Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On the Second Floor: Chapter V

Day Three

When I woke up the next morning, I decided that I was in the mood to eat some pancakes. "In the mood" wasn't quite it, but regardless, I had pancakes, and I wanted to eat them. Rolling out of bed once more, I rose to my wobbly feet and ambled into the kitchen, cleaning up the counter space just enough to begin the process.

As usual, there were some hiccups. I made four on the griddle, and because I couldn't be bothered to pay attention, each one came out slightly black on each side. Ordinarily I might toss out the defects and start fresh, but I knew that I was running dangerously low on batter. Better to conserve it, I thought.

But to make matters worse, I found that my butter reserves had similarly dwindled. It took a generous helping of maple syrup to make that breakfast palatable, but it certainly wasn't the least appealing thing I'd ever eaten.

I plopped down on the couch with my breakfast plate balanced on my stomach. Managing the fork with my left hand, I twisted slightly to one side and found the remote control. I flipped on the television, but I had forgotten that I had zero reception from Earth. Five seconds of blaring static was all that I could stand, and I switched it off again. Annoyed, I glanced out the window, at the aliens' tower, and I seethed. How truly on my own I was.

I took my syrup-slathered plate to the sink and let it soak in hot, soapy water, figuring that I'd get around to washing it properly some time in the evening. Then, I consulted my DVD library, ultimately settling on a Discovery Channel documentary on dinosaurs that I'd seen a million times before. I closed the window blinds for better lighting (or poorer?), and put it on.

Watching the brave leallynasaura fight for their survival in the grim Antarctic forests, I lazily twisted and turned on the couch, trying hard not to think about the futility of my condition. I did a few crossword puzzles; I clipped my toenails; I gazed with half-hearted interest as the polar allosaur inflicted cruel disaster on the hapless hypsolophidonts, and I decided that I really didn't want to watch TV that much after all. It was almost noon on the clock, and judging by the light which peeked in through the blinds, the artificial sun was high in the artificial sky.

Well, it was my "habitat," wasn't it? I supposed I'd better start inhabiting it. I opened the blinds; it was a beautiful simulation of a beautiful sunny day. The trees shook slowly in the gentle breeze, and the gleaming tower reflected light into my eyes. Strangely, it didn't hurt. It hadn't occurred to me before, but the light in my little fish bowl was of a very different kind from light of my home world.

So I thought I'd make the most of it. I got dressed and unhooked my stereo from the wall, transporting it to my new front "porch." Within twenty minutes I was set for life; reclining chair, an eight-hundred page biography of Franklin Roosevelt, a fresh pot of iced tea, and five hours of Mozart and Rachmaninov. Why be Shanghaied through space in anything less than perfect comfort? I dove into the book, not particularly concerned with the imminent arrival of my "guest." It was time for Eine kleine Nachtmusik.

Five hours and ten chapters can pass rather quickly, as it turns out. As the last strains of Sergei's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini died down, the CD player made a subtle click, and turned itself off. I set the book down and slumped in my chair. Just where the hell was Dayus? I knew he was watching me, but it sure was creepy not knowing when he'd choose to show himself. What an inconsiderate guest!

Positively bored out of my skull, I stood up, yawned and stretched, and took a walk. One step, two steps, three steps, four, I counted time and tried to burn up as much of it as I could. I started out in the direction of the brook, savoring the sweetness of the air, and wishing it were real.

I came to the stream, and to the tree in which I'd hidden myself two days before. I kept walking; it wasn't a pleasant memory. I began to wonder, just how big was my pen? Could I keep walking forever, finding new landmarks, perhaps generated spontaneously for my benefit? Or maybe it was all some sort of closed spatial loop, and I'd walk right back to where I'd started from.

Nope, I found the wall.After another ten minutes of walking I nearly bumped into it, like one of those painted backdrops on the set of The Wizard of Oz, but infinitely more convincing. So, I thought, even Dayus and his wizards have their limits. And it looks like so do I.

I put my hands in my pockets and turned to follow the yellow brick road back home, except it wasn't really home and I knew it. Home isn't just a set of walls and a bed, it's a place, and I'd utterly lost my place in the universe, all on God's or some capricious devil's whim. But then, who could say? Whether on Earth or aboard Elysia, I was hurtling through empty space at high speed. No, I thought, that's the doctor's perspective. What would he know of something like place?

Just short of the tower, I paused to take a rest. My calves were aching sharply, and I thought how unfit I must be that my legs could not manage so comparatively short a hike. Or maybe I only needed to stretch a bit.

I laid myself down on the soft grass and stared directly at the sterile, harmless sun as it progressed to the horizon of the tiny sky. I stared and stared, but my eyes would not burn. Surely this was a safety feature; I wondered whether the water in the stream was specifically designed to keep me from drowning, too. What a world.

I looked over to the tower. Dayus still hadn't shown up. Those gears had yet to turn. I rose again and paced around the monolith for many, many minutes, and then I stopped. Looking angrily skyward, I shouted to my captor, "Come down here, Dayus! Come down to this place and TALK TO ME!" I stood there fuming, awaiting a response. Hearing none, I blurted out "then let me come up there!"

But no, that was out of the question, wasn't it? I stomped back to my apartment muttering obscenities the whole way. At the porch, I finished the last of the tea that pooled at the bottom of the pot. I began bundling up my things and moving them back inside. If that tall freak wanted to talk to me today, he'd have to find me inside; I sure didn't want to see him.

My mood was heavy, so I put on some music to suit it. Led Zeppelin fit the bill perfectly. I played video games and stewed into the evening, too ticked off even to make dinner. I decided to put off the dishes until morning. If I wanted anything at all, it was Domino's pizza. "Simulate that," I cursed.


Around midnight, I walked outside again, under the light of a waxing moon. I love stargazing; even with little formal knowledge of the constellations, they fired my imagination. Even with all that I had come to know, they still stood for undeniable, incomprehensible infinity. And it took me a little while, but I soon realized that the stars above my head were not merely copies of the patterns I saw from Earth. Neither were these stars randomly distributed, but rather they were whole new constellations, in twisting shapes that I had no names for. "At last," I wondered aloud, "is this something real?" I turned my eyes to the moonlit grass and thought hard, unable to stop, unable to sleep, unable to conclude.

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