“Breathe deep, hold, and listen.” Some of the strangest instructions I may have ever been given, whispered to me inside a floating pod of darkness as I began “Alone: Index of Refraction.” Of course, this was a single line on a whole little sheet of instructions. After signing up at a booth, you are given hints towards the steps you need to take in order to “refract.” After a waiver and some rules (the waiver is meant to protect yourself and the organizers because the experience does involve touching and a violation of your personal space), you are released on your hunt. I was confused by a short bought of dyslexia that left me looking for a body of water. “Pod” looks like “pond” when you are tired, frightened, excited, and elated all at once. I was swallowed by said pod, and then released to finish my hunt for the site of the experience.
Once I got to the correct location, I was led into a dark room. Lights made me feel as though I had an idea of what an acid trip must have felt like, while hands pushed me here, there, and everywhere. A story is told, by more than one voice, and you may find yourself, as I did, lost in the words, forgetting that more than one person is talking. Confusion is not lessened any as you continue; I myself found it ever-increasing. Rough shoves are dizzying, and gentle caresses are steadying. Throughout the experience, I noticed that other people who entered with me were scattered about ahead and behind me. We were never in the same area together for long after the beginning. I emerged with shredded paper pouring from my brassiere and my shirt tail, and apparently a hilarious expression of confusion, as my refraction-mates laughed and asked if I was alright.
We all had slightly varying experiences, and through verbal comparison, we realized that each experience appeared to be based on our reactions to the actors in Alone. I sadly found out that I missed the first part of the experience, but there are still two more steps, and I plan to take these two journeys as well when they roll around. You can check out the website at www.thealoneexperience.com and click “Explain” in the upper right hand list to read the description of the entire project.