All names have been changed and descriptions omitted to protect those involved, and my feelings toward them, in the account relayed hereafter.
I arrived at the conference early. The walkway to the ominous front door was shaded by a canopy of ivy, strategically growing around a wire arrangement. I used the large golden door knocker, making a cannon-like boom resound from within the house. I found, however, that using the knocker was not necessary for its contact against the wood swung the door open. I walked inside to find that I appeared to be the first to arrive.
I had underestimated the gargantuan quality of this house.
I started to walk around and inspect to see if there were any other folks around. After all, I only came because I was invited and I’d have sooner skipped it. Not that I wasn’t flattered for the invitation, but because I had a later engagement with a lady-friend that I still planned on attending. The house resembled that of a mall with household furniture. There were many large windows and the walls were white with indistinguishable artwork hung in numerous places. The ground floor had an abundant array of plant life from tiny palm trees to kudzu. Abruptly, I heard numerous footsteps upstairs. Of course, ‘upstairs’ was quite a vague concept in this house, as I was to find out. There were two sets of black marble staircases with signs detailing which floor they, respectively, led to. I came to find that there were not two, nor three, but seven floors in this monstrous piece of architecture. The stairs on my left were for gaining access to floors 2-4 and on the right were 5-7.
I found the footsteps to be coming from the fourth floor as I wheezed up the stairs. Firmly planting my foot upon the floor, I heard a deep growl followed by a second one to join. To my right was an open double-doorway and within were two great felines. One was perched atop a piano, spotted like a leopard with magical green eyes. The other lay on the floor beneath the piano and was solid tan with eyes black and beady. They both glared at me and opened their jaws wide to let out a terrible roar. I was frightened beyond description. I couldn’t gauge just how quickly the beasts could move but I was assured that it was a great deal quicker than I.
I tried not to make any sudden movements as I slowly backed away from their lair. Keeping my eyes on them, I backed myself into a cold steel wall and felt a sudden sense of hopelessness. I was certain that I would meet my end. Just then, the wall I was leaning on split in two and I fell backwards into a soft and fragrant mess of hair. I scrambled off of the floor to find I was in an elevator with my dear friend Francine. She laughed and asked me why I looked so pale. I pointed a shaky finger toward the, still open, elevator doors at the out of place mountain lions in the adjacent room. Her eyes widened and she frantically pressed the button for the ground floor.
As the elevator doors glided open, we were greeted on the ground floor by the host and owner of the establishment: Lester. He welcomed me and expressed his gratitude for my presence and his appreciation for my writing. I graciously thanked him the best that I could, given my current state of terror. Francine placed her hand on his shoulder and nervously began to speak:
“You know the…um…’mountain lion’ problem you’ve been having? Well…now there are two.”
Lester, nonchalantly, shook his head and mentioned that the initial feline must have found himself a girlfriend. I tilted my head and could not help but be in awe at how well he was taking this news. Eventually, people began filing in: friends and acquaintances from this life and past ones. I made my way to the closest of the three kitchens on the floor and poured myself a drink. I kept, firmly, mentioning to Lester that I could not stay for very long and that the preceding would be best if hurried. Lester kept reassuring me with a “Soon.”
An old band mate and brother of mine, Jacob, caught my eye and we greeted each other with a warm hello. We had not seen each other in quite some time and I was honoured that he would brave the journey to make an appearance at the conference. Sitting on one of the lavish couches, we talked nonsense for a while. During a break in the conversation, I pulled a cell phone from my pocket to check the time. My date was scheduled at seven and it was getting close to five thirty, already. The device in my hand confused me, however. There were no buttons, but merely an LCD screen. Seeing my puzzled look, Jacob pulled out a similar device and removed a magnetic pen from a slot on the side of the phone. He began writing his text message with the pen. I began to understand and searched for the same feature on mine, yet it was absent. Jacob laughed and handed me a number two pencil. I began writing a text message to Helen, the lady I was scheduled to take out in less than an hour and a half, with the intent of letting her know where I was so she could come to my rescue.
I touched the pencil led to the phone and the LCD screen began to crack. As fluid poured from the phone onto my lap, I let out a heavy moan of despair as Jacob began to laugh hysterically. The phone was destroyed and so were my hopes of contacting her. I felt beyond defeated, for this was no ordinary lady that I was to be meeting with. Very few people can exhilarate me with just their presence, but she did. She does and I had, seemingly, missed the opportunity that she was finally willing to give me. I could feel my heart drop and the sadness swell in my chest. A part of me wanted to cry and the rest of me remembered that I had not the ability. So I did my best to stuff down and suppress the emotion as I hurled the phone and took another gulp from my glass, the contents of which I had no idea. Lester strolled into the room and announced that, before the readings would begin, everyone was to be ushered into the food court for dinner. I was absolutely astonished. I remember thinking to myself: “This place has a sodding food court?!?!”
Seated alone in the massive cafeteria setting, too depressed to eat, I picked at my food. I looked at the enormous overhead clock and whimpered. Seven fifteen. My head dropped as if it had been suddenly burdened with the weight assigned to every woe in the world. I looked up and she appeared from, what seemed like, thin air.
Helen was seated a good ten yards in front of me conversing with, what looked like, the captain of a college wrestling team. We caught each others eye and I smiled, as I thought that she had some intention of finding me and taking me away from this place. Helen excused herself from the table and hurried over to mine. The quick manner in which she spoke did nothing to ease my mind as her words would shatter my expectations:
“Just wanted to come over and say hello. So…hello.” she said with a grim and serious face.
Helen had almost turned around and began walking away as the last word of her sentence left her mouth. She returned to her table to sit across from the burly gentleman and her expression immediately changed into a glowing smile. I felt completely alone. I pondered the idea of rushing over to explain myself but decided against it. Helen had made up her mind. Pushing out my chair, I stood up and began my exodus. I didn’t care about the reading, these people, the mountain lions, or this ridiculous mansion. I was leaving. I made my way out of the food court into a quaint little kitchen. I passed through this room into a study with a full bar. The next room was a den with a fireplace and that led to yet another kitchen. My frustration was growing fierce as I began to think that I would never find my way out of this place. Yet, I could only keep walking until I finally found myself in the sitting room where I had broken my phone.
Suddenly, I heard Francine’s voice from behind. She informed me that I was due on stage and asked me what I was doing. I turned only my head and told her I was going home. She shook her head and approached me. She could see that I wasn’t happy, even if she didn’t know why. I didn’t even turn around to face her as she embraced me. I could only stand there, limp. The smell of her hair made me feel better. It reminded me of what people would refer to as love. I had always felt this for her but knew it was a futile sentiment. All the same, I moved my hand on top of hers and grasped it tight. It was then that I heard the purring. The lions were to our left, laying in a loving embrace. I felt the swelling in my chest once more as Francine squeezed tight and assured me that she would always take care of me.
It was then that I awoke.