Ingrid’s duel

Frog detail

OK, the last post was employing some dramatic license. But I wasn’t making up the building I described, and that was the one we entered next, though a door at its corner.

We were on an upper floor that extended only halfway to a wall of windows opposite us, three stories high. We descended to the main floor, which was apparently the cafeteria: in the front half there were round tables with chairs as well as red, yellow, and green picnic tables, and in the back half were cash registers and counters. The floor in the front half, where we were, was carpeted and the floor in the back half was tiled. That made it easier to hear the slow footsteps of something from the far end of the room moving in our direction.

It was another metal sculpture, about five feet high. It had two arms and legs and walked like a person, but its head was what I guessed was a frog’s and its limbs were long and thin, like an insect’s. It wore a vest, tie, and tailcoat and carried a bamboo walking stick with a curved end. Like the Cat in the Hat it had a creepy, immobile grin.

The three of us crouched under a picnic table watching it. The gentleman frog stopped walking and surveyed our half of the cafeteria. Then it looked at the table we were under, and started walking toward it. The frog grasped the upper part of the cane with its free hand and pulled its hands in opposite directions, revealing a sword concealed within the cane. It dropped the cane and slashed the air with the blade.

Ingrid stood up, removed the crossbow she wore over her shoulder and grasped the club hammer that was hanging from her belt. She held her left arm, which was covered by the police baton, in front of her. “OK,” said Ingrid, “this I can handle.”

Ingrid moved to our left, and the frog altered its direction to follow. She moved to the central part of the room, where there was more empty space between tables, and stood at the ready. The frog stopped in front of her. They were still for a few moments, and then the frog swung its sword.

Ingrid easily blocked the blade with her baton and countered with the hammer, striking the frog in the side of the head. The frog staggered but quickly recovered and thrust forward with the sword, which Ingrid was able to dodge. She gave another swing of the hammer, striking the frog in the chin.

There were a couple more of exchanges like that, the frog missing and Ingrid striking hard enough to leave a dent each time, her braid twirling around her. However, the frog’s speed remained the same for each of its maneuvers, while Ingrid’s became slower.

Then the frog bounded to the closest table, leapt on its surface, and leapt again toward Ingrid, holding its sword with the point downward. Ingrid dodged and struck with the hammer, this time on the frog’s right knee. The frog landed in a crouch and rose to its feet, but was having trouble standing: Ingrid’s blow had knocked a curve into its leg.

Ingrid placed the baton on a table near her and immediately picked it up again, this time holding it by the shaft rather than the short handle. The handle was now on the end of the baton furthest away from her, like she was carrying an “L” on a stick. She moved toward the frog, who looked like it had figured out how to stand on its bent leg. Ingrid moved the baton forward, caught the frog’s sword arm within the L part of the baton, and struck again at the frog’s right knee. And then at the other knee.

Ingrid backed away from the frog, who fell to the floor. It tried to get up but its legs were now so bent that it couldn’t. It flailed its sword wildly. Ella picked up Ingrid’s crossbow and the two of us approached Ingrid, who was catching her breath.

“Ingrid, that was amazing,” said Ella. “Eh, no problem,” responded Ingrid. “I think we’re good here.” Ella recorded some footage of the frog and we made our exit.

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Lumpy’s return

This is probably the next-to-last post I’ll have about the corporate campus Ella, Ingrid and I visited last month. After the events of the last post the three of us were on the edge of the courtyard area of the campus, and decided to cross to the other side. Our destination was a building with three sets of floor-to-roof windows that became shorter from left to right, like a reverse cell phone reception indicator.

We had crossed a bridge across the courtyard’s stream when we saw someone was walking toward us. I was worried about having to explain Ingrid’s armaments when I saw who it was and became worried for different reasons: it was Lumpy.

Ingrid raised her crossbow but Lumpy waved a hand at her, which sent Ingrid flying off to the side. Lumpy did the same thing to Ella and looked at me, smiling widely with that mouth full of scary teeth. Not knowing what else to do, I pulled out my squirt gun and fired it at Lumpy.

“Nooo!!!” shrieked Lumpy. “Lutheran baptismal font water! My one weakness!” I kept dousing her and she dissolved, like the Wicked Witch of the West. Ingrid and Ella walked up to me, looking at me with awe.

“Looks like Lumpy had herself a meltdown,” I said, pocketing the squirt gun.

Return to the Blair Witch desk

After our encounter with Lumpy we were near a door to the outside of the campus, which led to the tree house and wooded area containing the Blair Witch desk. Despite the dangerous indoor encounters we had, I was curious to visit the desk at night, and so was Ella. Ingrid protested but agreed to accompany us.

I should point out that I wouldn’t have considered a nighttime visit if I wasn’t with two other people, one of whom was armed. You’d have to be crazy to go to a place like that after dark just for a photo and something to write about on your blog.

We proceeded to the woods. Even though we had been there earlier in the day, we were still a little startled when our flashlights illuminated the crocodile model under the treehouse. We followed the path to the desk, keeping an eye on the woods around us.

“Oh!” said Ingrid. “You know what I should have brought?”

“Um…a squirt gun filled with Lutheran baptismal font water?” I asked hopefully.

“A squirt gun with…what? No, I should have brought the night vision goggles!”

Blair Witch desk - night

We found the desk, unchanged as far as we remembered from our visit earlier in the day. I almost would have preferred a confrontation with the mysterious entity who created the desk, since that would have provided a check on my imagined origins of the object. Was it produced by the ghost of an employee trying to re-create its earthly experience? A feral child imitating its neighbors?

In the photo you can see a stick lying on the top of the desk, perpendicular to the sticks that make up its surface. The image it evoked for me was a desk telephone, and I picked it up and held it to the side of my head. “Hey, Ella. Whaaat’s happening?” I said.

I heard a voice in my ear, coming from the stick.

At first I thought I was hearing a series of growls, as if someone had called me on a cell phone and then fed it to a dog. But then I realized that the series of sounds were measured and had precise variations, as if I was hearing a foreign language. Really foreign. Like, unheard-of consonants and vowels foreign.

There was one phrase that I was able to remember easier than the others. If I had to replicate it with the English alphabet, I suppose it would be something like “cthulhu fhtagn.”

I gave the stick to Ella and told her to listen. She did so for a few seconds, then gasped loudly and dropped the stick. “We have to get out of here,” she whispered, her eyes wide.

Ingrid and I followed her out of the woods. When we were halfway between the woods and the building we had come from, Ella pulled a phone out her satchel and moved away from us. “Give me a few minutes,” she said, moving away from us. Ingrid asked me what had happened and I told her what I knew.

“So Ella understood that?” said Ingrid. “She speaks Parseltongue now?” Ingrid looked at Ella for a few moments. “Suppose she’s talking to her shrink?”

“I doubt it,” I said, “She didn’t seem all that freaked out by Brand, after all.”

After about five minutes Ella returned to us. “OK, ready,” she said, much more composed and downright cheerful compared to how she was earlier. She started walking toward the building we had come out of. Ingrid demanded an explanation of what she had heard in the woods, but all Ella would say was that it was a message not meant for us. She was just as reticent about the phone call, saying nothing more than that that she was talking to a “colleague.” She seemed more interested in prompting us to continue the indoors part of our expedition.

By now we had reached a set of stairs that lead back up to the courtyard area of the campus. “You’re sure?” I said, “I mean, we’ve been attacked by Cat in the Hat, a clown, and a doll.”

Ella turned around and leaned against one of the stair rails. She smirked and arched her left eyebrow in a way that made her look a little sassy. “Absolutely,” she said.

Lumpy

subway_woman
Time for another flashback to our trip to the mysterious corporate campus two weeks ago.

Before Ella, Ingrid and I went on the next step of the journey, Ella collected some of the jester’s black fluid (or “ichor,” as she called it) in a container that resembled the one Venkman used to collect the mucous at the beginning of Ghostbusters. She retrieved the pure fluid as well as the Crystal Light mixture on Ingrid’s leg.

Our latest destination was an underground corridor between the jester building and the one closest to it. Part of the corridor was done up to look like a subway car, and slumped in one of the seats along the wall was a curious object: a doll — I think it was a pantyhose doll — about five feet long. She wore a wig and a simple dress and jacket, and had a morose, pouty sort of expression.

We stopped in front of the subway woman and Ingrid nudged her with her foot. “How ’bout it, Lumpy?” said Ingrid. “Gonna try anything?” The figure was silent.

We started to continue down the corridor but stopped when he heard what sounded like a person’s whisper. We heard it again: it sounded like someone whispering the word “don’t.” Someone behind us.

Turning around, we saw Lumpy standing in the middle of the corridor, still slumped and with that same morose expression.

“Don’t what?” asked Ella. She removed the video camera from her satchel.

Lumpy raised her arms so they were perpendicular to the walls.

“Don’t…”

She started to rise in the air.

“…call…”

Her voice was becoming louder and harsher. And her eyes started go glow red.

“…me…”

Claws extended from her fingers.

“…Lumpy!!”

She shrieked that last word, opening her mouth wide and revealing rows of long teeth.

“Ho ho!” said Ingrid, removing the bowie knife from her belt. “Wanna dance, sister?” Ella meanwhile, was recording with her video camera. It was like my companions were auditioning for a “Things Not to Do When Confronted by a Flying Pantyhose Doll Monster” PSA.

Lumpy did a dive bomb maneuver at Ingrid, which Ingrid evaded. Lumpy continued flying down the corridor and we cautiously followed, though we soon lost sight of her. We kept walking down the corridor anyway and stopped when the scene in front of us abruptly changed. The corridor continued but the ceiling and one of the walls now appeared to be made of stone, and there were vines dispersed throughout.

“Dude! Did we just go through a time warp or something?” said Ingrid.

“I think this is just the way it’s decorated,” I responded.

Ingrid shook her head. “Weird!”

Ingrid versus clown

From the courtyard we walked back in the direction of the parking lot, and then took a right to go into the next building. We entered a hallway whose ceiling had a series of what first looked like wooden cross beams, though when I looked again I saw that they hung from the ceiling and didn’t cross it. Dispersed among the beams were small colored lights on long, curving stems. Ella said the structure reminded her of a pergola and I told her I agreed, making a mental note to look up the word “pergola” when I got a chance. The carpet was a light green color, with purple veins running across it, and its pattern made me think of hosta leaves.

We were walking down the hallway, idly looking around, when Ingrid made a sound as if she had stepped in something and moved to the left wall of the hallway. I asked what the matter was.

“No one said anything about clowns!” she responded, pointing ahead of us. She was referring to a grinning doll, maybe two feet high, dressed in an ostentatious red hat and dress and seated on a stool in front of an alcove that lead to a meeting room. Ella and I moved closer to the doll and examined it, and saw that its hat was the three-tailed, medieval fool variety. “I think it’s more a jester than a clown,” said Ella, “Its face isn’t painted.”

“Oh, same difference,” retorted Ingrid, and hurried past the alcove. Ella and I ceased our assessments of the doll’s clownishness and joined Ingrid. We had passed a staircase on our left when we heard a cackle behind us.

Turning around, we saw an empty hallway. Readying her crossbow, Ingrid slowly moved back to where the jester doll was sitting. It was gone.

“OK, I’m done here,” said Ingrid, and started walking toward the door we had initially entered. “I think we should stay and find that thing,” said Ella. “Before it can, ah, round up its clown brethren to attack us.”

Ingrid looked at Ella, stunned. “Crap! Are you serious?”

“Well,” said Ella, “obviously I’m not an expert about…”

“No, you’re right,” said Ingrid. “We’d better go after it.” Obligingly, we heard another cackle and this time saw the doll. It was down the hall, in the direction we were originally going, doing somersaults and cartwheels and finally dashing into a side hallway. The three of us followed.

“So, um, ‘clown brethren’?” I said to Ella. She looked at me, curved the right corner of her mouth upward and gave a little shrug.

The next sound we heard wasn’t a laugh: it was running water. We followed the sound to a room containing a refrigerator, microwave ovens, a coffee maker, and a sink with a faucet that was switched on. There were cupboards and a counter with holes in it to deposit trash and recycling. Ingrid turned off the faucet and looked around the room, settling on one of the eye-level cupboards. Pointing her crossbow at the cupboard, she asked me to open it. I did so.

Inside the cupboard there were boxes of tea and individual-serving packages of Crystal Light.

Ingrid started surveying the room again, so she didn’t see the Crystal Light packages start to shake and swell up. I started saying something to warn her, which caused her to turn around at the moment the packages exploded, coating the whole front of her with powdered drink mix.

We heard the jester’s laugh and saw it peering at us from the edge of the doorway before it ducked away. I got ready to follow Ingrid’s pursuit but she was just standing still, clenching her teeth and glaring. I asked if she was all right.

“All right? All right? I’M COVERED IN…” Ingrid closed her eyes, inhaled slowly, exhaled slowly, and opened her eyes. “Let’s just get out of here,” she said, and started dusting herself off.

We returned to the main hallway we had started from, where we were now near the opposite end of the building and an exit. We were about to go outside when we heard a high-pitched yet rough voice above and behind us say “Hey!” Turning around, we saw the jester hanging upside down from one of the beams that crossed the hallway ceiling.

I’ll swallow your soul! I’ll swallow your soul!” crowed the jester, wagging its head.

Ingrid raised her crossbow.

“Swallow this,” she said, and fired.

The bolt struck the jester between the eyes, knocking it from the ceiling. A thick black fluid sprayed from the wound. Ella and I were able to get out of the way but some of the stuff got on Ingrid’s leg, where it mixed with the Crystal Light. The doll staggered down the hallway, spraying the walls and floor, and then collapsed. Ingrid strolled over to it.

“And that,” said Ingrid, putting her foot on the jester’s face and yanking out her crossbow bolt, “is why I don’t like clowns.”

The metal cat

Before commencing our explorations, Ingrid pulled the equipment out of her duffel bag. She wore the bowie knife and hammer on her belt, carried the crossbow on a strap that hung on her shoulder, and held the police baton in her left hand by the shorter handle, so the long part covered the outside of her arm.

I had actually brought a weapon too: before leaving Detling I stopped by my church and filled a squirt gun with water from the baptismal font. I’m not positive that Lutheran baptismal font water counts the same as Catholic holy water, but I would have felt weird about taking stuff out of another church. Seeing Ingrid all geared up made me feel pretty self-conscious, so I kept the squirt gun in my jacket pocket. I had a flashlight, though, which would probably be more useful. Ella, meanwhile, was carrying an Indiana Jones-style satchel, and I saw her remove a video camera from it.

The first building we entered is considered the company’s main entrance. It featured a long reception desk that was perpendicular and to the right of the entrance rather than facing it. Another prominent feature was the artificial tree, placed alongside a staircase whose steps looked like they were made of logs.

We moved forward into an area that must be pretty impressive during the day. On our left was a two-story wall of windows that looked out over the courtyard. Above us and on our right was a curving railing that indicated the termination of the second floor. At intervals in the railing there were discs of colored glass.

Among the artwork in this part of the building were a guitar player that looked like he was made out of rubber bands, a sculpture of a small dragon in a birdcage, and a colorful fabric ostrich neck and head that I thought for sure was going to bite us. At the far end of the anteroom, or whatever they call it, there was a door to the courtyard and a large wooden cylinder that a nearby card informed us was a Newton telescope. Ahead of us was another staircase and to the right of it, facing in the direction we had come from, was a park bench upon which sat a life-size (presumably) metal sculpture of The Cat in the Hat. The cat was sitting on the left corner of the bench with a book in its lap, one arm resting on the back of the bench.

We stopped in front of the telescope, just to look around, when we heard a sound like metal scraping against metal. We looked around trying to see what it was, and when we heard it again I was looking right at the thing making the noise.

The Cat in the Hat was turning its head to look at us.

I told Ella and Ingrid, and the three of us watched the cat, not moving. The cat lifted up the arm that was resting on the bench, swung the arm forward, and dropped it down, striking the bench. Then the cat leaned forward and moved its legs under the bench. With slow and stiff movements it stood up, still leaning forward. It straightened up slightly, so that it was looking at us again. It lifted its arms jerkily until they were pointing forward.

And then it ran at us.

It moved with an efficient stride, nothing like the awkward movements we had just seen. That plus its expression, which was still the familiar Cat in the Hat grin, made the sight terrifying. We ran out the courtyard door and closed it just in time, Ella turning around and recording with her video camera and Ingrid uttering a strange farrago of profanity and Dr. Seuss references.

“Hey,” I said, “What happened to Viking warrior maiden?”

“Dude! I wasn’t expecting giant…Cat in the Hat…thing!”

The cat was standing in front of the door watching us. It was leaning slightly forward, resting the top of its hat against the window above the door. It was motionless except for its right arm, which it swung slowly back and forth, tapping the bar of the door. Tap…tap…tap…

“Yeah, I’m thinking, maybe, we come back to this building later,” I said.

Prologue to a haunted house story

Our excursion to the mysterious corporate campus has concluded and I have a LOT to share, which I’ll be parsing out in separate posts.

Ella’s jeep has the most room of our vehicles so that’s the one we took to Madison Saturday morning. Ingrid brought along a duffel bag that sounded like it contained several metallic objects when she put it in the back of the jeep, but she was coy when I asked about it. Ingrid did most of the talking during the four-hour drive, speculating on what we would encounter. Somehow she had found out about Rock Star Gomeroke and insisted that we go there and sing Love Shack the next time we made a trip to Madison. She also made a show of pointing out the first couple of Perkins restaurants we passed.

Our first stop was the company campus we would be visiting that night. We wanted to have a look at it in daylight and I wanted to check out the Blair Witch desk. There are two high construction cranes that make the company’s location pretty easy to spot from the highway, and as we drove up we saw the metal bones of a new building sticking up from its concrete foundation. We stopped in a lot nearest the main entrance and got out.

We saw a cluster of long brick buildings, three stories high and topped by metallic roofs with wide eaves. They surrounded a courtyard. There was a skyway connecting the buildings closest to us and another one parallel to it on the other side of the courtyard. The sides of the walkways were glass from top to bottom and there was a generous distribution of windows along the sides and corners of the buildings.

It was like the whole affair was an amalgam of a contemporary college campus, a pagoda, a greenhouse, and a space station.

The three of us entered the courtyard, which had a stream going through it, and followed the stream to a waterfall at the far side. From there we crossed the width of the courtyard and walked down some steps to a grassy clearing, at the end of which was a group of pine trees. About a quarter of the way up the surrounding trees was the base of what I guess you would call a tree house, though it looked big enough for a small family to live in.

We crossed the clearing, toward the base of the tree house. There we saw a life-size model of a crocodile. There was also a path through the woods, which we followed until we found the mystery desk. Even in the daylight it was pretty creepy, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle a nighttime visit. We explored the company’s grounds a little more and then returned to the jeep.

We went to Madison and State Street for a late lunch, and Ella took us to the Odd Wisconsin exhibit at the Wisconsin Historical Society. After spending the rest of the afternoon downtown, we went to the home that Spindle’s contact had offered him, where we found the key card to get into the company’s buildings.

Ingrid brought in her duffel bag and started going through the gear she brought, which included her crossbow, a Bowie knife, a side-handle police baton, and a club hammer. “You brought all that?” I asked. “What was I supposed to bring?” Ingrid snorted, “Lipstick and nylons?”

“Wow, Ingrid, you look like Thor with that hammer,” said Ella. “That’s right,” said Ingrid, “Some crazy artwork messes with me, I’ll go all Viking warrior maiden on it!”

Around 10 we left the house and returned to the campus. Which is where our story will resume next time.