When we arrived at the enormous building that Aaliyah and the GPS claimed was her home, I had to marvel at its size. I had never realized that skyscrapers could be residential until that moment. “James! Come on! Garson’s waiting to take the car.” I hadn’t noticed the man standing by my door as I was staring up through the sunroof, but I hurried to step out of the vehicle. “Sorry about that, Garson. I was just admiring the building.” He smiled indulgently at me and stepped into the vehicle to drive it away. I looked up again as Aaliyah dragged me by the hand into the building, almost missing the doorman as we passed him. A man was waiting for us in the hall. “Greetings, Aaliyah. James. Mr. Sypher told us to expect you, but I do need to scan your palm, to scan your identification, and to have you read clearly from a list before you go up, sir.” Aaliyah sighed as I handed the man my driver’s license, put my hand over the scanner, and read off the words listed on the pad he handed me.
“Here you are, sir. Sorry for the inconvenience. May I have your approval, Miss Aaliyah.” She placed her tiny hand over the scanner after she had me lift her up. Then the man gave her a sucker from his jacket, which earned him a toothy grin. “Thank you, Jarvis!” she exclaimed. We then stepped into the elevator where a stepstool waited under another scanner. Aaliyah stepped up and placed her hand near the scanner before saying, “Home, please.” Then the elevator started moving up and up some more until we were on the fifty-third floor. Aaliyah explained on the way that I was now entered into the database for access to her residence, which surprised me somewhat. Chad had met my parents, but he still must have an immense amount of faith in his company’s choice of “go-to guys.” I would have loved knowing what precisely Emma said to her mother that got me on the list.
I stepped out into a fairly large hall with lush carpets and expensive looking paintings adorning the walls. I started walking toward a window to see the view when Aaliyah tugged on my hand again and said, “This way, James!” I followed and smiled, amused at how the girl had to reach up to even grab my hand. I could have guessed which of the four condos was the right one just by the stepstool waiting under yet another scanner. “They definitely believe in security here, don’t they.” Aaliyah smiled up at me and said, “The security got upgraded just before daddy and I moved here. He thought it was silly when we were checking the place out, but I convinced him that he’d be safer this way!” Even after our talk in the car, I could easily forget I was speaking with an amazingly intelligent girl when she was being so very adorable. I couldn’t really imagine Chad ever leaving his daughter alone for any length of time, but I was sure he could appreciate the idea of her being safe.
Aaliyah had me place my hand over the scanner for her home to check if I was entered properly. “I wonder how this thing works.” I stated as the door opened for us. I missed too much of her explanation as I took in the sight before me to know precisely what she said, but I got the idea that the scanners mapped veins in the hand. The first thing that struck me was the size of the place stretching out before me, a mostly open lower floor with an upper floor looking down onto it through a rectangle larger than any of the rooms in my own home. Floor-to-ceiling windows stretched the entire length of the far wall, which had to be over twenty feet tall. When I started paying attention to the actual furnishings, I had to do a double-take of what I was seeing. To my right there was a spiral staircase that appeared to have a slide wrapping around it. The floor beneath my feet was made to look like dirt with lizard-like footprints of various sizes in it. There was a dinosaur laying down with its long neck stretching up to the ceiling, and a small bench was in its side. A few of the tiny pterodactyls, some of which were barely out of eggs, held coats in their mouths along the wall.
I then realized Aaliyah was beaming up at me. When she caught my eye, she offered to give me a tour, which I gladly accepted. The girl had put pink rollerblades on her feet while I was preoccupied by my immediate surroundings, and she was rather talented at doing circles around me while pointing at everything as we went. We traversed the lower floor clockwise from the door. The living room was made to look like a jungle with thick, white-cushioned furniture with frames that appeared to be woven from vines. Next to the living room stood a castle wall that came up just past my waist. There appeared to be a wooden, pumpkin carriage which Aaliyah claimed as her “play bed” on the other side amongst an insane mess of toys and clothing that filled the entire corner. To make matters even stranger, there was a fireman’s pole coming from the second floor to the first inside the castle. Next to the other castle wall, against the window, stretched an area that resembled an ocean. A ship was split into two parts, each containing a loveseat which faced at an angle toward the window. Forward and slightly between them was a whale’s head which could serve as a coffee table.
Aaliyah called the next part, their dining area, “Egypt.” A glass oval with gold trim was supported by the backs of two sphinxes that faced in opposite directions, heads rising just past the table on the short sides of the oval. The floor there resembled sand, especially with the six pyramid-shaped chairs surrounding the long sides of the oval table. Next to Egypt was a candyland, with three long counters wrapping around the area, each decorated to look like parts of a candy forest. The island in the center of the kitchen resembled a giant, vanilla cupcake, and the cabinets all resembled frosted gingerbread homes. There was a small pantry between the kitchen and the spiral staircase that looked like a large gingerbread house with a candy cane fence. Aaliyah said that each candy cane dispensed a different type of beverage, and the assorted candies on the walls of the pantry were removable spice shakers.
I gave Aaliyah a piggyback ride up the spiral stairs, which, along with the slide, appeared to be glowing, molten magma caught between the stone rails. The volcanic appearance continued all the way around the upstairs walkway. We went straight first, since Aaliyah wanted to save her room for last. The first room on the right was designated as “The Bat Cave.” The room was obviously intended to be a bedroom, despite looking like a cave, but two desks with computers on them sat against the walls with no bed in sight. The next room was apparently Chad’s bedroom. I was hesitant to look inside, but Aaliyah insisted after she hopped off my back, somehow landed, and rolled inside. One wall of the room was glass and had a balcony overlooking the park on that side of the building. The rest of the room was black, save for glowing strips of blue light outlining the various pieces of furniture in the room as well as the edges of the walls and ceiling.
After shutting the door, we headed back to the bathroom by the spiral stairs. The inside of the room appeared to be completely made of ice with a soft, glowing light coming from every wall, including the floor. Even the toilet appeared to be made of ice. There was a walk-in shower behind the partial wall of ice off to the right. The next room was incredible to look upon even after seeing most of the condo. Each transparent wall revealed countless gears covering the room, except the far wall which had another balcony overlooking part of the city. Aaliyah said that the “gear room” was the guest bedroom, so I could sleep in there tonight. She demonstrated how twisting the right wheels and pulling the right levers next to the door would cause various things to happen. The whole room seemed like an elaborate puzzle to me. What she called “the awesome combination” caused a marble roller coaster stretching the length of the wall to start running. Another combination opened the large, walk-in closet which sat by the bathroom.
The last room on the tour, Aaliyah’s bedroom, was far less bizarre than I expected. Her room appeared more normal in some ways than the rest, although the room was anything but common. The pillar rising from the lower floor through one corner was elaborately decorated here. The ceiling was artistically patterned in some type of fine wood and the floor was elaborately tiled stone. The two walls that weren’t glass appeared to be made of large stone bricks, and even the doors seemed to be elaborately carved. There was stained glass concealing the fireman’s pole in the corner. She had her own large bathroom as well as a walk-in closet, albeit slightly smaller than the one in the guest room. She called the room her “princess bedroom,” and I could definitely imagine a princess from a fairytale residing quite happily there. Her balcony was even larger than the other two, stretching out from the corner where the two glass walls met.
“Race you downstairs!” she called as she skated to the fireman’s pole and slid downstairs. I laughed and yelled down to her, “Cheater!” I shut the door to her room, walked to the stairs, and took the slide down, unable to resist the spiraling fun. Aaliyah was waiting for me at the bottom, grinning ear-to-ear in a manner that would make Jarod proud. “Do you like our house?” I did my best not to smile and said, “Well, this isn’t really a house, you know.” Her pout was extremely cute. I continued saying, “I absolutely love your condo though. How did you convince your dad to decorate it like this?” She started skating in circles and told me that the place came fully furnished, much to Chad’s surprise. As she was talking, I realized that music had been playing for a while now. “When did you turn on the music?” She stopped, smiled at me, and said, “I didn’t. The house does that. When someone first enters, the house uses facial recognition software I wrote to match the person with social media sites and create a playlist of music based off their preferences.”
I was gaping. I knew I was, but I couldn’t remember how to close my mouth for a moment. “You’re incredible. Seriously.” She just grinned at me before saying, “I hope you’re hungry. Daddy ordered us pizza for tonight!” There was a knock at the door the moment she was done speaking. When I walked to the door, I could see Jarvis on a monitor beside the door. “So much for peepholes, huh?” Aaliyah opened the door for him, and Jarvis told us “Mr. Sypher apparently made arrangements for your dinner. Should I be expecting any other deliveries tonight?” Aaliyah told him “no,” and we both thanked him. I took the food, and Aaliyah tipped him with money she had in her pocket. “Sorry that daddy forgot to tell you again!” Jarvis nodded and replied “Thank you, miss. Have a good night.” Aaliyah skated over to the pantry, grabbed some plates, and directed me to the “jungle” to watch a movie as we ate. This was turning out to be one of the most interesting jobs I had yet.