Saturday, September 26, 2009

Break, Psychotic

I'm stressed. Exhausted. Circumstances at work are changing. The role of my group is continuously evolving. I feel I'm disappointing people at every turn and have little in my life outside the professional that could offer comfort. There is nary a man who finds me breathtakingly attractive. The friends I have, while lovely, are either far away or also involved in some professional upheaval. So when my parents invited me to drive several hours to meet them, Aunt and Uncle for an outing, I impulsively agreed.

"You know," I said, glancing around from the back of the van as we entered the parking lot. "You brought me here when I was little. I still have nightmares about it, I think."

"Stop," Aunt scolded me. "It's fascinating." Mom looked back at me and I mouthed 'nightmares!' and she smiled before patting my knee. We paid our admission and wandered up a series of ramps before entering the first of the structures we'd visit. Immediately upon entering, I felt dizzy with the flashes of memory - the dim lighting and enclosed spaces, the musty smell, the prickly feeling that unseen eyes were watching my every move. I was taken to many years ago when, as a much smaller Katie, I stepped through those same rooms, tugging on my parents' hands and asking when we could go home.

"Fucking chilling," I muttered, bracing myself against another shiver and tugging my gray sweater protectively across my chest.

"Are you cold?" Aunt said, misinterpreting my soft statement.

"Terrified," I corrected her promptly, scowling at the low ceilings and lack of windows. "Why is there so much crap in here?" I asked crossly and she shook her head at me. I was annoyed for a moment before Dad rolled his eyes behind her back and waited for her to wander away to admire a lamp in a dark corner. I tucked my hand through his arm and nodded in agreement when he said the creator of this place was a nutjob.

There was just too much of everything. It took us six hours to complete the tour (Aunt's fault - I would have been out of there within 30 minutes), leaving the place feeling exhausted and a bit sick. (Maybe I was the only one sick. But did you look at that first photo?! That's not cool!) But - seriously - this guy was a demented fucking wackaloon (and I do not use the term lightly) if there ever was one. What was lit - and there was little that wasn't dark and imposing - was almost always bathed in an evil, red glow. There was music - always loud, mostly slightly sharp - created exclusively by machines. Player pianos were around many corners were matched with increasingly large orchestras that played automatically when people moved past.

The "collections" were littered with duplicates, like someone seriously unbalanced was just shoveling stuff on shelves without regard to what existed in the nearby cases. Yet I moved through the small rooms and tried to breathe through my mouth when some spaces smelled overwhelmingly floral. I relaxed only in the moments when we escaped to the outdoors, lifting my face to the sunlight and sucking in the fresh air before braving the bowels of the attraction once again.

It was, I decided, like facing my childhood nightmares around random corners. Old, sightless dolls with matted hair that waited patiently for an opportunity to climb from their glass cages and hide under my bed until I went to sleep. Hundreds of carousel horses mounted to walls, all hurrying toward a doomed effort to escape. The sheer magnitude of the crap made it impossible for much of it not to sneak into my subconscious - there was too much to experience for my brain to sort and process all of it while trying to keep from screaming.

I do not look forward to my dreams tonight, frankly, and admit that my impression of this place is fatally skewed because of my childhood trauma. But, as I moved with Dad toward the van so we could go fetch the rest of our group, I told him I did not like this place. And I did not want to come back.

"You said that before," he remembered, squeezing my hand when I reached for his. "You're braver than you think," he decided. "But you still don't ever have to come back." And with that promise, we drove back toward the awful place to fetch Mom, Aunt and Uncle. With one last shudder, I resolved to return to my life with greater tolerance having been utterly distracted for a day.

(If, for some reason, you'd like to go see this stuff and don't know the place of which I speak, send me an email. I'm afraid I'll need a solemn vow that you will not bring children with you to this place, but - once satisfied - I can tell you where it is and how to get there.)


Dr. Brazen Hussy said...

OMG!! I've been there and I had exactly the same reaction! That place is so fucked up. I still remember how fast I ran out the door when I finally got to the end, desperate for fresh air and sunlight.

Anonymous said...

It must be a total nightmare! Musty AND cluttered! Ugh! Though, I suppose it's good to be faced with creepy reminders every now-and-then to help one realize just how lucky they are NOT to have that kind of stuff always around them. Anyway, I'm probably not supposed to think this, but I can't help but wonder if maybe those musical instruments in that dragon picture are still functional.... Could they be put to good use?


Anonymous said...

Mixing "one" with "they" and "them" in the same sentence/phrase - good grief, I need to work on my grammar. Let me blame it on the influence of the crappy paper I'm in the midst of reviewing. Anyway, sorry 'bout that! I'll try to use better grammar next time. : )


Psych Post Doc said...

I think I'll pass on those directions. :) Glad you had a break, hope things get better at work.

Digger said...

I am morbidly intrigued... I mean, I love me some Victorian Cabinets of Curiosities, but this looks like a Whole New Level...

Anonymous said...

wow, scary is right. i once made the mistake of stepping into a museum of medieval torture devices. just typing that gives me nightmares, so i feel ya.

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