Institute of Mind
Those were not the words Davy was expecting to see as the elevator doors opened. They were in another cave, but this one was brightly lit. The words were engraved on a giant, futuristic, stone arch in front of them. The arch went over a wide path leading out directly in front of them. Extravagant fountains shot streaming water into the air on either side of the path. At the end of the path was an incredible building. It was mostly made of stone painted white. Massive glass domes came out of the building at different areas. It looked like a state-of-the-art science museum or the headquarters of the latest trending technology company.
“Follow me,” Lady Gut Possum beckoned.
As Davy went under the arch, he looked back up at the sign. The words were written in smooth, appealing typeface. In the center of the words was a graphic of a brain. There was a splash of vibrant yellow behind the words, made to resemble light illuminating from the brain.
The group continued down the path towards the framing glass doors of the building.
“This place looks awesome,” Steve remarked. “I gotta send my resume here.”
Olivia beamed at the fountain nearest to her. “I kind of want to swim in that,” she said. Her hands became webbed for a moment as she said this.
Lady Gut Possum huffed. “This is not a place where you want to be,” she stated. “This place is a trick. Unfortunately, I believe it is also what you need at this point in time.”
They walked through the glass doors. The interior was just as pristine as the outside. Upbeat, almost adventurous music—like what one would hear at a science exhibition—was playing over the speakers. Davy saw a cool green carpet at their feet, marble walls, and another fountain in the center of the room. There was a stone statue of a brain in the fountain, with water elegantly spurting from the top.
Lady Gut Possum approached the reception desk and began to angrily tap the bell. An empty dark doorway sat behind the desk. Lady Gut Possum did not receive a response.
She continued to ring the bell. “You know I’m here, Tony,” she grumbled. After about a minute, a zebra floated up through the empty doorway and behind the desk. She stood upright on two legs, like Lady Gut Possum. Or rather, she floated. She appeared to hover a few inches off the ground. She was holding her hands in the front pockets of her glossy black jacket. A matching black beret sat on her head. To Davy, her face, for lack of a better word, was bizarre. It almost looked like the living embodiment of what you would get if Pablo Picasso ever tried to pain to a zebra. Its features were cubic and distorted. Most notably, the zebra’s large right eye hovered off to the side of her face, not actually connected to the rest of her body.
The zebra looked squarely at Lady Gut Possum. “His name is not Tony,” she said.
Lady Gut Possum scowled. “You are not serious, are you?”
The zebra did not change her gaze. “His name is Consecration Tony. Just as I am Immolation Zebra.”
Lady Gut Possum sighed. “Fine. I need to see Consecration Tony,” she mumbled.
Immolation Zebra raised her hands. “Sight is but an illusion, sailing on the eternal winds of uncertainty.”
Lady Gut Possum held her hand to her face in exasperation. “I do not have time for your insipid euphemisms,” she stated. “I need to see Tony. Consecration Tony. It is about the Endocrine.”
Steve turned to Davy with a smile. “I am so confused right now,” he whispered.
Immolation Zebra continued to stare at Lady Gut Possum. “Consecration Tony is currently in the middle of an extraterrestrial fever dream, and must not be disturbed. The balance of his secondary neural dynamos needs realignment.”
“None of what you just said means anything, and you know that,” Lady Gut Possum retorted.
Immolation Zebra ignored her. She set her sights on Davy and began to float towards him. Davy was not happy about this development.
“You said you had a matter regarding the Endocrine,” Immolation Zebra said. “Am I to presume that this figure before me is the Steward?”
She came right up to Davy, her face inches from Davy’s face.
“Hi,” Davy stammered uncomfortably. She looked even more unsettling up close.
Immolation Zebra did not seem to hear him. “Your perception is a barren wasteland, devoid of purpose. Your supposed quest is merely a blanket in the void, a small comfort that will not protect you from the reckoning that will come to make slaves of us all. Or have you arrived at the unpalatable truth that we are all slaves already?” She somehow leaned in even closer. “Tell me, Davy,” she whispered. “What is it that you most fear? Because you are almost certainly wrong.”
Davy heard a thwack. Immolation Zebra backed off as Lady Gut Possum began to beat at her with her parasol. “You keep your nonsense away from the Steward!” she exclaimed. “Now go and bring me Tony!”
Immolation Zebra retreated to behind the desk. “Very well,” she replied, seemingly unfazed by the parasol. “But whatever shall transpire from this moment forward is shall be on your hands and your hands alone. No one can deny the colors of inevitability.”
She went back into the doorway. Lady Gut Possum brushed herself off. “Brace yourself, Steward,” she told Davy. “Immolation Zebra is but a taste of the insanity that is to come. Nothing good comes from this institute.”
Connie laughed. “Looks like we’re in for something real interesting,” she said.
“I don’t know,” Olivia replied. “That zebra gave me some major bad vibes. At least four or five too many.”
Steve laughed along with Connie, though his laughter was significantly more unnerved. “Yeah, if that Zebra was just a taste of insanity, can you imagine what Tony is gonna be like?” he asked.
Davy didn’t have to answer. He just nodded as he looked at the six foot, bipedal, horned lizard that had just appeared in front of them.
He was not excited about what was probably coming next.