Believe me, what I am about to tell you defies all logic or reason, but it happened. These events took place exactly as I am about to lay them out for you.
This must have been the late ’90s, during a particularly hot and humid summer. At the time, my wife and I were living in a quaint European town, close to the French border. The name is irrelevant, just know that the wine was excellent, and the people cultured, as you would expect from such a place. The old town had all the hallmark characteristics of Central Europe, things us Americans like to glorify and romanticize to no end – An over-abundance of narrow cobblestone alleyways, churches, cathedrals, theaters, universities, museums, all built in an age of kings and emperors.
It was Saturday, and I was running errands in town. This was where you socialized, perused from café to café, drinking latte macchiatos and indulging in cheesecakes smothered in whipped cream. There was laughter and joy everywhere I looked. This town square exemplified the European notion of leisure. I distinctly remember trying to understand if there was a particular reason for all this commotion. There wasn’t.
And then, like a black stain on a perfectly white tablecloth, I could make out a gentleman in the crowd that stuck out like a sore thumb. His presence seemed to upset no one else. He was wearing a black suit, dark sunshades and a black hat. He exuded an aura, a sort of energy that did not belong here. I tried to ignore him, going on with my business, but he kept showing up, competing for my attention from a respectable distance. He was stalking me, following me, without actually doing so. There was a magnetic pull, an irresistible tug at my curiosity, and soon, our roles reversed — I became his shadow, tracing his steps into the unknown.
This went on until he turned into a less crowded alleyway and vanished altogether. I stood there for a few minutes, not much longer. And when I turned around, my life broke, fell apart into a million pieces. I felt a surge of adrenaline rushing through my body. I was not where I was supposed to be. This was not the familiar cobblestone, scorching hot by the midday sun. The laughter, the joy, it was all gone, washed away in an instant. With a single swipe, this man had evaporated into thin air, and pulled me away with him. In that distant bustling square, amid laughter and lattes, I had lost a part of myself — or perhaps, found something entirely new. There was just no way to tell.
You are currently traveling through the 1990s nightmare of Pipedreams. Each narrative fragment in this collection unravels a peculiar memory of a man drawn into an alternate reality by a looming figure in a suit. In this world, the mundane is flipped on its head as giant pipes carry more than just water. These tales offer a glimpse into this bizarre dimension, both infinitely monotonous and threatening at once. Based on a true story.