I remember it like it was yesterday.
I had done a couple of hours’ worth of work in Main Stacks (like a champ) and was ready to head out. But as I gathered my things, I realized I didn’t quite recognize my surroundings anymore. Something felt. . . off. There used to be two rows of bookshelves to my left, I thought. Are there – I counted – ten now?? Did this room get bigger? Did the temperature drop ten degrees? Has that marble bust of Kermit the Frog always been on that table?
I had to leave. But where to go? There wasn’t a door in sight, only never-ending rows of bookshelves, stretching out infinitely towards the horizon. I looked up towards the Main Stacks skylight and was met instead with a mirror – my own reflection stared back at me, looking just as astonished as I was. The temperature dropped again just as her lips curled into a smile.
Heart racing, I backed away, turning to find a staircase nearby. These bookshelves are moving, I realized as I started towards it, feeling the labyrinth shift around me. Maybe there’s some sort of pattern. A poster of Fozzie Bear grinned at me as the bookshelf it hung on swung away. Also, what is with all of this Muppet memorabilia??
Waiting for me at the base of the staircase was a troll, his knobbly features hard to make out through the swirling mist. “If crossing my stairs is for what you long, then answer my riddle, and don’t be wrong!” He cried gleefully. The mist seemed to thicken as he continued, “What runs, but isn’t water; grows, but isn’t a plant; and winks, but isn’t light?” Tears stained my cheeks as I choked out, “Meryl Streep!” The troll gave a solemn nod and moved away from the stairs, allowing me passage.
I raced up, not even giving the Miss Piggy’s Outfits Through the Years catalogue hanging on the bannister a second glance. Up, up, up I went, the temperature dropping with the increasing altitude. Was it snowing? I couldn’t feel my feet. Please, I prayed to a hazy figure that looked suspiciously like Gonzo, take me home. Everything went dark.
When I opened my eyes, I was sitting in a plush seat, overlooking a stage covered in flying colors and ribbons. Music swelled through the theater and drums were beating strongly, matching the rhythm of my own heart. Breathless, I grabbed the pamphlet under my chair with shaky hands. Shen Yun 2018, it read. 5,000 YEARS OF CIVILIZATION REBORN. Confusion overwhelmed me as once again, the world went dark.
Am I a man? Or am I a Muppet? Like Shen Yun, the signs are all around me— but I still don’t know what it is.