Monday, December 28, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

White Fence

At the south end of the clearing, the giant evergreens climb up, masking the mountain which the hillside inevitably slopes up to form. To the north, the gold rush remnants of the town center can be seen past the mostly dry riverbed and the railway, which for safety reasons is encased in a skeletal frame of steel girders. Both rail and river run east past the restaurant whose ornate tables and brick walls adorn the clearing's ridges, and west along a dark hiking trail, which appears to gradually wind upwards into the hills.

We finish our breakfast, and I start for the tunnel which leads under the train tracks and into the town. But Carl calls me back.

"Hey! What are you going that way for?"

I look back confused. "I thought we were here for the rides... that new mine car one is supposed to be pretty good."

"No way, those rides are just... too tacky. Not worth the trip."

I'm a little annoyed, as I've never seen the rides myself. This is my first time in this popular ghost-town-turned-theme park, and tacky or not, I'd like to at least experience it. "Then... why did we drive out here so early?"

"We're here to see White Fence."

"Well, look - can we check out the town for an hour, and then see White Fence?"

Carl rolls his eyes, and hurries me along. "Dude! It's only showing until ten. That only gives us a half hour to get out there..."

"Okay, okay..." I turn back and follow the others, as they hop across the stones which pepper the riverbed's shallow stream. "But... well, what is White Fence, anyway?"

Carl sighs. "You haven't heard? It's like, this big fence. And it's painted ALL white."

I stop on a large boulder, and look at him cockeyed. "You're kidding, right?"

"Dude, it's supposed to be really cool." Carl follows the others up the small ridge on the opposite bank, and walks between two of the girders onto the train tracks.

"Christ. All right, I'm coming." I run up the hill after him, and through the same passage. But as I land on the tracks, I find myself alone in the train's strange open tunnel.

I look around for Carl, but neither him nor the others are anywhere in sight, not inside of the tunnel, in the woods just to the south, or the backsides of the buildings to the north. I run down the tunnel, searching - but as I pass the next girder, the scene outside changes, to a vast, painted desert. One eyebrow raised, I pass the next girder, to see a bustling iron city, belching smog into the air.

Before long I realize why this town has become such a tourist destination - thanks to the genius engineering of this tunnel, it's accessible from just about any point in the country. I run down the hall, scanning each possible exit, looking for one worthy of exploration - and forgetting all about Carl and his stupid White Fence.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Summer Home

Through the windows I can see the outer walls of this mazelike building as they stretch onward, the twisted corners blocking any end to the structure from sight. My grandfather built this summer home by hand, and while it retains the same color scheme and general shape as the house he more or less built for my parents, it has none of the focus or structure of his usual work. Instead it's a chaotic mess, with fully furnished rooms leading into unfinished hallways, and dead ends or secret doors around every corner. 

No, this house doesn't seem like something he would build. It seems like something I would build. 

I have vague memories of coming here in my youth, so perhaps it was an inspiration to me. The walls seem to have been re-ordered, though, so any memories I have are clouded in unfamiliarity.

I climb the stairs into a wing I certainly never came to as a child, probably because it had yet to be built. Opening the door, I find that the main chamber is a replica of my parent's room, only twice the size, and with a floor made entirely out of bedding. I navigate the floor carefully, climbing over the giant quilts and blankets which pile up and form virtual mountain ranges throughout the room. 

Walking down one of the many valleys, I can see a pair of feet sticking out from under a sheet, and realize that my grandfather is in fact asleep in the bed. Not wanting to disturb him, I tiptoe back to the door, my footsteps carefully aware that even the slightest touch might cause the whole bed to shake.

The door gives way to a different room entirely, one of the darkly lit, attic-like rooms which seem to be exist in between the walls of the other rooms. At one corner, I find a pile of strange electronic equipment, which upon closer inspection is musical in nature. 

Never aware that my grandfather had any musical interest, I am surprised, even moreso when I examine the devices themselves. Against one wall sits an electric pipe organ, with input plugs for guitar or microphone. Plugged in devices have their sound bent to the correct pitch and channelled through the pipes, which creates an otherworldly choral sound when I use it for my voice. Hung on the room's central pillar is an electronic box which uses a similar process to create less organic sounds - by combining the effects of both, I can create sounds even more alien.

The true find, though, is a custom guitar-like instrument, built with a thick single string which zig-zags as it goes down the fretboard. Each line segment on the jagged pattern forms a certain note when pressed near the center, and by moving the finger slightly to either side can slide up or down a half-note. At first this seems a rather difficult and impractical way to create tones which a normal guitar could have just as easily - but as I experiment with the device, I find that its unconventional style is the perfect fit for the other two instruments. 

As I explore this universe of new sounds, I can't help but hope for my grandfather to wake up soon - the two of us have more to talk about than I ever dreamed.