[p] and I were hiking along a river that was partially frozen. We found a surprising number of large, furry spiders among the rocks and ice. I was disappointed to notice that my camera's battery was dying, and that I had forgotten to bring a spare battery. We ended up climbing more than hiking, and I was slightly nervous when I had to place my hand near a spider, but they didn't seem aggressive. We decided before long that we'd be better off coming back a little later in the year.
Back in the city, I was driving with a friend to help with a project at someone's apartment. We arrived in an area crowded with tall yellow buildings, and guessed that we were in the right place. As we approached the building, the person we were there to see came outside to meet us. My friend and I had both brought power drills, but I had left mine in the car, assuming we wouldn't need both. We concluded that we might need both after all, and I returned to the car while the other two entered the building.
On my way back from the car, I encountered two men throwing a football. One of them seemed to deliberately move into my path any way I turned so that I could not easily pass. I didn't know what his intentions were, and I pretended not to notice what he was doing. I backtracked a little and walked around a building. I was relieved to find a large number of people along my new route.
When I entered the apartment building, I tried the first of three large elevators. When it opened, I saw several sleeping bags on the floor, one of which was occupied. Another person stood in the back, looking at me with a slight smile as if I had done something embarrassing in opening the doors. I saw other items indicating that several people lived in the elevator car. I decided to try the second one rather than disturb them further.
When I arrived at the apartment, it was crowded with people. It seemed that a baptism was taking place in a small bathroom. Only a few people in a narrow hall leading to the bathroom could see what was going on, but everyone seemed happy. [d] was in the crowd that spilled over into a larger room, and someone announced that he was going to sing a hymn. I was surprised at this, never having heard him sing a solo in public like this. Although everyone was standing, he rose a foot or so above the crowd, and I noticed that his white shirt collar seemed oddly oversized. He sang the song, and did a decent job.
While crossing the country, we stayed in a mansion owned by some acquaintances of acquaintances of ours. It was a sort of an informal hotel. They allowed pets, and they even permitted our cats to walk freely around the house. When night came, however, we were told that we needed to shut the cats in a cage in the basement kennel. I had a very hard time catching our cat [m]. He fought me fiercely as I carried him downstairs and put him in a cell. I didn't understand why he resisted so strongly. In the adjacent cell were several lion cubs that belonged to another guest.
Late that night, we sat in an upper room talking to some of the other guests. The woman who had brought the lion cubs was there, as was a man who suddenly informed us that the owners of the house intended to kill us. He distributed blunt black rods that could be used to stab them. They were vampires, and special tools were required to kill them. They were also vulnerable to cats, and afraid of them. Apparently, any type of cat would instinctively attack and kill them.
Even with the black rods, we didn't seem to have much of a chance against the vampires. I decided to attempt to free the lion cubs, and the vampire hunter and I left the room. We could see shadowy figures in black capes moving along the ceiling and staircases. We hadn't made it very far when several vampires emerged before us. The vampire hunter pulled out what looked like a small stick of black dynamite. When he held it up, the vampires retreated.
He handed me a couple of the sticks and then went off in another direction. There seemed to be too many vampires in the way for me to reach the kennel, so I explored more of the floor we were on. Looking into another room, I saw an old woman in bed. She seemed very ill, and I wondered whether she was also a vampire. I noticed one of the vampires standing by the bed, his or her back to me. Several others appeared in the room, surrounding the bad. None of them faced me, and they didn't seem to know I was there.
I saw my chance to kill several of the vampires at once, but if the old woman was not one of them I'd be killing an innocent person to save the rest of us. I lit a stick of the dynamite, and the fuse burned quietly. Making my decision, I threw the stick onto the bed. It exploded, not causing much damage but turning everyone in the room to fine black dust. Apparently, they had all been vampires.
A friend had asked me to purchase a used textbook from someone. I had heard some negative things about the area where the seller lived, though I had never been there.
We arrived there late at night. [je] was driving. I had brought the exact purchase price ($7.50) so that we'd be able to make the transaction and quickly leave.
Although the place seemed to be densely populated, we saw no one outside. After driving along several of the unfamiliar and poorly-lit roads, we turned down a very narrow street. On both sides, the apartments seemed to form a solid dirty white wall with no windows. Doors and mailboxes were surprisingly close together all along the wall. I noticed that we had passed the address we were looking for, and we backed up to the spot where it seemed likely to be.
I left the van and and walked the few steps to the building. I hadn't noticed from the van that the doors also included round manhole-like entrances in the road itself. I found the number I sought on one of these. The hole's cover was ajar and I could see down into the apartment. In dim reddish light, a tall blond man paced the room. He appeared to be dressed only in white feathers or cotton, which covered him haphazardly. I didn't know whether this man was the seller of the textbook, and I hesitated, not sure I wanted to get his attention. My view of the room below was limited, and he soon left my field of vision.
Not sure what to do, I stood to see the feathered man emerging from a doorway several yards away. He walked in a straight line, a dazed expression on his face. I returned to the van, sensing others watching me from somewhere, and we left without the textbook.
At a far end of the shopping mall, we watched as a hole formed in the air a few feet off the ground and a trolley emerged. It stopped when about half of it was outside the hole. The end door opened and a conductor inside asked us whether we were boarding. We said that we were. Because only people with certain occupations could ride the trolleys, we had to pretend that we had one of the qualifying jobs. My friend said that we were necromancers, pointing at packages of meat on the ground that he had bought earlier. We were allowed to board.
Instead of entering the trolley, I climbed on the side and squeezed between the trolley and the edge of the hole. I found myself on a platform in the between-world. A maintenance worker approached me and handed me a tool kit, evidently assuming that I was a trolley repair worker. With the tools, I'd be able to ride the trolleys freely. But I still didn't know how to summon them.
Later, in a department store, I asked a small monkey on a counter to summon a trolley. The monkey jumped around a device that resembled a cash register, and may have pressed a few buttons. A hole opened and a trolley emerged before me.
The most interesting part of the compound we were visiting was the pool containing a beluga whale. The whale seemed very happy and friendly, and I wondered whether it could be transferred to the larger rectangular pool in another building across the road.
When workers became alarmed at finding the whale missing, we informed them that it was now in the swimming pool. In fact, it seemed to be hiding underwater against a wall so not to be seen. I couldn't remember how we had moved the whale. When one of the workers described a violent scene in which the whale rammed and killed seals in the larger pool, I could picture the scene clearly. But there were no seals in the pool.
Someone in our group walked away angrily, saying that one of my coworkers would be fired for this. I quickly followed, explaining vaguely that if any of us were to blame, then I was. I was trying to avoid admitting that I had been responsible for moving the whale, but I was prepared to take the blame (which I entirely deserved) if anyone else would otherwise get in trouble. As the two of us crossed the road, a car passed dangerously close to us. The car circled around, and I was surprised to see the whale driving. I ran to the window and asked the whale whether it could understand what I was saying. It indicated that it could.
Workers rushed to the car and took the whale away, not allowing me to follow. I asked them whether they knew of the animal's intelligence, but they ignored my question.
We visited another city, this one more populous and with taller buildings. As we were walking around downtown, [wg], [jm], and I were drawn to a three or four-story building that seemed to be abandoned. We didn't find anything on the first floor or the second. But before we made our way to the third floor, a ceiling air conditioning vent dropped a screw, and then another. The metal cover clattered to the floor and the opening began to expand and contract rhythmically. The hole grew larger and more circular in shape. By the time it became a circle several feet in diameter, it was closing entirely and opening again, like a mouth. One of the times it opened, it was no longer a mouth but an enormous eye. We backed away toward the stairs leading down to the first floor. The eye remained open and began pouring a thick green transparent liquid from its pupil. [jm] and I ran down the stairs, but [wg] stayed behind, to observe and possibly to somehow fight the eye. The liquid pooled on the floor and cascaded down the stairs. It somehow disabled [wg] and he went rigid and fell down the stairs, striking his head on the way down. I awkwardly caught him at the bottom of the stairs and we dragged him out of the building. Outside, a large skull floated from the top floor window. A crowd gathered on the street below.
Later, [je] and I were trying to find our way back to the place we were staying in the city. We somehow ended up in a series of connected buildings, and the area seemed to be one where only very wealthy people lived. I noticed as we walked down an inclined passage that everyone around us was much older than we were. The passage led to a sort of art museum, and I decided to take some pictures as we passed through it. In one room, I waited as a middle-aged man photographed a woman and her young son, so not to get in their way. After the man took his picture, I walked around the room, taking a few pictures. The man began making comments, though not directly to me, that he wanted me to leave so that the three of them could have the place to themselves. It was a public place, however, and I ignored him. He directed the woman's son to try breaking or stealing my camera and to kick and bite me so that I would leave. The boy obeyed, and I dodged his attacks without too much trouble. I talked to the boy as I did, trying to win him over to my side so that he'd stop bothering me.
That evening, I wanted to visit a video game-themed restaurant I had heard of in the city, and I asked whether anyone else wanted to try it. No one seemed interested, so I set out walking again myself and eventually found it. I ordered a hamburger.
I hadn't noticed anything distinctive about the city where we were staying during our vacation. But when my family split up to walk around and find things to do, I came across something that surprised me. A man stood by a large creature that looked like a combination of a manta ray and a turtle. It looked as if the man was offering rides on the creature, which had no legs and rested on the grass near the road.
I bought a ticket and climbed up onto the creature, as did three other people. The creature then lifted into the air. We flew in a wide circle around the city. I now saw many small lakes and grassy areas that had somehow been invisible before, between the roads and buildings. Enormous albino turtles swam and rested in the water. The creature we rode seemed to enjoy flying low as we passed them.
After the aerial tour ended, I realized that I hadn't taken any pictures of the amazing things I was seeing. I quickly set off to find [d] and [p]. I brought them back so that they could also ride the creature with me while I took pictures during a second trip. When we arrived, we learned that the creature needed to rest for almost an hour between flights. I also saw that two wooden benches were now attached to its back to accommodate more riders.
Seeing this intensified a feeling I'd already had when I learned what the creature could do--somehow it didn't seem right to use it in this way.
We went back to our old apartment one more time to clean out some more of our things. We had left many of our belongings there because they had degraded to the point that we didn't want them anymore. Everything was blackened and moldy--even the light seemed dimmer that it should have been. When we had lived there, we had at least kept the place clean. All I could find to salvage were a couple bottles of vitamins from the medicine cabinet.
Walking back to the parking lot, we saw someone open the door to another apartment. It was just one filthy room with bed coverings scattered around the floor. Enormous black cockroaches scurried over things. This was an example of an apartment that was not regularly cleaned.
Later, back in our neighborhood, I climbed a young tree. When I was comfortable in its leafless branches, I inserted my car key into the trunk and turned the key. The tree was silent, so I wasn't sure that it had started, but then the tree began to move forward. My ride down the street was perfectly smooth and silent. All I could hear were some birds in nearby trees. I didn't have any way to slow or stop the tree, however. It seemed that it glided frictionless over any type of terrain. Its maximum speed was not unreasonable but it was fast enough to make me concerned as I swerved to avoid some oncoming vehicles.
The woman in the wheelchair acted as a sort of leader to everyone living in or visiting the mansion. Our current work was to cut wood and carry it to the house. To do this, we had to cross the stream that ran a few hundred yards in front of the house. I was wading in the water, trying to arrange several large logs with flat cut sides so that they formed a bridge. But it seemed that any way I lined them up, the bridge would be dangerous to someone carrying a heavy load of wood.
Back at the house, we were talking to the woman in the wheelchair. For some reason, I suddenly began to suspect that she had something sinister planned. I wasn't the only one who had this thought, and we quickly left the house. She had some sort of unusual power, but its nature had never been clear. On the way out, I grabbed some batteries that belonged to her.
That evening, we decided to return to the mansion and see whether anything had happened there. As we walked, I put the batteries I had taken from the mansion in my flashlight. When we reached the wooden walkway that ran parallel to the stream, we saw that the house had been largely destroyed. It was a mess of beams and broken pieces, and inside the ruined structure paced an enormous brown creature that had a vaguely humanoid shape. It seemed that the creature had either been summoned or created by the woman in the wheelchair, or it actually was her.
To see the creature better, I turned on my flashlight. I didn't know that the flashlight would make any difference at this distance, but it hummed loudly and emitted a powerful orange beam. When the light hit the mansion, it melted the broken materials into wet metallic silver. The ripples quickly hardened into mounds as the light left them. The creature stopped, shuddered, and sparked when hit by the light, and a thought that wasn't my own entered my mind: "You can't hurt me with this."
Concentrating on the giant creature, we almost failed to notice a smaller human-sized copy of it approaching us from the grass below the wooden walkway. I turned my beam to the smaller creature, which was clearly injured by the blast. I suspected that I had in fact been hurting the larger creature as well, and I moved back and forth between the two, stunning each in turn so that they could come no closer. I wondered whether the batteries would last until I could drive the creatures off. They did, and both creatures' forms eventually dissipated.
An unoccupied truck rolled down an incline just as I was driving up to our apartment complex. I couldn't avoid it, and it struck my car on the front right side. It hadn't been rolling fast, but the impact was enough to lock the vehicles together. I got out and walked up to the apartment, thinking that I should call the police. I searched for a telephone book for a while, but couldn't find one. I asked a few people, but no one seemed to know the number.
The next few days, it bothered me that I couldn't find the number to call. I could think only of 9-1-1, but this wasn't an emergency. After we ate at a buffet-style restaurant at a shopping mall, I finally discovered a telephone book in our apartment. A full page was dedicated to police, fire, ambulances, and so on, but the numbers were encoded into puzzles of some type. I found this irritating. The puzzles probably weren't especially complicated, but I found myself too frustrated with the situation to even try solving them. Especially when I noticed that the numbers were also printed on the page, but in intentionally unreadable and faded type.