I was stuck at MIT over this past holiday break, and I don’t get off campus much, so on New Year’s Day I decided to take a special trip around the good old Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I started where the Mystery Hunt used to kick off (before it became too big) and then walked down a hall that seemed to go on forever. At the end I was about to go outside, but it was too cold, so I hung a left and then a right, then walked straight until I reached a triangular building. At that point I bit the bullet and went outside, but I was getting tired of walking so I proceeded to the nearest subway station. I took the train two stops outbound, emerged from the station, and seeing the sun made me sneeze.
I probably should have mentioned that I have a weird condition; when I sneeze, I teleport to roughly the same location 98910 days into the future, and then when I sneeze again, I teleport back. It’s pretty inconvenient. This part of town looked a lot different in the future; the name was more generic, the stores were all closed, and there were significantly more radioactive zombies trying to murder me. So I ran southward to a barricaded building where it seemed likely I’d find trained people to help. I didn’t get the best response (one of the people inside tried to recruit me to kill the zombies myself), but I did meet my ninth-best friend, who was reading an article titled “Not the Soldiers You’re Looking For.” I left the building and went north (walking a bit west first to get around the zombies), passing under a high overpass before I reached a large automobile factory. I made my way around the factory and continued to a town. It was pretty quiet, but at least they had a big store. Rummaging through the foodstuffs, I stirred up some pepper and sneezed.
Back in the present, I was still in a grocery store in the same town, though it had a different name (albeit one that started with the same letter). I went out the front door and jacked a car. You know, like in Grand Theft Auto. I’m kind of into video games. Anyway, I left the parking lot, turned left onto the road, and immediately passed a restaurant on my left with a name starting with Q. I drove in that direction for about three and a half miles, passing up a chance to get onto I-95, and then found myself in another town. I guess given the name of the street I was on, my destination shouldn’t have been surprising. And then I sneezed.
Finding myself in the same town (though it seemed significantly smaller now) but no longer in a car, I started trudging west, reaching another town boasting a sense of history and a charming museum. It also boasted a gang of violent bandits; I did my best to avoid them, but they looked kind of jittery, as if there had been a terrifying beast in this town not long ago. In the distance I could see a futuristic-looking red tower, so I followed the main road out of town toward it. I was disappointed to find the tower was just a gimmicky sign for a gas station, though I did meet my fourth-best friend here, who was reading an article titled “Flame Job!” I kept going in the same general direction, passing a statue of a colonial soldier and crossing a stream to reach a suburban ruin inhabited by, among other people, a kindly old drug-addicted psychic. This is where I met my number-one best friend, who was reading an article titled “Welcome Home.” There was another fellow there also willing to be my friend, but he wouldn’t stop asking me to check on settlements for him, so eventually I got exasperated and ventured south. After a while, I saw a large body of water ahead to the left and a smaller one ahead to the right. The radioactive water I’d previously waded through wasn’t treating me well, so I headed for the smaller body and was about to check out the cabin near the water when I sneezed.
Now instead of a cabin there were a bunch of stones noting where a cabin used to be, which seemed kind of backwards, but okay. I hiked north until I reached a major road, borrowed another car (which was challenging) and headed eastward, following signs mentioning the city in which I began my journey. I went almost five miles and then took an exit onto a major southbound highway. After another six and a half miles of travel, I came very close to a river and the highway intersected a toll road. I was trying to decide which direction to go, and my stress over making the decision caused me to sneeze right where one road passed over the other.
I was very high above the ground now, and there were a bunch of hostile people with guns nearby (they even had a name to reflect that . . . gun guys, or something like that) and an aggressive robot lady. I wanted nothing to do with any of that, so I found an elevator and took it to ground level, and then I headed east, staying under the shade of the broken highway overhead. I crossed some water, and when I reached a set of railroad tracks that pointed northwest, I went north instead. I found a gateway leading underground. I would have needed a wrist device to enter, but that’s where I once met my eighth-best friend, who was reading an article titled “Hot Pink!” I headed east, making my way around a small body of water (given its purpose I expected it to be clean, but nope, more radioactivity) and then on the other side, I briefly navigated a much more urban area, passing below a rooftop firefight on the top of an apartment complex to reach a large building. This appeared to be a major settlement, patrolled by armed guards in weird outfits. I was getting a closer look at some graffiti on the outer wall, appropriately extolling the protection of “the wall,” when I remembered I’m allergic to paint.
Finding myself at a corner of the building where two roads with seven-letter names intersected, I set off in the direction that took me past a bowling alley before the road curved to the right. I took a left when the name of the road I was following was about to change, and then continued for a little over half a mile, taking a solemn moment to pay my respects. Shortly after that I turned right to reach the front of the stately building that had been to my right for some time. On the front I could see a collection of American flags. Ah, patriotism. It tickles my nose.
I looked inside the building briefly, but since I didn’t have any of the items the machine was bribing me to return, I left and headed east. I stopped once there was a tall building on my right, which had been taken over by humans mutated by some sort of virus. That building was where I met my sixth-best friend, who was reading an article titled “Facepaint Fundamentals.” I continued in the opposite direction of the building and then took my first right, passing a specialty bookstore on my left. Ahead and to the left was a park which looked pretty peaceful, despite all of the scrawled messages urging people to stay away. I shrugged, approached the pond to get a closer look, and OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT THING?!
I didn’t know until just then that I could will myself to sneeze out of pure fear, but I guess you learn something new every day. I stopped cowering and found I was still knee-deep in a pond, although things were a bit awkward now because the pond was covered in ice and I was surrounded by recreational skaters. I pulled myself out, slid to shore, and walked northward to an intersection of a major road and a road named for a tree. If I had gone one way on the major road, I would have encountered another road named for a tree, but instead I went the other direction toward a much happier-sounding street. I turned left when I reached a chapel (as the name of the street I was following was about to change) and then took my next right. After about 28% of a mile, I turned left, passing a business with a name reminiscent of about 37% of the length of my time jumps. I cut through a commercial building in front of me and beheld a historic building on the other side, and that’s right around when I realized I might be catching a cold.
I headed directly north toward an art gallery, but before I found the entrance I remembered that I don’t find art very interesting. So I turned right and approached the tall building in front of me, but then I remembered I don’t find religion very interesting. (Though I remembered from another occasion that there was a lot more space in there than it appeared from the outside, and that deep within I’d met my fifth-best friend, who was reading an article titled “Modern Hearth.”) So I proceeded in the direction implied by the name of that building and swam across the water to a financial building. Exploring the building, since money is something I do find interesting, I found myself in a vessel that wasn’t really where it should be. A craft like that is nothing to sneeze at, but I did anyway.
Okay, this seemed like a much more reasonable setting for this thing. I disembarked and cut southwest across a park, eventually merging with a road named after the vessel I’d just been on. The road curved around toward the water (appropriately), and I walked for about a mile along the water, passing through two parks and approaching a large domed building. But I figured that I learn enough when school is in session, so instead of turning left toward the building’s entrance, I turned right and then left. After crossing the water, I came upon a large shopping center to my right. I was trying to remember how much cash I’d brought with me, when I felt another sneeze coming on.
I was definitely in the same part of town, but the name of the shopping center was different now (it was still two words but both had changed). I headed southeast and was thrilled that there was a bridge so I wouldn’t have to swim again . . . then I realized it was an open drawbridge, and so I had to swim again. On the other side of the water, I kept heading southeast until I reached a publication’s headquarters. From there I went south toward a building emblazoned with a science-fictiony logo and a two-letter abbreviation that didn’t seem polite. I passed that building on my left, took a right when the path ended, and went through a door into what I suppose was technically a gated community? It certainly wasn’t fancy inside, but the name was friendly enough. Inside I found an underground establishment that reminded me of a warning I saw on the first leg of my journey; in there I met my seventh-best friend, who was reading an article titled “Squeaky Floorboard, Sudden Death.” I left that place and went to explore the brick building directly above it. That’s where I met my third-best friend, who was reading an article titled “Essential Upgrades!” Two friends in such a short period of time . . . it brings a tear to your eye. No, never mind, just allergies.
I followed a street sharing its name with a US state, and after a short distance I came upon a transit station. My feet were pretty exhausted at this point, so I descended into the station and took a train one stop, and at the next station I went through an underground passage leading to a third station. I tried very very hard not to sneeze while I was underground, since I didn’t want to end up in some kind of subterranean future hell. I managed to control my nose until I reached that third station, but then all of a sudden . . .
Thankfully there was still a station here in the future (though it seemed extensively remodeled and possibly used for an entirely new purpose). I made my way to the surface and ventured southward, taking care to avoid the location I was passing on the right, given my terrifying experience from earlier. I didn’t take the first road branching off to the right, and then I immediately passed a location on the right where I once met my second-best friend, who was reading an article titled “Shark Paint Schemes!” I took my next left and approached a health care facility. I’d been doing a lot of bathing in tainted water and could use a doctor . . . but of course, this place had been taken over by the gun guys. Honestly, the future kind of sucks. It makes me appreciate my nine friends; they each insist on going by a one-word name, and they’ve got their issues, but at least we all get along. I wish everyone would stop fighting, but I guess war never changes.