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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The unexpected journey

    The cold winter months are almost upon us and the cold is getting to me. I simply hate it when I am not sweating like a pig and I would love to run off to some pleasant spot to spend my free time. So one day I logged onto the net and searched the papers for the perfect destination where I can recuperate. During the hunt for the affordable family vacations spot, I discovered a travel agent who mentioned there were quite a few family vacation packages and he was sure that something could be found to fit my budget.

    So, on a cold foggy day, I headed off to the man who will send me around the world. I really didn’t feel like leaving the house under these conditions so early in the morning since I had really planned this trip for later in the day. So, I bundled up and waddled outside like a penguin. It’s cold and the cold biting wind from the northern mountains makes it worse. Got a warm cap covering my head, sweater, a warm shirt underneath that, a t shirt under the shirt and let’s not forget the pants plus the shoes. So, somehow I managed to get in the car and after some coaxing, it finally started. It’s a real gas guzzler of a car so I stopped off at a nearby gas station first, had the tires checked and topped off the gas tank. Upon reaching the site, I discovered that his office was located in an old abandoned shopping complex a few blocks down from my house. Somehow I managed to clamber over the broken pillars, huge boulders, abandoned vehicles and other debris to reach the entrance of the complex.

    The hallway was dimly lit except for a few pools of lights that seemed to flicker every so often. On each side there were numerous doors. Some doors were closed, others partially open and others seemed like they had been broken into. I eventually found my way to an old wooden door with a heavy brass knocker near the center and a brass handle on the right edge. Two monstrous cement figures which looked like gargoyles sat on each side glaring down the hallway. The door opened just as I was about to knock. As I entered, I saw a large room with a blazing fireplace at the far end. Wooden book shelves filled with ancient books lined one end of the wall while there was a large window at the opposite end looking out at the bleak landscape from where I had come. One the floor, there was a lush brown carpet on which a huge dark skinned man sat. The face could not be seen as a hood was covering it. There was a low table in front of him with a deck of travel brochures with one dark thick lit candle one each corner of the table which seemed to flicker and waver back and forth even though there was no wind in the room. This place seemed timeless and older than time itself at the same time. Hiding in the flickering shadows, I hoped he would not see me while I searched for a door to leave this place. As I edged along the walls, I got the sensation that the walls were smooth, rough, and alive at the same time as it seemed to move and pulsate under my hands.

    He seemed to sense me in the room and turned his head towards me. He beckoned me with his outstretched hand and motioned me to sit down facing him on the other low stool. I felt hypnotized and drawn by the deep dark well of darkness that lay within the hood. Even at this close range, I could not see his face as it was shrouded in total darkness. Raising his three fingered blue hand just slightly, one travel brochure after another rose from the deck and settled on the table face upward.

    I was given a quite a few family vacation destinations options and it took me some time to narrow down the choices to a manageable pile. I was having a real tough time deciding a proper vacation spot as there were so many choices available. I was really lost and confused by the unending choices until I remembered that one of my friends had just come back from a vacation and I called him up to help me out. He seemed to have alot of experience in these matters and he was always ready to help out.

    The first thing I did was go back home, sit down with him and made a list of what I wanted to do on my vacation. We were making good progress as we had narrowed the list down to two vacation spots down in the Caribbean as it promised to be one of those all inclusive family vacation packages which promises to please just about anyone. What really got me hooked to the idea of visiting this perfect vacation spot was the 18 hole golf course which the Tiger Woods had tried and went away extremely pleased with the end result, spa where I can get pampered like a king as they are able to provide massages to suit everyone’s needs. It had a daily giveaway of a free trip down the water falls while being tied to a boat. During the course of discussion, I found out that there is something called the “Ride the upside boat contest” in which the survivor is entitled to a daily giveaway of a free week long stay at one of the hotels located near waterfalls. It was getting late at night and we decided to call it quits for the day. We decided to meet at the travel agents office next day around noon to finalize the travel plans.

    I pulled up a chair next to the fireplace. The fire seemed to have died down long ago yet the ambers still smoldered brightly under the ashes. Throwing a hand full of twigs and some straw, I stirred the ambers and kept fanning till the twigs and straw caught fire. Bit by bit, I kept adding the logs till it was a roaring fire and started to wander to get the travel brochures and finally plant myself in the chair. As I ruffle my hair, I wonder where should I go and what should I do when I finally reach there? Sleep finally overtakes me and I slowly fall into dreaming the dreams that I always ended up dreaming.

    The week seemed to start out just right. I had worked long and hard all year long and had earned a fully paid vacation to the tiny, sea-swept Pacific nation of Tuvalu and I was overjoyed. I packed my bags as quickly as possible and decided to drive the boat over there instead of taking a flight as my destination was only a few hours away and the island is just too small to have any kind of landing strip. So, I finally fired up the old rickety boat, navigated down the river, plunged down the Niagara Falls and finally into the Atlantic Ocean. One never realizes how life can change in a blink of an eye. Who knew that at one moment I was driving along the coast and the next moment my boat was spinning out of control due to a massive storm which was building up on the horizon. High velocity winds and huge waves swept across the waters and the boat started to spin round and round and the boat started to fill up with water.

    I woke up after what seemed like many eons and I slowly started to sit up. Everything seemed so heavy and I felt like there was a great weight on me. It took some effort to stand up and for some reason everything seemed to move in slow motion. Looking up I saw a round ball of flickering light which seemed like the sun yet it seemed really weird looking and dimmed. Something floated by me and in panic I tried to jump back. I rose a little off the sandy ground and started to float away. Panicking, I started to flap my arms and legs. I was startled to see that my hands and feet had grown larger were webbed.

    Lights flickered above and one could feel the disturbed water currents all around. The water above had turned jet black, I hid in the sandy valley and amongst the seaweed fearing a tidal wave or a storm. I really don’t know how much time passed by, yet when I came back to my senses I noticed that the currents had subsided. There was utter stillness around and all creatures had found some hiding place to seek shelter. Pair of sirens were sitting in the cluster of rocks above singing a hypnotizing song and waiting for the sailors above to crash into the cliffs and drown. In the distance a shadow of a large shark was seen hunting for prey. It was still pitch black outside and I started to panic wondering how I will get myself out of this situation.

    As my eyes slowly adjusted to the dim lights, I saw that in the barren landscape nothing could be seen for miles upon miles. A huge patch of dense seaweed in the distance caught my attention. A gentle current started to rustle the plants and ruffled my hair ever so gently, yet died down as quickly as it had risen. As I swam deeper into the forest, my uneasiness grew in the near total darkness broken at times by the sound of water gently flowing up from some place and the sound of a startled fish swimming away.

    A manta ray swam through the waters and the clearing feeding on any small prey that happened to be close by. Hitching a ride on the back of the giant beast, I eventually found myself at the end of the seaweed forest. An old sunken vessel with debris around it drew me as if I was in a trance. There were small school of fishes and at times a lonesome shark swimming in and out of the open port holes As I drew near the deck, a faded gate which had a lion head emblem gently opens on its own.

    Upon entering the door, I notice that the ships innards are bone dry and for some reason water has not entered. The floor boards creaked every time I put my foot down, there were fluorescent lights in the ceiling and the lone window showed the ocean and was grimy from eons and eons of existence. I suddenly notice the presence of people walking around in naval uniform in what seems like the control room. No one seems to see or notice me and I am startled by the scene I see. The captain of the ship walking around briskly and seems to be giving direction while looking out the bridge deck. Looking out at the direction where everyone is looking, I see a clear sky while the ship is sailing on chopping water. One of the officers who is looking through binoculars suddenly starts pointing outwards towards the horizon and says something to the captain in an urgent voice. The captain grabs the binoculars and looks outwards intently and starts barking some orders in a very panicky voice. After a few moments, I see two plumes of water fast approaching the ship and I suddenly realize the fate of the ship. Running back towards the door which I entered, I wanted to make a hasty retreat from this cursed ship which is forever doomed to repeat this fate over and over again before I join the ranks of the dead.

    Opening the door, I see a wall of water and step back in fear thinking that I’ll get crushed by the sudden deluge. Yet it stays on its side as if some invisible barrier is holding it back. The giant beast is swimming some distance away and upon seeing me at the open door make a tight turn and heads towards me. Fearing an attack I step back once more, yet get thrown out as there is a huge explosion. The glass shatters and water starts entering the deck. Flying out, I land on the manta which starts to glide away. Curious to see what the fate of the crew was, I nudge the creature gently till it starts making an ever tightening circle around the ship. Nearing the glass window I see the scene being reenacted from the very start. Not wanting to hang around this haunted ship, I start to retrace my steps back towards the forest.

    Discovering a beaten sandy track between the seaweed forest, I start to wander down and after what seemed like an eternity discovered that the land has slowly started to slope upwards. I start to nudge the black beast to swim faster upwards and the lights became brighter with each passing moment. After what seemed like a lifetime, it finally broke through the water, flew across the surface of the water for a moment and the bright sun shone on my face before landing back into the ocean with a huge splash. Looking towards the shore, I noticed my boat was lying on the rocky shore. Seeing it in one piece, I swam towards it as fast as I could. The shifting sands of this place provided no foothold and it was no use sinking deeper into it while despairing about the mess I was in. I got back in the boat and tried to get it out. The engine roared and the blades spun crazily, yet it remained stuck in the rock.

    It seemed like all the power lines were knocked out due to the storm and none of the houses showed any sign of activity. A dash across the muddy fields was my only hope and it had to be done before it was too late. I looked up to the sky seeking some salvation, yet none was coming. I was on my own once more as I made a mad dash across the muddy fields to see what help I could get from the inhabitants.

    Running across the muddy field, I chanced upon an odd sight. There was a lone door standing in the middle of a grassy plain. I walked around it and it looked the same from both sides. Out of curiosity, my hands reached for the door knob, turned it a bit and slowly pushed it open. Wide granite steps led downwards to what seemed like a great distance and I saw a dimly lit water canal with cobblestone path on each side. An empty gondola was floating by on its own and it stopped at the base of the steps as if to wait for someone to board or disembark. Torches hanging on the wall lit themselves. The boat shook a bit and I heard heavy boots coming up the steps. The sound of the boot came closer yet I could not see what was approaching. My eyes wandered to the wall and I saw a shadow which wavered back and forth with the flickering light. I must have been imagining and my eyes are playing tricks on me I thought. My eyes wandered back to the steps and all I saw was a pair of flaming eyes intently staring at me before it started to rush at me. Slamming the door shut, I sank to the ground as I heard a heavy thud at the door.

    Stepping to the other door, I nervously opened the door to see the inside of a semis cab as it was hurtling down a desert highway. Looking over to the driver side, I saw a skeleton staring and grimacing at me. Its eyeless sockets seemed to mock me. The road looks long, hard and all I can see behind me is a dusty lifeless winding road. The landscape is barren except for a few tumbleweeds rolling by. The harsh sun seems to glare down at the dead landscape and a few vultures circle overhead to look for something to devour. The wind picks up and I grit my teeth, squint my eyes as I look out the windshield. The heat and dust gets blown through the broken windshield and unto my face. The semi suddenly jerks to the left towards a cliff and the speed picks up. It starts to get out of its seat and climb towards me. One arm reaches out to grab me to pull me over to the other side. As it reaches over, I slam the door close and back away as far as I can.

    Stepping back, I look around to see the familiar grasslands. The houses were still dark and showed no signs of activity. It was sheer luck that I saw another huge Manta ray flying by with a lady on its back whose sleeves were rolled up above the elbow, a Cuban cigar in mouth, a semi automatic shotgun strapped on one leg and black sun glasses in charge zipping by and the occupants sitting at the back who looked familiar. Emerging from the bushes, I swore that the lady who sat in front looked like Arnie on steroids. I started chasing it as this seemed like the only help in this barren place and I had a hard time keeping up as it wound through the lanes and by lanes of the city trying to hit each and every mailbox while chasing old ladies all over the town. My legs were getting tired, drenched with sweat and yet the chase went on. Looking back at the main town center, it seemed like a tornado had passed through it.

    The heavy knock on the door and the persistent ringing of the door bell woke me up from a horrible dream. I woke up with a gasp as I realized that it was early in the morning and the sun was burning away the last remnants of the dream I was caught in. Sweat was pouring down my face and into my shirt which was soaking wet. The dream was so persistent that the visions seemed imprinted into my mind forever. It seemed to pursue me into this world as I toppled backwards and fell out of the chair. The bright brownish glow on the travel brochure which was there a moment ago receded. Upon rubbing my eyes I saw an old white boat turned upside down on a river bank surrounded by overgrown grass, a rusting engine and rotting oars by the corner.

    Opening the door, I saw my Bill standing at the door giving me the puzzled look. Drawing the window curtains aside, I saw that the city life was in full swing as the yellow school bus was picking up kids and people were in a rush to reach office. As time wore on, the lingering effects of the dream faded. A city bus wound its way to the intersection and we got on it to reach the office complex where the travel agents office was located. Not having eaten anything since last night, we decided to stop at some food joint before entering the office. Lunch arrived and it disappeared within moments. So many different dishes and it managed to lessen the hunger pangs I was having.

    We finally arrived at the old abandoned shopping complex after what seemed like many hours parking the car some distance away from the entrance. We somehow managed to clamber over the broken pillars, huge boulders, abandoned vehicles and other debris to reach the entrance of the complex. The hallway was dimly lit almost dark in the evening light except for a few pools of lights that seemed to flicker every so often. Debris littered the floor and live electrical wires slowly swung in the air sending sparks whenever coming in contact. On each side there were numerous doors some of which were closed, others partially open and a few seemed like they had been broken into.

    We finally found our way to the old wooden door with a heavy brass knocker near the center and a brass handle on the right edge. Two monstrous cement figures which looked like gargoyles sat on each side still glaring down the hallway as if waiting for something to happen so that they could spring to life. The hallway suddenly plunged into darkness and something was scratching at the window. The wild wind, I think its wind and not some demons howl was calling out my name. The lights started to flicker as my hands reached out to the brass door handle. The door opened on its own as I was about to turn the handle. As I entered, I saw a forest trail which led to a tree house some distance away. We started to run down the trail as if possessed and started climbing it like a hungry monkey after a ripe banana.

    Upon reaching the top of the tree, we found an amazing tree house. It had all of the modern conveniences like centralized air conditioning, full house Wi-Fi, wall to wall plush carpeting, Teak furniture, a cellar full of travel brochures, an attic full of more brochures. This person was well stocked for any kind of travel. We sank into the couch and started to flip through the television channel trying to find something interesting. I wasn’t really hungry so I didn’t raid the midget fridge in the kitchen.

    I really didn’t know how long I had dozed off yet I woke up with a feeling of dread. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t pin point the reason why nor shake this feeling off. There was something out there and I could feel it in my bones. Bill who had been hiding under the couch all along sneaked out and started to run out the door. Getting startled I jumped at least 10 feet into the air and got stuck in the ceiling fan. As Bill was stepping out the door, he spied me hanging from the ceiling fan. Overcoming fear, he ran back inside and headed straight for the fans control switch. Turning the fan on at full volume, he started to throw water balloons at me as I swung by. Pretty soon I lost control and flew right into the washing machine. The lid closed and it started to spin round and round. What saved me from washing machines spin cycle was the power outage. Something was something and it was approaching fast.

    The sky grew dark and my ever so trust worthy friend sensing danger ran out the open door. I yelled out “Noooo...don't go and leave me here all alone here. It's just too scary here.” But Bill was gone and I was left behind to fend for myself.

    Out of the shadows emerged the all too familiar figure. It was the travel agent who asked if I had finalized my travel plans and if I was ready to be slingshot in a low orbit around earth. The rest of the day moved by slowly as the travel plans were finalized and tickets bought. Not willing to take up their challenge, I paid the full hotel price as I wanted to enjoy my vacation in one piece. There was a mad dash to the bank to get the foreign currency. The passport was renewed and travel permits were arranged.

    Time flew by and soon it was my turn to leave for the journey which I had so anxiously waited for. Taking a cab to the airport, I left for my destination hoping it will be tame compared to the dream I had. The first thing which I will be doing is hitting the hot tubs before going up to the indoor ski slopes for a few hours. I will most probably end the day by visiting the sites this place has to offer and see what is on their menu. I am really looking forward to this trip and I am quite sure that it will be worth the wait.

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