(recorded) Journal Entry 3/2/96
--time unknown (he’s around here somewhere)--
Wall Drug Wonderland, South Dakota
The group has broken up into chattering
bands and single adventurers as the kool-aid
begins to take the edgy
effect of early trip sickness
. I’ve discovered in my climbings that the entire building is connected by an intricate network
of wooden rafters and have taken to the skies and ceilings of this wonderful world we find ourselves in. The acoustics
up here are maddening, I can hear the chittering voices of the entire group--though I cannot tell how close or far away any of them are. I can also hear the clinking of china
, the underwater explosive
sound of a bong
and what must be a clock
store somewhere...the nervous ticking of hundreds of nervous hands-tick
-tocking away in the darkness...it’s enough to drive one mad
, really...I climb on, trying to get away from the store, from the time, from the riveting calculating conniving clocks, grandfather clocks
, water clocks, alarm clocks
, pendulum clocks, wrist watches
, pocket watches
himself and I swear to God I can hear every grain of sand
falling through every hourglass tick
-ticking their way into private clock futures, unknown futures and time is running out, time is running wet falling slipping sliding
down over my hands (hands
!) to the floor, time is running, time is running...
Jeff runs by underneath me muttering to himself about being late, “We’re late, I’m late, Oh dear!” so I follow him, climbing quickly along the roof beams trying to be quiet, trying to ignore the clocks, trying to hurry cause I so want to be on time! Jeff has got a watch of his own, a giant pocket watch with eyeballs tick-tocking back and forth instead of a 9 and a 3 and it looks absolutely horrid like those wall cat clocks so I try not to look but I have to and Jeff ducks into a furniture store where Sally is sitting on top of a giant table.
When Sally sees Jeff she almost cries out (she looks so nervous, poor thing, and what was she doing sitting on that table?) “Jeff, thank goodness, I thought everyone had gone!” Jeff doesn’t even seem to see her, which surprises me quite a bit as he almost knocks the table over, and he ducks around a corner and is gone. Thank God, another minute of watching those blackened clock eyes ticking back and forth and I would have lost my grip entirely.
Sally sighs (she’s breathing quite rapidly and noting this I remember to breathe myself--I often forget to breathe in this state and it always feels so good to remember again) and hops down from the table, she’s wearing this pretty blue dress we bought for her in Madison, but it’s already gotten dirty as if she’s taken a fall. She begins walking down the hallway and since she’s going away from the clockstore I follow, quick as a cat, being careful not to make a sound.
It’s been almost ten minutes and I was beginning to think that everyone had gone myself when Sally walked around a corner and into one of the dozens of dimly lit hallways. She has been talking to herself quietly, I think, and now she says something and takes out some coins from her pockets...walks over to one of the fortune telling machines (a brave thing to do, considering, this one is a large disembodied head with floating white eyes and a purple cloak leaving a body to the imagination) and drops two quarters in. nothing happens and I hear her say “Silly girl...there’s no power” when from out of nowhere a familiar voice asks:
“What do you want?”
Sally looks quite startled at the machine for a moment and finally...up...and there’s Scott sitting crosslegged on top of the glass box, still holding that glass bong he’d fashioned out of a parlor lamp earlier in the day. Scott blows a hit of smoke up into the air and as it rises to meet me it seems to take the form of a beautiful mushroom...I feel my eyes glaze over a little as the haze passes through me then I focus again on the two below:
“What do you want”
“Scott, I’m so glad somebody’s still here. Has everyone gone? I just want someone to talk to.”
“Who were you talking to while you were walking around?”
“There you go.” (another hit off the lamp)
“Oh! That’s not very nice playing word games at a time like this! I need your help! This is getting out of control!”
“Keep your temper.”
“Keep my temper? That’s all the advice you’ve to give me? Keep my temper? I can’t seem to keep anything, I’m not even sure if I have a temper anymore...” Sally begins to wander off, babbling to herself about temper and temperature and how one would go about keeping either when Scott’s voice looms back from his perch:
“Wait! Come back. I’ve something important to say.”
Sally takes a few steps towards him and waits, expectantly, hope creeping into her confused face.
“If you get confused or lose your way remember what we used to say
In all those crazy e-mail days
With clownish snake-eyed rhyming haze
There’s only one thing to remedy this pitiful acidic tragedy
That’s to recite the things you knew
Before your whole world went askew”
Having said this Scott jumps down from the fortune telling contraption and walks into the relative darkness of a stationary shop, reading random snippets of Hallmark wisdom and chuckling to himself.
Sally continues on her way, I follow.
The clinking chinking of china dishes and slurping sounds of a feast are growing louder when we come into one of the restaurants and see Cliff, Nate and jipping sitting in one corner of a giant table set for twenty at least. Cliff is wearing a ridiculous tophat like the one he wore to prom one year and going on and on about some get rich quick scheme he thought up while lugging Jhasen’s body into the store. Nate seems to be listening but on closer inspection is completely passed out, his face pressed into a basket of onion rings. Mike is drawing gargantuan tic-tac-toe diagrams in the white tablecloth with a red grease pencil. As soon as they see Sally they cry out, in unison, “No room! No room!” Sally humphs as loud as she dare and sits at the head of the table, just to the right of Cliff, with her hands folded over her chest. “Have some toast” says a helpful Mike. Sally looks around the table, thinking some bread might settle her nervous stomach, but sees nothing but honey and onion rings. “I don’t see any toast” says Sally.
“There isn’t any”
“Then it wasn’t very nice for you to offer it” Sally says petulantly
“It wasn’t very nice of you to sit down without being invited--would you like to play tic-tac-toe?” asks Mike
“All right, but you’ll lose against me. Play Nate.”
“There you go, you’re sure to win! I’ve been playing him for hours and only lost once, that’s how I knew you’d lose against me, I’m very, very good.”
--Cliff interjects here asking first Nate, then Mike, then Sally what time it was. Nobody knew and this threw the table into a round of silent contemplation.
“I’ll bet it’s four o’clock” said Mike, finally.
“Jeff has a watch” Sally says, trying her best to help.
“Well, I have a watch.” says Cliff, importantly.
“Why don’t you look and see what time it is?” asks Sally
“My watch only tells the time, it doesn’t allow me to look.” he says, glumly.
“Am I crazy or is he crazy” Sally whispers to the snoozing Nate.
Nate yawns and looks up, sleepily, “Yes.”
Sally wonders on.
The floor slowly descends several feet and the doorways open up and suddenly we’re in one of the museums. Sally still hasn’t heard me, smiling quietly in the rafters with a giant dopamine grin, icicle teeth catching what little light there is to be had here, I feel like a spy on her confusing trip, it helps me keep my sanity to know what she doesn’t. We’re all mad here, all of us.
Sally staggers and almost falls as steps carve themselves out of the floor and she descends once again, the every lowering floor raising the ceiling to almost twenty feet. Then they appear.
Cards. giant playing cards rising from the floor all the way to the roof, the tops of them form a sort of labyrinth where I climb and I panic a little as she looks up at them. Two of spades, five of diamonds, Sally begins walking faster and I climb, swing, push my way through them above her, nine of clubs, ten of spades, gambling museum? Is that what the sign said? Why would you have a gambling museum? Jack of hearts, queen of diamonds, Sally comes to a breathy stop two cards in front of me, I poke my head cautiously around the corner and look full into the face of a twenty foot tall queen of hearts. I almost fell.
The queen wears a hideous grin turned downward on the edges and clutches a large hammer in her hand, she is looking sternly right at me, right through me and I feel myself crumbling away at the edges, all the intent on her face willing me away, I feel like I’m fading out, losing consistency, disappearing slowly until all that is left are my eyes...and my grin. I can’t stop smiling. I’m completely paralyzed with fear and I cannot, will not stop smiling. If I stop smiling I will disappear altogether. So I watch. And I smile.
Sally appears to be staring open-mouthed at the giant card as well, and still mumbling. I can’t hear much more than normal, just fragmented syllables as they drift and ricochet their way up to my ears (are my ears still here? I hope?) I hear Jhasen’s name, I think, and maddening sets of words, dry and crackly that crumble in between my ears and my brain, silly words that don’t make any sense, words that I don’t want to hear, words words words but no meanings, just letters arranged in random orders, sentences formed more by punctuation than definition, I stare at the queen and let the words flow through me, let them dominate me and destroy me, give in to all of the words I cannot stop all of the words the words are me I am the words words words? Words.
My world falls into itself with a giant wooden crash below. Dust flies up toward me and I flash to the mushroom cloud Scott blew upwards then back again, looking down on a splintered playing card, broken down to kindling with a redheaded Jeff Plakke sitting squarely in the middle of the mess, rubbing his head.
Jeff looks up, half-smile on his bearded face.
“Whoopsy. I didn’t mean to spook you there, I was riding around on this bike I found and couldn’t pull out of that last turn. What did I wreck?”
Sally had fallen backwards on her bottom and looks up from her puddle of a dress lying around her. She can’t seem to pull it together enough to get any words out. She just stares at Jeff.
Jeff looks at the broken child for a moment, then thumps her on the head. “I say, what’s the matter with you?” no response at all. Sally is whimpering quietly to herself.
“Humph!” Jeff ambles over to where his bike is wedged under a pile of playing card residue. He tries to pull it out. “This bike is stuck fast...as fast as lightning!”
“That’s a different kind of fast” I whisper into the room, a grinning silvery whisper.
“It’s all kinds of fastness with me, I can assure you!” rejoins Jeff without even pausing and, yanking his bike free, squeaks away into the bowels of the museum.
Sally doesn’t look like she’s going to be moving for awhile. I wait. I breathe. I close my eyes and watch the hallucinatory stars change colors and dance for me. I smile.
“Well, well, well...what all this then?” floats up a surreal voice and I look down upon Chris and Rob, staring down into Sally’s dazed face. She doesn’t move, just continues to stare right through them.
“If you think we’re freak-statues” Chris says “you ought to pay, you know. Statues weren’t made to be looked at for nothing. Nohow!”
“Contrariwise,” adds Rob “if you think we’re alive, you ought to speak.”
“I’m sorry,” says Sally (surprising herself more than us, I think) “I’ve had the strangest dream.”
“Isn’t it wonderful stuff?” asks Chris, helping Sally up and leading her out of the museum. “We really should see if Scott doesn’t have just a little more left, I love strawberry punch! And all the delicious things he mixed in there, he said he started with gunpowder, cabbage and wax, then mixed it all up for a wonderful snack! Mix sand with the cider, and wool with the wine, then everyone drinks for a head thumping-time. I thought we were lost until we found you, sitting in a museum with nothing to do, but now we can play games like hide-in-the-dark, twister and baseball or chess in the park...
Their voices fade out slowly as Chris rhymes his way into oblivion and I curl up in the rafters, alone for the first time all trip. Even though it’s way too early on I begin to recount all the things I heard and saw and my smile returns to my lips. A leering smile. A smile fit for a king. (a cat may look at a king...I’m sure I’ve read that somewhere) I can no longer hear the clocks ticking, I can’t seem to hear anything at all. Just some lingering words, words too weighty to leave this room so quickly.
Jhasen is dead.
Well then ... off with his head.
"Take care of yourself!" screamed the White Queen,
seizing Alice’s hair with both of her hands. "Something’s
going to happen!"
--Letters from a Savior; Offer for a few--