Being Inspired, maybe - 94

A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, then, the words:

When I opened my eyes, the van had stopped.  I didn’t remember dropping off, but it had been warm in the van, and smelling very pleasant like walking through a forest on a hot day.  I couldn’t see outside, but there was no reason not to leave the van so I stood up, nearly stumbled and had to hold onto the handle on the seat before becoming more steady.

I looked over at the other two and they were still out.  Should I wake them or not?  No, not my problem.

The side door opened and outside the van, it was very bright, lit up by arc lamps.  I climbed out of the van and looked around.  We were parked inside a very large building, so large I couldn’t see the end, just like staring into a dark night.

The first thing I noticed was that the van was in the building but there was no apparent entry point.  How did the van get there?  The only people here were the three of us, the driver, standing to one side smoking a cigarette, and a woman dressed in overalls, well, designer overalls.

She was standing just back from the door to the van, gave me the one over as I stepped down, but had not said anything.  Perhaps she was waiting until all three of us were present.

Five minutes passed before the other two came out of the van and like startled rabbits looked around much like I had.  Then McDougall saw me and asked, "Where the hell are we?"

Good question, but he should be asking the woman in the overalls, which rather annoyed me.

"Does it look like I have a clue.  You're asking the wrong person."  And inclined my head in the direction of the woman who now looked like she was bored by the whole affair.

He took the five steps towards the woman, who took a step back, as he stood in front of her looking aggressive.

"Where are we?"

The woman looked at him, then me, then Isobel, then back to McDougall.  "Inside the building of course."

He looked around again, no doubt assuming as I had, the space was much large than we could see beyond the arc lamps above us.  Those lamps were giving out a lot of heat, and I'd only just noticed how hot it was becoming.  And how uncomfortable.

"You mean all this is, is a big empty space?"

I could feel the, 'how dare you waste my valuable time' outburst about to erupt.

"More or less."

"What do you mean more or less?"  He was getting more annoyed by the second.

It was clear he was intimidating her.

"Open your eyes, McDougall," I said in an equally aggressive tone.  "I'm not sure what you were expecting, but it is what it is.  And as she said, it's more or less a big empty space.  It means, for the unenlightened, there's nothing here yet."

I turned to the woman.  "Is this going to be a museum?"

"Sometime in the future, it might.  Funds were set aside for the acquisition of antiquities and artifacts of cultural value, which we are hoping will be in the archaeological dig site on the coastline about 200 miles from here."

"Then all of this has been a complete bloody waste of time.  No one is interested in antiquities unless they feature in an Indiana Jones movie."

He shook his head and went back to Isobel.  "Let's get out of here."

He headed towards the bus and had his foot on the bottom step when he stopped.  Isobel hadn't moved.  Perhaps she was thinking like I was, there was more to the story.

"I'm going to stay and get a few more details.  We missed the antiquities thing, and it is a big deal believe it or not."

McDougall just shrugged.   "Waste of time."  He glared at the woman in overalls.  "Can you get the driver to take me back?"

Yes."  She motioned to the driver, who stubbed out his cigarette on the floor, then walked slowly back to the van, closed the side door, got in, started the engine, and drove slowly into the darkness to one side.

Both Isobel, who had come over to join me, and I watched it until it disappeared, which it did very quickly.  It took a moment to realize the van had not been using its headlights, and it seemed like it had simply disappeared because right after it was enveloped in darkness, neither of us could hear the engine or any other noise for that matter.

The guide came over to join us.  "Now, I'm guessing, you want to see what's here?"

I had a question, and it was going to sound odd.  "We're not actually in the building we think we are, are we?"

Isobel looked at me oddly.  "What do you mean?"

"Do you remember the drive from your office to here, or did you, like I did, only wake up when we got here.?"

"I thought I had simply nodded off.   McDougall did, and so did you."

"That's right.  But I think you'll find we are somewhere else entirely."  I looked at the guide.

"It was necessary to blindfold you as it were before you entered the facility.  And, yes, you are right, we are not in the building you thought you were being taken to, because as I said or omitted to say, that will be the ancient artifacts museum.  But it used to house a scaled-down version of what is here."

With that said, in front of us, facing towards the darkness stretching back, two rows of lights top and bottom and more than outlines a wide doorway lit up.  Those lights were around a curve that stretched from one side to the other, or what seemed to be the case.

The outlined doorway, if it was a doorway was quite wide, and we were about 20 feet from it.

The guide stepped out in front and motioned us to follow her towards the door.  We stopped short by about three feet and suddenly a hissing noise started and the doors opened, and bright light spilled out onto the door, and lighting us up.

The bright lights hurt our eyes for a moment, then, when my vision cleared, I looked in, and it was like walking into a landscape, complete with paths, trees, sky, mountains in the distance, and a river.  The vista seemed to go on forever,

The guide stepped through the doorway and we followed.  Then, once past the threshold, the doors closed, and, when I turned, the door had disappeared, taken over by more the landscape.

"Where are we? Isobel asked.

"In a very large simulator.  At the moment it is running a landscape, but there are a number of different scenarios available, one of which is the reason we had to move to a larger facility."

"What is this place? I asked.

"The next generation of Disneyland, only its not Disneyland, but that is how you are going to report it to the public."

While she was talking U could feel a slight breeze, hear the rustling of leaves, and see the movement of the grass., see the water moving in the river, and clouds slowly drifting in the distance where the mountains were.  There might even be snow on the caps.

The guide pulled out a communicator and pinned it to her uniform, the attached one to each of us.  A moment later she said, "Change to program 1124alpha."

It went dark for a second, and then the lights came on, and the scene was different.

Not another landscape.

We were in an elevator that was, for all intents and purposes, going up.  It certainly felt like it.  Then it stopped, and the doors opened.   It was what I thought to be the bridge of a very large starship, complete with staff sitting at consoles, a captain, and on the opposite side, large floor to ceiling windows behind which was space, stars, the milky way, and, to one side, what looked like the moon.

If I closed my eyes and pretended I was on an interstellar starship, when I opened them again, it looked very reasonable.  Right up to the point where I could feel the ground beneath move as if we had slowed down and when I looked up again, we were orbiting the moon.

This had to be the best theme park ride ever.

© Charles Heath 2020


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