The air was damp and crisp. On the ground, leaves crushed under her feet, making loud sounds that seemed to echo lightly down the street. It smelled like a campfire, the sharpness of fire bundled up in the pleasant campfire feeling of togetherness. She was walking slowly, putting the toe of her boot on the edge of each leaf to hear the sharp sound. Her jacket made a rustling sound as her arms moved, adding to the chorus of crunching. It was getting dark, and she watched as the sun slowly set between the buildings. The shop windows were growing dim, and figures in the distance were closing doors to their day jobs. Their hoods up as they walked forward down the long street.
Grey clouds hurried the darkness that came rolling in with a vengeance. Through a sliver of the cloud, the sun let out a beam of light. It glistened down on the sidewalk in front of her, catching as she walked the edge of her hat. The white cotton hat was shoved halfway into her jacket pocket, haphazardly as she always did. A true wonder she had not lost the hat prior. She felt a buzz in her pocket and reached down to locate what she believed to be her phone, although the buzz was oddly unfamiliar. As her hand searched, she looked down to help. “WHAT ON EARTH!” She screamed, looking down at the strange item she held in her hands.
The hat was shining. Her hands were now bright with light and damped with sweat that had nervously accumulated. The light beam hit the top of the hat and reflected in front of her a strange shimmering light. The street was dark, and the clouds that had been rolling in were now standing still above her.
The rustling started again as the wind picked up. Suddenly, everything was entirely silent. On her scalp, she felt a raindrop, one by one, slowly wetting the top of her head.
Her hands were shaking, causing the reflected light to bounce around in front of her. She put her head down, looking down at her black suede boots that were now wet with rain — squeezing her eyes tight, trying to force away the buzzing sound inching up behind her. In her hands, the hat still reflected the beam of light. It was pitch black around her, and too scared to look up, she neglected to find the source of the light. It wasn’t the sun, she was sure. It had hues of pink, purple, and blue. She folded the hat inside out, moving her hands out of fear. The once plain white cotton had turned into a black cosmic print. Her eyes zeroed in on the strange and confusing sight. She tilted her head back, looking at the sky, which seconds ago had been covered in atrocious black clouds. Now, the black sky glimmered with colors, dashes of light pink, blue, yellow, and grey.
In the distance, a beam of light glimmered down. She could hear unfamiliar sounds, and in the glow of light, she could vaguely make out tiny figures. As she walked forward, too scared to move fast, she slowly turned folded the hat so the outside fabric would show. Her hat had turned a silver reflective color. She slid the hat over her hair while trying to watch the figures move under the light. The rain was pouring down now, and her glasses were too wet to be useful. Once the hat was secretly placed on her head, the figures began to disappear, taking the beam of light and rain along with them. Everything was gone within seconds. The cosmic sky that matched the interior of her hat had turned back to a normal evening sky. The clouds were gone, and the wind had died down. People walked down the street with their jacket hoods down, happily as though nothing unusual had happened.
She squeezed her eyes tight, confused about the whole situation. Was she dreaming? She had a new hat to prove it. Instead of the white cotton, it had been this morning, and every time before that, it was now a shiny aluminum ripstop. She reached her hand into her front jacket pocket, “Ouch!” She quickly pulled her hand out, grasping onto a tiny ripped sheet of paper. It was folded neatly, although the edges were torn and crumbled. She hurried to unfold the paper, thinking maybe she had a secret admirer at work, she laughed at that idea. The note was on lined paper and written pink glitter ink, “Stay safe. Xo.” Taped with duct tape to the bottom was a hang tag that read “W’Menswear Conspiracy Hat.”
Confused about the hat, and even more confused about the mystery note, she sat down on the stoop beside her. She didn’t know what she’d just seen. It reminded her enough of a scene from ET that she decided to leave her fears at that level. She re-read the note and wondered what her safety had to do with this hat. All she knew was that when she slid the hat on her head, everything went back to normal. The beam of light disappeared, and the figures in the distance vanished. She folded the note back up and slid it into the front pocket of her jacket. Placing her hands on her hat, she whispered, “Thank you. I will.”
Written by Lulu Graham, graphics by Gigi Pitchaya.