I became conscious of the dream as my friends and I passed through a tea room on the third floor of the Mall of America. It was a familiar area, though one that I'd only ever visited in other dreams, at the time associating it with an art gallery. This time, though, the lighting was moody and brooding, the tables were small, circular and adorned with tea-lights, and there were no beanbags to speak of. Around the tables were seated snappy-looking business people, all uptight and tense in their shiny black shoes; they sipped their coffee (which was a black as their shoes) through precisely pursed lips, crossed, uncrossed and recrossed their legs, and adjusted the positions of their briefcases -- which were as equally shiny and angular as their apparel -- with a terseness and neatness that I found irritating to the extreme.
My group of friends swaggered noisily and unbotheredly through the tense atmosphere, chatting , laughing and goofing off. We flung open the double doors at the end of the room, letting the bright illumination flooding from skylights beyond the door to permeate some of the gloom of the tea room. As we departed, I turned and noticed with satisfaction that some of the room's occupants were grimacing and wincing in the sunlight. I left the door open as I ran to catch up with my friends.
At the food court, we parted ways, the more rambunctious of my friends wandering off into an amusement park section of the mall, leaving myself, my boyfriend and one of our quieter friends to fend for ourselves and go where we pleased.
Hoping to escape the hubbub and nerve-wracking humdrum of the building itself, we decided to go picnic on the front lawn (I had some food in my backpack, as I avoid eating mall food when I can). The mall doesn't really have a front lawn at all, but there was, to our knowledge, quite a verdant one waiting just beyond the sidewalks that led to the mall's entrances. Unfortunately, we would have to navigate our way through the all-too-garishly-colored theme park before we could take our luncheon.
We began to resignedly wend our way through the park, dodging anxious, flustered mothers, their runaway, sugar-high children wearing wheeled shoes, bored fathers, school groups, and vendors hawking their wares like you wouldn't believe. Ignoring all of this, we hurried through mazes of roller coaster lines, balloon stands, and ticket booths, finally emerging into a cobblestone-floored plaza; escape was near at hand!
I looked around me, grinning, hoping to share some wry witticism with my boyfriend or with my other friend, but they were nowhere to be found. Had they gotten lost in the crush of the crowd? I called out for them breathlessly, verging on panic, but I shouldn't have worried, for they stepped out from behind a hot-dog vendor's cart a moment later.
Travelling in company again, we stepped through the revolving doors and into the sunshine.
It was a bright, Spring-like day. Filled with a sudden enthusiasm, for the sun was like a balm to my worries, I cartwheeled across the lawn, springing and bouncing with delight. I came to a stop sprawled on the lawn, giggling to myself and staring up at the clouds. I waited for a few moments for the other two to catch up, but they didn't come. I heard their laughing voices retreating into the woods behind the mall. What were they doing? We were supposed to be having a picnic, but somehow my boyfriend had my backpack and he and my other friend were walking into the woods and ditching me.
In the time it took for me to register my immediate confusion and (surprisingly for me) anger, they had already turned a bend in the path and disappeared from my view. I sprung to my feet and ran into the woods after them.
For a long while I chased the two, never seeming to be able to catch them. Sometimes, as I rounded a corner, I would see them strolling ahead of me, casually holding hands and chatting amiably before they disappeared from my view again. Occasionally, I would hear one of the laugh from what sounded like very close by, and I would get excited, nervous, confused and angry all over again, thinking that I was about to happen upon them.
The farther I chased them into the woods, the more lost I became. The trees started morphing into shelving that held all manner of pharmaceuticals in shiny glass bottles, the carpet of underbrush turned into linoleum tiling, and woodland creatures took on the semblance of employees. One of them, a kind-looking blonde-haired lady, tried to stop me as I strode past her, asking what was wrong and if she could help me with anything. I shoved past her, paying her no heed, and opened a pair of double doors.
It was only when I stepped into the tea room, whose atmosphere didn't seem so unsuitable anymore, that I noticed I was crying. The double doors closed behind me and everything went black.