Collectively they were dubbed "The Intoxi". Everyone thought it was just short for "intoxicated", as if some internationally organized internet conspiracy had caused them all to pour out into the streets on cue that day, drunk out of their minds. Hell, I thought I had missed out on something, and after seeing the news, even I popped open a bottle of Bud I had in the fridge and roamed the streets for a bit with everyone else. It seemed like the thing to do, and I didn't want to be left out when I'd clearly missed the memo. It had seemed meticulously planned at the time, especially with all those people in all those countries. As I walked the streets that day, sipping my beer in clear defiance of US law, I nodded to my fellow wanderers, waved to some, said hi to others. However, the ones I waved to merely looked at me and frowned even though some of them waved back. The ones who waved back did so with clear trepidation, and they all stopped mid wave to me and became intensely interested by the hand that did the waving. Those ones always wandered off again, frowning, and examining their hands with their eyes as if a laser scanner was going to shoot from them and imprint the data of the shape, feel, and texture of their appendages straight to their brain.
Pretty much all of them looked capable of shooting lasers from their eyes. Yeah, I really missed the memo here.
On the other hand, no pun intended, the three or four whose attention I'd gotten had actually joyfully run up to me and began to shake my hand vigorously, nearly spilling my beer with the motion. They all looked normal enough, but none of them spoke English as they ranted and grinned at me. At least not any English I could understand. I did the whole 'smile and nod' thing and they moved on as quickly as they had run up to me.
There were some that pranced down the street, all joy and happiness, and others, like the laser hand people, who merely stared dazed about themselves, clutching at their heads or their hands or touching things they ran across as if in random fascination- or confusion.
Eventually I got bored after a few hours of this weirdness and went back inside. It was no fun when you weren't in on it, whatever it was. It was a good thing, too, that I'd gone back to my apartment- the news was telling everyone to stay indoors in the midst of all the confusion. Whatever. I'd had my fun.
My unfinished beer had gotten warm. I dumped the last of it down the kitchen sink, threw the bottle in the overflowing glass bin, and pulled a cold one from the fridge before planting myself squarely on the couch to see just how the media was taking in this prank that was clearly epic in proportions. That was when they gave them their name- The Intoxi- and thusly the Intoxi were the center-stage for every news channel on tv. To be honest, I laughed when I first heard it. Were they serious? The "Intoxi"? Ok, sure, I thought they were drunk, too, but even I could've come up with a better name for this than that.
As the hours pressed on, I drank more beer, finished a bag of chips, and pretty soon I was feeling smashed and crazy myself. I don't remember what time it was when I passed out on the couch, but after I woke up and sloshed down some water for the bad case of dry mouth courtesy of all the beer the day before, it seemed this 'prank' had taken a dire turn. They didn't know how, but apparently the Intoxi began to take to the streets after what had been considered a successful run of the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator stuck somewhere between France and Switzerland. The results of the renewed test, according to the news, hadn't been announced yet, but as soon as a large chunk of the world's population began swarming the streets acting strangely, those in the know began to wonder. Really what they wondered was who had hacked CERN and let the information about the test leak onto the internet for such a thing to be organized, but as day two dragged on they discovered no breaches in protocol and everyone was left scratching their heads.
By day three it became clear that the Intoxi were becoming more organized. Those who had been staring at their hands and the sky and trees and houses in wonder and fearful amazement/confusion were suddenly waking up and grouping together with those that had been more lively- like the few who happily shook my hand- and there was a reported surge in airline tickets being booked. So much so that airlines around the world were suddenly sold out in excess of six months for every day in a row, day and night.
The Intoxi were in transit. To where, no one could say. The airlines reported mass flight figures to everywhere from China to Egypt to even North America. No one stopped them- their money was as good as anyone's. They were going everywhere, without rhyme or reason. If this was a prank, it was a pretty expensive one. The news, on the other hand, had long since abandoned the notion that it had all been planned. They were clamoring at CERN now for answers. Maybe they really had been hacked. If so, what were their results that would cause this many people to travel so? Should the rest of us be traveling? They weren't really going anywhere specific, though- the destinations were as varied as their points of origin. CERN declined to comment.
By day four there was a press conference. Apparently so many people had gone off as Intoxi that their loved ones could do nothing to stop them. Thinking it was a virus or some plague that made them unresponsive, people were calling everyone from the police to 911 to even the military for help but there was nothing anyone could do. Most of them were adults- they could go where they wanted and they weren't bothering anyone. The children that wandered off seemed to do so, and wander far, on the very first day. Only those who had apparently been grounded in some capacity were able to be kept from leaving. Even a few babies had been reported as grasping at strange nothings about them and shaping vowels and sounds that their distraught parents had never heard before in their lives.
The conspiracy theorists were in full swing- they claimed aliens! Especially if it concerned CERN and the Hadron collider. To them, that thing was the Star Gate, and if we weren't careful, Ra was going to fly through it on his pyramid shaped spaceship- half naked boy servants and all. At the press conference, CERN had gone out of their way to emphasize that nothing had come out of the collider and that they weren't holding any aliens or supernatural beings hostage. What had happened, though, was an unusual flash, they said. Recordings showed a strange light folding in on itself and a microsecond of time dilation before the actual micro black hole finally formed to give them their most successful test yet. What the light was they had no idea, and they had even discounted it until the Intoxi appeared. Regardless, they insisted that the mass migration of people had nothing to do with them- it was a coincidence- but since they were being pressed on all sides by the media to inform the public, they were hereby fulfilling their universal obligation to do so. With that, the representative stepped down from the podium, no questions, and the television blew up all over again with the advent of fresh news.
I was sick of staying inside for the past couple of days and decided to screw the news anchors and go to the grocery store. The streets were empty save for a few cars. No one was out walking. Fine for me- it gave me a free avenue as I rode my bike a couple of blocks to the store. Oddly enough the shelves weren't that empty. Apparently the neighborhood had been home to quite a few Intoxi that had already left town, and not even the remaining population could manage to empty every grocery store they ran across in panic.
I picked up a few more bags of potato chips, some frozen peas, and a couple of other random things that managed to catch my interest. The store wasn't huge- it was a locally owned joint- but the selection was still pretty good and gave the big chains a run for their money. The owner was always out wandering the aisles talking to customers perusing his products, making real suggestions, but today he was nowhere to be seen. As I pushed my basket onto the checkout belt I gave a brief smile to the bored looking teenager running the register.
"Slow day today?" I asked. She laughed.
"Ever since those Intoxi ran off to god knows where."
She didn't bother with the button and pulled my basket across the belt and began scanning my items.
"So...where's old mister Williams? Don't tell me he's listening to those talking heads on the tv telling people not to go out," I said with a grin.
"His wife came by two days ago. Said he'd walked out the door with the rest of them and there was nothing she could do to stop him. He just kept walking. Down the street
.." she paused mid item scan and stared down at my bag of peas. "He didn't even recognize her, she said."
She came to and started scanning the rest of my items. I frowned slightly. "Well, they don't seem to be hijacking any of the planes they're all flying on. I'm sure they'll all come back once this prank blows over."
She shrugged. "I guess. I don't understand any of it. It's beyond me. Just one less person to bother with here for the same amount of money."
"Yes, it's a miracle the market's not been affected," I added. She shrugged again.
"The way I see it," she continued, "is that if this really is some internet prank, they've really gone overboard this time. I mean, hacking Scientology, sure. Trolling the anti filesharing guys, fine. But this
.I've looked everywhere. I've not seen one word of anything like this being planned. There doesn't seem to be a point to any of it. Just a waste of cash."
I arched a brow and smiled slightly. For someone claiming to not understand any of it, she seemed to grasp the situation pretty good. She had put my items in two plastic bags and handed them to me with a smile. "Thanks," I said.
"No problem. Be careful out there," she replied.
"Yeah," and with that, I walked out the automatic doors and back to my bike.
Day five consisted of something I don't think anyone was expecting. Governments around the world, in Thebes, Rome, Istanbul, London, Rennes, Mosul, Anyang- the list goes on- were reporting large masses of Intoxi gathering in their ancient capitols, and they were weeping. Yes, weeping. In huddled masses. Some of them crying and clutching each other- complete strangers, of all races and all ethnic backgrounds. None of it made sense. Were they mourning over the ruins they had gathered at? Conspiracy theorists were talking again. CERN was unavailable for comment. I was left enthralled sitting on my couch, popping chips, and watching as helicopters flew over these hordes as they stood there, sat there- laid there?- and simply wept.
Day six drew more surprises. During the night the Intoxi clans, as they were now being called, were beginning to organize. They were cutting down trees, even quarrying rocks and minerals, digging up dirt and sand. They were building something. But what? The news said it was too early to tell, and from my couch I could agree with that. CERN still wasn't talking, but according to the news once again, an 'insider' was said to have reported that their bosses were looking grim...very grim. I laughed slightly to myself when I heard. So something really did happen at that giant doughnut, I thought. Well, it was only a matter of time until the press won out and they'll have to talk again. I made myself another cup of coffee and prepared to stay up and watch the larger groups of Intoxi they had their helicopters on continue to build.
At some point I fell asleep with the TV on. I mean, that must've been it, because I dreamed. I dreamed something incredible and nightmarish and insane and fantastic that it was too much to even comprehend and put into words. In my dream I walked through rough stone buildings, surrounded on all sides by forest. Men wore cloaks of green and white embroidered with golden thread. They pulled back their hoods, they shook my hands, they smiled and welcomed me back. Back? Outside of a roughcut window I saw ancient arches arranged in a circle. It wasn't complete yet- they had fashioned wooden levers bound with rope and twine, and together with an ingeniously simple pulley contraption tugged on by dozens of men, hoisted the stones above their heads and onto the columns they had already erected.
"When it is finished," a voice in my ear said, "It will be the invyen of æfre lond."
I turned my head to look at the strange voice. 'Invyen'? Don't they mean 'envy'? And isn't 'æfre lond' just 'every land'? How did I even know this? Apparently I had thought every one of my questions out loud, and the blond haired man who had spoken to me merely smiled wider and pointed back at the construction project out the window. But, I was being pulled away and the scene shifted. I was standing between two columns out of a row of columns and in awe of all the green and magnificent colors before me when I knew I was now in the middle of so much sand and barren land. The vines tumbled foot upon foot to the floor and workers tended to this incredible garden and replenished the running water that was so vital for things so delicate to survive in a desert. I gripped my spear tightly as I saw a bearded man in intricately layered purple robes, jewels dripping from the fabric and gently trailing the ground he trod on as he walked through the plantlife. His mouth moved, but I couldn't hear him over the rush of so much running water- I realized suddenly I had never seen so much water in my life. But hadn't I been to the beach plenty of times before? The man below seemed dissatisfied with the scene and snapped orders to other men who were walking with him. They then began dispatching orders themselves, and more blooming plants were rushed into the area, and the man in purple nodded.
"Hey you! Return to your post!"
My head jerked to the left to look for the source of the voice, and at the end of the row of columns I found a very angry looking guard staring directly at me and motioning for me to get against the wall.
"Rrawayah! Have you been drinking?" he shouted again as he stared aghast at a bottle in place of where I was allegedly supposed to be.
"Oloa! It is only water!" I cried as I shuffled back towards the wall. I picked up the flask and held it out to the distant guard. "Come and see!" I said, but he only scowled, his lip curled, and looked me over twice threateningly before going back into the building. I let out a breath I hadn't known I was holding and put down the flask. I gripped my spear with both hands
.when did I get a spear?
How did I even get to this place? Wasn't I in a forest before?
Suddenly the scenery around me began to melt, literally, and the blond haired man from the stone building was at my side again, the forest pulling at me more than the desert scene, and he took me by the hand. I squeezed it and looked at him, utterly confused. "What is going on here? Why am I wretched from one place to the next in such a fashion as this!" I shouted, the words coming from my mouth but not sounding like me at all. This was insane. "How did I come to be this way? How did I go from wet places to dry places to a place both dry and wet with a talking wooden box? What in the hell is going on here?" I raised my free hand to my face and stared at nothing through the spaces of my fingers until I pulled my hand away from my face and stared transfixed at the back of my hand. The flesh clung to muscle which clung to bone which grew out of marrow- it was remarkable! How come nobody had told me just how remarkable it all was? How come no one had said a single word?
I ripped my eyes away from the miracle and stared into the eyes of the blond haired man. The man smiled sadly at me and squeezed my hand as if in encouragement. I mirrored his expression as best I could, emotions seemingly lost to me for a moment. "Something happened at the particle accelerator, didn't it...something happened at that giant doughnut."
The man's smile brightened somewhat, the corners of his mouth twitching ever so slightly higher up than they were before. He looked at me steadily, and said kindly, "Tell me...who do you think you are?"
I frowned. Was he trying to be funny? No, there was no malice in his voice. Who I am- what about who he is! Just as I was about to open my mouth and reply, something hard and invisible hit the length of my body full on, and suddenly my eyes were open. I was staring into a face full of grungy carpet. My carpet.
I propped myself up on my hands and stared at the floor in mild shock. I must've fallen off the couch, I thought rather simply, and it woke me up. I was panting, and feeling at the fibers of the carpet I found them to be wet. Sweat was dripping off my face. The lights were off. The sun was setting. There was nothing on the TV but static. I rose to my feet and dusted the chip crumbs off of my chest and pants. I frowned, staring at the snowy television set, frowned at the grungy couch I'd fallen asleep on, frowned at the collection of coffee cups that has accumulated on my living room table. I looked up, and for an instant I could see the blond haired man pass by my front window. He seemed to pause and glance at me before continuing on with a vague smile, eyes flickering back to look at mine. I frowned at that, too.
I walked to my front door and stood there, just staring at it. I stared at the white paint that clung to the metal like the flesh of my hand to its muscle. I looked to the right and saw the broom I'd left sitting propped next to the door from when I'd emptied the dust tray outside- too lazy to put it back into the closet. Slowly I lifted my hand and grasped the wooden handle, and with my right foot I snapped the head of the broom away, leaving only the stick itself, its end now pointed and splintered from the blow. My fingers moved mechanically to shift the cold metallic lock and opened the door to the dusky air. I stepped into the grass, jabbing the pointed end of my new stick into the ground, making a staff instead of a spear, and looked towards the darker end of the horizon, away from the setting sun. It was at that point I thought, "Time to go home, I guess." I think I said it aloud. Maybe it was only in my head. I'm not even certain either way. But east it was- oddly enough the same direction the one who looked like the blond haired man went. I took one step, and then another, and suddenly I was running. I'll need a boat, I thought, There are no more planes to take me over the ocean or across the English channel! I have to stop and begin to collect wood! And as I thought this, another thought came to me- You don't need those things. There is already a ship waiting. We're all here waiting for you, Cadeyrn.
Huh, I thought. So that's what my name has been. All this time...why did they never tell me?
"Don't blame them," a voice said behind me. "Time fumbled away so many, many peoples' lives."
I stopped and turned around. The blond haired man stood before me.
"Were you always here then?" I asked.
"No, I didn't return as you and the others returned. Your giant metal doughnut...it," he said, grinning.
"...did things,' I know," I grinned back.
He ambled up to me and clasped me on the shoulder as he walked on. I stared after him, watching the darkness roll in, and, without looking back, I stepped forward.
>>Read this also at: http://www.fictionpress.com/s/2933250/1/Hweol