By Klax Zlubzecon
Translated by George Hyde
First off, George and I arrived safely, and I’ve met the folks. They’re nice.
So now let’s talk about how unnerving everything else about this vacation is.
Everything started innocently enough. On the flight, George took a picture out the plane’s window because the view reminded him of a scene from “Porco Rosso.” I mention this because the scene is a very dreamlike, odd scene, which should have raised a red flag in my brilliant brain. This picture of the in-flight view should have been a premonition.
We arrived in Philidelphia. There were no issues or delays; in fact, George and his family were able to retrieve their bags and rent a car in record time. While we were renting the car, though, I took note of a couple arguing in the corner. I couldn’t make out what they were arguing about, because George was blasting bass-heavy music in his ears, and nobody in the family seemed to pay it any mind. Another premonition, maybe.
Oh, and it was raining. Freezing rain. That’s gonna be important later.
Anyway, we departed from Philidelphia, taking the four-hour drive to Montoursville, the original childhood home of George’s mother. Before the journey began properly, we stopped at a turnpike, a type of place George is unfamiliar with. He stood in awe of all the national food chains that have not yet set up shop in Alaska, and grabbed a bite from each — Roy Rogers is really good, apparently.
We walked out to find the car coated in ice. Seriously, it looked like it had been recently blasted with a freeze ray as soon as we ate. It took us a little bit of effort to rid the doors and windows of the ice, but we were on the road soon enough.
I don’t remember much after that — George was asleep — but he woke up in time to witness the sheer confusion that was Hazleton, Pennsylvania.
A town that would be right at home in a Stephen King novel, Hazleton locked our car and its driver in a state of constantly running around in circles. Our GPS proved useless in this eldritch town, and every turn we tried to make sent us back to where we began. George’s parents were losing it — Mom was frantically shouting directions from Google Maps, and Dad was confident he could find his way back out if he tried this road that we hadn’t taken yet. Memories of the arguing couple in the car rental place started to return, and as George realized this, he, too, started to go mad from the revelation. Every house — they all looked the same — seemed to be filled with judgmental families looking down on us, satisfied that they had trapped another group of helpless souls.
Thankfully, though, we managed to escape from Hazleton’s grasp within 20 minutes, and from then on it was a relatively sane journey to Montoursville, save for a few slow drivers on the highway.
George and I arrived and entered the house. I really love his grandparents. They’re friendly, and they’re more technologically sound than the grandparents that live in Anchorage. He went to his bed, played “Majora’s Mask” for a bit and drifted off.
The next day, we went to a sports bar, the name of which escapes me. As soon as we sat down, we found ourselves surrounded by at least five men in camo hunting gear. No, it wasn’t the same party — all of the tables around us were filled with hunting fanatics. There was no escape. George remained silent for fear that he might accidentally utter something slightly nerdy or liberal. Eventually, the pressure of the strange stares of all of the hunting and sports fans around him forced him out of his seat.
But as he left through the restaurant’s bar, he found it was filled with mirrors and reflective picture frames. A thousand Georges, staring at us, judging us for not being Steelers fans. George remained frozen in a state of madness and terror until a drunk guy tapped his shoulder and asked what was wrong. Thankfully, I was able to seize control, brush the guy off and leave calmly — but man, George still hasn’t recovered from that.
On the way home, we drove past a mall, and when George and I inspected it further, it turned out to be a building-for-building and sign-by-sign copy of the Tikahtnu mall area back in Anchorage. Seriously. Almost a carbon copy. On the opposite side of the continent. Like we’re seeing our hometown within this foreign one.
George is currently in bed, sucking his thumb and telling himself it’s going to be alright. This place is odd and strange. I’ve visited the famous cities of the world, but I’ve never seen a place as alien or abstract as this. It takes a lot to freak out someone who sucks on someone’s brain all day, let alone someone who’s on the receiving end of that sucking.
Uh — maybe that last sentence was a poor choice of words. My bad. I’ll have an update on the state of George’s sanity when we get back after spring break. Till then…