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Stories and Poems from Underground

Timothy Ballan

© 2010

Contents

Acknowledgements

3

Disclaimer

4

A Possible World

5

Absurd Poems

45

Chasing the Shrinking Universe

48

Serious Poems

52

"Maxims"

56

Yashid's Dream

59

About the Author

74

Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge my friend Molly Kienzler for helping proofread this book.

Disclaimer

I refuse to use quotation marks in such a way that envelopes any

commas or periods not suggested by the quoted material.

example, quoting a child saying the words "I don't want to go now",

I did not put the comma within the quotation marks, as the comma is

not suggested by the child's words. On the other hand, I will end this next sentence in a different way. As someone once said, "Use your head, not your rule book." With a similar emphasis on clarity over convention, I also follow dashes with commas at times. Even if preceded by a dash–– as I will now demonstrate––, I retain commas that retain usefulness. Beyond just punctuation, though, I'd hope abundant clarity pervades my writing, from word order, to sentence structure, to overall presentation of ideas.

For

A Possible World

My head hurts, but it's wearing off. I was hit with a football in gym class, making me less apt to enthusiastically participate in the future; I'm just not athletic. But I do love nature––different from how many athletes perceive it as something to "use" as a playground. I wish there were some place I could easily find–– some school, area, state, country––where people thought more like me, and I could learn from them rather than constantly being annoyed by small-mindedness.

I'm on a walk in the woods behind the school in a part I've never been, moving along speedily to calm my mind and "walk off" my head injury. But, my head starts hurting again, as I'm blinded by something shining in my eye attached to a rocky incline a bit in front of me. I think it's a door.

I'm not even supposed to be here––I should have gone to the nurse or at least told someone I was leaving the gym. But, my distaste for all mundane and usual emboldens my steps forward; I am determined to explore deeper into these woods.

I see, as I come closer to it, that this is a tiny door, but gilded, ornately carved, and shiningly maintained as if leading to a chamber of some still-living king of antiquity. I am feeling at least adventurous enough to give this door a try.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn't open easily. I pull enough to slip off the strangely modern angular handle and fall backward, while it then, even more strangely, opens inward, and slowly. Thankfully I didn't get hurt again in this fall. I don't understand why I am so clumsy.

As I gather myself up, even as I approach the door, I can't make out anything but shallow darkness beyond it. I decide, hesitantly, that I

am adventurous enough to poke my head in.

Immediately, I am overcome by a pungent woody and moist smell and feel. But, I can see now, at least enough to tell that this is some sort of tunnel. As my eyes further adjust to the darkness, I can see that the tunnel opens up a little a few feet back. Something draws me to wonder what lies beyond my vision, though. But, to peek further in, I'd need to hoist myself up into the opening of the tunnel. Though I am feeling less and less inclined to explore further, I am committed to a sense that I need to continue. Inclination is just based on past experience; I deeply feel I need to do this, somehow.

I step on a ledge of the rock to hoist myself up enough to reach in

further, and, then, I draw my arm back some in order to lift myself

more into this tunnel. Though I am not very physically coordinated,

I manage to figure out how to twist and position my body and its

weight so as to get my whole self into the beginning of this tunnel.

The further in I reach, the more this tunnel seems to open up. But I won't reach in much further; it just seems that I should find at least some explanation for this curious door partway up a rock ledge in these woods behind my school.

The light behind me dissipates as I crawl further and further in, but, somehow from far beneath me, a reddish glow emanates enough to just barely light my way. I notice that, while the tunnel begins to open up, it also gradually descends, and while becoming gradually steeper.

I've come to a point where I think I could actually stand––though probably with somewhat of a hunch. As I rise and plant my feet, however, I find that the ceiling above me is far higher than I thought. I also find that, while still richly moist, the soil beneath me is somehow solid enough to provide helpful traction. And, as the reddish light only seems to have increased as I've descended, I feel

confident to walk on.

I trek forward for a while, anticipating each step according to the

tunnel's growing steepness. Suddenly, however, I come to a seeming wall––but that turns out to be just a corner. As I turn the corner, I can't believe it, but there are wooden plank steps hammered into the soil. These can't be very old, and, overall, this tunnel would seemingly have to be frequently maintained for it not to collapse. Although, I don't know much about these types of things that require much physical ability.

As the reddish lighting increases, I can see more easily as my steps spiral further and further down, and as this spiral becomes increasingly narrow. Feeling slightly uncomfortable with a growing humid pressure, and feeling increasingly claustrophobic, I quicken my pace, hoping to find something that would satisfy my curiosity enough to retrace my steps.

It seems I've come so low in the earth that it would be difficult for the ground to have been dug any further from the shrinking ceiling above me. It is so hot, moist, and soil-y that I feel dizzy. I think I have to turn around; this is too much, and I feel increasingly unsettled in an eerie place that I don't understand.

As I go to pivot, I notice beside me, to my left––the side of me where I suppose I didn't notice before––an old, rotting, moldy, greenish, wooden door. My curiosity is once again piqued, and I forget about any dizziness. I still feel a little creepy about all of this around me, though, but not enough to outweigh what is keeping me from leaving.

I open the door with great ease to unveil, down more spiral but

blackened metal stairs, the floor of a room that, at its center, is a polished honey-colored wood-floor roller-skating rink surrounded by a low white wooden picket-like fence and an old manila-colored

linoleum floor beyond that. The walls are manila-color painted cement blocks, and the ceiling is old white foam tiles with bright tubes of fluorescent lights scattered evenly about it. Like the steps I just passed down, this room is well-maintained and clearly not forgotten.

Most strikingly, ten metal coat hanger-like poles––but with no spokes for coats––are each skating upon one wheel around the skating rink, but gliding with no change in speed, all circling almost silently and with no change in style or any other type of movement.

Pulled on solely by overwhelming fascination, I proceed to slowly climb down these stairs. I move only slowly both because I feel to be in some sort of "curiosity shock", and because I intend to avoid notice from these objects––even though they clearly seem to be inanimate. I don't know why I'm proceeding so cautiously; I guess I just don't want to change anything in this place that I have yet to make any sense of. I'm sure these strange skating objects are not "alive".

I near-tiptoe around the rink to a green, rotted door nearly identical

to the one I just passed through, opening it to unveil, somewhat disappointingly, a tunnel of the same nature as the one I just came here through. But, this tunnel is at least different in that it is completely level and lit by neatly arranged and bright electric bulbs within old-fashioned glass lanterns held and decorated with neatly tempered black metal strips. As I slowly and softly close the door behind me, I now thankfully again feel at least comfortable enough to breathe and walk at a normal volume and pace.

I walk on for about a minute down this straight passage until a

sudden corner. As I turn it, I feel abruptly transported to some far underground maze-like Egyptian crypt, the walls and floors sandy in color, make, and sudden dirtiness. This place seems long-forgotten, and I feel a deep foreboding pressure in my stomach, and some

burdensome weight from the air pushing my whole body further down than I would like.

I begin to quicken my pace to follow some light that seems to evade

me, though everything remains somehow lit. I turn corner after corner with no methodical plan but to find a main light source that may not even be there. And I just now realize that each corner I turn is part of chains of rooms housing sarcophagi after sarcophagi. My stomach feels to drop even further within me.

I stand dazed with a sense of some dizziness until I am suddenly

made alert again by something I did not immediately notice before me: a woman of clearly Middle Eastern descent and culture sitting on a ledge, expressionless and very plain in features and attire but for her enormously fat size and shape. Though this woman doesn't even seem to notice me, I carefully yet quickly back away from her.

I more rushingly and desperately search through the halls now, no

longer searching for any light source, but only for the way I came in, so I can return to a world that doesn't sicken and scare me so. But, all at once, even now, pure curiosity yet again pulls me to explore further into this world. I have gradually become aware of

some rising sound all around––the very subtle but certain rolling of

a large gong. I am fully intrigued and wholly drawn to find the source of this sound.

As I pass through these mostly rectangular but many-cornered hall- like rooms, I seem to be coming closer to this crescendoing apparent gong. As I continue searching, though, I once again come across the strange lady. Even though the room is strangely identical to where I saw her before, I am certain that this is not the same room. I am also certain that this is the same lady as before, though––even though she somehow, bafflingly, has shed an appearance of rotundness and now looks to be of an average body size. I stare at her probably awkwardly, but, once again, she looks interested in

neither me nor anything. offended.

I rush away from here, somehow

As I hear myself coming even closer to the gong now, I see the lady yet again––who, actually, may be a different lady, I suppose––, but she now appears to have the body type of an extreme anorexic. I don't give her much attention at all this time as I rush around a couple more corners and finally spot the gong, played by a little boy.

This small blonde boy seems very shy, sitting in a corner on a small foldable rusted metal chair, hitting the gong with a padded mallet with one hand and, with his other, holding a poorly red-painted sign that reads, "I cannot smile".

Despite all my angst leading up to this point, at least I am certainly made to smile here.

"I bet I can make you smile," I say.

The boy responds only by tentatively looking further away from me than he already has been. I begin to dance a strange little jig while singing a song filled with nonsense words, only increasingly exaggerating my voice and movements little by little. I can tell the boy is trying to hold back a smile, and, all of a sudden, I see him let out a large grin––but for a moment. His grin quickly fades into a look of utter horror. His body soon explodes with a powerful blast, as I hurry backwards away from him, bumping into a sarcophagus on the way.

I'm not hurt, but apparently the boy, who was a robot, is. A large amount of springs, screws, spokes, wheels, smoldering artificial flesh, and blue gassy-smelling liquid has spread all over the room. I feel very bad about this, but how was I supposed to know this would happen?

I

guess I found the source of the gong, but now what? I know I

could turn back, but I am feeling strangely more confident that I can and somehow should stay here––at least for a while. I feel that I am shaking with adrenaline that I'm sure is at least partly from fear, but something is pulling me through and outshining this and all other negative feelings.

As I leave the room full of robot parts and juice, I find that I'm closer to an exit from this place than I thought; I can see a strong light surely coming from just around a few more corners. I run excitedly through three rooms, but the next room is filled with the faces of just about twenty sleeping green ladies somehow built into the floor.

I tiptoe between the ladies' faces as I note that each wears an

identically-painted extreme and exotic display of makeup. As I stop to examine the makeup on one face near the room's center, it suddenly awakes with wide eyes and begins to shriek. As all other faces awake, they each also begin shrieking. Frustrated, I give up on tiptoeing and just walk forward out of this room. I think I may even have stepped on part of one of the faces on my way out.

Quickly forgetting about this situation, though, I rush past a few more corners and am surprised by a gentle spring breeze coming from below and all around me, as I am exiting an apparent cave on a low hill in a brightly green and yellow forest. I am sure it was fall before I came down, or over, or however I got here. Although, I'm not so sure that I shouldn't question my memory if so much I thought I knew has been cast into doubt even within the last half hour.

I am startled to feel someone approach from behind me, but they proceed to speak soothingly enough for me to avoid reacting

jerkingly, as they take my hand and caress it, saying, "Shh

here." I turn around to see a lady of apparently Eastern Asian

I am

descent who has a smiling and heavily comforting presence.

This lady slowly leads me down the low hill before us and up stairs that wind around a nearby very tall redwood-like tree, to a makeshift hut decorated with parts of old plastic dolls on the inside. I am a little fearful of these heights, but, for some reason, I wholly trust this woman. She lies me down on a table padded with green plastic- coated foam to give me the most soothing massage I've ever felt.

After a few minutes of this bliss, I hear her give out a tortured scream. I quickly turn to see her quickly evaporating. She is smiling more heartily than before, though, as she waves and laughs a little while disappearing. I suppose her scream was a weird joke of sorts.

A little shaken––though I'm becoming increasingly less surprised by strange things happening here––, I cautiously descend back down the long makeshift, rickety stairway that led me to this interesting tree house. I only now realize how poorly structured and dangerous these stairs are, though, so I am far more cautious on them than I was before.

As I finally reach ground level again, I look up to assess the height I just descended. I notice then that there are huts like the one directly above me in every small to gigantic green- and yellow-leaved tree that I can see. As I walk on, though, I need to look down instead of up, since I notice that the ground before me is gradually only increasingly sloping downward.

Even while the steepness before me only further increases, I somehow manage not to slip down this leaf-covered slope. While I focus on maintaining careful footing, though, I do happen to notice that the orange-brown leaves coating the ground are oak even while none of the trees above are oak. I soon reach level ground again, however, and find a completely different kind of forest before me.

The forest in front of me includes trees of all sorts, from deciduous to coniferous to a few jungle-like trees with huge brown-orange trunks and dark green, shiny, thick leaves spotted with ghost-white palm-sized dots. I also notice some animals here and there, seemingly hiding in shady spots. They each appear calm and harmless, thankfully.

As I walk on, the first type of animal I make out looks like a relatively miniature kangaroo. I then notice squirrels with very long tails curled into several-level spirals with some space in between each level. Further on, I walk past a gigantic raven-type bird to my right, staring fixedly ahead, not seeming to notice me––or care that I'm here. I continue on slowly and quietly so as to avoid this giant bird's attention––I'm sure it could eat me if it wanted to.

Continuing ahead, I soon hear a strange, clearly-voiced "meow" in a low, gargly, and echoey voice. I look up to see a strange clown-like orange, brown, and red plush owl who must have uttered this. By this point I just roll my eyes––was there any purpose for this? Although, maybe there is and I just don't understand.

I notice that I've been starting to follow a path, and I soon reach an intersection with another path. Crossing in front of me, I have to wait for a tall, pig-like man who grunts and moans, looking like he is not trying to run fast at all––though he mimics some gestures of running, such as in letting his arms swing flaccidly.

I have been waiting for at least half a minute as this huge man––

who thankfully doesn't appear threatening––inches little by little onward, blocking my way. I suppose I could move around the path, but the trees have started to grow very thick here, and I don't want to offend this pig man.

I feel some heavy breathing on my neck and notice that someone

else is waiting behind me, as if at a traffic light. It is an approximately fifteen-foot slowly-panting potato-like, bird-like

creature in the shape of a huge hour-glass––though his top half, only

a head, is slightly smaller than his enormous torso that is supported

by thick bird legs almost as long as his body. I've had enough of this, so, no longer caring about offending the pig man––or this potato bird––, I squeeze through the now mostly jungle-like trees of all different sorts and cut around the blocked path intersection.

As I am off the path for just a little while, I see an enormous mushroom shaped like a foam sports fan hat, though it is about ten feet tall and, at its rounded point, eight feet wide. It has intricate patterns mostly forming a spiral ring around a face that looks like it is in great pain. Beneath the mushroom is a man lying on his stomach in order to wear this as a hat. I did not see him at first because his face is painted black.

I catch myself rolling my eyes again and gently admonish myself,

reminding myself to keep an open mind, however silly this all may seem. I turn back onto the path and feel proven right to have told myself to calm down, as I soon notice a soothingly peaceful scene before me: a large nest filled with several cuddling sleeping zebras, on the edge of a field that looks like a savanna. This world is not all just silly, as I guess I knew before when I was more terrified than amused and semi-annoyed. And, I suppose "silly" is very subjective anyway.

Before the edge of the savanna lies a small brightly clear pond, to the left of the path. Entranced by some sound, I go to walk along its edge and see that it is larger than it at first appeared, curling behind some trees. At its center, I see a lady covered in––or made of––pink and yellow flower pedals dancing while floating in the air above the water, and singing some intensely mellifluous melody that I could imagine belonging to enchanted sirens of Greek mythology. Then, I notice on the sheet-rock bottom of the pond a small man smilingly

appreciating the music apparently sung for him.

I am suddenly knocked off my feet, though, by a man who looks to be from some aboriginal tribe, his tan skin covered by some leather, but mostly feathers and red, yellow, and blue paint. Wide-eyed, flapping his hands, and pushing his tongue up and down in between his teeth and upper lip, he hops from side to side, looking like a dancing marionette, trying to greet me I suppose, after purposely knocking me over.

As I rub my head to check for any pain, I hear a low rumbling coming from behind me that steadily increases as all around subtly shakes. Before I can turn my head to look behind me, though, I am nearly trampled, while this tribal man is actually trampled–– hopefully accidentally––by a man dressed just like him but having a lion's body. This lion man loudly blows through an elephant tusk- type horn, apparently calling many other men of his "tribe" who soon appear and bow down to me, wide-eyed, flapping their hands, and pushing their tongues up and down in between their teeth and upper lips.

The lion-man looks horrified as he finally realizes that he has trampled and sat on the first tribal member I met, quickly moving off of him. I then realize that I am surprised to only have heard English spoken so far in this world, as the lion man says that he is "horribly sorry" to the other tribe member. The––thankfully seemingly unhurt––sat-on tribal member responds by saying "Yessiguhbugaboo", though.

As the men continue to praise me for some reason, I realize now that the low and steadily increasing rumbling I noticed before is only further increasing and less and less subtly shaking all around me. Very soon, I am surrounded by a huge stampede of animals jumping over and all around me, from huge cats to zebras to leopards, lions, and deer. I crouch into a ball, waiting for the end of the stampede,

peeking through my hands every few seconds. I notice that the tribe has disappeared but that, thankfully, the noise of the stampede seems to be moving away from me.

After a few more seconds of waiting, I am left in a cloud of dust dug up from the savanna in front of me. There's no one left around me––even the flower lady and her muse have disappeared. A sudden feeling of desertion overtakes me and motivates me to energetically sprint to chase after the tail end of the stampede.

The animals pull exponentially further and further away from me, though, and I quickly lose breath and am forced to rest; I just am not athletic. And, when I finally feel less dizzy and more able to breathe, I see that the stampede has somehow gone far past where I can see. I feel disappointed––but not for long. I soon begin to make out what looks to be some some preserved old city very much like an Old West frontier town, lying on the horizon.

I really am tired of walking, but I make it to the town after only a few minutes of trudging feet. As I enter the seeming city limits, I happily notice that all the animals I saw before are enjoying a small water park further in. This water park has no clear water though–– only different colors and consistencies of some sludge that everyone is splashing in and through, down slides, in pools, and on inflatable tubes through built streams. And, mixed in with the sludge are tiny babies that look very much like the boy who exploded earlier. I'm hoping these are robots as well.

As I am slightly disgusted by this, I move past this "water" park to the other side of the city, where, just past its limits, there lies what seems to be a miniature desert only about one square mile in area. Continuing to walk on, not far into this "desert", I go up to some strange animal sitting beneath a palm tree next to one of the tribal men––an adult-human-sized dinosaur-like lizard. Somehow unsurprisingly, the tribal man swiftly begins slicing this animal open

to reveal another prehistoric-looking animal a little like an alligator.

He then cuts that open to reveal some extinct-looking dark and shiny, slick and slimy, iridescent sea-like creature that squirms and wiggles. He cuts that open, and an exposed very pale and slender naked human man runs away.

As I am at a loss for words, I––somehow increasingly less tiredly–– move on from this area to the other side of the desert before me. While I don't know what to make of what just happened, I smile to

myself and feel surprisingly tolerant and open-minded, but I feel as

if I may be going insane.

I soon reach what looks to be a misplaced sprawling old

Northeastern city park that looks very much like parts of Central Park in New York City. In the near distance I see a lady with snails attached to her head driving a very modern car in circles, wide-eyed and with an unwavering grin. I move away from her, though trying not to judge, and go over to a bench where another lady is crying. I reach to comfort her, but she screams out of terror and runs away. As a clown with hair aflame soon leisurely walks by me, I again feel that I have to suppress at least a feeling of impatience. I stay on the bench to rest my legs and try to gather my thoughts.

Soon, a bus arrives, as this is apparently a bus stop. Its front is

labeled "China" and, out from the side door, several characters exit:

a bear with a closed mouth and serious look, a man dressed as Abe

Lincoln but with an extremely tall top hat, an old woman naked but wrapped in a huge draping blanket, and a fat man in his twenties dressed only in diapers and black dress shoes.

I avoid these people by pretending that I intended to enter the

Victorian-style gardens behind the bench at the moment the bus came; I don't know how this would make sense, but I suppose it might in this world. As I look around the winding hedges, statues, fountains, flowers, and walls, I notice that I am being followed. I

turn around to see a three-foot-tall white moth smiling while sucking on a red lollipop following each of my steps, though a few feet behind me. I ignore this creature for a while but then finally feel the need to make conversation, saying "Where did you get that?"

Continuing to smile, in an angelic child-like voice, the moth replies, "Jesus."

This makes me smile again, and I realize that I have yet to find some semblance of unhappiness in this place, however seemingly deranged the happiness I notice all around me might be.

Of course, the moth then explodes into sparkly dust. As I move to avoid getting much of the dust on me as it slowly floats down all around, I find myself in a section of the garden filled with older women of different species having a tea party.

In the corner of this area walled-in by neatly-trimmed hedges and stone walls of different styles, I see a lady starting to somehow melt. Next to her, it seems a flutist and a percussionist were anticipating this event, as they begin playing music reflecting the horror of what everyone in the party is witnessing. The flutist wails, moans, howls, and swoops throughout the instrument's range of sounds, while the percussionist only claps, snaps, and clicks his tongue in different ways. These musicians appear to be frog-like extra-terrestrials while the lady is human-like.

"Don't worry, kind sir, I'll be back next week. I just need to sleep a while," the melting lady says to me, since I'm sure I look in relative shock. Her facial features soon melt into grotesque shapes that would be incapable of producing speech, though. She then quickly becomes a puddle that continues to spread and then drip down a sewer. The flutist and percussionist have done an adequate job of "scoring" this scene and finish with a loud and high flute swoop and

a loud clap simultaneous with a louder tongue click.

green apes soon come and lick up what remains of the lady that didn't drip down the sewer.

Wide-eyed

As the apes leave satisfied, running just as they came, two weepy rotund birds from toward the back of the garden party––behind other birds, badgers, rabbits, hawks, and other species––slowly approach the area where the melting lady once stood. They have in hand some sheet music to refer to as they begin to wailingly sing.

One of them begins singing wordless mournful musical motions, mostly ascending and descending scales and arpeggios that sound like they are taken from some type of traditional song from the Middle East. The worded melody that the other bird starts to sing is of a contrasting style, however:

"I love the taste of death of life in the morning everlasting, singing a

song of justice in the prideful norming tears, frolicked a la Marcia born on barned upon its face and calling of a part so weary––what we all a'call it be. When all the jacks are stowed and hemmies flawed, slain are frasier peppercorns that lie in be'nimble sassafras locked on your brain."

As weepingly as they came, the birds exit to the back of the area filled with chairs and many female species. I now notice a gardener––an old, grumpy-seeming, human man––who was behind me, as he begins to gruntingly speak, "They are soooo dramatic! This happens every week!"

I nervously smile and quickly but quietly exit this area. I then walk on through the garden toward the side opposite from where I entered.

As I exit the garden, I come to an open area almost identical to what bordered the garden where I entered. But, here, there is a train stop

rather than a bus stop, a simple bench along the outside of tracks where a train is slowly approaching from the far left.

As I turn my head from the train, though, I notice a tall green lizard and panda bear semi-smilingly waving and running toward me from the far right, to the right of the train tracks that curve off toward the horizon before me.

They shout out "Hey! Hey! Hey!" over and over, though with some pauses here and there, until they reach me.

Hi." "

"Are you new here?" the lizard asks.

Interrupting him, the panda says, "Of course he's new––and he's obviously just visiting. Am I right?"

Yes." "

"Well, Tim, is it?"

"

How

did you know?"

"You're wearing a name tag."

I just remember that I never took off a name tag from a student assembly I assisted just before gym class.

"Ohhh

I thought you were reading my mind."

"No, we can't do that here, but we are a type that prides ourselves on being open-minded but also skeptical of things of all natures."

"Well, I guess that's good!

I'm feeling a bit skeptical about

everything today

Everything I know––or knew––I suppose."

The lizard chimes in, "Well, meet that halfway with something to replace what you knew––what is true instead. But, then again, also question what you guess that might be!"

Okay. "

So what are your names?"

The panda again takes over the conversation, saying, "Well, we don't have names. Anyway, we wanted to show you a bit around here."

"We saw you wandering and thought we might want to do something good for a stranger, especially since we were just wandering ourselves in a land we already know––although, we don't certainly know anything."

"And, we thought maybe we could 'learn' something from you. Here's the train, come on!"

We rush up to the train as it stops in front of the bench a bit to our left. Its front is an LCD display of a frowning yet attractive woman, but the train is otherwise old-fashioned and traditional except for the centipede legs that move it––though it does puff out smoke on top. As the train woman sees us, turning her head to us, she begins smiling and the train slows to a stop.

As we board, we are greeted by stewardesses who are female spider- like creatures, spiders with extra legs all over their upright bodies that are much larger than any "normal" spider's. These extra legs are mostly shorter than their main eight and seem somehow mostly decorative. Atop their heads––which are placed at a mere intersection of many legs where their absent center would seem to "normally" be––, they have hair made of many short and thin legs. They greet us in some bizarre language of buzzing and screaming,

though they look pleasant enough.

As we squeeze by these many smiling, open-mouthed, and intensely blinking creatures, we find the train to be mostly empty but for some quiet-seeming creatures, some of whom are much uglier than any I have seen before. (Although, this "ugliness" I suppose is as subjective as what I consider to be "normal".) One of these "ugly" creatures is a man who seems to be composed only of rotted tumors with a face cut-out like a jack-o-lantern. We avoid sitting near him, and I don't think this is cruel; I just don't want to vomit, etcetera.

"So how have things been so far?" the lizard asks.

"Well, it was really scary at first, then this nice lady came to comfort

me

and evaporated."

A male frog creature nearby overhears this and is somehow slightly irritated, saying, "Water doesn't evaporate! What are you talking about?!"

Water "

doesn't evaporate here?"

The frog creature then swiftly replies, "What? Of course it does

"

Directing my conversation back to the panda and lizard, as the frog

it seems I understand

how things work here, and then I get completely thrown off––and sometimes annoyed."

man starts to fall asleep, I say, "

Sometimes

The panda comfortingly says, "We'll talk about this later; I have some things I'd like to tell you and show you later."

"When?"

"Well, there's a concert that I'd like to show you, then our grandma,

and then we can talk about things like this."

"Okay."

"It would be better to discuss these more philosophical things later, and after you've seen more of our world."

I tell the panda and lizard nearly everything about my trip on our way "downtown", our destination as described by the excited spider women. We pass through mostly swamps and and other types of wetlands, most notably a flat and pinkish marshy area where the only "trees" are incredibly, very tall bamboo-ish plants, stick-like beams that grow in clusters and form groups that, at first glance, seem to be the trunks of wider trees.

We are let off "downtown", an area that looks much like an old Roman city and appropriately in ruins. High walls follow around the spiral-shaped stone streets all the way to the city's center that lies at its lowest point, structures climbing upward outward from there, the whole city's landscape clinging to its underlying steep valley. The concert I agreed to attend will play at a theatre in the heart of the downtown.

As we walk along the spiral city walls––that have paths on top of them, all part of the same spiral and leading to the center of downtown––, we notice an ongoing "parade". I request that we stop and watch, though there is no one else watching.

Two people with shriveled and shrunken heads march in front of a man with a completely round head as large as a rounded tree, his face stretched out across this head with a bulbous nose and silly closed-mouth grin. His body is similarly round but notably smaller than would "normally" be considered proportionate. Hitting his head on an archway a few feet shorter than himself, some of his head, made of a grapefruit-like substance, rips off. Some of his

head sticks to the archway and some falls to the ground, but he continues to smile, unfazed the whole time.

Three very short characters follow behind this man, one with a nose bulbous but long enough to nearly touch the ground in front of her, one with two front teeth similarly large and positioned, and one with eel-like ears long enough to dangle along the ground behind them. This third character, however, seems to be asleep or dead, rolling along while propped up on a wheeled pole similar to the skating poles I witnessed in the first area I came across in this world just a few hours ago.

Finally, following far behind the other characters, a man very slowly saunters on while hunched over likely because weighed down by crescent-shaped structures jutting out from under his chin and up from the top of his head. These structures jut out at least fifteen feet in front of him and must cause great pressure to both weigh down and pull on him. He looks completely unpained, however, exposing a wide silly buck-toothed smile.

Even while this man does move on very slowly, he fails to take the time to duck beneath the arch that the grapefruit-like man also ran into. About five feet of his top crescent structure crumbles upon hitting the archway, along with part of the archway, clearly a material only slightly less dense than the enamel-like crescent breaking part of it. Just as with the grapefruit man, this moon man seems neither to notice nor care about any of this. Behind him, what has broken off from his top crescent structure withers and shrivels as if under some extremely bright light, turning into jelly- coated leaf-like substances.

None of these characters looked unhappy, nor like they were feigning happiness. I suppose many in my world parade while feigning happiness.

Sarcastically, the lizard says, "That was exciting

"

The panda responds, "Oh, come on––they tried their best."

Siding with the lizard, I say, "Yeah asleep or dead "

Especially the one who was

We all laugh, but with no mean-spiritedness.

"They did do their best, and it was interesting," I conclude.

Beneath us, about halfway to the center of the city, we walk by a doorless stone house with a dead octopus hanging in front of it.

The panda comments, "The house owner probably wets it every day to keep it from drying, treating it just like keeping a plant––in your world, Tim."

"How do you know about my world?"

"We get all sorts of used goods from your world; we're aware of you, but you aren't of us––well, you, personally, are now."

"But how is that possible if this is a distinct world?"

"Of course it's possible!"

The wall descends to the center of the city directly in front of the theatre, a huge old dark-wood mansion with surrounding trees, vines, and other plants growing through and on it. As we enter, I notice enormous centipedes as large as the hugest tree roots poking and wiggling through the walls on their wiggling hairy legs. The next room we pass through is, for some reason, filled with children's clothing that hangs from transparent strings and mechanisms that make it look as if invisible children with visible clothes have their

heads clamped to two poles.

"Now, WHAT is this?" I ask.

The panda responds, "I don't know," as the lizard shakes his head as if to say the same.

The next room, which appears to be in much better condition than the rest of the building I've seen so far, houses a grand staircase wrapping around half of the room and leading to the auditorium. This "foyer" area is adorned with old carved dark wood, large square black and white tiles, and old-fashioned lighting. The auditorium is built in this same style, except the floor is wood and the balcony and pew-like seating are fashioned more simply than I expected.

As

concert:

the lights dim, a child bear reads a poem to introduce the

"I was looking for something, but I'm not quite sure what it was. It was once very forefront in my mind.

I remember at one time it was very important to me, but it's gone now; I'm not sure where. I'm not quite sure if I'll ever find it again.

I wish I could find it but first remember what it was."

No one claps, but a few people cough as he exits.

The lights go then out and a spotlight illuminates a very high lifeguard-like chair on center stage. A lady in Victorian attire attempts to climb this, but the apparent backstage crew has to come help her up. As if the audience were her kindergarten class, she begins reading to the audience a seeming children's book composed entirely of nonsense words.

After she finishes reading this short book, as she tries to descend, she falls to the ground, smacking her head and cracking it open. Blood leaks all over the stage as random dogs rush from backstage to lick it up. The curtains draw in front of the chair, but the lady's legs are sticking out through them, and dogs continue to brush and move back and forth under the curtains.

The lady is apparently dead, but everyone laughs.

What "

just happened?" I whisper to the panda.

"Oh, she'll be back next month."

I figure this is something like the melting lady, and I presume this lady felt as little pain as the melting lady appeared to feel as she smilingly died. This somehow makes sense to me, and I let this issue alone in my mind.

Once all life and non-life has been removed from the center of the stage, the lights are brought back on. Extending from outside the right side entrance at the front of the auditorium, there stands a line of characters of all different species each holding their private areas as if needing to use bathroom. There is a toilet on stage and they all use it, apparently not acting. As usual, I'm not sure what to make of this. On the other hand, everyone else in the audience seems emotionally moved by this act, crying, sniffling, or otherwise looking touched and sobered.

Finally, once this is over, the third play––or "movement", or whatever––is performed. Two enormous black-painted unicycles are ridden around the stage by large-mustached top-hatted men sitting on chairs propped upon the large seats above about fifteen- foot wheels. From both sides of the backstage appear many anteaters with axes attached to their heads who chop at the stage until it collapses. Finally, people clap, and while providing a

standing ovation.

To end all of this, a little penguin in diapers comes out in front of the collapsed stage, looking nervously about the auditorium which has quieted and re-darkened except for a spotlight on him. When a girl comes from backstage to hold the penguin's hand, he begins to look less nervous. Upon clearly appearing decidedly comfortable, the audience roars into applause while the girl and penguin bow.

I ask, "Why are they bowing?" even though I know I won't receive a sensible (or, "sensible") answer.

Everyone around me semi-admonishingly shushes me.

As the applause fades, so does the crowd, mostly exiting by breaking and jumping out of the stained-glass windows. If this happens every concert, replacing these windows (along with the stage!) could become expensive I assume––though not necessarily very much more so than replacing smashing guitars, I suppose.

The lizard, panda, and I decide to use the exit door and stairs. We retrace our steps to the edge of the city and stop by the city dump just outside of it. I guess this is part of the "tour" I'm being provided by the lizard and panda.

The dump itself is housed within a building that looks like a large upside-down bee's nest, but, once we make our way inside, there is no visible ceiling––just a garbage chute from far above; it seems I am again "underground". The area all around looks very much like

a large well, but not cemented or with stones, just a wall of soil, and about the circumference of a rounded average high school classroom.

As we are led by a tiny snail "gatekeeper" around a ledge built into the chute at the same level as the entrance, he introduces a red-

illuminated digital clock that is hung directly across from the entrance by saying, "This is my wife, Jeremy."

At irregular intervals, the clock changes from "7:66" to "7:52" to

"0:00" to "0:10", and so on. I don't ask about this, as I've asked the panda and lizard so much already with such little explanation that I can make sense of, and I don't want to seem rigid in my thinking, as

if all must have an explanation that I can clearly understand. I feel

as if I'm gradually learning to deeply appreciate a need for both extreme skepticism and openness, even just over the past few hours.

I examine the trash below me that is nearly filled to the level where

we are walking. I notice that much of the trash appears to be unused and expensive items from my world. When I ask the panda and lizard about this, they insist that this refuse is from their world instead. I suppose all this stuff could be from their and/or my world, really, though; they and/or I could be wrong.

I see a plasma big-screen TV below me that, even while not plugged in, is somehow still playing a commercial with a baby doll repeatedly and obnoxiously singing, "Don't ya wanna baby? I'm a baby doll. Don't ya wanna baby? I'm a baby doll!"

I also notice many orchestral musical instruments in excellent

condition except for some bumps and scratches from apparently

being dropped down the chute above us. Although, I do notice other instruments that must have landed in ways allowing them to break

or smash completely.

"What do you do with these instruments?"

The gatekeeper responds, "In our world, we cook these instruments

of yours. It's a delicacy."

"But, I thought we just confirmed that this stuff is all from your

world."

The panda responds, "Well, it's more complicated than can be easily explained, I suppose."

The gatekeeper continues, "We get instruments delivered from all

over the

of pine cones, shaven sticks, hollowed grass, and mushrooms. And, some are made out of pans and/or tubes and filled with water."

your world. But, cheap restaurants make their own––out

Continuing on with enthusiasm, "One type we make looks like a fountain spilling from a tube in the center of a bowl surrounded by another bowl; it has holes you can cover in different patterns as you hit the side of the bowls with sticks. Another is a cylindrical harp that wraps around two heads of skin drawn upon circles connected by a wooden pole in between the instrument frame; the frame starts as long as the harp itself but then wraps around until it's very small in the middle; the strings are attached between the bottom and the top of the frame and at two-inch intervals so that the higher-pitched strings in between, closer to the center of the instrument, can be reached easily."

"Wow

That's

awesome," I respond.

As if taking credit for it, the gatekeeper responds faux-modestly,

"Hehe, yeah

killed in Hollywood in, I think, the thirties."

And, you know, we know about that girl that was

"What?"

"Ya know, the 'Black Dahlia'."

Oh "

yeah, I've heard about that."

"Yeah. We have a memorial service for her every year in here."

"Oh

"How many people come?"

" As I look around, "In this

Defensively, "At least three!"

place?" Trying to sound polite,

After some more casual talk, the panda, lizard, and I offer the snail friendly farewells. After the panda and lizard lead me out of the upside-down beehive dump, they take me just beyond the dump to a giant bird who is supposed to give people tours of this world. Before I even first notice the huge bird, though, I hear an automated recording play over a loudspeaker next to her:

"Ride the Giant Flemmingbird! You just stand on it and she, an ostrich-like, stork-like, twenty-foot beast, will ride you away o'er the hills and through the day!"

She's fast asleep and seemingly unable to be woken, but, since she is snoring, we know––or "assume", I should say––that she's alive. Though the panda and lizard were planning to continue showing me around this world on this Flemmingbird, they quickly suggest another option––flying on our own.

"What? I've never actually flown before! You mean, it's possible to fly here?"

The lizard responds, "Yeah, I forgot actually; haven't done it in a while "

"Isn't it fun? Why don't you do it all the time?"

"Well, we can't chew bubble gum in our world, so why don't you do that all the time?"

That "

seems like weird logic to me, honestly, but I guess I see

what you mean to say. I don't mean to say you're wrong and I'm right, but, like I said before, I follow you sometimes, but then, there are times where I feel we're on irreconcilably different pages."

The panda interjects, "Well, we may be and/or we may not be."

I catch myself almost rolling my eyes but, instead, choose to smile,

knowing that this is the right thing to do––or, rather, the seemingly

or likely right thing to do. I feel these people emphasize uncertainty too much. But then, everyone––even in my world and my part of it––has their own different emphases that work for them, and one person's emphases can be just as good as another's. Sometimes it might be best for one to change their life emphases, but everyone I guess can improve. And, this is a whole different world! There may indeed be irreconcilable differences––although, I guess I'm not so sure about that. Seeming irreconcilable differences might actually be reconcilable in some way that I––and maybe these seemingly

wise but silly, or seemingly silly, people––can't know.

confident in my day-to-day life; this place has helped open my eyes

a bit to how small I keep my mind––though I do consider myself

smart. It has also opened my eyes to how much at least nearly infinite knowledge lies outside my ability, time, and energy to grasp.

I'm

so

My inward reflecting is interrupted as the lizard and panda break their own side conversation as the lizard insists that we all start flying. They immediately begin to fly and, without realizing it, I do as well. I didn't even feel myself willing my body to begin to fly

The sky is overcast. It is all beautiful, and I am jubilant. I fly faster and higher to try to see above the clouds and, too late, notice a thick "ceiling" of some orange sponge-like, wax-like, goo-like substance as I brush my head against the disgusting stuff.

The lizard laughingly calls to me, "Oh! We forgot to tell you! Don't fly too high there! Hahaha!"

Brushing this goo off of me, I respond sarcastically but in good

humor, "Yeah

Thanks!"

We've been flying over hills and ponds and valleys and streams for a few minutes. This all feels like a wonderful dream now, but also so real. It's hard to believe that this all is happening––but I believe that it, at least seemingly, is happening.

We descend a little bit so that the lizard and panda can more closely inspect a beaver dam for some reason. We continue on then and soon see a large trench where a rainforest is growing in and up out of, even as the trench continues up the beginnings of a snowy mountain.

We stop on the mountainside for a rest, but the ground starts to break and expose water beneath it––though this ground is right level with and next to a waterless field. We decide to keep on going then, I guess to this "grandma's" house, flying even higher, coming to the top of the mountain above us.

The whole way up, the trench with the rainforest has climbed with us, but has become very narrow. We look in and no longer see the rain forest, though, but only polar bears trying to climb up the snowy walls of the trench. They look like they're struggling at first but then wave "hi" and say "We're okay! Keep on going!"

Right before we land, I look up above us and see that our flying is somehow imprinted in the sky, like how the shapes of hands or faces can be held in that kind of toy that is a box holding densely organized pins. That's the best I can describe it. I am momentarily mesmerized, but I choose not to ask about this, as I didn't ask about the seemingly malfunctioning clock that was also somehow the snail dump gatekeeper's wife "Jeremy".

It seems that, as I couldn't go much lower in the earth to get to this obscure land, we can't go much higher––we may even now be above the "orange ceiling" somehow, as we seem above where I hit it. I feel nearly like I need to hunch to be able to breathe air that could still be considered the sky, and I can't see or imagine anything above the clouds just a few yards above my head.

We are now also just a few yards from the "grandmother's" doorstep, a miniature Victorian-rustic cottage mix, proportionate but small, and adorned mainly with pale pastels of purples, blues, pinks, maroons, teals, and yellows. It is frail-looking but extremely well- kept, its dainty white lacy-carved porch welcoming us in, along with the arms of this short smiley grandmother.

Though we are so close to the house, we are positioned at a nearly ninety-degree angle below it. And, climbing up to the house is made even more difficult by the snowfall that has only increased as we have made our way up the mountain. Panda uses his claws to his advantage, though, and Lizard holds onto Panda's back with his tongue, while I hang tightly onto Lizard, aided only by my fear.

After at least a minute of climbing, the grandma helps us all up by first offering Panda a broom and then offering her hands to me and Lizard. As we pile onto her porch, I notice below the dizzying heights we have climbed and am suddenly reminded of my intense fear of heights that I thankfully somehow forgot about until now.

Panda, Lizard, and I each relax with sighs and are hugged and welcomed into the grandma's tiny kitchen warmed with candles in and outside of lanterns, a stove, a fireplace, and a wood oven. The smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, other spices, cookies, melting chocolate, and peppermint oil fill the air, and I have never felt cozier.

We are each told to help with nothing as the grandma prepares us

cookies, hot chocolate, and some spicy tea.

"And you must be Tim!"

"How'd you know?"

"

Your

name tag!"

"Hahah, oh yeah

"

"How did you meet my grandchildren?"

"Well, they kind of met me––I guess. They offered me a tour of this strange––I mean, interesting––land that is different from my own place."

"And where do you come from?"

"Earth."

"Us too. Hmm

Which earth?"

The "

"Oh

one with cities and wars, etcetera."

That sounds nice."

"

Well

"

"Do you want some crash soup, Tim?"

"

Crash

soup?"

Saddened, "Don't you want some?"

Sure! "

I just don't know what it is––but I'm sure it's great!"

We are all served some cabbage-type soup without yet finishing our dessert-oriented food, but all the food somehow fits together and seems right and perfectly tasty.

I notice this increasing sound of wind chimes––but from under the

table. I look underneath and see that, sure enough, hung from under the table center is a set of wind chimes that we are all accidentally–– or, I suppose accidentally––sounding. I guess I didn't notice the sound before because it blended together with the sound of the wind chimes that are hung outside on the porch––until the grandma sat down and rather forcefully rustled the table's chimes with her legs.

No one mentions anything about the wind chimes under the table, so

I assume it is a custom that I wasn't made aware of. Although, it is hard to converse easily over the sometimes noisy chimes. I can't argue that there aren't similarly seemingly meaningless and inconvenient customs like this on Earth––or "my earth"––, though.

Suddenly, a grey deranged sort of cat head with five legs dressed in black spandex with pink socks and black sneakers lands on the table from the ceiling apparently, asking in a weird baby-ish voice, "Wanna watch me dance?"

Without leaving time for a response, she proceeds to wildly dance on the table for several seconds, spilling our food and drink all over before jumping back up to the ceiling and saying no more.

"Oh, Jezebel

That's my pet, Samantha."

We all clean up what was spilled, though I'm the only one who cleans it up not by eating it, but by giving it to others to eat. We finish eating mostly in silence, but with sincere smiling glances given to one another.

After the meal we play a game of "Dock"––a game where answers are guessed like "Trivial Pursuit". We split into teams––everyone against me and "Samantha". Though I always seem to answer correctly, I am always told that I'm wrong. Then, the other team is asked what they think the answer is; they always copy me and are always "right". This other team wins 500,000 to zero. Samantha was no help in this, keeping silent the whole time, though smiling.

"Well, children, what a night! And, it is dark––I know a safe shortcut back to sea level behind my house."

After we all hug lovingly and say "Good morning", we are offered sleds to take us down the backside of this mountain––which is somehow only a few yards to the ground, though somewhat steep. We reach the snowless ground below very quickly, of course, but it is somehow at the same altitude as where we started flying from to begin with.

We are surrounded by near-evenly-spaced Christmas-like but very tall coniferous trees dotted with glowing lights of a range of colors, all very much like Christmas, but much more magical. We walk on through this for some time, in smiling silence, knowing that we've all learned and experienced beautiful things today. Coming to a clearing, we see many deer trying to climb a small group of bare elm trees. From a bit to our left we hear a burbling, bubbling, blubbering laughing voice.

"Bwah-bwah-bwah-bwah! Those ol' deer really like those ol' elm trees! Bwah-bwah-bwah-bwah! Come on in for dinner!"

"Well, we just––"

Lizard and Panda cut me off as if I was out of line and say that we'd all love to. We go into this very fat human-sized blue-green fish lady's tiny makeshift hut––seemingly made only of heavily rusted

car parts––and are led out to the back porch where there is no food, just a view into the forest where I started my adventure. Seeing no alternative, as we begin to sit onto different parts of cars that do not even closely resemble chairs, as if on cue, four lampposts in the woods come lit, looking like two cats' eyes. The lampposts' lights then start moving like two dancing cats, rhythmically chanting in an almost rap-like style:

"Little kitty Lintite, Woken in the moonlight, to

Find about her boyfriend, so

tell you

She can

all her

stories

"

It seems they lost their rhythm, energy, and breath by the end of the verse. They start again refreshed, though:

"Little Kitty Lintite,

Dancing in the moonlight, she Likes to be in twilight, but

Dances on her night

She can

so

tell you all her stories!"

They finish well, but the fat fish lady asks, "Ma'am-ma'ams? Would

you mind singing a bit quieter? out here to read."

very loud and I just came

You're

"Oh-oh. Why, I'm sorry honey, sir. We'll come back another time."

"Yes, do––I'd like to hear your stories!"

Sitting upon our sharp objects, each of us appears to be in pain except the fish. Panda, Lizard, and I all eye each other with nervous, pained glances as if to coax one of us to say something about our discomfort. Panda speaks first.

"Well, it was a wonderful meal, read, and chat that we had here, ma'am––"

"Call me Wanda!"

Smiling, "

Wanda––but,

we all have somewhere very important to

be."

Lizard adds, though, "I'd like to stay–– on this any longer?"

as

long as I don't have to sit

"Bwah-bwah-bwah! Oh, honey, you just needed to speak up sooner! I have no feeling in my body, so I don't mind sitting on these sharp parts here! Oh, bwah-bwah-bwah-bwah!"

Panda whispers to me, "I think they like one another." Then, louder, "Well, we'll be off. I think Lizard finds himself right where he needs to be."

After some waves and smiles, Panda and I walk into and through the woods. We have to be careful so as not to wake up the sleeping creatures everywhere––from kangaroos, lions, leopards, zebras, deer, to others unidentifiable. But, morning is apparently coming quickly––even after only about an hour-long night––, as I see the sun rising already.

The edge of this part of the woods is the beginning of a subtly rolling near-treeless valley, perfect for a sunrise watch. We sit to watch how, as the sun rises, the ocean-looking sky pours water through funnels into the valley beneath it. I conclude, however right or wrong, that this is normal here for a sunrise––and, maybe, a sunset reverses this pattern so that the night world becomes not only a different-looking world, but a much drier world here on the ground, and a much wetter one in the sky.

As this happens, I see an enormous old wooden battleship dressed in white sails sweep across the sky, with a trail of sparkling dust following it.

"Tim, see that shooting star?"

"Shooting star?

That

looks like a ship to me."

"But, ahh

So, maybe you're right; or we both are."

This helps show what I wanted to talk to you about.

I "

know that already."

"Do you? How much? Do you believe it with certainty? How much? Language fails us all."

Not wanting to sound arrogant, I resist responding. But, then I think, maybe he means something that I can't grasp from just his words––if I could just experience his mind for a moment while still having mine.

Although, "

it is good to be intellectually humble. I've just found it also good to act as a mentor to one I've found come across our world too "

confident even for their own

I don't want to sound so confident; even in this world

No offense

"Hehe, none taken––and I was thinking that maybe you were being too confident, but that maybe I was then in that."

But "

extends beyond your prior conception of it? Though I'm sure it extends much further "

isn't it wonderful now to know how much the universe

"Yes

confident by saying that."

And I certainly––well, I don't think you're being overly

"Yes

mental exertion, though we don't know all––that could correct or augment what we now believe––even in our possibly more enlightened world of greater peace and happiness."

maybe. It is good to find some confidence to moderate

To

be intellectually humble is a good thing even in my realm––'world', or whatever term I should use."

"I suppose intellectual humility can help me reach that more

Hesitantly, "And, you may soon find this only a dream."

"A dream??

But it's so real

"

"What's real for sure?

inclinations. You now are just more aware of your, and our, and everyone's limitations––except someone who can know things for "

certain somehow

anyway, you'll always still have your

But,

But that's foolishness

maybe

We get up to continue walking and don't speak more, but hum some melodies I and we have heard throughout the day. Panda said he'd lead me somewhere where things might make a little more sense to me, though I do think I've made sense of his words––though maybe more rudimentarily than I could.

The area around us gradually turns into different levels of fluorescent hot springs and pools spilling into one another by small to large streams and, sometimes, spilling over slight to intense height changes over short to long distances, little waterfalls forming at the steepest spots. Over the pools and streams and falls are built bridges put between patches of grassy small islands with flowers and trees. All this has a pink, orange, and yellow glow.

On one of the islands, I see a person bend down to whisper to an extremely lovely flower, "I love you", before lying down next to the

flower while continuing to lovingly whisper to it.

Through a relatively narrow slit in the ground, Panda leads me into some cavern. After having to duck through the entryway, the passageway only gradually widens, though. I can now even see an open place ahead, and it is filled with pools and streams very much like where we just came from, though the water here is crystal clear.

The rocky wall to my left is somehow transparent, and, like an aquarium, it reveals all sorts of earthly and non-earthly sea life underwater. The rock might be transparent due to apparent hot springs I can see near its edge; or, it might be transparent for some reason I don't know or can't know.

As we walk further on, I notice fossils and shells trapped in rocks as well as loose here and there, and pebbles and crystal-like formations and loose rocks, all of many sizes. There are stalactites and stalagmites, and there is water trickling down the stalactites into connected pools, some of which appear to be "potholes" that connect to each other beneath the rocky floor. I see many salamanders, tiny fish, crabs, and other creatures swimming around, especially within water-filled tiny holes that dot the ground. Shining smooth pebbles and crystals of different sizes are scattered everywhere, including at the bottom of all the pools and puddles.

Around a corner to my left I notice that a huge underground lake beneath a heightened ceiling was hidden from view as I was entering. On the opposite side of its shore I hear that, to the accompaniment of an old hurdy-gurdy string drone, someone is playing a melodious soprano saxophone with heavy, emotional vibrato. This seems to mirror my emotions at this point.

Panda leads me to swim with him in the lake, which I don't feel any inclination to question. We swim together until he guides me to continue on my own to the right into a stream that somehow flows

upward around another rightward bend, gathering more water as it

flows.

Now from a distance, he speaks the last words I hear from

him.

"Oh, and, Tim––this is just a lesson, and not the most important lesson. It's an obscure lesson you may not find taught much in your realm where things are taught as 'known'. This is a realm where things are not known."

I feel carried by a current up to a narrowed passageway that only gets narrower, darker, and with a stronger flow of water. I end up seeing nothing but feeling many fish, some eels, and maybe some sharks. But, suddenly, I am pushed through some opening into the bottom of a clear lake with coins all over its floor. There are no fish here, though.

Soon, I float to the top of this lake, gasping for air, feeling exhausted and with a terrible headache. I look around to see police and someone in the distance running desperately toward me.

"Tim! Tim! ––Thank God! Thank God!"

Though intensely dizzy and dazed, I manage to interject, "What's the matter?!"

"You're all right! That's all that matters!"

Gaining some orientation and energy, "I've just had the most amazing experience."

"You've been out cold for almost two days! dreaming!"

"What

What are you talking about?"

You must've been

"You've been at Mercy Street Hospital for the past few days––but you somehow snuck out––slept-walked––people called the police!"

You don't understand––it wasn't a dream––even

Or,

even if I was dreaming, maybe I was also somewhere else physically at the same time."

"No––No, no no!

if that's what all the scientists in the world explained it

"Tim, I think we need to get you to rest; you're not making sense. I'm glad you had a nice dream, though."

"No! No–– It was more than that! It was a gainful experience!

I've learned that it's not possible to say anything with certainty! It's not certain that my conscious mind was somewhere away from my body or that my body was at two places at once, but it is certainly

And, this here may or may

possible––or at least possibly possible

not exist. Something more, something greater or different––so

different

confused; they told

me that this type of thinking can get me confused––or anyone confused. I have to moderate mental exertion. I feel good about all of this, though."

and it's all beautiful

or not.

I'm

"Well, Tim, I don't know what to say to that."

I ride with my mom in her minivan away from the park where I potentially slept-walked as the song "Don't You Forget About Me" barely perceptibly comes onto the low-volume radio. I start to cry but am then startled by someone from the park's small zoo waving, dressed as a lizard and holding a very fat fish who is spitting water everywhere. Next to him––in the cage he's cleaning––is an actual panda bear, also waving.

Even if this was a dream, it was the most educational and inspirational dream ever.

Absurd Poems

Salt

Salt heals all wounds.

Pum

Pum––

What a good word!

A

Good Game

If

the person before you in a circle guesses a number less than you, they lose.

If

You Run

If

you run in circles in a park screaming "Help!", no one is going to help you.

A

Society Without People

I still can't think of anything about this.

Many

many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many many

We Can See

We can see that it is only not yet quite dawn but as we approach through their house's open front door onto a front porch, and.

Barbara Ann

There's a baby in my house and her old name is Barbara Ann. She ate a ball of butter and a rammy tam tam tam. If I were Billy Bob kadoodle I'd put it in the ram, 'cause then I'd know the world but a nostril and a ham.

I Wanna Push Your Breath

I wanna push your breath,

I wanna sing your song,

I wanna love your life and suck on your socks;

I wanna touch your eye,

I wanna play your games,

I wanna eat your parents

and live all alone in the dark and believe in my heart that the world will end.

Children Never Get Old

Children never get old because nothing is all right with anything, and, as a rat's nest will always welcome worms, so wilt there always wither the desk upon the poet's palm.

There is nothing wrong with Delver, the helpful Pussitfrowler, yet I cannot stop and tither what the weather whethers where its wheat is worn by whom the wearers were, the wendhidthdst did korlorn.

Not yet, you pretentious fool who speaks loftily of himself as if it were deserved, on Hoak's ether-edged, a perriwwikenelledess, the end of latter-splorr.

Ne'er there'd be a blanket, Ne'er there'd be a splorr, Ne'er there'd be the Hoaks and Llatti, wendhidthst––or meat––korlorn.

I took the little Pussitfrowler and crawled up to his knees, and told him all the stories while I cried in hope to please.

Children always get old because nothing is wrong with anything, and, as a rat's nest will ne'er bewelcome worms, so wilt there always stay the desk beneath the poet's palm.

Chasing the Shrinking Universe

Shrinking through the universe as it heads toward a closing crunch, I and some friends retain our bodies' proportions of patterns of repositioning particles and repositioning of particles though all around starts seeming swallowed up. Our memories somehow awoke near-unfathomably later than our deaths, our mark in space and time renewed through particles combining in a way to mimic our old selves––although, I suppose a current memory of having this same body and mind could be a fantastical illusion akin to that of free will.

We are trapped in glass bubbles watching all around compress though we compress with it, planets and stars nearby swirling toward one another as if following the grooves of invisible gigantic snail shells, until they meld into one fluorescent but dimming pearl moving toward and combining with another and then another. We circle all this and are circled. What appears to be still is circling at our speed and what seems faster is just at an angle allowing that illusion.

Though we watch all become more ordered and symmetrical, morphing into one seemingly destined self-explanatory hole and whole of a singularity, we retain our complexity trapped in these vacuum-like glass bubbles––as if there were free space within it and not just highly permeable patterns of repositioning particles. We are propelled by the same shrinking––and acceleratingly shrinking–– process moving all else around us, similar to the––acceleratingly–– expanding process that propelled us through the twenty-first century. But these are and will be our and all's final moments, though they sadly may proceed much more slowly than my and my friends' brains appear to be perceiving and trying to savor them. I'm not sure if their minds are, however; all I can know is my mind and my sadness but wonder at all this.

As we collide with a nearby planet, we push through their atmosphere and finally hit their ground, breaking our glass bubbles. Something like gravity has moved us here but while only continuing to press us through the hardly dense but well-formed sandy ground and into subterranean dusty mazes. These were seemingly burrowed by mice now unburrowing them and speaking through our minds for us to leave. They are as large as we are––or maybe we have become as small as they, if our bodies' repositioning of repositioning particles are changing at a different rate from theirs–– though we seem now to be changing size equally to them. As we run away from the mice through tomb-like halls, we look over a ledge to see that this maze circles around an open area descending dozens of floors to a lowest ground level. We decide to outpace the mice by taking the chance of jumping over the ledge, avoiding collapsing halls on our way. We safely land at the bottom level to find a door in the ground that may allow us to descend further and live just that much longer.

But this door leads somehow back into the more permeable matter between shrinking planets and stars we call outer space. Outside of our glass bubbles or a planet's seemingly protective atmosphere, we seem to be dismantling the halls of our own brains that are simplifying except in their ability to watch and understand what is around us. We fall into the thin atmosphere of another planet darkening and shriveling with a growing number of holes seemingly dug by invisible gigantic earthworms. We descend through many of these tunnels as they form and are unformed by others in some growing heat, and while we are mindlessly drawn to a tantalizingly dazzlingly glowing garnet-like red light beneath us. Our bodies slowly disintegrate into this heat also now whisking away the splintering planet, but our minds remain––though no longer able to think actively, just perceive. There is no way to know if my friends are still here.

This planet has melded with another's deep red center seemingly drawn to a nearby aquamarine star bending into itself, contorted in "u"-shapes stretching inward, as I am pulled by something like reverse elasticity. All color begins to dim but grow a more intense white. Soon all left is growing white brightness and, resonating from deep within and all around me I hear, "We were, we are, we will be, we are, we were." This may have been an illusion, but I

suddenly felt an equal meaning to life and non-life more clearly than

I had ever before, and then I disappeared.

Much later, I reappeared and heard these same sounds. This began a dream of all these preceding events in reverse order and until I awoke sitting here these billions of years later. I did not come to this dream directly from the universe's last life cycle so far in my past, though, but after thirty-seven years of the life I've yet lived–– but also lived exactly before then, and before then, and before then forever. This dream merely prodded my memory––although, this specific memory could be as fantastical an illusion as that of free will, or the uniqueness of each moment.

But I sat here reading before my dream that everything happens only once, but all at the same time; time is just another dimension like one of space. There may seem to be a preferred direction of time, but only because that is the direction that intelligence works in––to reverse events would merely cause backward thinking of backward events, identical to how we'd say we now think. But there is also no preferred moment of time, just as there is no preferred direction or spot in space; there is no movement, and no repositioning really; it is only perfect symmetry, a perfect pattern that would offer complete self-explanation to someone who could

see it. But I thought I saw it. But I've seen parts of it also every day of my last many years and without understanding. It just warms me in this moment at least to know that everything must make sense, as

I suppose I've always known, but it must make sense in a way that I

can at least now taste as a drop of saltwater from vast oceans. And I

am most deeply warmed in being held in something so perfect that I can never know it, held still within unmoving, layered, self-existent spacetime, and maybe within things somehow even grander.

Serious Poems

A

Story Bad and Good

There is no time of good who would not see as life

all dead lain beneath them

of times past they soon will be.

There is no time of bad who would not see as dead all life lain beneath them passing but to never stop.

Yet good and bad finds by conscious minds worth or not through feeling with just what's built from those before and with what's built for those ahead.

Yet in good worth is found through this known; all's a story writ but once.

Some Sense Anew

Copper-colored blocks unseen by dreaming blind in bed, some swirling heat untouched by numb and sitting legs,

Pure rippling air unheard by fractured inner ears, and salty waves untasted tongue and nose gone dry;

Some sense anew to fill that lost will see, dream, feel, and taste all these in ways hid far from normal minds and finding turquoise gassy realms that most will never find.

What Would I Do

What would I do In a time where truth was told from the beginning In a place where there was nothing to fight?

Deepless Knowledge

You're just reciting two-dimensional facts you've learned with an affect you've learned; and your exaggerating of the importance of these subjects would be odd even if you knew more. This is neither deep imagination, deep critical thinking, nor deep understanding. You haven't learned more than how to further an image, in your concern for appearance over content.

This Is How the Masses Are Controlled

I want to spend a lot of money on a huge advertising scheme, with posters and commercials everywhere stating the following:

"This is how the masses are controlled."

You Won't Buy Me

You try to buy me behind closed doors Though I only see and hear your smiles and laughs once you're out. Closing my eyes and ears may give you power, But not as much as I deny you, You self-interested mass-manipulators warping people's lives from probably better trajectories,

As I prevent you from taking my soul.

Work-Free Wealth

How much work should I put in for how much result?

enough money, I could put in minimal work and for maximum result.

If I had

I could pay people to fix everything I find in the least inconvenient or improvable: the interior style of a new car, the station of a radio playing at a restaurant, the color of my hair, the newly-changed color of my hair. I would just have to make a phone call to one of my on-staff helpers at the office for the life I bought; I wouldn't have to be inconvenienced more than that. Then, I could live not just a comfortable life coated with money, but I'd be free from the inconvenience of dealing with what I wish I could fix.

Even interpersonal or political issues I could throw my money at and, when I worry about them, I could pay for a therapist to help me. But maybe I should just see that therapist now and save a lot of money.

Product Disclaimer

One out of two (hundred) interviewed doctors have confirmed that using this product as directed could increase the likelihood that you may help prevent the risk of possibly getting a cold in five years.

For every five minutes outside, you should apply or reapply this 500 dollar 500 SPF sunblock to every exposed area of your skin, so as to force frequent repurchase, and so that you will be continually motivated to reattempt this instruction when seeing no results, and so that we cannot be held liable when the only results found are a commonly reported skin disease associated with this product.

We assume you are stupid, because we have your money now.

Books,

Bumper

Stickers,

Articles,

and

Attitudes

of

Idiots

in

Disguise

 

Cartoon Theory: A book by David L. Klampsdt, Ph.D. Support Trikiynklydeckia! Walk to promote awareness and research this Friday! Who Are We to Judge Anything? Everything Is Equally Valuable or Invaluable*.

*For conditions, as always, refer to the constantly-changing rules of political correctness before any other considerations.

"Maxims"

Beneath sex

is nonsense.

No one wants people who most want just to be wanted.

Even if spiting seeming social courtesy, reason isn't interested in balancing what is fallacious with what is not.

"Carbon life-forms" on Earth are not necessarily more special than unique gaseous forms on Jupiter, though we don't detect these to be as valuable as we.

Every major new scientific discovery seems to always "surprise" at least many scientists. Maybe they should have learned by now that at least some things they believe are correctable.

Imagination cannot be taught, but it can be taught to shrivel.

Why are "ignorant" people usually also "arrogant"? Probably because they think those who claim a distinction between the words are wrong.

Our covers are part of our books.

Repeat the most obvious lie more and more and the masses will find it more and more true.

Tactics of good debating are deceitful, as the good debater doesn't care about truth to begin with. Yet, an honest and steadfast eye will see through this.

The unspoken Neoconservative motto:

Boldness without Understanding

To readily dismiss high knowledge is to be moved by the common sense of fools.

It is of tradition to let tradition think for you.

Reality as a coherent, self-explanatory whole does not necessitate a God. Randomness, on the other hand likely would, as it cannot explain itself.

Spiritualists should not engage in questions of science unless they are willing to understand it.

Christian faith is to constantly tell yourself you are right despite every evidence to the contrary, and to tell yourself that everything is created only for humans and everything in your life for you.

The blind know they're blind, the poor know they're poor, but the self-righteous can be convinced by no one, not even themselves, of their internal flaws.

Be suspicious of all you think, especially while in agreement with

and following from another's argument, their constantly potentially

wittingly or unwittingly coaxing trickery. easily misled.

The human mind is so

At least sometimes, be influenced where you are not wont to be, and don't be influenced where you are wont to be.

What should or must I change, and what should or must I keep the same?

We are all at fault with one another.

Anti-judgment: Everyone can report of past actions reasons

explaining their feeling to have willed and/or (while oblivious and/

or not) not willed them.

Acknowledging all people as fundamentally similar should exist

alongside our drawing of enemy lines, not as a contradiction, but as

a reminder of the greater good that a tremblingly sensitive war seeks.

As much as we hate each other, we are not only part of the same singular universe, on the same earth so small in this universe, but we are part of the same very specific pattern of elements definably "our species".

Things make sense even if I can't make sense of them.

Yashid's Dream

I'm only ten and I'm alone. I don't know how I got here. The first thing I remember is sliding down these networks of tube-like neon and pastel plastic slides––I could direct which one I would go to at their "intersections", but I didn't know why I chose the ones I did. In any case, I ended up here in this small room with a chipping thin tile floor beneath me that looks like cookies and cream ice cream, white with black streaks all over.

I look up at the ceiling hiding the network of slides above me, about ten rectangular sponge blocks white with faint black streaks less noticeable than brown water stains dotted here and there. There appears to be no way out other than climbing back up the slide. Naturally I attempt this.

My hair statically floats above me while my nylon Sunday tights and dress are being charged beneath me. My hands are kind of hurting as I resist sliding back down, pulling myself knee length by knee length upward and over bumps where parts of the tube slides are probably bolted together on the slides' exterior.

I finally make it to a semi-level area about twenty feet up where I

made my split-second decision to go straight down instead of shifting to the right. To my right, which was my left on the way down, I now notice a large area holding pastel and neon mostly pink, maroon, purple, and blue plastic toy balls. This is like a fast food restaurant's "ball pit" I guess, held up by about a classroom's size net of blue and red thick rope. I don't exactly trust this rope, though, especially since it hangs above some sort of thick pool of ink and nearly touches it at the net's dipping center.

I look more closely into this odd area and notice dull pink and blue Christmas lights scattered around but connected by no cords, each

bulb screwed into the black-painted cement block walls to which the netting is fastened. What light the bulbs emit helps me make out on the black cement high ceiling small stalactites that look like melting cheese. I even notice some of this "cheese" drip onto some balls near me. And, looking more closely onto the net of probably two thousand balls, I see there is this mozzarella-ish cheese dotted all around, some still moist-looking and some hard and molded. Gross.

Nearly gagging, I turn away from this room and toward the slide I chose not to go down. This one is a pastel lavender, as opposed to the sort of hot pink one I chose before. I peer down it but don't see anything clearly; the only light in this whole slide network seems to come from these semi-level areas, probably from something like the Christmas lights I just saw.

"Shit."

Daddy would kill me if he heard me say that. I slap my hand to my

mouth and almost with a sting. I need to get home before I fall into

a bad habit of swearing. I feel so uneasy here and I suppose that's

I swore because I have no way of knowing

if this slide leads anywhere any better than the one I just climbed up

from.

why I just

But

"Shit."

Angry with myself for swearing again, I sort of shake my fists but lose balance even in my crawling position in this relatively shallow mostly levelly-placed "intersection tube". Somehow I slip backwards and down the same slide I just crawled up.

Back in the same small room as before, I find myself not as scared as before, but just frustrated and actually pretty angry with myself instead. And I must look all staticky and unkempt. I stop to readjust my skirt, hosiery, and hair, turning toward the slide while

doing this as if to avoid the eyes of someone standing in the corner. But is someone in the corner?

Before fully satisfied with my adjusted appearance, I suspiciously turn around and actually find a maroon rather large rabbit facing the corner. It somehow seems to be crying. Did I see this before?

Though a little put off, I slowly and carefully approach the rabbit. I softly ask it if there is anything wrong. But why would I do this? This doesn't make any sense.

Yet the bunny quickly turns around and acts as if it understood me. I'm sure it didn't, though, especially since it then runs away through a hole it must have burrowed since I was last here, a hole that it was covering with its rather large body, a hole actually about the width of me––that maybe leads back to where I came from!

What luck! Or, well, I suppose if this didn't happen I could climb back up to the top of the slide system. And maybe that would even be a better decision. Maybe this is even some sort of childish protest of mine, staying down here for at least a little while. But, in any case, this hole may lead me back more easily than climbing up all those slides.

"Eww". Well, this is kind of gross. I mean now I'm far less presentable than I was even all staticky and rumpled. As I've placed my arms and head through the hole, I'm not only covered in plaster, but my hands are all muddy from touching the surprisingly wet floor of a soily tunnel on the other side. Cringing my eyes closed, I pull myself all the way through and slump with a groan down into what I realize too late to be a puddle of probably rabbit urine.

"O.M.G."

Where

is my cell phone? Why can't I call someone to cry to them

right now? Or at least text. But maybe no one would pick up anyway. Like, I suppose Daddy is at work. And he would yell at me for using the phone not just for emergencies. But maybe I could call Jenny or Ren. But then I could still get in trouble and maybe they would too.

I have to get out of here so I don't get in trouble for wandering off though. But I don't remember wandering off. I just ended up here

At least in this tunnel I don't have to slump like I would in the slides. This was definitely not dug by the rabbit. And, kind of sadly, I don't see him to either side of me.

I stand up and do my best to shake off the plaster that's all over me.

I disgustedly wring out the urine from my skirt and try to pat down my clothes and hair to look presentable at least to someone–– hopefully not just the bunny. Rubbing my hands against the dirt wall, I commit to walking adamantly in one direction for some time, just so I can make progress to get back to my life.

The tunnel to either side of me kind of curves and I can only see about half a football field to either my right or left.

"Right is wrong, left is right." I don't know why, but this saying kind of comforts me in giving me at least the illusion of self- directed guidance. So, I choose left. I walk around the bend and find that the tunnel continues to bend ever so gradually.

I've been walking for a minute and for some reason am becoming impatient, but I'm sure I'm going somewhere. Yet I continue to twiddle my fingers against my right thigh and hum some folk tune Daddy once taught me. I sing it faster and faster while becoming more and more irritable. I want to scream.

"SHIT!"

The tunnel was a goddamn circle.

I'm back where I

started.

I stare at the rabbit urine puddle with my footprints on its edges and being to cry a little. But now I'm mad. I'm going to make Hell.

I start kicking the soily and plastery hole and throwing my body into

the soft walls. I kick off my shoe and scream at the top of my lungs, "I want out!"

But this lasts no more than half a minute before I start crying again. I'm not hopeless enough to slump into the urine again, though, but I'm sad enough to exert only the amount of energy needed to move a foot away from it and slump there.

I decide to take a small nap. Maybe this all will go away with that.

I wake up after what could have been minutes or hours, I don't

know. I feel all disoriented now. But maybe this is because I awoke to the sound of a collapsing wall down the tunnel.

Flustered but aware enough to rise to my feet, I rush away from the sound, but it stops––so I stop. I slowly approach a pile of rubble I can see just a dozen or so yards away.

O.M.G.

The center of the tunnel!

Why didn't I think

of

that!

Well,

I guess anywhere beyond the walls could have been a

way out, but the center seems so obvious. I think when I was kicking it made part of the center wall collapse and now I'm psyched.

"Woah." This is

But

it's just a stupid courtyard.

"O.K. What the Hell." I suddenly don't care about the fresh air or grass––probably mostly because that's all there is. The grass is wet enough for it to just have rained, but the sky is mostly blue. The

soily walls around me are too tall to see anything above me besides this part of the sky, though. And thus I have no way of knowing if I'm near anything like civilization.

I suppose maybe it was obvious that this wouldn't lead anywhere

after all. But I'm just very confused now. I could try collapsing a wall not bordering this center. But, I don't know that any other

place leads anywhere besides the slides. I could still try to climb

any slides I find, though

then I don't even know that I could

really physically climb them. I think I just have to hope and try.

But

I'm starting to get a little scared and then I actually am somehow startled enough to jump.

"Ahhh!" There's the red bunny again. For some reason, it looks like it's almost smiling now. What?

It runs away once again, even though I didn't approach it at all. But

now I see it was sitting on something––a manhole cover.

I've already taken a mud and pee bath, I don't think a sewer is much beyond me

Well, if

"Although, it is below me." For some reason this pun makes me laugh. Maybe just because I thought of it myself. Teehee!

The manhole cover is surprisingly light and, surprisingly, there is no sewer beneath it––just a cast iron wire staircase. "Interesting." This is actually kind of awesome for some reason. I almost feel a little sense of adventure.

I step down into the hole and find that the stairs are surrounded by

walls different from those of the tunnel I was just in––they appear to be more solidified, but not quite yet "rock". There is no lighting, but I can sense where I'm going because the stairs go down in a pattern of five steps, a platform, a turn, five steps, a platform, a turn.

It is starting to get basically pitch dark, though. Maybe I do have

But I don't. I

look up toward the courtyard and can barely make it out above me.

my cell phone after all? That could give some

"Hmm." I stand still for about a minute thinking of my options–– until I'm distracted by some noise beneath me. The absence of the clacking of my heels against the metal steps has highlighted what actually sounds like conversational voices somewhere below!

Excitedly, and actually probably without much thinking, I rush down the steps until the conversational voices seem to be right on my level. But it's still absolutely dark and there's nothing to stand on besides the steps––unless I were to jump over the railing into the seeming abyss beneath me.

I decide to start screaming. I'm not scared, though, I just think that's the best way for one of the voices to hear me. Maybe they could break through their wall to find me.

"HEY! I'm in here! I'm in the wall!"

Silence. I suppose I may have scared everyone, but someone's got to help me.

I hear their voices slowly begin again and many now seem closer to

the wall! I soon even start to sense dust and dirt falling in front of me––mostly because some of it's touching my face and making me cough. But, anyways, I am totally excited. This is like finding people again. It seems like I've been alone for years.

Suddenly I am taken aback by a bright purple light. I let my eyes adjust and find that this is a purple-tinted glass window being opened out in front of me from some sort of old-fashioned, high- ceilinged dining hall somewhere.

I see a LOT of people in there and am a little afraid but know I need to get in. And then the face of a probably four hundred-pound woman pops up a little ways from the window, her disappointing grimace doing nothing to soothe my fear.

"Get in," she groans.

"Oh, hi. Okay––thanks." I smile and take her hand as she stands on the ledge of this small window near the high ceiling of this Gothic- ish hall. I don't know how she got up here. She is one strong woman, though, basically pulling me––though surprisingly gently–– from an odd angle through this window onto the ledge with her.

I smile again and, again, with nothing in return. I look down to see

now relatively tightly spiral stairs but made of the same wire material as the stairs I just came by. For some reason, this lady all the while continues to hold me up and then lifts me over her shoulder as she slowly booms down the stairs that seem to barely hold her weight. At long last we reach the safety of the ground level of the hall.

There are no windows here but for the kind that I just came through evenly-spaced about every dozen yards around the top of the walls. There are about twenty overall I think. The walls go up for about three or four city building stories and then meet the ceiling which curves higher still––for about another story––to reach a crease aligning with a long dining table far below. Though this room almost looks like it could belong in a cathedral, it is not built ornately, and its floors, walls, and ceiling only vary in texture along with the relatively thin honey- and dark-brown-colored wood boards lining them. The main wood is honeyish and the beams touching and jutting out from the ceiling's and walls' tops are dark brown. All this is lit by two cast iron probably five-foot lanterns hanging from beams level with the ceiling's base, holding loudly buzzing somehow electric bulbs.

I

look up and down the table at which nearly identical copies of this

four-hundred-pound grumpy-looking woman sit on both sides all around it. There are about a hundred of them, all white, all wearing some sort of medieval-ish brown, green, or black cloak-ish plain dress, all with dirty-looking and frizzy curled dark brown hair. Most notably, each of them almost looks like a fat turtle, their pursed-lip frowns bending into their fat necks. I don't know exactly why, but I don't want to sit with them. Maybe it's because I think they'll eat me––they don't even have plates. I smile again but somewhat hesitantly and say "thank you" as I gradually quicken my pace toward a hallway to the left of me and the still-open window far up behind me.

I reach a hallway similar in design to the dining hall behind me, but

probably only a story and a half tall. It curves to the left and with similar proportions to the curve of the tunnel from before that I don't really want to think of now.

Proceeding down the hallway, I let out a huge sigh once I turn and can no longer see the fat turtle ladies. Only now do I notice that I must once again be filthy-looking, though. But I only give myself a half-hearted patting to shed some dirt. I really don't think I need to impress anyone down here, actually.

I walk for about three minutes, no longer twiddling my fingers or humming for some reason. I suppose it feels like I'm going

somewhere. And then I'm proven right. In front of me, to the right,

I see a pair of glass doors leading to what looks like an Ivy League college campus courtyard.

I step out into it after having a little struggle with the right heavy

glass door. I actually left finger smudges on it which I feel a little bad about, but I've already left a bigger mess behind me.

A

red-brown cobblestone-ish path curves to the right and then left,

in

between gardens with different types of tall wavy grasses, ferns,

and other undergrowth in front of different red-brown cobblestone- ish fancy old-looking collegiate-ish buildings of different sizes and rounded shapes. The ground is still wet from the rain just like I noticed in the courtyard that's somehow probably now above me. I don't notice any drops from trees, though, and then I look around to notice that this is because there are none.

I wind around the curvy path as it bends through gardens and

buildings until it comes to a clearing: a grassy field lying before a small marshy area dotted with dead trees in between windy shallow streams. It is small enough to walk around toward the edge of a forest masked by hanging red, yellow, and green leafy vines acting like a curtain to some place that so intrigues me.

I separate some vines to enter into the rather lightless forest and notice ferns, grasses, and undergrowth similar to those I passed in the gardens, but I soon realize that these ones are actually bent wire sculptures––though I don't know why anyone would place them here. Looking around more, I notice that there is some sort of mist floating about three or four feet above the forest floor for as far as I can see.

I stare at one fern and begin to notice reflected onto it a soft

lavender glow from above. Looking up past the mist I see a host of iridescent lavender soap-ish bubbles somehow emitting this light. I don't know where they are coming from or why, but they float up and down toward and from the high canopy of what I now see to be only pine trees.

I continue staring at these bubbles while walking on, somehow

without tripping over what I guess could be painful tetanus- producing sculptures, though they didn't seem to be rusty when I looked at them. Some of the bubbles I'm examining are now

synchronously floating only forward as if to lead me on somewhere. They slowly shift downward while moving to lead my steps and now to a point where they stop. I tilt my head to see what they seem to point at.

In front of me is another sculpture about the size of a larger-than- average jungle gym at my school. It looks like a messily-woven basket though, but made of dark brown metal instead of wood.

The bubbles that have been leading me on collect inside the jungle gym sculpture's middle and nearly taunt me to to squeeze through. But I can't find any place where I could fit through. I climb up on it to see if there might be some opening on top that is wider. But now the whole thing actually starts levitating.

O.M.G., what?? It's too far off the ground to comfortably jump off now and, the longer I think about it, the more dangerous it would be to jump. This is like a spaceship, except powered by more and more bubbles collecting underneath it. It's now going faster and seems to be speeding up.

Great. I'm a little scared. But at the same time I somehow think this is what I should be doing. The now-ship speeds up and looks like it's about to crash through the canopy––but it's not really a canopy, just pine trees that get thinner near the top. I guess there's not too much to worry about. I close my eyes.

When I reopen them, it seems like I'm in outer space. All around me are what look like tiny brown planets filled with caves. They are only about the size of a dozen of the ship I'm on, though.

The ship lands on a nearby one of these "planets" that are all somehow rotating around and in between each other. There are about ten of them. And I hear music, as if it directs them. I see approaching from each of the caves on this planet and those all

around a near-identical gaunt-looking tall, thin, and blue-greyish human-like but not so human-like creature with large blue-black eyes, each playing a very long but straight clarinet, not curved like Ren's bass clarinet at school.

They each suddenly stop playing but then restart as the tallest creature a few planets over signals by swirling their (his?) instrument for each to play again a long and low drone tone. But they all play different notes––but only slightly different. It sounds like someone at my school would cover their ears. It's really dissonant. But it somehow entrances me.

I look for the cave nearest to where I'm standing and turn to notice a

cave behind me, but no weird clarinetist came from it. Naturally, I'd like to see what's in it.

As if in a trance, I'm drawn further and further in, until it seems I've walked longer than would be possible on this planet. Maybe I'm walking in a spiral toward its small center. I don't know. But now I can't hear the clarinetists anymore.

I can still see a little, from the starlight behind me.

trip over a pothole. Shit. But then I notice all these other holes of different depths––and one that seems to empty out into really some sort of infinite abyss. O.M.G. I'm scared again.

Still, I almost

But I look into it. I can't help myself. I'm drawn to it.

I look, stare, and ponder in until it somehow becomes a mirror––but

only seemingly a mile down into it. But it can't be this deep. I turn to look away from it but find I don't remember if I'm the one looking or staring back. I turn to look behind me to see if I'm still on the planet, but I lose my balance.

I'm all of a sudden sliding down the same network of slides I came

from before. I vaguely remember now that I originally found these slides after some sort of similar experience before. This time, though, the slides look different: there are thin plastic tubes wrapped around inside of the now translucent plastic of the tubes I'm sliding through. Stuck inside these small tubes are tiny electric lights of neon blue and pink. I can see all around me other slides and the ball pits I didn't notice before. This is an enormous network. But even with the new electric lights, it somehow seems less lit than before.

For some reason, I try to direct myself the way I remember I did before, to get to the same room I started in. After probably two minutes of this, after actually letting myself enjoy the slides this time––maybe it was even more than two minutes––, I end up in that room.

I must look unpresentable, but I really don't give a shit now. I still have mud on me, space dust, and all sorts of weird shit I'm sure. Never mind my staticky skirt and hair.

I look up from my seated position and somehow without a sore

butt––either this time or before actually––and I see the maroon rabbit. He's neither crying nor smiling now. He actually appears to be laughing, and amiably, and looking right at me. Or maybe he was just sniffling or something. I don't know. But I somehow actually think he was laughing.

He runs through the same hole as before and this time I chase him. The hole is still widened from before, but I'm not even exactly sure that this is really the same place.

I learned from last time and retrace all my steps, steps that the rabbit is following precisely, even through an already knocked-down wall, opened manhole cover, and opened window past a nasty dirt wall down deep past the stairs beneath it.

He leaps through the open purple window and down the stairs beyond it as I follow, looking up only enough to notice that the fat turtle ladies are now thin, smiley, and actually attractive. Plus their skin tone looks more like mine now.

I'm rushing to follow the rabbit so intently that I didn't notice we've taken rights wherever I took lefts before––but I haven't cared to use nonsense childhood expressions to make these decisions since my first left what seems like ages ago, though I'm sure it was just an hour at most.

He stops in front of a part of the wall where I think the glass doors were before, but then he runs in front of me and through a square human-sized hole in the wall covered by a hanging rubber flap, like

a "doggy door" or something.

Even though I'm a bit put off by this, I follow the rabbit even now. I trust him for some reason. It's almost as if he is me. I don't know. I don't know why I think this.

I crawl through what seems like a network of nearly pitch-black and really dusty and even cobwebby crawl spaces. I don't know where the little light there is is coming from, actually. I notice huge spiders above me and wince and start breathing more heavily, but still I go on.

I'm almost out of breath after a few minutes of this and am really starting to feel claustrophobic. But I turn a corner to notice a bright light in front of me.

Until now I seem to have forgotten the bright childlike colors that I began this trip with. The colors of this room are even brighter than those. But, besides the alabaster white painted plaster walls and sponge ceiling, they are deep reds, greens, and yellows. Not that I

really have anything against lavender; it's just the color of my bedroom back home. But now, for some reason, I don't even care that I may never see my bedroom again. I don't care about my cell phone that can only dial a few numbers, and I don't even really care about the wrath of Daddy anymore. I think I'm going to stay down here. I don't know why, but it seems right. Maybe I've gone crazy, or maybe I've just grown up.

The room is full of white, feathery fluffy pillows and lit by bright fluorescent tube lights. It's kind of a small room and as tall as it is wide and long, but I don't mind it. I curl up in a pile of pillows and take a nap.

About the Author

Timothy Ballan is a composer and writer who currently resides in Western Massachusetts. As a composer, Timothy mostly writes accessible classical music. As a writer, Timothy mostly writes plotless stories, atmospheric vignettes, poems, and non-pretentious philosophy. When not composing or writing, Timothy leads several musical groups in urban youth development programs, teaches private piano lessons, and tutors youth in various academic subjects. In his free time, Timothy enjoys driving on country roads, hiking, watching scary movies, and sharing time and an absurd sense of humor with his human and mint-flavored bobby-pin friends.