Wednesday

My Brief Experience With the Time Tunnel

My elusive transgressions are what got me here. It's important for me to outline my experience with the Time Tunnel, because it is an astounding one (if only to me, having been through it myself).

I found myself on a beach, at a resort not unlike a Vegas hotel of a high caliber. I wondered, in fact, whether the beach and ocean were man-made. All of my days felt thin and nondescript, like air. I could not pin down how long I'd been there, why I was there, or what I had been doing since my arrival. One afternoon, a large sea-eel found its way to the beach. It was of a staggering proportion, and it fought wildly to try to attack some of the beach-goers. But once it reached the sand, it lost its propulsion and momentum, and lay largely ineffectual on the sand. The teenage boys began to climb onto it and ride it like some alien steer at a bull-riding contest. I found myself altogether fearful, awestruck, and disgusted by the scene.

I walked to the restaurant and bar at the hotel. At the bar, I ordered a drink. Something a bit tropical, perhaps, something to cool me down and also get me liquored up. The waitress was attractive and wore a ridiculous shirt of many colors in a pattern whose rules escaped me. It was the kind of shirt one would see a waitress in at such a place, the kind whose imposing dogma was clearly forced on the girl, who was just there as a summer job to make money, a local, but the bizarre collision between her beauty and the shirt's ludicrous existence made her seem that much more attractive. I fantasized momentarily about tearing the shirt off of her in some closet around the corner and having passionate sex with her. I knew immediately that this was probably not an option. So I went about waiting for my drink. A young man, about ten years younger than me, sat down next to me. He seemed not to notice me, and ordered a drink from the attractive girl in the multicolored cage.

A few moments later, she returned with his drink. I caught her eye and asked her, politely, whether she'd forgotten about my drink.

"No, sir, it's coming." She was still friendly, and hurried off with her tray in hand.

As people at tables got their food and others their drinks, I got the distinct impression that she had either forgotten about me or was purposely denying me my request for some unfathomable reason. I called her over again and asked what had happened to my drink, still as respectfully as possible. She suddenly became very irritated with me and tersely told me to wait, that my drink was coming and I shouldn't be so impatient.

I moved my seat to a more crowded area of the bar about twenty five yards away, around the bend of the bar. I hoped that sitting amongst more people might make me more visible and less easy to avoid.

A woman came and sat down next to me, not in the best shape, and wearing a floral dress whose ugly brilliance rivaled that of the waitress's shirt. There was a tray on the bar in front of her, and onto it she placed a small baby. Somehow I missed the baby altogether. The girl next to me whispered to me with one hand over the side of her mouth, like a Japanese gossip, that wasn't it so cute? I didn't know what she meant, and she pointed to the squirming, naked red flesh on the bar. Though it was not adorable, it was not hideous either. It had the chubbiness of most newborns, when the joints where all the bones meet are less defined, and the spots where they close are more just meetings of two blobs of meat, such as where the upper and lower arms come together at a line of contact. It squinted its eyes at me. I smiled, simply because it was a funny sight to see.

Just as it became clear that my drink was not coming, a peculiar thing happened. A woman sat down at my barstool. She was a large woman, with a frizzy mullet and a leather jacket. She was butch, manly, and gave the impression of being either a biker or being from New Jersey, or perhaps both. She did not even acknowledge me as I fell backwards off the stool. She simply settled herself in and got the bartender's attention. I stood up lividly, and began to make a scene. She ignored me. Everyone, in fact, ignored me.

I suddenly felt a loss of control of my body, not in a blinding rage, but rather in a sense of a loss of gravity. I felt the sensation of falling, but rather than falling I felt myself being propelled forward at a blinding rate. Suddenly, I was standing on the beach. In the startlingly clear water, I noticed something floating. It seemed to be a body. I approached it quickly. I discovered it to be my own body, resting on its side in the fetal position, knees bent up to the chest, eyes wide open and hands tucked underneath the head, as though sleeping in a bed. Instantly, I lost my own physical perspective and became unified with that body in the water, seeing through its (my) eyes. I remembered what had brought me there, remembered a sense of malaise that had led me to the decision that life was boring and I was better off dead. I remembered walking into the water and, without pomp or circumstance, drowning myself.

As before, I felt the feeling of freefall and propulsion forward. I arrived in the same position on top of the bar. I was sitting comfortably in the baby's body, looking out at the woman who had taken my seat at the bar, as she received her drink.

There was no time for the experience to sink in. Soon, I was floating in a nondescript void, being addressed by young voices. They explained to me a process that I was about to begin that seemed not unlike a Buddhist sense of rebirth, except it did not seem to involve being reborn at all. Rather, it all seemed to take place in this bizarre space that lacked any real definition to time.

First, they said, I had to overcome my fear of heights. They tethered me to a bungee of some kind, and careened me off a cliff. The whole thing is really rather comical. I enjoyed my freefall, screaming and laughing the whole way down. A couple other tests ensued, in each of which gravity seemed to take on a different value. When my bungee-jumping days were over, the voices seemed pleased with my progress and introduced me to the next step. They returned me to a physical body somewhere in the hotel. I walked down a corridor, past doorways of rich, finished wood, and potted plants. It was a lush interior. Suddenly women began to appear out of the doorways, and various objects in the hall began to morph into the same. Soon, the space was filled with all naked women. I laughed again. The young voices told me I could enjoy myself, but that I was to pick only one to ultimately end up with. It seemed a rather comic illustration of what I had spent much of my life doing: sleeping around, when all I wanted was a single beautiful companion.

I found myself walking around, as all of these women stared and smiled at me, examining them all as I might furniture. I caressed some of their flesh, as though feeling the material of a couch. Some of them engaged me either verbally or physically, and I found every experience to be rather wonderful. I was enjoying myself, to say the least. Each of these beautiful women seemed to express, one way or another, the desire to make me eternally happy. And though I found the prospects infinitely good, I also found myself largely uninterested. Rather than "choosing" one of these women, I turned and walked back down the corridor, and down the stairs that had brought me there to begin with. Though the hallway had been well-lit, only a few steps down I was already engulfed in blackness. My continued descent began to yield some clarity to the forced night.

Below my feet I could see a landscape. Water crashing against cliffsides, small buildings that seemed made of straw and clay, a lush green forest splayed out beyond them. A few pinpoints of light could be seen here and there. Everything was awash in the deep-sea blue light of the moon, and I was shocked by my ability to make out as much detail as I could. Soon, I was walking down the dark streets, cobblestone, in what seemed to be a 16th century or so village. I wore simple, earth-toned clothes and carried a sword. I entered the dark streets of a particular neighborhood and was confronted by a small man with a hood whose shadow covered his face completely. He attacked me, and sent him reeling over a low fence, and he careened down a cliff into the waters below. Despite the violence and menace of it, it seemed rather commonplace to me, and I continued along the way.

I entered a pub. Finally, I had found someplace to relax. I was suddenly with friends, as we entered, and I professed my jovial desire to drink heavily. I felt happy. I sat down at a table and looked at the menu. The beers, as many as there were, did not bear the names of their manufacturers or the names they had been given. The bar-keep was a tall, balding man, with a rough, manly voice. He explained to me that on the menu, all beers were named after their hops. As a result, they all bore names of only vague familiarity.

"So I have to figure out which beer is which based on knowing the hops?" I asked him.

"That's right."

"Do you mean to tell me that someone who comes in here might, conceivably, not be able to know what beers you serve here?"

"Yes, sir."

One was called Exilim, or some such thing, and I was mildly sure that it was a stout that I'd had before. I ordered it.

The bar crowd was loud and welcome. The lighting was all a yellowish-orange, turned down low, and gave a warmth to what had been a largely cold traveling experience. People began singing traditional songs. I got the distinct impression that I was somewhere in the someday-to-be United Kingdom, quite arguably Ireland.

My friends and I were enjoying ourselves. I got up to walk somewhere (where, I don't know). I took my eyes off of my friends. In moments I found myself in a dark room. There was nothing in the room, save for a couch, a table, and a man in olde-tyme executioner's garb sitting on the couch, a sack-like hood over his head and face. He was thick around the midriff, one arm draped over the back of the couch, and he breathed heavily. He seemed unaware of my presence and did not move, simply sat there and worked the air into and out of his lungs. I felt a sharp, urgent sense of foreboding and, despite my confusion, was somehow able to will myself down into the floor, and found myself standing on my feet, once again, in the bar.

The crowd had changed, as had the layout of the bar slightly. I recognized my things on the bar, and sat down at them. A small messenger-style bag, a book, and a beer. The book bore a doorway on its cover, an ornate, finished wooden frame seen from an angle as though approaching it down a corridor. From within came a light that illuminated the wood finish, but did not give away the contents of the room due to the angle of approach of the photographer. My beer was half-drunk and sweet looking, not the dark stout I had expected I'd ordered. It looked tasty all the same, and thirst-quenching.

Nearby, I spotted my friends, and I sat with them.

"Where've you been?" My friend Aaron asked me, huddled over his beer and surprised by my sudden arrival.

"What do you mean? I've been here," I said.

"What? We couldn't find you when we were going to another bar, so we just left without you."

"Well, I was right here!" Perhaps they just hadn't looked hard enough. No matter. They were back and so was I. I went to the bar to grab my drink and my things.

"I knew you'd be back," the bartender said. He had aged noticeably, and his voice was much wispier than it had last been. He was still tall, but much ganglier. He was a bit more friendly than I remembered him. "You've been gone a long time."

"Where was I?" I asked him.

"The Time Tunnel," he said nonchalantly.

"How long have I been gone?"

"About fifteen years."

My eyes widened by my confusion and fear, and my mouth paralyzed by the same, he continued, "Yes, sir. I knew where you were, which is why I saved your stuff."

"How did I get there?"

"Well, you're still in the Time Tunnel, technically. You have been for some time, I'd imagine. This bar exists within it. Sometimes you will find yourself jumping for no reason, when you lose your focus on your activities. The room you were just in, however, you can get to with the following incantation: Emm, eff, dome. I don't know why you'd want to go there, though."

I walked over to my friends, who were sitting at a table across from the bar, to try to explain this to them. They appeared not to listen. At the very least, they were incredulous.

"I'll show you." I took a step back.

I chanted the brief phrase and my feet slipped through the floor. My body seemed to invert itself, as though in a mirror, through space and time, with the point of contact of my feet on the floor being the focal point, and I was then standing on the floor back in the dark room with the executioner with the hood over his head. This time he stood. He looked at me, or at least turned his body in my direction. As I began to retreat away from him, he lunged and began running full-speed at me. He tackled me to the ground and began to pummel me. I tried to cover my head with my arm. Though I didn't actually feel any pain, the situation was still not one in which I wished to find myself. I called the incantation again, and as before the floor reflected my physical body into the opposite plane. I was back in the bar, still on the floor. Another man, with long hair and a Viking's facial hair was attacking me.

"Ok, you're right, you're right!" I yelled, hoping that I had simply gotten caught up in a disagreement, and that it would assuage his anger to hear my admission. It worked. I had been covering my face with my arm, and when I removed it, he was already gone. I stood and walked to the bar.

"Hello, again," said the bartender. "It worked, I see."

"Yes, it did."

"I saved your things for you again." He pointed to a large, hideously teal suitcase behind the bar.

"Thank you."

"Your friends have your book," he added.

I turned to my friends, sitting once again at the same table, except I realized that the bar was now on the opposite side of where it had previously been in the narrow space, and that the table was now next to it instead of across from it. They were all drinking and talking loudly, and my arrival heralded no fanfare. My friend Michael, in particular, ignored my presence altogether. I found my book on the table, and someone handed it to me.

"This is not my book," I said.

"Yes it is," said someone, perhaps the bartender, perhaps a friend.

I looked at it closely. It was my book, but the cover had changed. Now, I could see flames billowing and licking out of the wooden doorframe, with small bits of wood and rubble burning all around like small, quiet torches.

"It is my book, but the cover has changed," I said aloud.

My beer was several tables down, and I started to go get it when I realized that doing so might send me careening through the Tunnel again. I turned back to find Lani looking me straight in the eyes.

"Lani, I need you to hold my hand, and keep your eyes on the group the entire time," I told her. "Can you do that?"

She smiled, and I took it for a yes. I grabbed her hand. I couldn't fall through any holes if I were holding her hand, and she were in visual contact with my friends.

I turned safely toward my beer, a couple small tables away, and I reached to grab it. With it in my hand, I turned to find Lani and my friends still there, still chatting away. I thanked Lani and took a seat at the bar immediately next to them.

It was suddenly clear to me, though, that the bar was past closing time. We were the last few left. Now, the bar was on both sides of the room. I sat at a smaller one that had no actual drinks behind it, and behind me was the original bar with all of the liquors waiting patiently to be drunk. The bartender, seeming a bit younger now, sat on a small couch alongside the old bar, next to a girl. They held hands and she rested her head on his shoulder.

I pulled my Moleskine notebook from my bag and began to write, to put literary form to my experience. I felt a great urgency. The words flowed out of me with ease. For some reason, though, perhaps its greater surface area, I changed to looseleaf paper, and the words began to bleed. They didn't make sense. I couldn't put my thoughts together. At the bottom of the first page of loose-leaf, my train of thought was gone and I was struggling to write the next three words.

"It won't work," the bartender called to me from the couch.

My sense of urgency heightened. I felt panic-stricken. I figured he just wanted me out of there to close up. I needed to write this all down, before it, too, might slip away from me. I concentrated on beginning the next sentence, "My elusive transgressions..." My hand wouldn't follow. I just kept thinking it, staring at the space at the bottom of the page, then at my hand and pen, then back at the page.

Think.

My elusive transgressions. My elusive transgressions.

My hand moved the pen, but there was no clarity to the motion.

My elusive transgressions... my elusive... my...