IT IS POSSIBLE


By JoAnn and Larry Baca

 

And it is possible a great energy is moving near me.

From You Darkness, Rilke

 

“Have you found out why we were summoned?”

Catherine was dressed in the Owl Woman costume she had worn the previous Halloween, a light shawl over her shoulders. Her hair was in the same upswept and curled style she had worn then, as well. She stumbled on the uneven ground of the tunnel in shoes chosen for how they complemented the costume, not for how suited they were for travelling through the tunnels Below.

“It’s all very mysterious,” Vincent replied as he extended a hand to steady her. He, too, was dressed as he had been on the evening they had met Brigit O’Donnell, when they had spent the deepest hours of the night in the magical cocoon of “costume” as they toured the city they both loved. “Narcissa sent a message that we were to dress like this and come to her. She so rarely communicates with us in the Home Tunnels that I didn’t feel we should ignore her summons, even though it seemed odd. And she didn’t respond to any of my requests for more information.”

“I wonder how she knew about my costume.”

Catherine had asked the costume shop to find this particular dress, hung deep inside their storage unit, where it had been packed away until the next Halloween season. Although it was mid-February and cities around the world held major celebrations before the beginning of Lent – Mardis Gras in New Orleans, Carnival in Rio de Janero, Carnevale in Venice – New York City was not such a one.  So, since it wasn’t a busy time for them, the shop owner was happy enough to oblige Catherine and dig through her inventory to rent the stunning costume to a repeat customer, even if that customer couldn’t say exactly why she needed it…since she didn’t know herself.

Vincent shrugged as he guided Catherine through the maze of tunnels. ”How does she know many things that happen in the world Above? She has some visitors, but they are long-time Tunnel dwellers. Perhaps she travels to the Whispering Gallery and hears snippets of information. Perhaps….”

He fell silent, and Catherine picked up his thought. “Perhaps she reads it in the bones she casts?” She smiled. “Well, I’m happy enough to oblige her mysterious command performance if it means spending time with you.”

Vincent spared her a quick glance as he negotiated a tricky outcropping and steered Catherine around it, her dress wider at times than the passages they were traveling through. “That’s very…open-minded of you,” he murmured.

Catherine laughed. “’There are more things in heaven and earth….’”

“And Shakespeare knew everything,” he added, smiling in return. “Here, rest a bit. We have at least another half an hour of walking ahead of us, and I know those shoes are not made for trekking through these tunnels.”

# #

That half hour stretched into almost one before they finally neared the entrance to Narcissa’s chambers. Vincent called out to her. “Narcissa, we’re here.”

Silence greeted them. They looked at each other, puzzled, and Vincent said, “Perhaps we should enter. She is expecting us.”

Catherine gazed in wonderment at the oddly decorated chamber that she stepped into, weird shadows cast by the flickering of a few candles giving the room an eerie aura. Brightly colored scarves hung over unlit sconces, and strings of shells decorated cabinets and shelves. A scarred wood table stood in the center of the room, feathers, bottles and herbs strewn across it, and beside the table a large cauldron was bubbling.

 Vincent bent to sniff the contents. “Chicken soup,” he announced, smiling.

Suddenly, they both heard Narcissa’s voice. “Come through the door, child-ren,” she called to them.

There were several dark passageways leading from the chamber. Only one was lit, and from the cast of the light, the glow came from somewhere deep inside. They were drawn to that one, which seemed to invite them to come forward.

“Narcissa?” Vincent called as he stepped into the passage, Catherine at his back.

“Come in, come in.” The old woman’s voice wavered, almost sing-song, beckoning them.

“Can you see her?” Catherine asked.

The source of light might have been a flame of some kind, for it was apparently throwing off smoke, and the passage was slowly filling with it. But the vapor wasn’t causing them to cough, nor making their eyes water. It only blurred their vision. And the further they walked, the more the fogginess deepened, until Vincent had to reach back to grasp Catherine’s hand to ensure they didn’t lose each other in the haze.

“Narcissa?” His voice was nearly lost in the mist, it was so heavy now.

“You are nearly there, child-ren,” was the barely heard reply.

The surface beneath their feet changed. Catherine was the first to notice it, as the soles of her shoes were thin. Gone was the packed earth. In its place was pavement.

“Vincent, something’s….”

She didn’t complete her warning, for just as she began speaking, the mist started to lift. Wisps of fog seemed to hover then dissipate, leaving them somewhere strange…and wonderful. They were in a tunnel of sorts, but not of stone. Rather, they were in an arched walkway, emerging even now into a larger space. It seemed like…no, it was…an open, sunlit plaza of immense proportions. All around them on three sides were arched walkways, and on the fourth side was the façade of a large building. Columns in a variety of colors and sizes covered the base of the building, which had enormous arched doorways. On a balcony above the central doorway was a quartet of bronze horses which seemed to be prancing right out of the building toward them. Domed towers crowned the vast edifice.

Catherine blinked hard, refusing at first to recognize what was clearly – if impossibly – before her. “St. Mark’s Cathedral,” she murmured finally, stunned.

Vincent stared in disbelief. “But St. Mark’s is in….”

“Venice,” supplied Catherine. “Italy.” She looked around at the crowd filling the piazza on all sides. Nearly every person was dressed theatrically. “And from the look of things, it’s….”

This time it was Vincent who finished the sentence. “Carnevale.”

He turned to her and they stared at each other.

Almost at once, they were jostled by others entering the piazza from behind them. They stepped aside and stood together, pressed close to the front of a column supporting a walkway, out of the way of the masses of costumed, partying people. The day was sparkling, and much warmer than usual for February, making it quite pleasant to be outside without winter wraps. Music filled the air from orchestras battling for supremacy from two sides of the piazza, and holiday lights twinkled all around. It was all dazzling…and dizzying. Moments before they had been in a quiet tunnel deep beneath the city of New York, and somehow, in the blink of an eye, they had been transported magically to a city a vast ocean away from Narcissa’s chamber.

“Beautiful, is it not, child-ren?” The voice was so familiar, but when they turned to the source of it, the woman standing beside them, with polished ebony skin and brown eyes unmarred by cataracts, was... young.

“Narcissa?!” Vincent, already in sensory overload, was staring open-mouthed at the beautiful woman wearing a jaunty multi-colored tricorn hat, her low-cut gown encrusted with shells and fluttering with feathers.

“What would the Father say, eh?” She winked. Then, gazing around at the splendid scene, she sighed happily and added, “No more talk. Enjoy!”

The improbably young Narcissa thrust a wad of paper into Catherine’s open hand and pressed Catherine’s fingers closed around it. When Catherine looked down, she was startled to see a fistful of lire, all large bills. Confused, she looked back at Narcissa, but the woman had stepped away from them both. Arms outstretched now, she began to twirl on youthful limbs, faster and faster, laughing with pleasure, her skirts spinning around her, the shells clattering, the feathers dancing in the breeze of her own making, and as she whirled she melted into the burgeoning crowd.

“Wait! Narcissa!!” Catherine’s call went unheard in the cacophony. She turned to Vincent, showing him the money then pointing to the space where their now-young old friend had been a moment before. “What just happened?”

He gazed at the blue sky above the piazza then back to meet her eyes. His own reflected his astonishment…and a measure of delight. “I have no idea. But, with no other choice in view, I intend to do as Narcissa said.” At Catherine’s puzzled look, he added, “Enjoy.”

Her furrowed brow smoothed, and Catherine nodded. “I suppose you’re right.” She was jostled by a laughing man dressed as a satyr who was being dragged into the heart of the square by another man clothed in an elephant’s head…and not much else. Rubbing her shoulder, she added, “Whatever this is, it feels real enough.”

She turned to gaze up at him as she spoke. The sunlight flooding into the piazza burnished Vincent’s hair in golden hues, and the blue of his eyes looked as deep as the Adriatic. Catherine had to force herself not to stare at how beautiful he was in full sunlight. And from the admiring looks he was garnering from the women who were passing by, she wasn’t the only one who noticed.

Smiling, she shrugged. As Vincent had suggested, there was literally nothing she could do about their circumstances at the moment. And it was an opportunity to share an adventure she could never have planned. “All right, let’s enjoy what we have, here and now. Where would you like to go?”

Vincent shook his head, mentally reviewing all he had learned from books about La Serenissima, the Most Serene Republic – the outrageously unique and beautiful city they had somehow found themselves in. There was so much – museums, churches, palazzos, canals…he couldn’t choose. Finally, he decided to draw from Shakespeare, as he so often did. He quoted from The Merchant of Venice. “’What news on the Rialto?’”

Catherine nodded. She knew the city from many visits over the years, so she took Vincent’s hand and drew him away from Piazza San Marco. They had to fight against the stream of revelers who were intent on getting into the place they were retreating from, but by stepping just one calle over from the Mercerie, the main street into the piazza from the Rialto side of the city, they were able to find a passageway that was, if not deserted, at least not filled from edge to edge with costumed people. Vincent followed behind her, amazed at Catherine’s ability to navigate amidst the maze of streets…and he realized she probably held the same amazement for his ability to find his way in the tunnels. Content that at least one of them knew where she was going, he followed.

As they passed a flood of merrymakers, some holding bottles of Prosecco and drinking as they walked, once again admiring eyes turned on Vincent. Cries of “Bellissimo!” and “Magnifico!” greeted him. Catherine caught his eye and they both smiled. It pleased her to see that Vincent was the object of such approving attention, even if others thought he was wearing a mask or makeup. What they all said was true enough: he was magnificent.

Just as that thought crossed her mind, a slightly inebriated woman in a fallen angel outfit walked right up to him, said in slurred English, “That’s the best get-up I’ve seen yet!” and wrapped both arms around his shoulders. Startled, Vincent froze. Just as she stood up on tiptoes to kiss him, her companion tugged on one arm and dragged her, stumbling, away. “Hey, I was about to get a pretty kitty kiss!” she grumbled.

Vincent’s eyebrows shot up, while Catherine collapsed into helpless laughter. “It’s not funny,” he muttered, still stunned at the woman’s bold approach. “It is, a little,” Catherine declared. “And the look on your face….”

They approached the Rialto Bridge, the boundary between two sections of the city - the sestieri of San Marco and San Polo - without anyone else accosting Vincent, and began climbing the long flight of stairs to its center. On both sides of the staircase, and on the bridge itself, rows of shops enticed visitors to part with their money. But they paid no attention to the stores or to the vendors selling from carts along the way. It was Venice itself they were interested in, the city beneath the gaiety, beneath the costumes, beneath the revels.

At the top of the bridge, Catherine pushed through the crowd with Vincent in tow, angling them towards the outer steps and the balustrade behind the shops. From there, they could view a swath of the Grand Canal and watch the boats upon it – water buses, private motorboats, working boats, and rowed vessels of all kinds, including the sleek black asymmetrical gondolas.

Vincent stared at the vision before him: a postcard come to life. The brilliant sunlight played upon the the wide canal, the water glimmering and glinting, while the candy-colored palazzi that rose on both sides hinted at gorgeous interiors and intriguing histories. A month would not be enough time to explore even a portion of this city, yet he had only…well, whatever time he had, it would not be enough. His heart hungered to take it all in. But his eyes lingered most of all on the slow procession of gliding gondolas.

Catherine watched Vincent watch Venice. To her, the sight of him enthralled by this unexpected gift was more amazing than anything this magnificent city had to offer. And whatever conjuring or enchantment or dream they were sharing, she intended to wring every drop of magic from it, for his sake.

As she noted his fascination with the iconic gondolas, she counted the money Narcissa had thrust into her hand. The substantial sum would see them through whatever they might wish to do, at least for quite a while. And since she didn’t know how much time they had, she was determined to spend the money as they planned to spend their time – enjoying themselves.

“Come,” she urged him.

Although reluctant to turn from a view he could spend hours gazing upon, Vincent obediently followed his beloved. She led him down the steps and back into the sestiere of San Marco, the part of the city where so many tourists spent their entire time in Venice. But Catherine again steered clear of the Mercerie, the major calle which would take them back in the direction of St. Mark’s Square, thus avoiding the majority of the crowds. Soon they came upon a gondola station on a side canal, the gondolier leaning on the cement bollard on the pavement above his gondola. The red ribbons of his straw hat fluttering in the breeze were all that moved in that quiet place.

In halting Italian, Catherine asked the gondolier how much it would cost for an hour’s ride. She saw Vincent’s eyes light up as he realized what they would soon be doing.

The young gondolier, Paolo, took in the costumes they were wearing as he listened. It pleased him that this couple had put so much thought and effort into their appearance – the man especially. He smiled at them both and told them that for a special price he would take them on a romantic journey along the smaller waterways and quiet canals, far from the hubbub of the Grand Canal.

Even knowing he would charge them much more than he should, Catherine nodded – she didn’t care to waste time arguing over the price, and she approved of his plan to avoid the touristy areas.

Lire changed hands, and Vincent helped Catherine maneuver onto a seat, the pannier of her costume making it difficult for her to sit on the narrow bench without assistance. But soon they were both ensconced in the slightly rocking gondola as Paolo pushed off, and they glided under a little bridge and into another world.

The smaller canals were almost eerily quiet, the remarkable facades of the buildings they passed evocative of the 1,000-year history of the city, their brickwork defying the water constantly lapping against it. Archways and windows reflected influences from many cultures, pigeons in hidden-away campos fluttered in surprise at their sudden appearance, tiny jewel-box-like churches perched close to canal edges – each vista was worthy of an oil painting. Viewing the city from a gondola was, to Catherine, the best way to see it, and she hoped Vincent would agree.

As she watched him turn from side to side, trying to catch every passing view, she could see he was enchanted, mesmerized. They sat together, holding hands, gazing around them, trying to take all the beauty in as they slid silently down canal after canal. Snippets of conversations wafted past them as they floated by. Occasionally they passed under bridges where revelers crossing them walked or stood waving at them. When Paolo got to a blind corner, his shout of “Oy!” warned any boats on the other side to be aware he was coming, for as a gondolier he had right-of-way.

Although Catherine had planned to focus on watching Vincent sitting in the sunshine enjoying their tour, it had taken little time for her to fall under the spell of the city herself, becoming transfixed by the unique wonders of Venice. So she didn’t notice how often Vincent stole glances at her, nor realize that he was struggling to decide what was most wondrous to him: this breathtaking city, or seeing his beloved Catherine in the sunshine. Whether one, the other, or both, at some point it all became overwhelming, and he sighed deeply, leading Catherine to ask, “Is it what you imagined it would be?”

Vincent, visibly moved, could only shake his head, unable to find words for all he was feeling. Realizing there was no other way to express himself, he lifted her hand to his lips and pressed an adoring kiss to it.

Paolo was, despite his normally jaundiced view of tourists, becoming fond of the quiet couple who were obviously so in love with Venice…and each other. He had been rowing them at random through the quieter parts of Venice as instructed, but once he saw the gorgeously clad and masked man so tenderly kiss his beautiful partner’s hand, he resolved on a specific direction. And so he moved the gondola with purpose through channels used for centuries until he came to the canal behind the Doge’s Palace.

Ahead Catherine recognized the Ponte dei Sospiri – the Bridge of Sighs. Paolo murmured from behind them in heavily accented English, “If a couple kisses beneath the Bridge of Sighs, they will love eternally. It’s Venetian magic!”

Flustered, Catherine blushed hotly, as she had just been thinking of the same legend, but never would have said it aloud. She felt Vincent brace himself and her heart sank; she hated to see anything upset this dreamlike hour for him – like being forced to kiss her when he wasn’t ready, and in front of someone else, and in public. Paolo had meant well, he just didn’t realize the effect such a comment would have on Vincent.

So when Vincent leaned toward her and tenderly kissed her lips just as the shadow of the bridge passed over them, Catherine was nearly unprepared. She did have the presence of mind to kiss him back, however, and she heard Paolo sigh happily, his romantic mission complete.

When they finally glided to a stop and left their gondola, Paolo had a large tip in his hands.

Thereafter, Catherine let Vincent amble at will, turning corners that looked intriguing, marveling at unexpected views, gazing at friezes on ancient buildings in the quiet back streets of the sestiere of Castello. But eventually, although the city beckoned them ever onward, they needed nourishment. As they passed a coffee shop, Catherine tugged on Vincent’s hand. “Shall we have an espresso and a bite to eat?” she offered. When he saw the delightful pastries arrayed in the window before him, his eyes lit up. “Please,” he responded.

The waiter serving them was astounded that the man in the cat mask didn’t take it off to drink his espresso. He admired that commitment to keeping in character, and murmured a barely discernable “Bravo” to Vincent.

Sustained by the light snack, Vincent and Catherine continued their stroll - over stone bridges, into churches both humble and grand, across small campos where the local children kicked soccer balls and played tag while ignoring the visitors in costume who passed through their city. Each of them captured moments in their mind’s eye to remember forever, still stunned at this miracle they were experiencing. This gem of a city seemed like a floating dream – for Catherine, whose repeated visits never failed to rekindle her love for it, and for Vincent, who had fallen completely under its spell from the first.

Eventually the day began to wear them down and even Vincent was getting footsore, walking on pavement being much harder on his feet than the packed earth of the tunnels. A ride on a waterbus was both a quick way to another sestiere of the city and a chance to sit down, so they hopped aboard one, two remarkably costumed people among a mixture of locals and revelers, nobody looking at them twice except in admiration. Traveling on the Grand Canal, more of the city’s grandeur was on display, fully appreciated by them both, and it was only pangs of hunger that led Catherine to suggest they end their ride. They disembarked at a stop in the sestiere of Dorsoduro, Catherine’s favorite part of the city, and she tugged Vincent toward a trattoria that she had always enjoyed on her earlier visits. If this was the Venice of her memory, it would be where she expected it to be. And it was.

The little trattoria was run by a man whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather had also operated a restaurant on this very spot, and whose wife made all the desserts, while his sons waited tables. It was the kind of place where locals ate, so off the beaten tourist trail that two costumed people seemed out of place, even during Carnevale. But Arturo recognized Catherine, and she and Vincent were welcomed like family…and fed like they hadn’t eaten in days. Vincent savored sarde in saor, a dish that had been a favorite in Venice since the Middle Ages, while Catherine ate her favorite appetizer, baccala mantecato over white polenta. They split a primi of bigoli in salsa, a staple of Venetian homes, the pasta rich in a sauce of onions and salt-cured fish. They stayed with fish for secondi, a sea bream so fresh it tasted like it had been swimming just minutes before. And even though nearly full to bursting, they indulged in a Carnevale-time treat, fritole venessiane, for dessert. During their meal, amidst talk of their families and how much Vincent was enjoying his first time in the city, Arturo showed them his new Polaroid camera. He insisted on taking photos of his favorite American tourist Caterina and her Vincenzo, and he gave one to her as a souvenir. Catherine slipped it into a pocket of her costume and smiled her thanks.

# #

“This is my favorite vantage point in Venice,” she told him as they stood on the Accademia Bridge looking out toward the soaring dome of La Salute.

“Like all of Venice…it’s overwhelming ,” Vincent said, sighing in ecstasy. “Walking with you Above in New York on Halloween was wonderful, Catherine, but this….” He threw his arms out wide as if to encompass everything about the day. “This has been truly magical. To walk with you in the sunshine, to wander the streets of this remarkable city as we wish, to be unafraid of meeting strangers’ eyes….”

“It’s a dream come true?” Catherine smiled, knowing it was that for her.

He leaned his hands on the wooden railing and bent forward, breathing in deeply. On his exhale, he whispered, “Yes.”

Gold flecked the waters below them as the sun’s rays grew long and low. A sudden chill caused them both to shiver, just as a mist began to creep along the Grand Canal. It rose and swirled, tendrils reaching towards the highest point of the bridge, where they stood.

“Is this normal at sunset?” Vincent asked.

“I don’t ever recall it,” Catherine responded. “It’s strange, don’t you think?”

The haze moved rapidly, obscuring the buildings on both sides of the canal. Within moments their view of Venice was entirely blocked by a thick fog, and all they could see was each other. “Catherine!” Vincent called, and grabbed for her hand. That was their only anchor as the mist swallowed them.

Feeling disoriented, they stumbled backward, away from the bridge’s railing…and fell onto hard-packed earth. The aromas of candle smoke and chicken soup pervaded their senses. As the mist before their eyes dissipated, they discovered they were sitting against the rock wall of a narrow tunnel. And Narcissa’s voice was calling out to them in a sing-song pattern, “Come in, come in!”

Stunned, the two erstwhile travelers stood and brushed themselves off then entered the older woman’s chamber. Back in her familiar form – old, wrinkled, with a film over her eyes that blinded only one kind of vision - she was stirring soup in her cauldron. Indicating three mismatched bowls sitting on her table, she said, “Eat, child-ren, before you go.”

Vincent was the first to recover his voice. “Narcissa…are we back home?”

A hearty laugh emanated from her lips. “Where else would we be, Vin-cent?”

Shaking his head as if to deny this reality, he said, “But…we were….”

“You just arrived, child. I invited you for soup. Eat now!” Unerringly, the sightless woman ladled steaming, fragrant liquid into the bowls, and indicated a bench for them to sit at. Spoons were offered, and accepted by two very bemused people.

“It’s good soup,” Catherine murmured, vaguely aware she had said that before, another time when she was confused and uneasy.

“Good, yes.” Narcissa drank from her bowl, blowing on the soup and sipping the broth. “Well, I must be off,” she said and, before they were fully aware of it, she slipped away, her bowl left behind on the table, empty.

As perplexing as Narcissa’s sudden disappearance seemed, it hardly registered on the bewildered couple, who were still in a mental fog. “Did we…?” Catherine began, her voice trailing away as she was unable to form the exact question she wanted the answer to.

“Venice…Carnevale,” Vincent offered, confirming what he knew she had meant to ask about.

Relieved, she responded, “Yes!”

Vincent continued to eat his soup, contemplating. Finally, he said, “Perhaps.”

She considered his last comment, disappointment beginning to overtake her earlier euphoria. “It’s not likely, is it?”

With regret shining in his eyes, he gazed at her. “No.” He went back, half-heartedly, to his soup.

“I’m not really that hungry,” she announced, putting her half-eaten bowl of soup on the table. “I’m still….” She hardly dared say what she felt.

“Full from the sea bream with fennel,” he replied.

“I was afraid to admit that aloud.” She shook her head. “That was quite some dream then,” she declared, smiling sadly.

A thought popped into her mind and, wondering, she reached into the pocket where she’d kept the lire young Narcissa had gifted to her. There was no money there now, and she was almost sure she’d had lire left after paying for dinner at Arturo’s.

Understanding her actions and sensing her disappointment, Vincent stated more than asked, “No money?”

“No.”

Wanting so much to believe in the certainty of what they had experienced, Catherine decided not to question further what had happened…or not…but just to relish the shared memories. Those, she hoped, would never fade, unlike the dream-like day that had gone up in a literal puff of smoke.  Memories were even better than photographs, she thought.

Suddenly remembering the other item she had been carrying when their Venetian adventure had ended, she felt inside the other pocket of her gown. Her fingers met something stiff, flat and square.  

“Vincent, in my other pocket….”

Caught up in the same cycle of regret, memory, and resolution to believe what his heart told him was true and not his mind, he cautioned her, “If you pull it out….”

“It could just be the receipt for the costume rental,” she acknowledged, fearing that’s exactly what it was, and not ready for the disappointment that would inevitably bring. It had felt so real, all of it – the sounds, the tastes…the kiss….

As unwilling to give up the dream as she, he suggested, “Or…it could be….”

Her fingers traced the outline of the…whatever it was. “If I don’t pull it out, we can always assume it’s the photo Arturo took of us,” she said, hoping he would agree.

He did. “Then leave it there.”

“You’re sure?” In her heart, she wanted so much to keep the dream alive.

Vincent turned her to look at him. His eyes reflected his certainty. “Yes.”

She pulled her hand out of the pocket and patted it closed.

“It’s been a long day. Let’s go home,” she said.

# #

“Hey, Hilda, that lady who returned that owl costume?” Marcy had watched Hilda accept the dress from the woman, who seemed reluctant to part with it.

Hilda, busy organizing paperwork, said distractedly, “Cathy Chandler, yeah. What about her?”

“She left something in the pocket.” Marcy stared at the item she’d found.

“Money?”

If it had been, depending on the amount, Hilda would call the client.

Depending on the amount, Marcy might not have told her she’d found any.

“No,” Marcy replied. “A photo. Polaroid. Her and somebody in cat-face and a Renaissance costume. Should we call her about it?”

“Set it aside. I’ll call her later.”

Marcy tossed the photo onto the counter. “OK.” As she lifted the costume onto a rack, the hem swept the photo off the counter. Marcy didn’t notice it slide between the counter and the register. And Hilda completely forgot about the photo and never looked for it.

# #

Hilda looked up at her next customer. “Miss Chandler, back again this Halloween! What kind of costume do you want this year?”

“Same as last year,” Catherine said, smiling. “I’m especially fond of it.”

“Hmmm…that was the Owl Woman, right? The one you rented in February too? Why do you like it so much?” Hilda was always interested in customers’ reasons for wanting certain costumes; it helped her stock her inventory to meet anticipated needs.

“I have a lot of…good memories…associated with it,” Catherine responded.  

A short time later, Hilda handed her the gown, encased in a garment bag.

Catherine hugged the costume close as she took a taxi back to her apartment. Her thoughts were far from the busy city streets, gliding down a quiet canal in another city a dream away.  In her silent apartment, she gently hung the garment bag in her bedroom closet, smiling as she closed the door.

There, the costume waited for the night when once again the walls between the worlds grew thin.

With a Polaroid in its pocket.