During her birthday party, Krystal hides in a new and mysterious giant washing machine at an immersive art gallery only to come out in a strange world.

Inside Factory Obscura's MixTape - photo by Dennis Spielman

Krystal had never seen the giant washing machine before. While she felt like she would discover a new tiny detail with each visit to the immersive art gallery, a front-loading washing machine, the size of an SUV was not something she would’ve missed. She walked around the silver-colored machine. The art piece wasn’t backed against a wall or connected to anything. That ruled out it leading to another section like the famous washing machine portal at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

If she didn’t want to get caught, she didn’t have time to stare. For her 30th birthday, she rented out the entire 6,000 square feet hand-crafted, immersive art project known as MixTape by Factory Obscura. Factory Obscura’s MixTape was a multi-sensory experience that explored the emotions associated with giving or receiving music as a gift. As a gift, Krystal invited a dozen of her friends for an adults-only game of hide-and-seek. Plus, a feast of pizza, cake, and craft beer from local businesses. Her goal: have an unforgettable birthday adventure.

The round, plastic door to the washing machine was covered with a milky way wallpaper on the inside, making it impossible for Krystal to see through. Curious, she grabbed the handle–not sure if it would even open–and pulled. Inside was a fully padded room of clouds against a blue sky and bright pastel-colored pillows, matching those of the nearby cactus treehouse. On the ceiling was a scattering of fairy lights. Krystal’s face lit up in awe.

“I can hide in here,” Krystal declared as she climbed inside.

When the door latched close, soft, dreamy atmospheric music began to play inside. Krystal leaned against the pillow wall and stretched out her legs. She felt confident in her hiding spot and bet her friends wouldn’t figure out that the door opens. She tried to listen for anyone coming, but she couldn’t hear anything over the music.

After several minutes, annoyance began to settle. Krystal regarded her hiding spot as good, but not that good. She then began to wonder if it was a prank or perhaps a wholesome trick.

Maybe my friends are in the lobby together, waiting to surprise me? Krystal thought. Then I shouldn’t keep them waiting.

Krystal opened the door. A sea of socks of every color and every pattern filled the sunny outside like sand dunes. There was no way Factory Obscura could pull off such a room. To fill a place with this many socks, they would’ve had been collecting them for decades–putting out numerous calls for donations, which she would’ve seen and probably would’ve contributed to the cause too. More importantly, she then realized, was that the area was larger than the entire building.

“Hello?” Krystal called out.

No response.

She eased out one leg, keeping most of her body inside as she tapped on the ground. It was solid. Feeling safe, she gradually stepped out of the washing machine. The ground felt like standing on a pile of laundry. She looked behind the machine. Off in the distance were small buildings composed of socks and random junk. 

With the small town being her only visible point of interest, she started walking. After taking several steps, the terrain began to rumble. She turned and ran back to the washing machine, but before she could reach it, the machine was flung up into the air by a giant white sock worm.

Krystal screamed. The washing machine landed far away, near the town, but it didn’t seem damaged. The stock worm was three times the size of the washer. Krystal held up her arms, bracing herself to be eaten whole.

“Hello, there,” the sock worm warmly greeted.

Krystal let her guard down. “Hi.”

“Are you new here?”

“Yeah. Where am I?”

“You’re in the Land of the Lost Things.”

“Land of lost things?” Krystal repeated. “Is this like where lost things end up?”

“Yes, but you don’t seem to be lost. We rarely get humans here. How did you get here?” the sock worm inquired with a friendly tone.

“I just got inside that washing machine,” Krystal explained while pointing to said machine, “and when I opened the door, I arrived here.”

“I don’t like that machine,” the sock worm grumbled. “I don’t like it’s creator either. Always playing tricks on people to study the universe.”

“Could you help me get back to my friends?”

“Depends. Do you consider yourself lost in life?”

“Actually, I feel like things have been looking up for me lately and that I have a purpose, a direction for once.”

“Then this won’t hurt.”

“What won’t–”

Before Krystal could finish, the sock worm opened their mouth and devoured her. Her scream muffled as the socks surrounded her, making everything go black. Everything stopped moving, and she stopped screaming.

Then she felt a bop on her head by a human hand. She pushed away the clothes in front of her face, revealing she was back at Factory Obscura in a pile of socks where the washing machine once stood.

“Found you,” her boyfriend playfully taunted.

Through the Washing Machine - art by Henry Yusman - black and white copy

This week’s short story was inspired by the writing prompt: “You are playing hide and seek, and decide to hide in the washing machine. You sit there for some time, but it seems like your friends gave up. You climb out, only to discover that you are on a mountain of socks. Welcome to the land, where all the lost things go.”

When thinking about this prompt, I was thinking of some way to feature adults in the story as a twist. That got me to thinking of the washing machine portal at Meow Wolf, but I didn’t want to write about that one. Instead, I made up an art piece (or really a machine from Loki and Raven) that would act as a portal to the other world. I debated on leaving Krystal in the land of the lost, but I liked the sweet line of her boyfriend finding her. Happy ending today!

Story artwork by Henry Yusman at Design Pickle!

Thank you for reading!