Along the Outskirts

I found myself trapped in a town that was impossible to leave.  It wasn’t one thing that kept me from leaving.  There were several different impediments, depending on which edge of the town I tried to escape from, and depending on exactly which road I was taking.  One road circled back on itself.  I left town on one side, and I found myself re-entering it on the other.  It just went round and round in an endless loop.  I passed the same store front three times before I finally figured it out.  A crooked sign in the window tipped me off.

Another road ran directly into the bay door of a rusted blue warehouse.  I pulled off and watched car after car drive in through the door, none of them ever emerging from the other side.  High up on the building there was a loft door that stood open with a cable line running out from it, suspended in the air.  Hooks moved along this cable, and there were people hanging from the hooks, limp and lifeless.  The cable was carrying them high over a field of overgrown grass to another building with smoke stacks.  These smoke stacks didn’t smoke continuously, but rather they emitted a single white puff now and then.  The puff settled among the other clouds over the town.  It all dawned on me.  This was where they actually made the clouds!

I eventually discovered that there was only one way out of the town.  One of the clouds hadn’t been formed properly.  It settled too close to the ground, and it was too wispy and insubstantial.  It wound through the streets like a long thin stream.  Sometimes it would flow towards the edge of town, and it would be blocked and impeded just as we all were.  I watched it gather, as though against an invisible wall, and just as it was about to gather into the white fluffy cloud that it was meant to be, and just as I thought it might ascend into the sky where it belonged, a black Pontiac suddenly flew out of the smoke, clearing the invisible boundary and fleeing the town with a hard squeal of its tires as soon as it hit the ground.  So that was how you did it.  I just had to find a way into that cloud stream.

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18 thoughts on “Along the Outskirts

  1. This reminds me of a video game I once played that authentically unnerved me, which only happened one other time with the first Resident Evil game. I think it was called Silent Hill. Very creepy game…I think a cheesy movie was made as well that I flipped past on syfy once. I am still bothered by the f'd up nurses and tend to stay away from my aunt on holidays. Nothing against her, but her profession gives me the creeps now.

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  2. That's one for “creepy” and another for “disturbing.” There must be something wrong with me. I thought it was kind of nice. But yeah, a phantom car, an inescapable town, lifeless bodies on hooks being turned into clouds…I can see how that would seem kind of messed up.

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  3. Nice gets my vote, though if others find it creepy and disturbing this adds to the frisson. If you want super-creepy/disturbing, I have a movie suggestion for you: Delicatessen. Sweeny Todd meets French noir and French self-satire.

    I like the way you start with a plausible scenario: the road that loops back to the other side like Pac-Man, before continuing to the ghoulish building in which cars go in but never emerge. Only the lifeless bodies hanging from hooks, going to the place with smokestacks. Something Holocaustic about that, or again Sweeny-Toddish.

    I like too the American viewpoint implicit in the dream, that you would always try to leave the town by car. Seems to me that anyone not wrapped in the Stars & Stripes could just walk away from it.

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  4. You can only escape the town if you are on foot wearing lederhosen (complete with suspenders), carrying a stick taller than you are, with a pair of binoculars and a copy of “Birds of Greenland” in your pocket.

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  5. Funny, I thought this (prior to reading the comments):

    I left town on one side, and I found myself re-entering it on the other. I don’t mean to deprive you of the mystique, but you do realize this is was PacMan, do you not?

    It turns out that you did realize. You, my friend, are PacMan!

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  6. I always have dreams of no way out of places, lots of ceilings with no doors. One time I was on a sinking ship and the only way out was by taking the hand of my 9 year old self, who silently led me out of the ship. Freud would have so much fun with us all! Funny thing is, what is horror for most people is ever so soothing for me. Like the movie Descent. So nice and cozy…
    Cloud factories. How neat. Creepy and soothing at the same time.

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  7. I often have dreams where something weird is happening with the sky. It always stirs a mixture of awe and alarm. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I went outside and the sky was suddenly yellow with red polka-dots. That's the sort of thing that could make you lose your mind.

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  8. I don't know if you really truly dream these things, but I really did dream this the last night:

    I was on the highway going very fast in a trolley. I was not the driver. There were probably a dozen of us. I, the driver and someone else were sitting in front.

    Suddenly, out of nowhere, we encountered a very elastic tennis net strung across the highway and we ran into. It started to tighten around us so I told the driver we have to push it up and over the top of the trolley, or it will stop us.

    He did not want to do it. He thought it was dangerous, but I kept yelling: hurry, hurry, hurry!

    So we did it. It snapped over our heads and into the cars behind us, causing a pile up.

    The driver slowed down. Many cars were flipping over, and others were crashing into the pile in the center; but everyone inside them appeared to be moving.

    I told the driver that I didn't think anyone was dead and we had to go.

    He did not want to go because he thought there may be injured or dying people who needed our help, but I kept urging him to hurry, so he started to accelerate again.

    What does it mean?

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  9. What does it mean? Hmmm…I've never been very good at interpreting these things, especially someone else's. There seems to be a theme here about having to sacrifice other people to get ahead, or at least to look out for a small group of people, perhaps those you care about, at the expense of the strangers behind you. I think there's probably some significance in the fact that you're not the driver. Obviously, you felt there was too, since you mentioned it. I would think that has something to do with not having control over the situation, or not as much control as you would like, having to rely on someone who second guesses your decisions.

    Freud, I an not. But I really do have these dreams, although I couldn't hardly tell you what they mean either. Obviously this one has something to with feeling trapped in some way. Duh, right?

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