Hello again, and thank you for joining me. I come to you tonight from the campus of beautiful Rice University, here in the very heart of the city of Houston, Texas. From where I am standing, I can see the world-famous Houston Medical Center just down the street to my right. I can see the museum district off to my left.
Right there. See it?
Have you heard about Rice? All of us in Houston are so very proud of Rice University, and rightfully so, I think. After all, Rice is ranked consistently among the twenty best colleges in the whole country by U.S. News & World Report. If only I had the time and the words and the slightest inclination, why, I could really brag it up right-like.
Let’s hear it for them Rice Owls!
You’ve got to understand that I have a special place in my heart for Rice, because for the past few years, I’ve been coming here two or sometimes three or even four nights a week to run. You can generally find me in the evenings, jogging the trail along the university’s three-mile perimeter at a speed of roughly nine miles an hour.
This means from now on, whenever you see me, you should immediately think to yourself, “Now THAT’S a body by Rice!”
I wonder if the university would pay me not to say that…
On most nights, I come here and I park my van and I go jogging off through the oak trees, get back into my car and I leave. It’s healthy and it’s fun and – unless there’s a shooting or there’s a mugging or unless an owl flies down and hits me in the face (it’s happened!) – it gives me a little time to myself to think.
But then there are the nights that are different. The nights when I catch a glimpse of something else – just a hint of something fleeting, something dark and sinister and maybe even something other-worldly – right at the edge of my peripheral view. The nights when I know there’s definitely something else going on here, and it ain’t classes.
That’s when our wonderful little Rice University isn’t at all what it seems.
When it happens, it always happens the same way. It happens when, for whatever reason, I don’t make it all the way around the track. When I only make it halfway. When I can go ahead a mile and a half to my car, or I can go back a mile and half to my car.
Because that’s when I remember what Mrs. Kotsinadelis taught me in the fifth grade about straight lines and the shortest distance between any two points.
But Mrs. Kotsinadelis didn’t know shit about Rice University.
There is no way to get to there from here across Rice University campus. I can look at a map. I can follow the moon. I can bring a compass, some rope, a guide dog, and some flares, but I still won’t be finding a short cut across university grounds.
And if I try, well, if I try and I am lucky, I’ll merely end up walking for an hour or an hour and a half and wind up right back where I started. If I’m unlucky, I will eventually wander back onto the track to find that it’s three decades earlier than when I started, or else I’ve stumbled into a parallel universe where Mariah Carey has been elected President of the United States.
What you won’t see on any of the Rice promotional literature is that this campus is a trap, it’s a tangle, it’s a house of leaves. It’s strange loop of a maze that will suck you in and steal your soul.
Not that it’s not a fine university. Top twenty!
But I have seen things during the hours and the days and the months I’ve spent lost and wandering across this campus. Strange things you might not believe. Things you should not believe.
I have seen Jimmy Hoffa, Amelia Earhart, and the twelfth imam asking a minotaur for directions. I’ve seen walls appear from nowhere and solids turn to empty space in the blink of an eye. Straight lines that curve back on themselves and Gordian-knotted sidewalks as far as the eye can see.
So here I am on from the campus of beautiful Rice University, in the very heart of the city of Houston, Texas, and you should all join me in admiring it from afar.
But be warned.
Do not make the mistakes I have made…
And if this should happen to be my final blog post, well, I will let you draw your own conclusions.
I think I can see my van now. Just up ahead. Right where I parked it.
But who is that creepy, bug-eyed chick getting into it, and why does she look so damn familiar? Wait for me!