I was in a large underground swimming pool area with [e]. The walls were metal as in a submarine and the place was dark. There may have been other people there too. We got out of the pool when the water started becoming clouded and dirty. I found a rusty staircase against one wall leading up to a ledge. On the ledge was a pair of wings, not visible from down below by the pool. [e] helped me put them on with the attached straps. The wings shimmered bright white and were slightly blurry.
Outside it was sunny. I took a running start and jumped off the ground. The wings carried me up over grassy fields.
After flying for a while, I realized the the wings were low on fuel. Opposite a normal engine, they were electric but required fuel to start. I decided to fly lower in case the wings stopped working while I was in the air.
I went to my parents' house for more fuel. I lighted on the second story balcony of their wooden house. It was getting dark by this time, and the stars were visible above the pine forest. Once inside, I realized that I didn't know whether to use gasoline or lighter fluid. It seemed to make more sense to use gasoline, so that's what I ultimately chose. I was worried that I would choose incorrectly and ruin the wings. Once I refilled them and took them outside again, I saw that I had chosen the wrong fuel. They would never fly again.
In the evening, two friends and I were waiting in line at a restaurant near a campground where we sometimes stayed. [dp] told us she needed to use the restroom. She went to the wooden outdoor stall and we stayed in the line. She was gone a long time, so we left the line to see what was keeping her. We approached the stall and said "Are you okay?" She laughed nervously and said "I'm having a little trouble with my ring." She opened the door and came out to show us that her small ring had grown into a springlike coil around her wrist. It didn't move visibly, but was larger each time we looked at it. She struggled to pull it from her wrist and when she got it loose, it snapped back on. She managed to get it off completely and a new one grew out of her arm.
I was continually playing a computer game--a 2D platform game where a small zombie floated through a maze of silver blades, saws, and stairs on a red background. The passages were narrow and the control was unresponsive. I continually hit the edges, and there was a ripping sound and blood as the zombie was caught by blades. I didn't enjoy the game at all, but I was unable to stop unless I was able to discover how to save my progress. The save routine involved changing graphics modes and creating strangely-named folders. The game also had to be saved at precise spots, and the action did not stop while I attempted the save, so I had to do it quickly or risk losing.
I had a special key on my keychain. Similar keys were held by a few others. Black metal pipes stuck out of the ground throughout the city, possibly throughout the world. Every time I saw one, I was obligated to briefly lower the key into it and pull it out, turning the key slightly. A jet of blue gas flame would shoot up. Lighting these gas jets gradually sealed away some great evil. However, as each one was lit, it would attract different calamities. The ring mutations were one such result, and they affected many people. A young worker stocking a freezer at a warehouse store who hadn't even been wearing a ring suddenly grew a coil bracelet. Victims of these coils knew that they were extremely dangerous, but it wasn't evident why.
Walking from the restaurant to the small cabin where my family was staying, I was very nervous about being attacked by the coil rings or something worse. I kept finding myself back at the zombie game, sickened by the sound of the zombie's injuries against the sawblades and knives on the floors and ceilings.
When I reached the cabin, I found my family searching the building for something. They knew that something was very wrong, and they were trying to locate it. I helped them search with a growing dread of the impending unknown event.
The cabin had large windows on two sides the the central room, and as I looked out at the night sky to see the clouds moving more swiftly than seemed natural. The clouds on the other side were moving in the opposite direction, accelerating and coming closer. It became clear as the wind became a roar that we were suddenly in the center of a tornado. "In the eye," someone said. The cloud funnel became solid as it rushed by. We thought the cabin would be smashed at any second, and I suggested that someone should go in the bathtub with a mattress over it, but no one did. We searched for a basement, at the same time entranced by the sight through the windows. We left the main room for a few seconds and on our return the tornado had lifted off. Instead of the rushing wall of wind ouside, impossibly tall narrow waves of water came toward the cabin. As they began to strike rhythmically against the wall and roof, it seemed that they would crush the building. In the end, however, the storm abated and the cabin was intact.
[j] and I walked outside where things were now calm. We walked to a nearby school where the only lights were low flames in some of the flame jets that lined the sidewalks. A group of men in a dark corner were threatening people who passed by, trying to make them pay money for 'protection.' My brother refused them for us. I was busy lighting some of the flame jets. I wondered, and asked the threatening men, whether I had to light those that still had a low flame again.
The landlord was showing us our new apartment. The walls of its two small underlit rooms had dark brown wood paneling. In the front room, we found small plaques on a shelf, on each of which was printed a short biography of a previous tenant. I thought they were kind of strange and asked the landlord why they were there. He smiled and said that it wasn't just the biographies--the tenants themselves were still around. He motioned to a corner, where I could see two transparent blue images of ragged-looking people. They were staring at us.
As we walked outside, a man in an extremely tight and very worn dark suit was walking casually down the street. He swung a cane as he walked. He was the only person other than the landlord that we had seen in the area.
The trailer-like apartments were set up in a line, and resembled train cars. We explored the neighborhood, and found poorer areas with shelters of plywood propped against cement walls. The man in the suit approached us once again, and as he did, more blue ghostly people that we had not noticed scattered into the shadows. He seemed to repel them.
In talking to the landlord again, we learned that the man in the suit had the power to send the ghostly tenants, and menaced them for amusement. They could easily overpower him if they worked together, but they were too afraid to do so. There had even been a heroic living tenant once who tried to organize them, but he couldn't communicate with them well enough to explain his plan.
We had missed a ride with the others, so [e] and I decided to see a few things in the city as we walked back. There was supposed to be some sort of museum or carnival along our way. We entered one building off the street to find a hall that was painted subtle blue with silver glitter stars. Several families with children were walking along it, so it seemed that this could be what we were looking for. We passed some antique wooden display cases and saw some objects through the glass that made us realize that this was some sort of haunted house, though probably a very mild one.
Once inside, we started wondering whether we were supposed to have paid anything to enter. A man approached us and immediately asked whether we were here to help. We didn't know what to say, and he insisted that we come with him in an enthusiastic and friendly voice. Somehow his friendliness seemed forced, and behind his manner I sensed that he was also telling us that we had no choice.
We arrived at a long table where many people our age were eating things and working on crafts with paper, scissors, and other simple materials. They all seemed to be volunteers for the haunted house. The volunteers went off in different directions and we split off from them. We passed through an ornate hall where people were dressed in old elaborate fashions, as if for a formal ball. They seemed puzzled to see us, as if we were not supposed to be there.
We climbed some stairs to find a silent corridor lined with doors. I went into one of the rooms to find it filled with metal shelves. The shelves were filled with all kinds of dogs. They were all sitting perfectly still, but with open eyes. They were obviously not fake or stuffed, but as I looked closer I could see that some of them had patches of fur missing and showed slight signs of decomposition. One that stood out to me had green sunken teeth.
I walked out into the hall to tell [e] what I had found, and she was gone. The door to another room was open, so I went inside. This room had various animals as well, including cats. They were in the same state as the dogs--dead, but obviously animate. Unlike the dogs, they were moving around the room. Several cats seemed intent on something in the closet, and when I walked over to see, a small mouse darted out toward me. The cats chased it as it began to circle my shoes, and I realized that this mouse was [e].
I lifted the mouse and placed [e] into an inside pocket of my jacket, and then ran out of the room to begin searching for someone who could offer an explanation or a solution to our problem. Outside the door, several people were waiting, including the man who had originally tried to recruit us. He laughed, making some sort of joke about how we liked the change. It seemed that he was hinting that I would be changed too, so I ran in the opposite direction to escape.
I came upon a room that looked like a small normal living room. A woman was inside, working on some sort of crossstitching. She had examples of her work all around the room, and was evidently very talented and in fact famous. I thought I had more important matters to consider than learning a new craft, so I ignored her. She quietly insisted, friendly yet implying that there was more to it than crossstitching. I agreed and she began to teach a technique.
The next morning, we were having another crossstitching class outside on the grass. One other student was there, a young boy who had been learning from the woman for a long time. He was making a large structure that seemed to have become more than just the design he had made. It stood several feet tall and faintly glowed with a sort of magic. I began to talk to the boy, and he told me his name. Somehow I discovered in the conversation that it was not his original name, but one he had picked up at the haunted house. I started seeing connections in other things I had observed, and came to realize that everyone who worked here had their original name changed to a new one as time went on. They had arrived as innocently as we had in many cases, but somehow just never left, leaving their old lives behind with their old names. I started to concentrate on retaining my identity. Evidently I had been involved in the crossstitching lessons for many hours already, and had started to forget about all else. [e] was gone from my pocket, and I set off to find her.
I entered a large gray brick structure than seemed to be part of a castle. Inside, I walked through simply decorated rooms with the sun shining in through high windows. Evidently I had also been learning some photography, as I had a digital camera with me. Several times I felt the desire to stop and take a picture, but resisted. I heard someone moving in one room, and saw a well-dressed man pacing on a red rug. He looked at me and said, don't worry, I don't want [e], I'm interested in someone else. He smiled maliciously. Upon reflection, I realized that he was probably referring to [e] after her identity loss was complete.
In an adjoining room I saw [e], now a human again rather than a mouse, walking from a bed where she had evidently been for the night. She smiled at me, but then looked away and continued toward another room. It seemed that her mind was still affected. I would have to explain to her what I had discovered and help her remember her former life as I had so we could escape.