I turned a corner and found myself in the back room of a tux shop. Everywhere I turned, there were penguin suits, waiting for penguins to wear them. The line of wet footprints going out the door where I had come in seemed to indicate this was a hopping joint.
The rat behind the counter looked at me askance, probably because I didn’t belong there at all. I’m not a penguin. Nope. Not a penguin. I guess a rat can’t be successful without keeping some control of his business. I can respect that. But I’m still no penguin.
When his phone rang, I took that opportunity to get out from under his beady-eyed gaze.
The wet footprints led to the fish bar next door, which I found was crowded with half-naked penguins.
The flightless birds look even sillier without their suits.
I suppose I’ll have a fish cocktail, then wander on my way before they figure out I’m an Orca.
The smart aren’t immune to the calls from the Dreams. The calls reach anywhere, and draw in anyone.
I reached for the first door, and tripped. So much for a quiet, stealthy entry. I found myself tumbling down a slope in the company of a growing mass of tumbleweed. The silence that enveloped everything was eerie. For at least ten minutes there was nothing but the occasional crunch of a weed after a particularly bad landing.
When the worlds stopped spinning, I attempted to stand, but was too enmeshed in the tangle to move far. It took a fair bit of patience and some borrowed tools to separate me from the pile.
As I lay there, barely scratched and hardly bruised, I could hear frogs singing in the distance and a chicken scratching around nearby.
There was a wall of nothing but tea. Every brand. Every variety. Every imaginable combination of herbs. Sorted by color, and by caffeine level. All ready for steeping in water available at precisely the right temperature. All fronted by a dispensing system that evaluates the drinker and chooses precisely the right tea, and offers it in the right container.
The next wall was laden with coffee.
A walk-in fridge was filled with every imagined soda, sorted by flavor as well.
All of this to support the team of hackers that kept the peace, and might be expected to spend several straight days pursuing that effort.
The space also included a snack area filled with every imaginable snack food, and even a small supply of salads because there really is a limit to how much Pocky you can consume and survive.
Survive and flourish.
And eventually leave.
But first, there’s just one more bug that might provide an opening that can be exploited…
I turned the corner and found a classic casino, set for baccarat. Most of the casino was dark, but a single roped-off table was set up for play, with a lone figure hunched over the shoe. The set was so specific that it seemed at first that I had no choice but to play.
But the key to this sort of situation is often to find the other way forward. I scanned the shadows, then spotted my way out. A window lit by the glow of the city beyond.
I made for the window and jumped.
For a brief moment I wondered at my own sanity as I fell storey after storey. Then I spread my wings and took control of my dreams.