03 Oct The Inventor (Part II)
“Zeke,” said Mary. “What is this? What have you done to me?” she questioned furiously as she beat on my chest.
I was just as unprepared for this turn of events as she. I could do nothing but shake my head. The assembly line we had come upon continued to operate in the background. My head continued to spin. I needed to gain some semblance of control here.
“Answer me damnit!” screamed Mary.
“Shh,” I replied while putting my index finger to my lips.
“Don’t you dare shush me. You need to explain yourself,” she demanded.
“I don’t know. I’ve never been into Master Jules’ workshop let alone seen that golden goo.”
Her menacing glare told me she still didn’t trust me.
“I promise you,” I continued. “I would tell you if I had any idea. All I know is that we are definitely not in the workshop anymore.”
I could tell I still had not gained her trust but she must have seen no point in continuing the argument.
“So what do we do? Where did that golden goo go?” asked Mary.
“Well,” I thought. “Master Jules was not in the workshop when we got sucked into that golden goo. I’m guessing he’s here somewhere. Wherever we are,” I said with a slight pause. “I think we should try to find him.”
Mary nodded her approval and we set off.
It was an odd sight, seeing all of these machines being manufactured. Inventions had always taken countless days, weeks, and months to develop. Sometimes the original concept would change or it wouldn’t even work and you would have to start over. Even the basic manufacturing of them would take multiple hours at least. Yet here I was, watching thousands of mechanical objects being produced within minutes. There wasn’t even a single living person in this entire warehouse.
Really the manufacturing process seemed quite similar to everything I had ever watched Master Jules build. The process was the same but the location, materials, and technology had changed immensely. It seemed like I was in a futuristic version of the workshop. I couldn’t be certain, but I was confident I knew where I was but I didn’t know when I was.
This revelation made me question everything Master Jules had ever created. I questioned the creativity and the science behind every invention I had ever seen. I’d always imagined this drawn-out process full of failures and complications before finally realizing the completion of an invention. I’d always imagined Master Jules hard at work in his workshop and assumed that was why he didn’t want me barging in and disrupting his train of thought. Now that I’d been sucked through the goo, I thought it possible that Master Jules had never invented anything at all.
Mary and I proceeded to maneuver between conveyor belts and pulleys while searching for evidence of Master Jules’ presence. Although we found no evidence of Master Jules, we found a door exiting the warehouse. As we searched the rest of the warehouse, we found there were no other ways in or out.
There was nothing else of significance inside the warehouse so we decided to test our luck outside. I walked over to the door and cautiously pushed it open.
As soon as I stepped out, I felt like shutting the door and cowering inside the warehouse. As intimidating and shocking as the warehouse had been, it was nothing to what waited outside. The cobblestone streets I had become accustomed to were no longer. Buildings were taller than I had ever seen. Everything was made of steel and glass. Brick and mortar was apparently no longer deemed the most acceptable building material. Mechanical cars rode by at breakneck speeds as I took in my surroundings. I took a step back on the sidewalk to further the distance between myself and the street. I felt like a squirrel trying to avoid cars. I had been thrown into a world I did not understand.
Large groups of people strolled along the sidewalk. The amount of noise and activity was absurd. Mary’s face said it all. The fear of being thrown into the warehouse paled in comparison to this. Most of the people held some type of handheld device in their hands. Many of them were holding the devices up to their ears while a large number of others stared silently at them as they walked. As one man walked by with the device to his ear, I noticed the image on an apple on it. I couldn’t help but think how ironic it was that something so natural was the icon engraved onto this invention.
Very few people were looking at their surroundings. However, the people that were paying attention were giving strange looks to Mary and me. I looked down and realized how different our outfits were from those of the people around us. There was not a whole lot we could do about this. We would definitely attract attention.
Mary had barely exited the warehouse. She still had a foot inside of the manufacturing plant just in case. I, however, was exposed. And once the novelty of everything around me wore down just a bit, I realized how difficult it would be to find Master Jules in this strange new world.
“Okay, new plan,” I said as I turned to Mary.
Her face looked like a sheet. It had lost all of its color and she apparently had not heard me because she did not acknowledge my words.
“Hey! Can you hear me?”
Mary’s eyes locked onto mine. I’d broken through her trance. Although the fear still remained behind her gaze.
“We stick out like a sore thumb and there is no possible way we can find Master Jules here,” I stated.
“So we wait for him here. But first, we need to find some food and water because I’m not sure how long it will take for him to show up. Or if he’ll show up at all.”
“Also, if anyone asks, we have just come from a costume party. Everyone is looking at us like our clothing is ridiculous.”
Mary had clearly come to realize this was bigger than she’d realized. I could see that she was beginning to trust me. If I knew what was happening and I knew a way out of here, I believe she trusted me enough to think that I would have shown it to her. There was no way I would put her through this if I didn’t have to.
“So where do we start?” she asked.
Now that was a good question. Normally I would just walk down the street to the bakery or the butcher or the fruit stand. I would pick out whatever it is that I wanted to purchase, pull out my coins, and I would take it home. But it was at this moment that I realized just how difficult this may be. I had no money and I had no idea where to go. For all I knew, the entire system of purchasing food could be different.
“I guess we pick a direction and walk. The less we turn, the less likely it is that we get lost. There are clearly a lot of people around here and people have to eat somewhere,” I said.
“But we have no money,” she stated.
“We’ll figure it out when we get there.”
I was not sure if the door would lock behind us and I certainly didn’t want to get locked out. I ventured out a few feet while Mary held the door. There was an alley nearby and I saw what appeared to be a dumpster. I just needed something to hold the door open, trash would do. Inside the large steel container, I found a white box. It seemed quite strong considering it seemed to be made of some sort of extremely thick paper.
I ripped off one side of the box and folded it in half. I brought it to Mary and she stuffed it inside the doorway. It worked perfectly. The door appeared closed to the wandering eye but the latch had never locked into place. Mary and I just had to hope that there would be no strong gusts of wind or curious passersby that would close the door behind us.
We decided to head right from the entrance to the warehouse. It was as good a direction as any. Additionally, most of the foot traffic seemed to be coming from that direction. Where there are people, there will be food. It didn’t take long for us to find somewhere to eat. We had apparently ended up in a metropolitan area.
We stood outside of a small concrete building. There were a few motor vehicles parked outside of the building by small kiosks. A few of the vehicles had some type of hose inserted into them. I guessed that these hoses must be powering these vehicles in some way, shape, or form. Mary and I watched for a little while to make sure the place had food. Although I did not recognize any of the food or drink brought out of the building, people were definitely eating and drinking it.
Now came the difficult part. We had to come up with a plan to get some food. I’d always been a respectable person and I had prided myself on my personal conduct. I would work for my meals and I would never rob or steal from someone. Therefore my first instinct as I peeked through the windows of the building was to just ask the woman behind the counter if I could work an hour or so for a bit of food. So that’s what I did.
The woman looked at me like this was the craziest idea she had ever heard. And after shooting me that skeptical look, she yelled at me to get out of the store. Luckily for me, Mary had remained outside of the store. She had been shaken up enough and this encounter would have just made it worse.
I told her what happened and we walked further up the street. It was no more than two minutes later that we came upon an almost identical building. Across the street, kitty-corner to this second building, was a third one that looked similar as well. The only difference between the three locations were the logos on the outside of the buildings. The first and third shops were called “Shell” and the one we currently stood at said, “Diamond Shamrock”.
I was not so naive as to try trading work for food again. As much as I disliked the idea, we had to come up with a plan of stealing from the shop. After much discussion with Mary, we came up with a plan. This time, Mary would have to enter the store with me.
Well, actually, Mary entered the store first. I stood at a distance and observed her walk through the aisles of the small shop. Shortly after she entered, she walked over to the counter and started talking to the large, male clerk. That was my queue for entering the store. I walked in as casually and calmly as I could in order to draw as little attention as possible.
I grabbed a couple large bottles of water first as they were the easiest items to recognize quickly. I stuffed them into my pockets and double-checked to make sure the clerk hadn’t been watching. His eyes were all for Mary. Therefore I proceeded to grab bags of assorted foods and stuff the inside of my pants. I did not recognize a single thing other than a bundle of bananas which I made sure to snag just in case. With my pants and shirt full of assorted food and water, I made my exit from the store.
I maneuvered through the aisles in the least visible areas in order to avoid the clerks attention. Mary had leaned over the counter and was apparently captivating the clerk with some story. I couldn’t really blame the guy, she was absolutely stunning. I’m sure her unusual clothing also helped her gain an inordinate amount of focus from the man.
I made my way to the door and overheard the man say, “You have a strange way of dressing and talking but I like it.”
I smiled to myself as I opened the front door and as silently as I came into the store, I slunk out.
I walked as far from the store as I possible could without losing sight of the front door. I wanted to make sure that I waited for Mary but I definitely didn’t want to be visible to the clerk.
Mary came out just a minute or so later. I met her at the corner and we walked back together. We made it back to the warehouse without any incident. We had been lucky and the door remained open. I removed the thick piece of paper and we slipped inside.
Almost as soon as we entered, we found a secluded corner and sat down to eat. She chose something called, “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos” while I decided on something named, “Twinkies”. The former was spicy while the latter was sweet, but they were both equally addicting. I’d just started to open a second bag of “Twinkies” when someone spoke to us.
“I told you not to enter my workshop.”
It was Master Jules.