Once upon a time, day before yesterday, in a time before time, before everything changed, Randall's horoscope, meager as a fortune cookie, said: Now. So he took himself a sick day and walked down to the park.

In the bitter grey clay and asphalt gravel, the children played, lifting their feet to the squalling rhythm of chain and hinge, the hollow wood thud of see-saw. Expecting nothing really, and going on much as usual, Randall sat back and waited. The children took three giant steps, ten baby steps, asking permission and advancing against the turned back of authority. Somewhere, close, a soft voice said, MotherMayIcomehomenow?

Randall growled, turning his head. But no one was there.

No one was there, close by him where the voice had been. But there was someone, farther away. At the edge of the park, a woman he didn't know was waving to him. A woman in a white dress and dark blowing hair, waving to him as if he might rise and lope across the distance in graceful slow-mo to take her in his arm, sweep her up and whisk her away. He watched as she mouthed the shape of his name: Randall. or perhaps it was simply: Run.

She turned and started away (he, on his bench, knees spread to bear the weight of his stillness). Halfway across the street she turned to look back. Screeching around the corner, a squat green cab caught her from behind. Momentarily weightless, angelic, arms outstretched; she hurtled through the air, back toward him.

Children tangled in his feet. The gravel slithered and hissed. Randall was running, willing the distance behind him, pulling the intersection closer and closer. Out of thin air a crowd congealed, elbows and shopping bags. Nothing yielded to his urgency. Sirens wound out of alleys and gutters, through sewer grates and the branches of trees. Sirens reeled from the fingers of children, falling and laughing, crying in pain. Randall pushed and grunted his way through the hedge of umbrellas and chain-leashed dogs, while the crowd scolded and shouldered him back. The sirens died and shrank away.

In the street he found nothing; broken glass and bottle caps, spent cigarettes, the crowd dispersed. No trace of horror or beckoning glances. No lips caught catching his name. No blood unpulsed in the sight of him. Nothing but the high, dry afternoon, the sky a bleak and threadbare blue.