Though it's become clear to me I have no reason to hurry, my curiosity
just won't let me rest. It's been a couple of days since my last entry,
and I spent most of that time sitting outside in a field, waiting. But
it was worth the wait.
I went out to the boundary, near the pond, where the map showed that large
space on the other side. I found no evidence of it from the inside whatsoever,
but I was pretty sure I had the right place, so I just sat and watched and
listened. I had a hunch, which proved correct, that the large, fast-moving
object I saw my first night here came from that place. I waited all day, and
all night, and another day, and into that night without a peep.
I might have gotten bored and given up but for discovering I can speed up time even
more easily than I can slow it. The problem with this, it occurred to me within
the first momentary hour, is I'm apt to miss something important, or worse yet
get killed or injured for failure to move when I ought to. I don't seem to be
subject to sunburn, but imagine, for instance, if I were. Twelve hours worth of
solar radiation blasted onto me in a subjective second. Bzzpff! Flash fried.
Or let's say I picked my spot to camp out too well. One moment I'm staring at
the boundary, the next I'm squished all over the field by a large object that
plowed me under before I could even flinch.
However, I found with a little trial and error that I can get my conscious
awareness to run at a different speed from my subconscious processing, and
can "prime" my focus to alert me--to slow time down again--when something of
interest happens. It's really quite marvelous, rather like a time-lapsed
movie but even better because it runs fast when nothing's happening and then
slows down for the interesting bits, then fast again...zip zip zip, very
much again like the elevator map but now being able to zip my focus through
time, not just space (except that, alas, I can't go backward).
And so all this time passed in just a minute or two, during which I found
that remarkably little of interest happens here.
Until the middle of the second night, when something moved.
I resumed time to its normal pace and stared intently at the boundary with every
nuance of my enhanced vision. A jagged crack formed and a chunk of the
boundary started to recede, like a horrific hairy-monster shaped cookie
cutter was extracting its prey from the other side. (Okay, so some people
see bunnies in clouds--I see hairy-monster shaped cookies in jaggy
shapes.) I realized the edge of this receding slab followed the contours
of the fingerprint-like surface of the boundary, which is probably why I
hadn't found whatever hairline fracture must be there.
The whole receding slab split into at least a dozen pieces
and opened quite suddenly, like an iris. It occurred to me a little late
that I should step off to the side, as no sooner was the last edge of
the iris clear of the opening than I was staring straight on to a large,
rapidly approaching...thing! I slowed time and contemplated my
predicament, mostly berating myself for not slowing time when the iris
first started opening. I had been too preoccupied with curiosity to be
concerned, and anyway it just hadn't occurred to me there would already
be something rapidly approaching the moment the iris opened. I had
naturally assumed: open door, pass through. Not open-door-pass-through.
It rather caught me by surprise.
So, I tried to move out of the way, but physics just wouldn't have it.
The thing was...well, just one of the ugliest things I've ever seen.
It was clearly a machine, yet with no semblance of regularity. It had
more appendages than I could count, sticking out every which way, but
no two alike. And around the bottom, droopy, floppy, root-like things
that almost, but not quite, reached the ground. In fact, it seemed
not to be actually touching the ground anywhere I could see, so in a
last-ditch effort I simply dove for the ground and prepared to
be mauled by that forest of roots.
Molested might have been a better term. The thing clearly didn't
want to run me over either, and pitched backward kicking up a huge
cloud of dust in my direction. It was slowing, but not enough to
keep from running me over. Then the feet came down. Those "roots",
seven clusters of them, placed randomly about the bottom side,
jutted down and started flopping about the earth in a most strange
and chaotic pattern. There was no rhythm to it at all, just a cacophony
of flippity-flopping that came to a halt right on top of me.
So, there I was, pinned underneath this heavy beast. It must
have been the size of a small house, but spread over seven
humongous feet the weight was bearable--at least I didn't feel like
anything was about to go squish. For a moment, as the dust settled, we were both still. But then I noticed there was some commotion
still going on above me, betrayed by the frantic sound of limbs
Then I heard it, with my ethereal ear, something
between a groan and a whine, quite emphatic.
"Uh, hello?" I said, ethereally.
Like the elephant and the mouse, the beast leapt into the air with all
sevens, and an ocular appendage, which I gather had been frantically
looking for me in the moment before, thrust down between the feet and
stared intently at me as it crested through the peak of its jump. Back
down again it came, though the feet shuffled apart this time and the
root-like floppy tentacle foot bits slammed to the ground all around
me, leaving me staring eyes to eye with a large, rather dirty, lens.
"Uh, hello," I said again, sheepishly.
If it had been able to blink, I'm sure it would have, as I don't
think it quite comprehended what it was looking at. I could hear it
"vocalizing" ethereally, but not in language, more like...animal
noises. Indeed everything about it seemed quite foreign, the way it
moved, the way it "emoted." It immediately seemed such a relic against
the background of recent days.
Finally it shuffled out from over me so that I could stand up and
brush myself off. Without further ado, it simply turned and with
a few floppy chaotic steps set itself back into some sort of fan-assisted
ground-effect flight, floppy toes nearly skimming the surface of the
earth as it vanished into the darkness.
My turn to blink and contemplate the strangeness of what had
just happened. Laura had no tales of large objects moving in the night,
so I have to assume they usually and successfully avoided people
entirely. But in retrospect, particularly at night in the infrared, I
guess I just don't look like people.
I looked down at my feet and mused at the spread-eagle impression I
had left in the loose earth. Then I noticed, peculiarly, that there
was nothing else to notice. That is, no discernible sign that the
beast had just been there tromping about, no trail of it flopping off
into the distance. Actually, there were prints all around me, but they
were sprawling and random and placed with such chaos that there was no
pattern for the eye to catch. The earth had been changed since a minute
before, but qualitatively it was exactly the same. These things could
be running all over the place at night and nobody would ever know.
Fortunately, I'd learned my lesson and done most of this thinking with
time slowed, because the iris was starting to close. I sprinted for it
with all my might, and made a heroic leap (with height that impressed
even myself) right for the center. Unfortunately, having left the ground
and being committed, I only then took a bit more time to sufficiently
analyze my actions.
First, I would have done better to aim for the bottom,
because while I describe it as an iris, the pieces did not in fact overlap,
and hence the gaps between them closed no more quickly than the center. And
the center, for which I was now headed, was the convergence point for a
baker's dozen of sharp tips. From what I could tell, due to the marginal
time cost of aiming there instead of the bottom, these tips were apt to
do said converging right about when my belly button was attempting to
Abort! Abort! Damn the laws of physics for refusing to accommodate changed
I broke the form of my stylish dive, spread my hands wide before me as
though trying to stop an oncoming truck. With care I managed to palm
two of the wedges flat on without any fingers hanging over to get lopped
off, and also hit up high enough to start my body swinging down so my
feet (or at least knees) could take some of the impact rather than risking
my arms letting my head be the only bit to poke through. In the end the
wedges closed in concert with a nice full-body flop against the wall,
and I rebounded gracelessly but unharmed to the ground.
At first I was quite frustrated to have missed the chance, but then
noticed the crack wasn't quite closed. I stood up to inspect
it and finally noticed--way up high--a small bit of my shirt dangling
from the wall. I grabbed a small twig and poked it into the crack,
and found not entirely to my surprise I
could pry it open with no effort at all. It seems designed to give way
to any otherwise hapless obstacle. So I peeled the wedges apart with my
two hands, and stepped inside.
Or stepped outside, depending on how you look at it.
The bit of my shirt having now fallen free, the iris closed tight
and left me in even more complete darkness except for a warm infrared glow
suffusing the room from the back. It was a vast, tall room, but essentially
empty except for various protrusions and indentions along the back wall, mostly
near floor level. There were no other many-armed rooty creature things
here. There was nothing much at all. It seemed clearly a room designed for much more,
but now felt abandoned.
The back wall was most interesting, with numerous pipes and doors and hoppers,
as well as a number of cavities of various sizes, mostly box-shaped. None
of the doors were dimensioned for human passage, nor could I coax any open,
but I could see a fair way through many of them in the infrared and they all led
to tubes, chambers, or passageways of one sort or another. At least a couple of
them were very reminiscent of the shafts the "elevator" moved through (which were
lined with a peculiar, repeating diamond-grid of elements; whether circuitry
or something else, I couldn't say).
The open cavities were perplexing, each densely
surrounded (within the wall) by complex arrays of tubes or circuits or both,
though each so different from the others I doubt any two served a similar
function. Only one of them responded to my prodding--a small
box-shaped recess less than half a meter cubed, the sort of thing that might
display a vase if it were in a home rather than this industrial setting. I
reached in to touch the back, just in aimless poking around, but before my
fingers reached the end two thick steel plates slammed in from either side
aiming to crush my hand. I reflexively yanked my hand back in the nick of
time and the plates clanged against each other and then withdrew, so that an
instant later all was quiet and the box looked as innocent as it had when I
first offered my hand to it. The same hand now offered it the middle
finger, and I ventured onward down the wall a little more carefully.
I hadn't gotten very far in my exploring the many fine gadgets of the back
wall when the faint visible-spectrum glow of the never-quite-dark night
streamed in through the opening iris. I ran to the side of the room and tried
to hide in the corner, though there was nothing to hide behind. With a whoosh,
in whisked my floppy-toed friend, coming to a windy and chaotic stop almost at the back wall.
Then I saw the pair of legs--human legs--come flipping out into view, and
for a moment they just dangled there, sticking out sideways, up high along
the body of the beast. In infrared silhouette, as it mostly was, it seemed
some perverse shadow-puppet show. The body pitched forward fully into
view, and arced down toward the ground, its left shoulder gripped firmly by
one of the creature-thing's appendages, and its legs thudding against the
floor and then jerking and squirming against the friction of being dragged.
It was being carried and flung about the way one might handle a dirty towel.
I could see now it was a very old man.
I could swear someone was faintly humming a tune.
The creature-thing brought the old man to the recess that almost ate my
hand, and still holding him by the shoulder, brusquely stuffed his head into
the opening. I cringed in horror expecting to see the old man's head
burst like a melon, but it just twisted straight as the two plates
slammed in, and stayed wedged firmly there between them. I was on
edge waiting for that cracking sound of the skull giving under the pressure,
but when I flinched it was not the man's skull cracking, rather the sudden
appearance of a cloth-like shroud that snapped tight around his neck.
This effectively created a door covering the front of the cavity while still
allowing his neck to pass through. I guessed this was to keep
the mess from squidging out, but it was also quite opaque even to my
enhanced vision so I couldn't see what was going on.
of broad-spectrum light erupted from his neck, and I could
see his spine and veins and all manner of icky bits quite clearly there,
until finally the light subsided, the shroud and plates retracted, and the
creature-thing pulled the man from the cubby seemingly unharmed
but for a bad case of hat-hair.
I was still berating myself for my failed gruesome expectations when
the creature-thing, now further down the wall, chucked the man into
a hopper which violently and jerkingly yanked him in and, as best my
eyes could see into the machinery, ground him into a fine paste and
squeezed him out the back end into a small tube of unknown destination.
The creature-thing sat examining itself for the few bits of blood and
whatnot that had spattered back, cleaning them with an apparatus mounted
just under the lens on its ocular appendage. This all gave the distinct
impression it was licking itself. I unthinkingly let out an ethereal groan
of disgust--having gotten into the habit of talking "out loud" to myself
ethereally around humans who can't hear it--and the creature-thing looked
up with a start at me.
I ran as fast as I could for the iris, which was now long closed, trusting
that it would open for me if approached from the inside.
I bounced back a good distance and then some further on my back before
finally sliding to a stop. Staring now at the ceiling high above, the
creature-thing's round, frosty lens panned into my view like a cartoon
moon rising into my surreal night. Again I swear I felt it blink.
It ethereally vocalized something to me which I can only describe as
a sound Scooby Doo might make. I raised a brow at it in return, not
sure whose was the next move.
I tried to get up, but this time it didn't have anywhere else to be
and didn't seem to want me going anywhere. It promptly stepped on me
with one of its giant sprawling feet and I was flat on my back
again. Three other appendages joined in the examination, including
one that was able to emit broad spectrum radiation and shine through
me like I was one of those see-through goldfish. I pinned my chin to
my chest marveling at my own insides--which I won't even attempt to
describe here except for one disturbing observation: I have ants.
That is, I saw thousands of little macroscopic critters actively crawling
about inside of me. It was very creepy. Nothing nano about it. I
can't explain it.
Anyway, then the creature-thing started rather deftly undressing me,
which was the last thing I expected. I'm not talking about simply
forcibly tearing the clothes away from my body; it was undoing buttons
and pulling socks down by the tops and stuff. I've never been undressed
so well or so fast before in my life. I didn't know what to make of it.
But, despite the recent hopper incident, I could sense a distinct
ethereally-emoted benevolence, so I felt no immediate need to struggle
for my life.
Creature-thing's appendages starting going places I hadn't counted
on. Mind you, there was nothing erotic about this, but if I described
the incident in detail it would sound like a smorgasbord of obscure
fetish porn, including surreal elements like a many-inch-long probe
into my belly-button. Stranger yet, a number of small objects were
retrieved from various places in the process. The last of these was a
shiny cylinder the size of a marker pen, which when pulled from my
abdomen left me feeling like I'd just had the wind knocked out of
It finally stepped off me and turned to leave. I
tried to stand up, but reality began to fade and I felt myself falling
back to the ground. Then in a snap of time, Creature-thing was standing
over me again, retracting its probe from my belly-button, and I noticed
half a dozen appendages sporting the objects it had removed before, and
one or two it hadn't, and I braced myself for their replacement.
Afterward I waved off its attempt to redress me, preferring to do it
myself. As I closed the last couple buttons of my shirt, I said, "Was it
good for you?" It just turned and trotted off to a corner, lowered
itself completely to the ground, and shut off.
I'd been feeling pretty good before, but I felt great now. And no,
I still maintain there was nothing erotic about it. I think I just had
my 30,000 mile tuneup.
I noticed something behind me and spun around to see what it was. Nothing
there, but I could still feel it. Finally I realized it was the iris--I could just tell it was there, I could feel it, even
when I wasn't looking at it, like it was an extension of my own body.
So I pulled at it with my mind, extracted the jagged shape backward from
the boundary, and then when I felt it clear I pushed the bits out of the
way and the iris flung open before me revealing the dim of the night and
the smell of the pond near by.
Enough for one trip. I walked out into the night, closed the
iris behind me, walked home, scrawled this note, and now I'm going
to climb quietly into bed with Laura before the sun comes up.
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