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One can Never be Sure

“We’re here,” Veia said slowly. Her words boinged around inside of my head. But where was here? Were we back at the nightclub again? I could see neon lights dancing around us, just like the ones from the Underworld, but I couldn’t see anything else. It was just she and I and lights that formed every shape and angle that geometry could possibly define. They soon crept back into void along with everything else. After this came the sound of eerie carnival music, then Shadowshade’s voice.

“Oh, my! You haven’t turned back yet? What do you think you are, revolutionaries?” What was happening now? It felt like we were swimming in an incredibly oily hot tub, then Poof! We were in a giant glass container. The water all around us was pure white. Red bubbles of molten wax floated up all around us, barely missing us as they went. What the hell? Wasn’t this part of a dream? Was I still dreaming? Had I never woken up?

“Holy fucking lava lamps, Batman, we’re inside of a lava lamp!” Veia cried while two giant hands pressed against the glass from the outside.

“Let’s see who can stand the heat the longest,” Scéléra’s voice said. One of the hands must have been hers. The other was someone else’s, but whose?

“Fuck! You win!” A man shouted. The voice seemed to be familiar in a way that I couldn’t quite comprehend.

“Ha! I win! Wait…wait a minute.” She paused for a moment before she and the man brought their huge eyeballs up to the glass. Were they staring at us? “…What the hell is that?”

“I have no idea.” I could tell that Veia knew who this guy was, but she probably didn’t know Scéléra. Maybe there was some symmetry in the situation. Maybe these were our most secret friends.

“It’s a tiny Veia!” Scéléra exclaimed. What? She knew her name?

“And a tiny Tristan!” He knew mine? How?

“How does he know who I am?”

“How does she know who I am?” Veia and I asked at the same time. We didn’t know how they knew us, but we knew they weren’t going to tell us.

“This is bizarro!” Scéléra chirped to whoever her companion was.

“Yeah it is. Let’s go,” he replied. Click. Our TV channel-like maybe-reality remade itself once again. What station would come next?

“A little farther and you’ll find the places buried in your mind,” Shadowshade’s syrupy murmur dripped down into our ears. Directly in front of us was a marble archway, strung with an assembly of bright blue lightbulbs with lettering in between each of them. It read: Congratulations, you have arrived.

“Despite all of their attempts to stop you, you’ve made it to the center of a half-remembered reconstructed shadow of a dream. You’ve made it to the world that begins with what you see when you close your eyes and really think.” A large yellow smiley face button shot up out of the colorless ground directly in front of us.

“See how everything is sort of calm at the moment?” Was this calm? Shadowshade didn’t have me convinced. “Now watch what happens when you push the button.” As we moved close enough to push it, it began to play a cheerfully whimsical tune. ‘Doodlie, doodlie, doo doo doo da dum! Coffee coffee, coffee, on the way. Lalalalala, la, lalala.’ Hadn’t I heard this before? I tried my hardest to remember…it was during a car ride, wasn’t it? Was it from the day when I went to see the psychologist?

“Push me sir! Aha!” It cheered. I extended my arm and pushed the button in with my fist. The happy face contorted, screaming and twisting in life-threatening agony. The happy noises were replaced by loud shrill screeching. I could see past what had become a horrific putrid looking face. There was a trail leading down to…a fair? Was it a fair? There was a small ordinary convenience store sitting next to something that I supposed was our destination. Did S. really except us to walk inside of that monstrosity?

“Ah, ha, ha! You’ve made your way inside. Now bite together and enjoy the ride.” He sounded much nuttier than usual and was wearing the suit again. He had even started to construct a face for himself, using wildly bouncing springs and twisting them into the shape of a head. S. was zap-zipped way off his rocker now. “You’re in the seat but I’m at the wheel, I pick out the things that I want you to feel.” Next to the convenience store was one of the strangest looking buildings I had ever seen. It looked like a demon possessed wonky-shplonky funhouse. It was surely haunted, and probably more than merely that.

“Let’s speedyleed along, shall we?” S. made a colossal ‘Ka-Boom!’ noise and we were immediately less than a foot away from the entrance to the psychotic psychedelic mystery madhouse. “Now it is time to lose your mind, then maybe you’ll find what you’ve left behind.” In front of us now were what appeared to be buttons from a giant MP3 player. There was a play button, a pause button and a stop button, all held up by a silvery metallic beam. Which one of them would we press? “You only get to choose one. Once you’ve made a decision, you can never go back. You have to live with whatever you choose to do.” Was S. auditioning for the role of Confucius?

“It’s an obvious choice to me,” Veia began. I expected that we were both thinking of pressing play. “Press play!” I had perfectly predicted the future. We pressed it and the entryway became an enormous head that protruded from the earth. It looked like the Leviathan, a slithering slimy denizen of death. It swam through the ground ahead of us until it was right underneath our feet. Its mouth flew open and its jagged fangs spared us as its tongue became a staircase by which we could finally enter the madhouse…the main event, as Shadowshade had called it.

“Here we are, Tristan. We’re in the heart of the house that no one would enter until now. It’s time for its name to be changed.” Veia was ready and so was I. We ascended the stairs and traveled toward the back of the mouth. The whole entire thing slammed shut. Chomp! Splack! Total darkness…then we were swimming in glowing dark blue water. Its light pulsed to the rhythm of our hearts.

This didn’t last long and soon we were drowning. What the fuck? We could still breathe. We were still alive, sinking deeper and deeper down into the ocean. Being able to breathe for this long, this far underwater, was even stranger than drowning would have been. This was far less painful though, I imagined. I wasn’t really too astounded. One must consider all possibilities. One can never be sure about oceans, especially ones that live where this one was living.

After only a few minutes, the light from the sun began to fade away. It soon left us swimming in the ultra-blackness. Glub, glub, blibbity-blub. Where would we go from here? Lights came on, but they weren’t coming from the sun. The channel had changed again. I could see Scéléra. The two of us were back in our room at home. She was standing and I was sitting in the middle of the floor. I went into the consciousness of the self that I could see, so she was now talking to me.

“You know,” she began. “We only ever knew each other in worlds all our own.”

“Maybe…but couldn’t it be possible to experience someone else’s perception?” I believed it was. I felt like I was experiencing some of Veia’s at that very moment, blended into my own.

“Well I don’t have any idea what yours feels like,” Scéléra answered. Damn.

“You two aren’t as high as you’d be if you did more drugs!” Villainess Vera was shouting from somewhere off-scene. But I had no intention of ingesting anything else. I could hardly tell what was happening already. Every vanished instantly. Poof! This place certainly enjoyed making things poof. I could see the choir singing in the little church, the church I had gone to with Anthony and Cindy. Shadowshade, Veia, and I were the only ones in the congregation tonight.

“No one can be their true self in a place where the word mischievous is viewed with a negative connotation…” S. shared his shadow-sage advice. “…and so here you learned to act. Do you remember the Social Room?” How could we have forgotten? “You are the outcasts. The people screamed and begged for you to be nailed to the crosses. Are you ready for that to become reality? It is something to consider. Maybe if you cry and surrender to their monotone patterns of expected cultural behavior, then they will let you live…maybe.”

“Of course they will want me to cry. They hope that I will be ashamed of my ostracization. Maybe if I felt humiliated then they would think that I’m more like they are. They’d call it a ‘human quality’. But it doesn’t really matter what you do if you were never one of the whatevers that hate you anyway. I certainly never was one of the ones who hate me.” I spoke with confidence.

“Yet sometimes those whatevers are the toughest psychos in the nuthouse! They’ll chloroform you and snatch your teeth!” S. countered.

“I will die for what I believe in before I will live as what I despise,” Veia added before vanishing into oblivion.

“What the fuck did you do with her?”

“This is the part that is only for you to see. She has a part just for her also. That’s where she is. You’ll be back together soon.”

“I was supposed to move during the month before the party at Obscurité. If the move wouldn’t have been cancelled, you and I would have never met. Maybe you would’ve gone to military school. Maybe you would’ve run away with someone else.” It was Scéléra’s voice.

“But if you would’ve moved then you would be someone else entirely. You would be someone shaped by whatever place you planned to move to. Where you are determines who and what you’re around. Your setting shapes you into whatever you become, whether it’s something good or bad.” She disappeared after hearing my reply. Father was standing in her place.

“Do you want to play daddy with your daddy? I know want to play it with you.”

“Where is the line between awareness and traumatization?” S. asked me.

“Perhaps at the place where you’re finally driven to insanity.”

“But if you seek out more information even after it drives you insane then you become something more.”

“A genius!” Veia squeaked. She was alive! “I don’t know if I like this place.” She tiptoed over to me and we held onto each other as everything went dark again… everything except for a white glowing coil that spun around and around in the center of the gloom. It was rather hypnotizing, swirling, swirling, swirling, swirling…

“What’s on your minds?” S. asked as a neon outline of both Veia’s brain and mine appeared where the coil had been and filled the entire room. Lightbulbs appeared inside of each of the brains. Bing! They all came on, nearly blinding our unadjusted eyes. When we could see again, we were back in the abandoned school. It had been so long…

“It’s still there, crystal clear, frozen inside your minds until the very day you die.”

“It’s a shady-shady shadowshade.” Veia said it just as she had years earlier.

“What’s going on?” Maybe one of them would have a theory.

“Scaredy-cat,” she giggled.

“Do you want to keep your preconceptions and your sanity, or would you like to lose them both?” S. inquired.

“I have no real use for either.” We were standing in the room where Mortimer squishpopped, where the elevator crashed before it became the elevator of Hotel Obscurité. This was where Marcus had interrupted us…Veia was still holding onto me when I delivered my response. Everything was just as it was before, only Marcus was thankfully dead.

“Where do you think we would be if Marcus had never happened?” She asked.

“Maybe on the moon…maybe on a remote island somewhere far away.”

“I was thinking prison.” She was probably right. “This school is such an infinitely long way away, but it’s as close as a blink of an eye at the same time. I wonder how that happens.” She gazed up into my eyes and kissed me. I was fifteen again. I could taste the ghost of our youth upon her lips. I could taste a liquid memory, a part of myself that came jolting back to life. I took her and pressed our lips together again, tasting the most desirable taste that one could ever imagine.

It was much better than I could have expected. We looked like shimmering fallen angels embracing in a strange alternate reality. She and I had made a great many things our own. The floor beneath us began to wiggle and squiggle. We were bouncing on a gigantic trampoline. Boing!

It boinged us up into the air and we came back down again. Boing! It sent us higher this time…we were flying through the clouds in the middle of a thunderstorm. Zap! Bzzt! Ka-Pow! Lightning zigged and zagged all around us, making our hair stick straight up into the air. An escalator appeared in the middle of the lightning and we floated over to it, barely dodging the lethal electricity.

Once we were onboard we rode up, up, and over the clouds. Somehow there was an entire exclusive shopping mall hidden here in the sky. We were on our way to its second floor. Popular stores and brands floated all around us and speeding consumers flooded nearly every inch of the building.

“Buy! Buy! Buy!” The people shouted. “Buy! Buy! Buy!” The place seemed more like a teenage playground than anything else, at least to me. The escalator eventually took us through the melting glass roof of the sky mall and all the way out into outer space, far beyond the confines of our world. The stars glittered all around us, still so very far away.

“Are you ready for the slide?” I supposed that Shadowshade meant a slide that would take us out of the funhouse. I was right…he certainly did.

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