When we exit our hotel, something strange happens.
You see, before this moment, we were not involved in anything peculiar, at least that I know of. After a few minutes of setting down our things and getting our bearings, we left just fine. Delta and Francis seemed quite agitated about something having to do with the single bed in our room, but it was unclear what. Other than that, we had just a fine time.
In fact, just seconds ago, we discussed where to go to eat lunch. Francis suggested Italian, while Delta was feeling like Chinese take-out might be the more wise option in regards to time. I don’t know what an Italian or a Chinese is, of course, but I do certainly feel very hungry.
But something strange happening may prevent all of this.
Because right in front of us is a thinly bearded man in a white suit and the brightest eyes I’ve ever seen. He practically leaps over to us and flashes his smile. “You look new here!” he exclaims.
Francis and Delta exchange a glance.
“Yes, we are very new,” I say.
“Great! Awesome!” he shouts. “I’m so excited to hear that. See, I’m here specially for you, because I know you’re gonna need a lot of help to have the absolute best time you can get when you come to Paso Robles.”
Delta raises and eyebrow. “And you are...?”
He takes out three thin cards and hands them to each of us. I read it: “Paso Robles #1 Fan and Tourist Guide: Mr. Pablo Rosas is At Your Service!” There is a cartoon picture of a man closely resembling Mr. Pablo Rosas to the side of the card.
“I’m Pablo Rosas!” he greets. “Nice to meet you.”
I put the card in my pocket and give a little bit of a bow. “Hello,” I say. “My name is Eryk Solbourne. I am new to Earth and am exploring this city in an opportunity to learn the land better.” I disguise the truth which is that I am here mainly to gain Destiny Points, because what those South African secret agents warned me about has made me somewhat leery about openly discussing the Destiny Deck system with those I don’t openly trust. So for now, I will not reveal the truth to this man.
“Well, um, Eryk Solbourne,” he says, “Welcome to Earth. How about the rest of you? Have you been to Paso Robles before?”
“Listen, um, Pablo Rosas of Paso Robles,” Delta says. “We need to get somewhere quick, so... If you’ll leave us be.”
“‘Leave us be...?’” Pablo asks. “You’re new to town, right? If you are, I’m glad to help you out. I love this city. I love helping people discover new things about my favorite town in the world. And I especially love people who book more than one night in a row in my favorite chain hotel in the entire country.”
“Did you know Paso Robles is famous for having some of the best hot springs in all of California?” he asks.
My eyes light up. “Hot springs...!”
He realizes he has caught my attention, and goes into full attack mode. “Yes. And I have connections with one of the best hot springs around, the Yuletide Lounge. I can get a sweet discount.”
“But it’s June...” Delta mutters.
“Restorative natural hot springs like these are some of the best ways to reduce the drain of Life P—to alleviate all my physical pains and sores. I highly recommend we visit there if at all possible.”
“Good to know,” Francis says. “Though we have some maps from the train station, so we don’t really need—”
“I can also give you the best tour ever through the absolutely HISTORIC downtown of Paso Robles. You simply have not lived until you have visited Granny’s Candies or had the absolute please of seeing mi tía’s own embroidery shop. It’s just so quaint and nice.”
“Sounds very attractive,” I say.
“Eryk, please, for the love of God...”
“Yes! We have a future number one Paso Robles fan in the making here,” Pablo says. He puts his arm around my shoulder and beckons up into the air. “My life goal is for this town to become as big and famous as possible, while also staying exactly the same as it is right now. It is a delicate balance that can only be kept with holy warriors such as yourself joining my ranks. I hope to change that in these next days with you. Who knows; maybe you’ll like it so much you’ll stay forever!”
“Haha, that sounds nice,” I say.
Francis and Delta look absolutely horrified.
“What?” I ask.
Francis gets Pablo’s arm off me and says, “I’m sorry, but we already have some plans for today. We’re going to get lunch, and then... Um.”
The white-suited man’s smile turns from enthusiastic to outright sly. “And where are you planning on eating, if I may ask?”
“Well, um... We were thinking... take-out.”
“Oh, so you can get to your destinations faster. I see. Very economical with your time. Gotta take in lots of sights and sounds in your exceedingly short time here. You gotta make that power-tour through all our exhibits. Like the world-famous Olive Oil Farm. I’m sure you have a whole day set aside for wine tastings as well. Gotta get all that in while you can. And it’s just not enough time to visit our golf course if you have to eat in, eh?”
“It’s a good thing then that I know exactly the take-out restaruant for you!” Pablo exclaims. “Come in my car and I will drive you to the Rusty Flames, an Italian-Chinese fusion diner that excels in drive-thru and take-out cuisine. We can get some lovely egg roll lasagna on the way to the Olive Oil Farm, eh?”
“I have to ask,” Delta says, “are we being detained?”
“If fun is detainment, then that answer’s gotta be yes,” Pablo says.
Delta turns to Francis. “Either we make a run for it, or we get in his car. What do you think?”
“The choice is up to you,” Pablo says. “I just want to make sure you have the best time possible in my favorite town on the planet.”
“I think we should go,” I say. “This man seems very wise and knowledgeable about the local customs and traditions.”
“I like the sound of that, Mister Eryk!”
Francis shrugs defeatedly.
We get in Pablo Rosas’s white-plated car, so shiny the sun makes it nearly blinding. The windows are tinted, so you can’t see out of them. That seems perfectly alright with me.
Hopefully the town is as nice as this man makes it out to be. I want to experience a lot of fun things!
“Let’s experience a lot of fun things!” Pablo exclaims.