It was strange, the way they appeared, emerging out of the world like something surreal. A bit like some cartoon where Droopy, Daffy duck, or someone like that, folds up the cartoon world and pockets it, but in reverse.
These places unfolded themselves out of the thin air. It was that old SF and Fantasy idea of a portal between worlds made real.
Of course, people entered through these portals, often before the authorities located them and put up the barriers and guards. Only then did they begin organising their ‘official’ examinations and explorations.
Those few early brave – or foolish – souls whose curiosity overcame them were soon back though.
‘There’s nothing to see there,’ one teenager from Birmingham said to the waiting TV cameras, in an interview when he emerged. ‘It’s just like an empty room.’
The first distorted pictures from the robot cameras sent inside as an initial investigation, verified his claims and those of the other adventurous first-timers. The world soon lost interest in those first explorers, some of whom had hoped for fame and fortune. However, fame in the news is fleeting and the world soon forgot them. The Waiting Rooms, as the media had named them, slipped lower down the news running orders and disappeared from the front pages of websites and the few remaining physical newspapers.
They were there; spread around the world, exactly 500 miles apart – to the nearest quarter of an inch. Some made claims for one particular one – usually in the claimants own country – as being the central one around which all the others were mere satellites. No-one could prove, or discount, this though. The Waiting Rooms all looked felt, smelt – a faint salty tang like a sea breeze – the same.
There were theories, of course, about what they were, and why they were here. Alien intelligences, parallel universes, some anomaly caused by experiments at CERN, even a communist plot or a message from god, or the gods. No-one knew why they were here, what – if anything – they were here for, or what to do about them.
Once the scientists and secret government bodies had run out of tests and experiments to perform on them, the governments lost interest in them. For a while, some became tourist destinations until people saw for themselves how dull they were,
Everybody got used to them, learnt to ignore them and forgot about them. At least until the day when everyone woke up to find the Waiting Rooms were gone.
Their sudden absence brought them back into the news again. Then they were forgotten – just as fast – as natural and political crises took over the news again.
Until yesterday, that is, when all the Waiting Rooms came back, unfolding themselves out of the thin air… and waiting once more.