After 7 hours of paperwork . . .
Both the young men were starting to get a bit discouraged. The Curator had asked them seamless questions about every thing (favorite ice cream, preference for the exact number of bubbles in their beer, Allergies for any mutated creatures from the western hemisphere of an alternate dimension while it’s raining on a Tuesday).
“Wait wait wait,” Edgar said at that point, “what does it raining on a Tuesday have to do with anything?”
“The western hemisphere of an alternate reality,” Herald repeated with a questioning tone in his voice. “Everything,” he said, answering himself as if it were as obvious as the brown bow tie around his shirt.
“Alternate realities may have days of the week when firestorms occur much more often than not, and if it’s raining, it could be more steamy. That would cause a quicker rash if you run into a mutant that you’re allergic to.”
“Whoa, hold up, you’re telling us,” Ian asked, pointing back and forth from himself to Edgar, “we’re going to encounter firestorms?”
“Eh, if the creator wants you to, but don’t worry. He favors both of you quite a bit. He doesn’t want to see you go so I doubt he’d kill you off,” Herald said.
Just then, Herald’s entire office started to shake. While Edgar and Ian were looking as nervous as a dog about to pass a peach seed, Herald looked as calm as a cucumber. A small, cylindrical tube, much like you would see at a bank, slowly made it’s way down to the left of Herald’s desk. The room stopped shaking as a container fell from inside it.
Herald, rolling his eyes, opened the door to the tube and retrieved what looked like a small memo pad. As he read it, he looked up and down from it at either of the boys. “Which one of you is Ian again,” he asked.
Ian promptly raised his hand. “That’s me,” he said.
“Okay, the creator wants to change your name to Mickey. So, henceforth, you, Ian, will be known as Mickey, got it,” Herald said.
Mickey looked a bit taken aback. “Why is he changing my name? I like it the way it is,” Mickey said.
Herald looked at him, sighing to himself, “Listen, the creator didn’t want to do it either. He knew it was going to cause confusion for the readers, but he’s only making a few last minute changes before your adventures really begin. After a few adventures, others who read his stories will be too invested for such whimsical changes like that.” Herald looked back down at the paper, reading a few more notes and added, “they’d smite his ass in a heartbeat if something like this happened around series ten or something. We’re only in series two.”
“Wait a sec,” Edgar said, shifting in his seat and getting closer to lower his voice. “Our creator has to worry about being smitten?”
Herald looked up from his the memo. Both Mickey and Edgar were on the edge of their seats waiting for an answer. Herald rolled his eyes again and stood up, “Yes, now c’mon and follow me. There’s quite a bit to cover and not much time to cover it.”
The two young men followed the curator out the door and back into the vast warehouse. Herald turned around, walking backwards for a moment and began to explain, “So, like I said before, this warehouse is a representation of our creator’s imagination. All of these doors,” he said, twirling about and pointing, “lead to different worlds inside his imagination. I call it The Infinite.”
Herald stopped twirling when he heard both the boys start to snicker. “What’s so funny,” Herald asked, looking a little agitated.
“Well,” Mickey said, “it’s just that The Infinite sounds like the biggest clique we’ve ever heard of.” He and Edgar were both chuckling to themselves now.
Herald’s disappointed look curled into a grin. “You know Mick, It’s funny you should say that; Because after all, the inspiration for your character is the one who came up with the name in the first place. You see, to an extent, the creator’s friend holds a suggestive hand in this clique as well. Not all of these doors are going to be so abnormally original that they’re masterpieces. Besides, some people like the cliques. That’s why we have a Classics section as well.”
“So, wait, we have two creators,” Edgar asked, his eyes a bit dazed as if trying to solve a complex equation for life itself. Herald’s grin turned into a look of regret.
“Forget what I said. You both have one creator, but like I said before, this is The Infinite. It houses the entrances from the lowly oddities section,” Herald said pointing several dozen isles in a direction that was lit with progressively worsening flickers of light, “all the way to the ideas that hold people’s attention, even at the cost of being total cliques,” he finished, reaching his hand in the opposite direction and pointing across the progressively better lit section that was closer to the office, “and every scenario for every genre you could possibly imagine in between; because if it’s in your heads,” Herald said, pointing to the both of them, “the creator already knows about it.”
As Mickey and Edgar peered at the vast arrangement of doors, they noticed a few of them were labeled.
“Hey Herald,” Edgar asked, “what’s this door that says Cabin in the Woods.”
“That’s an adventure for another time,” Herald said. “But don’t worry, that’s gonna be a big one. Now, stacked all over at my receiving desk we have every little tidbit of any story you could think of as well. All the little details, characters, settings, plot devices, and anything else you could possibly imagine are all in these books. They stay in here until the creator can tangibly make them into a door.”
“What’s a,” Mickey started to asked, having to squint at the page of one of the books he had picked up, “Rex Missile Pod Mondo Monsto Combo?”
Herald snatched the book, looking at it furiously. “Sweet Christ, he’s at it again with these crazy things,” Herald said. He looked back up at Edgar and Mickey who both held a dazed loo of confusion. “Never mind, let’s get back to the office for a sec,” he said, snapping the book closed.
As the boys headed inside, Herald looked back as if he had heard something. He shook it off and followed the young men back inside. He took a seat back at his desk as Edgar and Mickey sat back down in the leather seats.
“So, did we pass the interview at least,” Mickey asked.
Herald, without looking, gave a chuckle. “Of course, there’s still a trial run you boys are gonna have to endure if you want the job. It’s a little impromptu, but it’ll give people a taste of what’s in store,” Herald said.
“When do we start,” Edgar asked, edging at his seat.
Herald snapped his fingers. The same blot of transparent ink-like substance reappeared off to the side of his desk; it was barely visible at first but concentrated itself, and expanded into the same portal, violet and charged with static spurts all around it.
“If you gentleman would kindly step through the portal, we can start your evaluation and training process,” Herald said with a businessman’s tone and a genuine smile.
“Let’s kick it,” Mick said.
“Yeah,” Edgar said, “I’m ready to see some crazy stuff.”
Stepping over into the portal to a dark room, they heard Herald’s voice ech just before it shut itself, “Careful what you wish for.”
The room they were in now was quiet and damp. Bellows of an echoing drip was the only noise to be heard in such silence. As they continued forward, their feet splashing into something wet, the only thing they could see was a pulsating red light in the distance.
They heard Herald’s voice break through the silence from out of nowhere. “If you boys need any help, I’m happy to assist. I didn’t want to say this in the interview but you two are actually the first ones to really be taken seriously for the job. If you ever need anything at all, plot device loopholes, quick escapes, or some other kind of seam to be ripped in the space-time continuum of the creator’s universe, just let me know.
“All requests have to be approved by the big man, but so far I think he’s really starting to warm up to you two. Now, check your back pockets for the flashlights he left you,” Herald said.
Sure enough, bulging from each of their rear pockets was a small penlight. “The only thing I can tell you about this level for now is that it’s relatively easy. There aren’t any other character’s you’ll have to meet and greet. You’ll only need to survive what’s thrown at you.”
“What exactly is getting thrown,” Mickey asked. He heard the curator chuckling. “You’ll see.”
Mickey looked at Edgar, shining his light under his chin to illuminate his face in a horrible way.
“Shall we embark,” he asked in a haunting voice.
“Let’s do this thang,” Edgar said with a twang in his voice
They bumped fists, slapped hands, ended it with a thumbs up, and shined lights down the long corridor. Dripping water formed at the bases of several hanging roots that protruded through the ceiling. The walls were swelled, and the tile floor was blanketed in a quarter inch of standing water. It looked like some sort of hospital.