Steiner

Ralph Steiner (1899-1986): Boy on a Bike — Below Brooklyn Bridge, 1923, gelatin silver print; courtesy Scheinbaum & Russek Ltd.

The busy sounds in Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return exhibit twisted, echoed, and bounced through my ears. My friend Aiga, my sister Meridian, and I floated past a brightly painted monster statue eating a fiery-red corndog as if we were in a trance, then into an ocean of people and even a more colorful variety of curious noise.

Suddenly, one sound drowned out all the others. In fact, the other sounds practically bowed down to it, receding immediately. It was the fire alarm.

I froze for less than a millisecond and yelled, “Get to the living room!”

By the “living room” I meant the exhibit’s living room. The “front door” was there and that led to the artificial front yard. That led to the lobby, which, of course, revealed the entrance/exit. This was the simplest way to get out, although there could be thousands of ways. Meow Wolf, a twisting tunnel of mystery and confusion, had people pouring out of every nook and cranny. Watching people crawl through the fireplace was bewildering, but this was something else.

In the living room a worker stood, a soldier. 

“Please follow the crowd out the front door,” she told us. Her eyes were strict and she used a voice that wasn’t to be disobeyed. 

What else would we be doing? I thought, momentarily annoyed. I didn’t say anything, though, and did what she said.

In the lobby, we were greeted by a crowd twice as large as the one we were already in. It was like being a cow, in its massive herd. What was happening? Did everyone get out okay? Was there really a fire? I don’t see any smoke — maybe the fire’s inside only? I wanted answers. It was like being an astronaut on some new planet. Were there aliens? Was there enough oxygen in my oxygen tank? What if my spaceship stopped working? Would I be stranded here forever, not knowing what in the world was happening?

A worker came up to us and said, “Please go across the street. You have to be farther away from the building.”

Yes! We were going somewhere!

Across the street, people were strewn everywhere. Were they like me? I wondered. Probably, but probably not. They probably felt the same emotions as me, but I knew I felt them stronger. We waited for a while, and then, like a quiet miracle, a worker came and stood next to us.

“What’s happening?” my mom asked the worker for me.

“I know as much as you do,” the worker replied.

Which isn’t very much, I thought. The worker’s miracle-like entrance had been deceiving. A little while later, firefighters and police gathered Meow Wolf workers together. “I think it’s time to go up to a random person and call them ‘mommy,’ ” I joked. “I think I’ll do it to that lady in the green dress.”

“She looks nice,” commented Aiga.

My thoughts hadn’t traveled farther than getting out alive. “I said, ‘Get to the living room,’ ” I announced. “It really helps if you know the place inside out.” I was proud that I could direct us in the right direction.

We talked about this and that, for how long I don’t know, because I soon changed my channel and started daydreaming about a time very different than this one that seemed to lag on forever. It was a time where I knew what was happening and things made sense.

“Wait, what? Are we leaving?” We were, obviously enough, being dragged to the sidewalk across from us. “But I want to stay and see what happens,” I whined.

Mom only uttered through clenched teeth, “Raven, come on.”

We stepped onto the sidewalk and Bobi drove up in her car.

As we climbed in, I announced something: “I hate not knowing what’s happening.”

“Raven,” said my mom the next day. “Meow Wolf’s in the paper.”

I’d expected this. Unsurprised, I took the paper and read a small article in the corner of it. It turned out that Meow Wolf workers pulled the alarm because of a note referencing a bomb. I was relieved when I found out there wasn’t actually one, but I was annoyed that the note had scared so many people and left me wondering for no reason at all. They were terrible things mixed together — wonder and worry. Sure, there were lots of times I’d been curious about what was going on, but this one was by far the worst. I’m a Capricorn and I like knowing what’s going on. Meow Wolf was already a curious-enough place and it didn’t need any help. As unrealistic as it was, I wished that nothing like this would ever happen.