He was 37. It was the middle of a long, hot, and damp summer — like the pressing of a flower between the leaves of a book — and he woke up in the middle of the night.

“Who’s there?” His voice rattled the pots and the pans hanging from the ceiling of the kitchen where he’d dragged his mattress to escape the clutch of his bedroom and in the tinny reflection of his disorientation he realized that there was no there there. In the dark he stumbled to the pale smear of the window and threw it wide, gasping for the air that wasn’t there. The building across the way that he’d studied for months for lack of a better view was missing, and the tossed swirl of the alley far below was gone, too. There were clouds there, and, much, much farther below, what looked like a crumpled t-shirt but what turned out to be (like a picture of a box that abruptly faces the other way) the sea.

He screamed and threw a pan out the window in desperation, expecting to see it crash into the brick wall he couldn’t see and then into the dumpster he couldn’t see, but instead it arced slowly and impossibly out into space before he lost it in the clouds. There was an explosion like a pigeon taking off and a sharp, androgynous face thrust itself through the window.

“Wait,” it said, and he screamed and threw another pot.