Do you see that road down there, underneath that bridge? Every morning my father would drive us to school on that road. Every morning we passed this building. Then, when I got older and started traveling in cars not driven by my parents, we passed the building on the road behind it, where you drive over the bridge and past the top of it and always got stopped at the light right at the top of the hill. I once had a temp job at the paper recycling plant across the street from this building. This building is iconic to me. I judge distances to familiar locations from it's hulking shape. This is exploring one of my own organs. Except slightly less slimy. Barely. It is extremely similar to hiding in the warm entrails of a dead behemoth on a snowbound night. Only in that metaphor pretend it is super hot out and the behemoth's slippery mess is cool to the touch, nice for irritated eyes and souls.
There is a door wide open to get into it. This is a place of high traffic. Just jump up on the loading dock and step right in, ladies and gentlemen. Had a bad week at work? Didn't have enough money for coffee this morning? Got ditched by a guy because he would rather take some other girl to the Modest Mouse concert in Detroit that night, even though he's been sleeping with you, and it's your fucking off day, and you just want to ram your head into something old and metal for being so stupid to ever talk to him again? Well come right in to the dank dark warehouse floor. There's no light. There are rooms everywhere you can't see in at all. Old rusty pipes lying around in the darkness. This is the place for you darlings. This is where you can dump your imaginary bodies. Oh and there's a broken ladder, leaning against a broken wall, if you really want to give yourself some bruises to make it feel a little better. Maybe some tetanus, for dramatic effect. Guys dig tetanus, right?
I always mistyped tetanus as "tentanus", which sounds like something that gives you tentacles. I am actually way more afraid of getting tentacles than tetanus.
See, there's a hidden floor up there. Just shimmy up, or rather haul yourself up by the hamstrings you have never possessed. The green light is tempting you, so pretty and not rapey at all. It looks lighter up there too. It'll be better. Maybe wrap your shirt around your hands so you don't get anymore splinters. Brace the legs of the ladder with some old boxes. Tense your body in preparation of the inevitable fall as steps break away from you under the weight of all your fucking baggage.
Or you could just take the stairs. The stairs are pretty too.
Once I got upstairs, I realized I wasn't alone. I was an intruder. They caught me at the entrance and made me go through customs. They are very thorough about foreigners in the Emerald City. I had to empty my pockets, check my shoelaces, bribe a guard to let me out of the cage. It's a hell of a cage. One of the guards told me they used to use it to catch giant squid, before the inland sea dried up. Now it's all processing and paperwork. It's hard to be upset in the green light though. It's so...you just feel calm. Sedated. Content to follow along wherever the little green men take you. Seriously, it's so pretty, you wouldn't believe it. Like the end of the universe is happening all around you, in slow motion.
So they've been hiding out here since the building of the canals. They burn really easily now, because of the whole hiding out in dark places with meth heads thing, but they like the light, hence the green shades. Makes it a little more manageable for their delicate skin. Everything about them is delicate now, they are fragile forgotten things. But the green light makes it so glamorous, so much more believable.
Like, sure, of course I believe you are a secret population of gnomes, forced from their native salt mines in seclusion on the Near West Side. I mean, it's so green! Who wouldn't believe you? No, of course it makes sense you are in constant danger and can't reveal your existence because someone might tip off the giant Slag monsters who were bred in the heart of the new steel mills specifically to kill your colony off and make it development ready. And yes of course you're going to need to keep me here a while, because yes I'm totally a danger to your way of life, no, really, it makes complete sense. I have no problem with being chained to this wall, cause frankly I don't have much out there, and I'm really digging this greenness. I feel like Dorothy. Only not as fancily shod, but there's a lot of broken glass. Do you think I could have a glass of water? No? That's okay, I'll just lick it off this brick here.
I even made two friends here. Well, maybe like, a friend and a horrible scary thing that likes to taunt me. That one above, he's called a Squak. And the cute one below, he's a Squeeble. The Squeebles used to live here before the green gnomes, but then the Squaks sold them out for positions as pets in the new gnome regime. Squeeble, he's like me, trapped in that window. Squak just likes to show up and spit on me. I look on the bright side though, water is water. It's good to stay positive in this light. Poor Squeeble hasn't long to live though. Squaks let their little ones throw rocks at him. Luckily, they're incorporeal, but the intent is what really affects him. He shivers with the hatred and blind blood thirst, and breaks himself apart. I try to tell him to be calm, but I understand. He's hurt, and there's no one left to love him but me.
The Squaks aren't really dangerous though. The actual danger, to me and the gnomes, is the Black Infection. It lives on the highest floor, seeping in through the ceiling. Several gnome children have been hospitalized with infections, and I've seen them running past me, the blackness tracing the veins in their arms, their little white eyes wide with fear. I see it spreading above me. Slowly though. It will be at least another year before it reaches me here. In gnome time, this constitutes an immediate crisis. There are constant meetings. It's hard to participate in panic when you are busy becoming part of the brickwork. Your heart just isn't capable of beating fast enough to really care.
They will have to move the whole colony soon. They can't fight the Black Infection, it's the buildings natural immune system kicking in and they are unwanted occupants. I wonder if they will remember I am here. I wonder if the Infection will hurt, or I'll die immediately while it takes over my body. Probably not. Buildings move on a different time scale. I'll probably die for months. No regrets though. The green light has told me so many things, and I think maybe regular light would not be enough anymore. Also, I will probably burn, I've always had such delicate skin. It's nice to be surrounded by familiar things. My neighborhood, my train tracks, the graffiti I know so well. It's comforting that at any time, my dad may be driving down that road, oblivious, like a game. It's nice to be somewhere hidden away, where other dangerous things can't get me. There is a door in front of me that the gnomes left open when they evacuated the floor. Just being able to look out it is cool. It gives me all I need of that world.
More photos of the colony here. Camera recovered by excavators from the CNHM.