Short Story – When the Eye of London Blinked

I flopped down on the wide, pillowy, slid under the fluffy duvet and between the fine sheets.  It was late, the room was dark, I’d had a long day of exploring, but I just couldn’t get comfortable.  You could say I’m bad with hotels.  Not even this particular grand lady, the famous Savoy of London, could woo me into sleep.  True to legend, the hotel was a beautiful old place, lavishly decorated and full of Old World charm.  I was footsore from exploring London, window shopping and sightseeing and trying not to act too much like a blasted Yank.  My return carry on was filled with sweetmeats and trinkets and I fancied I was already developing an accent.

I shifted one way, then the other, trying to find just the right spot.  My business meeting would come early tomorrow and I wanted to make a good impression on the Senior VP of European Export.  I sat up on the pillows, looking out the window.  City lights shone pinkly against the clouds, and I had a good view of that dazzling Ferris Wheel, the Eye of London.  Personally, I hate the thing.  I think it spoils the skyline.  London is meant to be an old and storied city, not a setting for a blindingly modern eyesore.  Then again, I’m not from ’round here, and it’s not really my city to complain about.

Damn it, I thought, I have to get to sleep.  Old Man Bedford isn’t going to put up with me if I’m not a hundred percent on the ball.  He’ll want his money’s worth for flying me all the way over here, and I don’t blame him.  I briefly considered a Scotch and soda.  That wouldn’t do, though, I pondered.  Then I’ll be muzzy and tired.  I just need to relax.  I lay back again, still watching out the window.  Finally, almost miraculously, my eyes grew heavy.  They slid closed, opened again.

I snapped awake.  It was dark outside, most of the building lights were out, and the night sky was perfectly dark.  I jumped out of bed, my heart pounding.  Was there a power outage?  I looked out the window, sniffed vainly for smoke.  The Ferris wheel was completely black – had the power gone out?  I strained to see it, then realized it wasn’t there.  More, the sky was clear and I saw stars.

I looked down at the street and stared at the only glow I saw.  The streetlights had changed.  They were were lower to the ground and had changed to old fashioned looking lamps.  They shone with a yellowish white light.    I blinked hard, shook my head.  Was I dreaming?  The room felt utterly solid and real. The carpet was still soft under my curling toes.

Then I heard an unmistakable clopping sound, along with the rattle as of wheels on cobbles.  Presently, an old fashioned horse drawn cab – I think it’s called a hansom – rolled by.  The horse had his head down and was plodding slowly.  The driver looked tired too, slumped a bit into a his long, dark coat.  He removed his black hat, scratched his head, put it back on, gave the horse a touch of his whip, and they clattered out of sight.  There were no cars in sight, not even the ones that had been parked along the street, and I saw no painted lane markers anywhere.  Only worn, dirty cobbles shining damply under the yellow-white gaslights.  I began to look at the buildings, seeing how everything had changed.

Am I going nuts? I thought.  I leaned closer to the window, straining to see more.  Then the world rippled, there’s no better way to explain it, and all at once everything was back the way it should be.   The blasted Eye stared me down, almost mockingly, and all the streetlights stood tall, shining pinkly against the clouds.  The cobblestones were gone.  Cars were parked outside again.  I couldn’t help but check to make sure they were the same ones.

I hope that conjured up some interesting images for you!