Welcome aboard Head Trip Enterprises. I will be your guide, Vance Vagary, as tonight we tour the Wonders of Alyce Land. Please keep your appendages inside the vehicle at all times, and do not be lured by the furry pets. While they seem nice, they may nom on your fingers.
Our first stop is the Deserted Village, overgrown streets full of dilapidated buildings. At the center is a cracked marble column in a bramble-filled garden. You'll notice the occasional patch of loose earth. Don't look too closely at any bone-like fragment poking out of the mud, or you might unearth the presumed remains of the former residents. No doubt, you will wonder how some of these rickety houses remain upright, especially the flimsy, swaying high-rises. Perhaps by thought alone. But I guess that's no surprise, right?
Inside one of the houses, someone has recently begun redecorating. The formerly cracked walls have been repaired, and a coat of fresh salmon paint brightens the walls. Children have painted a mural: part scrawled messages, part improvised artwork. So far, the rooms are empty, but who knows what we'll find if we stop by in a few months?
We drive now through the Parallel Lands, this world's equivalent of real-life places. Like movie sets, each consists of a few key locations, which is why we can travel through them so quickly. On the right is the parallel for a summer camp Alyce attended for 10 years, represented by a couple cabins and a dining hall. You'll also find the street where Alyce grew up, along with her childhood house, her father's office and apartment building, both the newspaper and the museum where she used to work, a university campus, and her high school.
Raise your hand if you're familiar with the sources for these parallel places. No one? You'll have to take my word, then, that they do not exactly mirror their counterparts. More than details, they mime impressions. For example, the newspaper appears here as a huge brick warehouse very similar to the original. But the desks and interior walls move according to the demands of that night's performance.
The school contains the light-wood floors and institutional green lockers drawn directly from memory, but the exact layout of rooms changes. Lately, there has been a daycare wing added, for the working mom to deposit her son before trying to make that elusive final for the Physics class she'd forgotten to attend all semester. Perhaps she should stop taking that elevator which can go up, down and sideways, but never lands on the floor one selects. We do have a bit of fun with that one, don't we? Never gets tired.
Speaking of getting tired -- well, re-tired (*snort*) -- we are entering the Retired Recurrent Characters storage facility, a restricted area. Please take no items from this facility and allow no one to board the bus. In these small dormitories live the denizens of recurrent dreams that no longer appear. Some of you might already realize that, if you solve the problem represented by a recurrent dream, either within the dream or while awake, you can break the cycle. Please wave at the vampire from the fairground haunted house, retired after being kneed in the nuts, exclaiming, "I hate this job!" and leading the dream-girl to the exit.
In that glass-walled apartment you'll find Public Enemy No. 1 of the RRC facility: her ex-boyfriend, known only as Leechboy. For years, he tried to reclaim his position in her life by popping into her dream world and proclaiming himself her true partner. Finally, about 15 years after leaving him in real life, she kicked him out of her head. Every once in a while, he makes an appearance, but with a new, ghostly girlfriend who pulls him away when he makes trouble. Leechboy and his Boo had a showy wedding, all dressed in white, in a misguided attempt to impress our heroine. She showed up to wish them well, greatly amused by how terrible he looked in a white tuxedo.
For the next portion of our tour, we must go on foot -- and on all fours. Mind your head as we enter the Underground. Consisting of dark tunnels -- or hallways, at times -- that get more and more narrow, the Underground keeps out all but the most persistent travelers. You may be overwhelmed with a sense of fear when you enter this world, and you may feel certain you are entering the realm of the dead. The hallway tunnels may descend or wind upwards, to the unvisited extra floor of the house. Do not worry if you feel compelled to turn back; here lurk both the greatest fears and the greatest revelations of this land, so they must be protected. What awaits us tonight? Follow me and see.
Have you reached the swampy forest filled with impossible creatures, part dinosaur, part gelid insect? Or perhaps a sandy desert populated by a swarm of scarabs? Then you are getting close. Pick your way through them, but try not to think too hard about the oogly-booglies. They can attack, although their stings just feel like the prickling of an arm falling asleep. They cannot truly harm you, but they can knock you out of the dreamworld if you become too frightened.
Oh, good! Today's secret room contains a real treat. Inside this bright space, with shelves lined with clean china and glass knick-knacks, you'll notice an elderly woman with a cloud of soft gray curls. She is sipping a cup of tea and greets us with a broad smile. She is Alyce's paternal grandmother, and unlike most dream inhabitants, she looks exactly like she did in life. Why, you might wonder? Well, because she's dead, of course. The dead can visit the dreamworld in their true forms. If you look into their eyes, though, you'll notice the eyes of the dead do not move. A little disconcerting, wot? I assure you: she is kindly and gentle, and will never turn into a worm-rat or a beastie. She stops by every so often for a cuppa and a chat.
Now, at the count of three, everybody blink hard: 1.. 2... 3... blink! Ahh, we're back on the bus. For our big finish, let's visit the Halcyon Fields. Bask in the glow of the indistinct, colorful cloud of light. You may hear faint music, smell a hint of jasmine. Imbibe the peaceful nothingness and relax. We will float here for a few seconds, but it will feel like hours.
Thank you for your visit, and do drop your special glasses in the bin by the exit. You will awake with a smile.