Where are you?
It’s so dark, why is your heart beating so hard, where are you?
What are you going to do?
[[open your eyes]]
[[keep them closed]]You open your eyes and quickly glance around the half-lit room. You’re at home, in your living room, laying on the couch you know so well. The tv hutch is closed and the remote sits askew on the couch next to you, probably from the last person who carelessly tossed it there. Your phone sits beside it. This is your house. This is your living room. Then why does it feel different?
[[turn on the tv]]
[[turn on your phone]]
You remain laying wherever you are, and clench your eyes tightly shut, except it's not pitch black anymore. Spots blink into your vision, as they sometimes do when you run too fast or drink too little water, except they’re colorful and seem to move at their own will. You start to question your physical state.
Did someone drug you?
While your thoughts spin left and right the dots move similarly. You lose your train of thought on the subject at hand and return focus to the strange dots. The instant you do so they begin to morph and change until they have completely lost their shape. The only remnants of the circular structure of the previous dots lies within the way the newfound kaleidoscope twists. With each twist, new colors and shapes emerge and take form on the backdrop of your eyelids. The shapes appear to have depth and layers, like looking inside a cut jewel. And the twisting, it's never-ending. You can only take so many spins, and the changing shapes and colors themselves are dizzying.
Yet, you are so lost in the rainbow lightshow surrounding you.
[[SNAP OUT OF IT]]
You grab the remote next to you and the tv erupts into static noise. The previously black screen has pixelated into the white and black telltale sign of an unavailable broadcast. The unnerving static noise continues, buzzing in your ears. You could’ve sworn this TV worked.
You stare at the pixels and try to think of a solution. As you stare, your mind wanders and you zone out. The pixels blink mechanically and predictably, the static looms above your head and eyes. Cyan, magenta, and yellow pixels begin to flicker in and out along the edges of the TV frame. The rays of artificial light stretch diagonally along your relaxed eyes, displaying a hint of every color throughout their glare. The static noise crackles in your skull, it seems to have grown to a painful volume.
[[Are you dreaming?]]You turn on your phone to find it is at an extremely low battery percentage. Maybe it's best not to try and solve this mystery using it. You’ll definitely need it in case of an emergency, but then again just a quick check won’t hurt. Just as you are entertaining these ideas, the telltale ring of your phone cuts into the silent air. You turn towards it quickly and notice the strange number calling. The numbers shine with the blinding blue light of your phone.
[[no]] Yes, this has to be a lucid dream. The TV is too weird, this situation is too strange. Everything feels amplified somehow. You can still hear your own heartbeat over the constant blaring static, and you can’t remember that one thing you heard about lucid dreams. You look back at the TV. It’s off. If it’s off, why hasn’t the static noise gone? You walk towards the TV and fiddle with the buttons, hoping you somehow may put an end to the vexing noise. The TV screen remains blank and black, yet a faint, translucent pattern can almost be made out on the backdrop.
[[lean in closer]]No, this can’t be a dream. You would know if it was. Once you reach this conclusion, you turn the TV off to get rid of the awful static. Silence finally sits peacefully over you, until your phone glows on and vibrations from an incoming call fill the room.
[[hang up]]You open your eyes and nearly scream when you recognize a cat sitting upon your chest. You can only distinguish it in the dim light by its shining gold eyes aimed directly at yours, the rest of it appearing as a black mass. As your eyes adjust, the mass gains clarity and you begin to notice the grey countless hairs coating the cat. You can’t help but sit up to pet it, and as you do the hairs flow and change like waves across the cat’s spine. Wait, this is wrong. Everything is off. What is going on? You look back at the cat's glowing eyes and it winks at you.
[[interrogate the cat]]
[[wink back]]“Did you just wink at me?” You lean in closer to the cat, inches from its face. “Do you work for the government?” The cat sat still, unresponsive and unmoving, until it suddenly began cleaning itself. “Are you an alien-made robot gathering data on humans?” Ok, that one was crazy. But...
“You must be some sort of spy.” The cat winked again and aggressively began licking from its right shoulder to its paw.
[[lay back down]]You wink at the cat and let out a small smile when you realize how ridiculous the situation is. The cat grins at you, in a full, teethy, humanistic Cheshire Cat manner. Your smile falls, but the cat's grin does not.
[[leave]]Goosebumps prick your arms, beginning at the back of your neck and passing along your spine. You can feel eyes watching you as you leave the room. Despite the darkness, you know your surroundings. You're definitely at home. Why is no one here? You rationalize the recent events to yourself, you were half-asleep, dreary, tired. You’re sure things must be fine. However, you were so lost in your thoughts you didn’t keep track of where you were headed. And who would? It’s your house after all.Then why haven’t you seen this hallway before? How is it so endless? Your surroundings now show no indication of your home, yet they are still familiar. Wherever this hallway leads to, it will certainly be better than where you were before.
[[continue walking]]You lay back down on your side, being careful to keep the cat in your line of sight. By the time you get comfortable, it’s gone. Something is definitely wrong. You must be hallucinating, nothing you have seen makes any sense and neither do your thoughts. You close your eyes and force your breathing to slow, thankful that no bright colors and enigmatic shapes have invaded the safety of darkness. As your heart falls in line with your breaths and your thoughts drift into a place without meaning, the kaleidoscope flickers into sight.
//view item 1//As you progress down the hallway, your feelings of nostalgia increase. Your footsteps echo along the floors and bounce from the walls to the ceiling, and back down again. The memories spurring your nostalgia start to surface and cement in your mind. These are the hallways of your high school. Once you realize this, lockers manifest along the hallway walls, and by some sort of miracle or nightmare, a familiar number adorns one of them.
[[inspect the locker]]
[[ignore it]]You halt abruptly at the locker when you recognize the number as being previously yours. You’re sure you won’t be able to recall the code, you could barely remember it during school, but as you reach for the locker, three digits announce themselves loudly in your mind. Right, left, right, you spin the dial until the lock pops open. You are surprised to see your locker has remained the same, packed with binders and notebooks, assorted pencils and pens, tedious textbooks, and old graded work. Atop the heaping mess lies a single ripped corner of lined paper, the kind one passes secret notes with. You reach for it and read its contents aloud,
'ARE YOU ENJOYING THE PETER MAX EXPERIENCE?'
Below the strange question lies two boxes, labeled ‘yes’ and ‘no’ respectively.
[[NO]]You ignore the locker and continue down the endless hallway. The goal isn’t to explore, it’s to figure out what exactly is going on. Turning to your surroundings, you realize you forgot how bright the fluorescent block lights of schools are. Shifting your gaze down, you watch the repeated square tiles of the floor move in and out of view as you progress. Maybe this hallway really is endless. Looking back at the identical lockers on either side of you, you recognize they all display the same familiar number now. They’re also significantly more full now, papers jut out from all corners, displaying different poor grades, critical comments, and ugly opinions. Upon closer inspection, you realize every paper displays your name.
[[ignore the locker again]]
[[inspect the locker]]You close the locker, check the box labeled ‘yes,’ and start to slide the note into the vent of the locker. You feel a strong pull on the opposite end of the note and lose your grip as it is sucked into the locker. Almost immediately, another item begins emerging from the locker vent. You outstretch your arms and unfold your hands to catch the item dropping from the vent.
//view item 6//You rapidly and decisively check the ‘no’ box. That was probably the easiest decision you’ve made so far. You toss the note back into the locker and it slams shut on its own accord. Countless eyes begin to poke out of the numerous locker vents, supported by slimy stalks. They move in any and all directions, independent of one another, until they all turn to you in unison, glittering under the harsh lights. United, disembodied voices ring throughout the hall, saying,
“I LOVE MY WORK. I REALLY LOVE THE PIECES I DO. I DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT MAINTAINING A RELEVANCE. I JUST THINK ABOUT WHAT DO I WANT TO MAKE, WHAT AM I GONNA DO NOW, WHAT AM I GONNA DO LATER. ALL DAYS GO BY LOVING WHAT I DO,”
CAN YOU SAY THE SAME?”
//view item 3//You turn in outrage from the lockers, yet you still feel the criticism they contain heavy on your chest. Now, the nostalgia is no longer. You may as well be back at school. You feel the familiar disappointment and ache in your chest, the feeling of failure that everyone knows. By default, your eyes drop to the repeated moving tiles of the floor as you walk on. As you progress, the heavy feelings of self doubt continue to loom over your head. The painfully bright lights of the hallway begin to flicker in and out, and you hear something like a dull thunder all around you, slowly rising in volume.
[[run]]With the noise steadily increasing and seemingly following you, panic sets into your heart and you break out into a sprint. Once you take the first stride, the locker’s doors alongside you fling open with supernatural force, launching loose papers and heavy binders up and out into the space you were about two seconds ago. You recognize the thunder noise as the lockers rumbling and shaking, about to erupt, and quicken your run. But the lockers, filled to the brim with spite, have a will of their own. With every landing footfall, the locker adjacent explodes. Books crack into your skull and whirling papers block your vision, yet, you continue to flee from the torrent. Suddenly, you glimpse the end of the hallway, and with a final burst of strength, increase your speed. Your goal grows closer and closer. But, before you reach it, you somehow notice, through the flood of papers, another locker waiting at the end of the hall. Before you have time to react, the locker bursts open and a laptop hurtles towards you.
[[WAKE UP!]]You awake with a start in your bed, in your home, to the sounds of muffled voices and a blaring alarm. Your laptop sits atop your chest, displaying a black screen with white text written on it. Despite your lingering shock and partial consciousness, you begin to make out the text, which reads...
Where are you?
It’s so dark, why is your heart beating so hard, where are you?
//view item 2// “Hello?”
Garbled, warped noises emanate from your phone. It sounds like what could be voices in an alien language. Despite being unable to decipher their words, you get the feeling they are radio announcers of some sort. The speaking ceases and music begins playing. You don’t know the song but it feels familiar. It seems to change the whole atmosphere or even world around you to fit its mood. You sit back to enjoy the music but at that instant your phone dies.
//view item 4//Without answering, you end the call. You glance at the time displayed on your phone to see only warped digits. That's weird, maybe cell towers are down. But then how did you get the call? Feeling uneasy, you decide to leave the room to find another source to tell the time.
[[leave]]You lean in closer, your nose nearly pressing against the TV. Now, the faint image gains clarity and you begin to identify it as a galaxy. As you stare, the galaxy becomes more prominent over the blackness, materializing gradually to fill the screen. All your eyes can see is twinkling stars, purple and pink nebulas, exploding suns, and endless black space. The galaxy spins before your eyes and in the moment you feel as though one could even see it swirling in your pupils or shining through your soul. Gone is the TV, your living room, your home. The never-ending, constantly-expanding universe now surrounds you. All that is, all that will be, and all that was composes it. You are so miniscule compared to it. It will never hear your words, judge your thoughts, feel your touch, or even consider you. And you realize this is because you and it are one and the same. You feel enlightened, as though the universe just told you its existential secret that everyone's been chasing. You laugh, because you know that secret is unique to each person, and the universe isn’t going to tell them it, they have to find it for themselves. Still grinning, you lay basking in the beautiful, infinite world that surrounds you.
//view item 5//