This story is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are used fictitiously. This is written for my friend Brianna Hernandez.
Huh? What is this?
Where am I? Ah, I see.
Is this some kind of dream? I appear to be in this long, poorly-lit room with a table in the center surrounded by shadowy figures. It's hard to make out in the low light, and all of the silhouetted people's faces are obscured, which makes me wonder why none of them decided to turn a light on, but they appear to be of all variations, short and tall, male and female, that sort of thing. For some reason, none of them seem to notice that I am there, not even the man sitting directly across from me at the head of the table. In case you are wondering, I am not actually seated, but behind the whole group, giving me a clear view of the place, or at least as clear a view as is possible in the dark proceedings. There are no empty seats, and there appear to be anywhere from twenty to thirty figures seated round the table.
You know what? It's probably a good thing that I can't be seen, because judging from these people's conversation, they would not take very kindly to intruders. Look, I don't even know how I got here, okay? I just woke up and was looking down at this conference. I didn't do anything!
One of the male silhouettes raised his hand and said, "Sir, our intelligence reports have determined that your doppelgänger has joined our enemies. What course of action do you suggest?"
Wait, what? What the hell is going on here? Intelligence reports? Doppelgängers? Enemies? Did I stumble into one of those cheesy spy movies? Someone, please tell me what's happening! I should get out of here before I'm discovered, but how can I make an inconspicuous exit?
Just then, the dark figure at the head of the table spoke up. For a moment I was terrified that he noticed my presence, until my common sense told me that, since he was sitting in that position, he must be their leader and the one whom the question was asked to.
"Interesting," he mused, standing up from his seat, "I was wondering when he would respond to that fool's invitation. I shall go and find my counterpart… and deal with him personally."
Okay, now I'm really scared. This group does not seem very benign, that's for sure. Not only do they have enemies, but their leader openly calls them fools, which, if movies and TV shows have taught me anything, is something that only villains say. Whoever his counterpart is, I fear for his safety. Something tells me that he would not appreciate the results of being "dealt with." As if the leader's conversation weren't bad enough, he also looks sinister and foreboding, even if you ignore the whole shrouded in shadows thing, because he looks rather tall—standing up he positively towers over some of his subordinates—and his voice is suave and deep. Taken together, that all screams "evil villain" at the top of a metaphor's non-existent lungs. What have I gotten into?
So I was right after all. That was just a dream. Though that would explain why no one at the conference noticed me, the scene seemed so real. Wait a minute, what am I saying? There's no way that I could possibly have blacked out, sleepwalked to a sinister organization's lair undiscovered, woke up, overheard their proceedings, again without being discovered, blacked out again and wound up here, all, I must remind you, while being undiscovered. No, I am not going to agree with that cliché that a particularly realistic dream must be real. Besides, I've heard stories of lucid dreamers whose dreams are so realistic, they eventually realize that they are dreaming and are able to change their own surroundings at will. If I ever have an experience like that again, I'll have to try that.
But where the hell am I now? I don't remember ever falling asleep at the sidewalk along the side of a building. I'm not one of those homeless people who has nowhere else to go. I do have a roof over my head at night. And come to think of it, I don't recall ever seeing these buildings, or this street, or anything else nearby, before at all. How did I get to wherever I am?
All right, the first thing to do is to figure out where I am. And so, I got up, ignored those passers-by who thought I was destitute due to where I had woken up, and made my way to one of those newsstands. After all, judging from these surroundings, I am almost certainly in at least a medium-sized city. The fact that I don't live within walking distance of any city disturbs me somewhat, especially since the one I found myself in is completely unfamiliar. Indeed, it's so unfamiliar that I have no idea where anything is. I need more information…
As I was walking around trying to get my bearings, I became witness to the event. Every once in a while ordinary people experience unlikely happenings, and I have had a few before myself, but this was of the scale that went above and beyond such strange coincidences as meeting an old friend from school, or running into one's teacher at the mall, or even finding a wallet packed full of cash in the street with no identification inside. I highly doubt that anyone, anywhere, has gone through such craziness as what immediately followed.
On the less crowded street at the next corner was an unusual man. He was a complete stranger, yet there was something about him that made me guess if I had seen him from somewhere previously. The most curious thing about this was that he stood out. Unlike the city folk who blend into the background of scene with nobody noticing their presence, this person was the very opposite of inconspicuous. Despite this, I appear to be the only one who even noticed him, suggesting that the people in this city have seen even weirder sights.
He was tall, probably about six-foot-four, which would make him stand out in a crowd even if he lacked all of his other attributes. Now, I am completely straight, but even I could notice that he appeared to be the type of man who was not only popular with woman, but had fangirls because of his good lucks. It annoys me to no end that girls will not stop talking about the attractive so-called hunks that they run into. The only thing more annoying is the so-called bishōnen, which appears to be what the vast majority of teenage girls fantasize about. It should be obvious that the reason I bring this up is because that's what the mysterious man was. Stupid guy with his long, dark hair impossibly-well maintained, including the long sideburns that are just as nice-looking as the rest of the dead keratin cells on top of his head, not to mention his muscular build and general attractiveness. He was probably fairly young, as well, and ridiculously well-dressed in clothing that all the popular kids wear. The only good thing about this is that there were no women in sight, because if there were I would probably be forced to overhear their gushing about this guy. I don't really understand why that sort of thing tends to happen.
Suddenly he spoke, saying, "Hey, you seem to be lost. Do you need directions?"
All right, something really strange is going on here. First I wake up in this unknown place, then I encounter some stranger who looks like a male lead in one of those badly-written novels, and then he somehow knows that I have no idea where I am and offers to help. Something is off about this guy… after all, this is a city, you don't go around randomly talking to strangers. But, since he is the one who started the conversation, I suppose I could ask him where I am right now.
"Uh look, sir, I've just lost my way, could you possibly by any chance tell me where I am right now?" I asked, feeling stupid the entire time.
What I did not expect was his reply, which went, "Well, for starters, you're in the city of Sacramento."
Wait, what?! That's impossible; there is no way on heaven or earth that that can be correct. Surely this guy's pulling my leg. I live in New Jersey, but if I know my state capitals correctly, the man in front of me claims that we are all the way across the country in California. Not only is that thousands of miles away from where I live, but the things that have happened since aren't even that realistic; it's as if I'm in a poorly-written story. Am I still asleep, by any chance?
No, I am not. That hurt. So pinching myself is right out. That can only mean that I'm being misled.
"All right then," I said, "If that's true, then can you take me to City Hall?"
To my surprise, he responded, "Sure, why not. I have to meet someone near there anyway."
Maybe I should have reconsidered. I don't think that this is a very good, let alone safe, idea, following a stranger around in a city. Yet for some reason, I seem completely unable to do otherwise. I literally cannot explain why, but it's as if my good judgment is being somehow clouded. Not only am I concerned about this, but the situation seems so unreal. What the hell is going on? It's like my actions here are being forced to follow some predetermined script. We kept walking, regardless.
"Well, here we are," my guide said as we approached a large building.
Fortunately, this is a public place, so there would be witnesses if this guy tried to do anything illegal. Besides, the government of this place, which despite all logic is indeed Sacramento, is in this very building. I am pretty sure that this person has no malicious intent.
"Thanks," I said, and then, out of curiosity, continued, "By the way, who are you meeting here, anyway?"
As he pointed to the front steps up the building, he replied, "She's right in front of you. You wanna say hi?"
He's weird, that's for sure, asking me to say hi to someone I've never before seen. Well, we walked up the stairs, and I saw a young girl with short dark hair, who couldn't have been more than twelve years old, sitting on them with a bored expression on her face. Who knows how long she's been here? Does she even notice the two people approaching her?
"Which one of you is Gary?" she asked, looking up.
The man next to me said, "That would be me."
You're kidding. He can't possibly be meeting a twelve-year-old kid! Since she doesn't seem to recognize him, this is probably the first time that the two have met, yet she does know his name somehow. I hope this isn't what I think it is…
"Uh, sorry to interrupt, but how do you two know each other?"
"And who are you?" asked the girl.
"Just some guy who doesn't know how he got here. I'm trying to find my way back home, to be honest."
"Well then," she said, completely ignoring me, "Do you two want to help me with something?"
As I pondered the unlikeliness of these events actually occurring, still trying to figure out what a child was doing in the middle of a city unsupervised, Gary said, "Sure. I was wondering what we would do when we met each other in person."
Okay, now I'm starting to be suspicious. What did he mean, "met in person?" Why does this girl not seem at all bothered by my presence here? And most importantly, do her parents know about this? But I appear to be the only one here who is at all worried.
The brunette stood up and announced, "Well, since I have nothing better to do and you came all the way here, why don't you help me find out where Smosh lives? Can you believe they're in this very city?"
"I'm sorry," I objected, "But surely you're not suggesting that we look all over the place to find some guy who probably just wants to be left alone, despite being moderately well-known on the Internet, just because he lives in your town? Are you some kind of stalker? I don't even know you, let alone this other guy."
"I'll be happy to help out," Gary said to the girl.
If that's the case, then I'm coming anyway. I really don't like the way things seem to be turning out, and I don't know if this girl understands basic safety rules. You don't just go off somewhere with a stranger alone! Who knows what could happen with no witnesses? And I ask again, what on Earth is going on here?
"Excellent," said the little kid, and we began our adventure. The only reason I'm doing this is so that Gary doesn't try anything suspicious, and also so that I can find out more about who this girl is, why she's doing this without her parents knowing, and most importantly, learn whether or not she knows this other guy from somewhere before. Of course, those aren't the only answers I'm seeking. Someone better be able to explain certain things to me when this is all over.
Soon after that, the second incident occurred. We were walking around town according to the directions the girl had somehow obtained; the girl leading the way, followed by Gary, with me trailing. Due to this arrangement, I did not get very much chance to ask my questions. This situation is quite absurd. Here am I, transported across the country, walking around with two strangers, and I can't get any answers. Not to mention I have the distinct feeling that someone, somewhere, is responsible for this whole thing. After all, this is a ridiculously contrived situation that could not happen for no reason.
I was so lost in thought, that I didn't notice the fact that those same two unfamiliar people were no longer directly in front of me. Where did they go? Why would they run off without telling me? Wait a minute… oh my God.
Why didn't I realize it earlier? Okay, perhaps I did, but that's not important. What was I supposed to say? "Gary I think you're a pedophile?" He'd probably laugh it off… yet I now have some convincing evidence. No, I am not overreacting, because as I rounded the corner I saw the two of them in a back alley, where no one would see what is going on.
Fortunately, nothing had happened yet, but things were going to if I didn't do something. Gary had the girl's back to the wall and said, "Now everything is in place. The both of you are playing into my hands."
The girl had a worried expression on her face, and asked, "What?"
"Hold it right there!"
The dangerous man spun around to face me. Surprisingly, he was pretty calm. Now, I wasn't stupid enough to enter the alley. I was still out on the sidewalk where there would be witnesses to anything illegal. Why was I doing this? Most people in my position, including me, would probably run and call the cops. That's the reasonable thing to do, so why wasn't I? I can choose my actions, right?
To my surprise, Gary said, "You really think I'm gonna do anything terrible to this girl? Ha, like I care about her. She's only bait. You, on the other hand, have done exactly what I want. Now that I have you right where I want you, I can start my plan."
Plan? What plan? What's he saying? I don't understand a word of it. None of it makes any sense—how could he want me to do anything, if we didn't know each other an hour ago? Someone, please tell me what's going on!
The man ahead of me started walking in my direction, preparing to attack. He announced, "Feel the might of my perfection! Prepare to become one!" This stupidity on his part allowed me to see his punch from miles away and dodge it in time. What kind of an idiot calls his attacks, especially when giving them such bombastic names? And he calls himself perfect? How arrogant. Looks aren't everything.
I'm not good at fighting, so my priority was mainly to distract my opponent for long enough for the girl to escape, and then, as soon as she leaves, to run like the wind. I have no idea what my opponent's capable of, and who knows if he has a weapon on him? Speaking of which, he did not seem very pleased right now.
"You fool!" he yelled, "You dare evade my attack? I have no tolerance for this! I am one of a group of perfect beings who do not tolerate such imperfection! Everything we do, we do perfectly! In the name of excellence, you shall join it!"
What is this guy talking about? He's clearly as crazy as a loon. This is ridiculous. He is obsessed with perfection all right, but is going on and on about it as if he doesn't have any flaws. He has flaws all right, anyone can see that. His lack of sanity and humongous ego, for one. Perhaps I can take this opportunity for us to escape.
And so, I slowly backed away toward the rather frightened girl who is just as confused about this whole thing as I am. Anyway, since our attacker seems not to like being criticized, throwing insults at him seems to be my best bet.
"Come on, is that the best you can do?" I said, throwing caution to the wind, "I bet you can't even throw a punch properly!"
This had exactly the effect that I predicted. Gary exclaimed, "Such an inferior creature as you dares to criticize perfection?! Show the proper respect for a superior being!"
The lunatic approached us, so I had to think fast. We're in an alley, so there should be something that I can throw across his path. I looked around, and saw what I was looking for.
"Take this!" I exclaimed, lifting the lid of a garbage can and throwing it like a Frisbee across the path of the madman, who, startled, tripped and fell on his face. Now we had enough time to get the hell out of there. As we ran out of the alley, I decided to get some answers.
"All right, I'm confused," I said after we got back to the relative safety of the sidewalk with bystanders, "Who are you, and why were you trying to meet with that guy?"
The girl seemed genuinely affected by what had almost happened, and said, "I was stupid. I was told not to meet people I only knew over the Internet, but did I listen? His comments seemed so innocent…"
"Well, now you know why people say not to do it," I responded, "It's dangerous to meet with a total stranger. I remember about a year ago someone asked to meet me because I didn't think she was telling the truth about her age. I turned it down, because she apparently didn't know not to reveal so much personal information."
Even I'm somewhat surprised that I'm moralizing like this to a total stranger. I mean, shouldn't we have gone a little farther than the alley before stopping to talk? I don't have my cell phone with me, so I'd need a pay phone to call the cops anyway.
And at that moment, the third strange thing happened. The girl I had saved was rather interested in my little story, and her eyes widened in shock when I mentioned the reason for the situation.
"Wait a minute, that's not possible…" she stammered, "I once got really angry when someone thought I was older than I claimed to be, and I even asked to meet him in person to get him to believe me, but he refused."
No freakin' way. That's all I can respond to this.
"Say, you wouldn't happen to be—"
Now, I suppose I should point out that we were having our discussion on the curb near the alleyway. As a result, when Gary recovered from his daze, we were only a few hundred feet away. Obviously, he was not very happy, and so was steadily walking towards us.
"This isn't over," he said, "I will have my way. I always have my way…"
We would have started running as fast as we could, if it weren't for the fact that Gary was interrupted by a blast from what appeared to be a tazer, giving him an electric shock causing him to collapse on the sidewalk. Who could have done that?
I turned around to see a man slightly older than me in front of a parked car, the open door making it obvious that he had just stepped out. He was holding the tazer-like weapon in his hands and talking to us. What drama have I stumbled into?
"Ah, it's a good thing I got here in time," said the rescuer, who looked at the girl and said, "It seems that innocents are involved."
At this point, I was too confused to say anything except, "What's going on, and who are you?"
The man smiled and said, "Glad you should ask! My reputation is known throughout Internet writing circles! Among humor writers, the rest can't compare to the king of crackfic with fans as far away as Sweden, India, and Japan, the awesome leader of the Shambala Summit, they call me Superstarultra! Or just Super, for short."
If it were anyone else saying such grandiose things, I'd assume that they were full of themself. But I've heard of Super before, and that is probably a very accurate statement of his abilities. I've read his stories on the Internet and they're quite good. I've actually done more than read them, as Super is the type of person who is quick to make friends with his loyal reviewers, and so the group of them, including me, have joined an AIM group called the Shambala Summit.
"You're Super?" I exclaimed, surprised that he of all people just saved me and a stranger from a psycho, "I'm Brendan Rizzo, you know? What the hell is going on here?"
"I suppose I should explain," he said, "After all Brendan, you should be aware of what the Shambala Summit is really up to."
-To Be Continued in the Next Installment.-