A Most Congenial Odyssey

Oh no, he's starting to ramble again.

My odyssey began in the hottest part of the summer, at the very beginning of August – only five months ago. It was a dry heat, totally unlike the sweltering humid stickiness of Back Bay (or along the Charles, for that matter). It would have probably been cooler a few weeks later; I don’t know why it couldn’t have started then, as it normally would.

Any good odyssey begins at a memorable starting point. Mine began at that big sculpture of a head which Massachusetts is known for. (Surely that’s one of a kind, right?) I traveled southerly from there, until I reached a fork in the road. From there, I could have gone to New York or Delaware. I chose to travel west, but I turned south to avoid crossing a Meridian. As I travelled south, I faced a monumental climb (331 steps, to be precise); upon the climb’s completion, I took in the panoramic view as I determined where my travels would lead me next. As befits any intrepid traveler, I also picked up a shirt commemorating my accomplishment at the gift shop, before continuing to proceed south.

Upon reaching Georgia, I made the decision to travel west. A short distance to the west of the Capitol, I paused to admire some truly riveting construction work in progress. I suppose I should clarify that statement; I was riveted, but the construction workers used no fasteners whatsoever. A sudden gust blew through, but fortunately, most of the construction was unaffected. I doglegged a few yards to the south to avoid the construction as I proceeded, and continued west, turning south as soon as I passed the on-ramp/off-ramp combination to my left. I presented my passport to the border guard there, and I was immediately transported to a land of wonder and whimsy. Who knows what sort of fantastical creature I might encounter here?

I immediately made a point of getting my bearings. To my right was a path of onyx; after consulting with a gentleman standing there, I elected to continue travelling south. As I proceeded, people were congregated to my left and right under placards which declared that aviation was a figment of the imagination. The very notion made me chuckle, and I shook my head as I passed through the crowds, turning left immediately after I made it through. Coming face-to-face with pirates, I turned to the right, but almost immediately I ran into a major storm, so I turned left, then right to avoid it. Proceeding south, I noticed a giant steampunk robot to my right, along with a bunch of spare parts of various shapes and colors. “Who are you?” I asked the robot. The robot did not respond, but I did receive a third-party answer from one of the people keeping watch over the parts nearby. I thanked her kindly, got my bearings, and decide to head east. On my way, I adjusted my course slightly to left twice before the path ended.

As I considered my next move, I noticed an exterminator close at hand, operating outside a nearby booth. “What kind of machine is that?” I asked, pointing in the appropriate direction. Nobody seemed to know for certain, though somebody suggested that it may have been purchased second-hand.

Leaving the exterminator to his work, I elected to proceed south, passing a nation proclaiming its official policy of non-violence. In that spirit, upon reaching the training ground, I turned to my right and then to my left (to proceed south again) to travel around the perimeter of those grounds. Having reached a point where I could travel south no further I turned to travel west; then having travelled west until I could travel no further, I travelled to the north again, observing a commune of artists to my left going about their business as I did so. As I finished passing the commune, I observed a blind burrowing animal to my right. I don’t trust the weasely things, so I took an immediate left turn, observing some obscure ancient wonders as I proceeded in my new direction. As I continued along this new path, I passed the den of a wolf, a pair of purveyors of kilts, a slugfest, and even an assortment of plans which would have obvious appeal to someone like Bugs Bunny.

Having proceeded in that direction until I could go no further, I turned once again to the north. Before I had travelled very far, however, I happened upon a kobold, which frightened me into taking a path heading west. As I meandered in this direction I came upon a line of people at a photo booth, getting their picture taken with someone glad-handing them with great gusto. Curious, I joined the line, and was pleased to discover as I talked to the people ahead of me that encounter would not cost me 40 gold pieces, as I might have expected.

When I reached the head of the line, I had a chance to have a quick chat with him as the photographer set up. “Who are you?” I asked, and he told me. We talked about apocalyptic fiction (he’s particularly fond of “The Seventh Seal”), care of one’s beard or beard-analogue, and how surprising it is that he actually has to moisturize. We said cheese for the photographer, and I took the adjacent path to the north on the west side.

At this point my mouth was really dry. (I think that old guy at the photo booth may have addled my brain significantly too, but first things first.) As I continued to meander north in my foggy-headed state, I happened upon a shop where a casual glance informed me that all they sold was gum, and I bought their eight-flavor special, unzipped it, and tore into it in a frenzy. I pulled out a pack at random, worked it open, grabbed a stick, and popped it into my mouth. The texture was even worse than the gum I remembered from the packs of baseball cards when I was young, and the taste was just not right. I took another glance at the pack, then dropped it in horror. Why on earth would anyone invent fly-flavored chewing gum? “Who would sell this?" I asked the now thoroughly bewildered person behind the counter. I asked about the shady business practices of their company until he eventually pleaded the fifth.

After that bizarre episode, I really needed to take a walk and clear my head. I went north, then took a right at the pink bunny, and continued on, passing a self-proclaimed nice guy before coming to a stop. The signage seemed to indicate a superhero was nearby, but I saw no trace of capes or leotards in the area with the signs – nor even the conspicuously button down-glasses and boring hairstyles of a typical alter ego. Eventually, I flagged down one of several similarly-dressed people I assumed to be acolytes of their hero and asked “So who do you work for?” She pointed to one of the signs and with a smile, she told me that that was the first time anyone ever asked her that question.

I continued heading east. As I proceeded, I noted a great throng of people there, all facing what appeared to be the king of... something. All of the pomp and circumstance reminded me of the funeral of someone really important – a giant in his field, maybe – except that everyone was really happy. I joined the lines to pay my respects. “What’s everyone so excited about?” I asked. He said it was something he had done, although everyone present had a role to play. I said I had always dreamed of traveling to the stars with him, and asked if he could make it so, only to discover that I was decades too late for that. (I might need to settle for the outer reaches of earthbound 60187 or 60189 instead.)

At this point, I decided that he looked like he could use a little fortification, so I offered him some of my mead. He declined politely, but indicated that if I had a fifth of whiskey he might partake of that instead. With that jovial encounter completed, I returned to the eastward path I was previously proceeding on, passing by those deniers of aviation again (though in a different direction this time).

After passing by some laboratories to my left and right I turned left, with my odyssey nearly completed and my exit in sight. As I proceeded to the north, I suddenly noticed a bespectacled man with a ponytail. He looked familiar to me from MIT Mystery Hunts of times past. “Dude!” I said, “This place is like a Maze of –“ He looked at me quizzically, then pointed at a neighboring display. “Uh, never mind. At any rate, I’ve almost finished a different puzzling odyssey.” “Ah! And now you wish to make order out of your chaos.” he said. “I can help you. The order you seek is funerary, transatlantic, different in Canada, pseudovictorian, ancient, and vext”.

I thanked the gentleman, as his wise words enabled me to make sense of my encounters. Then I strolled away, my odyssey complete.