When I got outside, it had of course started pouring rain. How perfect. Hard, cold drops landed all over my body and I felt soaked almost immediately. My car was blocks away and the only shelter in sight was a phone booth on the corner, so I made for it with haste.
Once inside, I closed the door behind me and slumped against it. So there I was: wet, exhausted, disheveled, unemployed, huddled in a phone booth with raindrops beating loudly on the glass. I had absolutely no idea what my next move was. And then I thought of Lee.
If you’ve never gone six months or so without a good night’s sleep, I doubt I can adequately describe to you how deeply tired I was toward the end of the speed era. Sex, food, money, fame — all these were as nothing to me compared to the prospect of a nap. But I kept taking the pills, so there was no sleep for me.
Finally, one morning, my body served notice that it was not going to take this anymore. It was going to sleep right now, and I could go to hell. So I stayed in bed throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. The phone rang; I ignored it and let the machine handle it. The phone rang again; I ignored it again. The third time around, I forced myself to roll over and pick up.
It was my boss. I told him I wasn’t feeling well, which was the truth. With a cold edge in his voice, he said, “Hector, I need you to come into the office right now.” So I willed myself to a vertical position, shocked myself with scalding hot water, and drove downtown.
I blinked, and my surroundings transformed. Whereas a moment before I had been spinning upward into a pale blue sky, now I found myself and the ferris wheel in near-darkness. It appeared that we were in a large underground cave, the walls of which I could faintly discern at a distance of several hundred yards.
I was nonplussed. This was an unexpected development, and a part of me wanted to freak out, particularly when I thought I saw something move and thought of bats. Yet I felt oddly calm. In any case, there wasn’t much I could do about the situation at the moment, so I decided to relax and see what happened next.
I nearly choked when the attendant told me how much it cost to get in. I had just enough in my wallet to cover it. I kept the receipt, making a mental note to try to write it off. The attendant handed me what appeared to be a small medallion which I was to wear around my neck — it contained an embedded microchip that would identify me as a paying customer.
About 20 yards past the entrance, there was a crossroads where signs with arrows on them indicated the locations of various attractions. I scanned them briefly and then, realizing that I had no data on which to base a decision, decided to just turn right. When all else fails, I turn right to get into something, left to get out. This rule of thumb usually works out well enough, not that I’d recommend it for general usage.
This whole process had gotten a little adrenaline going, and I thought to myself, Use this momentum. Move. Do something.
But what? Laundry? Shopping? Dull. I thought about just going for a walk or a drive. Then it hit me: Elasticland. Go down there and have a look around before they know who I am. Get a feel for the place. Ride some rides.
I headed into the kitchen to look for some food I could take with me. Pickings were slim: a quarter-loaf of French bread, some suspicious-looking cheese, a couple apples. I tossed them into a backpack. There was a Tupperware container in the freezer that, upon further inspection, contained some chocolate chip cookies. This was a little odd, but I grabbed them anyway; they’d be thawed by the time I was ready for them.