Back upstairs, Officer Lidbeck wouldn’t look Miranda in the eye. “I’ll call your guardian.”
Miranda needed to see Dad more than ever. She didn’t even care about finding answers anymore, she just wanted to know he was okay. Maybe he’d finally tell her it was going to be okay.
“No need, he said he’d be here.” She looked at her watch face, not really registering the time. “Any minute.”
Officer Lidbeck didn’t look like she believed Miranda, but she wiped her face and sat at her desk. The desk was now ornate, made of gentle curves. The front corners were carved like multifaceted bug eyes. Wooden dragonfly wings radiated out from the corners. Officer Lidbeck ran her hand along the curved edge of the desk like it had always been that way. Miranda thanked her and left.
Outside, Miranda tripped on a concrete curb at the bottom of the stairs. She fell into a light pole.
When she looked up, it took her a second to register what she was seeing.
There were no streets anymore.
The sidewalk extended out from either side of her. Within a block it twisted around itself and disappeared around a corner. Sidewalks twisted around buildings, sometimes forming unconnected loops. In between the sidewalks was tall green grass. Sections of sidewalk lifted up off the ground to form curved bridges over other sidewalks.
People basically used the sidewalks, though they had to cut across the grasses to get anywhere. Certain patches had paths cut through them where people had beaten down the grass by walking on it over and over. There weren’t any cars in sight.
The layout of the buildings was basically the same. Shouldn’t the buildings change with the streets? With the way the grasses were tromped on, this setup had been here for a while now. Had the people changed? People’s environments changed how they interacted with each other.
Miranda had to sit down on the edge of a sidewalk for a minute. Mr. Murphy’s store was now a cell phone store. Mr. Murphy stood out front like usual, still dressed like a shopkeeper.
It as one thing for reality to change, but it made no sense for it to change and not leave ripples in everyone’s lives. Mr. Murphy should have changed. It shouldn’t even be Mr. Murphy working there.
Maybe she was crazy to try to apply any kind of sense to the changes. Nothing made sense anymore. Maybe she couldn’t apply logic to any of it.
She took off her shoes and socks and stuck her feet in the grass. The tall fronds parted like a curtain. She wasn’t even sure what species of grass it was.
If Dad was here, she’d leave town with him in a second. No arguments. She’d get a bus and bring Cindy and her dads. She’d … fix Alice. She sighed.
A grass stalk broke off easily in her hand. She waved it in front of her eyes. Alice had said she’d changed over time. Now that she’d said it, Miranda realized it was true. Like a fog cleared, Miranda now remembered how Alice had started out fairly normal. Again and again she changed, and changed and changed. Why hadn’t Miranda remembered that?
Her head hurt. She should walk right out of town, out into the countryside.
She jumped and twisted her neck around. Cindy stood on the side of the sidewalk, looking at the grass like she didn’t want to get her shoes wet. She held a coat in her hand. Looking at it, Miranda realized she herself was cold. She shivered and stood up. Her butt was wet where she’d slid off the sidewalk onto the grass.
Cindy held the coat out and looked at the ground. “Dads were worried.”
Miranda got up. “Thank you.” When she took the coat, Cindy looked up at her face, but just for a second.
“I’m sorry, Cindy. I really am.” She pulled the coat on. It was a little short, so she pulled down at the hem, hoping it would cover the wet spot. “You shouldn’t have come out in this.”
Cindy shrugged. “Some of the houses are changing too. Dads are starting to notice.”
“Really?” Miranda was starting to form a hypothesis. “I need to see my dad.”
The hospital still thankfully sat on the top of the hill. The sidewalks wound up to it like snakes. Cindy looked up at the hospital. “Can I come?”
Miranda wanted to hug her. “Sure.”
Hopefully the hospital was still … a hospital. Once they went around the corner off of main street, the sidewalk became weirdly steep. Eventually it was easier to just walk on the grassy parts. At least they got some traction from the dirt. How did they get sick people up to the hospital?
Cindy looked disgusted. “This is stupid.”
Miranda couldn’t disagree. “If things keep changing, it’ll be impossible to get anywhere.”
“We probably wont even have houses.”
Miranda laughed. “Maybe we’ll have caves.” She stopped. Maybe the next change would put them underwater, or in space. She felt a chill.
When exactly had the changes started. Even Alice wasn’t the start of it.
She thought about the stuff she’d said to Cindy about her dads. “I’m sorry I called you freaks.”
They were both a little out of breath from the hill. After huffing a few times, Cindy waved the apology away.
Miranda felt like there was more she should say. “I think I’m just jealous.”
Cindy smiled. “I kind of feel sorry for people who don’t have three parents. Each of them is good at something. I wish everyone had that much …”
“Yeah. It’s awesome.”
Something itched at the back of Miranda’s mind. “I wish we knew more about where you came from.”
Cindy blushed. “It’s not like I don’t know where babies come from. I’ve been on the internet.” She grabbed some tall grass and whipped it in front of her. “My dads are starting to worry.”
The hospital was still at least another hundred feet up the hill. Something bugged Miranda. She walked in silence for a bit.
Cindy said, “I didn’t think about how lonely you must be. I have the four of us. You really only have you and your dad.”
Miranda stopped. A cold feeling ran down her spine. “You mean five.”
Cindy turned around. “What?”
“The five of you. Four dads and you.”
“What are you talking about?” Cindy bunched up her skirt in clenched fists.
“You have four dads!”
“Stop yelling at me! We talked about this. You said I used to have four dads and now I have three.”
Miranda sat down on the grass. She didn’t know how to talk about this anymore. She put her hands on her head. She just wanted to go home.
Cindy wailed. “I have three dads!”
Miranda didn’t look up for a bit. When she did, Cindy was gone. She turned around and saw Cindy was crossing the ridge to the hospital lawn. Miranda jumped to her feet and ran up after her.
She was out of breath when she got to the flat lawn, but she ran till she caught up with Cindy. They didn’t talk, just trudged to the front entrance. Cindy just stared at the ground as they walked.
As they approached the sliding doors, Cindy whispered, “You have to help me.”
She grabbed Miranda’s arm; her voice cracked. “Please.”