Seven Tips to Enjoy Your Time in the Unreal Forest
by Van Aaron Hughes
Unreal Forest, under the silver fog of a winter dawn. That's where we waited for the school bus
in junior high.
We could hear the bus coming four to five minutes before it arrived, its ancient engine growling
like an irritable dragon. We lived on the absurdly winding road tracing the perimeter of Mercer
Island, back before you had to be filthy rich to live there, when the houses were fewer and
smaller, tucked under a dense canopy of trees. On a sunny day, we'd spot the bus on the next
curve over, before it dove back into the bend. But we didn't get many sunny days in the Pacific
Northwest. Come mid-October, mornings were too dark to see the next curve.
And most days, a feathery fog descended until you felt yourself floating in a cloud bank. We
wouldn't see the bus until it parted the mists less than fifty feet away. Within seconds, the door
opened in front of us, the bald-headed driver glaring and urging in a monotone, "Hurry up please
How I hated that spot, until I learned it wasn't real.
At the time I thought I was special: Jordan Hudson, the only person to discover the Unreal
Forest. In the years since, I've seen and read things to make me believe others have found a
similar Bubble. T.S. Eliot's "Unreal City" in London, for one. If you find a place like that, let me
give you some advice.
#1: STING LIKE A BEE
Mom had always dropped Tim and me at elementary school on the way to work, so waiting for
the bus was a new experience starting seventh grade. It upset Tim at first that "his" Jordan was
going to a different school. (He always referred to me that way: "Have you seen my Jordan?")
But the change proved harder for me.
Randy singled me out right away as the kid to pick on. An oversized eighth grader, Randy had a
five o'clock shadow at fourteen. The rest of us wanted to look old enough to get into R-rated
movies; Randy looked like he could walk into one of the Second Avenue porno theaters in
downtown Seattle. Randy wore one of those old mood rings, except his was always black.