See part two and part one before continuing.

After a few moments, my senses came back to me and I realized we had to move. I could hear the sound of the inflation hose shooting out at the car. I looked over at the woman who casually smoked a cigarette.

“I loved that game,” she said with a disinterested sigh.

“We gotta go,” I said, grabbing her arm. She pulled away and laughed.

“Duh. He’ll blow up the car if we don’t.” Just as she said that, his hose struck the side of the car, sinking in deep.

“Get out of the car,” I said as I reached for the handle. Just as we opened the doors the car began…inflating. Like a balloon or a “Dig Dug” enemy. The seats buckled underneath of us as we sat, like a balloon rapidly inflating. The woman smiled as the seat inflated, grabbing her purse and jumping out of the car.

“Get out, stupid,” she said.

I took her advice and jumped out of the car. The car continued to inflate in fits and spurts as we stood. I ran away from the car as fast as I could, hoping she was following suit. There was something off about this woman…something strange. She seemed unaffected by what was happening in a way that threw me for a loop.

I turned around from several hundred yards away to see her running behind me. Or rather jogging. Just as she reached me, the car finally exploded. She jumped into the air, tackling me as a shock wave blew past us. I saw car parts soar over us as we lay. She felt good lying on top of me and for a moment I forgot my car had just been exploded by an ancient arcade game character.

“So…uh…” I said.

She rolled her eyes. “Be real.” She stood up and turned over her shoulder. I lay on the ground watching her for a moment. She looked down at me with no expression on her face.

“He’s coming towards us. We should probably get going.” I stood up and looked. Slowly but surely “Dig Dug” jerked forward, one halting step at a time. His hose shot out as us, falling two hundred feet short. In a minute or two he’ d be close enough to be a problem.

We ran towards the nearest building I could see: the hospital. The lights were on all over the hospital. That was a good sign: many of the lights in the rest of the town’s buildings were off. No cars were on the road which wasn’t a good sign. Whatever was happening may have been affected only the woman and I.

As we run, she started to pant heavily. It was clearly not easy for her to run. Frankly, it wasn’t easy for me to run. I’m not a sporty guy and the long walks I do enjoy taking are nowhere near strenuous enough to prepare me for any sort of serious…problem. I look over my shoulder as we run: “Dig Dug” is still hopping towards the spot where we once stood. The hospital looms up in front of us, only two hundred feet away.

“We should…” I pant.

“…what?”  she says, panting even harder.

“…let’s…stop…”

“…no no…just run…”

“But I’m tired…I’m…I’m…” I say as my stride begins breaking. I can’t keep up the pace much more. It’s only been a few hundred yards but I can feel pain in my legs, ankles, back and even my shoulders. The woman presses two hands in the small of her back as she also slows down.

“Fifty feet…” I say,” …stop…stop…” I finally stop and lower myself to the pavement just outside the hospital door. She stops a few feet after me and sits down slowly on the ground. Out comes a pack of cigarettes: she lights one up, gestures to the pack and points at me.

“No…I don’t…” I say.

“I know…why not start?”

“I’m 30…what’s the point now?” I breathe heavily and slowly to relax my body, my mind and lungs. It’s starting to work.

“Eh, we just got attacked by a video game. Why not?”

I shake my head. She shrugs and inhales, coughs, blows out the smoke and inhales some more.

“You should quit,” I say.

“Nope.”

“They’re not good for you.”

“Nope.”

“So you should quit.”

“Look,” she says, “these are like food to me.”

“All right, all right,” I say. The air around us smells like pistachios. The ground feels clammy as if it has rained. But the ground is not wet. The hospital’s colors are all wrong: they seem too black, too grey, too brown. I can’t pin point all the odd, slightly different changes to the area. For example, the duck park seems to be separated from the road by too much water. The river is too wide, too deep. It’s almost up to the level of the road.

“Do you notice,” she says, “all the little weird shit that’s wrong?”

“I was just thinking about that,” I say.

“Hmm.” She continues to smoke quietly as we finally get our breath back.

“Let’s go into the hospital,” I say. She nods and stands up. We start walking towards the main door and it slides openly easily and automatically.

“The electricity is still working,” I say. She says nothing but takes one more long drag on her cigarette before putting it out on the ground outside the hospital.

“Put it in the ash tray,” I say.

“La dee da,” she says and puts the butt in the tray. The door closes an inch or two and reopens after re-detecting our presence.

“Shall we?” she says. We walk into the hospital which has changed considerably since the last time I’d been there. The doors close behind us as we stand staring at the strange new decor of the hospital: it’s a circus. And that’s not a metaphor. There’s a full, three ring circus taking place inside the hospital, down the hospital halls.

“Let’s go,” I say and we turn to go but come face to face with a blank, brick wall. There is no door. We both sigh turn around and watch as clowns, acrobats and lions patrol the halls of the hospital.

To Be Continued

 

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