Good morning, everybody.
I was in a cafe, sitting by myself at a small table. The cafe was dim, but it felt cozy. It probably had red and green Christmas lights strung along the ceiling. The cafe seemed to be pretty active, even though I didn't really see a lot of people.
At a small table in front of me and off to my right sat my old best friend R and a little boy. The little boy was pale, but his skin had a slight olive tint to it. The boy had pale red-brown hair and a kind of chubby face. He may have been wearing a white button-up shirt and khaki slacks.
The boy was speaking with R. R listened and responded in a very comfortable, casual way. Something, though, seemed odd about the conversation. It then occurred to me -- R and the boy were speaking in Hindi! I was surprised that R had learned Hindi so fluently. I was also a little bit jealous. I noticed that R had a big binder with him. I wondered if he weren't helping the boy out with some kind of project that involved the binder.
Somehow I knew that to learn more about how or why R learned Hindi, I needed to go speak with a woman with whom R was working. But this woman had just walked out of the cafe and was about to drive away.
I ran outside to catch up with the woman. "Outside" seemed a little bit like a sound stage. The "sky" was just a huge, greyish screen. The woman's car was something like a motorized golf cart decorated with all kinds of metallic tinsel and garlands in red, green, and possibly other bright colors. There were also paper decorations all over the golf cart, like paper cut-outs with hand-drawn designs like concentric stars and so forth.
The woman sat in the front seat. A handsome, Southeast Asian man sat in the backseat. I hopped up on the cart in between the two and quickly asked the woman if my friend R had really learned Hindi. The woman said that R had indeed learned Hindi. As the woman continued speaking with me, I began picking at some red foam covering on one of the poles holding up the roof of the golf cart. The man in the backseat grabbed my hand and stopped me from picking at the pole.
The woman began driving away, even as I was still standing on the side of the golf cart. We were now driving along outside (or at least some place that was more like the outdoors and less like a sound stage). We were driving through a small corridor of road between two walls of tall, crumbling-brick buildings. The roads were packed, more with people than with vehicles.
The woman continued. She said it was necessary for R to learn Hindi, as he was going to travel to India with her. As the woman said this, the man, who was now older, less attractive, fatter-faced, and with a huge, Mario-esque mustache, was attempting to roll a cigarette. But he dropped the half-rolled cigarette on the floor of the golf cart. He cursed loudly, trying to get my and the woman's attention.
I felt a little bad for not giving the man my attention. I felt, now, like he was actually one of the clients this woman was going to see in India. If we didn't pay attention, I thought, it would be like we weren't valuing his business. I noticed now that the man had bent over to pick up his cigarette. The contents were intact on the paper. But now, instead of picking up the cigarette, the man sprinkled some white stuff, like cocaine mixed with powdered sugar, on top of the tobacco.
The woman continued. She said that if you go to India, you absolutely have to speak Hindi. If you walk around, speaking only English, and not understanding when people speak Hindi, people will just think you're an idiot.
I was in a subway train, sitting in a seat perpendicular to a wall, so that my left side faced a window. The space outside suddenly became dark, like everything had faded into blackness. Suddenly I felt a drop, like the ground had fallen out beneath the subway tracks.
I now saw the subway train falling through the ground. The train was now falling through the ceiling and toward the floor of another subterranean space. We had to fall at least twenty meters. But we were falling, it seemed, in slow motion. I braced myself. I knew once we hit the ground, we'd crash hard.
My vision itself faded to almost complete darkness. We crashed to the ground. The subway train shook heavily. But then it was over. I didn't seem to be hurt or even very affected, other than being a little shaken up. I was now standing outside the subway train, in the huge enclosed space.
The space seemed, at first, like an enormous warehouse, or like a long stretch of road directly underneath a long stretch of highway overpass or elevated train lines. It may even have seemed like there was light off in the distance. The floor of the place seemed to be polished concrete.
But when I turned around and walked away from the subway wreckage, I was in an actual subway tunnel, walking along subway tracks. Occasional fluorescent lights lit the dim, grimy passageways with a greenish-white glow. The subway tunnel snaked along, constantly twisting and turning.
There were now two young, Southeast Asian men walking in front of me. The men were both short and very skinny, with dark-copper complexions. They had well-groomed hair, kind of long and sweeping on the bangs. They both wore nice shirts and slacks. One man wore a purple shirt. The other probably wore a white shirt.
We eventually found a door that led to a narrow hallway like a hallway full of offices or small shops. The hallway twisted and turned, just like the subway tunnel had done. The hallway had white tiles on the floor. The walls were a mixture of white tile and glass, allowing ample views into each office or shop. Red, green, and blue lights illuminated the floors and walls of the hallway.
The young men and I were just looking for a door that would lead us to some passageway leading up and out of the subway. We knew that this area was actually a kind of operations office area for the subway -- even though the hallway also felt like a mall or small shopping plaza of some kind. I believe people who didn't work for the subway system weren't allowed to be down here. The area was kind of top secret. So we were just trying to get through and out of the area as quickly as possible.
Occasionally we'd see some nicely dressed young man or woman, who we knew was one of the subway workers. We'd have to hide from this person. The young men thought that if one of the workers saw us, they'd get us in trouble or trap us down here. I personally thought that maybe one of the workers could help us find the right way out of the hallway.
Eventually we may have found a door that led out of the hallway.
I was at a karaoke bar, sitting at the bar. The bar was wide and long, twisting off to my left and right. The rest of the bar was enormous as well, possibly full of people, even though I didn't seem to be really aware of the other people around me. The walls seemed really tall and dark, almost fading into blackness, like on a sound stage. There may have been a couple tiers of seating areas, and the seats may have been big, round booths.
Some karaoke event was just now wrapping up. I don't think I had really been interested in it. The karaoke had all been in English, and it had all been stuff like contemporary Country music, which I didn't care for very much. I was wondering if we would be given any chance to sing some Japanese karaoke.
This whole time, a man in maybe his late twenties or early thirties sat about two stools off to my right. We never spoke, but I was, for some reason, terribly self-conscious around the guy. He was tall and a tiny bit overweight, like he'd let his muscle recently fade to flab. He had a well-trimmed beard and long, long blonde-brown hair that seemed to be on the verge of greying. He wore a white t-shirt.
Now the karaoke event was over. Some regular music was playing on the speakers. There may also have been a huge video screen somewhere playing videos along with the song. The woman behind the bar now threw out a few books onto the bar counter.
I picked up one of the books. It was a thin book, like a thin paperback novel. The cover had some black and white, manga-like line-drawing of a young man. Behind the young man was a kind of psychedelic series of orange, green, and pink stripes.
The title of the book was something like "Comic Karaoke" or "Anime Karaoke." I knew this meant that karaoke was now going to be opened up to Japanese songs. But the only Japanese songs that were available were the ones in this book -- which only included songs that were featured in anime. This was kind of disappointing to me. There were plenty of songs I wanted to sing that I knew weren't in anime. And I really didn't know anime well enough to know which of the songs I knew were actually in an anime.
Nevertheless, I flipped through the pages of the book, kind of holding the book at a strange, high angle over my head, trying to see what songs I might know. The song titles and band names were all in Japanese, which made things a little difficult for me, as my knowledge of Japanese writing is only so-so.
As I flipped through the book, I could feel that people were ready for the next karaoke session to start. But nobody seemed to be singing. I felt like I was obliged to sing. It even seemed like the girl behind the bar and the man sitting beside me were waiting for me to sing.
Even worse, I knew that if I didn't start singing something soon, somebody would go back up and start singing a contemporary Country song. That would start off this session on a bad trend of contemporary Country songs, which I didn't want to have to deal with all over again.
I was in a classroom, possibly at a high school, but most likely at a university. I may have walked into the classroom, as if I were going to take a test, like a final examination, or give some big presentation.
I was walking toward one of the desks in the second or third row, while other students were filing into their desks around me. Some of these kids were carrying huge, clunky technology projects with them. Other kids seemed to be gossiping with each other. I was kind of afraid of the gossiping kids, like I was nervous that they'd start making fun of me.
But now I was standing at the front of the class, not in the center of the room, but at the right side of the room, near the doorway, as students were still filing in. The teacher, a kind of tall, young man with an olive complexion, a bluish shadow of stubble around his cheeks, round, nerdy, eyeglasses, and a wavy, clunky, nerdy haircut, stood before me.
There seemed to be piles of women's clothes all around me. The young teacher was having me try on all these women's clothes, right in front of everybody. At times, while I tried on these clothes, I seemed to be myself, as a boy. At other times, I seemed to be an Asian girl, really pretty, with a nice body, nice, long, soft, brown hair in a kind of spiky-flouncy ponytail, and a nice, round bottom. At other times I may have been a mixture of myself and this Asian girl. (I think I really enjoyed the feeling of having the girl's round bottom!)
The two outfits I remember were a beige, dress-like outfit and a yellow, dress-like outfit. Both outfits were all lace, and they clung tightly to my body. I seemed to be wearing a g-string under the outfit. The g-string may possibly have been connected to the outfit. I thought of these outfits as dresses. But they were so see-through and form-fitting, that I now think they must have been lingerie.
Even though I enjoyed wearing the women's clothes, I was really afraid to have everybody in the classroom see me in these outfits -- especially with my ass showing so plainly through a g-string and lace! I knew I needed to change my clothes. But I didn't know where my boy clothes were. I thought I must have left them in some other room.
I was now walking through the hallway, toward some other room where I thought my boy clothes were. I was dressed in the yellow lace outfit. I don't know whether I was myself or the girl. But I was really afraid of everybody looking at me. I was especially afraid of everybody seeing my ass so plainly through this lingerie. I knew once people saw me this way, they'd always have this as a part of my identity in their minds. I didn't know if I wanted that. But I'm pretty sure I also still liked wearing the clothes.
I was sitting at a desk in an office. I sat in one office room that joined to another office room instead of opening out into a larger office space. Behind me stood one of my old bosses, DO, and one of our teammates, MW.
Both DO and MW thought that some online government statistical database was no longer putting out new data releases. But I knew the agency was still releasing data. The data was just being released through another channel. I accessed the data all the time.
I showed DO and MW the correct way to navigate to the data, and even how to locate the specific data they might be looking for. There was a blank white screen with a few brownish-colored links and some black type below the links saying what each link was. I clicked on one of the links.
DO asked me if I could just go ahead and print out the data for him. I printed out the data. MW walked to a printer that stood on a folding table behind me. As MW did this, DO began to explain something to me about this data and the reason for its periodical releases. Something about what DO was explaining to me was very new and informative. Something else about it was so well known to me that I felt like DO must really think, if he thought I didn't know it, that I was really stupid.
As DO began explaining this stuff to me, his face began shifting into the face of another teammate of ours, MD. As DO's face shifted into MD's face, DO's speech became more and more condescending and, really, banal. I had to struggle more and more to keep up an interested expression.
Eventually I may have come to understand that everything I had just been a part of had been a test. If I could successfully produce this data for DO and MW and understand everything DO was saying, DO and MW would give me a position on their new team. And apparently I had made it through the test. I was now officially working on the team.