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I took an Uber for the first time. I'm glad, because I would be on the evening news doing a perp walk for murdering three hundred and thirteen people by vehicular manslaughter. My friendly driver, a gent from Nigeria proudly displaying a miniature replica of his citizenship document taped to the dashboard, can't see what I'm viewing out of the windows.

First off are the plants. Think thousands of kudzu and ferns growing out of everything, from the tops of telephone poles to full-sized fern trees jutting out of the manhole covers. Then there are the people, or beings. Regular people mingling with fairies, giants, ogres, demons, angels, and everything else from mythology. Some of the creatures seem to slide effortlessly around the car, while others just stand there and glare as the dented dark blue Nissan Versa passes through them. I think those things are ghosts or something, and every one of them has the same dour expression like someone tripped them into a gravesite when they were distracted. The driver just keeps up with the traffic, blissfully unaware of the hundreds of critters and "people" in the roads.

I spent most of the first ten seconds of the ride flailing around before the driver looked in his mirror and asked if I needed to go to the hospital. I used the same bullshit line I used with my friend, Senator Nick Ayala, back at the restaurant and blamed it on an insect flying around. He opened the window for a minute until I said the bug left. I spent the rest of the drive with my eyes closed chatting with the driver, Musa, about English football. He even gave me chuckle when I said I was a Manchester United fan (he was a forever Arsenal zealot.)

He dropped me off at my condo and I paid in cash with a generous tip. I stood still for a few moments as Musa drove off before I opened my eyes. The entire West Hollywood block was overlaid with a jungle motif, with humans and weird creatures hustling and bustling into the shops and chowing down on tacos from a green, lumpy, four-armed man on the corner. I slowly made my way into my building, doing my best to avoid bumping into others and appearing to be exceedingly drunk to the other normal humans.

The building interior had slightly less weirdness. All of the walls had doorways, from tiny hand-painted wooden doors with brass hardware all the way to a floor-to-ceiling cave entrance that smelled of unwashed socks and jock straps. I made my way to the elevator, avoiding a leprechaun smoking a bong in the middle of the hallway and chanting something about the economic crisis and the valuation of gold on the spot market.

I poked the call button and the elevator door immediately opened. The leprechaun and I stepped in. I pressed the fourteenth floor for me and then I made the mistake, out of habit, of asking which floor the tiny Irish man wanted.

"Seventeen. Ah, yeh can see me finally?" he said. "'Been talkin' to yeh for nigh on five years. Have you considered investing in Bitcoin?"

The ride to the fourteenth took several centuries longer than normal and I had a crick in my neck from reflexively nodding to whatever the leprechaun said. I stepped off when the door slid open. "Thanks for the tips," I said, trying to look interested. 

It didn't fool the Irishman. He raised a bushy eyebrow as the door closed.

I made my way to the end of the hall to my door. There were no odd plants or monsters within ten feet of my door, almost like there was a magic force field keeping them at bay. I turned the knob -- it was unlocked, so that meant my girlfriend had arrived before I did -- and entered my little domain.

No plants other than the snake plant and the fichus that refused to die despite my best attempts.

My girlfriend, Holly, called out from the kitchen. "I ordered some Thai, I'm dishing it out now."

"Okay," I said, reaching for the bourbon and a clean glass. Two fingers later and my throat was burning. "I think I had a stroke or something."

Holly walked from the kitchen over to the dining table balancing several plates with her four purple-tinged arms. "Pour yourself a stiff one and sit down." 

I just stood there with my jaw on the floor. My girlfriend had some large folded butterfly wings. 

She turned, saw my expression, and said, "Oh, my Goddess. You can see, can't you?"


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|| SciFiQuest 3022 ||

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