Chapter One – Entrada
When I opened my eyes I immediately realized I wasn’t in my bedroom, or in anyone else’s for that matter. From about twenty feet up, a seemingly endless ceiling overshadowed me, sparkling all star-like. It reminded me of a colossal version of an old Westside San Anto bowling-alley-turned-Mexican-dance hall, except no salsa blared here, nor did any banda play. Drunk like a borracho on a titanic waterbed, I floundered atop a never-ending loose collection of gear, goods, and possessions amassed in all directions.
My muscles not responding well, I must’ve looked like a stupid action figure in some messy kid’s closet. The ocean of stuff glutted my vision, overwhelming my mind. These sensations and images flashed through me like a dream—no, a nightmare—yet I felt conscious. In which case, what was all this chingadera and where in Gringolandia had I landed?
As I struggled to sit up, on my left I toppled over the heavy gold pieces of a nine-foot-square chessboard—of ebony and ivory? On the other side I squished an opened box of chocolates that reeked of liqueur. I wiped my hand on the mink coat lying there and smelled my palm—definitely Amaretto and Kahlua. Strange since I’d never had a sense of smell in a dream. I wiped the stuff off on my jeans and shook my head to try to get straight. Then I gave myself a cachetada hard enough to sting my cheek, and rubbed and stretched it. Nada of the surroundings changed. No, this felt nothing like a dream.
Facing me, as well as to my right, the distant horizon shimmered. I’d somehow awoken in a humongously long box, unfathomable miles across in two directions. Everywhere between me and the distance, piles of goods rose like a consumer society’s ultimate graveyard, leaving but ten feet of suffocating space overhead.
Now I felt like a forsaken knick-knack in some hoarding giant’s garage, stacked almost ceiling-high. In my mind, the stunted headroom choked off the horizontal boundlessness, threatened to crush me with claustrophobia. I wanted to puke, heave hard and bad, but forced it back down and swallowed. The nausea went away.
I followed the twinkling, pale ceiling to where it ran into a more exposed, orange wall behind me and a yellow one to the left. My eyes and brain couldn’t accept that the planes met at right angles, like this enclosure might be hexagonal or something. I shook my head again and squinted but the angles fluctuated worse. To boot, the disorientation wasn’t only in my head. My skin, my bare feet, my gut, didn’t feel normal. A hangover from an exotic drug I should never have tried? I couldn’t remember doing such a thing.
Fact was I couldn’t remember anything I’d recently done—last night, yesterday, the past week and for much longer. Maybe I’d been drugged with something that had wiped out my memory. So besides being lost, I had some kind of amnesia? And where the chingaus had my socks and shoes gone to? Had I gotten rolled? I checked for a wallet and found nothing, or anything in the other pockets.
Worried that if I stood I’d lose my footing on the stuff, I stayed crouched, scanning for someone or something familiar. I made out a third wall miles away but just barely, like this hazy place was gargantuan enough to have several climates, with fog in front of me and what looked to be a mirage to the far right. Between me and those distant walls, perpendicular shafts of darkness regularly sundered the background, pillars of black light rising out of the ground as if to keep the flat canopy from collapsing. I could have used a pillar myself, to keep my balance.
I shook off the vertigo and inspected the Flooring, as I’d learn they called it. It was impossible to believe. No wood floor, carpet, tile or linoleum anywhere. No ground, no dirt. Just thousands—no, it must have been tens of thousands of…things sat on I couldn’t imagine how many millions of others. In that sense, the place resembled a humongous junkyard, but most items appeared to be whole, useable, many even new. Any man-made object of value seemed like it would be here somewhere. I tore my eyes from staring too long because it confused me—like speeding through a liquidation sale of valuables from mankind’s every era. Besides, I was in no shopping mood for anything, except information, something to get my bearings or understand what had happened and where the chingada in Aztlán I could be.
Subdued noises came at me from every direction, like my ears were partially plugged…but I didn’t think my hearing was the problem.
From fifty yards in front echoed the steady clicking of roller coaster wheels. The contraption hadn’t been there a minute before, I felt certain of that. It stretched for possibly miles on prairie-like slopes of goods, bearing but one screamer riding with his arms raised. Further back stood a short oil derrick with its gushes splashing the ceiling or gurgling oil that seeped into the underlying goods. A couple of men in black-drenched overalls whooped it up. At least those people acted like they knew where they were. Yet, I hesitated running to seek their help.
Sprinkled throughout as far as I could see, larger groups were involved in different activities. There looked to be parties, a tamalada, a videogame tournament or quieter mundane events, like some kind of business meeting and a wedding ceremony. Plus more—a courtroom trial, a monster truck rally, a team of fresco painters frenziedly at work, and further out a score of naked people obviously involved in an orgy. At the limits of my vision, the eclectic mix of goings-on melded into grayed blurs.
More odd than all these oddities, was that the participants seemed totally involved in their own special thing, paying no attention to groups near them. As if they didn’t know they had neighbors. It was like I’d Google-mapped in real-time and max-zoomed on a world of suburban barbecues. A place where each backyard gathering pretended it existed in its own private mini world, despite the nearby competing commotion. Except, these people needed no eight-foot fences to aid the illusion and suburbia had never looked this loco. . .