The last thing I had said to anyone before they shut down the office for the day was "I am definitely going to take a nap." And so I did; I got home, duly set the noisemakers (fan for white noise, KOCU-FM for classical music) and clambered into bed.

When I awoke, I was on the upper floor of an overly large, but not very good, hotel. My room was next to last on the west end; however, it, like several rooms, appeared to be boarded up. Various neighbors came and went, though none of them seemed to be familiar, and none of them recognized me. (I did briefly get a glance inside the door I thought to be mine, and saw a shortish woman in a dark-brown bob and a blue T-shirt.) And some of the passers-by were actively hostile; a Biff Tannen type, presumably a resident, took exception to the fact that I, presumably a nonresident, was occupying a space in the hallway furniture (a few chairs, and what looked like a transplanted diner booth. I understood maybe every third word; this wasn't quite English, but it seemed close enough, and I know hostile when I hear it. Finally a large, burly fellow with a badge of some sort told Biff to cool his jets lest he risk some fate I didn't comprehend. Biff backed off, and I began exploring the place.

I could see the lobby, and if this were a hotel, it wore no stars; it probably owed two or three stars. The name "HEARST" appeared on a couple of otherwise blank panels, though this clearly didn't look like any Hearst property I'd ever heard of. Maybe this was Bizarro World San Simeon. I trudged my way to the far end of the hallway, where I was stopped by another person, less burly but comparably badged. Said person rolled up my right pant leg, evidently didn't find what was supposed to be found, and locked me into a machine vaguely reminiscent of those blood-pressure booths at the drug store. About two minutes later, I had some sort of tattoo.

"May I proceed now?" I asked, having no idea if I were being understood. A grunt or three told me I wasn't going anywhere, and I was sent back down the hallway, where someone had left an air mattress for me. Good, I thought, and I managed to get horizontal for twenty or thirty seconds before I broke out into a nosebleed of considerable velocity.

Someone nurse-like came along and waved what I assumed was a medical tricorder at my face, stopping the bleeding. She bade me follow her, and we went through the door at the end of the west hallway and came out in much nicer surroundings. A gentleman of average height and above-average swarth whose name, I decided, simply had to be Raoul, greeted me: "Welcome," he said quite plainly. "You will be wanting one of these." He handed me a little plastic gizmo, which I assumed to be a Universal Translator. Awful lot of Star Trek-ish stuff, wherever the hell this was. "You will learn more tomorrow." And that was it from Raoul, except for a brief discussion, with whom I do not know, out in the hallway. I did make out this much: "Tomorrow we go to Stage Two."

Like hell we will, motherfucker, I thought, and leapt from the balcony.

They'd apparently thought of everything. I landed somewhere unexpectedly soft, within ten feet of an old Toyota Hi-Lux truck in Frosting White. With a manual transmission. And the keys in it.

Can I still drive a stick? It appears I can. I managed to get up a very steep hill, took a left, and heard a voice in the distance: "Operations beginning. One... two..."

I woke up somewhere around two point eight. Wherever I'd been, I didn't like it much.

The Vent

  18 May 2017

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