It was a rare night I’d have to close at the store, but there I was, waiting in the cash office for cashiers to bring in their cash. “Something More” by Sugarland was playing on the iPod, and I was singing along.
I stopped singing when I heard the tube system whirring to life. A cashier was sending up some extra money (what we called a “pick”). Not their whole drawer, but something to count while I waited. I heard the thunk as the tube fell into the pick safe and rolled my chair over to open the door.
As soon as the tube thunked, the whirring began again. I waited for the next tube to drop, then the whirring, yet again. It must be busy out there if the cashiers have this many picks to send me.
The third tube dropped, but instead of the thunk it should have made against the padded floor of the safe, there was a sound as if it had landed on something else, like . . . Grass?
I opened the safe door and nearly fell from my chair. This is from working too hard, right? I rubbed my eyes, shook my head, all those things people do in stories when they think they’re dreaming. Because I must have fallen asleep. That’s it. How else could a vast field have gotten into the little pick safe?
The safe was only big enough to squeeze two crouching adults into it (not that I’d measured that, I was just guessing). But there I was, struggling to comprehend this huge expanse of land. You could have held a few separate football games out there, without anyone getting in anybody else’s way.
How can there be a field that big there, when outside of the office wall, there was a parking lot? A paved road, some woods, then the houses on the adjacent street? I didn’t remember ever seeing a field like this outside the store. In the whole town, even. No, this was a foreign field. Which brought me back to: how did it get there?
It must have been the pick safe fairies: they just waved their magic wands, and poof! A field appeared.
Yeah. They’re working me too hard. I’m just hallucinating. I’d just close the safe door, and everything will be normal when I open it again. After I shut the door, I took a slow, deep breath. I exhaled and pulled open the door.
Crap. I must have gone crazy. The field was still there. What now? Tell the manager we need the safe fixed? Right. How was anyone going to fix this? And what would happen if I was the only one who could see it?
Okay, so I can either check it out, or ignore it. Being curious by nature, I was dying to go in there and check it out. But I also dabbled in a bit of worrying. What if I went in there and something happened to me? What if I was exploring the field when a manager came into the office and—not seeing the field—closed the safe? I’d be locked in this stupid field that only I knew existed. That’s not a situation I wanted to be in.
I thought for a moment, then made my decision. My curiosity won, but my rational mind only agreed to the expedition on one condition: I leave a note explaining where I have gone to anyone who may enter the office. I scribbled a message on a Post-It note: “I’m in pick safe. Please don’t shut door. Kristen” Crazy, but accurate. It’d do.
On instinct, I looked around for anything I may need to bring with me. Since I didn’t know what I would encounter, I didn’t know what to take.
For an instant, I thought of bringing something to defend myself with, in case I was entering hostile territory. However, the only items in the office that conceivably could be weapons of self-defense were the safety cutters in the cabinet. Supposing the hostiles have guns? Even if I knew how to defend myself with a box knife, I doubted anyone would find it intimidating.
Brutally unprepared, I took a deep breath, wiped off the fine beads of sweat that gathered on my forehead, and crawled into the safe. I only had to crawl about five feet before I could stand up in the open field. Looking around, there was nothing but acres and acres of lush grass. I turned back to the safe, but it was no longer there.
My legs started to quiver and my heart quickened its pace as I felt a wave of panic approach. How was I supposed to get back if I couldn’t find the darn safe? I should have brought something to mark this spot with, so I knew where to come back to. But that wouldn’t do me any good, if I couldn’t get back to the office from here. What if I stepped forward and it was just more field?
Duh, I wouldn’t be able to walk into the safe, anyway. I’d hit my head. So I got down on my hands and knees and sighed as relief washed over me. From down there, I was looking straight into the safe. Man, the office sure looked different from that angle. I should grab something from the office to use as a marker before I set off on my exploration.
I crawled back through the safe and looked around for something I could leave that wouldn’t blow away or get taken. Nothing seemed to be of any use. I didn’t want to use anything someone would pick up if they saw it laying on the ground. If I marked the grass somehow . . . But I wouldn’t take a highlighter or a pen to a blade of grass.
My eyes fell on the can of air we used to clean the dust out of our electrical equipment. I knew it could freeze the grass. I wondered if it would kill it quickly enough for me to notice amid the rest of the field?
It was the best I could do, so I grabbed the can and crawled through the safe again. I sprayed the grass in an arrow shape as I felt the can get cold. I kept spraying as long as I could stand to, hoping against hope that it would work.
When the can lost pressure, I discarded it at the point of the arrow. If I couldn’t see the arrow, maybe the can would still be here when I got back.
Back from where? I did a slow 360º, scanning the horizon for any change in the topography of the mysterious ‘Land Beyond the Pick Safe.’
I couldn’t discern any trees or buildings or even mountains in the distance. As I continued a second revolution, a scent wafted by from what I guessed to be the east (judging by the orientation of the pick safe in my office). It was a familiar scent, but I couldn’t place it. I had to find out what it was.