"Loping" is the only possible word for it. Yes. I loped down the street, tired and a little lost. I was about a block and a half away from the bus station in downtown Bellingham, heading towards the waterfront, searching for a street named Alabama. I wasn't having a whole lot of luck. Siouxsie Sioux and her Banshees were wailing on my headphones, proving inspirational on that hot and sunny day. Music was about the only thing able to keep me going at that point. So I get ready to cross State Street, heading towards the center of downtown, right past the bus station, when I see this girl out of the corner of my eye. She was tiny; no more than five feet tall, possibly less, and slender without being unbalanced. She had a very small, delicate face, with a finely crafted nose and peculiarly irridescent eyes. Her hair, a nearly auburn red-brown color, was cut to perhaps an inch above her shoulders. In her arms she cradled two slim volumes; I couldn't see their titles. Her age was unplaceable; her face had the timeless look that can be anywhere between fifteen and twenty-five. She was dressed in a most unusual fashion, and that was one of the first things that caught and held my attention. At first glance, she was wearing clothes that marked her immediately as a part of the goth subculture: a knee-length black velvet frock, high black socks, leather shoes with silvery buckles, an amber-colored crystal on a silver chain, and a silver ankh. However, as I expanded my view of her, I saw that she was also wearing a very large green-and-red plaid flannel, of a thin cotton. Its expansive folds emphasized how slender and small she really was.

Certainly, I swooned.

She seemed, just from looking at her, an almost magical creature. I had the oddest feeling of recognition, as if I had read or heard of her from somewhere. I noticed, at this point, that she was walking very definitely towards me, apparently wishing to speak to me. I of course stopped to let her catch up, hit "STOP" on my CD player, and removed my headphones.

She looked up at me when she was within seven feet or so, and said in a clear voice, "Do you have the time?"

"Certainly... it's three-twenty."

"Oh, good," she said, very softly. "I might make my bus."

"I don't suppose you happen to know where Alabama Street is?"

"Well, I ... yes, I do. But I couldn't tell you how to get there. I just sort of know where it is. I could find it myself if I tried. Bellingham is not really topologically stable, you know? It curves in weird directions, right out of reality. You can know it, but you can't impart the information to someone who doesn't know verbally. You have to just show them."

I laughed, and agreed. She had it exactly right; Bellingham is so inconsistent.

"Any chance you can just... point?"

"I don't really think so," she said. And then in a softer voice, she added, "Oh, I'm so tired..." So soft, this time I could hardly hear her. And by this time we were walking past the bus station, so she began to walk away from me. Her flannel billowed out around her, and she reigned it back in, again bringing to my attention how very delicate she looked.

"Have you been up a long time?" I asked, as she walked away.

To my suprise, she actually stopped and turned around, still hugging her books to her chest. She looked at me with those curious eyes, and spoke in such a voice... it was if she was speaking to something deep inside, with her mind, rather than with the flesh of her vocal cords and mouth. It had a sound of utterly crystalline definition and precision. "Over twenty-four hours," she said, and this mundane phrase was completely at odds with the voice in which she said it. With that, she turned away again, boarded the #27 bus to Bellis Fair and Ferndale, and was gone.

I walked away, haunted by her voice and the strange recognition I felt. It made me wonder as to her humanity as I picked a direction and walked off in search of a street, among other things.

It was some time later that I realized who she reminded me of, exactly. The character of Door, from Neverwhere, the novel by Neil Gaiman. Small, strange eyes, red-brown hair, quiet voice, generally peculiar. I wished to see her again, to learn her name, to find out why she had been up for twenty-four hours, to learn what books she held, to meditate further on the topology of Bellingham. She was one of those people with an aura of story. She wasn't just enigmatic and mysterious; she seemed the sort who could share it. But I shall probably never see her again, and so I shall have to seek stories elsewhere.

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