Before I landed in the middle of Circle-Square, I thought that geometrical contradictions were physically impossible. I held my breath as I gazed at the chaos around me, and worried what atmosphere would enter my lungs if I inhaled. Eventually I was forced to gasp and remembered that the Earth’s air wouldn’t kill me. That was little relief, however, because there were a plethora of dangers around me that could certainly do the job.
The circle to which the name referred barely fit the definition, with so many appendages going in, out and dividing it that I could almost start to see the sense of the name. Large metallic bubbles carried humans on the hard gray outlines in a pattern that I could not discern, nor see the logic of. I was trapped in the middle, and to step out into the perimeter of the “circle” was certain death. I was no match for the gas-spewing monstrosities.
My rudimentary understanding of written English allowed me to observe several messages. “Dodge the father–ram the daughter” was written on one of the larger, longer bubbles. I hadn’t learned any such interpersonal strategies during my meager preparatory studies.
The one message that I did understand was a sign that said, “High Collision Area”. I assumed this was meant for children, perhaps, or for anyone without the reasoning capacity to notice the blatantly obvious.
I wondered several times whether this was a prank, a simulation of absurdity that my friends had perhaps loaded into the stimsim without me knowing. I stood for several hours waiting for the headache-inducing nightmare in front of me to end. I cursed my tendency to require patterns in what I see, and for expecting patterns when I came to Earth. It was driving me insane.
There were many collections of lights–red, yellow, and green–scattered all around Circle-Square, and the metallic bubbles seemed to move according to the lights’ colours. There were far too many to count, however, or to keep straight as I spun around trying to make sense of this engineering catastrophe.
It was nighttime when I awoke with a jolt, a patch of dried drool sticking to my cheek as I pushed up from the grass. To my amazement, there were less metallic bubbles now, but they were all waiting, unmoving. I watched in stillness as they sat in front of the red lights, waiting for the green colour to engage. The image stood in stark contrast from the chaotic mess that had wittled away my sanity earlier.
The bubbles didn’t move for several hours, and I marveled at the stupidity of the light system as well as the blind obediance of the drivers (the inhabitants of the bubbles). Several hours earlier they were cursing, honking and nearly killing one another as they wove into and out of the Circle-Square, and now they were waiting like larva for succulence from the queen.
Were they in hibernation, or sleeping? I thought the more rectangular enclosures constituted human homes, but perhaps Circle-Square violated all rules of geometry. I made a note of the lights and how they were no longer changing colours. Something had changed, or something was wrong. When I summoned enough courage I approached one of the bubbles and saw that the humans were in fact still alert, but not enough to notice me.
I was getting hungry. My metabolism is much stronger than a human’s, and the trauma of the past several hours had taken its toll. I needed to get out of this geometrical paradox before my grandchild stepped out of the shadows and murdered me.
I checked as many directions as I could keep track of, convincing myself that there was no movement within Circle-Square. Then I warily moved radially outward on the gray perimeter of the main “circle”. I was about halfway across, my hearts pounding when the bubble came for me.
A loud screech made me scramble across, and my only saving grace was that I was on the other side of an arbitrary white dotted line. The bubble screamed past me, and when I was safely on the grass outside the Circle-Square, I noticed that the bubble had moved during a red light. Why he chose that particular moment to speed away eluded me, but as I made my way to a shelter I noticed similarly nonsensical behaviour from the other inhabitants of Edmonton, Alberta.
I made a note of the intersection so that I could warn my friends should they ever decide to join me on my masochistic expedition: it was the crossing of Groat Road and 118 Avenue NW. I wasn’t sure why they would bother giving a compass direction to a place named Circle-Square, but perhaps the highway engineers knew something I didn’t.
Hiding in my room under the wing of the Space & Science Centre, I am waiting to work up the courage and strength to venture out again. From what I have gathered the first place I will likely visit is a local driving school, because clearly the rules I studied are either no longer followed, or no longer followed here.
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