed roofs of red slate or patinated copper. The air is hot, dry and dusty.

I'm a young Asian man and I'm working in an underground theater. It seems that free speech is heavily proscribed in Red Jakarta, and this theater was a place to go to furtively watch anti-government propaganda and smuggled prints of films that have been banned. The theater is small - about thirty battered seats - in the basement of another business's building. I act as a janitor, usher, security man and help collect donations from audience members.

I work with two others. One is an older white woman, who owns the theater and takes care of obtaining the films and paying off the local authorities. The other is a younger girl, a pretty half-Asian woman with long hair and a sad face. She's sad because she has lost her family to government thugs, and wants to flee the city before she is killed, too.

It seems I'm not too honest, as I'm stealing about half of the donations that are made - meager as they are. Most of the visitors to this theater are very poor, but they all give what they can afford, which is barely enough to keep it going. However, I believe my theft is justified, because I am using the money to get exit visas for myself and the young girl. I'm not in love with her, but I feel sorry for her, and I want to make her happy.

The boss learns of my theft, and she is ready to turn me out onto the street, until I tell her why I was stealing the money. The girl is with us, wearing a rumpled dirty dress that resembles a cut-down wedding gown. She is on the verge of tears - sadder than usual - and the woman tells me that the girl is being forced by her needy circumstances to marry a near-stranger. Of course, I'm righteously indignant about that.

The woman tells me that she will forgive the theft if I take the girl and try to get out Red Jakarta tonight. The woman has assumed that I am in love with the girl, and I don't see any point in correcting her - in case the truth causes her to change her mind. I take the girl in my arms, a chaste hug of celebration, and I hear the woman ask "How long does it take to cross into another universe?"
"No time at all." I reply, as I realize that I love the girl, after all.





Tell me your dreams