I was in an auditorium, where two people from IT announced that they were going to talk about the Web site. They gestured to me to join them, but I was unprepared. Had I known about this presentation? Had I forgotten something so out of the scope of my day-to-day drudgery? I stood, but remained off to the side so no one would notice me and the IT people would forget me.
To my surprise, they called upon audience members to come forward and play a game. They showed video of passing scenery shot from an aerial perspective; the object was to guess the location of the destination before the video arrived at it.
A young man was the first to be called. His video began in what like a tiny country village with a prominent, almost medieval church. I thought that it might be France; the destination might be somewhere like Arles. The young man was no more successful than I in his guesses. Suddenly, the aerial journey ended at an urban island that everyone guessed to be Staten Island. It was too large, I thought, and I was sure it must be Long Island even though I was puzzled by the skyscrapers.
The young man tagged me to play next (so much for my inconspicuousness), but the IT people said that I wasn’t part of the audience.
I don’t know what happened next — perhaps I failed at something — because I was told I had to duel someone, using real weapons. I was given a long pole with a semicircular blade. This seemed too easy, and I wondered what the catch was going to be.
For a long time I did not see my opponent or know what his weapons were, but he proved to be a large, bald man with brass stars and other throwing weapons. I did not want to hurt him, so I poked him gently with the blade. It made no impression on him. I wondered with suspicion if the blade magically softened or deteriorated at the edge with each blow, which would have been a nasty trick. I became more cautious.
In the meantime, the man threw his stars — but not at me. They never seemed to strike the intended targets, who were people I know and like. Finally, he walked toward me (I was frozen in terror, I’m sure), then veered toward a young man. He used the edge of a star on the young man’s face and neck. Paralyzed and horrified, I was powerless to stop him. I thought he was going to slit the man’s throat, but he made a line in the skin that barely bled. I did not know what to think or do, and I felt guilty.