I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth or anything, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't there the last time I was here. True, it could have been built in the intervening time, but I'm a late-20s, internet raised, city person. I'm reasonably certain bureaucracy and what not would not let a, hold on while I count, 87 story building be completed in less than a week.
“Told you so.”
And then there's this guy. I don't know why I let him? Her? It? I don't know, whichever it is, I don't know why I listened.
“Turn around,” it had said. "I can help you get what you need," it had said. And yes, I guess it wasn't lying. There actually is something here, like it said. But seriously, less than a week? 87 stories? At least be reasonable with what you want me to believe. It’s not as though this place is some Narnia-esque land where magic rules and things just happen. I didn't fall through a looking glass and this thing does not have an all-knowing grin. On the other hand…
“And I can find a way home in there?”
“You can find all sorts of things in there.”
“Sure, you said that already. I mean specifically. Like a door or something?” It just looked at me as if waiting for some sort of context that was obviously missing from my question. “Fine. Let’s go.”
We walked down the path which followed the stream which came off the waterfall we found the previous night. There didn't seem to be a way to cross the stream, but each time I went to step into the water to cross on my own, that thing would stop and tell me there's a crossing further down. Like an idiot, or, rather, someone who has lost control of their life and is now just free falling just to see what hitting the ground is like, I continued to follow its directions.
Eventually, maybe half a mile before hitting the other side of the valley, in a spot that looked identical to every other spot I had tried to cross at, it stopped and indicated in some random gesture, that was probably some form of sign language, that I should cross. It had also stopped talking, which was good because its voice was just grating and bore into my head like a drill. On the other hand, I’m a talker and not having someone to bounce things off was making me antsy. That said, I had my pride and I wasn't going to start a conversation with it. If it wanted me to talk, it would have to initiate.
The other side of the stream started to change things. Some were obvious, like the building we were heading to was now a concrete and steel structure instead of a steel and glass one. Its shape, size and, presumably, function were still the same, yet now it looked weird. Not worse, but uncomfortable. Plus the courtyard out the front had a huge sign in the middle with the same logo I had seen back home.
The creature had changed as well, I discovered upon looking back to see if it had crossed the stream. It wasn't the weird dinosaur-cross-snake-cross-bird thing that had been with me for the last few days now. Instead it had changed into something that resembled a car but was absolutely not one. Plus it was flying. It made some noise which I took to mean offense when I asked if I was meant to ride on it.
There were more subtle changes too, ones I didn't pick up on for a long time. You know how things just flicker in the back of your head? Unfamiliarity that shouldn't be there? Like the fields of grass that sidelined the path we were taking down to the skyscraper were getting browner the closer we got. I shrugged this off as the building. But something in my head told me it was the owners were killing anything that came near it, which admittedly, didn't bode well for me since I was very much alive. But like an idiot, I latched onto the connection with home and continued forward.
Then there was the valley we were in. Before we crossed the stream, it was a valley with rocky sides maybe two miles apart, with the building at one end. Now the valley sides were dense, tall forests and much narrower. Out of the corner of my eyes, twinkling lights followed us just inside the tree-line but disappeared when I turned to look. The waterfalls were gone too which probably meant the stream was gone as well. I’d have been more worried if this was the strangest thing that had happened since I arrived but I guess this contributed to me not noticing the changes until later.
The not-car thing was drifting further and further behind me as well. Like a dog who is exhausted from a long walk. Every so often I would wait for it to catch up and we would continue on after it admonished me for wasting time.
I kind of half expected the building to stay the same distance from me no matter how close I got to it, but logic seemed to apply to it more than the surroundings and as we got closer, I was able to make out more details of it. What I couldn't see from the waterfall, way back there, was that it was either incomplete – there were bare steel girders poking out from the top of it – or it had been damaged by something. No matter which part of the building I looked at, there was evidence for both.
The logo was covered with spiderwebs and had vines creeping up from the bottom, yet all the windows were sparkling clean. Some even had lights on. The main doors were stuck open, yet inside I could see half a dozen people working as if it was a normal building on a normal street.
“See? What you need.”
I wasn't sure what it was it thought I needed. To be honest, I didn't know what I needed but I knew deep down, in some part of me that was actually honest, that I didn't need anything inside that building and if I walked in like it wanted me to I would be further from home than I was now.
Still, though. What’s the worst that could happen?